Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Order of Worship for Sunday 11/08/09

This is posted on bagnuolo.blogspot.com

Order of Worship for Sunday, November 8, 2009
Jan Hus Presbyterian Church, NYC http://www.janhus.org/
Written and freely offered for use by Ray Bagnuolo (c)2009


Hymns: PH

Hymn #456 “Awake, My Soul and With the Sun”
Hymn #163 “Lord, Our Lord, Thy Glorious Name”
Hymn #587 “Amen” With some variations…

Call to Worship

One: Whatever heaven may be,
Many: Just like the kindom of God, it is at hand.

One: Whatever this day may be like,
Many: It is a day on the path to the nearness of God in all the places we travel.

One: Whatever joys and concerns we bring with us today,
Many: Let us share them in this presence of God and one another.

One: And however God knows you and you God,
Many: Let our voices and hearts be lifted together in praise and song!
Come! Let us worship God together. Amen.


Call to Confession
O God who brings us together in this lovely abiding place of yours, hear our spoken words, as well as those in the deep silence of our hearts. Let us pray…

Prayer of Confession (in unison)

In today’s Gospel, Mark warns us "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets!” Beware. Indeed. Beware of the times when our robes are a bit too long or our seats are a bit too comfortable. And, when honor comes our way, let us accept it, never seek it. Instead, let us practice honor by honoring God and one another, especially those among us who have the least and need us the most. And when we forget that we are here to serve, when we too quickly react to those who should be more slowly and kindly honored with love and service – forgive us. Please help us to call out your name and then see you in all those before us. We really are trying. And we really need do your help, Dear God, in all the ways we know you. Amen.


First Reading: Hebrews 9:24 - 28
For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own; for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Gospel Reading: Mark 12:46-52
As he taught, he said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows' houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation."

He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Order of Worship for Sun., 11/01/09

Order of Worship for Sunday, November 1, 2009
Jan Hus Presbyterian Church, NYC www.janhus.org
Written and freely offered for use by Ray Bagnuolo (c)2009

Second Reading (Ordinary 31) : Hebrews 9:11-14
Gospel (Ordinary 31) : Mark 12:28-34

Opening Hymn: PH #436 "We Are Your People"
Communion Hymn: PH #505 "Be Known to Us in Breaking Bread"
Closing Hymn: PH #326 "Spirit of God Descend Upon My Heart"


Call to Worship:

One: Hear O Israel the Lord God is One
Many: Creator of many paths, with many names.

One: Love God of Many Names with all your heart.
Many: Giving God let us know you know, as always and never before.

One: Love one another, as God loves you.
Many: Such is the greatest of commandments and the greatest form of worship.

All: Come, let us love and worship this wildly inclusive God together!


Call to Confession
Let us breathe, stilling ourselves in the presence of God and one another, seeped in love, divinity, and the gifts of forgiveness and assurance...

Prayer of Confession (in unison)
Today, Jesus calls our attention to the Sh'ma, the most sacred, perhaps, of all prayers in Judaism. He reminds us that we need to listen, to know, and to gain courage and strength in the truth that God is One and with us always. Always. There is no need for perfection to be loved by God, no requirements, and no prerequisites. It is simply so. And, in gratitude for such love and grace, we are called only to love our neighbors as ourselves. That, it turns out, is not always so easy. We too often manage to miss loving others, getting pulled in directions of self, power, retribution, and worse. God forgive us, please, in those times of harshness and absence. Repeat in our hearts and our actions the Sh'ma, guiding us in the ways of Jesus, Justice, and Love. Always. Amen.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Draft of Preliminary Report of the Special Committee to Study the Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage

The Full Report

This is worthwhile reading and study. The committee clearly worked carefully and well in the short period of time that it had to do this work. Thank you to them all.

Like Scripture and many other considerations related to the church's behavior, the report will read differently depending on who it is doing the reading. I am unsure of the wisdom in making no recommendation by the committee. It may have been that that was their charge. I need to think and pray about this a bit more and hear from others.

The following excerpt is an example of the division in interpretation, even of the report. "Those who defend marriage" could be thought of as those who defend marriage between a man and a woman. "Those who defend marriage" could also be viewed as those of us who see "civil union" for LGBT as a "second-class" option and unacceptable, defending it for all.

"Those who defend marriage as it has been understood see the compromise of civil unions as a dangerous and myopic redefinition of marriage that loses its social dimensions and encourages the impermanence of these arrangements. They would argue that marriage is the only significant institution supported by civil authority that protects children as they grow; the impermanence of the parental relationships is one of the major causes of a host of ills that beset the most vulnerable and weakest among us. European experience has demonstrated that diluting marriage into a private contract for the sake of one population can dilute it for the whole population.

While there may be significant small populations for whom a civil union is a useful contract, civil unions cannot serve to make peace between those who view homosexual practice differently."
-p. 22 of the report

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Reply to Conversation and Posts on Outlook

Blog Response to: Outlook Article: "Marriage and Civil Unions Task Force...so far"

As a minister, ordained as an openly gay man, serving the needs of God's whole family, I welcome the input of the committee.

I wonder at what stage the committee will be?

Will it be at the women should not be in church stage of the Bible? Will it be at the 'slaves should learn from their master' quotes attributed to Jesus stage? Or will they be beyond the the stages that try to keep the status quo based on fear of those who are different, yet sisters and brothers.

Will they be beyond the stage of using Scripture to exclude people, once again, until the Christian heart expands in love and wisdom, finally turning away from Scripture passages that kept women quiet, slaves in their place, and same-gender relationships the target of fear? Finally, after directly or indirectly being implicit in the violence of such restrictions and fear.

The only path is forward, with full and comprehensive benefits in the church that our heterosexual sisters and brothers are afforded. To draw the line on the "behavior argument" is to draw a line in the sand of creation and God's love. That line will be washed away, for it is a human-made line. A "fear line," an argument, not an act of God's love toward one another.

I am not who I am based on behavior, but I am who I am based on how God has created me, which includes being a man and being gay. I pray that how I behave reflects God's love in all the fullness of my being and that must include the intimacy of marriage for same-gender loving couples.

The healing we are called to bring into this broken world is beyond us still, because some still cower in fear of who we are as the full Body of Christ. Simply, we have not been able yet to fully accept one another in our diversity. Simply, then, we still have not learned to fully accept God in the lives of our sisters and brothers, without playing God.

God is beyond slaves, the muting of women, and the full work, worship, and benefits for our LGBT folk in the Church of Jesus Christ.

What is it we are waiting for? Better, what is it we are afraid of?

Ray Bagnuolo

Sunday, August 16, 2009

No one said you couldn't send in two...

