Below is a speech given by Joey Lopez, MFSA board member & MARCH member, in favor of the resolution, "A Call to Action: Open Table at the Intersection" This resolution was presented to the body of the MARCHA Assembly by the MARCHA Youth. It was approved with one amendment – to urge the Education and Advocacy Working Team to develop bilingual resources.
It was nine years ago that I heard for the first time a hispanic/latino/latina leader in our church. I was a member of the host annual conference council on youth ministry during the Youth 2007 gathering. Bishop Carcaño was preaching to the body gathered. I remember vividly the story she shared of immigrants crossing a desert. It was the first time I heard the stories of hispanic/latino/latina people in this church and it was a story of struggle.
As I continued to discern the call and roll I would play in the church, I also began to chip away at 20+ years of colonization and pressure to assimilate into a white, machismo, dominant society. At a young age, it was instilled in me, from teachers in school, to eventually my parents that If I look white and if I pass for white, I should just be white. I spent those years deeply entrenched in self hate and embarrassment. No matter how white I tried to be, or how light my skin would look, I could never escape the preconceived notions or stereotypes that my last name would bring me.
As I continued to get older, it wasn't just my ethnicity that I tried to hide, but also, my sexual orientation. The seeds of self hatred that begin at such a young age about my ethnic background had grown, bore fruit, and began an orchard. To often I struggled with ideas of leaving home, to keep my parents from the embarrassment of raising a queer son, especially one who was a young leader in the church.
While I may have given up on myself the Holy Spirit was not yet finished with me. In college, the combination of classes on Methodist History, Doctrine, & Polity and Christian Social Ethics, helped me to discover the layers of self hatred perpetuated on me as someone striving to be a part of a system not created for me to succeed.
I came to MARCHA this week, not looking for another place to lead, but a place to be. The spirit had other plans. Just last night that I found out, one of our very own MARCHA youth leaders was at the PULSE night club the night of the shooting. She left just hours before the shooting began and was on her way back when she and her friends noticed the helicopters in the neighborhood. We cannot deny this act of violence does not hit close to home.
We cannot strengthen our caucus and not acknowledge the struggles our people face. We will not have fruitful ministry as long as lives are labeled illegal. We will not have fruitful ministry as long as profits come before people. We will not have fruitful ministry as long as closets and secrecy bind people’s sacred worth. We will not have fruitful ministry as long as we continue to distrust women to make decisions. We will not have fruitful ministry as long as the proclamation that #BlackLivesMatter is muffled. We will not have fruitful ministry as long as governments are not sanctioned for colonizing marginalized communities.
Why? Because the same sin that calls our people illegal, that throws our people in detention centers, that pays our people pennies for a days hard labor is the same sin that leaves countless of transgender Latinas killed in dumpsters, that led to the massacre of 50 beautiful children of God in a moment of celebration, that continues to limit our representation and voice in this beloved church. It is the sin that denies that all, ALL, God’s children are created of sacred worth.
Brothers, sisters, and siblings – Let us invite the spirit of God’s abundance as we vote this morning on this resolution. We should no longer believe in the fear that justice is scarce. This is a lie we have been told. The scripture of our hebrew ancestors tells us to let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream, like an ever-flowing stream! There is always enough justice. Please vote to pass this resolution.
Joey Lopez lives in North Carolina and works for More Light Presbyterians as Organizing and Program Manager. Personal experiences with intersecting identities shape Joey’s commitment to educational, economic, racial, ethnic and queer justice both inside and outside communities of faith.