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Working for the Full Participation of LGBTQ people in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and In Society.
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More Light stands in solidarity with the faithful witness of the counter-protesters who peacefully assembled against the largest white nationalist march in decades in Charlottesville, VA this weekend. We are grateful to many in our More Light community who preached, prayed, showed up to vigils, and declared that love is stronger than hate.

Clergy protesting at at the march in Charlottesville, Virginia on Aug. 12, 2017. (Photo by Jill Harms)

Though the weekend is behind us, the impact of the racist violence in Charlottesville and in our country is far from over. We believe that we must confront racism and white supremacy when it shows up as a public event, but also within our own systems and institutions.

While the events in Charlottesville were devastating, they are not isolated incidents. As Christians we are called upon, especially those of us who are white, to acknowledge the ways in which white supremacy infiltrates every facet of our lives, and to work to dismantle the structures of white supremacy in our own lives, in the Church, and in our world. We must lift up our voices and resist. Silence and denial are part of the ways the system of oppression stays in place.

Many of us are wondering what to do in the wake of the events this weekend. We believe there has never been a better time to act. Here at More Light, we have been working with Jessica Vazquez Torres at Crossroads Anti-Racism Organizing and Training to examine our own policies and programs for ways they reflect our commitment to racial justice and equity. In the next few months our board will be making recommendations for tangible ways MLP can further our mission to reflect God’s abundance through our resistance to white supremacy.

Here are some additional ways to get involved.

Get connected with a national group at the forefront of organizing around racial justice. Here’s two organizations we follow:

Bring a conversation about racial justice to your congregation. The following are some great places to start:

  • The Reverend Denise Anderson and the Reverend Jan Edmiston, Co‐Moderators of the 222nd General Assembly (2016) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), have invited the church to read and discuss the book, Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race, by Debby Irving. They have created a companion study guide for congregations published through the PCUSA.
  • Last fall, More Light hosted our first Teach-In series on Racial Justice, to help equip our congregations for critical conversations and action around racial equity. We’ve posted the powerpoint slides and videos from that series which can be useful for personal enrichment or congregational conversations found here.
  • Share the statement from the PCUSA on the events in Charlottesville. This could be read aloud in worship or as part of your Sunday School class.

As white people, it is very important to do some internal work as we are engaging externally in our congregations or communities around racial justice. Here are a few great resources for those of us who are white:

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to go next in times like these. Often God’s faithfulness comes in a call to go to the places we are afraid to go. More Light’s hope is that we are able to trust in God to instill in us the courage to be the people God has called us to be.

Yours in the journey,

The More Light Presbyterians Team


Those of us at More Light know that today is an especially difficult day for our transgender siblings. With the announcement today attacking 7,000 – 15,000 transgender military members who are suddenly eliminated from military service by the president combined with legislation such as bathroom bills at the state level (currently Texas is considering such a bill), it should be noted that this is not a general and chaotic attempt to appeal to a political base. These are intentional steps to undermine the safety and well being of our transgender siblings.

To that end, we encourage our communities to surround our transgender friends with love and support. An attack on any of us, is an attack on all of us. We encourage you to speak out to your state and national lawmakers to oppose these attempts to create widespread animus toward our siblings.

It is not always possible or advisable for those affected by policy to stand up for themselves. It may place someone in harm’s way to do so. Rev. Laura Walters modeled what accompaniment of her transgender neighbors in her words:

“I am a pastor. In that role I have had the privilege of working with and counseling many youth and adults including transgender people. I’ve spoken with young folks as they are beginning this journey. I can tell you transitioning is a struggle I can’t imagine. It is a journey that requires so much bravery, strength, and fortitude. It is a journey full of obstacles and pain and sometimes cruelty. It is a journey I don’t think I would be capable of making. We, as people of faith, need to be helping these courageous folks not adding to their pain and suffering as this bill does. And we certainly don’t need to be telling them what bathroom they can or cannot use.”

We are grateful for voices, such as Rev. Laura’s, that stand up and advocated for their transgender neighbors. (Laura is pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Lake Travis and an active leader in the More Light movement in Mission Presbytery. You can read more about Rev. Walters’ accompaniment of the transgender community what is happening in the Texas legislature in this linked article from Salon magazine.)

It is important we continue to build a strong network to fight hate filled, bullying executive orders and legislation. We are in hard times, but we do not go alone. We will go together with all God’s children.


