Dádìsì Speaks

An open letter from Rev. Otis Moss III to the Black Clergy

In Culture, Politics on 15/05/2012 at 10:02

The follow words are from the Reverend Otis Moss, Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Illinois concerning President Obama’s recent public endorsement of Gay Marriage. The content of the letter is posted in its entirety.  Please read and share your thoughts on this cultural and society issue at the forefront of the Black Church in America.

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My Brother:

Tell your brethren who are part of your ministerial coalition to “live their faith and not legislate their faith” for the Constitution is designed to protect the rights of all. We must learn to be more than a one-issue community and seek the beloved community where we may not all agree, but we all recognize the fingerprint of the Divine upon all of humanity.

There is no doubt people who are same-gender-loving who occupy prominent places in the body of Christ. For the clergy to hide from true dialogue with quick dismissive claims devised from poor biblical scholarship is as sinful as unthoughtful acceptance of a theological position. When we make biblical claims without sound interpretation we run the risk of adopting a doctrinal position of deep conviction but devoid of love. Deep faith may resonate in our position, but it is the ethic of love that forces us to prayerfully reexamine our position.

The question I believe we should pose to our congregations is, “Should all Americans have the same civil rights?” This is a radically different question than the one you raised with the ministers, “Does the church have the right to perform or not perform certain religious rites.” There is difference between rights and rites. We should never misconstrue rights designed to protect diverse individuals in a pluralistic society versus religious rites designed by faith communities to communicate a theological or doctrinal perspective. These two questions are answered in two fundamentally different arenas. One is answered in the arena of civic debate where the Constitution is the document of authority. The other is answered in the realm of ecclesiastical councils where theology, conscience and biblical mandates are the guiding ethos. I do not believe ecclesiastical councils are equipped to shape civic legislation nor are civic representatives equipped to shape religious rituals and doctrine.

The institution of marriage is not under attack as a result of the President’s words. Marriage was under attack years ago by men who viewed women as property and children as trophies of sexual prowess. Marriage is under attack by low wages, high incarceration, unfair tax policy, unemployment, and lack of education. Marriage is under attack by clergy who proclaim monogamy yet think nothing of stepping outside the bonds of marriage to have multiple affairs with “preaching groupies.” Same-gender couples did not cause the high divorce rate, but our adolescent views of relationships and our inability as a community to come to grips with the ethic of love and commitment did. We still confuse sex with love and romance with commitment.

My father, who is a veteran of the civil rights movement and retired pastor, eloquently stated the critical nature of this election when speaking to ministers this past week who claim they will pull support from the President as a result of his position. He stated, “Our Ancestors prayed for 389 years to place a person of color in the White House. They led over 200 slave revolts, fought in 11 wars, one being a civil war where over 600,000 people died. Our mothers fought and were killed for women’s suffrage, our grandparents were lynched for the civil rights bill of 1964 and the voting rights act of 1965…my father never had the opportunity to vote and I believe it is my sacred duty to pull the lever for every member of my family who was denied the right to vote. I will not allow narrow-minded ministers or regressive politicians the satisfaction of keeping me from my sacred right to vote to shape the future for my grandchildren.”

“The institution of marriage is not under attack as a result of the President’s words.”

Gay and lesbian citizens did not cause the economic crash, foreclosures, and attack upon health care. Poor underfunded schools were not created because people desire equal protection under the law. We have much work to do as a community, and to claim the President of the United States must hold your theological position is absurd. He is President of the United States of America not the President of the Baptist convention or Bishop of the Sanctified or Holiness Church. He is called to protect the rights of Jew and Gentile, male and female, young and old, Gay and straight, black and white, Atheist and Agnostic. It should be noted the President offered no legislation, or executive order, or present an argument before the Supreme Court. He simply stated his personal conviction.

If we dare steal away from the noise of this debate, we will realize as a church we are called to “Do justice, live mercy and walk humbly with God.” Gay people have never been the enemy; and when we use rhetoric to suggest they are the source of our problems we lie on God and cause tears to flow from the eyes of Christ.

