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  • Writer's pictureAlan Ballentine

Week 3 of "Reflecting on our Open & Affirming" By Jerry Davis

This Week’s Edition is "As such, our church’s tradition of justice and equality has again compelled us to affirm the dignity and worth of each person, rejecting any form of discrimination." Having been one of a very few minority students in my high school, I have seen all aspects of the misunderstanding of my individual experience when compared to my peers. This experience ranged from open hostility, to suspicion, to apathy, to compassion and love. I learned that opening the eyes of some of my classmates to the difference between my real-life experience and the “black experience” depicted by Jimmy “JJ” Walker, on the TV show, Good Times or the Jeffersons. This demanded my steadfast commitment to portraying a different narrative. It was, at times, exhausting.

The statement highlights the church's commitment to treating all individuals with respect and equality. This statement can be broken down into two main points: Affirming the dignity and worth of each person: This means that the church recognizes the inherent value of every individual, regardless of their background, race, gender, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic. By affirming the dignity and worth of each person, the church is making a statement that every individual deserves to be treated with respect and compassion. Affirming a person's identity means recognizing and respecting an aspect of their identity and reflecting it back to them. This can be done in various ways, depending on the context and the individual's needs. Here are some examples:

1. Gender Affirmation: For trans young people, gender affirmation means being able to socially affirm their gender with name, pronouns, and expression, as well as medical intervention if desired

2. Social Affirmation can also include starting to use chosen name and pronouns, coming out, wearing new clothing, modifying the shape of the body, playing around with how to use the voice, and more

3. LGBTQ+ Affirmation: Affirming an LGBTQ+ identity means recognizing that no matter how much someone embraces, understands, or participates in their identity, they are still part of a marginalized group that faces discrimination and oppression.

4. Minority Identity Affirmation: Identity affirmation refers to a more affective process of developing positive feelings and a sense of pride in one's identity, particularly for individuals from minority groups who may face societal stigma and discrimination.

5. Economically Disadvantaged Affirmation: Economically affirmation refers to the acknowledgement of the fact that the United States does not present a level playing field for all citizens. We affirm this fact by challenging the mechanisms that seek to undermine justice, fairness, and opportunity.

Discrimination can take many forms, including racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia. By rejecting any form of discrimination, the church is taking a

stand against these harmful practices and promoting a culture of inclusivity and acceptance. Here are some ways to reject discrimination:

1. Promote Inclusivity: Create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all individuals, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or disability. This can be done through sermons, teachings, and community outreach programs that emphasize love, acceptance, and understanding.

2. Educate Congregation Members: Provide education and training on various forms of discrimination, including racism, sexism, and homophobia. This can help congregation members understand the impact of their words and actions and work towards a more inclusive community.

3. Address Discrimination in Policies: Review and update church policies to ensure they do not discriminate against any individual or group. This can include policies related to hiring, membership, and participation in church activities.

4. Support Victims of Discrimination: Offer support and resources to individuals who have experienced discrimination within or outside the church. This can include providing counseling services, connecting them with legal assistance, or advocating for their rights.

5. Engage in Interfaith Dialogue: Foster relationships with individuals and communities from different religious backgrounds. This can help break down stereotypes and promote understanding and respect for diverse beliefs and practices.

6. Advocate for Social Justice: Take a stand against discrimination and injustice in the wider community. This can include participating in peaceful protests, supporting local organizations that fight for equality, and using the church's platform to raise awareness about social issues.

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