A cautionary note: Ever since I was humiliated by a minister
who took umbrage back in 1945 when I jumped out of a church window at
the close of his sermon, I haven't been trustworthy on matters
Nevertheless, matters ecclesiastical are what I'm about to
hold forth on. And get this: I'm going to tell you about a newfound
admiration I now have for large numbers of clergymen and clergywomen.
It grows out of two events that took place on July 4and it has to do
with ecclesiastical declarations of independence that I find admirable.
Maybe you've read about them.
(1) In Atlanta, Ga., according to the NY Times, "The United
Church of Christ became the first mainline Christian denomination to
officially support same-sex marriages when its General Synod passed a
resolution affirming 'equal marriage rights for couples regardless of
Yes, you read that right and it means what lots of people are
afraid it means.
The Rev. John Thomas, president and general minister of the
United Church of Christ and its 6,000 congregations and 1.3 million
members, told reporters (while obviously relishing the date) that "on
this July 4, the United Church of Christ has courageously acted to
declare freedom, affirming marriage equality, affirming the civil rights
of gayof same-gendercouples to have their relationships recognized
as marriages by the state, and encouraging our local churches to
celebrate those marriages."
OK, so he sounds a little breathless. He's justifiably
The resolution, the Times reported, "appeared to have
overwhelming support" when the vote was taken by a show of hands of the
General Synod after a 45-minute debate.
If you have any qualms about about the rightness of this
exercise in testicular and ovarian fortitude, check this out: Later in
the week, the LA Times reported that "a small fire and anti-gay graffiti
were found at a church in Staunton [Va.] belonging to the United Church
of Christ, a denomination that endorsed same-sex marriage last week.
Graffiti on the exterior of St. John's Reformed United Church of Christ
called church members sinners."
And here's what I consider a principle truth: When yahoos set
fire to a church and scribble on its walls, it's a sure sign the church
is doing something right.
(2) Then there's the Governing Board of the National Council
of Churches USAwhich announced that "about 630 religious leaders and
nearly 16,000 people of faith in 44 states have endorsed a Fourth of
July declaration that urges President Bush to develop an 'early fixed
timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops,' and to listen to a wider
range of religious advisers and to reevaluate his policy on Iraq."
Why would they urge the president to do that? They go on to
make their case:
The Truth, Mainly
"No weapons of mass destruction have been found; no link to
the attacks on September 11, 2001 has been shown. It has become clear
that the rationale for invasion was at best a tragic mistake, at worst a
The document provides a list of bad things we should reject,
"leaders who have sent many honorable sons and daughters to
fight a dishonorable war."
"the violence that has cost over seventeen hundred American
lives, left thousands grievously injured, and killed untold numbers of
Iraqis whose deaths we are unwilling to acknowledge or count."
"the abuse of prisoners that has shamed our nation and
damaged our reputation."
"theologies that demonize other nations and other religions
while arrogantly claiming righteousness for ourselves as if we share no
complicity in human evil."
Then the document urges us to work toward and accept these
"foreign policies that seek justice rather than domination,
compassion rather than control."
"An early fixed timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops
and the establishment of a credible multinational peacekeeping force."
human rights even for our enemies and
restoration of our reputation as a people committed to the rule of law."
"spending and taxing priorities that put the poor first,
providing health care, employment, and quality education for all."
"a restoration of truth telling in the public square" and the
use of force as a "last resort" rather than a "first strike."
The document concludes with this call: "It is time to speak
out that this 4th of July will celebrate the best ideals of our nation
for our sake and for the sake of the world."
Pretty heady stuff, hey? Almost enough to make me
wonderbrieflyif I could crawl back in through that church window I
bailed out of 60 years ago.
Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity
from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail