A Pastoral Word
Recently within our Midway community, there has been a lot of publicity surrounding the process of developing a draft fairness ordinance. In February, Midway's mayor, Grayson Vandegrift, said the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Human Rights Commission approached him about a countywide fairness ordinance. 'I had heard about fairness ordinances, but like most people, I didn't really know exactly what they were.' Vandegrift said the commission 'explained it more to me – what the fairness ordinance is – and it sort of opened my eyes, because I, like most everybody else I've talked to, already thought that everyone was protected under some state or federal law.' Under federal and state laws, employers cannot discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability. A 1978 federal law prohibits discrimination against federal employees based on conduct or attributes that don't affect their performance, such as marital status, and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has interpreted that to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, there is no federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation for citizens, and no federal law prohibits discrimination against federal employees or citizens based on gender identity. 'Now I see why it's called a fairness ordinance,' Vandegrift said, 'because it's unfair to protect everybody else but not protect everybody. I think Midway should have a discussion about it. And there's gonna be a lot of discussion.'" This conversation surrounding the process of developing a draft fairness ordinance has now moved to the Midway Council's Finance, Ordinance and Policy Committee which decided recently to "have City Attorney Phil Moloney compare different versions of a fairness ordinance, which provides equal protection for sexual orientation and gender identity, to help decide what to include in the city's version." (midwayky.blogspot.com)
Many of you may be wondering why I am sharing all this background about city business. I am sharing it because the Elders of Midway Christian Church were asked by two members of our congregation to prayerfully consider where we stand as a congregation on this discussion surrounding the fairness ordinance. The Elders met on Monday March 16th and reviewed material shared with them by the Human Rights commission. It became clear during our discussion that the Elders were not able to write a letter supporting the fairness ordinance because no ordinance has been written as of yet. However, what the Elders decided they could do after much prayer and conversation was to write a letter supporting the process of developing a draft fairness ordinance. We came to this conclusion based on our experience a few years ago when our particular denomination passed a Sense of the Assembly resolution calling upon the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to recognize itself as striving to become a people of grace and welcome to all God's children though differing in race, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, ethnicity, marital status, physical or mental ability, political stance or theological perspective.
To refresh my memory while writing this month's Pastoral Word, I went back to the May 2013 Contact and found my article talking about this particular Sense of Assembly resolution. I was surprised to see how much had changed in two years and how much had not changed. In May 2013, I said, "We are people of the table first and foremost. We say that it is not our table, but that it is God's table, where all are welcome. And whether we agree with each other or not is not essential for us to break bread with one another. We know and we celebrate that it was God who first welcomed us. It was God who first loved us. We know and celebrate that it was God who first showed us grace. For me as a Disciple, it has never been important for me that people agree with me on everything in the church. What has been important, what has been life giving and life shaping for me as a follower of Jesus Christ is that I know we can all come to the table as brothers and sisters and love one another because God first claimed us as God's very own.
These words still hold true for me today. These words still hold true for our Elders today as well. These words are our foundation as people of WELCOME.
I have included a copy of the Elders' letter (insert) in our newsletter because it is my hope and prayer that in this letter from the Elders you will also see that these words of welcome that surround God's Table are not just words to us. They are our mission which we are striving to live out as people of God.