I am not asking you to change your position, but I am stating we must stay in dialogue and not allow our own personal emotional prejudices or doctrines to prevent us from seeing the possibilities of a beloved community.

November is fast approaching, and the spirits of Ella Baker, Septima Clarke, Fannie Lou Hammer, Rosa Parks, A. Phillip Randolph, James Orange, Medgar Evers and Martin Luther, King Jr. stand in the balcony of heaven raising the question, “Will you do justice, live mercy and walk humbly with our God?” Emmitt Till and the four little girls who were assassinated in Alabama during worship did not die for a Sunday sermonic sound bite to show disdain for one group of God’s people. They were killed by an evil act enacted by men who believed in doctrine over love. We serve in ministry this day because of a man who believed in love over doctrine and died on a hill called Calvary in a dusty Palestinian community 2,000 years ago. Do not let the rhetoric of this debate keep you from the polls, my friend.

Asking you to imagine a beloved community, your brother and friend,

Otis Moss, III
Senior Pastor
Trinity UCC

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  1. This is awesome. Would it be okay if I share this with my audience too? I would like to repost the full piece with a link to you.
    Thanks!
    Kelly

    • Kelly, by all means share it. If you don’t mind I’m trying to drive traffic to my page to test metrics for views. Would you post only 1/3 of the letter on your page and then a link to my page to insure people come to my page as well to finish reading the letter? Thanks in advance.

  2. Also, could you please say a few words about how you got the speech?

    Thanks,
    Kelly

    • Kelly, Rev. Otis Moss III is one of my Morehouse brothers. This open letter was made public through our network and I saw it very early this morning. It was intended to be shared freely. Hopefully that answers your question.

  3. It does! Thanks. I just wanted to double check the legitimacy of the letter.

  4. Thanks! I embedded the video too.

  5. [...] Dadisispeaks: the text of the Pastor’s address to his fellow clergy men and women: My [...]

  6. This sermon has moved me in a profound sense. I am a white lady , over the age of 50, who grew up on the south side of Chicago during the 1968 Dem convention and grew up
    Influenced by the black panthers. I was so ecstatic to read this after the struggle that I have had talking about the rampant homophobic attitudes here in SC among my fellow Democrats, especially among SC National Delegates whom go to represent SC ( my home for 34 yrs) they go to represent SC and show support for our courageous Pres Obama and VP Biden. I only wish this was true, but nope, homophobic is somehow tied to the culture down here, somehow tied to a misinterpretation and outright ignorance that this is a civil rights issue for same sex unions.

    • Elaine, thank you for your impassioned response to this post. If by SC you mean South Carolina it is a part of the culture of the entire Biblebelt. Atlanta is the most liberal and open city in the Southeast and it also has the largest LGBT community.

      For me this is both a Civil and Human Rights issue. So let’s hope America continues to evolve into a future we can all live with.

  7. Rev. Moss SURELY needed to include Bayard Rustin in his list of contributors!!! Martin, A. Phillip Randolph, etc. Made significant strides, but it was Rustin to introduce the ideals of Ghandi into a possible method to succeed in a peaceful, nonviolent protest!! And, he was the chief organizer of the March on Washington!

    • Isaac,

      Thanks for your comments. I agee Bayard Rustin could have been mentioned especially considering that he was openly gay and fought for gay rights at a time when that was not en vogue for Black Americans. But Rev. Moss, took a private letter he wrote to a fellow minister, edited it and provided it to the public to share his perspective on this matter. And that’s the beauty of what he both wrote and stated during his sermon.

      It is my hope that other Black American Christian ministers are just as courageous as he in making such a statement and continuing to support our President. Please don’t be a stranger to my page.

      Cheers,
      Dadisi.

