Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Response to The Berkley Blog

The Berkley Blog

Dear Jim,

I am a minister of Word and Sacrament, ordained as an openly gay man in 2005, prior to PUP. Throughout my process, I made it clear that I could not abide by G-6.0106b, as a matter of conscience. I was not a child, at the time. In fact, I was in my mid-fifties. I was called to serve a congregation as a part-time interim. Over three years, we worshipped together, baptized several young children, buried more than a dozen members, and entered the Spirit together in the ways that any pastor, aware of the mystery of God, would do so: humbly and listening.

As I read your blog from time to time, I always read first how you describe yourself. I could say much of what you say about yourself – about me.

When I get to the comments, though, I wonder why folks are expending so much energy in opposition to people like me, not knowing much about who I am, or what I do, or how I live my life. Yet, because I am gay, I am a target. That is something that gives me pause, perhaps it gives pause to some of your readers, as well.

I wonder, too, about the many individuals and caring families that comment here or sit in your church and other pews that are struggling because their son or daughter, a friend, or others they know - good people whom they love - is gay. Is it possible that considering all we know, have read, and written that maybe God is giving such friends and children to us so that those who oppose and discriminate against LGBT people in God's church might change – not the other way around?

There will always be two sides to every bit of proof-texting, it is what books, seminaries, and good sermons are made of. Unfortunately, it is also what primary fund-raising efforts in many instances rely upon. We could easily pick out sections of the Bible that are no longer followed because they are clearly wrong and inappropriate for our day.  Then there are some of those we keep…because they serve a purpose, a purpose not grounded in love.

My point in all this is that we have substituted love and honoring the continuing revelation of God's call to love serve one another, with a call to judgment and marginalization of others. If we can step beyond our fear to see that this is what we are doing, maybe, maybe we will just find God in one another in ways that will heal us, allowing us to embrace one another rather than to aim at gay people as targets.

When that happens, I think, the Word and Sacrament will have changed the world, once again.


Raymond J. Bagnuolo

Minister of Word and Sacrament

Presbytery of Hudson River, NY

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Worst Action of All: No Action

The recent recommendation of some notable allies in the struggle for LGBT/Q folk has been to "do nothing" in considering the ratification of 08-B. For many of us, many...the idea of leaving G-6.0106b intact in our constitution points to the misunderstanding common to most institutions. The "misunderstanding" is that the PC(USA) is dealing with the issue of ordination standards for LGBT/Q folk. We are not an issue, thank you very much. We are not dealing with an issue - we are living, breathing, spirit-filled creations of God just like everyone else. We cannot be objectified as "an issue" in an attempt to distance this ratification from the real lives of our sisters and brothers who are LGBT/Q and how the church's consitution impacts those lives. 

In all the years that I have been part of working with others to change the church's practices, I have always been up-ended in trying to understand how loving Christians could not recognize how these unjust practices, ensured to continue by G-6.010b, could be allowed to go on knowing the violence they cause. Indeed, some of those most vocal in recommending no action have acknowledged the violence the church has nurtured by its misguided treatment of the  LGBT/Q community and the responsibility it has to change; to stop the violence; to accept its wrong-doing; and to set an example for others to follow in welcoming Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people into the full work and worship of the Church of Jesus Christ. To hear at this critical time of decision, "Take no action," means the same thing it has meant for more than four decades: "Wait some more, LGBT folk. Wait. Our church is not quite ready. It's going to be too disruptive. Just a while longer. Let's try another way." 

Well, sorry, we are ready, and after 40 years of conversation and trying other ways it's time for the church to be ready, as well.

What is remarkable, I think, is that I believe most Presbyterians and most presbyteries are ready to finally go forward and use the new language for G-6.0106b that will deliver us all from this ongoing blemish on our church, our ministries, and our souls. What is remarkable to me is when some who are allies start sounding much like those who oppose us. Surely, that is not true, at least not directly. However, when actions are suggested that could postpone justice for reasons that are based on "order," I begin to have difficulty in teasing apart the practical difference between the two.

In many ways, the idea that any remnant of the current intention of G-6.0106b could be left in our Book of Order, regardless of advances in other areas - is an affront to the LGBT/Q Christian community and another blow to the chance we have to minister to those LGBT/Q believers seeking sanctuary and community in their faith journey to God. 

