Column: Rev Burchall On ‘Why We Can’t Wait’

June 7, 2016

[Opinion column written by Reverend John-Anthony Burchall]

The June 23rd Referendum makes a healthy and thoughtful demand upon us as an Island nation, but this is conditional upon our communal ability to accept and meet this moment with a healthy dose of compassion mixed with justice and not premature prejudice born of fear, or disparaging discrimination which is a deathblow to understanding, and impertinent intolerance which is a twin to invincible ignorance.

Instead I invite my Bermuda family to gather the better angels of our nature and let’s tap the mercy app deep within our Bermudian souls and begin a good news download!

If our recently concluded Bermuda Day festivities has shown us anything, it’s that we may be one island but our land is a rainbow of beautiful profusion; an eclectic, orgasmic outpouring of colors and deep textures. Whether you have the privilege of being born on the rock as I was, or if you chose Bermuda as your residence or whether you are a tourist or international business client, we are one Bermuda

And that is why June 23 is an opportunity for our voting population to show up in droves to vote YES to gay marriage and NO to civil unions, because civil unions are a homophobic and heterosexist response triggered by manic panic and it imposed a second class status on persons who happen to be born Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex or Asexual. We the heterosexual majority can do better with our power than consign the gay community to the back of the bus.

It is a point of some deep embarrassment that my island home chooses to discriminate against a sexual minority. The OBA and PLP championed adding mental illnesses / mental disability as a category to our human rights code, and I support this change. Yet our Government continues to allow unfettered discrimination against the LGBTQIA community who also have mental dysfunctions and mental illnesses that are directly attributable to living in a community whose churches, and religious culture preaches and practices hate under the loving guise of loving the “sinner” but not the sin.

Being LGBTQIA is not a sin. It’s a fact about a person present from birth like eye color, hair texture and height. I was born left handed and the Catholic Church declared me to be a “child of the devil.” Fortunately, for me and my brother Colwyn who was also born left handed, my Christian parents and grandparents disobeyed that Catholic discriminatory bias like good Protestants, and my Muslim uncle loved me despite the Jewish and Christian and Islamic texts that tells us that the place of privilege is on the right. God’s elect always sit is at the “right” and the damned sit on the “left.”

We simply cannot allow the priesthood of prejudice and the deacons of discrimination to have their acerbic voices unchallenged in the center of this discourse. Our Messiah Jesus needed a savior! I will leave readers to parse that theological nugget. However, when Jesus challenged the might of Rome he was crushed, crucified and hung from a tree! His own disciples disowned him. But God did not forget. But Jesus did feel the sting of being forsaken.

Some of our Christian pastors continue to do that today. Some choose to forsake and preach hate, they chose to crucify, crush and disown their gay members many of whom pay their tithes and sit silently Sunday after Sunday in the pews, or for their own sense of self concern choose to leave the conservative churches. Some Christian pastors continue to base this anti gay discrimination on a two OT verses and 5 NT verses in a Bible that has many more verses that support slavery! How do they decide to base their anti gay bias on seven verses and then ignore all the verses that call for capital punishment for adultery, the genocide of persons who happen to be born Gentile and the enslavement of children and persons captured in war?

Let us remember how the Lutheran church marched steadfastly to Hitler’s tune in the 1930s. Let us remember how the Southern Baptists supported slavery and the Confederacy and let us also not forget that many of these same religious expressions [Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox Judaism and Islam] willfully discriminate against the women in their congregations.

This means that religious leaders cannot lead anyone other than their own congregants. A congregation is a special subset of humanity. Those adult persons who choose to accept the pastor’s words and interpretations of sacred material and use this to guide their own living, are a special, set apart, breed of human expression. All adults are free to accept the religious leadership that meets their needs.

I will fight to my last breath for any adult person, to freely assemble with others in houses and churches and temples and mosques and synagogues and to live within its chosen creeds and tenets, and this is especially true when that tradition encourages women to be second class members; particularly in denominations where the priesthood and pastorate is a “boys club,” there are stridently powerful and empowered women who accept sexist denominational traditions and rules; while I find this state of affairs distasteful, I support the right of any woman to worship where and as she so determines.

These are ongoing issues within the family of faith and they are particular and peculiar to denomination and religious tradition. However, our public life is secular and humanistic and based on the praxis of modernist science and that means that pastors may have a voice in the gay marriage discussion but they do not have a veto. It is the Government’s duty to protect all vulnerable minorities from the prejudices of the majority. It is our job to hold our political leaders accountable.

If the One Bermuda Alliance is to be serious about its role at this moment in history then it should act at once to bring the necessary legislation to Parliament that will make marriage between consenting adults the law of the land.

The religious communities among us have taken centuries to do the right thing. How long did it take the Anglicans to apologize for slavery? How long will the Catholic Church discriminate against women and fail to protect children? This is why we can’t wait for the religious community to do anything remotely progressive and that includes my fellow Christian pastors who would rather protest and persecute the LGBTQIA community, instead of showing mercy, loving justice and walking humbly with them. The Christian pastor’s role is seen most clearly when they incarnate the love of Jesus in how they love the sexual minorities in our midst. The lesbians and gays and transgender persons among us are the outcasts of Bermuda and the call of the Christian minister is to love, cherish and support all God’s children.

This is why we can’t wait. This is why I will not wait and I already serve the gay community here in Washington DC. I will perform gay marriages when asked and can be called upon to support Bermuda’s gay citizens in their walk toward full equality. The religious community cannot lecture, sermonize or judge anybody because we have too much blood on our hands over many centuries. This alone should evoke humility in us who carry the title Reverend. We need to practice the love we preach.

One Bermuda Alliance needs to stand up and do the right thing, the unpopular thing and make same sex marriage legal right now! Then Madam Minister, Madam Senator, walk into your church, take your seat in the pew and look your pastor directly in his eye and know that you used your feminine power, the power of the Government, to make legislation that improves people’s lives right now! You will have used your power to end discrimination and you will go down in history as visionary political progressive.

This is why can’t wait. We will not wait for anything less than full equality for the LGBTQIA community. This is a justice issue for me, and that is why I have made my theological opinions public. I will stand on the right side of history as a Christian pastor who currently ministers to LGBTQIA families and supports their aspirations, dreams and hopes. It is my life’s purpose to make the rainbow a reality for ALL persons whether they are religious as I am, or are unapologetically and steadfastly secular. That is why we can’t wait. That’s why I will not wait and I call on the Government to lead and end discrimination against the gay community by bringing the Marriage [Same Sex Couples] Act 2016 before Parliament TODAY. The gay community deserve untrammeled access to what our Bermuda Constitution Order 1968, promises them in the spirit of Chapter 1.

Meanwhile, I invite my Bermuda family to vote yes on June 23. Vox populi, vox Dei? I think not! Especially when some of those persons are unrepentant homophobes dressed in ministerial robes.

But as any of my soldiers will tell you when I had the pleasure of serving as an officer in the Bermuda Regiment 1995-2001, I “ride or die for mine!”

- Rev. John-Anthony Burchall M.Div [Howard Divinity School] Alexandria, Virginia

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Comments (37)

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  1. Say Whaat? says:

    Certain people are doing the best they can to convince Christians that they should leave the faith by means of voting yes to anything on this referendum.

    In honor of Muhammad Ali, I will hold on to my faith and vote NO & NO. Don’t be fooled because people call themselves reverend or priest or pastor and their words do not line up with the bible.

    Matthew 19:4-5 “4 And He (Jesus) answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?

    Note that Jesus didn’t say any consenting adults, but male and female.

    • Sickofantz says:

      No one is asking you to stop believeing in fairy stories. I bet you eat shellfish and you may even know people who have gotten divorced. Nobody can help being gay. Why discriminate? ALL discrimination is wrong.

      • Say Whaat? says:

        The bible says that I can eat shellfish/pork/etc. Read all of it, you may learn something.

        • Dan says:

          Not sure on your gender SW, but have you looked with lust in your eyes at the opposite gender? Bible says you’re buggered.

          What kind of mix of fabrics is your clothing? Wrong type? Bible says you’re buggered.

          How you doing on compassionate spirit for your fellow man? Not so much. Bible says you’re buggered.

          Anyone can twist words to suit their argument. Try and find something BESIDES the Bible that not EVERYONE believes in (so – something that everyone can relate to) to support your stance.

          This is the problem with the ‘No’ camp. I have not found ONE SINGLE PERSON who can support their argument without the Bible.

          • Not A Bible Thumper says:

            This is a difficult subject. But one thing to note about the Bible is that you do not pick and choose what verses you rely on to support your argument. The Bible should be looked at in the whole, not a part or portion. As a whole, especially the New Testament, the Bible speaks on Jesus’ examples of love. He loved the person but not the sin.

