House Bill 2 -Why?

I have been praying and studying 1459302521_35083437_ver1.0_320_240for 6 days about a thoughtful response to the North Carolina General Assembly’s most recent work, House Bill 2.  I have wrestled with whether to say anything or not, and my intent is not to offend or upset anyone.  But I have been bothered since I began reading about what happened in Raleigh last week.  And when something lingers like that in my conscience, that means I need to say something.

Let me start by saying I have indeed read HB2, as well as numerous pieces about the bill from all perspectives.  I am trying hard to understand what was done and why.  And I must confess I am left befuddled and hugely disappointed.  I believe this is politics at its worst.  And I am embarrassed for our state.

So here are bullet points to frame my understanding of House Bill 2:

-The City of Charlotte passed a city ordinance to go in effect March 31, 2016 that would allow people to choose the public restroom they felt most comfortable using, meaning a transgender person could choose the restroom of the gender with which they identified.

-The North Carolina General Assembly called a special session last week in order to repeal the Charlotte City ordinance before it went into effect.

-The law that was passed requires people to use the public restroom that matches the gender listed on their birth certificate.

-This does not affect restrooms in businesses or private institutions.

-If someone has undergone a sex change operation they can legally change the gender on their birth certificate. (Current law – not part of HB2)

-This bill also added a section that prohibits cities and counties from setting their own minimum wage and sets the state minimum wage at $7.25, the current state and federal minimum wage.

-Another section of the bill prevents workers from suing in state courts on any alleged discrimination based on “age, race, sex, disability, national origin and religion”.  Only federal courts based on federal laws are available to fight employment discrimination should it occur in NC.

-The legislation was given out to lawmakers the same day the vote was called giving no time to study and vet the implications of the bill.

As I have reflected on this action and studied what happened I am deeply disturbed on a couple of levels.  The reasoning behind the urgency of this legislation per numerous supporters of the bill was to protect women and children from predators in public bathrooms.  If that is genuinely the case then why include the limitation on raising minimum wage?  What does minimum wage have to do with bathrooms and gender?  Is that not state government exerting itself on local authorities telling them what they can and cannot do- something that seems contrary to the values of Republican leaders in charge in our state?  That is confusing to me.

Our leaders say we can’t have a patchwork of different rules and regulations across the state, that it is too hard on businesses.  But on a local level, we already do have different rules and regulations statewide.  Building codes, health codes, zoning and planning codes all differ town to town, city to city and county to county.  That’s because each locality has a different set of needs and different levels of development and different populations, and they serve those constituents as they see fit.  I don’t see how HB2 enhances business in this context.

Maybe HB 2 is nothing more than another skirmish in the urban versus rural battle that is playing out in our state capitol.   That battle has included everything from sales tax allocation to local control of airports.  But I’m afraid it’s not.  Throughout some of the public discourse is the underlying insinuation that gay men or transgender people are sexual predators who prey on children.  Of course this is patently false and totally baseless.   Why do we as a society segregate a minority group by manufacturing fictitious threats and make them the boogyman?  Is it mere politics at its worst or something darker within ourselves?

And, why say that the only employment discrimination claims that can be made are race, sex, religion and age (clearly excluding sexual orientation), and that state courts can’t be used to pursue claims, that you have to resort to federal court?  North Carolina and Mississippi are now the only 2 states in the Union that no longer provide state court protection against discrimination. Is that retaliation against the City of Charlotte?  I don’t understand why any of this wound up in the legislation.

So to me, this feels like so much more than a safety issue concerning transgender people and which bathroom they can use. It feels like pretext.  It feels like a step backwards in public discourse, policy making and statesmanship.  It appears to me that this is going to hurt our state economically. Consider the national reaction to boycotting the Furniture Market- an already struggling industry that could negatively impact High Point’s and the Triad’s economy. Some scoff as large, multi-national companies and organizations like Bank of America, Facebook, Apple, Google, Wells Fargo, American Airlines, Starbucks, the NBA and the NCAA are condemning HB2.  But sometimes an outsider needs to hold  the mirror up to your face and show you things you don’t like or don’t want to admit.

And as a spiritual leader, I am struggling to discern where Jesus would land in the midst of this mess.  I don’t see a lot of love in play.  How we treat one another matters.  How we solve problems matters.  How we disagree with one another matters.  How we balance safety and protection of all people – women, children and transgender people matters.  How we get along in the cities and in the rural communities matters.  Surely we could have done a better job than this.  I speak as a Christian, not as a Republican, Democrat or Independent.  And because I am a Jesus follower, my heart is heavy over this.

