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As Baptists

from Rev. Martha Kearse, St. John's Baptist Church

On May 18, 2016, a NC Clergy Unite Against HB 2 press conference was held in Charlotte. Three of the five speakers were Baptist pastors related to BPFNA~Bautistas por la Paz. One of those was Martha Kearse, who is the Associate Pastor of our host congregation St. John’s Baptist and was a member of our delegation to Ferguson in August 2015. 

As Baptists, we are called to take seriously the words of scripture and to appeal to the spirit of God and to our community to interpret the meaning of those words in our lives. In studying scripture, one of the most pervasive themes we find is that of the importance of offering hospitality. While that might invoke thoughts of the uptown Hilton, in fact, the theme of hospitality in scripture involves welcome and preparation, it involves kindness and an effort to meet the needs of those in one’s care, and, significantly, it involves protection, especially protection of those who are most vulnerable. As mere stewards of that which is God’s, we are called to treat each other as family, and to provide welcome for every person as if he or she were our brother or sister.

As Baptists, we are asked to take seriously the words of Jesus Christ, who, when asked who had the right to judge other people, consistently answered, “Not you.” Consistently, Jesus reminded people that we are ill-equipped for judgment, which is the right and responsibility of God. When asked what we are to be doing, Jesus told us we were to take care of each other in the manner in which we would like to be cared for. And when asked about the basis on which God would judge the people of God, Jesus said that those who had visited him when he was sick, who had come to see him in prison, who had clothed him when he was naked and who had fed him when he was hungry, those who had welcomed him when he was a stranger—those people would be given the hospitality of God. When they questioned him further on this issue, he said, “If you have done these things to the least of these, my kindred, you have done it to me.” It is a logical thing to interpret the words “least of these” as “the most vulnerable in your community.”

Following these clear instructions from scripture and from the mouth of Jesus, we stand for the protection of people who are transgender, who are some of the most vulnerable people in our community. We stand, not just for mere tolerance, but for kindness, for welcome, for inclusion, and for protection from bullying, protection from discrimination, and protection from harm. We stand for love in the way that Jesus expressed it, which means inclusion, which means acceptance, and which means seeing every person as a fearfully, and wonderfully made child of God. The love of God as Jesus expressed it includes listening to what people have to say about themselves and includes offering welcome first, protection first, community first and leaving any sanding that needs to be done to God. As Baptists, we take very seriously the command that we have been given in scripture, again and again, that we love one another.

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