As the statewide and national conversation regarding the Religious Freedom Restoration Act grew into a EF-5 tornado in Indiana, the voices of several interests were heard including government, business and advocacy groups both local and from around the country.
One voice that hadn't been heard too often, if at all, was the religious community.
The "fix" to RFRA was proposed, debated, passed and signed all in the matter of a day. Rev. Darren Cushman Wood, Senior Pastor at North United Methodist Church, penned the following open letter just before the changes to Senate Bill 50 were announced. However, given the nature of the discussion and the fact that this week is the most important week in the Christian faith, the letter's message remains relevant.
An Open Letter on RFRA
As the senior minister of North United Methodist Church and through prayerful reflection with our Ministries Council, I stand in opposition to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). This law is contrary to the example of hospitality and humility we see in Jesus and to the core values of our church.
Regardless of its original intention, RFRA will likely foster discrimination against LGBTQ persons because it will be misunderstood and misapplied. The LGBTQ community has good reason to fear how this law will hurt them because they do not have a protected status in Indiana. It creates the potential for or appearance of state-sanctioned discrimination under the guise of religious liberty. In short, RFRA is the latest incarnation of intolerance, cloaked in the language of ‘freedom,’ that has marked the history of our state.
Legally, it accomplishes nothing in terms of protecting religious freedom which is protected by the Constitution and best adjudicated through the courts. Socially, it has already created unnecessary divisions and economic distress. It brings out the worst in us as Hoosiers.
The media and supporters of RFRA have wrongly portrayed this issue as a conflict between Christian identity and gay rights. Yet, the real identity of a Christian is found in the example of Christ. This week, Christians celebrate the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples. In the Last Supper we see Jesus extending hospitality to everyone at the table, including those with whom he disagreed, and he modeled humility in washing their feet. When he was arrested and persecuted he did not demand his legal rights. Therefore, to be a Christian means to practice the hospitality and humility of Jesus. This way of life needs no legal defense.
Indeed, I share this way of life with many in the LGBTQ community who are faithful followers of Jesus and members of our congregation. At North Church, our diversity is a part of our unity in Christ.
RFRA seeks to limit who will be served, but Jesus served everyone. It is contrary to the values of North United Methodist Church that seeks to be an open, inclusive, and welcoming church. We affirm that through God's redeeming love, all are one in Christ.Grace and Peace,
Rev. Darren Cushman Wood