I have prepared a resolution on social justice to be introduced at the next meeting of the Administrative Board of Palma Ceia United Methodist Church here in Tampa. It will create an inclusive statement of non-discrimination. However, it goes a bit further. In an on-line conversation I had with a new acquaintance, he made a statement that caught my interest. He said, “People don’t have to pay a price for discrimination against gay people.” I believe this is a true statement. You can’t really change how people feel, but you can change how they behave in public through laws and through action. People who make racists statements pay a price. If they are business owner, they may be boycotted by people who don’t beleive in racism. At work, they may be ostricized, and it can affect their potential opportunities. But for the most part, people don’t pay a price for discriminating against homosexuals. My resolution requires the church to put its money where its mouth is.
I decided that a statement saying we won’t discriminate would be a nice feel good thing, but this resolution goes further and requires that we provide support of time, resources, money and facilities, only to other organizations that have a comparable statement of non-discrimination. I think this makes it a stronger resolution because it calls for a form of direct action on our part.
TITLE: A Statement of Commitment to Justice for All People and a Call to Action for Palma Ceia United Methodist Church
SUBJECT: Equal Opportunity for all persons
REFERENCES: United Methodist Church Book of Discipline ¶161 and ¶162
FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS: There are no direct financial implications arising to Palma Ceia United Methodist Church associated with this resolution.
Inasmuch as Palma Ceia United Methodist Church has always been a church providing open hearts, open minds and open doors, it is appropriate that Palma Ceia United Methodist Church adopt a public statement of that commitment consistent with Biblical teaching and the Discipline of the United Methodist Church. This includes a call to action to put into practice our belief that people are free and secure only when all of society creates a social climate which believes in equal protection of and equal opportunity for all people. Especially as Methodists, “We believe we have a responsibility to innovate, sponsor, and evaluate new forms of community that will encourage development of the fullest potential in individuals…” ((United Methodist Church Book of Discipline ¶161)) As Plato said, “Justice will only exist where those not affected by injustice are filled with the same amount of indignation as those affected.”
Whereas, Christians have been called from the earliest days of Old Testament teaching to be Just to all, as in Micah 6:8 when the Prophet tells the people, “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?,” and;
Whereas, the Father of Methodism, John Wesley, wrote in his, “Explanatory Notes on The Bible,” for this verse, “He – God hath already told you in his word, with what you ought to come before him. To do justly – To render to every one their due, superiors, equals, inferiors, to be equal to all, and oppress none, in body, goods or name; in all your dealings with men carry a chancery in your own breasts, and do according to equity. To love mercy – To be kind, merciful and compassionate to all, not using severity towards any. Walk humbly with thy God – Keep up a constant fellowship with God, by humble, holy faith,” and;
Whereas, as described in John Gill’s Exposition of The Entire Bible, “to do justice” or “judgment”; means to exercise public judgment and justice, as a king, among his subjects; to do private and personal justice between man and man; to hurt no man’s person, property, and character, and;
Whereas, Justice is doing what is right. It is living by the Golden Rule and making decisions that are good for everyone. It is building relationships in the marketplace, the neighborhood or the family upon goodness, truth, mercy and compassion. It is living above the culture’s values. Justice is the recognition, according to Tom Ehrich, that life matters, how we treat others matters and the choices we make here and now matter. Our decisions reveal our character and make the world better or worse. Pursuing justice makes it better, and;
Whereas, Justice is also making sure that everyone has a seat at the table, a tenant of Methodism from its earliest roots as the first item of the 1908 Social Creed of the Methodist Episcopal Church says, “For equal rights and complete justice for all men in all stations of life,” and;
Whereas, in the 22nd Chapter of the Book of Matthew. Jesus was challenged by the Pharisee’s to define the Greatest Commandment. In verse 34 he responded, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” 38 “This is the first and greatest commandment.” But Jesus didn’t stop there. Without hesitation, he went on to say in verse 39, “And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.,'” and;
Whereas, in the New Testament, Paul says, “in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male or female, God has enough love for all!,” and;
Whereas, John Wesley wrote wistfully in his comment on Acts 2:45: “It was a natural fruit of that love wherewith each member of the community loved every other as his own soul. And if the whole Christian Church had continued in this spirit, this usage must have continued through all ages,” and;
Whereas, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us, “When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men must commit themselves to the glories of love. Where evil men would seek to perpetuate an unjust status quo, good men must seek to bring into being a real order of justice;” and;
Whereas, Florida United Methodist Bishop Timothy Whitaker has written, “When the risen Jesus commissioned the disciples, he told them to go and make disciples of all nations. When we hear the word “nations” we think of the nation-state. However the nation-state is a modern concept. In the first century nations were ethnic groups. … The Great Commission envisions a church made of all ethnic peoples, with their distinctive languages and cultures, united in one faith. To embrace a mission to all ethnic people is an evangelical imperative, and:”
Whereas, Florida United Methodist Bishop, Timothy Whitaker, has written in a statement, “In service, we let the light of Jesus Christ shine in history. Christ not only wants our faith in him, but also our service to others in his name. That is why he told us, ‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid’ (Matthew 5:14). In our service to the world we work to eliminate extreme poverty, to overcome racism, to establish justice, to care for the earth and to advocate for peaceable policies by all nations…”, and;
