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Intro | It’s Time to Change the Conversation
Rev. Dr. Alethea Smith-Withers | Chair, RCRC Board of Directors
Good morning. I am Rev. Alethea Smith-Withers, Chair of the Board of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. I am also the founder and pastor of the Pavilion of God, a Baptist congregation in Washington, DC. I’m delighted and proud to welcome you this morning… this morning that is, indeed, a literal morning or dawn and beginning for the “It’s Time Campaign” sponsored by the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.
For 41 years, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, RCRC, has been on the front lines of a battlefield for reproductive choice and justice in the United States of America. Our members have identified themselves and formally represented Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, and other religiously-affiliated and spiritual organizations. Each member organization, affiliate member and grassroots network has distinguished itself by its commitment to faith, reproductive choice and justice, and service. We have proudly lifted our varied and diverse religious symbols and colors… we’ve worn robes, yarmulkes, collars, shawls, held prayer cloths, and rosaries as we have prayed in private and prayed in the public square for reproductive justice. We have spoken to and with our elected leaders, we’ve voted and helped others to register and vote, we’ve rallied and marched, held summits, taught classes, provided all-options counseling, provided peaceful presence at abortion clinics, and shared our personal and cultural stories.
Throughout our 41 years of service, RCRC’s weapons of choice have always been the time-honored virtues of faith, respect, peace, compassion, and love. We’ve embraced these virtues to confront and break barriers of injustice, ignorance, shame, fear, oppression, lies and denial… and we’ve championed these time-honored virtues as we’ve built strong and reliable bridges of religious, cultural, and social diversity and as we’ve claimed our collective faith voices to speak powerfully about access to contraception, sexuality education, and reproductive health care including abortion.
For 41 years, RCRC has honored and continues to honor the principles of faith, respect, peace, compassion, and love by listening to women and the cries from the multitude on the margins of life.
As an African-American-Caribbean Baptist clergywoman, I take seriously the call of the prophet Amos, “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” As a witness to my faith, I represent RCRC and I lend my voice to the reproductive justice movement because it’s rooted in values of social justice that align with my faith in God through Jesus Christ and because I know that I am standing with, not just for, so many women and communities of color and other marginalized peoples.
You need to know that RCRC’s history speaks volumes regarding the commitment of diverse faith communities to reproductive choice and justice. Moreover, we all need to be reminded that many, many people of deep faith across this country are pro-faith, pro-family and pro-choice… and we fervently believe that it’s time to change the conversation. I’m thrilled to be here today as we start this conversation, and happy to introduce the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice’s President and CEO, Rev. Harry Knox.