Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Is the "Big Tent" big enough?

A letter to those organizing the Big Tent event of the PC(USA):
I have been considering attending the Big Tent event, and I was wondering if there are any scheduled forums or discussions that directly talk about our LGBTQ community, especially following the ratification of 14F, which now makes us one of the most truly welcoming communities of faith in this nation and the world. 

The literature says, "Big Tent is focusing on three areas of missional living: Advocacy, Poverty and Discipleship." In the printed schedule, this includes forums on renewal, poverty and hunger, sex trafficking, charismatics, evangelism, racism, emotional intelligence, young adults, youth education, calling pastors, Middle East Christians, training ruling elders, racial reconciliation, climate change, Christ-Centered Masculinity, Women and Women Leaders, Inclusion of People with Disabilities [Exceptionalities] and many more important areas of discussion...

Yet, I have not been able to find anything that refers to our LGBTQ members and community and recent changes in the church, which easily include topics of advocacy, poverty, and discipleship - integrating our community into the full work and worship of this denomination and our lives together. 

For example, in the scheduled discussion area of calling a pastor, an important question might be: How do PNC's consider the gifts of candidates and ministers who are LGBTQ and seeking a call? Or, in the area of evangelism: How do we carry the Gospel message to all people in ways that lift up our faith and the diversity of gender and gender identities?

These and more topics easily come to mind...and point to the many ways in which important discussions about inclusion of our LGBTQ membership can help raise the "big tent" in which we actually live, rather than keeping it smaller than it actually is. 

I feel it is the charge of our denomination, especially in gatherings such as this, to lead us intentionally in ways that can faithfully help us to live into the decisions that we, as a denomination, have chosen as our way of mission in the world.

I have raised similar points around past "Big Tents" and was told that these topics were too controversial for this type of gathering, which was "more about family". That stung at the time - we are family, and I am hoping times are different, and that I have missed something in the schedule and literature.

So, thanks for your thoughts and all you are doing for our denomination and all its missional calls. I know that it is never the intention to exclude anyone; I know you all better than that. I just hope something can be done to eliminate any whisper of that perception in your continuing planning and publicity for this event, so that all are able to hear the message we have been given to carry into this world in the name of the Risen Christ in our midst.

Peace,

Ray


Rev. Ray Bagnuolo, That All May Freely Serve
Specialized Ministry of the Presbytery of Genesee Valley
121 N. Fitzhugh Street, Rochester, NY 14614-1214

Personal Mailing Address:
Ray Bagnuolo, PO Box 1262, White Plains, NY 10602-1262

(914) 217 4173 (cell/sms)
www.tamfs.org; @tamfs

Sunday, June 28, 2015

It's different this time... Church, SCOTUS, Charleston

Dear Friends,
​I​
 have often talked about the "new thing" God is doing in this world over the course of our struggle for the Gospel of Justice, Mercy and Love. And, here we are! - entering into a "new thing" many thought would never be seen in their lifetimes: a new again time manifesting the presence of God in astounding and resilient ways!

  • The Presbyterian Church (USA) and its decisions on ordination, marriage equality, and the revised definition of the definition of marriage in our constitution to "between two people"...
  •  The Supreme Court of the United States' ruling on marriage equality, the upholding of the Affordable Care Act and recent decisions in challenges to housing practices for folks who have low incomes...
All of these -  "great victories" of profound impact; policy decisions that will change (have changed!) this society and the world  in ways we have yet to imagine. Celebrate? Oh, yes! Celebrate, indeed! With time for pause that honors the celebration...knowing as we do...
the enormous sacrifices of arriving at this shore;
the violence;
and the many who are not with us because they did not live long enough to see it -
or lost their lives getting us here.
Celebration calls for remembrance, always, so we pause and honor all those who have placed in our hands "the wonderful key" that has the promise to set us free.
Even with that "key in hand," we know that once the legislative work is done, the work of changing hearts and minds continues. The planting of love and the withering of violence toward each other continues with new and robust laws and polity on our side.
I suggested this to someone yesterday, and they responded that I shouldn't be so quick to "draw a rainbow" over the world, just yet!
But there is something different this time. It is palpable...
It's not that so many positive things are happening, but the confluence of it all - against the landscape of the faith, spirit and hearts of our sisters and brothers of Mother Emmanuel in Charleston...
President Obama was right in his eulogy when he said our eyes have been opened by the Grace present in our community, yes our community, of Charleston. How simple they made it for us who are too complicated to see: at the core of every dream and hope and promise we have is the willingness and practice to forgive and love one another no matter what. No matter what. No matter who. No matter why.
Have we been and can we be loving and courageous in the face of such tragedy? Clearly, the answer is, "Yes." Yes, or we wouldn't be this far. But we're in the new stratosphere of our dreams and aspirations with these changes that we have worked to attain - and the assailants who might hope to deflate us are even more determined to do so; too often in revolting and despicable ways.
But opponents' actions, no matter how heinous and wrong cannot change our greatest saving grace, our amazing grace, if you will - that we are loved by God and called to love one another no matter what. Whatever others may do, they must be...
Held accountable and loved;
Challenged and loved;
Taught how wrong the are and loved;
Stopped from doing harm and loved -
And forgiven, no matter what. I know...
I don't know if I can do this, honestly, certainly not by myself. But when we do it together, when Mother Emmanuel does it, when victims of crime time and again forgive their oppressors, when the saints of our progressive movement have done it time and again... when congregations, families, communities and more embrace and accept nothing less than love, it seems I can, as well.
"Love God with all you have -and  love one another as you love yourself."
It really is different this time - not the message but the possibility that we have heard it in ways that will clear the path for the "new thing" God is doing. A "new thing" that will take hold with doves and a rainbow such as we've never seen before!
Peace,
Ray
More at www.tamfs.org 

Monday, June 15, 2015

SCOTUS, Jim Anderson, James Dale & Now...