Comments on Civil Union and Marriage

Ray Bagnuolo, Minister of Word and Sacrament

I don't often link any other societal challenges to the efforts for a more just and inclusive church for our sisters and brothers who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender (LGBT). I find that any reference to human and spiritual struggles of other groups immediately shifts the discussion to the supporting argument. Given the choice, most people will choose to discuss almost anything other than the marginalization or second-class status of people who identify as LGBT. I speak not about gay people but as a gay person involved in our church's struggle.

However, I will break with my practice in this way: consider the Bible's prohibition of women from serving in the early church and the Bible’s acceptance of slavery.

1 Corinthians 11:5:

"Let the women keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is a disgrace for a woman to speak in church."

Matthew 10:24-25:

"A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household!"

There are other references, in fact many - a simple search will produce the ones that don't immediately come to mind.

We all know that over time these teachings of Paul and statements in Matthew attributed to Jesus (along with other verses of Scripture) have been explained away in a variety of ways. Simply, these early teachings and practices were wrong and abhorrent. They still are where practiced today. My question, though, is, "Was God wrong?" I mean if these were accepted practices of the early church, as terrible as they were, now that we reject them - how did we come to know that God changed God's mind about them or that God was wrong. Or did we just figure out that God didn't mean it in the first place? Or were the Scriptures wrong, mistranslated, or worse - did Jesus actually agree with slavery? Really...

Who drew the line? How did we know when and where it was drawn? How many centuries did women and slaves suffer until we all agreed that the Bible was wrong long before the practices changed. And what about the people who were rebuked, punished, stoned, jailed, returned to their "masters" (like Jesus and the Centurion's slave). What about all the violence, harms, and damages that were done in the name of faithfulness to the Scriptures and teachings of Jesus? How complicit are we in the tragedy that became institutionalized while we waited to step up...? How quickly would we undo these things if we could go back, way back?

Something was as wrong back then about women and slavery as it is wrong now about folk who are LGBT. Regardless of how the Bible was used then...these practices were always wrong. Regardless of the how the Bible is used today against LGBT folk...these practices are always wrong. Further, just as the solution to women's rights and slavery was not to have slaves free half the time or women free half the time - neither is the solution for embracing same gender covenantal relationships in the half-step of civil unions. In fact, such a decision to many of us is as insulting and hate-filled as the Three-fifths Compromise of our country’s early history. We need to get this right.

After all, can we really hinge our love and justice on the same rationalizations that kept women and slaves quarantined from God as full and free creations of God? Who is wrong here? The Bible or God? Is God going to change God's mind again? Should we just wait some more? How will we know when it is time? Will we continue to make this church less representative of a welcoming God and more representative of a comfortable few?

Honestly, as you can probably tell, I am unwilling to be considered as anything less than a full creation of God and baptized member of this church. It continues to be difficult for me, knowing myself and other sisters and brothers who are LGBT, to comprehend how our welcoming into this church should even be a cause for discussion.

Still, I am as grateful for your work as I am certain that we need to stand up for full marriage for all our sisters and brothers in this church and the society into which we bring the Good News of the Church of Jesus Christ.


P.S.

For the record: I don't believe God had it wrong. I believe we did, and I believe we have it wrong now. May you agree.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Comments to the Committee on Civil Union and Christian Marriage

Friends: The Committee has asked for feedback as they prepare their report. The press release can be found at The Presbyterian News Service. Please consider writing to the committee.

The following is what I forwarded on July 20, 2009. Thanks for your courage and your voice in commenting.

Comments to the Committee on Civil Union and Christian Marriage
Ray Bagnuolo, Minister of Word and Sacrament
Gay Member of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Community
July 20, 2009

Questions:
  • How could the PC(USA) not honor marriage for people of the same sex in the very same way we do such relationships between a man and a woman?
  • How will we be faithful to God and to our sisters and brothers in this Body of Christ and undo the harm that has been caused by years of marginalization of the LGBT community in the PC(USA).
  • In light of the young children finding love and safety in homes with parents of the same gender, how could we relegate them to the status of a “diminished family” in the eyes of the church? How could we ever expect such families to find God in our midst, when we see less of God in theirs?
In the lives of the LGBT community in the PC(USA), the same sections of our constitution always present the biggest challenge. I will ask you to set them aside in your work. I recommend that you accept the premise that the constitutional barriers will be resolved, so that you may be bold and just in your recommendation. Please avoid recommendations that generate more studies, more arguments, and muted leadership in the face of continued exclusionary violence to our LGBT community.

Witness the work of The Theological Task Force on Peace Unity and Purity of The Church in attempting to resolve the ordination standards practices. The Task Force did much good work, but did its recommended methods of opening a path for ordination of folk who are LGBT succeed? Considering that since the time of the report not one openly gay candidate has been called, examined, and ordained to minister of Word and Sacrament, I would say no. In fact, if my statistics are correct, the last openly gay candidate who was called, examined, and ordained was in November of 2005, months before the acceptance of the task force’s report at our 217th General Assembly in 2006. Since then, of all the candidates that have been called, examined, and ordained as ministers of Word and Sacrament – not one has been openly LGBT.

And, that is not because there are none to be called. It is because G-6.0106b continues to be used to discriminate against the LGBT candidates and the majority of presbyteries find the work around of the task force too weak and uncertain. It would have been more prophetic had the Task Force recommended that G-6.0106b be deleted. The impact and the results might have been substantially better, especially considering the recent voting on the ratification for the substitute to G-6.0106b, Amendment 08-B, that was sent to the presbyteries for ratification by the 218th GA.

The recent near-passage of 08-B supports the growing recognition by presbyteries that the constitution can no longer be used against our baptized sisters and brothers who are LGBT. The inherent risk-taking of Christian love is real; Christian love and all its risks have always been the praxis of welcoming, justice, and true hospitality in our church – except, institutionally, when it comes to LGBT folk. There is no way to compromise Christian love. It doesn’t work, as far as I can tell.

I believe there are lessons in these past experiences for the task ahead of you. Even now, some of what has been suggested as possible recommendations for the committee sounds like compromised approaches; considerations that if embraced fall under the heading, once again, of the LGBT community “waiting and less than.”

For example, one solution offers a blessing to same-sex couples, but not marriage. Another is to forego marriage (with or without a blessing) and support the civil union idea. A third is even a recommendation that we do away with marriage altogether, suggesting that the church should have no interest in the “marriage business” in the first place.

Fears? Absolutely. Such “shadow solutions” are all about fear and worse, when it comes to people who are LGBT.

Consider the lengths some suggest we should go to in preventing same-sex marriage. The idea of actually eliminating church marriage altogether to keep it from same-sex couples is glaringly indicative of how deeply ingrained the disease of homophobia has become in our thinking. As for eliminating marriage in the church – fine. First, grant it to all. Then we can talk about its elimination. Equality for all first. Then consider change as a whole community.

Yes, the PC(USA) has made some progress, but in too many cases it turns out to be more binding than loving. As a minister of Word and Sacrament, I can “bless” holy unions as long as I do not use the language of/or mislead the same-sex couple to believe that I am conducting their marriage. In truth, I have no way of parsing the mystery of God’s love in such covenantal relationships – nor could I be faithful to my ordination by doing so.

