It has been fifteen years since Matthew Shepard’s death this October, and Washington National Cathedral is taking time to observe it. The anniversary helps our nation to remember a watershed moment for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth.
The anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death is equally important in the life of our nation and our church.
As deeply as Matthew’s murder shocked the world at the time, it was a signal event in turning our shared consciousness toward the tragedy of hate crimes in general and those directed against the LGBT community in particular. And because Matthew was a faithful and devoted Christian, his death has stood as a witness to God’s power to bring justice out of oppression, love out of hate, hope out of fear.
We at Washington National Cathedral are proud to stand with the LGBT community in its ongoing struggle to help our nation, our churches, and our world live out practically the values to which we aspire in our religious, political, and philosophical creeds.
Our decision a year ago to perform same-sex weddings, our advocacy for marriage equality in our civic dialogue, and our concern for international LGBT human rights are all part of our commitment to live out the inclusive and expansive love of the God we know in Christ and in community.
We were proud to stand with the LGBT community last June to celebrate the Supreme Court’s decisions on DOMA and Proposition 8, just as we are proud to continue to stand with that community as we seek to address marriage equality in our states and in our churches.
The deaths of LGBT teens like Matthew Shepard and Tyler Clementi remind us that our youth continue to be at risk.
We hope and trust that the attention we focus on Matthew, Tyler, and the youth of America and the world will result in growing compassion and advocacy for the development of policies and attitudes that will ensure all children can grow to maturity knowing and becoming the people God made them to be.
God really does love all human creatures and accept us as we are, and it is our belief at the Cathedral that liberation and acceptance for all of us—just as we are—will also mean liberation and acceptance for everyone else as well.
The National Cathedral’s ministry with and on behalf of the LGBT community is paralleled by its outreach for and on behalf of many of the most vulnerable groups in our society.
The God we serve has called us to serve “the least of these”—and standing with them is the least that we can do.
We are gathering this October mindful of the sacrifice of Matthew, Tyler, and countless unnamed children who have suffered pain, fear, oppression, violence, and even death at the hands of unreasoning and fearful hatred.
As we do so, we will pledge ourselves to work not only to reform our church and society but also to examine and cleanse our own hearts and spirits. If we live into that calling, we will be worthy of Matthew and Tyler’s examples.
Matthew Shepard and Tyler Clementi died, after all, because we still live in a world where people believe they have license to force their own fears and hatred on others. As we celebrate their lives and remember their deaths, we should also commit ourselves to making the nation, the church, and the world safe spaces for LGBT children to know, accept, and love themselves.
God really does love all human creatures and accept us as we are.
God also calls us into a new and risen life and ministry in which our actions and practices will actually reflect our commitments. Faith is a powerful force, and this short video from Believe Out Loud explains just a bit further our belief that it should be a powerful—and empowering—force for good.
Image via Washington National Cathedral