    • aceboy says:

      Ali was a Muslim.

    • @ Say What?, Stand strong as there are many opposing forces and i for one don’t bow to none of them. My commitment is to love everyone and to see them as God’s creation in whom He loves, but I will not go against the order of nature and that which God has ordained.

      I would remind the Christian readers that Matthew 10:28 clearly states,

      And fear not them that can kill the body,but are not able to kill the soul:but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

      Mankind has a a day of reconning coming and I would rather please God then man any day, so I choose not to support voting NO? & No in a plot for the O.B.A to waste tax payers money on a agenda that they have every intentions of passing in every and any way they can.

      I don’t fear the criticism, the faces or the voices of all who think other wise, be they clergy who I believe have gone wayward from that which the Bible teaches, or mainstream everyday citizen. Let them do whatever they feel is right in their eyes, but at the end of the day, every human will give an account for all the deeds done in this earth.

      To those who stand against this referendum and same sex marriages and civil unions, I say to you just stand, and having done all to stand, STAND!

      • Zevon says:

        Are you going to admit you were wrong about the person arrested on the plane last week, or are you not man enough to admit when you’re wrong?
        I have a feeling you can’t face it when you’re wrong, so there will be no reply.

      • Mike Hind says:

        Any chance that you’ll offer a reason why we should continue denying Bermudians equal access to rights and privileges?
        Any chance that you’ll offer a reason why other people should have to observe the taboos of your personal choice of religions?

        Or will you do what you usually do and run away from these simple questions?

    • frank says:

      tis is a sick and disturbed man you can’t be a minister cause born again Christians believe in the bible so stop your bs and stop passing yourself of as a minister of the gospel because the fire is burning for below

    • Gargoyle Wings says:

      We get it, you are a better Christian than anyone else, including the reverend and Jesus love you more than any other person. Good for you.

    • Mike Hind says:

      Here’s the thing, though…

      This is a religious argument.
      No one is stopping you from continuing to believe that and from joining to your wife, should you choose to.
      But your personal choice of religion is exactly that. Your personal choice.

      Can you explain why it should have any sort of impact on someone else’s life, relationship or happiness?
      That is what voting no/no is doing.
      It is showing support for a continued denial of Bermudians to equal access to rights and privileges afforded by marriage.

      Would you be ok with someone else denying you access to rights based on their personal choice of religions?

      Marriage equality will have absolutely no effect on your life or your religion.

      Or will it? Can you explain how?

      Will you answer any of these questions?

      • These Europeans are doing their best to justify their culture.

        • Mike Hind says:

          Thank you for proving my point.

          Nothing to add, as usual, just more hateful bigotry from a coward hiding under a hood.

          I have nothing to justify. I speak for equality. I stand up for it.

          You, however, scuttle around like a roach, posting falsehoods and hate.

          You are bad for Bermuda. Shame on you.

          • Well you prove to me ANYWHERE in African History where it was/is tolerated in African Culture, if you dig deep enough you will find that it was commonly practiced in Greek culture.
            Tic Toc

            • Mike Hind says:

              People have shown you this information many times and you have ignored it.
              Many times.

              People have also shown you that there is no such thing as “African Culture”. It is a mixture of hundreds, if not thousands, of different peoples and cultures and religions and traditions.
              And, as has been pointed out to you on several occasions, some of these tolerated and accepted this.

              But this doesn’t work into your bigoted, hate-filled narrative, so you ignore it.

        • downthetoiletwego says:

          You know European missionaries are the ones who introduced these ideas to the wider world? You’re literally holding on to old European ideas…well we can’t really say “European” like it’s a monolith and we know that homosexuality was practiced openly throughout Europe at different times in different places with even Church sanctioned same sex marriage. I mean, there is a rich history of homosexuality amongst seafaring men.

          Heck, in 1900 nobody would’ve batted an eye at two women becoming “Boston married”

          I don’t really understand which ideas you think you’re holding on to and where/when you think originated.

          You really don’t need history to help justify your bigotry. You can just be a bigot plain and simple.

    • Seriously? says:

      Well, I guess all the single non-virgin women should fear dear old Say Whaat if they get in any form of power; for the good book says you shall be stoned to death at your father’s doorstep by the men of the town if it is found out you are not a virgin on your wedding night. If you are going to live by the verses in the book live by them ALL not just the ones you feel are right!!!

  2. Coffee says:

    Roughly 1800 words of highbrowed bloody rubbish !

