The Rev. Kim Beckmann, an ELCA pastor living in Chicago, testified yesterday before the Illinois Senate Executive Committee in its consideration of the Illinois Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, which would allow same-gender marriage in the state.
|At the Illinois statehouse (left-to-right): Equality Illinois' Public Policy Director Randy Hannig, |
the Rev. Kim Beckmann, Equality Illinois' Field Director Caroline Staerk, PFLAG parent Bonnie Garneau,
and Equality Illinois' CEO Bernard Cherkasov.
Kim had these observations following her testimony:
"We [Kim and her fellow panelists] had to wait over 23 hours of delays to testify. Everyone kept apologizing and saying how great I was to hang in. But I kept thinking about how long same-sex couples have been waiting – over years – to be able to marry, and it seemed like the least I could do to join them in a token of that wait.
"It was amazing to have an opportunity to bear witness in Springfield at this turning point in history.
"The importance of the voice of religious leaders and people of faith speaking out can’t be underestimated. For as much as there were two of us pastors out of four witnesses passionately testifying in favor of the bill, when I got home all the news bytes were about the opposition to the bill being the church and religious leaders as if they couldn’t hear us. It’s going to take a lot of us, a lot of voices, to continue to challenge that perception at every opportunity.
"My most profound moment of gratitude for having a public voice was meeting a woman who had attended with her partner and their teenage son. After the hearing, the woman sought me out with tears in her eyes. 'Thank you, thank you, for your words, for being so brave to speak out.' She continued, 'I saw you in your collar in the ladies' room today. I was pretty sure you were here because of us. And I couldn’t help wondering, Is she here to fight for us? Or is she here against us, to hurt us? I have to admit that the latter crossed my mind first.'
"It’s important for those of us with a word of inclusion, recognition and welcome for all LGBTQ persons and families to make them explicit. People of faith and congregations, through the Reconciling in Christ program and other welcoming signs, have opportunities every day to bear witness and bring grace and healing where people have come to expect more wounds.
"While it’s disappointing that procedurally the bill ran out of General Assembly road for the freedom to marry to become law in this session, we all have more opportunities to gather our voices, speak out and bring a different, perhaps unexpected, healing word in Christ’s love.
The Rev.Kim Beckmann (center) with United Methodist pastor Vernice L. Thorn (right) PFLAG parent Bonnie Garneau (left).
Below is the text of Kim’s prepared testimony:
"Mr. Chairman, members of the senate. My name is Kim Beckmann, a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. I have served parishes in Brookfield and the south side of Chicago. My husband is a pastor serving in Edgewater.
"When it comes to the freedom to marry we usually picture the wedding. For me, as a pastor, the turning point on marriage equality actually came at a funeral. A faithful, gay partner of eight years had been utterly ignored in the service planning, was invisible to the eulogy, and more importantly, was further denied the community and societal recognition of his mourning as a spouse. The last time I had talked with Bob, Kevin was out mowing the lawn and Bob had just finished making tea for his aging grandfather who they cared for in their home. In the scriptural tradition, I look at Isaiah’s inclusion of all who keep covenant, who in Micah’s words love kindness and do God’s justice, or to the ways Jesus puts together such families, and recognizes them in the household of God.
"Marriage equality is about these profound moments in the joy of the wedding and the sorrows of the death that parts us. But even more, marriage equality is about all the days in between. The ordinary days of raising families, keeping a household running and supporting vocations that build Illinois communities. Any one of us who tries to live faithfully and fully in family life knows the importance of the recognition, community support and legal protections marriage brings. As a pastor and person of faith, I want those supports for every household in my congregation. I want these supports that make for thriving and life-giving communities available to all Illinois families.
"I also want the religious freedom fundamental to this bill. Lutherans recognize the state’s responsibility to determine marriage as a civil matter, while faith communities make determinations about blessing the godly estate. My denomination allows congregations and pastors to exercise their conscience in blessing same-sex couples or not, just as this bill allows.
"Last spring, the ELCA Metro Chicago Synod I serve in passed a resolution urging the Illinois Legislature and Governor to extend the protections and dignity of marriage to all persons while protecting the freedom of religion. The resolution passed by over 90 percent, in a sea of 'yes' cards. The same people who voted at synod assembly are Illinois voters who are ready for you to support this bill. Not every congregation, pastor or couple will exercise this freedom. But people of faith in Illinois 'get' that civil marriage for all is fair, right and just. We are behind you today to extend this gift, joy and good of marriage to all couples. Thank you."