A sermon response by Rev. Clay Horton:
early August, my wife Errinne and I were vacationing in Santa Fe. We were strolling down one of the beautiful
city streets crowded with tourists when I noticed a black and white picture in
the window of the Monroe Gallery of Photography. The exhibit was titled, “The Long Road From
Selma to Ferguson.” I told Errinne that
lunch had to wait. I grabbed her hand, and we made our way into what we would
find to be a sobering gallery.
The pictures captured the pain of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 60’s and the struggles we still face today. I stared into the eyes of the Chaney family as they mourned the loss of James Chaney, a freedom worker who was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan. As a parent now, I know that not even a great photographer can capture the full emotions this mother felt on the way to his funeral.
Mrs. Chaney and young Ben, James Chaney funeral, Meridian, Mississippi, 1964. Photo by Bill Eppridge.
I looked at other similar pictures and thought, “Where was the church?” My guess is that many of the members of the Ku Klux Klan were in church on Sundays. I saw one photograph with Klan women bowing their heads in prayer. There were pictures of segregation parades and I could see the hate-filled eyes of a group of horribly misdirected individuals. It pained me in my innermost being to see any church or religion that would either promote this behavior or even allow it to exist.
| Woman of the Klan bow their heads in prayer at a rally near Salisbury, North Carolina, 1965. Photo by Charles Moore.
then I saw a picture of white men and black men arm in arm at a Civil Rights
rally. This is where the followers of
Christ were, standing up against injustice.
I then found myself standing in front of a wall with a large, single
picture. I stood here for several
minutes. It was a picture of Martin
Luther King Jr. leading a march for voting rights. MLK, as a leader of the church, led the Civil
Rights movement, well aware that he might die any day, but also knowing that he
was living for the right causes. The
African American Church was the rally point for the Civil Rights movement. King inspires me, as I hope he does you, to
never be satisfied with a church that merely goes along with the status quo,
but instead seeks justice for all of God’s people. “Letter from Birmingham Jail” is one of the
best pieces of work written in the 20th century to call the church
Demonstrators during Civil Rights rally in front of the Washington Monument, 1963 - Photo by Francis Miller.
stepping forward from what we have learned in the past, our action is not only
to be a part of racial reconciliation, but it is to at least begin a
conversation about inclusion of the LGBTQ community. After my sermon on Sunday, I’ve been overwhelmed
with the number of positive comments I have received. People with friends and
family in the LGBTQ community have reached out to thank me. Others have told me how proud they are to be
a part of a church that speaks grace and love instead of exclusion.
I am also looking forward to conversations
with people that do not see eye to eye with me on this issue. I look forward to getting to know them and
entering into a dialogue where we both grow.
In Daniel’s sermon, he challenged people to attend an event or gathering
with people who are different than them in order to enter into relationship with
others. One man told me that Daniel and
I inspired him to get to know someone in the LGBTQ community. I think this is certainly a bold and faithful
I have found most inspiring though was the embrace of a woman with a gay son
after my sermon. I do not pretend to
know what she and her son have gone through, but her embrace told me she is
grateful to be at a church where her family is fully celebrated as part of the
body of Christ.
as the body of Christ, are called to venture into relationship with those whom
we do not see eye to eye or understand.
We are called to stand up for justice.
MLK was empowered by the Holy Spirit to do all that he did and he kept
Christ as his example. Jesus ate with
the tax collectors and sinners, touched the bleeding woman, prevented the woman
caught in the act of adultery from being stoned, and spoke grace to the woman
at the well. Jesus seemed to be more
concerned with people than he was with labels, stereotypes, laws, or even
When we get to heaven, Jesus will
say to us, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” He might then say one of two things:
“There were some people that I
didn’t want in my church, and you let them in anyways. Shame on you.”
“There were some people that I wanted in my
church, and you didn’t let them in.
Shame on you.”
I believe that the Jesus Christ that I find in the Gospels and pray to daily is
more likely to say the latter.
Therefore, I am proud to be in a church and a denomination where we
welcome all people to our fellowship. Instead
of the two statements above, my hope is that Christ will say to us, “Thanks for
leading ALL my people into a growing relationship with me. Well done my good and faithful servants.”
Feel free to explore some of the pictures and
read the captions at monroegallery.com. And, this Sunday, make sure to
spend some time in the Connection Center or the FLC checking out some of the
Civil Rights pictures on the wall.
Watch Clay's Sermon