It’s a state known for its arts as much as for its churches, for its beauty, its charm and its food. “First in flight” is perhaps the state’s proudest slogan, celebrating the great achievement of the Wright brothers, who found a way to make human flight possible. Orville and Wilbur Wright learned back in the beginning of the last century that the mid-Atlantic state had ideal winds for their flying experiments. And in May 2012, the winds of North Carolina are once again the focus, because citizens from all around the state must now decide which way the wind is blowing, toward equality or toward hate.
It’s an extremely important decision to make: whether hate should have a place in their State Constitution, whether gay people are allowed a place at the same table as those born heterosexual. The decision to ban gay marriage is of course a nationwide debate right now, but there’s just something about North Carolina that makes this issue feel critical to all Americans.
Perhaps it’s the state’s location, between the north and the south, Democrat states above and decidedly Republican states to the south and west. Or maybe it’s the churches themselves, a great mix of conservative Bible Belt traditionalists and forward-leaning progressives, all of whom are watching their flocks to see which way the wind is blowing.
Wake Forest Baptist Church in Winston-Salem is one community of faithful Christians standing up right now, and not in the way you might guess based on their name alone. On their Website they describe themselves as “a proudly progressive Baptist church and a faithful voice for unity, peace, justice and love”. If that sounds familiar, it’s because a preacher from Nazareth once preached the same Good News to His flock, some of whom have sadly gotten far off message.
Rev. Dr. Angela Yarber, Pastor for Preaching and Worship at Wake Forest Baptist Church, has been standing up with her community against the proposed amendment to the state’s constitution. Pastor Yarber generously took time from her schedule to contribute to this story:
“The message of Jesus was love of neighbor, acceptance of all, and radical hospitality to those who are oppressed and marginalized. As a minister called to share this message, I oppose NC Amendment One on the basis that it discriminates against the oppressed.”
Pastor Yarber knows something about Jesus’ acceptance of all, as she along with fellow Pastor Susan Parker lead the only Baptist church in the entire country with two lesbians as head pastors. In a country filled with preachers who rail against their fellow sisters and brothers who happen to be non-heterosexual, it’s refreshing to see so much of Jesus’ message of love preached in the face of this un-Christlike movement to change the State Constitution.
She goes on to say, “When LGBT persons are denied the over 1,000 rights given to married couples, or the ability to file for joint adoption, and live in fear of losing work because they aren’t protected from discrimination, it is clear that this community is already marginalized by the state. This is antithetical to the message of Jesus. Amendment One is not about marriage; it’s about taking away even more rights from those who are already disenfranchised.”
Pastor Yarber and the Wake Forest Baptist Church are just some of many, many people of faith across North Carolina who are standing up in opposition to this proposed ban.
The wind is blowing over North Carolina, and like the original Baptist John, those calling out for equality need to be heard. When Christians go to the polls this May, their pastors will not be pulling the lever for them, their families not looking over their shoulders. Souls across North Carolina will need to decide for themselves whether their state should be legislating inequality and injustice over their fellow brothers and sisters.
In that voting booth alone, the citizens of North Carolina must ask themselves whether those children of God who happen to be something other than heterosexual deserve to be banned altogether from the garden.
Many thanks to Rev. Dr. Angela Yarber for contributing to this article. For more information on Wake Forest Baptist Church, go to www.wakeforestbaptist.org.
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