Two churches that share a passion for what they consider to be the civil rights issue of our time traveled together last week to Springfield.
About 50 representatives of Unitarian Universalist Church of Naperville and the First Congregational Church of Naperville joined several thousand people from throughout Illinois for the march on Springfield for marriage equality.
“For a number of years, we’ve talked about the idea that marriage should be equal for all people,” said the Rev. Emmy Lou Belcher of Unitarian Universalist Church. “Civil unions are separate and unequal, and that’s not something that we believe in.”
The Rev. Mark Winters of First Congregational Church said that social justice and equality are important issues to the congregation.
“We have been an open and affirming congregation for several years, and, honestly, discussions about LGBT issues are a lot like preaching to the choir,” he said. “God’s love for all families is something that is believed and practiced in our congregation every week.”
While Winters’ congregation has several members who are part of the LGBT community, he said, others come because of their open policy.
“We also have many heterosexual couples who came to our church specifically because we are open to and affirming of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters,” he said.
Belcher said that several dozen people form DUUC participated in the March on Springfield, some taking the day off of work and their children out of school.
“They felt that it’s important for young people to learn how to do civic work; how to work as a citizen,” she said.
Winters said First Congregational’s objective in participating in the event is to reinforce that “all people are created in the image of God.”
“I think it’s important for our congregation to be visible in the community on issues of justice,” he said. “Followers of Jesus have a responsibility to speak out on behalf of those whose rights are being denied.”
He said marriage is much different from what it was in biblical times.
“It breaks my heart that some people use Christianity to dehumanize their fellow citizens, and I want to make it very clear that those defending intolerance do not speak for all Christians,” he said. “The Bible talks about marriage as a hierarchical property arrangement, with men having authority over women. We don’t think of marriage that way any more.
“We now see marriage as a mutual, respectful commitment based on love. And the source of all that love is God. Therefore, we must acknowledge that the love shared in gay and lesbian couples is every bit as sacred as the love shared in heterosexual couples.”
Belcher was delighted by the diversity of people attending the march.
“There were Democrats and Republicans, people of all races, all different gender identifications, a very wide group of people,” she said. “People felt good about having participated. They stood up for something that they believe in. There’s power that comes from working together with a group of people.”
Winters said the cold and rainy day didn’t deter them.
“I wouldn’t have been anywhere else,” he said. “This is the civil rights issue of our time, and it’s critical for equality supporters to be the conscience of our public servants. I think those of us who were there felt like we were participating in history and were very proud to be a part of it.”
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