Just over a week ago, I saw the exciting news about the Presbyterian Church – USA. The domination ratified an amendment allowing their clergy to officiate same sex weddings. The next morning, headlines were buzzing of the news. One article in The New York Times caught my attention for its acknowledgement of The United Methodist Church’s failure to change (and made the common and xenophobic error of blaming our African conferences for the resistance).
Just days later, on March 21st, I set out on a journey with Gender Benders, a group of awesome trans* organizers based in Greenville, SC. We participated in a Walking Classroom sponsored by the U.S. National Parks Service along the 54 mile stretch of Highway 80 from Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail.
For most the march I was at a loss for words, but never at a loss for thoughts. As a member of The United Methodist Church, I want my church to be a place of compassion, kindness, and peace with justice, truly creating a beloved community that Dr. King preached about 50 years ago. To reach this beloved community, the church must think more deeply about whether it invests its money in companies benefiting from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or harmful fossil fuels. The church must become dedicated to racial equity and ethnic justice. We cannot forget to listen to young people's voices. I and others must learn to step aside to make space for those across the world who speak truth of our church’s colonialist history. We persevere as members in this church and humans even when we are often erased, overlooked, and tossed aside because we are queer.
The last day of the march I wore an old half stole that I had turned into a bow tie. I marched with this bow tie, in my summertime Sunday best, to honor those who marched 50 years ago and to remember a commitment to justice, not just for me, but for everyone within my church. The marchers 50 years ago were witnessing for the right to vote. The marchers 50 years ago were marching to be recognized as children of God overflowing with worth, infinite, sacred worth.
50 years later, we march for the same underlying value, against both historical and contemporary oppression. I marched to remember those who came before. My strength arose from my resilience, determination, and hope for my church. I march for those my church has colonized, for those my church tries to erase, for the voices of young people often ignored, and for the way we invest our church’s money.
As I step into Holy Week, I renew my commitment to movements like MFSA because God, our source, demands the church move against injustice and for the oppressed. I renew my commitment to act as a nonviolent witness like Jesus whose love for the least and the last and resistance to an oppressive system led him all the way to the cross. I renew my vow to pray daily for justice because only by the power of Holy Spirit can we ourselves, our church, and our world truly become a beloved community.
May it be so.
Joey Lopez lives in Asheville, NC and works for the Campaign for Southern Equality as a Community Organizer through the Tzedek Social Justice Residency. Personal experiences with intersecting identities shape Joey’s commitment to educational, economic, racial, ethnic and queer justice both inside and outside communities of faith. Joey is also a member of MFSA’s Board of Directors.