Sunday I had the honor of celebrating the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's birthday with the Douglas Congregational United Church of Christ in Douglas Michigan. This spirit-led congregation, shepherded by the Rev. Andrew DeBraber, allowed me to provide their homily for the day. The service was beautiful as the words of Scripture and of the Rev. King were interwoven throughout. Below is my homily.
We gather here in celebration and recognition of the birth of a man of
vision and strength. A man who had the courage to hold onto his
convictions and speak his belief in a world that could be just and
true for all.
A man who had the strength of spirit, and I call it the Holy Spirit,
who had the strength of Spirit to rally against the growing injustices
We are all familiar with the “I Have a Dream” speech during the March
on Washington which gives voice to his vision of an end to the racial
segregation and economic injustice.
Some may not know that he tried out that speech in my hometown of
Detroit during the Great Freedom March. On June 23 in the summer of
1963, I was just one of thousands of little black girls heading to
Woodward Avenue with our families near downtown Detroit during what
they called “The Great Freedom March.”
I remember walking alongside my two older sisters and eventually being carried by my
parents who were anxious to catch a glimpse and
get energized by the voice and the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther
King Jr., that preacher from the South who was changing the way the
world saw us.
His nemesis was the pervasive and oppressive racism and discrimination
of the day that let entire communities think they had the right to
prevent others from enjoying what they took as their God-given right.
At the age of five, peering over the crowds while safe in my father’s
arms, my nemesis was the scratchy skirt netting beneath my pretty pink
dress, so I wasn't exactly fired up by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s Jr.'s
electric words of hope and vision.
But fast forward to college when I started to read and learn more
about the words and power of minister King and his message of
revolution and challenging the status quo.
I listened to his speech before concerned clergy and laity at
Riverside Church in New York on April 4 1967 where this Southern
Baptist, civil rights minister, this follower of Christ, made his
public stance on why he was against the war in Vietnam.
He spoke of the sin of silence.
And I became enthralled as he connected the dots of how this nation’s
chance to take war on poverty was usurped by the war on Vietnam.
And how the war of Vietnam was allowed to continue because once
again, we had segregated and demonized and made the situation a "thing"
instead of people.
You see, it’s easy to dismiss someone when you label them as other. Set
those fire hoses on those non-violent protestors seeking justice, they
are just black, ...they don’t matter.
Bomb those huts in those villages, there are overrun ..... with communists.
You can’t know God if you’re loving someone that looks like you.
That’s not ...natural.
Now I know there is great debate on what the Rev. King’s stance would
have been for those of us seeking justice and equal rights in this
country for the lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender community.
I don’t know for certain. But as a gay Christian leading a campaign,
as the Faith Advocacy Coodinator for (GIFT) Gays in Faith Together, as a precocious child who recognized the importance of Dr. King when
I saw my father cry for the first time in my life after the murder of the Rev. King
,as an African American lesbian Christian who followed, listened to and
read the words of the Rev. King who speaks of his “commitment to
Jesus Christ”; his words and actions tell me that he would stand with
me in solidarity as I visit churches across West Michigan and ask for
your support in letting others know that yes, you can be gay and
I believe in the power of his conviction and faith as I say Yes, you
can be gay and a person of faith.
I feel the power of his passion as I tell you, God does not condemn
you or your love. God does not make mistakes. You are whole. You are
loved. Now go out and be all that God has meant for you to be.
Rev. King said during his speech at Riverside church in New York City
“I speak for the suffering, the helpless and the outcast children. We
( ministers, Christians) are called to speak for the weak, the
voiceless, those called enemies.”
Now many of my gay Christian friends would not consider themselves,
weak or helpless.
We know and recognize that we are all God’s children. We are loved.
We are not mistakes. And because we have been battered and bruised by
those calling themselves Christian and still found our way to love
and follow Christ, we do all that we can to lift up those who have
been hammered by the church’s teachings. By the church’s silence.
But there are many of us out here who are outcast, who have been
called enemy, abomination and they believe it. They take it to heart.
Some take it to an early grave.
That is why my work with churches and the “Gay Christian? Yes!”
campaign is crucial. We want to change the climate of West Michigan
and beyond, making this a safe and welcoming community for the lesbian,
bisexual, gay and transgender community by encouraging vocal and
visible gay Christians and allies..
We want church representatives to join us and help us spread the word
that yes, you can be gay and Christian.
- We want you to tell us what it means for you to be part of an open
and affirming congregation.
- We want you to sign up to mentor churches that want to undergo the
process to become open and affirming.
- We want you to help us raise money for the 2012 billboard campaign
stating “Gay Christian? Yes!"
-We want you to send two members from your congregation and encourage
friends in other congregations to join us as we create a cadre of
volunteers of writers, speakers, prayers, financial supporters,
marketers, web designers to help with the programming, the resources
and the curriculum that will come out of this movement.
-We want you to bring us your ideas on how we can support each other.
- We would like to have at least one church represented from every
denomination in West Michigan so that a gay person can find a place to
be who they are as God made them.
We know that not everyone can find an open and affirming congregation
or they work in a non-affirming place and they feel like pebbles in a
You can get overwhelmed pretty quickly when you’re the only one, but
when joined by other rocks,... I call us God Rocks in the Stream, or
We can make a difference. So on the last Wednesday of the month,
starting 7 p.m. Jan. 26 in the basement of the First Place Building of
the United Methodist Church, 207 East Fulton, we have our first
support group for adult gay Christians and allies.
It’s a place to come and be heard, to listen, to vent, to feel the
spiritual and emotional support of other gay Christians and allies.
Additional dreams for the year include:
-A prayer service on National
Coming Out Day.
-Forty (40) days of writings and prayers to be posted on our website during
advent from local gay christians and allies
- A Voices campaign featuring video stories of how you found your
congregation as a gay christian and the difference it has made in your
-Affirming sermons from area clergy.
And we would love to have your ideas as we build coalitions.
During the last year of his life, the Rev. King called for a “radical
revolution of values.” He wanted us to move from a thing to a
person-oriented society. He said that “a nation that spends more on
the military than social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
He asked for a call for “an embracing and unconditional love for all mankind.”
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. believed in the power of love. His
vision, his dream for this world was all about love and justice.
As we celebrate and recognize his birthday, may we remember the power
of love, of justice and of the importance of making this a reality
for ALL God’s children.