Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Long Island, Newark, New Jersey and New York Bishops offer Statements on the Recent Suicides, Bullying, and Anti-Gay Violence

The Presiding Bishop joined with religious leaders across America in a statement of solidarity against bullying and a call for action and time of healing in the wake of the recent gay suicides anti-gay violence.  If you have not read about this, Walking With Integrity has the Press Release.

Many have also seen the "It Gets Better" video with Bishop Robinson.  If you have not, you can find it here: It Gets Better: Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire.

The bishops who serve Long Island, Newark, New Jersey and New York have also released statements that are well worth a read, and have been reproduced below.

Diocese of Long Island, 18 Oct 2010:
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
October 20th has been designated as a day of solidarity, witness and prayer for those who have died and those who have been injured and victimized by hate crimes directed against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. We have been asked to wear the color purple as a sign of that solidarity and witness, and so I encourage you to wear purple on the 20th as we stand together against the sinfulness of hatred and bigotry that has taken hold in our country and as an expression of our mourning for those who have been injured or died.
Beyond our participation of the events and symbolism of October 20, 2010, I am asking you to change the world. My pastoral request is that each of you commits your heart, mind and body to living in the midst of our neighborhoods and communities as people who are committed to the message of Jesus Christ. If we seriously live the gospel life, keep the promises of the Baptismal Covenant and make a commitment to turn our hearts to God, in fact we can change the world, begin to alleviate fear of others and create an atmosphere in society in which, by following our lived example, people will begin to respect the dignity of every human being.
I believe the church must lead this effort in a way that calls upon religious people and religious leaders, to live the message of faith that each teaches. The world can be changed by our living. Our words alone, our disdain, our anger, our expressions of disbelief at the actions of other, cannot and will not, serve to change the world. Our society has become accustomed to statements made following such horrible events. The words all begin to sound similar in a chorus of heart-felt feelings that almost seem to anticipate the next series of atrocities.
I am calling less for words and more for action to counter violence and degradation with faithful living, unconditional loving and the Christ-like acceptance of all God's people.
This effort must begin in our homes, our schools, our workplaces and our churches. This effort must be lived person to person. We must remove the hypocrisy of focusing on the inhumanity in the wider world while ignoring the inhumanity and lack of Christian concern in our midst. At the very least, there must be an end to the use of the gospels to dishonor, and victimize other children of God.

It is time to change the world by seriously living the Christian life in its fullness and setting aside the propensity to use the faith to win arguments, win votes or divide and conquer.
We can change the world by being Christian, always in all places and with all people. We can address violence, with love, hatred with acceptance, and death with faith in a living God, in Jesus Christ.
Let us endeavor to change the world on behalf of all those who have suffered and died because of who they were and how they lived in the image of God. Let us endeavor to change the world for the sake of all those who seek a relationship with Jesus Christ and long to see that relationship lived in the midst of God's people. Let us endeavor to change the world for the sake of all God's people. Let us truly be the church together for the world.

Faithfully, In Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Lawrence C. Provenzano, Bishop of Long Island
Diocese of Newark and New Jersey, Joint Statement, 8 Oct 2010:
We write as Christian pastors who are privileged to serve as bishops of The Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Newark and in the Diocese of New Jersey in order to express our grief, alarm, compassion and outrage over the suicide of Tyler Clementi. We join our voices with the voices of all those concerned in Ridgewood, where Tyler grew up, at Rutgers University, where he was a freshman and across our nation. Another gay young person has died by suicide. This tragic loss of a promising life would appear to be directly related to an invasion of Tyler’s privacy and a violation of his personal life. Much remains to be considered by law enforcement authorities and the courts in order to determine whether this is also a case of bullying, a felony or a hate crime – or a combination of the three. Whatever that legal determination may be, we join with other Christian and religious leaders, with the LGBT community and with all people of good will who take their stand against hatred, bigotry and bullying; against every expression of physical and verbal violence; and against any violation of the dignity of LGBT persons. When the rights of any – especially the members of vulnerable groups who have so often been scapegoated – are threatened, the rights of all are endangered.

We want to call attention to another, potentially deeper, issue here. It is the invasion of intimacy. Intimacy is a holy place within every human being; an innermost sanctuary where we develop our ultimate beliefs and values, nurture our closest relationships and maintain our deepest commitments. No one has the right to disclose that intimacy for someone else without consent. Such a violation is tantamount to the desecration of a sacred space. It is, in fact, a sacred space. It is the territory of the soul.

Technology, however, now provides tools to record, seize and disclose the most intimate matters of our lives without our consent. Identities can be stolen, hearts broken and lives shattered. Technology has placed powerful tools in human hands. Will they be used for building-up or for breaking down our neighbor? Tyler Clementi’s death certainly poses some important legal issues, but it also raises some critical moral concerns. Hubris has outstripped humility. And that is a serious problem. We can do better. We must do better, with God’s help.

In our Episcopal tradition, whenever we reaffirm our faith in worship, we are given a challenging question: “will you respect the dignity of every human being?” And we answer, “I will, with God’s help.” It is an important commitment. Whatever our religious tradition, we can agree on the need to respect one another’s dignity. With God’s help, we can stand together and stand up against bullies who would damage and destroy the lives of LGBT persons, their partners and families and friends. With God’s help, we can offer safety, support and sanctuary to all LGBT persons who are at risk. With God’s help, we can remind our society that every LGBT person is made in the image of God. The world needs our witness.

The Rt. Rev. Mark M. Beckwith, Bishop of Newark
The Rt. Rev. George E. Councell, Bishop of New Jersey

Diocese of New York, 8 Oct 2010:
Dear Sisters and Brothers in the Diocese of New York

No doubt you are aware of the recent widely reported incidences of bullying and invasion of privacy that resulted in the suicides of five young people in California, Indiana, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Texas. The tragic story of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University student who jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge last week, may have struck closest to home. But each of these deaths strikes at the body of Christ, and calls us as Christ’s disciples to answer cruelty and intolerance with loving compassion.

The Episcopal Church has long affirmed the dignity, equality and inclusion of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. That these latest deaths should occur so near to the anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s murder in Wyoming 12 years ago (Oct. 12, 1998) reminds us that there is much work yet to do to instill these values in the communities we serve.

Last month, New York Gov. David Paterson signed the Dignity for All Students Act, which bans harassment and discrimination against students based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, race, religion, disability and other characteristics, and requires the state’s school districts to adopt anti-bullying policies.

I urge all institutions to be responsive to calls for help and relief by any and all who are threatened and treated with contempt.

Our faith communities must also do our part to uphold our young people, particularly those most vulnerable to intimidation and threats of violence in their schools and neighborhoods. We can begin by condemning the attitudes of intolerance and acts of aggression that deliver too many youth into despair.

I urge you to remember lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth in your prayers. May Christ comfort and heal the hearts of those most affected by these recent tragedies. And may their memories inspire us to more vocal expressions of justice, compassion and love.

The Rt. Rev. Mark S. Sisk, Bishop of New York

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