Praying for Peace,

Lory Beth

 

The Day After

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Prayer coloring this Lent

Just a few reflections on this Easter Monday post joy and celebration of yesterday’s Easter morning.  It is the day after.  By now the disciples have gotten their bearings and are adjusting to this miraculous turn of events in the life of Jesus Christ.  We, on the other hand- are often either back at work or on vacation and rapidly moving away from the packed church and glorious music.  The smell of easter lilies is becoming scant.  Like so many of our seasons we prepare and prepare and then it is over in a flash.  We rarely savor the moment.

I’m trying to savor the moment.  I’m trying to sit in a little bit of Easter Monday joy.  While grateful for the day off and time to rest, I don’t want to forget why I don’t have have to be on my normal work routine.  Last night I finished coloring my prayer knots – a Lenten practice.  Today I have spent time this afternoon just sitting and praying and being.  It’s kind of nice.

With the bursting forth of spring, there are lots of reminders that New Life are always forthcoming out of the winter barrenness.  God is a God of life and not death.  As we celebrate the Easter Season I pray that we be God’s Easter People – a people of hope and joy bearing the Good News in all that we do.

He is Still Risen!  =)

Lory Beth

Feeling the Cross

Banners-1dSo this week is finally here.  It’s the most important week in the life of our Christian Year. It’s not the happiest week.  It’s not the mountain top high spiritual experience kind of week.  Quite the opposite.  It should be a down on your knees kind of week.  It should be head bowed and tears welling up in your eyes kind of week.  And why is this important?

Because too often the focus in our lives is about comfort, joy, feeling good, heroes winning, triumph with no challenge, and success.  But reality often looks more like a mixture including pain, suffering, sadness, good people losing, struggle after struggle, and failure to accomplish good goals.  Also mixed into this is our own culpability of sin that leads to a lot of our pain.  Sometimes we are collateral damage to the pain of the world around us.  But often times, we are our own worst enemy.

So as we reflect on the life and death of Jesus Christ this Holy Week, part of our humility must come from the truth that our proper place in this story is not Jesus on the cross.  Probably not even the disciples or Mary, the Mother of Jesus watching and weeping from a distance.  It’s probably with the Jewish leaders and political leaders and people in the streets yelling “Crucify Him!”.  This is an important time to acknowledge and confess our sin in rejecting Jesus.  We have all done it at some point in our lives- chosen not to follow Jesus.  Chosen not to adhere to His teaching.  Chosen our own path or our own comfort or our own truth.

The power for me in this week is realizing and owning that as faithful as I strive to be in my life, I am partly responsible for Jesus’ need to hang on that cross.  It is for my sins that Jesus gives his life.  It is for my weaknesses that Jesus shows amazing strength. It is for the gift of promised eternal life for me that Jesus died.  And this week, I feel it.  I feel the breadth of God’s love for me because I feel the real suffering that Jesus and his loved ones felt.

And it makes me feel heavy.  Sad.  Melancholy.  Humble.  Guilty. Unworthy.  At least for a few days.  Sunday, we will celebrate the rest of the story.  But not until we have sat in this dark place for a while.  Need help getting there?  Worship with us at Centenary Thursday night at 7:30 for a powerful Maundy Thursday service including a stripping of the altar and on Friday for the Service of Tenebrae presented by our choir also at 7:30 in the Sanctuary.

Please, take time to sit near the cross this week.  Then join us for Easter worship Sunday morning!  (8:45, 9:00, 10:10 or 11:00 am)

Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do….  (Luke 23:34)

Holy Week Blessings,

Lory Beth

St. Patrick’s Day

March 17th we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.  For me that has mostly consisted of trying to remember to wear green- a color that is pretty scant in my wardrobe because I’m not a fan.  Makes me look jaundiced.  It occurred to me that this day is named after a patron saint and yet mostly what I associated with it are quite secular practices:  drinking green beer, raucous parades, leprechauns and shamrocks.  Ok, the shamrock has been associated with the Trinity, I’ll give you that.

patrick_shamrock_0I decided to do a little research to understand a little more behind St. Patrick.  Of course we know him as the patron saint for Ireland and here is why.  He was actually born in Brittain but he and his family were captured by some Irish pirates when he was 16 years old and served as a slave shepherd for 6 years in Ireland before escaping back to Brittain.  During those 6 lonely years he apparently turned to God and became religious.  After his freedom he went to France and studied religion.  He was called to become a missionary and go back to guess where?  Ireland!  16 years later he returned as a Catholic Bishop.  He died on March 17th so why this date.

