The theme of this year's convention was "One Light, One Peace, One World" and the focus was a call to continue our commitment to God's love, justice and compassion with our interfaith partners. The program included video messages from Dr. Maher Hathout and Rabbi Mark Diamond (from the 9/11 observance at L.A. City Hall) and Muslim and Jewish speakers on the floor of convention. Bishop Glasspool preached a brilliant sermon on mission -- framed in the Q&A of our catechism questions about "what is the mission of the church?" (A. The mission of the church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.)
In the context of his Annual Convention Address, Bishop Bruno extended that theme of "all" people to include LGBT Nigerians and those who speak for equality now facing imprisonment because of the draconian bill passed last week by the Nigerian Senate.
The Bishops of Los Angeles join with the international human rights community -- including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission – in condemning the draconian anti-LGBT bill passed this week by the Nigerian Senate. Our commitment to our baptismal promise to respect the dignity of every human being demands that we speak out today on this important issue and we urge others to join us.Bishop Bruno went on to encourage those present to sign onto the bishops' statement by visiting the LGBT Program Group booth in the Exhibit Hall before leaving convention. When we had to take down the tables at 3pm there were four pages of legal paper filled with signatures. I haven't had time to count them, but I will.
The bishops' statement concluded:
As we live into our Diocesan Convention theme of One Light, One Peace, One World, we call on the Archbishop of Canterbury and other faith leaders to speak out and stand against this act of legislated homophobia. And we urge the Nigerian President and the Presidents of the Senate and the House of Assembly to guarantee safety and protection for all human rights defenders and all individuals irrespective of their sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or religion.So please consider this a call to action to "go and do likewise." Email me if you'd like me to add your name to our "sign on to the bishops' statement" list. If you've got your bishop's ear, encourage her/him to issue their own statement. And if you've got a minute to drop a note to the Archbishop of Canterbury, then give it a shot. (File it under "nothing ventured/nothing gained!")
Can we really influence policy to end discrimination against LGBT Nigerians and cure homophobia with statements and blogs and emails and tweets? Maybe not this week. But remember the Gospel According to Margaret Mead:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.Amen.