  8. Some of what he wrote I agree with, However, men and men cannot reproduce. Women and women cannot reproduce. The Bible in any version states that one thing and one thing alone is an Abomination in the eyes of God, not a sin, an Abomination and that is Homosexuality. Look what God did reaggarding Sodom and Gamora, he destroyed it. For the President or any other Politician to approve gay marriage for the sake of votes makes a clear statement, Even God doesn’t come before a desire for votes! Being the allegations of homosexual assertiveness have surfaced against Obama while at two different colleges may mean he is as they call it, “keeping it on the down low” as Oprah exposed. I for one am even more at odds with the fact a true legitimate birth certificate cannot and has not been produced. I have no problem with an African American President, I do have a problem if a non-American born individual sits at that high of an American seat of Power. Colin Powell a TRUE American would get my full support.

    • Rick, I appreciate you taking your time to share your perspective on this most sensitive of topics for many. I’ll say this, I will not defend or teardown Rev. Moss’ perspective. He’s a learned man and trained theologian. I trust that he knows what he’s talking about. So I won’t argue for or against him.

      However, I will defend the President’s decision. He’s not the President of heterosexual America. That’s not his job. He’s the President of the United States and ALL of her citizens. Every citizen of the great nation is entitled to the same rights and freedoms as any other citizen. So whether one views this as political pandering or not, he is progressive and doing what a good leader should do. Which is lead his nation and defend the freedoms of ALL Americans.

      There are two forms of marriage in America, there’s religious marriage via the Church and other religious institutions and their marriage as approved by the State. When the state is involved it’s a secular matter of government and the two don’t have to every cross one another.

      As Rev. Moss indicated, while he supports the Presidents position he never once indicated that he would be performing Same-Sex Marriages in his church. As with most things in life you have to find balance, compromise and diplomacy to properly manage an issue. I think with the Presidents support we as a nation are on the right track.

      • Unfortunately, please don’t confuse Rick nor William by giving them the facts. I am still researching the Bible,scripture and verse, where it defines marriage. Those who are more learned than I could help me on this issue. Keep up the good work Rev. Moss, Father & Son as well as you my Brother. Peace and with Love, which according to the Bible, is the Greatest Commandment. Let us learn and practice that, my Brothern & KEEP THE FAITH !!!

      • Thank you Rev Smith for your kind words. As I have stated in replying to other posts, this is a sensitive matter for most and should be treated as such. Rev. Moss, was very thoughtful in his response to one of his brothers and in sharing this with the public.

        It requires courage to think outside the Christian box while still sticking to your personal faith. I was encouraged by this and that’s why I posted it.

  9. Marriage is for men and women, or we throw the Bible out of the Church.

    • William, thank you for your sharing your sentiment on this most sensitive of issues. Yes, from a Biblical Christian perspective I would agree but America is not a theocracy. If it were I wouldn’t live in this nation and I would renounce my citizenship because then we would have nothing more than a facist nation and not a true democratic republic.

      President Obama is the President of the ENTIRE United States and all of her citizens. He’s NOT the President of just heterosexual America. As I stated on another post, there are two forms of marriage in America. There is marriage as it is seen and performed by religious institutions and then their is marriage as is instituted and approved by the State. One of the many examples of Separation of Church and State.

      Churches are not in anyway compelled to start marrying same-sex couples because the President has given a public endorsement of same-sex marriage. The President has dealt with it as a matter of the state just as Rev. Moss does an eloquent job of explaining in his open letter.

      Everyone will not be happy with the decisions of leaders but that’s why they are the leaders and we are not. It’s thier job to make the tough decisions, even the unpopular ones if need be. I’m certian neither the President or Rev. Moss shared their thoughts on this topic lightly. And it’s clear by the things they have statement in defence of making them.

  10. If one is viewing Dr. Moss’ remarks from the lens of an American, whether man or women, gay or straight it is easy to become seduced by his desirous call for “living the faith”. Surely from this lens there is an assault on marriage and a push back on civil rights and equal protections under the law. From this lens, Church is simply viewed as a community and collective religion, that is, a corporate and ubiquitous attempt to please God.

    However my brethren, so called as members of HIS body, the Word of God demands that we reject this lens, this perspective! We are new creations in Christ, remember? The old man has been put to death, that very same nature who once readily embraced the perspective and callings of this world.

