Today the Supreme Court released its expected decision effectively overturning Roe v. Wade and taking away the Federally guarranteed right to safe abortions for women (and anybody with a uterus, including transgender men). Beyond the immediate impact of this decision on millions of people, there are also legitimate and serious concerns about how this precedent could also undercut LGBTQ+ rights as well as the right to birth control (and many other privacy rights).
I am not a constiutional expert, but know that these are emotionally charged issues on all sides of the debate. I also know that there are a broad range of beliefs and convictions on this issue, even within our own church. Some may be celebrating today; many our mourning. Some are staunchly pro-choice; others equally strongly who believe that people should not have that choice. And many fall in between. We believe in a "Big Tent", and so whatever your personal position is, we respect you and you are welcome here. Even when we disagree, we have grace for each other.
I find this issue complicated and difficult. After many years of thought on this topic, my personal position is that abortion should be legal, safe and rare. I believe that people should have legal autonomy over their own bodies, and these decisions should be made between a person and their doctor and, when appropriate, significant other and close family.
I also believe that we should advocate for and support social policy and social services that make it easier for people to have children (expanded SNAP and WIC support, childcare support, universal healthcare, access to birth control, programs that fight poverty, make adoption and fostering easier and provide more support for families, etc.)
I am always happy to have a deeper theological discussion around this issue (feel free to reach out), but here I want to address some pastoral issues.
For many people, this decision is causing fear. For millions of people, there is a legitimate real fear about losing access to an important medical procedure. In many states, the ban on abortion will likely include a ban on abortions for victims of rape, victims of incest, and in cases where the life of the mother is at-risk or the pregnancy is not viable. There are many complicated reasons why people choose abortion -- and in my experience, few choose it lightly. For those who fear, first be assured that any change to abortion laws in CT is very unlikely. Second, we need to hear and recognize people's fear -- it is legitimate. We need to stand with people in their fear.
For many people, this decision is causing anger. Many people today are angry. To many, it feels like we have gone back 50 years and taken away a vital right from people. Few things are more sacred than a person's autonomy over their own body. For those who are angry, we get it. We hear you. We stand with you in your anger.
For many people, this decision is causing uncertainty. For manty, the fear and anger comes with a lot of uncertainty as well. Will the Obergfell decision guarranteeing marriage equality be overturned? Will current same-sex marriages be invalidated? If I am legally married to person of the same sex in CT, will that marriage be recognized by other states when we travel? Will other LGBTQ+ rights be at risk? Will access to birth control be lost? What other rights might we lose? Again, luckily, in CT we are unlikely to experience these things, but this could happen in other states and at a national level. These are real and series fears. And we stand with you in them.
For many people, this conversation can be triggering. For people who have made the difficult decision to have an abortion in the past, all of these conversations can be triggering and scary. You can feel judged or shame. You may feel vulnerable or that you have to hide something from your community and even friends or family. Statistically, we know that there are people in our church who have likely had abortions or have family members or loved ones who have made that choice. Please know that at RFC, there is no judgement, no shame. We love you, we honor you, we respect you, we stand with you.
So what do we do now as a community of faith?
PRAY. Scripture teaches us to bring all of our fears, angers and anxieties to God in prayer. What does that mean? Simply talk with God about them. Be open and honest and vulnerable in your prayers. Let the Spirit meet you in the space. And pray for others -- pray for those experiencing fear and anger and anxiety. Pray for our nation. Pray.
ADVOCATE. Use your voice (and your vote). For me personally, that means advocateing for and supporting policies and politicians that will work towards making abortion safe, legal, and rare. This might look different for you, depending on your own position (and I don't presume that you agree with my position or that my position is the only "faithful" answer; I believe there can be multiple faithful answers.)
GET INVOLVED. There are organizations and movements that are mobilizing to help fight these issues on a state level. There are also organizations working on providing resources and support to people that may need to travel out-of-state (or out-of-country) to obtain the medical care they desire. Use Google and find out how you might get involved with this work, if you are so inclined.
SHARE YOUR STORY. If abortion is part of your own story, consider sharing it so that people can understand why people choose what they choose, how this issue can be complicated, and put a real human face on an issue that too many people simply debate in the abstract. This takes risk and vulnerability, but I think it is worth it.
I know that there is some risk posting this piece publicly. Some will wonder how a pastor can support the right to choose an abortion. Others will be angry that I haven't gone far enough in defending the right or take umbrage with my "legal, safe & rare" paradigm. That's ok. I don't mind the critics, the critiques, nor the discussions.
But I think it is important that as people of faith, we think critically about what our position is and why we hold that position. And again, I affirm that different people will come to different conclusions -- and that is OK. We can disagree without being disagreeable; we can hold opposing views (even strongly!) and still love each other as siblings; we can even be repulsed by each others's position, and still worship God together.
Finally, if you are feeling fear, anger, or anxiety, please feel free to reach out. We can meet to talk, pray, or just sit together. I am happy to grab coffee or a vodka soda (only alcohol alloweed on my diet currently) or breakfast or lunch. Please, reach out.
And mostly, let us love each other well. Let us show empathy and grace. Let us model vulnerability and humbleness of spirit. Let us seek to love each other as Christ has loved us -- for this is how people will know that we follow in the way of Jesus.
- Justice Action Team
Happy Juneteenth everybody! Hoping everybody is feeling inspired to keep our eyes on a just world and working toward that place where we can all love each other wholly and well.