I am the Reverend Laura Walters, pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Lake Travis, an ordained minister of the Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church. I am here today to speak AGAINST SB6. As a person of faith, I am called to speak out against any actions that promote hate, discrimination, division, and violence. This bill is yet another example of the violence and discrimination acted out against transgender people. I would hope that in 2017 this would not be the case, but it is.

I am a pastor. In that role I have had the privilege of working with and counseling many youth and adults including transgender people. I’ve spoken with young folks as they are beginning this journey. I can tell you transitioning is a struggle I can’t imagine. It is a journey that requires so much bravery, strength, and fortitude. It is a journey full of obstacles and pain and sometimes cruelty. It is a journey I don’t think I would be capable of making. We, as people of faith, need to be helping these courageous folks not adding to their pain and suffering as this bill does. And we certainly don’t need to be telling them what bathroom they can or cannot use.

Look, transitioning may be something we, you and I, never fully understand. How could we, if we have never walked in those shoes? But we don’t have to understand to do the right thing. I do know this, in my experience as a faith leader in Austin, transgender people are NOT the problem. And let’s be honest, this bill is NOT about women’s safety. It is about discrimination. Trust me, as a woman of faith, as the mother of 2 daughters, I would love to speak to you about violence against women. But the truth is that is not what today is about.

We must have the human decency to help transgender people find their place in this world. We must give them the human dignity to choose their own bathroom. As a Christian minister, my faith tells me, that is the least we can do. Thank you.

The Reverend Laura Walters – Pastor, Presbyterian Church of Lake Travis

 


I am thrilled to introduce Jess Cook (they, them, theirs) as More Light’s new Program and Communications Manager! Jess will serve as third full-time staff member alongside Joey Lopez and me. Some of you may know Jess from the LGBTQ youth workshop they led at the 2015 More Light National Conference. However, if you haven’t met Jess yet, let me help you get to know them!

When I posted the job description for the Program and Communications Manager, I acknowledged that I was looking for a unicorn: someone who had the design and communications chops to take our media work to the next level, experience in program management, and the theological or congregational experience to work alongside our More Light Churches and members. Jess is that unicorn.

Jess is currently a candidate for ordination in the PC(USA), has an MDiv from Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, VA, and a Masters of Fine Arts in photography from the University of North Texas including graphic design experience. For the past four years, Jess has worked as the Youth Programs Director at Side-by-Side, an LGBTQ+ youth center in Richmond, VA. While at Side by Side, Jess grew the youth programs over 300%. Jess was part of building their existing youth programs, including a support group for trans youth and the first LGBTQ+ youth for Middle Schoolers on the east coast, and helped start a new group specifically for LGBTQ+ youth of color. In addition, Jess started a meals program at Side by Side and coordinated the messaging for the organization’s re-brand in 2016. If you want to see Jess talk about their work at Side by Side and how it translates to the work we do at MLP, check out their TEDX talk about what faith communities can learn from queer kids in capes.

Here’s what Jess had to say about joining the team at More Light:

When I first connected with Side by Side in 2011, I was beginning my third year of seminary. I came in with ideas of building bridges with faith communities in an attempt to make them safer for LGBTQ+ youth. Instead, I was drawn into the space itself and the kind of magic that happens when young people are truly seen and affirmed in who they are. I continue to be moved by the transformation I see in youth every day. More Light feels like the opportunity to do what I thought I would do those years ago. My time at Side by Side will allow me to stay rooted in the lived experiences of the people I’ve met as I communicate with congregational leaders about how to truly create space for LGBTQ+ people in their congregations. This job fits perfectly within both my formal education and my work experience, and also my sense of call to better equip faith community leaders on how to support a rich and diverse LGBTQ+ community. I cannot wait to join the team and be part of the work and witness of MLP.

We are in an exciting time of growth here at MLP. More congregations than ever are joining More Light in a commitment to sharing God’s abundant love in a witness of welcome. People of faith have been taking to the streets and halls of their legislators to push back against discrimination, and faith communities are asking the important questions about how to live into LGBTQ inclusion. Jess’ gifts will strengthen and expand the work we are able to do together. Please join me in welcoming and celebrating a new chapter for More Light!

Hooray!

Alex Patchin McNeill
Executive Director


 

Presbyterian Fun Fact

There are about 75 million Reformed/Presbyterian Christians worldwide and about 2.5 million belong to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

 

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