    • Zaob Yob says:

      Agreed, he could have made his point with far fewer words, but within the prose is an interesting and worthwhile message.

      As an atheist, I have no need of religious doctrine and can live a wholesome and honest life on my own terms. Notwithstanding, to those within the religious community and who seek a model upon which to set their standards, the good Pastor is offering a very honest reflection of the pitfalls of religion in the present day context. Whilst clinging on to core ideals, he offers a far more relevant, compassionate and useful doctrine which dispels much of what is so obviously wrong with religion.

      I congratulate Pastor Burchall on his stance, and look forward to further commentary, but with a little less verbiage.

    • aceboy says:

      But but …..he’s a reverend.

      And more than a few seem to feel the same way.

      Your religious moral arguments are disappearing fast.

      Even your mate on a work permit is now against you on this issue.

    • Mike Hind says:

      And you know from rubbish, seeing how you can’t seem to post anything but!

  3. Kathy says:

    If we don’t allow them to marry, then they will continue to live together. So, why don’t we as a society embrace them for their diversity. Jesus embraced the lepers, he embraced the tax collectors, he embraced the sinners, children of all colours and everyone who was rejected by society.

    If Jesus walked the earth today, he would embrace the LBG community with open arms. Who are we to judge?

    • @ kATHY , DONT BE SELECTIVE IN WHAT YOU THINK JESUS WOULD DO IF HE WERE HERE, BUT TAKE SOME SERIOUS TIME AND READ WHAT JESUS TOLD US WE ARE NOT TO DO.

      Remember it was so called believers that had him tortured, and killed. The Torah, Koran and the Bible are only a few of the books that have existed in human history, but go back to the original writings of the scrolls and the writings in Africa and Egypt, it may surprise you that they all agree that this is a abomination before the creator no matter what name you call Him.

      • Mike Hind says:

        More religious arguments and yet you won’t answer why you think we should have to follow your religion’s taboos.

        Why is that?

      • Zevon says:

        Are you man enough to admit you were wrong?

      • Build a Better Bermuda says:

        But we have no words from Jesus, he wrote none of the bible. Even his direct disciples didn’t write much if any of the New Testament. The New Testament is a collection of writings from people who would 3 maybe 4 times removed from Jesus. As for the origins of the Torah, Quran and bible being from Egypt and Africa… that is a deliberately narrowed notion of where they come from, many of the stories from those books can be found in older stories from a multitude of cultural stories from around Northeast Africa up throughout the Middle East.

    • Say Whaat? says:

      If Jesus lived today, he would heal the sick LGBT community. He wouldn’t embrace such sin, he always loved the sinner. There is a difference.

      But you don’t follow Jesus anyway, yet you feel you can rightly say what He would do. Got some crust!

      • Say Whaat? says:

        *Lived in the flesh. Jesus is alive and well and sits at the right hand of the Father.

      • Mike Hind says:

        Again, this is based on your personal choice of religion.

        Would you care to explain why your personal choice of religion should apply to ANYONE else’s life?

        Would you be ok with this happening to you?

        Would you be ok with being denied access to rights because of someone else’s religion’s taboos?

        Not that you’ll answer these questions…

        • aceboy says:

          Indeed.

          My wife and I were married at a Registrar’s office. We are legally married as a result. Man and Wife. Religion played no part in it.

  4. The pastor is like a parent who loves their children, but refuses to tell them where they are going wrong. His logic and reasoning is confused. He can show compassion, with out giving license to their sin . Is there such a thing as sin, to the Christian church today? If not, than I understand why we are where we are. Remove the Law, and people are with out a compass as to what is right or wrong . If given the vote, vote NO, NO.

    • Mike Hind says:

      Why?

      Why vote no, no?

      Why continue to deny Bermudians access to rights and privileges?

      Why do you never answer this?

      Why do you never give an honest reason?

    • Zevon says:

      There is no such thing as sin Rodney. It is a religious construct, and religion is based on belief in the supernatural.
      There is right and wrong. There is moral and immoral.

      Some Muslims think it’s fine to behead non-Muslims. They defend their actions on religious grounds. Do you think they are right?

  5. Rene C says:

    It’s always interesting how Christians can cherry pick the verses in the Bible to support their maligned vision but completely ignore the hypocrisy of the rest of the book. It’s as if it doesn’t exist.
    Now who’s gonna tell me it’s the “Word of God”
    Seriously!!!

  6. bluewater says:

    Well said. Thank you!

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