Message from Don Gotham


“A Couple of Things”

I haven’t watched the video.  I may be one of the few people in our country who can say that right now.  I’ve seen still pictures, and they were chilling.  I’ve never been a police officer.  I’ve never faced the same stresses and strains they have.  I have been in a place where someone has told me they couldn’t breathe, and that was enough to make me instantly reach out for help.

I have not walked in the shoes of a black person.  I don’t know what it is to have “the talk” with my child explaining how if they were to be pulled over by the police, they have to keep their hands on the steering wheel of the car for fear their movements could result in them being shot.

I do understand I have white privilege.  I do understand the scales are not balanced, and they are tipped in my favor.  I know this tipping of the scale amounts to systemic racism, and it is wrong.  I understand how outraged I would be if my loved one were shot, and the shooting was caught on camera, and no arrests were made.

We can do better.  We must do better.  Christ calls us to do better.  Christ calls us to carry the burdens of our sisters and our brothers.  It is time the church stood against racism, wholly, completely, and without exception.  Now on to the second thing.

The United Methodist Church is founded on three basic principles: (1) Do no harm, avoiding evil of all kinds; (2) Do good, of every possible sort, and as far as possible, to all; and (3) Practice “the ordinances of God,” engaging in individual and communal spiritual practices such as prayer, Bible reading, worship, and the Lord’s Supper.

Paragraph 4 of the Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church states, “The United Methodist Church acknowledges that all persons are of sacred worth. All persons without regard to race, color, national origin, status, or economic condition, shall be eligible to attend its worship services, participate in its programs, receive the sacraments, upon baptism be admitted as baptized members, and upon taking vows declaring the Christian faith, become professing members in any local church in the connection.  Our Book of Discipline also says that “homosexual persons no less than heterosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth.” 

I recall a friend in high school who came out to me regarding his sexuality.  He told me how he had come out to his parents the weekend before he told me.  He shared with me how his parents reacted.  His mother told him she didn’t understand why he would choose that life but assured him she loved him.  His father told him where to find his gun and where to find the bullets.  

I don’t think the full impact of how his father responded came into focus for me until I became a parent.  The love I have for my daughter runs so deep within me that I know I could never give the advice that would push her toward harming herself.  I lost track of my friend after high school.  I don’t know how his life has played out.  I do know that young people who identify as LGBTQ+ are 120 times more likely to experience homelessness than those who don’t.  I know those who identify as LGBTQ+ are three times more likely to attempt suicide than those who don’t.

Unfortunately, we have not always lived up to our call to see everyone as being of sacred worth.  To see everyone as being of sacred worth is to see people as God sees them.  To see everyone as being of sacred worth is to value the giftedness and talents God has placed within them.  To see everyone as being of sacred worth is to understand why it is wrong to accept a system that makes any of the people God has created as being less worthy of living a peaceful, productive life.  

My in-depth experiences with people who are different than me have taught me while our differences are real, the hopes and dreams we have for our children are really quite similar.  For the most part, we want our children to be happy, productive members of society who love God, and treat each other with kindness and respect.  We want our children to feel safe.  We want our children to feel valued not because they have the same skin color as others, or because of who they love, but because of the content of their character.

God is walking with us in these days.  God is calling us to value all of the lives of all of the people God created.  Let’s take this walk with God, asking God to help us see the person who is different from us, and celebrate how deeply God loves them.  

Grace and Peace,

Rev. Don