Heartland Clergy for Inclusion

acceptance from the heart

One Pastor Reflects

June 21, 2011

The following appeared in The Congregationalist, the church newsletter of the First Central Congregational United Church of Christ in Omaha, Nebraska for June 23, 2011.  It was written by the Rev. Dr. Scott Jones, the Senior Minister.

On Wednesday, June 15 over three hundred people gathered at the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, overlooking the fast-rising waters of the Missouri River, for the public release of the Heartland Proclamation by Heartland Clergy for Inclusion.  First Central was represented by myself, Rev. Jeannie Bates, Rev. Fred Felger, Rev. Jim Harmon, Rev. Donald Wester, and a handful of our members who were present in the enthusiastic crowd.

We proclaimed, “In repentance and obedience to the Holy Spirit, we stand in solidarity as those who are committed to work and pray for full acceptance and inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons in our churches and in our world.”  You’ll find a copy of the proclamation inserted in this Congregationalist, along with a list of clergy who had signed the document as of June 15.  You can also check out the Heartland Proclamation website at www.heartlandproclamation.org in order to see the latest list of clergy signers and to read comments, news stories, and blog posts. 

Early this year, the Rev. Dr. Eric Elnes of Countryside Community Church called together a group of local clergy to address the need for more public statements by Christian clergy on behalf of the full equality and inclusion of LGBT persons.  Fred Felger and I have both worked on the planning committee of the group that eventually selected the name Heartland Clergy for Inclusion.   It has been fun, ecumenical work with a group of energetic and gifted clergy. 

Acceptance of LGBT persons has increased dramatically in American culture in recent years.  The latest Gallup Poll revealed that 53% of Americans support marriage equality for lesbians and gays.  Now all but one mainline Protestant denomination (the United Methodist Church) ordains openly gay ministers.  And important laws have recently been implemented.

For many people, the issues of LGBT civil rights and inclusion are settled, but there is still much work to be done before full equality and recognition are achieved.  For instance, in Omaha in 2011 it is still legal for an employer to fire an employee whom they discover to be dating someone of the same gender.  Last fall the City Council rejected an ordinance that would have made it illegal to fire someone for that reason. 

 The Rev. Dr. David Ruhe, one of First Central’s former pastors, has signed the proclamation and also drove to Omaha on June 15 to speak publicly at the event at the pedestrian bridge.  David said, “We have not spoken in the public arena as regularly and forcefully as faith in a God of love and justice requires of us. To borrow words from the prophet Micah, we have perhaps been too busy ‘walking humbly with [our] God’ to truly ‘do justice and love kindness.’”

Written by Scott Jones

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Welcome to the Heartland Clergy for Inclusion’s presentation of The Heartland Proclamation. Join us in an ongoing conversation about God’s unconditional love for all people and about advocation of justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.