April 24, 2015
The Honorable Michael R. Pence
Governor of the State of Indiana
200 W. Washington Street, Room 206
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204
We have seen the huge new banner in the Indianapolis airport proclaiming “Indy Welcomes All.” We read in the Indianapolis Star that you declared on April 14, “I think the difficult time that Indiana just passed through two weeks ago is behind us.”
We do not fully agree.
We certainly understand the desire to have the “RFRA” debate behind us. The passage of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) presented our denomination, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), with a challenge. We weren’t sure we could hold a convention here and know that our attendees would be safe from state-sanctioned discrimination.
Religious freedom is a core value for Disciples. As the first denomination to emerge on American soil, we champion liberty of belief for all. In 1999, our General Assembly passed a resolution defending freedom of conscience and freedom of religious expression in the public square. In our church, however, the value for freedom goes hand in hand with respect for diversity. We follow Jesus who sat at table with people from all walks of life, and loved them all. Disciples are varied in opinion. Our members and assembly-goers are of different races and ethnicities, ages, gender identities and sexual orientations. We have in common that we love Jesus and seek to follow him.
We were pleased, therefore, when a broad group of activists, business interests and legislators brought amendments to RFRA, making it clear that it could not be used to shelter discrimination.
Our Disciples General Board met in early April to choose a city for our 2017 meeting. We chose Indianapolis. Now that our initial concerns have been addressed, choosing Indy positions us to join other Indiana citizens in the movement for equal protection under the law – for all. The immediate uproar has died down, but there is still work to be done.
Without civil rights protection for all people, including LGBT persons, it is still “a difficult time” in our state. As a matter of faith – that all people are created in the image of God – it is time to bring civil rights to all – in Indiana and across the nation.
We will be watching and participating and praying that Indiana can reclaim its reputation of Hoosier hospitality for all.
Respectfully,[one_third][/one_third][one_third][/one_third][one_third_last][/one_third_last] [one_third]Sharon E. Watkins
General Minister and President[/one_third][one_third]Julia Brown Karimu, President
Division of Overseas Ministries[/one_third][one_third_last]Ronald J. Degges, President
Disciples Home Missions[/one_third_last]
cc: R. Glen Miles, Moderator, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)