“All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all.”
These are the words of the hymn that were played by the children’s handbell choir that began worship at Providence UMC in Charlotte when I visited. I chose to visit Providence Church the Sunday before the NC General Assembly would go into its spring session because NC Rep. Dan Bishop is a proud and long time member of this church.
When I heard the news, that Rep. Bishop was a member, I was shocked, confused, and deeply hurt – certainly a fellow United Methodist was not the primary sponsor of House Bill 2.
A bill that defies some the deepest foundations of our shared beliefs; that all people are of sacred worth and that God’s grace is available to all.
The animus behind House Bill 2 is grounded in fear and hate. The implications are far more reaching than just my transgender and gender non-conforming siblings. This bill also impacts those most at risk in our state – women, the elderly, people of color, veterans, and the working poor. In the United Methodist Social Principles, our official social teachings, we believe that: “Every person has the right to a job at a living wage.” Moreover, we also believe that “Certain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons. We are committed to supporting those rights and liberties for all persons, regardless of sexual orientation.” House Bill 2 removes a local municipalities ability to increase wages and eliminates a person’s ability to take a discrimination claim to court, in addition to that harm it causes transgender and gender nonconforming people.
It is clear to me that the values embedded in House Bill 2, do not hold true to my values or our shared values as a United Methodists.
Throughout Christ’s teachings in the Gospel, we are called to love our neighbor. My faith makes it clear in the Gospel that loving my neighbor includes providing for the hungry and thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick and imprisoned. I see that manifest by opposing and working to repeal a law intended to harm those Christ calls us to seek out. It pains me to know that the main sponsor of House Bill 2 is a United Methodist as well. As United Methodists we have firm beliefs that all are of sacred worth, deserving of basic human rights and civil liberties, and do not condone acts of hate or violence against anyone.
During worship yesterday, I was reminded the covenant that we take together each time we welcome new members into our church: “To be loyal to Christ through The United Methodist Church and do all in their power to strengthen its ministries.”
As a faithful United Methodist, I cannot deny the tradition to shape the lives of those in our community by being present in the public square calling for justice. As not only a public representative, but also a faithful United Methodist I visited Rep. Dan Bishop’s church to be a visible witness to who Christ calls us to be as Christians in the world. I visited Rep. Bishop’s church, to claim the tradition of our church’s teachings of fair wages and anti-discrimination in public life. I visited Rep. Bishop’s church, to claim the Gospel message to love our neighbors.
Joey recently completed the year-long Tzedek Social Justice Residency at the Campaign for Southern Equality doing LGBT* rights work throughout the U.S. Southeast. In his role as Community Organizer, he worked to coordinate the 2015 LGBT* in the South conference convening almost 500 grassroots organizers, attorneys, healthcare providers, educators and other practitioners from across the South. With Executive Director Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, he developed the Southern Equality Fund, a micro-funding initiative for Southern groups and organizers to provide direct services and advocacy for the full lived equality of LGBT* people in the South.
Joey currently lives in Asheville, NC where he works as the Living Wage Program Coordinator at Just Economics, a non-profit organization whose mission is to educate, advocate, and organize for a just and sustainable economy in Western North Carolina and More Light Presbyterians as the MLP Organizer, developing programing to engage congregations and members in action within their congregation, community and world. Passionate about social justice and intersectional advocacy, Joey has worked with people of faith in Chicago, Detroit, and rural communities in North Carolina organizing and empowering them to claim their voice for justice in the world. His own intersecting identities shape his commitment to educational, economic, racial, ethnic, and queer liberation and justice both inside and outside communities of faith.
Latest posts by Joey Lopez (see all)
- Why I visited NC Rep. Dan Bishop’s United Methodist Church last weekend - April 26, 2016
- Jurisdictional Conference Reflection: Southeast - July 30, 2012