Love your neighbor. While it’s a simple and important sentiment, it’s one that can be hard for some to follow.
But not for the United Church of Christ (UCC), which in early June released a pastoral letter that addresses the attacks on people of transgender or nonbinary experiences.
“We’ve been engaged in issues of welcome and inclusion and justice for people of different sexual orientations and gender identities for several decades,” says the Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer, team leader of UCC’s Health and Wholeness Advocacy Ministries.
States such as Alabama, Arkansas and Arizona currently have bans on medical care for trans youth, while many other states ban transgender youth participation in school sports.
Here in Ohio, the Ohio House of Representatives passed HB 151, which would ban transgender youth from sports and allow verification regulations. That bill now heads to the Ohio Senate.
The Ohio House has further held four hearings on HB 454, which would effectively ban gender-affirming care and force school staff to out trans youth to their parents.
The United Church of Christ, which is based in Cleveland, has had about 1,700 of its churches throughout the country adopt covenants of welcome and inclusion.
“It’s the duty of fair-minded citizens across the state and across the country to stand up and say no to these attacks and to resist nonviolently,” says Schuenemeyer. “We need to share the values of justice for all that are the hallmarks of what we have all learned about what it means to be an American citizen.”
In an effort to go beyond a show of support for the LGBTQ+ community, UCC has created an online toolkit that provides information on resources and social media messages to encourage its members to speak up for their neighbors.
“We want there to be voices of support, inclusion and belief in equal justice and rights for people with trans and nonbinary experiences,” says Schuenemeyer. “But we also want the community to hear words of compassion, of solidarity, of support and love from a faith voice.”
The toolkit also includes video messages from faith leaders, tips on how to talk about transgender and nonbinary justice issues, links to petitions, plus resources on places of worship.
Another important part of this initiative is the legislative toolkit which provides information on how to set up a meeting with elected officials, how to write and submit opinion pieces to local media and how to participate in political candidate forums.
As UCC advocates for positive change and provides these much-needed resources to its members, Schuenemeyer returns to one of the church’s core values: love thy neighbor.
“It shouldn’t matter what our particular religion is or what institution we belong to,” says Schuenemeyer. “We all share that one common value that we should treat everyone, as a child of God, with worth and dignity.”
- Check out the the UCC’s Transgender and Non-binary Justice toolkit by going here.
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