Monday, January 17, 2011

I have a Dream

In memory of Martin Luther King Jnr - who dared to protest and name injustice.
A rewrite of his most famous speech - to address the Church.

Two thousand years ago, Christ, in whose symbolic shadow the Church stands, triumphed over bigotry, hatred and fear to rise from the dead. This momentous act of God came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of women and children and slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity. But two thousand years later, we must face the tragic fact that women and children, the poor and the oppressed are still not free.

Two Thousand years later, the lives of women and homosexuals are still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. Two thousand years later, women are still languishing in the corners of Church ministry and find themselves exiled and outcast in their own faith.
So we have written this today to dramatize an appalling condition. In a sense we have written to our Churches to cash a check. When the authors  of our faith wrote down the magnificent words of the New Testament and the creeds they were signing a promissory note to which every man woman and child  was to fall heir.

This note was a promise that all people would be guaranteed the gifts of God's grace, of life, liberty, and the pursuit of discipleship. It is obvious today that the Church has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her women and homosexuals are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, the Church has given these children of God a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice or grace is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity for ministry and discipleship of this Church.
So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of God's freedom to serve and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind the Church of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of gender justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our church from the quicksands of gender injustice to the solid rock of equality for all before God.
It would be fatal for the Church to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of women. This desolate winter of women’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating spring of freedom and equality. 2011 is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that women simply need to blow off steam and will then be content will have a rude awakening if the Church continues with ‘business as usual’. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in the Church until women are granted their full rights as children of God.

The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. we must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new confidence which has engulfed many women in the Church must not lead to a distrust of all men, for many of our brothers, as evidenced by their presence in the Church today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of doctrine and clerical rights, "When will you be satisfied?" we can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of childbirth, are not free from the dictates of childless men. We can never be satisfied as long as women in the Church are barred from the office to which God calls them. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
I am not unmindful that some of you reading this have undergone great trials and tribulations. Some of you have left narrow minded churches. Some of you have come from denominations where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of dogmatic bigotry. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go to your churches, go to your Bible Studies, your cell groups and fellowships, go to the darkest and most bigotted of our cathedrals wherever they may be, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in God’s dream.

I have a dream that one day the Church will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all people are created equal." I have a dream that one day in the palaces of Rome and Canterbury, the daughters of former women ministers and the sons of former Bishops will be able to sit down together and share equally at the table of Christ. I have a dream that one day even the Church of Rome, shrouded with the darkness of injustice and oppression of women, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that all children may one day be part of a Church where they will not be judged by their sexuality or their genitals but by the content of their character and the depth of their faith. I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day the Methodist Church, will be transformed into a situation where ordained men and women will be able to join hands with lay men and women and walk together boldly as sisters and brothers in one equal ministry. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith in which I minister. With this faith we will be able to hew our of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our Church into a beautiful symphony of praise and glory to God. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free to serve God fully, to be respected and valued one day.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, male and female, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, women are free at last!"

3 comments:

  1. I have a dream that all children may one day be part of a Church where they will not be judged by their sexuality or their genitals but by the content of their character and the depth of their faith. I have a dream today.
    I have a dream that one day the Methodist Church, will be transformed into a situation where ordained men and women will be able to join hands with lay men and women and walk together boldly as sisters and brothers in one equal ministry.

    amen and amen
    you and Sally (eternal echoes) are among the unsung heros (heroines) of the UK Methodist church today. I salute you both! And I pray that the ripples and waves you are making will reach the parts that they need to reach.

    bless you

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  2. a wonderful dream...can I just add that I have a dream that the disabled will be able to take their place in church, and that toilets will be easy to get to and easy to use.
    Wesley

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