Religious Freedom

An Open Letter to my Open and Affirming Church

Dear Friends:

Last summer, my wife and I took our young daughters to Indiana, to visit my sister’s family and to explore the Indiana dunes. This past week, the governor of that state signed a law permitting businesses there to refuse service to families like mine, claiming “religious freedom” as their justification. So I have to admit, that part of the heartache I am feeling right now is personal; but part of it is pastoral. And so I share these thoughts now with you.

Each week, at our church, we proclaim and celebrate the love of Christ; and all week, in our lives, we seek to embody that love. We give thanks for those moments of grace in our own lives, when someone opened the door to us in the name of God. And we can perhaps imagine what our lives would be, if instead someone had shut the door.

But I fear that this is the exactly message that Indiana’s new law sends. Go ahead and shut the door on your neighbor, it says – as long as you do it in God’s name.

Before I ever met you, before you called me to be your pastor, you were already an ‘open and affirming’ church. You had already covenanted with one another to be an inclusive family of faith, welcoming people of all orientations and gender identities. I know that the process was costly for you; but then, most callings are. And by that covenant, you became a ‘port in the storm’ for those seeking spiritual shelter. You have been blessed to be a blessing.

As a community, as a congregation of people walking in faith together, you have committed yourselves to welcoming the stranger, embracing the outcast, and affirming the blessedness of those whom others call cursed. How shall we make God’s love known, to our brothers and sisters and siblings in Indiana, and here at home? How shall we bear witness to our religious freedom — the freedom we find in Christ, to be wholly ourselves, to live in love and grace without fear of condemnation?

In light of the news from Indiana, let us remember and reaffirm our covenant, and our call. We may be blessed to live in a state that protects us, to have family and friends that support us, to belong to a church that embraces us. But let us not just count our blessings. Let us be one.

Yours in Christ,

Liza

(photo: Belchertown United Church of Christ)

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