Jan 11 2013
Washington, D.C. – Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy today voiced his concern about any attempts to change FEMA policies to enable emergency grants to houses of worship and urged the agency to maintain its current rules against the practice.
Hurricane Sandy’s tragic devastation continues for millions of Americans. Its impact reminds us of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, communities devastated by tornados, forest fires, flooding and other natural disasters. In times such as these, there is an understandable, compassion-based temptation to steer federal funds to houses of worship that have been damaged, but it is a temptation we must resist. An act of compassion must not be allowed to erode our historic Constitution; a small act of well-meaning can set in motion a violation of religious liberty that ultimately hurts a house of worship more than helps it. The independence of houses of worship from government regulations is more important than a few federal dollars with which to do reconstruction. To be sure, FEMA does not currently allow this practice, and I urge them to maintain that stance against pressure they are receiving to change.
Interfaith Alliance has long been critical of efforts to funnel tax dollars to religious institutions whether through the faith-based initiative, or in emergency situations like this, because of reverence and respect for these important institutions in our society. To steer such money to religious institutions clearly violates the boundaries between religion and government, and opens the door to government intrusion into the affairs of the house of worship. Making an exception in this case will only result in damaging a principle that has ensured the ability of diverse faith and belief to flourish in this country.
Government can do so much to help communities recover from these tragedies. And so much has been learned from the mistakes made in the wake of Katrina. But to violate a principle inherent in the foundation of our religious freedom would be a disservice to all Americans, including those whose places of worship have been impacted by natural disasters.
Dec 26 2012
The Right Reverend Jane Holmes Dixon
Grief and Gratitude
by Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy
The death of Bishop Jane Holmes Dixon has left me with a swirling mixture of emotions without precedent in my personal experiences. Gratitude for her life and gifts comes easily. But so do selfishness related to the enjoyment of her presence, protest aimed at giving her up, and disappointment fed by recognition of the need for her conscience and influence in the realms of both religion and politics at this crucial moment in our nation. I know, too, the hurtful impact Jane’s death will have on her family. Some empty places simply cannot be refilled.
In addition to losing a collegial religious leader of immeasurable influence, an integral participant in Interfaith Alliance—as a board member, chair of the board, staff member, major donor, encourager, and program person—I also lost a confidante, a wise strategist, a pastor, a truth-teller, and a supporter all wrapped up in a much-loved personal friend. That hurts.
Jane and I kept a somewhat erratic breakfast schedule, both of us knowing that time together was as essential as it was enjoyable. Jane and Dixie (her husband) and Judy (my wife) and I relished Mexican dinners together in which the laughter was always as rich and lasting as the salsa on my tie. Whether alone or with our spouses, no subjects were off the table, and sheer honesty was the common thread in our conversations. Judy and I spent the Election Day evenings of the past two presidential elections in Jane and Dixie’s home with others of their closest friends. Most remarkable, however, was the reality that this woman was true to her convictions and identity regardless of the topic of discussion and the number of people involved in it.
Many times, Jane and I reflected on our shared experience of growing up in the deep South and forever having to grapple with the racism, parochialism, and closed-mindedness of some of the people who were/are most important in our lives. We both laughed and grieved over that heritage—wanting badly to see a better day in the regions in which we lived as children.
Jane loved the Episcopal Church with all of its liturgical beauty and drama—I smiled as I thought how proud she must be knowing that she quietly died in her sleep on a Christmas Day morning. Yet, she never was out of touch with the poorest and weakest of people in that communion or people related to no communion at all. Jane knew the best of many worlds and never lost her focus on justice in any of them. Dixie once told me that Jane was the only person he knew who would have her nails done before going to march in a protest.
Last month, Jane was the person chosen to present to me Interfaith Alliance’s Walter Cronkite Faith & Freedom Award—the award I had been privileged to present to her a year earlier. She was so herself on both occasions, last month confessing to me her reticence to giving another award to an older white man given how many people of color and outstanding women had been overlooked for awards through the years. That she had that thought did not surprise me. That she made an exception for me, thrilled. But, honestly, I was even more thrilled by the ringing truth of her repetitive high call for fairness and justice. That is who she was. That is who all who knew her and loved her and wanted to be like her, must be.
Dec 26 2012
The board and staff of Interfaith Alliance mourn the passing of the Rt. Rev. Jane Holmes Dixon. She served as past chair of the Interfaith Alliance Board of Directors, senior advisor to the organization for interreligious relations, and was the recipient of our 2011 Walter Cronkite Faith & Freedom award in recognition of her lifetime of ministry and outreach aimed at making all feel welcome and respected. This compassionate and courageous woman embodied the values of Interfaith Alliance and she will be missed, but never forgotten.
Dec 14 2012
Washington, D.C. – Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement on behalf of the board of directors and staff of the organization following the tragic shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.:
Today’s shooting is an unspeakable tragedy. That it happened at a school is devastating, that it was an elementary school is unthinkable. The young children and adults who needlessly were wounded or lost their lives today to senseless violence will remain in our memory. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families and loved ones, as well as to the rest of the victims whose lives were spared.
2012 stands out as a particularly tragic year for gun violence. A movie theater in Aurora, Colorado… A Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin… A young man in Sanford, Florida… And, countless other victims whose deaths did not draw national media attention.
“How long, O God, how long?” What will it take to stop these needless deaths. No doubt, even as many of us grieve today’s losses, opponents of gun control are preparing their response to this tragedy so as to silence rhetorical attacks on guns and preserve people’s rights to use these weapons in killing each other.
As a nation, surely it is time for us to act in a manner that prohibits us from arriving at December 2013 only to see the trail of violence extended.