Four Episcopal Church bishops, collectively representing the entirety of Virginia, have banded together to issue an open letter to the Virginia General Assembly asking them to “reject any legislation that alienates, dehumanizes, devalues, or endangers human beings.” In the letter, the bishops specifically single out issues relating to LGBTQ people and immigrants, as well as gun violence, racial discrimination, and the need for affordable health care in this state.
While the Episcopal Church is no Westboro Baptist Church by any means — it ordained the first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, back in 2003 — one still has to assume that, when a legislative body is behaving conservatively enough to attract this sort of response from the highest state officials in any Christian church, they’re doing something pretty significantly wrong.
The letter, signed by Episcopal Diocese of Virginia Bishop Shannon S. Johnston, Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia Bishop Herman Hollerith IV, Episcopal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia Bishop Mark A. Bourlakas, and Episcopal Diocese of Virginia Bishop Suffragan Susan E. Goff, begins by mentioning the Episcopal Church’s history of advocacy in order to do justice and be kind to others. It then turns to specifics, stating that “as our nation is currently divided and in conflict over issues of immigration, healthcare, racism, and gun reform, we firmly believe that contemplating the following principles, based on biblical teaching, will guide you as you review and consider legislation.”
The letter proceeds to go into further detail about all of these issues, specifically saying of the LGBTQ community that “LGBTQ individuals are not second-class citizens.” The bishops go on to state that, “now that the highest court in the land has granted them freedom to marry, we must ensure that there are no laws in place that would discriminate against them and deny the right of every human being to love, work, and prosper.”
This letter was issued before late last week, when almost every meaningful piece of pro-LGBTQ legislation was killed at the subcommittee level in the House Of Delegates, but nonetheless, this letter stands as a stinging rebuke to the legislators who have worked together to ensure that LGBTQ civil rights remain unprotected by law here in Virginia for at least another year.
The full letter is reprinted below. The full text can also be read at the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia’s website.