I hope I have included everyone who has done the core CHIAA training, as well as the old pre-GHIAA racial justice group. Some of you also got a note through basecamp from Lynn a couple days ago. I wanted to check in with all of you, and welcome you to our new RJAT 2.0 group. Since the RJAT (Lynn, Rich, Ben, Liza, Miela, Jen, Ken, Jason, Krisitn) training is done, we felt it would be a good time to hopefully combine all of the racial justice groups into one active group. If you are not on the basecamp RJAT group now and want to be, let us know please! Also, this new group is open to all of RFC, so feel free to forward this to anyone that would be interested.
So here's what we've been up to: We are going to focus in three areas. These areas will function like subcommittees, basically, but all under the larger RJAT team. We plan to have meeting as a larger group, but be able to have smaller group meetings in each area so that we can get more done.
Church Equity and Accountability: This group will focus on RFC internally, making sure we are accountable to our mission as a church to be an anti-racist church and one that is striving to be an equitable, joyful Beloved Community. Part of the RJAT training was a very (very very) long internal survey of where we are as a church, in which we were able to lay out several very specific action steps we can work on. This group will be working on those, but there is room for creativity here along the way, it isn't a prescriptive list, just one to help us in this work. This group may work with the Board, the worship team, RFC staff, etc, (Facilitator: Rich Gruber)
Education: We recognize that anti-racism, anti-supremacy and building emergent culture is an ongoing project, not a destination, this group aims to help further our own growth and education in ourselves and the congregation. (Facilitator: TBD)
Legislative: this group will primarily be the contact group for our work with GHIAA and with the CT Black and Puerto Rican Causus. We will be meeting with our contact person from GHIAA (Merica) in the next week or two so if you want to work with GHIAA let me know soon so that I can make sure you get the link for that meeting. I'll talk more about this further down in this emal. (Facilitator: Miela Gruber, team members include all of the GHIAA core team who still want to be involved and anyone else who is interested in the legislative piece of this work. )
We really hope that you see yourself in this fight, and that you find hope and joy in these difficult times by joining in solidarity with all people for liberation. If you are interested and want to be included in the basecamp group in any of these in particular please let one of us know. If you are confused by Basecamp or want help finding your way around the app, please contact Lynn.
More updates: The congregation will hopefully affirm the mission statement that we wrote last year, I will include it at the bottom of this email for you to take a look and if anything concerns you, or you want to discuss it, please let me know. I'd be happy to talk about it, and we are open to changing it if there is something we missed.
Following and based on the house meeting stage of the legislative period, GHIAA has picked the following priorities for research. Once the research stage has finished, they will begin cutting the issues and begin action. All of the GHIAA core members should have an email from Cori with the video of the annual meeting with the next steps as well as a survey which is due Tuesday. The survey asks if you want o help with the research stage of any of the current issues. Please sign up if you have an interest or passion, or experience in any of the following areas: If you didn't get the email from Cori with the link for the survey let me know so I can forward it to you. The issues are:
Environment/climate equity and change (right Lynn?) I believe this would include the research on asthma rates in Hartford too??
They also worked on an emergency basis on some juvenile justice legislation coming up that is very concerning, riding on the dangerous "rise in crime" rhetoric going on.
The Black and Puerto Rican Caucus (led by Rep. Geraldo Reyes, D-Waterbury, and Rep Bobby Gibson, D-Bloomfield, Windsor) announced nine legislative priorities for 2022. We hope that RFC will be able to do our small part to support their efforts as well. They are:
COVID-19 heatlh equity
Economic development and workforce
You can find more details about each of these nine pillars at the BPRC page at wp.cga.ct.gov.
Finally, here is the mission statement that Kristin read today:
Riverfront Family Church is fully committed to the liberation of each person from the bonds of oppression and injustice, acknowledging that we too need to be liberated. This is our sacred work.
We believe in a god who loves us all, without exception, and that God's love is both just and merciful. We believe that it is our responsibility to work to heal the wounds caused when the Christian church has been used as a weapon of intersectional harm and exploitation. This is our spiritual responsibility.
We actively seek to expose and dismantle our complicity with beliefs and systems-including white supremacy (and patriarchy) that perpetuate injustice and oppression. We reject the violence and spiritual falsehood of relationship based on coercion or hierarchy. We embrace "power with" relationships, elevate the value of communal responsibility over the value of individualism, and seek the ongoing creation of cooperative egalitarian community. this is the lived expression of our beliefs.
We value deep listening, humility, joy, relational power, transformation, restoration, and equity. We commit to following pro-Black and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color civil rights leaders of all genders, sexualities, faith traditions, and generations, past, present and future-in solidarity and with deep respect. We commit to supporting justice work as it takes shape in our congregation and beyond. We believe justice and liberation of all of us is necessary for real love, joyful relationship, and the wholeness that the Creator intended for all of creation.
Once again, we know it has been a tough couple of years for folks, and so we embrace this work as sometimes difficult, but also as joyful, hopeful work, and look forward to joining with you in solidarity.
- Pastor Ben
Here is a list of six great books to read during PRIDE month... check them out and let me know if you read any.
From the Eerdman's webiste:
June is Pride Month, and you’ve probably seen countless businesses touting their rainbow flags, multi-colored logos or raising their support in different ways. Yet, there is still such disunity and unrest on this topic, among people of faith especially. We find ourselves at a time again where we should be willing to listen and seek to understand those in the LGBTQ+ community who are simply fighting to be seen and heard, cared for and loved. This month, as an Eerdmans reading community, we hope you’ll take time to listen. Check out some of our upcoming and previously published books that give a voice to wonderful stories of life, love, rocky relationships, and what the Bible has to say about it all.