Not the First Time

Posted by:

G Sakamoto

Nearly twenty five years ago the national Ministers Association was asked to support a Human Rights Statement. The statement intended to affirm basic conditions that every human being should have. There was much discussion and revisions. In the end the idea was rejected. We did not affirm the statement of basic human rights.

In 2003 the following statement was adopted by the Ministers Association:

The Ministers Association of the Buddhist Churches of America opposes preemptive military action by a nation against another (e.g. Iraq, North Korea). We encourage nonviolent diplomatic solution to all conflicts between individuals, groups and nation states; respecting the value and dignity of all life and constantly seeking the greater truth as individuals, as a society and as a global community.

Aye 	30
Nay 	8
Abstain 	3

During the discussion to adopt this statement some ministers expressed deep concern over the discussion itself. Some ministers felt that the association should not be engaged in an open discussion regarding the policies of this country. 

 A year later the following resolution was adopted:

Whereas, there is no negative judgement of homosexuality in the Buddhist religion,
Whereas, a number of BCA ministers have been performing same sex weddings for a period of at least thirty years,
Whereas, we wish to affirm the worthiness of all persons independent of sexual orientation,
Now therefore be it resolved, that the Ministers Association of the Buddhist Churches of America opposes any governmental prohibition of same sex marriage.

This resolution was passed unanimously. However, when the action of the ministers association was announced as a part of the association’s report, an audible groan rose from the National Council floor. The reaction from the council was not totally unexpected. After the council had adjourned a member came up to say thank you for bringing the resolution forward. She had a lesbian daughter who would appreciate the resolution.

We are reminded by the Dharma that all things change. Not just the physical world but our thoughts and feelings, our beliefs and hopes, everything is in flux. A hundred years ago, the Hongwanji in Hawaii helped organize a strike to bring fair wages to cane workers. We are still far from the courage that stood up and called attention to the plight of the cane workers. We have had many opportunities.

This year the monthly study group at the Betsuin led by Rinban Fujimoto, is discussing social issues. Recently they discussed capital punishment. The opportunity to discuss concerns in our temples has changed. Some temples have hosted conversations with Muslims in response to the growing misunderstanding, fear and anger directed towards Muslims. We understand that it is our misperception of the world that can result in difficulties for ourselves and others. To open opportunities for conversation can provide opportunities to discover our shared humanity.

At the 2016 National Council meeting I will be on a panel that will explore the possibility of discussing social justice concerns in our temples. Hopefully we have come full circle and will have the courage to engage in the conversations that concern us all.