On The Passing Of Matthew Shepard

By The Rev. Troy Perry

Along with people around the world, I have found myself both saddened and angered at the savage anti-gay hate crimes committed against Matt Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming.

I am deeply saddened by the pain that Matt and his family are enduring and saddened that the bright promise of his young life has so soon encountered the forces of intolerance and hate.

But today I am also feeling a sense of righteous anger. I believe with all my heart that the on-going homophobia of the Religious Right -- including the anti-gay ads which have appeared accross the country -- give fuel to the fires of intolerance in our society.

Together, we must put the Radical Religious Right on notice: You can no longer attack gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered persons with impunity. You can no longer wrap homophobia and prejudice in a false cloak of "compassion" and "spirituality."

We must be reminded that words have power. Words have power to heal. And they have power to hurt.

The on-going anti-gay campaigns of the Radical Religious Right continue to cause incalculable harm to the lives and souls of gays and lesbians. They also provide a foundation which is used to justify hate crimes against our people.

In almost every faith tradition, there is provision for atonement or repentance. I am publicly calling upon the leaders of the Radical Religious Right -- specifically upon James Dobson, James Kennedy, Pat Robertson, Ralph Reed and Jerry Falwell -- to repent of the sins you have committed against God's gay and lesbian children. And I call upon them to repent of all words and actions which have been used to justify violence against any person because of their sexual orientation.

I have designated the Rev. Mark Lee, pastor of MCC Light of the Plains in Cheyenne, Wyoming, as our on-site UFMCC representative in Wyoming. Rev. Lee is working with GLBT organizations in both Wyoming and Colorado to offer UFMCC's support to Matt and his family and to offer the services of UFMCC to the GLBT community during this time of trauma and pain.

As a positive step to counter anti-gay violence, the Rev. Elder Don Eastman of UFMCC's Board of Elders has worked with our UFMCC staff members to prepare a "Resource Kit for Responding to Anti-Gay Violence." While it has been designed for use in communities of faith, it may be adapted with ease for use by any individual or organization. "The Resource Kit for Responding to Anti- Gay Violence" includes ways we can support and encourage Matt Shepard and his family, ways to further protections for gays and lesbians in Wyoming -- and ways we can address the broader issues of anti-gay violence in our society. This resource kit is available free upon request by e-mail at ufmcchq@aol.com or by fax at (310) 360-8680.

Finally, our staff has prepared liturgical resources which may be adapted by any faith tradition or community for use in public prayer vigils on behalf of Matt Shepard. These, too, are available free upon request.

On behalf of the 42,000 members and adherents of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, I encourage all people of goodwill to join with me in surrounding Matt Shepard and his family with prayers for God's blessing, peace and healing and to redouble our shared commitment to building a just society for all God's children.