    God urges the believer to put on Christ. And now, since your identity and your citizenship has changed, let us now use not poor, but righteous and Holy Spirit led scholarship to consider a few of the Dr’s remarks.

    God’s Word says to resist fellowship with a believer that is engaged in immoral behavior. We are urged to “turn them over to Satan”, meaning turn them over to the world yet accept them back upon their repentance (Changing one’s mind…)

    Since our church leaders fear men more than God it is a simple matter to embrace that which is clearly and inexplicably contrary to God’s revealed will in an effort to maintain corporate and ecclesiastical unity. Thus, we readily place the openly gay in positions of leadership within the Church or refuse to call to question anyone, clergy or laity who walks in direct opposition to the faith.

    Elsewhere, we are admonished to reject a man who is a heretic or (speaking of our President) receive a man who is weak in the faith but not to doubtful dispensations. However, will his unfortunate position on gay marriage cause me to reject him come November 4th? Probably not.

    God’s word tells us not to judge another man’s servant. But I will continue to pray that the Holy Spirit will give him wisdom and bring a revelation to him through his Word that is to the praise of God. And this is key. Ultimately the Lord will judge each one of us for the positions we hold dear. (Romans 2:16)

    May I challenge you to throw down the lens of your old nature! And may reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness through his Word bring you into right and joyous understanding of HIS revealed will.

    In Jesus the Christ I Stand,
    Bro. Stan Overton

    • Stan,

      Thank you very much for sharing your impassioned view on this most sensitive of topics for many. I will not attempt speak for God in my reply to you. Those who claim such are typically subjective in their view and therefore it is best to simply listen and attempt to understand their perspective.

      I am not a Christian, have no intentions on becoming one and therefore will not speak as one. However, I am an American citizen and fully believe in separation of church and state. If America were a theocracy I simply would not live here. Fortunately, it is not. America is a democratic republic which in its often utopic rhetoric promises ALL of her citizens the same rights and freedoms as others.

      For me this issue is not about the American Christian Church at all. Marriage equality, Same-Sex Marriage or Gay Marriage, however one wishes to phrase it is a matter of the state and not the church. As tax paying citizens any American should be able to get married regardless of their sexual orientation.

      And I think as long as the state sanctions it, the Church not only doesn’t have to involved itself it doesn’t have to perform marital ceremonies for same-sex couples. But if and when the state does it, it must be recognised by all.

      The President of the United States is the President of ALL Americans and in no way can he ever say that he approves of discrimination against any one group of Americans. This nation is NOT a Christian nation for as much as the Christians living here may like it to be. It’s a secular democratic republic which provide religious and lifestyle freedoms for ALL of her citizens.

      That’s what matters the most to me and that’s what I will fight for.

  11. I’m constantly amused at the arrogance of so called Christians who refuse to even consider that there are billions of people on this planet who do not share their belief system and/or do not have a desire to have that belief system imposed upon them. That blind arrogance is usually compounded by their ignorance of the roots and/or history of said belief system and their failure to give any serious thought to it before adopting it. There are more serious issues confronting this society and the world than the sexual designation of any two (or three or more) consenting adults occupying the same bed for sexual purposes. Rev. Moss was right on target and more diplomatic than the occassion called for but since he purports to be a follower of the Prince of Peace………he was probably being a good example of how any continued dialog on this matter should go.

    • Unfortunately, Christians are like most people, some intelligent and some ignorant. God gave us all free will so each could stand on their own deeds, accordingly. We are suppose to build our faith by practicing our faith to encourage others to want to be like us. Some I feel are so heavenly centered that they are no earthly good. This Country was founded on the principle of “Freedom of (or from) Religion” which means that you can practice any that you choose or none! Knowledge is power and knowledge of the Bible is Supreme Power, don’t just read your Bible, study it so you can get a better understanding of what Jesus Christ represented. Bless you my Christian Friends and seek knowledge and understanding. Praises & Glory to GOD !