Endorsing some tethered solution of civil unions and a blessing is lukewarm, at best, and insulting at worst, elevating the “heterosexual status,” once again; feeding the homophobic and violent fringe of society with another diminished status for those we call sisters and brothers in Christ. I don’t believe we can have it both ways. We cannot be sisters and brothers in Christ, with some “just a little less sisters and brothers in Christ.”

Lastly, as an openly gay man ordained as Minister of Word and Sacrament, I can assure you that we who are your LGBT sisters and brothers are not issues. We are not the “ordination issue” or the “marriage issue.” We are living, breathing, loving, baptized members of this church and our community. Our lives continue to be directly affected by the decisions of this church.

It is my opinion that your recommendation should not be based on whether the church can accept it. Your recommendation should be based on what faith demands it to be. Let the acceptance and wrangling that follows be what it may, but let your voice be one for all those marginalized who need to hear and know that they have not been forgotten and are loved in the PC(USA) as equals.

May you have the courage to be the prophets you have been called to be.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

On War, Fishing, and Manipulation in the PC(USA)

On War, Fishing, and Manipulation in the PC(USA)
A Reflection on the
Pastoral Letter of Carmen Fowler, President,
Presbyterian Lay Committee

by Ray Bagnuolo, Minister of Word and Sacrament
White Plains, New York
July 15, 2009

I have read and sometimes supported commentaries and positions taken by leaders of the Presbyterian Lay Committee (PLC) on their website
Laymanonline.org. This, however, is not one of those times.

Over the years, our exchanges in response to articles and editorials have exhibited strong disagreements, yet the “footprint” of these interactions indicated genuine attempts at honest and respectful discussions. With those experiences in mind, the tone of The Rev. Carmen Fowler’s recent pastoral letter:
‘War,’ ‘Go Fish,’ ‘Manipulation in the PCUSA’ was strikingly different. The bellum references describing the work of which others and I had been a part in seeking ratification of Amendment 08-B was a misrepresentation as much as it was disappointing.

I am not suggesting that that those seeking full welcoming for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) persons in our church and the PLC are always in harmony. Personally, our disagreements are real. I am an openly gay Minister of Word and Sacrament, ordained as such in 2005. I have served on the board of
That All May Freely Serve and currently serve as a board member of More Light Presbyterians (MLP). I have stood alongside those seeking to delete G-6.0106b, witnessing and advocating at General Assemblies, as well as participating in workshops and panel discussions in regional venues. And, in doing so, I have stood respectfully alongside those with whom we disagreed.

The idea of our actions “playing” anyone, as Rev. Fowler suggested we did of the presbyteries who changed their historical positions in supporting the ratification Amendment 08-B, is as false as it is insulting to the presbyteries who carefully discerned the choices they made in prayer, community, and, as always, in the presence of God. This use of ridicule and fear undermines and transforms honest efforts at unity and justice in our church. A church that always has and always will made up of all God’s family, including sisters and brothers who are LGBT.

In fact, throughout the struggle, we (God’s family) have often found ourselves assembled together, from worshipping to witnessing – trying to navigate close quarters with the pronounced differences we share. Has it been easy? No, but I believe we have mostly done our best to be faithful, respectful, and honest. While the rhetoric at times has been strident, I have never felt at “war,” as if I were “gaming,” or attempting to “manipulate” groups or church members who sought to prevent full inclusion. I have never believed the solution to our very real struggle was in domination or deception.

Nor have I believed that the answers we sought were in the strictest of interpretations of the Bible. Still, such differences in interpretation never meant that I wished to diminish or demean those who came to God from a more literal belief in the written Word. I don’t think that most people who are moving with the Spirit in welcoming LGBT folk are doing so because they are shifting their way of holding the Bible in their hearts. I believe their hearts are changing because they cannot see the Bible being used any longer in any way to hurt others, many of whom are members of their families; people who are faithful in their beliefs and practices.

In the several months leading up to the final vote of the presbyteries on the ratification of Amendment 08-B, individuals and groups worked together, reaching out to members of presbyteries across the country. The work of MLP and others was rooted in embracing the guidance of the 218th General Assembly to dialogue with one another, as baptized members of the same family and Body of Christ. We were intentional in listening to each other, as we invited God, Spirit, and Jesus into our midst. Judgment was never a part of the process.

Groups in favor of ratification of Amendment 08-B worked together to undertake the massive challenge of reaching out to the majority of presbyteries in the United States. Thousands of conversations were had. Often they were not easy, and more often they were amazing. There were numerous talks with folks opposed to ordaining LGBT individuals that poignantly touched at the heart and the pain of our struggle. You may not be surprised to know that those visits often ended in prayer, praying for God’s help in the healing we so desperately needed and continue to seek. In every case, we did our best to practice the loving-kindess that reflects the unified church we were hoping to become. There was no game of “Go Fish” or of any other kind. It was Spirit-filled, real, and much more difficult to do than criticize its outcomes.

As for manipulation of the presbyteries, which connotes intentional deception and secrecy – there was none. I’ve actually never met a “tricked presbytery.” It occurs to me that such a thing is oxymoronic. At any rate, we were open and transparent with the leadership within each region about our organizing efforts. We sought out information about those who might be able to help us and who might be more inclined to consider having conversations with us. We spoke to supporters, those undecided, and those in opposition; we asked all groups to vote in favor of ratification. We wanted the amendment to pass, but we knew that ultimately it would be in God’s time.

In the process, the privilege of being in conversation with so many of our sisters and brothers across this country was a humbling and precious gift. It was quickly apparent that we are “one” more than all our differences might ever suggest. If you talk openly to hundreds of people, one-to-one about God and this church as many of us did, you will discover just how much God is with us all. All. We are a connectional church, indeed, and the outreach made that wonderfully and abundantly clear: clear that the Spirit was at work with all of us, and clear that we should not give up on one another. Clear that we need to remove G-6.0106b and work together from there. Clear, to me, as always, that his amendment has been a dividing line for too long and more and more are coming to understand that.

As for the outreach and the language of progress that was sometimes used. I agree. I never really liked the description of a “presbytery flipping” when describing a change in a presbytery’s past voting record. The language referred to the vote, never the individuals, churches, or presbyteries they represented. I am equally uncomfortable with the use of the word “target,” in any form. We know how important the use of language is, and in some ways, we fell short of a better way of expressing ourselves. We all can improve in seeking ways to describe who we are and how we go about being faithful in the midst of reunion.

