An "Open Letter" to Robin Roberts from a retired, African American, United Methodist Church, Clergyman
- by Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell -
Ms. Roberts I write as one your many fans. Your personal, professional and sensitive gifts as I have watched/heard you as an Anchor on Good Morning America have been quite obvious and contagious. And, when I read/heard of your illness, you became one of the persons on my prayer list.
This morning (12/30/13, I have read in HuffPost Gay Voices your Facebook positing, expressing your thanks to your "long-time girlfriend". I do not remember when I have observed so much excitement on the internet that has been generated by your thanking of your girl friend. Public thanks of a girlfriend, boyfriend, wife or husband or friends is always of interest to those of us whom we must confess are "celebrity watchers". Whether it takes place at the Oscars or elsewhere, we are pleased to hear and/or read that people in the public eye acknowledge others. Why then has you public thanks generated so much excitement? (smile).
I will offer my explanation as I indicate why I was specific and intentional about "signing in" as a retired, African American, United Methodist clergyman.
Retired: Now that I am 80, I have become a bit more age sensitive. I had never until now, pondered the statement; "You cannot teach old dogs new tricks". And I read in an interview with the writer Salmon Rushdie, that he said he would "stop writing when he reached 80 because 80 year olds have nothing of worth to say."(paraphrase) I may now may be the human equivalent of an "old dog", but I expect to "Live (and learn) until I die." (Elizabeth Kubler-Ross). And, I expect to write as long as I can, because no one can see, hear, experience, or write as I do, because they have not experienced what I have.
Ms. Roberts may you wear the publicity that you are now getting because you publicly thanked your girlfriend, "like a loose garment", as my Grandmother Mama Irene used to say. That was her way of saying what Kipling said in his poem, "If"
"If you can keep your head while others all around you are losing theirs (because Robin Roberts has a "girlfriend") and blaming it on you, you will be the woman that you already are, my friend." (Paraphrasing a bit).
African American: I know that race is a "social construct" and has no rational or scientific validity to it. But, over the years I have said to my friends who are white and those who are not; "Race may be a 'social construct' with no rational or scientific basis, but I sure have been kicked around a bit, over the years, because of my race.My race has meaning for those who are racist, and therefore for those of us who are verbally or otherwise abused by them, race has meaning for us as well"
Despite the growing number of persons who are African American who now accept, many who accept and affirm, same gender loving persons in committed relationships, I have been surprised and then disappointed by my black colleagues who do not. I had naively thought that all of those of us "who have come over a way that with tears has been watered" (From "Lift Every Voice and Sing"),because of our race, would bring a special kind of sensitivity and support to/for any person or group of persons whom society relegated to second or less, status. because of who they are
and/or whom they love. If your considerable number of African American fans appear to waver a bit because you have a "girlfriend", I in these words, "play the race card", by saying that I with millions of other African Americans say of your woman to woman love relationship, "Right On!"
United Methodist Church: (Ms. Roberts youhave heard and read that we are the Church that brings to trial and punishes clergy who perform same sex marriages even when one of the persons to be married is a child of theirs). I am a member of a Church denomination that has in its Book of Discipline (Our rules and guidebook) these words; "...the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching"). And further, this BOD has language and legislation that prohibits United Methodist clergymen from conducting same sex unions or marriages, and that these unions and marriages are NOT to take place in United Methodist Churches.
But, thanks be to God and for the Jesus whose entrance into human history we United Methodists with other Christians have just celebrated, there is the Reconciling Ministries Network; a non-official United Methodist-related group that with others is about the process of "Turning the United Methodist Church upside down so that it will be right side up" as it engages in ministry with and to, men who have boyfriends, and women who like you, have "girlfriends." Ms. Roberts this "Open Letter" to you has been published on the RMN blog!
Clergyman: I am proud to be in solidarity with African American clergy who because of our faith, humanity and belief in freedom, equality and equal access for lgbtq persons and same sex couples, are supportive of the rights of persons in society and the church, to love whom they love. Many of us are United Methodist clergy, and I am proud to one of them and in solidarity with African American clergy in other denominations. These are some of the clergy persons throughout the nation who "have your back" if your Facebook sharing stirs up any negative waves; Gayraud Wilmore, Dennis and Christine Wiley, Traci West, Pamela LIghtsey, Otis Moss, III, James Forbes, Melvin Talbert, Yvette Flunder, Cedric Harmon, Michael Eric Dyson, Al Sharpton, Phil and Jim Lawson, Ted Lockhart, of course that noted African clergyman, Desmond Tutu, many others, and of course, Gil Caldwell.
Robin (If I may use your first name), may you and Amber continue to love, support, and be the best of who you are, regardless of any negative responses you receive for being in a love relationship that is now public.. "Let the Church (even the Church that is been too silent) say Amen!"
. . .
The Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell is a retired United Methodist Minister who lives in Asbury Park, N.J. He was active in the Massachusetts unit of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and participated in the civil-rights movement throughout the nation. In 2000, he, with others, organized the RMN Extension ministry United Methodists of Color for a Fully Inclusive Church (UMOC), an organization committed to the full inclusion of LGBT people in every aspect of church and society. His recent book, Something Within: Works by Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell is available from Church Within A Church.