A Bishop Speaks to Her Church

by Bishop Yvette Flunder on November 30, 2004

(The following message, printed here in its entirety, was distributed to members of her church)

Beloved,

Greetings in the Strong Name of Jesus. For some time now I have been asked if I would send a ‘missal’ with regard to the recent election. I have spent a number of days in prayer and reflection seeking the will of God and trying to heal from the hateful rhetoric I heard in the days leading up to November 2nd.

I suppose the emotions I felt were much the same as what was experienced by the hopeful disciples of Jesus on the day He died. I am sure they hoped for some last minute divine intervention and wondered how they would recover from such an overwhelming loss.

I also reflected on the victory of the emancipation of African Americans and the period of Reconstruction which was later followed by the enactment of Jim Crow laws. What a huge wound that must have been to the spirits of those who fought so hard to maintain the hard won freedoms of African Americans, only to find them reduced again to objects of hatred and violence.

I have concluded some things in the past few days.

One is that an atmosphere of fear was successfully created on the backs for SGL people and Islamic based ‘terror’, to get religious votes.

The SGL community is a minority and therefore easy to target by a largely homophobic anti- Muslim religious majority.

People of Faith that believe that Peace is the alternative to war were out shouted by the ‘fearful faithful’ who cannot believe God can bring peace by any other means but war.

Additionally while the ideas and intentions of the right regarding SGL people and war were clear and loudly proclaimed, the voice from within the justice community was weak for all of the reasons that have been used in the past, people were afraid to speak out publicly as religious leaders, for fear of losing credibility, supporters and resources.

We are at a crossroads. I have made some decisions for myself. I am calling on those who call me Bishop, Pastor, colleague, sister and friend to make some decisions too.

We need a Strategic Plan * I want to invite you again to join us in Phoenix in December (www.fellowship2000.com). If you were not coming, change your plans and make this meeting. This will be the first real Fellowship-wide strategic planning meeting we have organized.

We will act, not react. We will set an agenda and move to continue our work to help organize other strategic meetings with correct thinking religious leaders whose voices have not been heard in the national conversation.

Bishop John Shelby Spong, our guest is one of the major voices and there are many more voices are out there. What is necessary is leadership to mobilize them.

Do not let fear drive you back into any closet, I want to encourage you to speak to the atmosphere around you and declare that you will not be ruled by fear. Closets of fear are opening everywhere, welcoming all of us back.

I have seen people afraid to speak out against the unjust war in Iraq, against homophobia, against assault weapons, against homeland security or anything else this administration supports.

Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Seal the closets, shut them tight, no matter the cost.

God will prevail over fear. God has not given us the spirit of fear.

A smaller determined group of people have always been the prescription for radical change. God historically uses the minority more effectively than the majority. Being in the 47% and not the 53% does not mean the battle is lost.

The battle is the Lord’s.

Hagar’s child (Ishmael) was given a promise to become a great nation too, even though she was put out.

Hiding from your truth is not an option*the truth is like fire shut up in the bones of a true prophet.

Get angry, because what is happening is wrong. It is not negotiable, it is wrong.

Excluding people from the inclusive love of Jesus and from the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is wrong.

It is not debatable, it is wrong, and we have to have the same determination our forebears had when they penned the lyrics, “Before I’ll be a slave. I be buried in my grave and go home to my God and be free”.

Find your voice and join the choir The marginalized have not had a voice in much of the recent political fray because we continue to be separated by our areas of concern.

We need to come together, connect and find strength in our common reality of political powerlessness. The recovery community, women’s rights community, anti-violence community, children’s rights community, SGL community, people of color communities, other than evangelical Christian community*all of us are on the margin.

Find your voice, and then join the choir of people who are working for the rights of all people. Get a clear voice. One voice that is the same everywhere.

We need to stop speaking in riddles and half truths.

Who will be a voice for God in the wilderness?

Who will play a freedom song in a strange land?

Who is on the Lord’s side and will see milk and honey in a land of giants?

God is still speaking and a voice is still crying, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.”

Amen

Bishop Yvette Flunder is Founder and Senior Pastor of City of Refuge United Church of Christ, located South of Market in San Francisco on Howard, between 6th and 7th Street. She is also Executive Director of The Yvette A. Flunder Foundation, an AIDS Service Organization with a focus on African Americans, women, and people of faith, as well as in Sub-Saharan Africa where the focus is children infected with and orphaned by HIV/AIDS

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