Perhaps, even more than the physical violence that emanates from any discriminatory policy, such as G-6.0106b, the spiritual violence of turning away God's children, denying them a full welcome, especially by allies and supporters has to be the worst blow of all.

Please, work within your churches, presbyteries, committees, and elsewhere to ratify 08-B. There are wonderful resources available at,, and elsewhere. And, once this work is done, the real work of healing and amends can begin. Until then, divided we will be.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

On Proposition 8 and More

In Response to "Not so Black & White" Blog

Thanks for your post. I especially liked the comment about how Jackie Robinson's invitation to play on the Dodgers showed just how racist we were. How racist, we still are in too many ways.

I am an openly gay Presbyterian Minister, one of a small number who somehow found ourselves in presbyteries with the courage to ordain us, even though there is in our constitution a "Proposition 8" called G-6.0106b that is used to exclude LGBT/Q folk from leadership in the church. It is very hard to understand, actually I don't, how we can profess the things we do and treat certain groups to power and other groups to marginalized obscurity - expecting them to go quietly into the night.

I remember the time after Matthew Sheppard was attacked and killed. I was certain, absolutely certain that it would finally wake people up to just how the bias and bigotry produced violence in horrific ways. In some ways that happened, but not in enough ways. 

Someone once said that it takes two generations for a revolution to become integrated into society. Among many other things, Obama's election proved that when enough people have had enough - change occurs.

I hope we have had enough of homophbia and its companions. While people of color have little choice about being "out," people who are LGBT/Q can too often pass under the radar. It is not easy to come out, each person needs to do so in their own time. However, the struggles we face cannot be resolved solely by allies.

If "Yes we can" is the mantra then perhaps its queer sister is "We've had enough." Enough of being placed on hold. Time for effective and radically inclusive love that opens the doors of this nation and it rights to all - is now.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A bit of writing

Response to

Hi Mike -

Thanks for your response. I truly do understand your comments and also honor you as a member of God's amazing family. I also know the desire to seek "proof" of one's convictions, whether theologically, scientifically, anthropologically, or against any other standard that might "resolve" what we wish could be seen clearly through that dark glass of Paul's.

The heart is an amazing organ. In the times of Jesus, it was considered the center of one's being; certainly, it was held in at least as high esteem as the mind. In so many ways, my struggle has been in trusting the heart in the face of the conflicting and ever-changing studies, debates, and, unfortunately, some of the violence that always accompanies marginalization. Whatever the connection between heart, mind, soul, and spirit - I know that it is not vengeful. Instead it is loving and accepting and it does need to be listened to. I believe that God still speaks to us, even in these times. Revelation, I believe, continues to be a somewhat forgotten way in which God is seeking to do what God has in mind for us.

All that being said, "proof" is elusive. Over the years of working for the inclusion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) people in the full work and worship of the church, the Presbyterian Church in particular, I have observed many debates over certain Scriptural passages. Most interesting to me is that I have often watched two very faithful, intelligent Christians argue the same passage of Scripture from two different points of view. When done, neither side seems to have moved, however each side is pleased with and reaffirmed by the efforts of their colleague. Nothing is changed.

This is one example, there are others, but for me - and I speak only for me - I don't believe that the Bible was given to us as something to be debated. There are, of course, many modern exclusions of certain practices in the Bible that neither of us would agree considering to practice -- enough of them to point to influence of the socioeconomic times in which such things were written. The Bible is, though, a testament to the story of peoples' faith in God and what they were willing to do to honor that faith. I find great courage and strength in such examples. I often remember what a seminarian professor once told her class, "Remember, when you read the Bible - it reads you!"

So, I come to a place of believing in God's way of using us, all of us, to serve the wonderful diversity of God's creation. If I err in any of this, I hope I err on the side of love, the love God has for me and for you, and all of us. Such a mistake would be overlooked much more easily than sitting in judgment on God and God's creation.

I really do hope that we can find ways to be faithful together in our disagreements, even the most difficult ones. It is that witness that I believe to be the most powerful of the Gospels and teachings of Jesus we strive to follow. It is that witness that can be a model for all to follow and a path for this world closer to the God that calls us all.

In peace,