Monday, January 17, 2005

MLK's legacy in a modern Baptist church  

My parents, who raised me in a very touchy-feely, liberal Presbyterian church, are now members of Covenant Church, a small Houston church that describes itself as an "ecumenical liberal Baptist congregation." I would write "this is not your father's Baptist church," except that for me, it is. This is certainly not the sort of Baptist church that Southern Baptists attend. It is, however, exactly the sort of Baptist church that I believe Martin Luther King, Jr. would want to see were he alive today. The church has members of many ethnicities, backgrounds, and sexual orientations. It is an inclusive, warm, and welcoming place.

Last night, I received an email about yesterday's service from my mother. Here's part of it:

Today Jeremy's sermon was a recognition of Martin Luther King's legacy as well as a call for the end of prejudice and discrimination of all kinds. He began with the story of his feelings on the day of his wedding and continued with the story of something that happened at the reception. The band leader asked that all couples and partners come to the dance floor and dance. He then asked that all couples who had been together fewer than a year leave the dance floor. Jeremy and Sarah stepped aside to watch. Next he asked all couples of fewer than five years and more young friends left the dance floor. The band leader continued to increase the number of years until there were three pairs left on the dance floor: Mary Lee and Sidney, Jim and Fran, and Millard and David. He then discussed the unfairness that one of those couples did not have the same opportunity for official sanction of their relationship that he and Sarah, and the other two heterosexual couples had.

To Jeremy, the young white minister of a very unusual Baptist church in the south, I say "amen." Paul and I have many gay and lesbian friends, a number of whom are in long-term, committed relationships. Some have been married legally in British Columbia; others have had non-official weddings elsewhere. I am distressed and saddened that they do not have the same right to marry that my parents and Paul and I have taken for granted.

I have to believe that Martin Luther King, Jr. would give Jeremy a big "amen" on this one, too.