It is believed the he brought Christianity to Ireland but that is not so true.  Christianity was already there in pockets although Ireland was mostly a pagan country.  He did successfully organize and grow Christianity across the island and establish a strong Christian practice there.  He did so by incorporating Christianity into the native practices instead of rejecting completely what was already there.  (Good to note for those of trying to figure out how to connect a relevant Christian faith to a growing secular world around us.)

So if you in any way honor or acknowledge St. Patrick’s Day then consider the fact that he is remembered and venerated because he was a successful missionary and evangelist who figured out how to bring Christ to a new culture and group of people – the very ones who enslaved him as a teenager.  Maybe it’s worth reflecting on today how we live our lives in a way that might possibly point others to who Jesus is.  Maybe talking about St. Patrick today is a way to open the door to that conversation!

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth

 

Truth and Shame

Greg and I saw the movie Spotlight for the first time this week.  After winning the Best Picture Oscar the theatre across the street brought it back.  It’s about some reporters for the Boston Globe uncovering the breadth of the Catholic Church’s scandal about priests molesting children.  It was intense as you can imagine.

rachel-mcadams-spotlight-posterAs someone who works for the institutional United Methodist Church it was particularly chilling to see the lengths the Catholic Church went to in order to control the whole community and cover up the scandal.  Maybe, just maybe I could rationalize in the mind of the institutional leaders for one incident (not saying I think that is what should have happened  or that that would be the right thing to do).  But when it was happening with 87 priests and repeatedly the institution was moving clergy around every few years because of repeated incidents, there is no excuse for not owning that there is a problem and addressing it.

The pain that inflicts is ten times worst because the source is coming from the very place that should provide comfort when these senseless evil things happen in our world.  I am sure there were many people for whom their spirit broke and their faith so confused by the abuse of power that God is no longer invited to be part of their lives.

My purpose is not to criticize the Catholic Church for their problems.  None of our institutions are perfect so I will not toss the first stone.  But it does break my heart to think about the devastation caused by the abuse of power.  And it was a well told story to remind us all what can happen when power gets convoluted and there are no checks and balances.  How important it is to speak the truth.  Even when it brings on shame.  But how often avoiding shame can cause us to avoid the truth at pretty high costs.  That never leads to good in the end.

For anyone that has experienced abuse at the hands of another I am truly sorry.  Especially if that person was not held accountable for their actions.  May we all have the courage to choose truth over shame, no matter who or what the truth ends up shinning the spotlight on.

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth

Beautiful Diversity

Typically in the spring, Greg and I take a little vacation somewhere of his choosing.  Having lived in the North Carolina mountains the past 3 years where the temps could go a week not getting out of the 20’s Greg has talked about going to South Beach for a warm break to winter.  My job as a District Superintendent wouldn’t allow it.  It was my busiest season and I could’t get away.  But now things are different so this weekend we find ourselves exploring the wonder and beauty of Miami and South Beach, FL.

What strikes me right off the bat is the amazing diversity surrounding us.  In a city where European descent makes up only 11% of the population, it is a beautiful example of multiple cultures creating community.  On our ride from the airport we were driven by a young man named Sebastian, who moved here 8 years ag

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Miami’s rich diversity

o from Venezuela.  He now owns his own transportation business and has big dreams.  It was fascinating hearing his perspective on politics an
d immigration.  Especially having come from a country formerly led by Hugo Chavez and suffering under the extreme conditions of a failed communist economy.  The hopes and possibilities our country has is inspiring.  At one point he said about himself, “I am more American than a lot of Americans because I appreciate what this country offers more than some others.”  I completely agree with him.  (In case you are wondering, he came here legally.)

He also commented on how messed up the world is right now (after I asked him if the state was getting tired of the political ads with the impending primary election.)  He expressed frustration about how angry everyone was and how people were being pitted against people.  That until we realize that the only way forward is for everyone to start working together to help each other out, the world would remain messed up.

Moving away from politics, Greg and I can’t wait to start sampling the multi cultural food (will share pics on Facebook!), the modern art and Art Deco architecture and beautiful beaches of the city.  I will thoroughly enjoy being part of a much larger global cultural world for a few days than my typical day to day living allows.  And I will pray that our country, our churches and our individual hearts will realize that Sebastian is right.  “The way forward in this messed up world is to realize we have to help each other out”.  And then I think about the Old Testament stories of people groups fighting other people groups.  Sigh.  Lord have mercy!

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth