Yesterday the General Synod of the United Church of Christ (you may remember them from their too-controversial-for-TV ads last year celebrating non-discrimination in church) made history by passing the first resolution by a Mainline Protestant denomination endorsing equal marriage rights for all couples:
It was both a theological statement and a protest against discrimination, said the Rev. John H. Thomas, the president and general minister of the denomination, which has 6,000 congregations and 1.3 million members. “On this July 4, the United Church of Christ has courageously acted to declare freedom, affirming marriage equality, affirming the civil rights of gay – of same-gender – couples to have their relationships recognized as marriages by the state, and encouraging our local churches to celebrate those marriages,” Mr. Thomas said at a news conference after the vote by the General Synod.Hector Lopez, a minister from a small Latino church in Southern California, said he was not at first enthusiastic about same-sex marriage. But after officiating at about a dozen such ceremonies in Oregon and seeing the respect and commitment of the couples, he said, “I experienced a passionate conversion.”…His hope, [Thomas] said, is that “we will not run from one another, because if we run from one another we run from Christ.”
The UCC’s statement of conscience echoes the one celebrated in this obituary for Rabbi Louis J. Sigel, a driving force behind Teaneck, New Jersey’s voluntary school integration, the first such decision by a township in this country. As the author, paraphrasing Reginald Damerell’s book, writes:
Rabbi Sigel – a Torah and Talmud scholar who primarily considered himself a teacher – calmed a fractious community meeting. A law professor who was a member of Temple Emeth stood and asked why the whole community had to be “disturbed” by a problem that he said black residents had created themselves by moving into one end of town. “The temple’s rabbi, Louis J. Sigel, rose,” Mr. Damerell wrote. “His rich voice carried throughout the auditorium” as he narrated a story from the Talmud about a man who sees a fire in another part of town and asks, “What have I to do with the needs of the community?” “Sigel’s voice rose in emphasis, ‘Such a man destroys the world!'” Mr. Damerell wrote. “Applause exploded through the auditorium.” That set the stage for a resolution from the floor commending the Board of Education “for studying possible ways to prevent de-facto segregation,” the author said. It passed, thus providing the integration side with a victory in its first skirmish. Because of his pro-integration stand, some temple members wanted to oust him, his family later acknowledged, but a large majority supported him.
Recognizing that the bush is burning without being consumed, our tradition teaches, gives us the hope to pursue liberation. But it isn’t realized until we recognize that our liberation is tied up with that of our neighbors – that our homes are not secure as long as theirs are on fire.