This week has been a real learning experience for me. I attended the City Council meeting and presented testimony in favor of the Human Equal Rights Ordinance. While there I was asked to minister to two young gay men who came out for the first time in their testimony. I also attended the Houston Pastor Council luncheon in which pastors who oppose the ordinance presented their concerns and organized for their response.
I come away from these encounters convinced that as Christians we need not defame one another in the public square and that it is essential to our democracy for us all to express our convictions there, even if we disagree. Separation of Church and State is critical to the functioning of our city, and as people of faith we need to bring our perspective to the table.
We must find a way to witness to the truth we know in Christ without practicing a politics of division. Below you will find a reflection on the Council meeting written by Johnny Rovell, a parishioner of St. Stephen’s who accompanied me. You will also find a contact list of the City Council members. They would like to hear from you. -- Lisa Hunt
I attended the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance hearings with Rev. Lisa this past Tuesday and City Hall was packed. There were so many people squished into the room to speak in favor of or in opposition to this ordinance that they had to house some people in the annex and bring them through. The majority of the speakers were in favor of equal protection and we heard some very important stories from members of the LGBTQIA community (some of whom were Christian) about discrimination in housing and work. On the other side of the ideological aisle, several evangelical Christians spoke of their concerns regarding safety and their beliefs regarding the morality of this measure. Since we were not allowed to make noises of support or dissent it was a quiet, tense environment.
It was certainly not the place that I would ever choose to come out of the closet for the first time. Coming out of the closet is often difficult and can be terrifying (it still pains me to think about my own coming out experience 13 years later), and yet I had the privilege of watching two young men do just that in City Council Chambers. Both spoke of being scared of what their parent’s may say, and much to my sadness one gentleman expressed concerns that he would be forced to leave his church because of this announcement. Despite these fears though, they saw this ordinance with all of its protections for LGBTQI folks, minorities, and women as too important to sit quietly and not be true to who they were. They bravely lived their truth in front of cameras and strangers to help ensure protection for others.
The coming out process is not just experienced by those of us in the LGBTQI community. Coming out happens when folks make public declarations of truths that have been kept hidden because of fear of retribution or social castigation. Coming out also infers coming out from one part of life that is in darkness and moving into the light. Jesus calls Lazarus to come out of the darkness of the tomb back into the land of the living. Jesus, would later come out of his own tomb after death and not only scare the bejeezus out of Mary Magdalene, but also bring a promise of hope and new life to the world. During the persecutions of the early Church by the Roman Empire, to come out as an admitted Christian was essentially a ticket to martyrdom (unless you had money to prevent it). As such Churches were underground for quite some time. Christians couldn’t live their truth. Coming out and the need to step into the light of truth then, is deeply rooted in Christian tradition.
We must show our support for this Ordinance in the civil sphere to model Christ’s love for all people; no exceptions. We must be a model of this same said love for our LGBTQI brothers and sisters, many of whom have been burned by their experiences with Christianity and organized religion in general. Those of us who are LGBTQI and Christian have to live out loud with integrity to show the new generation of young people who are coming out that being gay or transgender and loving God are not mutually exclusive things. Finally, we must be like Jesus and stand outside of the tombs of anger and fear that some of our brothers and sisters in Christ are living in and urge them to come out. Come out of their anger, their mistrust, their judgment, and their hard-heartedness and into the light of love and compassion. This won’t be easy and it won’t happen overnight but it must be done. May we all have the bravery and courage of conviction that those two young men had on Tuesday and not only come out in favor of H.E.R.O, but also come out modelling Christ’s love for the world.
-- Johnny Rovell
If you would like to contact the city council, contact information is below
At Large 1
Stephen C. Costello
At Large 2
At Large 3
At Large 4
C.O. "Brad" Bradford
At Large 5
Annise D. Parker