Untitled-1Editor's Note: In the days ahead, an historic decision on marriage from Supreme Court of the United States will be announced, that began with with courage and commitment of folks like these. I asked Jim if he would write up an intro to his own involvement with the Supreme Court as an advisor to Jim Dale and his challenge before the Supreme Court following his expulsion as a Boy Scout leader, because he was gay. Here is a link to a documentary of the struggle, which includes the two James', produced almost 40 years ago! (Plays better on some browsers than others.) See Jim's Bio here at LGBTRAN

From Jim Anderson:
I was “out of the closet” at Rutgers when I arrived there as an assistant professor in 1977.  Later when I became a full professor, I was the only out gay man that anyone knew about (of course there were others, but they didn’t flaunt it like I did), so I reaped many benefits.  When we had homophobic strife on campus the president appointed me chair of his President’s Select Committee on Lesbian and Gay concerns. We produced a landmark report that was copied widely around the country.
When I became associate dean of our school, my main management principle was Jesus’ turn the other cheek and take the blame.  I found this to be the most effective way to get past controversies and begin to deal with them.  It never hurt me to take the blame!  My dean knew what I was doing and supported me all the way.  He left all the internal administration to me.
At the same time, I became the faculty advisor to LGBT students and the main LGBT organization.  I met many promising young LGBT students in this role, and one was James Dale, whom I believe was president of our LGBT group for two years.  It was during this time that he got kicked out of the Boy Scouts, after achieving Eagle Scout status and becoming an assistant Scout Master. There was no explanation, so I encouraged him to enquire.
As this drama, portrayed in the video, unfolded, I encouraged him to pursue it, but I did my best to tell him, do this only if you want to, NOT because I want you to.  But he was hot to trot.  So watch the video and enjoy.
Lots of the LGBT students came to me with relationship problems.  I always told them to take their partners as they are or leave them, but don’t try to change them.  They will change, but not the way you necessarily want them to.  I would use my Rafael as an example.  I have been trying to change him for 44 years, and he does change, but NOT according to my “plan.”
Hugs, Jim

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ratification's Challenge: The Good News

The recent ratification of Amendment 14F by greater than a 2/3 majority of presbyteries reflects a powerful statement by the Presbyterian Church (USA) and its members. Added to the the changes in ordination and marriage equality, this ratified revision of the description of marriage - erases the constitutional barriers to inclusion based on gender and sexual identity in the denomination.
It is almost a moment too great to contemplate. Forty years and lifetimes of prayer and sacrifice; decades of marginalization met with steadfast resistance; the resulting study of the bible and texts; the lifting up of God's glorious diversity in one another; and the refusal to let others define us: these reflect only part of the story of prophetic and courageous acts of justice and love by this denomination's members. We have truly made the way clear for the PC(USA) and others to follow in the evangelism that is now ours to share.
But we are not done.
Long before there existed any progressive movement or the advances that have been achieved, the treatment of our sisters and brothers who identified as queer -- was wrong, terribly wrong. And, recent legislation did not make us somehow, suddenly "right."
The changes we are witnessing have to be viewed as the acknowledgment that for years our and other communities of faith have been wrong, sinfully wrong in the way our sisters and brothers who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer+ have been unwelcome. The charges of inhospitality carry a heavy price in the sacred texts, and our queer community has borne the brunt of exclusion and the residual violence - simply because others refused to see what the majority of folks have now come to know.
While one could make the argument that these changes and levels of acceptance and understanding take time, and they would be correct to do so -- I would counter that the levels of love and hospitality, supplanted by fear and judgment is where the original error exists, not in who God created us to be.
Our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers have brought about more than a change in the constitution of the PC(USA), our sisters and brothers are bringing about a change in the way we love and accept one another. These forty years have been forty years of bringing the Good News to resounding levels that can now be heard by more people than ever before.
The question is: Is the church up to this new thing God is doing?
To be heard, institutions such as the PC(USA) cannot simply rely on legislative changes or practices to point to catharsis. Years of teachings and practices that have caused so much pain, suffering and contributed to the violence of so many -- have to be directly addressed at the highest of levels. It is such an acknowledgment of the wrongs and harms done as a result of the past positions of the denomination that first must be spoken -- before the new welcoming to those who have been shunned can be heard.
This ancient practice of amends and admission of wrongs done is now more critical than ever before. Any prospect for reconciliation that lay ahead will depend upon it, for this is the path that must be followed if we are to eliminate fear and judgment with love and hospitality.
It is a time to admit and acknowledge that the Love of God and one another has been renewed in ways by the Presbyterian Church (USA) that was long-lost and has now been found. A time to welcome, as never before!
Such an admission and invitation, spoken with courage and humility, will open our doors more widely than we could ever imagine. It will change the way the church and its teachings and practices have been misused to harm others for way too long.
This is what the ratification of 14F now challenges us to do.
And, my friends, this is the Good News. Good News for all.
~ Ray Bagnuolo