From the Worldwide Faith News archives

PC(USA) Leaders Issue Statement on Anti-gay Murder in Wyoming

Date 16 Oct 1998 20:06:52

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98340   PC(USA) Leaders Issue Statement 
    on Anti-gay Murder in Wyoming 
    by Jerry L. Van Marter 
LOUISVILLE, Ky.-Three top officials of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 
issued a statement Oct. 16 on the recent brutal murder of Matthew Shepard 
in an anti-gay attack in Laramie, Wyo. on Oct. 12. 
    The statement was issued by General Assembly moderator the Rev. Douglas 
W. Oldenburg, General Assembly stated clerk the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick 
and General Assembly Council executive director John Detterick. 
    The full text of their statement: 
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ: 
All of us must be burdened with heavy hearts over the senseless and tragic 
death of Matthew Shepherd, the gay college student tied to a rural fence 
and beaten to death, ostensibly because of his sexual orientation.  Our 
hearts go out to Matthew's family.  We are shocked by the tender ages of 
the perpetrators.  Something is terribly wrong when the message these four 
young adults have evidently assimilated is that persons of Matthew's sexual 
orientation are deserving of  less than basic human respect. 
Our beloved denomination has discussed issues revolving around sexual 
orientation for some twenty years now.  Since the 1978 General Assembly, we 
have never wavered from advocating the protection of basic human rights for 
all people, irrespective of their sexual orientation.   Our most recent 
Assembly, the 210th, called upon Presbyterians,  governments and community 
organizations to seek responses that will help our society more effectively 
identify and deal with root causes of such "hate crimes." 
What happened to Matthew Shepherd is a tragedy, and we must honor his 
family's plea not to politicize his death.  However, surely it must move us 
to strive to develop ways of responding that will prevent such tragedies 
from destroying the lives of other young people in other communities of 
this nation. 
We call upon each of you to be in prayer: 
        prayer for Matthew's family as they bury their hopes and dreams for 
his life, 
        prayer for the young people who have taken the life of another, 
        prayer for the families of the four young persons, 
        prayer for all who live in fear of violence and discrimination, and 
        prayer for our church that God will use us to be an instrument of 
reconciliation in a divided world. 
We also call upon our church to witness to the love and justice of Christ 
for all people and to be united in our commitment to human rights and 
respect for all persons, regardless of their sexual orientation.  Our 
nation needs the people of this great denomination to demonstrate how love 
might replace hate and how understanding and communication might replace 
prejudice and isolation. 
The peace of Christ be with you all! 
Yours in Christ, 
Douglas Oldenburg               Clifton Kirkpatrick 
Moderator, 210th General Assembly       Stated Clerk of the General 
John Detterick 
Executive Director, General Assembly Council 

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