"Gays and Lesbians have a more difficult time than we (blacks) did. We had our families and our churches on our side. All too often they have neither."
- James Lawson
I re-discovered these words of James Lawson, now a retired United Methodist minister who was/is a proponent and living example of, as well as teacher of nonviolence in the Civil Rights Movement. His relationship with Martin Luther King and leadership in "The Movement" is well documented and well remembered by those of us who were foot soldiers during that time.
My search for this quotation from Jim was prompted by the headline of a United Methodist News Service story, Gandhi urges graduates to 'transform' Africa. Gandhi, who is the grandson of Mohandis "Mahatma" Gandhi, was the speaker at this year's Africa University graduation in Zimbabwe.
He, Jim Lawson and I -- along with scores of others -- were arrested at the 2000 Cleveland United Methodist General Conference, protesting anti-gay UMC language and legislation. At the Soulforce demonstrations at the conference, Jim Lawson spoke the eloquent words above.
We are on the brink of the Amy DeLong trial and as we hear, some say that delegates from Africa to the 2012 General Conference will vote to maintain our discriminatory United Methodist legislation. I wonder how many at the Africa University graduation knew this bit of Arun Gandhi's history? For in our struggles for racial justice and equality, Africans in Africa, and African Americans in the USA had our families and our churches as our allies in our struggles; as Jim Lawson reminds us, this is not always true for LGBT people in their struggles for justice.
African and African American delegates at the 2012 General Conference could help to "transform" The United Methodist Church if they vote to affirm rather than reject those whose sexual orientation is same gender loving.
Could it be that the words and the presence of Arun Gandhi at Africa University might encourage The UMC to become a Church for the 21st century, and not a reflection of centuries long gone?
Many of us are praying and hoping this will be true.