E and I attended this week at the SF LGBT Community Center a program presented by Horizons Foundation and the Interfaith Alliance entitled “How to Move the Religious Middle on Marriage Equality.” Two outstanding panels were the bulk of the luncheon program and included leaders of several faiths (Catholic, African Methodist Episcopal, Conservative Judaism) as well as leaders of various LBGT groups, (Freedom to Marry, NCLR, Lambda Legal, EQ-CA). The program was facilitated by the Rev. Dr. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance and himself a Baptist minister.
Impressive, provocative, and exciting are only a few reactions we had to the program. These folks and organizations have a strategy to create meaningful dialogue with the clergy and leaders and through them, the members, of congregations of Christians, Muslims, and Jews throughout America. These conversations are focusing on what RIGHTS all Americans are due, not what RITES each individual religious group/leader will or will not decide to support within the religious context.
Some key points from the various clergy:
- “Clergy need to clarify ‘marriage’ as both a CIVIL and a RELIGIOUS ceremony and to separate the two.” (One movement is to get clergy to refuse to sign civil marriage certificates and require couples they ‘marry’ to do that signing where it should be done – in a court house.
- “You can prove anything you want to do with scripture taken out of context. Reference to scripture in our history and present is often a form of outright
- “Scripture reflects the history and the times; scripture does not exist to make history.”
- “The Bible does not exist to justify our beliefs. It exists to guide each individual to choose beliefs.”
- “Much negative reaction by the ‘middle’ is more about “same-sex marriage is foreign to me and is not part of my culture” versus a deep-down decision to be against it.”
- “Our goal is to find all the folks who will defend CIVIL RIGHTS even if they cannot defend personally the VALUE of same-sex marriage.”
- “The only way to reach the religious middle is through other members of the religious middle.”
And I believe the most important remark to guide all of us as we fight for our civil rights: “How can we create spaces where people can change their minds about same-sex marriage WITHOUT SHAMING THEM or making them feel bad/wrong/stupid?”
(A side note: E was astonished to discover that the moderator and president of Interfaith Alliance (Rev. Dr. Gaddy) was the son of his parents’ now-deceased best friends, a family who lived 5 houses from him in Paris, Tennessee (a town of 10K) and one where he spent much time as a very young boy. Theirs was the first reunion in 40+ years. Imagine how surprised the Rev. was that E is now Jewish, gay, married to a man, etc., etc.! By the way, he handled it all in stride.)