The Presbyterian Church has always been an inclusive denomination.
Rooted in the humble 16th-century teachings of John Calvin, the Presbyterian faith was carried to America in 1789 by a handful of devotees. Today our organization contains some 1.8 million members who participate in more than 10,000 congregations across the country. And as always, our progressive values look to the future.
Presbyterian ministers preach the goodness of a liberal lifestyle, the principles of which are grounded foremost in tolerance. Within a divided and combative sociopolitical climate these days, we at Riviera Church believe that our times require more interfaith cooperation and love than ever before.
Here are 6 ways our church is acting as sign post to others in matters of inclusive and progressive values.
I can’t emphasize this enough.
We take pride in standing with all men and women in times of challenge, as obstacles themselves point to the way to resolution – and more positive futures.
#1 LGBTQ Equality & Gay-Friendly Church
Yes, ours is a gay-friendly church.
From policies that allow for the ordination of LGBTQ ministers to the celebration of same-sex marriages, we appreciate that experiences differ greatly throughout individual communities – but the human need for love and inclusive does not. Our Book of Order has been updated to describe marriage as a “unique commitment between two people” and we hope that our inclusive attitude spreads to other faiths.”
The Presbyterian Church was also one of the groups to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). The letter declares “Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people should be able to earn a living, provide for their families and contribute to our society without fear that who they are or who they love could cost them a job.” As early as 1996,
As early as 1996, Dr. Erin Swenson became the first transgender minister to serve the church, her members voting to continue her ministry during her transition from male to female.
To drive awareness and promote the health of our members, Annual HIV/AIDS Awareness Days are a common occurrence. Through the Presbyterian AIDS Network, our faith advocates for treatment, care, and love towards those affected by HIV or AIDS. By reinforcing educational practices for prevention and becoming active in our community on a congregation by congregation basis, we believe it possible to drastically minimize the dangers of this affliction.
#2 Women’s Reproductive Rights
At Riviera Church, a woman’s right to choose is a given.
We believe that abortion must be available for women who would live a truly free and full life, as reproductive rights are an extension of human rights. When a woman can control her body, she can control her life. In those tragic cases of forced pregnancies, health, and choice of life must be preserved.”
We support Planned Parenthood and our congregational members that stand alongside the abortion organization. When the First Presbyterian Church of New Orleans organized the “Stand for Women” rally to welcome a new abortion facility, we at Riviera felt pride in our sister congregation. Planned Parenthood is a quality health care provider and a staple of reproductive education within the nation.Testing for STDs and HIV, cancer screenings, women’s health, and other reproductive services are available at all offices.
That’s not all.
Riviera Presbyterian is committed to caring for the bodies and souls of our community members in equal fashion.
#3 Immigrant Rights
In the face of recent rhetoric against immigrants, the official policy of the Presbyterian Church is to encourage immigration reform.
After all, Jesus himself and his parents were forced to the flee for their lives – so inclusive to newcomers is a basic tenet of Christendom. Thus, we are committed to welcome all souls to a happy and prosperous American life. As stated by Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church:
Presbyterians through decades of policy have demanded humane treatment of people of all nationalities and faiths who find themselves within our borders.We have challenged our government when it neglects to acknowledge the refugee status of those fleeing persecution. We have pushed for due process at the border and we continue to petition for immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented persons.”
At Riviera Presbyterian, we couldn’t agree more. Our church is a sanctuary to immigrants. This country was founded by immigrants, and a first-come-first-serve mentality only alienates and sows suffering amongst our worldwide brotherhood. Humane standards are absolutes heedless of time and space, as are the principles laid out by the U.S. Bill of Rights and Constitution.
Ours is a worldwide community united as one within humanity, and so we welcome all with open arms. In looking towards a more inclusive future, we stand firm beside immigrant friends and families.
#4 Black Lives Matter
As all beings are created equal in the eyes of God, we proudly stand with the Black Lives Matter movement. All persons deserve dignity and concern from others, without exception, and any movement that asserts this view aligns with Riviera’s inclusive church culture.
Though it is regrettable that we need an entire movement to combat racism and it’s manifestations, such as police brutality, we can rejoice that individuals are joining together in collective action for change. That the movement rejects violence in every form is a boon to all other citizens of humanity.
The Big Tent Conference 2015 saw the church commit to racial justice by launching the #SpeakAntiracism campaign. The hashtag serves as a means unite like-minded individuals keen to act for equality, such as anti-racism training in their church or community. Moreso, it’s a way to drive an essential conversation.
To aid our black brothers and sisters, we encourage having difficult conversations with others and ourselves. Racism is both an explicit threat to life and an implicit danger to freedom for all people. Any encroachment upon any one person or group based upon bigoted guidelines is a pernicious manifestation that requires that we listen, speak up, and act upon what is right in our communities.”
Here’s the deal.
Participate in a demonstration. It is your Constitutional right. And your duty always to support your fellows in times of adversity.
#5 Support For Our Muslim Brothers and Sisters
We Presbyterians are an interfaith community.
Should an ideology reflect values consistent with ours, we respect to these belief systems as extensions of our own. In the wake of September 11, Muslims in America have encountered inhumane treatment, stereotyping, and violence. We stand alongside Muslims who work against radical influences in their communities, for these efforts are consistent with our country’s principles of freedom of religion and human rights.
For example, we take heart that our brothers and sisters in the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church of New Jersey hold a free, 10-week course called “Understanding Islam – Essence and Practice.” To put an end to intolerance, education is essential. To be a quality Christians, we nurture a love for all God’s children while enriching our worldview with regular doses of perspective and fresh knowledge about the world we live in today.”
Testifying to this mindset, the Presbyterian General Assembly recently broke new ground in interfaith relations when it offered a prayer to Allah alongside a representative of the Muslim community. Though it caused quite a stir in the media, those of solid character saw it as a priority to extend a warm hand. Such inclusive actions display the true character of the Presbyterian community: progressive attitudes and inclusive actions.
#6 Respect for the Environment
Ours is a time of ecological crisis.
As early as 1988, the General Assembly recognized that we humans were needed to make this a “turnaround” time for the environment. The Environmental Justice Office was created following the groundbreaking report “Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice.” Today, this office conducts congregational outreach, education, resource development, advocacy, and networking.
“God has given humans a responsibility to care for the earth.”
98% of Presbyterians agree with this statement, says a recent study by PC Research Services.
As stewards of God’s creation, as well as matters of prudence and survival, we are charged to preserve the ancient beauty of Earth. Without responsible stewardship, our children (and following generations) will grapple with a seriously degraded planet and its dubious complications.
Yes, human life depends upon the world’s life-supporting processes. As a means of sustaining life on earth, we alone have the power to develop systems that support nature and allow humans to thrive together. Our charge is to stop poisoning the environment, stop eroding our resources, and halt wasteful practices.
Over to You
As times change, Riviera Presbyterian remains committed to progress and its people. As we’ve discussed, our church stands firm and stands up for causes that require attention. Whether it’s advocacy for women’s rights, the environment, or putting an end to racism, we all comprise the force within our community – yet we all may only act as one.
We encourage you to take a position on matters that affect your fellow men, women, and mother earth. We all have the Bible to lead the way and sometimes more is required of us than reading and attending to the ministry. Sometimes we must extend a hand to others and be the change we want to see in the world. We’ll be with you as you do.