By Nicky Leigh

Years ago, I had a partner who wanted me to attend church with her. I agreed to go to her church which was a United Methodist church. Like us, this church had gone through diversity training and they considered themselves very open to gays. We were the only openly gay couple in the congregation and at first I felt warmly welcomed and accepted with grace.

The feeling did not continue. I began to feel like I was in a fishbowl. We were selected to do parts of the service, like readings, collections, etc., the norm of all churches, but I felt we were being paraded “down the aisle” as an accepted gay couple. And then I learned, if a Methodist minister married a gay couple they were de-frocked. (This is no longer the case, though a minister cannot be actively gay.) To me that was the last straw.

You can say you are open and accepting, but if all actions do not align, then as the sought after minority I won’t believe you.

How does this relate to People’s Church? I believe that is the role of ARAOMC. Our committee is holding meetings to better define our role, to point out Structural Racism and to facilitate in its removal. We have asked the Board, Committee members, and members of our congregation to attend ERACCE classes. We have presented film discussions, micro-aggression workshops and Sunday services—all relating to racism.

Yes, racism matters.

Michigan Department of Community Health data show from 2000-12, the county’s mortality rate for white infants was 5.7 deaths per 1,000 births, compared to 18.2 deaths for black infants. In 2014, only 56% of Hispanic students and 62% of African-American students completed high school. In the city of Kalamazoo, 56% of the households live below the cost of living (no racial breakout given).

So to me the question becomes, how can we align our actions to accept the social, educational, racial and cultural diversity inherent in our community and help all feel like full members?

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