The broadening sense that ratification would soon be in reach was electric and continues to be so. We are intrinsically pulled together in this incredible shift toward a unified and healed church. Yes, God is doing a new thing in our midst, and it has been a long time in the making. It’s important to remember that the LGBT community has been at the center of marginalization and exclusion by the PC(USA) for near forty years. Those opposing our full inclusion are not the ones who have been the oppressed. LGBT sisters and brothers and those who support them intimately understand what it is like to left outside of the church, essentially shunned by fear. And the church has paid an enormous price in many ways, but especially in inadvertently becoming complicit in supporting the broader social disease of hate crimes toward LGBT folk by its institutional positions. Still, in spite of it all and in formation for those who will follow us, our efforts are driven knowing that our church’s present and future is critically dependent upon our unity and healing, and that ours is a special role in that transformation. It is obvious that a growing number of members of the PC(USA) are in agreement that:

Amendment G-6.0106b, for whatever else it might be said to do, has been the cause of our disunity, not the truth that we are all God’s family.

As with quoting Scripture, these and other comments quickly raise arguments and rebuttals to support one position or the other, one belief or the other, one way of being faithful or the other. In fact, our exegetical analyses of Scripture alongside the “nature and nurture” arguments have spawned institutional structures to ensure their survival more than ours as a people. The debates, papers, books, and articles have become comfortable for many and totally inaccessible for others, establishing new dominions that push God’s family further into the chasm of the arguments and the resultant chaos and stultification. The debates roar on, and while they do, the lives of our sisters and brothers who are LGBT and those who embrace them are forced into a marginalized, misrepresented, and maligned status within the church. There can be no such classification in God’s family, and, in spite or distant echoes of debates, that truth is rising up in response from a growing majority of Christians.

We are getting to know one another. We are “personing” the argument, as my friend The Rev. Dr. Janie Spahr would say, taking our Christian and loving lives to the people. More of us who are LGBT are becoming visible, in and out of our church community. Leaders within the church and those seeking leadership roles are openly stating how they identify themselves, often accepting great risk in the process. Friends and supporters are speaking out more, filled with love the Spirit of Love. As we come to know more of our family who identify as LGBT, we are leaving the stereotypes and the debates behind. In its place, we are lifting up the mysterious ways of the Love of God expressed in the equally mysterious gifts of our gender identities and sexuality. I thank the distant echoes of those balanced, never-ending debates for tiring out more and more faithful who have been conditioned to believe there would come an answer from such places. Instead, large numbers of faithful members of this church across the PC(USA) have made up their minds based on their personal and communal faith and the witness of those who are LGBT, their families, supporters, and friends. And, I don’t believe I am the first to recognize this. It’s been going on now for some time. We are further along in this process of coming together than many suggest. Perhaps the accusation of manipulation by some is an attempt to protect their institution by more deeply hiding this truth.

The strong response to changing the Constitution of the PC(USA) has been muted over the several years. There are many reasons for this, but one of them, I believe, is that faithful were hoping that the work of The Theological Task Force on the Peace Unity and Purity of the Church would produce a solution that would eliminate the need for constitutional change. It was with this in mind, that I believe many who voted “No” for deletion of G-6.0106b over the years were actually voting “Yes” for the continuing work of the task force, hoping it would produce “the answer." While the task force did accomplish important work, it clearly did not end the exclusion of LGBT folk from the full work and worship of the PC(USA). As a result, when the time of our most recent effort of ratification came about, those who had given the task force a chance voted in favor of constitutional change. Along with the continuing number of members welcoming the LGBT community, we witnessed a dramatic shift that will soon complete its course.

The outreach of groups and individuals seeking full inclusion for the LGBT community in the PC(USA) will be as it always has been: faithful. In the post-B world, our family will be faced with the hard work of unifying and healing. This marginalized community of baptized LGBT members will stand as we have before, with all our sisters and brothers to carry the gospel message and the witness of our lives to those who have felt unwelcome and displaced by our constitutional dysfunction: G-6.0106b.

This has never been a war, a game, or about propaganda or deception. It has and will continue to be the story of faithful people in love with God and all of God’s family.

We will eventually replace the arguments of fear with the Love of God, which has been given to us so that we might embrace one another as God embraces all God’s family.

We who have been and will continue to be part of the outreach and movement for change acknowledge our role in such a call and promise to continue to love each other into family. We are grateful to the many who join with us in believing that whatever is next for us in the PC(USA) is directly beyond the infection of G-6.0106b.

Let us pray and work together, so that whatever we do, nothing we do ever separates others from the God who created us as a family. All of us included.

Amen.

Monday, June 8, 2009

For Pete's Sake!

Actually, his name was Peter.

Peter Dellegrazio. Later, Peter DeLeo. He was a soulmate and friend. He had a spirit and charm that burst across a dance floor and sparkled in any conversation. Think Danny Terrio. Think George Stephanopoulos. He's been gone now for more than fifteen years, taken away physically by the virus, but never more than a thought away for me and many others who loved him.

Peter would have been with us in our struggle for justice. He was that kind of guy. A native Chicagoan, he bristled at the marginalization of any group, especially within the LGBT community. He came to his "pride" like many of us, following struggles that tested everything about us. Like many in our community, Peter made it through, and became stronger and more caring with each hurdle overcome. Some folks become bitter along the way. With Peter, it seemed that the upheavals made him more loving and compassionate, in other words - stronger. He knew people in a way that knew their suffering and their spirit, never thinking of them as issues or causes. He reached out all the time, seeking ways to help others avoid the mistakes and the pain, without losing the heart or the welcoming smile. He could enter a struggle and move beyond it, offering others a path to follow to a place of new horizons, rather than rotting in place.

Peter did what we have been doing through these last months of the ratification process on 08-B. He stayed with the people and never sought to move ahead by excluding others. It was a gift he had. I'm not sure he saw it in that way or thought of it as God-given. I knew, though, and I still know today. He was full of God and full of God's Spirit.

I'm not surprised that Peter comes to mind as I begin to gather my thoughts around the process we've just been through. A good deal of the heart I know today comes from our friendship, and this has been all about heart for me in the most personal and Eastern of ways.

Throughout the entire time of ratification and working with MLP and other progressive partners, I could feel the pulse quickening across the nation as we came closer to becoming a unified church. The sheer number of presbyteries that shifted positions in favor of 08-B was astounding and heart-warming. We who worked for ratification sought our full inclusion without losing our identity. We went forward with the Gospel in action, modeling the church we were hoping to become.

With others, I had the privilege of calling hundreds of ministers in presbyteries across the country, as they prepared to vote. While the conversations took different directions, they were among the most powerful of interactions I have had in all my time as a minister of Word and Sacrament. I could feel the connection we shared in our faith, beliefs, and experiences, even in the midst of strong differences. The are many stories, including the retired minister who seemed surprised to be contacted by anyone. He was well into his eighties and had long ago thought others believed his usefulness as a minister had retired with him.

