SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

September 30, 2012

Serving the “flock”

Epistle by Chicago pastor a must-read


A recent column about black preachers who won’t vote for President Barack Obama because of his stance on same-sex marriage stirred up a storm of discussion about ministerial leadership, gay marriage and the separation of church and state.

Without trying to reignite the debate, there is an eloquent treatise on the subject that every preacher, congregant and voter ought to read.

A prominent pastor in east Fort Worth called my attention to the open letter to black clergy written by the Rev. Otis Moss III, senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.

If the name of that church rings a bell, it is because it’s the one Obama attended for 20 years before withdrawing his membership in 2008 after an uproar over statements by then-Pastor Jeremiah Wright. And, no, I’m not going to talk about Wright except to say that most of his remarks were taken out of context.

In his letter urging people not to stay away from the polls in November, Moss begins with a pointed thesis:

“Tell your brethren who are part of your ministerial coalition to ‘live their faith and not legislate their faith’ for the Constitution is designed to protect the rights of all.

“We must learn to be more than a one-issue community and see the beloved community where we may not all agree, but we all recognize the fingerprint of the Divine upon all of humanity.”

  • Written in May after President Barack Obama announced his support for same-sex unions, Moss’ letter goes on to say: “The question I believe we should pose to our congregations is, ‘Should all Americans have the same civil rights?’

“This is a radically different question than the one you raised with the ministers, ‘Does the church have a right to perform or not perform certain religions rites.’ There is a difference between rights and rites.”

  • The minister proclaims: “The institution of marriage is not under attack as a result of the president’s words.

“Marriage was under attack years ago by men who viewed women as property and children as trophies of sexual prowess.

  • “Marriage is under attack by low wages, high incarceration, unfair tax policy, unemployment and lack of education.

“Marriage is under attack by clergy who proclaim monogamy yet think nothing of stepping outside the bonds of marriage to have multiple affairs with ‘preaching groupies.’”

Noting the long struggle for freedom and civil rights, and the fact that his father never had the chance to vote, Reverand Moss said that “it is my sacred duty to pull the lever for every member of my family who was denied the right to vote.

  • “I will not allow narrow-minded ministers or regressive politicians the satisfaction of keeping me from my sacred right to vote to shape the future for my grandchildren.”

Moss said that Obama is expected to be president of all the people in the country, “not the president of the Baptist Convention or bishop of the Sanctified or Holiness Church.

“He is called to protect the rights of Jew and Gentile, male and female, young and old, gay and straight, black and white, atheist and agnostic.”

He added, “If we dare steal away from the noise of this debate we will realize as a church we are called to ‘Do justice, live mercy and walk humbly with God.’

“Gay people have never been the enemy, and when we use rhetoric to suggest they are the source of our problems, we lie on God and cause tears to flow from the eyes of Christ.”

Amen, and amen.

Bob Ray Sanders writes for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

(I agree,  this is a concept worth honoring.  And very beautiful.   Jan)


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