Rev. Elder Cecilia Eggleston, Moderator, Metropolitan Community Churches
“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint.
When I ask why they are poor,
they call me a communist.”
This quote is from Hélder Câmara, a Brazilian archbishop, who believed that the church should be closer to the people. He worked with and for the poor, and was an outspoken critic of the military regime under which Brazil was living at the time.
For me, this quote summarises MCC’s call to social action and justice. We are called to help those in need, to work alongside them and to empower them to act. We are also called to speak out about the injustice we see, to hold those in power to account and to work for lasting change. Early on, when we all first started to feel the impact of COVID-19 on our everyday lives and ministry, there was a fascinating webinar, organised by St. John’s MCC, Raleigh, USA. The webinar featured a panel of MCC pastors and members who were activists at the height of the HIV/AIDS era in the USA. They were asked to discuss what those times could teach us now, living in a global pandemic. A key phrase was used, which really stuck with me – “faith expressed as activism.”
Whether it is holding a church service for World AIDS Day, marching under a church banner on a “Black Lives Matter” march, or whatever we do to fight for justice, we are expressing our faith as and through activism. This is part of what it means to be MCC. From our beginning, Rev. Troy Perry was out on the streets protesting and standing on the steps of government buildings campaigning for justice. Both he and Rev. Elder Dr Nancy Wilson were invited to the White House on several occasions to discuss different issues with the US President and team. On my visit to Australia in February this year, I met with federal and state politicians to discuss LGBTQI rights and to raise concerns about potentially harmful legislation. I know that many MCCers around the world contact their national or local politicians about different justice issues. We express our faith through activism.
Not everyone feels comfortable interacting with politicians directly, but we can exercise our activism by using our vote. We can look at the key issues that are important to us and find out what the different parties are saying. We can encourage those around us to register and to vote. As congregations we can commit to praying, studying and understanding issues together, being active in the local community and making sure those who need help voting can be assisted.
COVID-19 is impacting elections at the moment and has the potential to prevent many people from taking part. In New Zealand, the election has been postponed from September to October, because of a spike in COVID-19 cases. In the USA, there is significant concern about whether postal votes will be available and will be delivered on time in order for votes to be valid. These situations have the potential to show again the inequalities exposed by the pandemic. Who gets to vote is also a justice issue. Encouraging people to vote and helping them in practical ways to exercise this right is part of what it means to build a civic society, to contribute to the public discourse and is also a just thing to do.
Voting is not the only way to change things, but if we don’t vote, we can be sure that it won’t count. Many people around the world have died campaigning for the right to vote. Wherever you are in the world, I encourage you to prayerfully use your vote to make a difference.