The Rev. Charles Moore, a retired Methodist pastor and a longtime advocate for greater inclusion of gays and lesbians in that church, doused himself with gasoline and burned himself to death last month in the east Texas town of Grand Saline. Moore apparently hoped his self-immolation would raise awareness of social justice issues like LGBT equality and racial justice.
"I would much prefer to go on living and enjoy my beloved wife and grandchildren and others, but I have come to believe that only my self-immolation will get the attention of anybody and perhaps inspire some to higher service," Moore wrote in one of the notes he left behind, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Moore was a lifelong champion of social justice and civil rights. In a note left on his car, he lamented the legacy of racial injustice in Grand Saline, where he was ostracized by the Methodist church in the 1950s for supporting school desegregation. According to the United Methodist News Service, Moore wrote that he was giving his body to be burned for lynching victims.
In other notes written prior to his death, Moore expressed frustration with the UMC’s positions on homosexuality and the death penalty, as well as Southern Methodist University’s decision to house the George W. Bush Presidential Center. Moore, who attended SMU’s Perkins School of Theology, initially planned to commit suicide on the Dallas campus, writing that he loved SMU and felt his self-immolation there would move people to care more about gay rights, the death penalty and better treatment for African-Americans…
With UMC bishops meeting in Austin in 1995, Moore went on a 15-day hunger strike to protest the church’s stance on homosexuality. He ended the strike when bishops agreed to encourage Methodist congregations to welcome gays. However, they stopped short of removing a sentence from the church’s Book of Discipline that says homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.”
The sentence remains to this day, and it was the type of thing that apparently haunted Moore. He wrote that despite being healthy and happy with his wife and grandchildren, he remained a paralyzed soul who felt compelled to die for a cause.