Thursday, December 18, 2008

On Choosing Rick Warren...

There are enough religious leaders who embrace broad inclusivity that Mr. Obama could have engaged for his invocation. As a Presbyterian minister, ordained as an openly gay man, I don't need someone who is just like me - or just like anyone else for that matter - to be chosen by the president-elect. However, after this election, this historic election that has done more to take down ancient and violent boundaries between us - why ask someone who raises God in one hand and puts down sisters and brothers with the other? It seems unlike Mr. Obama to intensify a division and invite more marginalization with such a choice. It seems inclusivity, even for our next president, includes some and not others. If the heads of the auto industry flying into Washington in their private jets were a symbol of being out-of-touch, so, too, is a new administration seeking a blessing from such a polarizing individual. Perhaps it just takes leaders a while longer to get the nuances of their actions, outside of their inner circles. I pray for a time when those circles and the injustices their insulation fuels become real and open places of welcoming and justice for all.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Note: Thank you to Michael J. Adee, M.Div., Ph.D., Executive Director & Field Organizer of More Light Presbyterians for his call to write the folks at Newsweek, following the publication of "The Case for Gay Marriage" by Lisa Miller. Here is Michael's message and my response. Please consider writing your own comments in support Lisa Miller and Newsweek.
Michael's note:

MLP friends ---
Please do take a moment to send a note to Newsweek thanking them for the marriage equality cover story.
Sadly, Newsweek is being bombarded right now by anti-gay extremist religious voices. After the narrow anti-gay, unjust victory in California with Prop-8, anti-gay people seem to be flexing their muscles once again and behaving like school-yard bullies.
If we, the progressive faith voices do not speak up and are not heard, the extreme anti-gay religious voices will dominate the conversation and continue to be bullies.
No more bullies, just more light and more love!
To speak out and send an email go to --
Thanks, Michael
PS -- Please forward this email action to others you know who believe in justice, love, fairness and equality!

My response:

Dear Lisa,

As a minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church USA and an openly gay man, I thank you and Newsweek for your clear and courageous article.

Your work will not only help others to better understand their family members, friends, and neighbors; it will help guide those working their way to a new understanding of the Bible, as many of us believe it was first intended to be used.

The erroneous and strongly held beliefs you address are filled with the inherent violence that has been used to marginalize and dehumanize our community for too long. The time for this to change is closer with each passing day, in part, now, because of your work.

"The Religious Case for Gay Marriage" is a case for justice, faith, and healing. It appears you have a fine grasp on these tenets of humanity and much more.

Thank you.

Rev. Ray Bagnuolo
White Plains, Ny

Monday, December 8, 2008

Thy Will Not Mine be Done...

On November 2, Barbara Wheeler, President of Auburn Seminary in New York City, published an article in Presbyterian Outlook "Why not replace (or retain) G-6.0106b?" In her piece, she recommended a "no action" vote of 08-B. Some of us had heard about the article, which was planned for an edition that was going to consider different approaches on the ratification of 08-B. I contacted the editor of The Outlook, Jack Haberer, to ask if I could contriubte to the discussion, as a minister of Word and Sacrament who is gay and supports and prays for ratification of 08-B, with so many others. Jack told me that that particular issue had been put to bed, but he invited me to write an essay about my story. The following is the result, which was published in The Outlook a week ago. My thanks to Jack Haberer and The Outlook for the invitation and their willingness to present diverse points-of-view on how G-6.0106b continues to impact the lives of our sisters and brothers in the PC(USA).

I share the link to the piece here, somewhat reluctantly, running the the risk of appearing self-promoting. I do so, instead, to encourage others who are able to please continue to tell their stories whenever and wherever they can. This moment of "kairos," as Michael Adee of More Light Presbyterians refers to it has been long in coming and is critically important. Ratifying 08-B will not divide us, but bring us together in ways we could never imagine.

"Thy will not mine be done..."

I fell in love with God the first time I entered a church. Actually, I was in love with God, even before then, I just didn’t know it until I entered the mystery of that first sanctuary. I was instantly smitten, at home, and in awe of everything. I think I knew I had a vocation as early as nine years of age. I just had no way of knowing it would be forty-five years in the making. Why did it take so long? I discovered I was gay and bit by bit my world began to fall apart. More

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Post-b World: Close-at-hand

I read with interest a new post on The Layman by John Adams, entitled "Conservative flight could boost 'progressive' vote against 'fidelity/chastity'."

It hints, perhaps, to a shift in the vote in favor of 08-B and a subtle but important change in tactic. The required rhetoric warning against the ordination of LGBT/Q folk is there, should 08-B be passed. In addition, though, the warning has become more generalized, broadening the importance of defeating 08-B in order to prevent "men and women who are sexually active outside of marriage" from being ordained.

It may be that the author, John Adams, who I respect and with whom I have had some significant disagreements, is sensing less of a resistance against our community. By broadening the argument, it is almost like he is saying, "OK, maybe you are unsure of whether LGBT/Q folk should or should not be ordained, however, put that aside. If 08-B gets through, it's the same as telling every man and women who wants to have sex outside of marraige to go ahead and we will still ordain you." 

A clever argument, once more based on fear. And, I think, a tip of the hat to us and the progressive groups that the faith, work, education, diligence, sacrifice and heart with which we have continued to press this church -- may actually be gaining support among those who were once adversaries.

It makes sense that sooner rather than later this church begins to feel the impact of a rising tide of welcoming and support for our LGBT/Q community. It makes sense, when one hears the stories I have time and again of faithful church-going families having loved ones denied a full membership in our church because they were LGBT/Q. It makes sense, that this is the time when the tireless work of organizations like That All May Freely ServeMore Light PresbyteriansWitherspoon SocietyCovenant Network, and many other groups and individuals is building to a consensus that was evident at GA218. 

What is happening is being fueled by the Spirit; we all know that.  But we are called to continue the legwork that has taken us this far, this close to the beginning of a just and welcoming church. We are in the time of a new ministry that will bring Word and Sacrament to our membership and the world in a way that has been long awaited and longer for. Among the many things God is doing in this world, this is surely one of them.

For the first time in the last decade, there are no other motions or task forces underway to siphon votes from passing the delete/change of G-6.0106b in ratifying 08-B. Those who have opposed ordination for our community frequently point to the increasing "NO" votes over the years when delete B overtures made it to the committees and plenaries of GA, or to the presbyeries. I have often felt that many of those votes were actually votes in favor of the Theological Task Force on Peace Unity and Purity to complete its work; it was a softer alternative than an outright delete B vote; it was an alternative that has its place now in our church, but it is not the answer to a full welcoming, without additional hoops to jump through, for our LGBT/Q called community. 

This time of ratification is truly a time of great anticipation and prayer. It is a time for enthusiastic and continued work within our presbyteries and with one another in our churches throughout the nation. It is also a time of thanksgiving for our faithful allies who have idefatigably spoken for many in our community who have been unable to speak for themselves. Without doubt, we are a family closer together than ever before, and the full reunion is soon to come: a reunion for all.

In this time of Advent on a day that we remember what ignorance and discrimination has done to create a pandemic called AIDS, let us not give up hope for one second, because the time for healing and unity in a post-b world is close-at-hand. 

Praise God.