By Marcia Ledford
I testified about my life experience at the July 8th hearing on resolution A049, the blessing of same gender couples. I followed the eloquent Duke University sophomore, Jonathan York, as the second person to rise in its favor. I was sandwiched between two people who opposed the legislation itself and who clearly opposed any kind of blessing of same-gender couples. The collect read by the chaplain of the committee prior to testimony called for that which is cast down to rise up and for that which is old to be made new. It was mindful of Ecclesiastes, “There is a time to be born and a time to die…”
First, let me say that I embrace a church that allows for respectful dissent to be shared freely before our assembly. Voicing opinion is vital to arriving at a place of right conduct. The person who spoke ahead of me said that we are moving too fast. I couldn’t agree more that we are moving. But it feels like a snail’s pace to me and my partner. Linda and I have been together since 1982. How long would the speaker have us and the millions of our fellow lesbian and gay sisters and brothers wait – people who have stories like ours? How long is enough? What right does she have, by virtue of merely her heterosexuality, to impinge so blithely on our personal experience? It is not like it is a secret that lesbian and gay couples exist and live in loving and committed relationships all over the country, and indeed the world.
The speaker after me, a woman priest, shocked me with her words. She warned that if we passed A049 that there would be bloodshed in other countries against Christians; therefore we should not endanger their lives — it is too risky a business. I had been seated about 5 feet from her, in flesh and blood. I think she did not hear a single word I had just said about my shared life with Linda of nearly 30 years.
I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that she is not involved in direct ministry with the endangered Christians she is so concerned about. Violence against LGBT Christians in Uganda is a reality. Homosexuality is a crime in 76 countries. The truth is that Christians are in danger all over the world for various reasons, and while I do not want to endanger anyone, I think this was an act of manipulation and emotional abuse. I thought about what Jesus’ response might be and realized that for the most part, Jesus healed and helped those in his midst, in his immediate presence. There were distance healings, but mostly he responded to immediate needs that were closest to him.
And so, someone feeling threatened resorted to fear-mongering and deflection. She ignored the compelling story unfolding right in front of her face by a woman breathing the same air as she. I wanted to say, “I’m standing right in front of you — I’m right here.” I was in her presence seeking a healing and a rising up, and again LGBT people were cast down by such maneuvering.
What is most halting about this experience is that these same old tactics were used to block the ordination of women in the early 70’s. They were used in the 60’s to derail the African-American civil rights movement, and against the women suffragists led by the intrepid Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. They were employed to quiet the oratory prowess of abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
I stand on the shoulders of these courageous change agents. We all stand on the shoulders of someone who bravely opened a door that had been locked tightly. We are now charged to knock and open doors, so that those who come after us may also rise up and walk through them. And may we come through those doors with the blessings of God Almighty.