When we got onto the topic of voting at his presbytery, he was clear that he would never favor the ordination of gay people. And, he went on to explain why at some length. I listened mostly, feeling saddened at his own marginalization, regardless of his voice or opinion. As we prepared to say good-bye, I thanked him for sharing with me, and I asked if there was anything I could do for him. Quietly, he said, "Well, I sure would like to preach once in a while; I wonder if I'm still on the pulpit supply list at the presbytery."

I told him I'd find out for him and wished him well. After the call, I dialed the presbytery office and got a hold of someone who knew him, explained who I was, and why we were making calls. I told them of the minister's request. There was a moment of silence on both sides for a minute, then the person on the other end said something like, "Well, look at you!" She said she'd give him a call and that they'd make sure he was given some of the attention he deserved, which had somehow been forgotten. She was thankful I had called and wished us well.

Looking back, I hope he went to the meeting and voted his heart. I hope he has since been preaching.

I think that too much is made of winning or losing, frankly. The paradigm is broken, as long as it somehow creates the belief that this division in our church can be resolved by votes. However, G-6.0106b has been voted in and it appears that the only way to remove it is to vote it out. I hope we don't make such a mistake again, "voting in" such a fear-based amendment into the church that is the incarnation of Jesus Christ in its mission and relationship with the world.


As we go forward, I need to say that I am not in favor of a revised G-6.0106b. I supported 08-B, but I still feel "B" should be gone. Gone. There should be no special conditions or "safety nets" for calling qualified individuals who are LGBT. There should be no special requirement for LGBT folk, just as there should be none for heterosexual folks. In short, the requirements to serve in the full work and worship of the PC(USA) should be the same for all God's folk! Period.

Clearly, we will continue this work on many levels, including advocating for same-sex marriage and changes in the language that discriminate against LGBT folk in any parts of our constitution. Already an overture to change or delete B is before one presbytery and more will follow. Times have changed and the votes, with steady prayer and perseverance, will come. The redirection of energy and ballots to the Theological Task Force on Peace Unity and Purity over the previous 8 or so years is no longer affecting the clear movement toward a time in the near future when G-6.0106b in its current form will be gone. In fact, the work of the Task Force and the recent decision of the GAPJC to allow scrupling of G-6.0106b leave the door open for LGBT folk to be called in friendly/progressive presbyteries.

That said, it is my hope that dozens of churches in the country will call qualified LGBT Candidates to educate, challenge, and unify the church through their examinations, becoming certified and cleared to accept such calls.

It calls for risks, yes. Being Christian has always called for risks in this world...

We are on the brink of a way of being the Church of Jesus Christ in the PC(USA) that can heal the anguish and marginalization of our sisters and brothers that no secular or political organization could ever hope to achieve. By creating a church that welcomes all God's people as full members, not only will our diversity become ever more our strength in mission, but our Love and Spirit will be witness to the Gospel and who we are in relation to God and one another.


Thank you to all who gave careful prayer and discernment in the entire process of ratification, including those with whom we might disagree. I abide by the belief that our disagreement is never enough for division if our Love is centered in the One who sends us forth, together.

For Pete's sake, and many others, let's leave the struggle behind and enter into a union of faith and community, differences and all.

Peace,
Ray Bagnuolo
Minister of the Word and Sacrament
Gay Member of the LGBT Community
Called Pastor and Head of Staff to Jan Hus Presbyterian Church, NYC
Board Member of More Light Presbyterians

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Response to Rev. Janet Edwards' Essay in the Washington Post


God has God's ways.
I learned that first-hand, again, when I was ordained as an openly gay man in the Presbyterian Church in 2005. It can happen, even in the PC(USA), but there are only a handful of us at the moment. The opposition and barriers to ordination for LGBT sisters and brothers has been very effective. The ratification of this amendment would have made it possible for the many LGBT folk who God has called to serve others as ministers of Word and Sacrament in a world that is too-broken by such divisions.

The fear that prompts some to marginalize others for their own comfortability is strong, well-entrenched, and a true soul-sickness. In all the arguments to prevent LGBT folk from being ordained, we never hear of LGBT folk trying to exclude others to achieve a gracious and, yes, radical hospitality. In fact the message is always the same: we do not want to exclude our sisters and brothers; we believe we can be together, in spite of our differences; we believe that we can find a way to be together in love, not for our own benefit, but for those we are called to serve. This IS being faithful.

In making dozens of calls to ministers who support and oppose the ratification of 08-B, in almost every case I spoke with folks who are truly trying to be faithful and open to the Spirit. There was an equality in the presence of God in every conversation that affirms what I think we all know - it's time to move beyond the separation and to be open to ways to be faithful together. The only "right" or "wrong" has to do with hospitality not sexuality.

It may be that we have been given this struggle to overcome it, not by votes, but by extending and trusting in Love. It may just be that this struggle is the path God has given us for unification -- not division. I believe true healing will be the result of such a union.

When that happens, and it will, the world will be changed in ways that are beyond any telling. A church that "gets it right," that chooses love over marginalization and embracing one another in our differences will do more to carry the Good News than a church that bickers, divides, and is complicit in the violence that is part of any oppressive system.

With many others, please pray with us for such a time.

Thank you to my friend Janet and all those who struggle for the marriage of Justice and Love and the courage to be steadfast in their calls to serve all.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Strength beyond the voting

Today the ratification of 08-B was defeated. The ratification was defeated, however the movement toward justice and equality in the PC(USA) has never been stronger. And it is a strength that goes beyond the votes.

Much will be said in the next several days about this term's voting. There are many powerful messages being circulated, among them the press release from More Light Presbyterians, which can be found on www.mlp.org. So, for now, I will let them speak for themselves.

More writing to come, however, I will say this: There are those of us who are LGBT and ordained. I was ordained in 2005, making it clear that I was gay and would not abide by G-6.0106b. There are others who have similar stories. The time will come when that community of which I am a part will no longer be the exception. And when that happens, there will be an amazing rebirth in the Spirit beyond what we have known -- for we have not known such a time - yet. Just glimpses...

And it will be a time of welcoming all, even those with whom we disagree. The disagreements may not change all at once, but the seaparation will. From there, anything can happen.

There is strength beyond the voting...

Love, too.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

San Francisco Presbytery Reverses Trend...

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

A short while ago, news arrived that The Presbytery of San Francisco voted against the ratification of Amendment 08-B. With this decision, the presbytery became the first to reverse its previous position in favor of G-6.0106b-related amendments.

The vote was 167-177-4. It is a disappointing outcome, yet it reflects the deep healing that is needed in many of our presbyteries.

The work continues until the day that we have come to love one another enough to trust God's incredible diversity and gifts in each and every one of us.

The vote is now 68 - 86, against ratification, and closer to a just and loving church than we have ever been before.

We ask everyone to please continue to turn out for all the votes through May 19th and strengthen the witness of this Grace-filled and powerful transition time in the life of the PC(USA) and beyond.