Whereas, The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church ¶161 states, “The community provides the potential for nurturing human beings into the fullness of their humanity. We believe we have a responsibility to innovate, sponsor, and evaluate new forms of community that will encourage development of the fullest potential in individuals. Primary for us is the gospel understanding that all persons are important-because they are human beings created by God and loved through and by Jesus Christ and not because they have merited significance. We therefore support social climates in which human communities are maintained and strengthened for the sake of all persons and their growth. We also encourage all individuals to be sensitive to others by using appropriate language when referring to all persons. Language of a derogatory nature (with regard to race, nationality, ethnic background, gender, sexuality, and physical differences) does not reflect value for one another and contradicts the gospel of Jesus Christ;” and;
Whereas, The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church ¶162 states, “The rights and privileges a society bestows upon or withholds from those who comprise it indicate the relative esteem in which that society holds particular persons and groups of persons. We affirm all persons as equally valuable in the sight of God. We therefore work toward societies in which each person’s value is recognized, maintained, and strengthened. We support the basic rights of all persons to equal access to housing, education, communication, employment, medical care, legal redress for grievances, and physical protection. We deplore acts of hate or violence against groups or persons based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, or economic status;” and;
Whereas, the United Methodist Church has adopted the saying, Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors, and;
Whereas, the website of Palma Ceia United Methodist Church states, “We have Open Minds, Open Hearts, and Open Doors. I think you will find us a warm, welcoming and accepting church.,” and;
Whereas, Palma Ceia United Methodist Church and its members view our place in the Tampa Bay area and the larger world as witnessing to Jesus Christ’s message of love for and acceptance of all people, and;
Whereas, The people of Palma Ceia United Methodist Church have a history of acceptance of and outreach to all people, and a desire to encourage others to love one another in the spirit of the Gospel Message of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ;
Now therefore be it resolved: The People of Palma Ceia United Methodist Church adopt the following statement of non-discrimination:
The people of Palma Ceia United Methodist Church are called to share God’s love as we minister with and to all persons in the community where the church is located and beyond, providing worship, nurture, fellowship, and service. Our welcome knows no boundaries of age, race, ethnicity, culture, gender, sexual orientation, economic condition, physical or mental ability. We embrace and seek to preserve the beautiful, amazing diversity of God’s creation. We cooperate in ministry with other local churches and groups of God’s people as we participate in the worldwide mission of Christ.
And will publish said statement as a public statement of Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors to our community and beyond in all places and publications as appropriate, and;
The statement will be added in a reasonable time to the website on the page which includes the current statement of openness, and may be placed at other places as appropriate on all official Church printed and electronic materials where such a statement would be expected and advance the purpose of inclusion of all in the message of Jesus Christ.
Be it further resolved, we require that organizations seeking and/or receiving material support from Palma Ceia United Methodist Church through our time, talents, resources and use of facilities will be required to have a statement of non-discrimination that will include at least all categories stated in the Statement of Non-Discrimination, to include age, race, ethnicity, culture, gender, sexual orientation, economic condition, physical or mental ability, and;
An exception is granted for organizations that are a sub-division of a national organization, and as such do not have the authority at the local level to proscribe a different non-discrimination statement than that published by the national organization, and must demonstrate said restriction. However, the Chairperson of the Administrative Board or The Pastor or his/her designee shall be required to address a letter to the appropriate governing authority of said organization providing the non-discrimination statement of Palma Ceia United Methodist Church and expressing our desire that all organizations utilizing the support and resources of Palma Ceia United Church maintain a published non-discrimination statement that includes, in pertinent part, all classes recognized in the non-discrimination statement of Palma Ceia United Methodist Church, and;
It will be assumed that other United Methodist Churches adhere to the non-discrimination statements set forth in the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church, and;
Be it further resolved, Palma Ceia United Methodist Church will, whenever reasonably possible, seek to acquire products, services, sponsorships, etc. only from organizations which have a published non-discrimination statement which equivalently protects all classes listed in the non-discrimination statement of Palma Ceia United Methodist Church, and;
This requirement shall not be seen as requiring Palma Ceia United Methodist Church to end or otherwise interrupt any existing contracts and/or agreements for the provision of services or products that existed prior to passage of this resolution.
Effective Date: The requirements of this resolution shall be effective immediately on passage by the Administrative Board of Palma Ceia United Methodist Church, and any required notices under the exception clause shall be sent within a reasonable time after passage, but not more than sixty (60) days from passage. Inclusion of the Non-Discrimination Statement in printed materials, where appropriate, is required only in new supplies of the printed materials after existing supplies are exhausted.
UPDATE: (2008-08-18 at 15:07:50) I made some changes over this past weekend, and those are now incorporated, and you may click here to download a copy of the document in PDF format.