For Immediate Release: September 5, 2007
Rev. Elder Nancy L. Wilson
September 5, 2007
The passing of any life is worthy of reflection. So it is with The Rev. Dr. D. James Kennedy, a leading opponent of legal equality for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people, who died peacefully today with his wife and daughter at his side.
One of the founders of the "Religious Right" movement in the United States, Rev. Kennedy served as senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for 48 years, and was founder of the recently closed Center for Reclaiming America, a Christian supremacist institute that offered leadership training to members of the U.S. Congress, promoted creationism and a narrow view of religious liberty and opposed choice and equal civil rights for LGBT people.
I am grateful he had a peaceful death, and I join my voice with those who will be offering condolences to his family, his friends and his more than 10,000 congregants. I call upon the friends and members of Metropolitan Community Churches across the globe to pray that each one might find some peace of heart in their time of grief and loss.
I also call on people of conscience and goodwill everywhere to remember that peace of heart and peace among peoples were two things Rev. Kennedy regularly, and sadly, denied to many of our fellow citizens and global neighbors. As an originating author of the Land Letter to President Bush in October of 2002, Rev. Kennedy helped craft the rationale behind the invasion of Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Americans alike have endured anything but peace as a result.
As a leading proponent of the so-called "ex-gay" movement and an outspoken critic of legislation that would outlaw discrimination, Rev. Kennedy's weekly television and radio broadcasts, spread a message of animosity to more than three million households in the United States and to people in 165 nations. "Christians did not start the culture war," he said, "but...we are going to fight it. That is a fact, and the Bible assures us of victory."
This particular fight for "victory" will be a sad legacy of Rev. Kennedy's ministry. His work demonized countless thousands of our brothers and sisters who believe in the separation of church and state, the value of cultivating and celebrating diversity, the right of public schools to present curriculum that is scientifically sustainable, the equality of women, and the human rights of God's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children.
"God forbid that we who were born into the blessings of a Christian America should let our patrimony slip through our fingers and leave to our children the bleached bones of a godless, secular society," he wrote. Gay people, he said, were orchestrating "the most dangerous attack on marriage the world has ever seen."
Many will hail James Kennedy as a visionary for his use of mass media in spreading his message, but any fair analysis of his legacy must also consider his vision of radical separation based on gender, sexual orientation, creed and custom in light of the Gospel and Jesus' own practices of radical inclusion.
Though it is tempting in death to remember only the good things people have done, it is a dangerous temptation. As The Rev. Durrell Watkins, Senior Pastor-elect of Sunshine Cathedral Metropolitan Community Church in Fort Lauderdale, the closest MCC congregation to Dr. Kennedy's Coral Ridge church -- and perhaps among those who suffered most directly from his anti-gay pronouncements -- reflected, "That Dr. Kennedy was a strong leader cannot be questioned; yet we must also recognize that his vitriolic rhetoric against same-gender loving people caused needless suffering in our society. While we wish comfort to those who mourn, we also wish for a day when religion doesn't promote division, hatred and prejudice."
In short, we wish and work for peace.
May this moment serve as our common call to prayer that the Holy Spirit will raise up a new generation of spiritual leaders -- leaders who will repudiate the needless scapegoating that only divides us from one another. Let us pray that we, as a community of faith, may have the integrity necessary to avoid demonizing those with whom we disagree, preferring instead, as Jesus before us, to sit at table together, where understanding takes place.
The world is changing. Pray that the Church Universal will be in the vanguard of that movement for change and for peace.
The Reverend Nancy L. Wilson
Metropolitan Community Churches
NOTE: This statement prepared in conjunction with the Moderator's Global Justice Team of Metropolitan Community Churches, Rev. Pat Bumgardner, Chair, and Rev. Durrell Watkins, Senior Pastor-elect of Sunshine Cathedral Metropolitan Community Church.