Peace,
Ray

The Process Continues

Dear Friends,

As of late Tuesday, April 21, the Presbyteries of Wabash, Salem, and National Capital have moved in favor of Amendment 08-B. Both the Presbytery of Wabash and the Presbytery of Salem were reversals from their last position on G-6.0106b related votes. We await the results of the Presbytery of San Francisco, which also voted yesterday.

Since the ratification process began, 28 presbyteries have switched their vote in favor of 08-B, with none moving in the other direction. The suggestion that the vote in favor of full inclusion for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning community has been declining is just not so. In fact, some of us have felt that the several years of the discernment process of the Theological Task Force Report on Peace Unity and Purity of the Church (TTF) produced many "no" votes on deleting G-6.0106b, while waiting for the outcome of its work.

It appears that the PC(USA) is moving toward a time when it will be clear that both a revised or deleted version of G-6.0106b and the TTF advances will be embraced.

May it soon be so,
Peace,
Ray

As of this morning, the tally for justice and love stands at: 68 Yes and 85 No.




Sunday, April 12, 2009

About the PC(USA) and so much more...

May something like this (and more) one day be so....

Worldwide Press Release: Easter Monday: PC(USA) leads the way

In a stunning development, major mainline Christian denominations announced today that they have set aside all boundaries related to people who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBT/Q). Other faiths indicate their determination to follow, joining in the decision to end the inherent violence of any exclusion of sisters and brothers based on their sexual or gender identity.

According to a spokesperson, “This decision will end the divisions that have for too long separated the wonderful diversity of God’s creation and our families. No longer will our churches be engaged in efforts to exclude members of the LGBT/Q community, instead, we fully open our doors to the discipleship of our sisters and brothers who are LGBT/Q. We are preparing for a substantial increase in our mission and outreach to the hungry, poor, at war, incarcerated, and otherwise marginalized members of God’s family, as a result of the total reunion of our God-given family and all of its blessings and gifts.”

This rapid change was brought about by a recent decision by the presbyteries of the PC(USA) to ratify Amendment 08-B, rewriting the language of an older amendment (G-6.0106b), which had been used to exclude LGBT/Q individuals from serving in the full work and worship of the church. Since that ratification, other Protestant denominations have met with the PC(USA), seeking ways to follow its witness in their own faith communities. Late last week, in a decision that can only be called an Easter-tide miracle, these churches joined with the PC(USA) in eliminating requirements for ordination or membership based on sexual or gender identity, pledging to lead the way for national and worldwide change for the inclusion of all God’s family.

It all happened behind closed doors in one of the most important councils of modern times. “It was as if the clouds parted and the Light of God shone down, within it a voice saying, ‘Enough! There is too much work for you to do for this bickering to continue,’” said one witness to the meeting. “Everyone just sort of took a big breath, looked at one another, and begin a slow embrace that ended up in this massive group-hug! It was really something. The presence of God and tears of joy and justice and love were everywhere.”

One church leader stated, “It’s funny. Now that we’re done with all the wrangling and going about the mission work that is so sorely needed, there are more than a few of us wondering what took us so long to get it. I guess that’s the way it is with us, sometimes, it takes a while. We are just grateful to God and all those involved that we are back together, ready to heal and serve one another in the name of God who calls us all. We are sorry, very sorry, as well, for all the harm this exclusion has done. We will work together to repair what needs to be repaired. We will be better, more faithful, and more patient with each other and the strangers among us. It really is time to unite in this and every way we can find. However you interpret it, that's the message of Jesus, and we’re going to follow him together, differences and all.”

It seems others are listening, as well. Asking not to be identified, a clergy member outside of the group stated: “We cannot ignore how God is working with our Protestant sisters and brothers. We have to be willing to hear God’s voice wherever it is spoken. It is clear that God has spoken to these churches and their faithful. We share the same sacred ground and we wish them Godspeed, as we continue to seek ways to learn from one another. We are already indebted to them.”

It seems there will be a lot of learning from one another in the days and years ahead, as a result of this stunning turn of events. It seems, too, according to these developments that the path to an inclusive, relevant, and vibrant church has become a lot closer to a broad, safe, and welcoming highway for all to travel.


It starts with a vote in favor of the ratification of 08-B. Please support the call for a vote in favor of ratification, so that we can get on with the work God is waiting for us to do…

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Not just the PC(USA)

It's easy to think the ratification of 08-B is just about the PC(USA). Yes, this will change the church, something the reformed tradition is as committed to as it often struggles with. We are familiar with the dynamics of change - its joys and its sorrows and everything else that goes with it.

However, we are not just guided by the joy or the sorrow change will bring, but the deep knowledge that God's call to love and welcome one another cannot be ignored. We follow that love, not the celebration or the disappointment. We follow God's call to us, inching along until our own faith is tested - and then we act, hopefully, in love - removing any boundary to God, no matter how comfortable or uncomfortable that may be. What other choice could we have than be faithful to God's call?

When we remove these obstacles to unity and healing, many of us will enter into somewhat unfamiliar territory with each other. We will have been nudged together by the wide arms of God around our shoulders, bringing us close enough so that we can see God through one another's eyes, honoring God's presence in each other rather than our differences, wondering what took us so long.

When we get to this place, and we will, its effect will be considerably more than we could imagine. We will become heralds of God to a world that is broken by the differences used to define one another for human purposes, only. No longer will see one another as LGBT/Q or straight. In that great blinding presence of God, we will be just that - in the presence of God, together, as one - just as we are now. The difference? At this moment, many are too afraid to be blinded to our differences by such love and presence. What are we afraid of, anyway? Imagine, just imagine if we became that light to the world. How different and healed a world it would be. There should be no fear in such a call...

There is no question that we will one day eliminate G-6.0106b, whether it is this year or the next. And when it happens, we will step into that light together, as never before. Maybe that is frightening for some, if only because old fears will have to go. For many of us, it is the Wonder and Majesty of God that has been waiting for us to move with God, not with our fears.

There is a post-B world, one that is filled with healing, unity, and witness to God on a universal basis. It is wonderful to think that maybe, just maybe God has given us this time and challenge to bring God's love to more than just this church. Maybe we have been given this struggle to move more closely together. Perhaps we are the change agents in this new thing God is doing. Knowing that God is never about exclusion, we have but one real choice - to find a way to welcome and include each other. As individuals and as a church we have to find a way to welcome the LGBT/Q community into the full work and worship of the PC(USA) - or we will have failed in honoring God, in all the diverse and wonderful ways God is. It may take a while longer, but we cannot fail in such a way.

The ratification of 08-B is about faith and a leap of such faith into the light and love of God. We have to be ready for such a thing...

May this Holy Week be a time of great seeking and presence for all in God's grace and love. As we know again the Passion of Jesus and the indescribable sorrow our fears continue to produce, let us let go of the distance between us. Let us give up the fear on one another. Let us invite the world to join us in the fullness and unity that is ours to accept - if we can just accept one another.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Presbyteries continue to move closer together...