  12. God is greater than the Constitution. HE constitutes life…

    • Emerson, thank you for sharing that sentiment but within the context of this discussion and post the Constitution reigns supreme. America is NOT a theocracy it is a democratic republic. And every legal tax paying citizens deserves to be afforded the same rights as any other citizen.

      This is why we have separation of church and state. Nothing is this letter from Rev. Moss or from the statements of President Obama forces any religious body to perform same-sex marriage. But they don’t have to. The state can do it and it will eventually.

      What I would strongly suggest is that the religious heterosexual community focus on the decline of marriage and two parented households within their world. I’ve been married 23 years and have four children. It hasn’t been easy but we’re still standing.

      Many people look at me as though I’m a relic from the past. So to paraphrase a Biblical sentiment, “Give unto Ceasar what is Ceasars and Give unto God what is God’s”. That was Jesus’ eloquent way of saying. You can still serve your God and at the same time respect the laws of the land.

      That’s a great diplomatic compromise if I’ve ever seen one. Tolerance and respect is the name of the game. I remember not so long ago Black people where not allowed to “legally” get married in America and the people who instituted those laws were the same ones calling themselves Christians.

  13. THANK YOU PASTOR MOSS FOR MAKING THIS ISSUE CLEAR IE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RIGHTS AND RITES. I HAVE BEEN TELLING PEOPLE THIS, BUT IT IS SO MUCH MORE AFFECTIVE COMING FROM A BLACK PASTOR. I KNOW GOD IS WONDERING WHY WE CANNOT OR WILL NOT THINK DEEPLY ON COMPLEX ISSUES OR SHOULD I SAY SIMPLE ISSUES THAT ALL HUMAN BEINGS HAVE A RIGHT TO BE TREATED WITH DIGNITY. ALL SIN IS SIN AND GOD IS THE JUDGE. THANKS AGAIN GOD ALSO SAID TAKE CARE OF THE POOR AND NOT HATE THEM AND THE OTHER SIDE MADE IT VERY CLEAR THAT THE POOR DO NOT COUNT.

  14. Must Read, Only few people can read this with an open mind and hear the truth, judge not and be not judge. Many will opposed this position, but as I read this I was immediately convicted of my own ignorance its about human rights not religious rites. As I was reading this I thought about our past revival at my church and Pastor Carey preached about how many church folks in our community discriminate against those that does not fit the so called standards. His church frequents the strip clubs in Detroit and shower them with love and not conviction. I am reminded of the passage in the Bible where a woman was brought to Jesus to be convicted of her sins by the so called religious leaders, and as these folks were perpetrating and wanting this lady to be stoned to death by Jesus, Jesus said”those without sin cast the first stone”, so Jesus began to write in the sand and when he looked it was the woman and Jesus alone. Jesus spent a large portion of his time with the undesirables outside the church. He showered them with love and show them compassion, how dare we even think that we are above anyone. We can’t afford to allow our foolishness to block our history in the making. President Obama is breaking records and how about GOD gave us what we ask for and we need to stand behind him. Rev Moss eloquently written this letter and I support him a 100%. After I read this I can feel in my spirit the sufferings of my ancestors. So pass this on, regardless of how you feel its the truth.

  15. Thank you for your well written comments. I agree with you whole heartedly. If we, as Christians cannot look at the total picture and not just our narrow minded beliefs and views, than we should not call ourselves Christians. President Obama is a man of courage and vision and I believe he has done something that we all must acknowledge as a good deed. There are many clergy who have done things far worse. The Bible says he who is without sin, cast the first stone. I support our President and will continue to support him.

    • Winona, thanks for your comments. I’m a relatively balanced person when it comes to matters such as these. Trust me when I tell you all the comments I’ve received since posting this haven’t been positive or open minded at all. It’s a good thing I can moderate ALL comments before allowing them to be posted. LOL

      We as humans have a long way to go. Tolerance, understanding, empathy and love is what will get us there. Peace and blessings.

  16. let’s be fair and deny marriage to all sinners and not just gays. For example, liars, gluttons, people who commit adultery , and women who are not virgins when they get married. Just to name a few. Why are the Gays singled out for punishment?

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