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 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.


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,

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.