It's true, I think.

Each time a presbytery in the PC(USA) moves toward a more inclusive church, we all move more closely together. In that proximity, I expect we will find the solutions we seek to faithfulness and unity; a faithfulness and unity that can only be achieved with full inclusion of the LGBT/Q community.

It is not the LGBT/Q community that has created the separation in our church, but G-6.0106b. Once gone or altered, we will be witness and practioners of a love greater than our differences for all to follow.

Today six presbyteries voted. All chose unity, love, and and justice. They are:
Western New York,
Genessee Valley,
Philadelphia,
Grace,
Susquehanna Valley, and
New York City.

Philadelphia, Grace, and Western New York (a "no action" last time around) - represent three reversals from previous "no" or "no action" positions. They represent the 24, 25, and 26th presbyteries to do so. No presbytery has changed their vote from a "yes" to a no."

Prayers and thanks to all, and I mean everyone, who has been involved in and touched by this struggle. There is great healing and mission work that awaits us in a post-B world. The road to such a place continues to shorten....

Shalom,
Ray

Saturday, March 21, 2009

It's hard to describe...

Hi Folks,

I should be finishing up a sermon for tomorrow. And, I will, soon, but I just heard about some of the latest votes on Amendment 08-B.

The Presbyteries of Mackinac, Newark, and West Virginia have become the 21st, 22nd, and 23rd presbytery to reverse their last position on a G-6.0106b-related amendment, this time voting YES on 08-B. They were joined by Grand Canyon Presbytery, who also voted YES on 08-B.

You can view the full voting results on Presbyweb.com.

I will report that these last votes bring the tally to 51 YES, 76 NO, and 3 Ties (which are counted as NO). As we all know, a total of 87 votes is needed to ratify the amendment, and there are 47 votes to go. Those of us who support ratification need, and hopefully will be blessed with, 36 of those remaining votes.

As we continue to work and seek your support in ratifying 08-B, what has been challenging to accept is that our church comes to decisions about how we will be church by votes; in different times and different situations, with one group "winning" and the other "losing." In that process, sisters and brothers - all, we sometimes leave the outcomes less unified, less graceful, and I think a little less compassionate toward one another, always with some hurting and some celebrating, but, I think, with more and more of us saddened at how we treat one another in the name of Jesus Christ.

In many meetings during this ratification time, presbyteries have done careful and sacred planning to prepare for discussions and discernment. In each of these gatherings, I believe we have come a bit closer to knowing one another and the God who calls us together. It is my opinion that this time of ratification of 08-B has done more to move us toward a new way of discerning such critically important actions than any other conversations in recent memory.

We know we can do better as a church, and I believe that is why the elimination of the current language of G-6.0106b has become so important, whether it happens this time or the next. I believe that this mission to repair the Book of Order has begun to unite us in ways that were uninmaginable only a few years ago; it has already started to happen. So far, 23 presbyteries in their new decisions have been witnesses to such powerful new unity, driven by the Holy Spirit.

It is true that what was once voted in to divide us will do so until it is voted out to unite us. So be it. It may just be that the LGBT/Q Community, allies, supporters, and opponents, alike, have been given this struggle so that we, the PC(USA), might become one family in the name of Jesus Christ, for all to see.

It's hard to describe, but that would really be something...

Peace,
Ray


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Sticking with God's choice...

Dear Friends - 

A love story this morning. Unabashed and unrelenting....for Lisa Larges, the Minister Director of That All May Freely Serve. 

At the end of this week, Lisa will find her case for moving toward ordination coming before the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Synod of the Pacific. Lisa has been a candidate for ministry for well over 20 years, held back because of her openness as the person God ordained her to be, a Lesbian - created in the full glory of the Creator.

Unable to deter Lisa's love for God and the courage that has filled her from that place of call and creation, the opponents of LGBT folk are turning ever more diligently toward the "protections" they can find in the process for ordination and our polity. Some wonder whether these efforts have gone too far, raising the process and the polity to an ideologically rigid and idolatrous level, in effect, relegating the Spirit to second-class status.

In fact, the topic of idolatry is among some of Lisa's writings being raised up in the hearing as "evidence" that she is not fit to serve:

From the docket of Mary Holder Naegeli, J. Mark Stryker and Margaret H. Gelini, Complainants, v. The Presbytery of San Francisco.

"She [Lisa] is is a self-affirmed lesbian who has not been shy about her sexual orientation or behavior. The complaint culls from many of her written statements prepared for the presbytery. They include: 
  • She says she believes that “holy relationships of homosexuality … have parity with marriage.”
  • She calls “celibacy is morally repugnant.”
  •  She says Presbyterian polity “does not bar Presbyterian ministers from marrying same-sex couples.”
  • And she declares that G-6.0106b “makes an idol out of heterosexuality in a relationship of marriage between a man and a woman.”

These and other statements, my friends, clear expressions of Lisa's truth and love - are among the credentials for ordination. 

And, this kind of truth and love will always be targets; we are reminded of that directly during this time of Lent. Just follow the Scriptures...

 I am always struck by the irony that this time of the year, just like 2000 years ago, is a time chosen by the frightened and fearful who try to limit God's call in others. Especially, and almost exclusively, seeking to deter those of us who are LGBT and openly witnessing to the Spirit that insists we come out into the light.  

I am unsure, honestly, whether I love the love of God that is in Lisa more than I love Lisa herself for her courage and faithfulness. Then I remember that such love is always God, embodied in God's messengers, and that they are one and the same. 

God has chosen Lisa and I, in my growing wisdom, am sticking with God's choice.

Please remember to keep Lisa and the Synod of the Pacific in your prayers, praying that the Light of the Spirit gives oppression and marginalization little space for hiding.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Yellowsone Presbytery Chooses 08-B; 16th Presbytery to Reverse Vote

Hello Everyone - 

Today, March 3rd, Yellowstone Presbytery reversed previous historical votes and chose the values and justice embodied in 08-B. Congratulations to all who have been praying and working so hard in this discernment process. And, to all those who are feeling pain and disappointment, we pledge to remain faithful to our call of being a unified church for all and working toward healing and unity - with all our differences.

Our work of keeping up the conversations on 08-B around the country continues. A growing group of advocates are calling members of all the presbyteries yet to vote, asking for support on 08-B, as well as encouraging the dialogue of healing and moving past the divide of G-6.0106b.

We ask your prayers for the intensifying work of all the progressive groups and our supporters around the country who faithfully seek solidarity for the ratification of Amendment 08-B. 

If you would like to help with calls or have any information that you believe would help us to better engage our sisters and brothers in these calls, please let me know.

This week, the following presbyteries will be voting. Again, we invite you to pray for these presbyteries:

Mission Presbytery 

Coastal Carolina 

Heartland 

Holston 

John Calvin 

Trinity 

Whitewater Valley 

If you have any updates, please let me know.

