Open letter rebukes those who use religion to justify discrimination
Washington, DC – Following Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s veto of SB 1062, which would have permitted businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation, nationally prominent evangelical leaders released a statement not only condemning the bill, but also challenging fellow Christians who supported it and similar legislation in other states. Signatories include Alan Chambers, the former president of Exodus International, Ted Haggard, pastor of St. James Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and former president of the National Association of Evangelicals, and Rachel Held Evans, a leading millennial Evangelical. The statement said in part:
As evangelicals we are saddened to see our brothers and sisters in Christ leveraging their faith to support an Arizona law that would allow business owners to discriminate against the gay community and many others on the basis of religion. We believe that Christians should oppose this law and others like it in Kansas, Georgia and Florida.
To support such a law is to fail to walk in the footsteps of Jesus who was known for associating with and loving those who were considered outcasts by his society.
Signers of the statement also commended Gov. Brewer’s veto.
“Gov. Brewer did the right thing,” said Rev. Ted Haggard. “In public commerce religion must not be a basis upon which we deny a fellow human being our services.”
Religious leaders’ stances on this issue will also shape the future of the church. A poll released yesterday by Public Religion Research Institute showed that 55 percent of white evangelical Protestant Milliennials believe religious groups are alienating young adults by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues.
Signers of the statement include clergy, theologians and thought leaders from across the spectrum, from Haggard to progressive evangelical leader Brian McLaren. The full list of signers and the full text of the statement are below and can be found here. Signers’ affiliations are listed for identification purposes only.
As evangelicals, we are saddened to see our brothers and sisters in Christ leveraging their faith to support an Arizona law that would allow business owners to discriminate against the gay community and many others on the basis of religion. We believe that Christians should oppose this law and others like it in Kansas and Georgia.
To support such a law is to fail to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, who was known for associating with and loving those who were considered outcasts by his society. Serving people with whom we disagree is a central calling for those who follow Jesus. We believe that the current position that many Evangelical leaders are taking on issues of discrimination toward the gay community directly contradict that posture of radical love and grace that Jesus so powerfully embodied in his life and teachings.
Many Millennials are leaving the church because far too often the church has failed to live in the pattern that Jesus has called us to. Many of us are committed to following Jesus but have become increasingly disheartened by the uncompassionate postures that many of our leaders in the evangelical church continue to take on many important social issues. We are saddened by the lack of Christ-likeness displayed by our leaders and deeply desire to see our churches return to speaking and living like Jesus. We believe that the time has come for church leaders to stop allowing fear to dictate their theological and social positions, and start acting in the radical love of Jesus.
Rev. Ted Haggard
St. James Church
Former President, National Association of Evangelicals
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Former President, Exodus International
Rachel Held Evans
Author and speaker
Author and activist
Marco Island, Florida
The CANA Initiative
Founder and director
Charlotte, North Carolina
Rev. Amy Butler
Calvary Baptist Church
Rev. Lillian Daniel
First Congregational Church
Glen Ellyn, Illinois
Dr. Michael Hardin
Founder and director
The Revangelical Movement
Dr. Phillip Clayton
Ingraham Professor of Theology
Claremont School of Theology
Dr. Joel Cruz
Chicago Theological Seminary
Dr. Egon Cohen
Department of Religion
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John Gehring is the Catholic Program Director at Faith in Public Life.
Pope Francis has dominated headlines and become a global spiritual rock star since his election on March 13. The 77-year old Argentine Jesuit is making waves by challenging Catholic leaders to build a “church for the poor,” urging the hierarchy not to be “obsessed” with a few hot-button issues and challenging “trickle-down” economic theories. In a sign of his unlikely widespread appeal, Pope Francis was named Person of the Year by Time magazine and The Advocate, America’s oldest magazine for the LGBT community
This is surely one of the most quotable Vicars of Christ in memory. Here are my favorites.
1. “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” — Interview aboard the Papal Plane after World Youth Day in Brazil.
2. “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: “Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?” We must always consider the person. — Interview with Jesuit Catholic journals around the world.
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Faith in Public Life helped to lead communications and media outreach for the fast.
WASHINGTON — As the Republican-controlled House of Representatives wrapped up its work for the year on Thursday with no progress on immigration, leaders from both parties said they would return to the issue early in the new year.
Representative Robert W. Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said at a hearing that immigration would be a “top priority” in 2014. He said the House would advance a series of bills to strengthen enforcement, improve the legal immigration process and find “the appropriate legal status for those who are not here lawfully today.”
Despite the biting chill, the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi of California, surrounded herself on the steps of the Capitol with dozens of Democratic lawmakers and with advocates who had been fasting in a tent on the National Mall to push the House to vote on an immigration bill.
Ms. Pelosi’s political theater was intended to identify Democrats with the fasters, whose protest had little effect on House Republican leaders but gained a wide following among Latino, immigrant and religious groups across the country.
As House members prepared to leave town, the activists did not seem discouraged by the lack of results from their efforts, which they said had expanded the reach of their movement. Although some Republicans expressed irritation at the tactics, advocates said they could expect more of the same next year.
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John Gehring, Catholic Program Director at Faith in Public Life, offered the following comments on Time magazine naming Pope Francis the “Person of the Year.”
Pope Francis has done more in the past nine months than any Catholic leader in 50 years to begin rescuing the Catholic Church from a Vatican culture often more fixated on privilege and power than the radical message of the Gospel. His personal humility, focus on the poor and stinging critique of economic inequality is capturing the attention of global leaders and ordinary people. Like his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, this pope is calling the Church to a deep spiritual reform that asks bishops to come out of cathedrals and walk the streets with the homeless, the hungry and the lonely. At a time when 1 in 10 Americans are former Catholics, Pope Francis provides a road map for U.S. bishops to regain their public voice and moral credibility by being pastors, not culture warriors.
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Faith in Public Life helped to lead communications and media outreach efforts for the fast.
Mendoza, an undocumented mother of three who works as a motel housekeeper, is one of about a dozen activists fasting on the National Mall near the U.S. Capitol. The fasters want the House of Representatives to vote on legislation that would grant some 11 million undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. The bill was approved earlier this year by the Senate but has met stiff resistance in the GOP-controlled House.
The “Fast for Families,” organized by faith, immigration and labor groups, began on Nov. 12. Four activists who went nearly 22 days without eating ended their fast last Tuesday. About a dozen others, including Mendoza, are carrying on with the strike, some fasting for one to several days at a time, others indefinitely, in the hope that they can compel Republican leadership in the House to bring the bill to a vote.
The activists have had a slew of visitors, including President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, many members of Congress and some from Obama’s Cabinet. One tent is adorned with cards written by well-wishers who have stopped in (“Adelante companeros” or “Keep going, friends,” one of the missives reads), and a table is lined with items found in border areas believed to belong to migrants, including a worn sneaker.
“The time is now for us to be under this big tent and talk about the issues that affect our communities because if we keep trying to fight the battles separately, we’ll never win,” the group’s executive director [of Dream Defenders] Phillip Agnew, 28, of Miami, Fla.
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