We ask that you do all you can to support this effort in prayer and love for one another.

Peace, Ray

Monday, February 23, 2009

08-B Votes This Week: Update

I was talking with a friend of mine today and he reminded of the disturbance that "voting" on church matters often creates. The ideas of winners and losers in a church seem to propel the church into more of a secularly quantified entity, rather than one that understands the needs of others and supports all on their paths to God.

Still, it is true that the only way to remove the damage done by voting in G-6.0106b is to vote it out or vote to amend it. At best, the decision has to first embrace the division voting creates, once more. It will all be worth it, when the time comes, if the long-term outcome is healing and a diversified unity that more readily reflects the body of Christ, in which we share.

The benefits of such a time for our church will outshine any of the shadows we currently might cast in this ongoing struggle of building a majority. The way leads us through these times, as it did Jesus through his:  through a time of pastoral presence, witness, and prayer for all -- modeled just the way we hope our church will one day day be.

As of this evening, Saturday, February 28th, there are 36 votes in favor and 56 votes opposed. 87 Votes are needed to ratify the amendment.

Recent Votes:

02/24/2009
Cherokee: 24 Yes - 79 No
Hudson River: 94 Yes - 12 No - 1 Abstention
Milwaukee: 86 Yes - 24 No
Shenango: 4 Yes - 101 No

02/26/2009
Missouri Union: 31 Yes - 48 No
Peace River: 63 Yes - 82 No

02/27/2009
Indian Nations: 38 Yes - 43 No
South Alabama: 24 Yes - 33 no

02/28/2009
Central Nebraska
New Harmony: 20 Yes - 99 No
North Puget Sound: 42 Yes - 69 No
Northeast Georgia: 49 Yes - 89 No
Tampa Bay: 71 Yes - 105 No

Please visit
Presbyweb for more detailed information.

Peace,
Ray

Saturday, February 21, 2009

This is the time…

In the votes to date, fifteen presbyteries that voted “No” on the last attempt to delete G-6.0106b, have reconsidered and voted “Yes” in favor of 08-B. To date, there have been no reversals of previous “Yes” votes.

There is a shift underway, which can be seen even in the ties and close votes that have moved toward ratification A shift that emphasizes the real chance we have of embracing the recommendation of the 218th General Assembly to ratify of 08-B.

Outreach:
Across the national church, progressive organizations are faithfully at work, reaching out to minister members (active and retired) and elder commissioners of every presbytery. We ask you to join us in contacting all who have yet to hold their presbytery meetings, encouraging them to attend their gatherings and vote. We also ask that you extend to them the resources that are available from every major progressive group to assist in their discernment process. (Attached is an extensive packet from More Light Presbyterians that is comprehensive and very helpful.)

It is important to know that in each progressive group, individuals are prepared to talk with you and others you suggest, ready to answer questions and provide support. We welcome those who are in favor of ratification, and we respect those who are unable to support the position for change. Be assured that everyone is honored with such respect and courtesy. Christian ethics and practices never cease; during such times, they are critical. This is about the Church of Jesus Christ, the Body of Christ and our relationship with one another – differences and all – in a church that is near to welcoming our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender sisters and brothers as never before.

Please Help in Welcoming Unity and Healing:
The real work of unity and healing will follow the ratification of 08. We need you to help end this forty-one year struggle and usher in a new time. Here are some of the things you can do:

1. If you are able, be a voice in small groups and on the floor of your presbytery. Contact us if you would like help in ideas in participating in this way.

2. Please take note of the upcoming presbytery meetings. If you are a member of any of these presbyteries, contact minister members (active and retired), Elder commissioners, Commissioned Lay Pastors, and all those who might vote. Dialogue with them, encouraging them to attend the presbytery meeting (offer to travel with them, if you can), and extend to them the resources that are available.
http://www.presbyweb.com/Indexes/votes-08-B.htm

3. If you know others in different presbyteries that might be willing to support the ratification of 08-B, reach out to them, asking them to attend their meeting and vote.

4. Send the attached resource packet from More Light Presbyterians to all those you think may find it helpful.

5. If you have someone you would like contacted, reach out to one of the progressive partners of let us know. We are ready to speak with them them.

6. If you know anyone in your or other presbyteries that may need a ride to a meeting, contact us. We are creating a network to make sure that anyone who wishes to get to a meeting, requires child care, or has other special needs are accommodated so they are able to vote.

If there is anything else you can think of, let me know or contact any of your friends within the progressive groups that are listed below or others in your regional areas. Everyone is ready to help.

We have until May 18th to enter into the promise of this kairos, a passage that will lead us to a time of unity and healing, embracing the teachings of Jesus AND one another, extending the gifts and energies of all into a world that needs us, more than we know.

Blessing upon you all,

Ray Bagnuolo 914 682 3659
Minister-at-Large Presbytery of Hudson River; Member of the Board of More Light Presbyterians


Contact Information

Covenant Network www.covenantnetwork.org Tricia Dykers Koenig triciadk@covenantnetwork.org

More Light Presbyterian Resource Packet on 08-B on the website www.mlp.org Debra Peevey debra@mlp.org

Presbyterian Welcome www.presbyterianwelcome.org Comprehensive and up-to-date information on the vote

That All May Freely Serve www.tamfs.org

Witherspoon Society www.witherspoonsociety.org

Prebytery Votes for 2/20-2/21/09

At Friday and Saturday presbytery meetings, these presbyteries' results have been announced:
Yes Votes:
Arkansas (a reversal): 116 yes - 64 no
Eastern Oregon: 22 yes - 6 no
Giddings-Lovejoy: 125 yes - 83 no
Greater Atlanta (a reversal): 243 yes - 233 no - 5 Abstentions
John Knox: 39 yes - 13 no
Mid-Kentucky: 90 yes - 19 no
New Hope (a reversal): 177 yes - 139 no - 1 abstention
Ohio Valley (reversal): 57 yes - 44 no
Sante Fe: 110 yes - 23 no
Tres Rios (a reversal): 37 yes- 34 no

No Votes
Homestead: 37 yes - 40 no
The James: 125 yes - 192 no
Lake Erie: 32 yes - 58 no
North Alabama: 30 yes - 48 no
Sacramento: 65 yes - 75 no
Tropical Florida: 21 yes - 93 no

So far, 15 presbyteries have reversed their positions since their last G-6.0106b-related vote

As of this note:
34 Yes - 45 No

A Note:
Such a close votes, once again, point to the work that will follow the ratification of this amendment. Passage will usher in a time of unity and healing, more than any celebration of victory. The reason for eliminating the exisitng G-6.0106b is to be able to move forward in our church and this world in the ways we have been called to serve, without the barriers that have been erected to separate us.

Ratification is a critical step to the unity of this church and our message to those seeking to follow the teachings of Jesus in their lives.

Please continue to pray with us for a time when such healing and welcoming are the gifts we share with all.

Peace,
Ray