Letter to the Editor of the Layman
Responding to: Stockton Presbytery Joins John Knox Complaint
[Re: Ordination of Scott Anderson]
Dear Sisters and Brothers:
Not too long ago, the receptionist at our church called me late at night. There was someone in our foyer in hospital garb, slippers, and a catheter hanging from his arm. We came to find out that he had been in a local hospital for detoxification from alcohol and somewhere in the process simply disconnected himself from the IV and walked out, leaving everything behind. It was a cold night and he came directly to the church. He was pretty disoriented, but we got him some clothes from our clothing distribution room, food from our pantry, contacted the hospital, and got him help in removing the catheter from his arm. We kept him company, making little sense of his ramblings, but after a while, we convinced him to go to a local shelter and get some rest.
He is one of the hundreds we serve each month in our worship as outreach.
A few days later, I saw the gentleman at our weekly dinner program, where we serve almost 100 people a week who have either no food, no company, or no other place to go. I asked him how he was doing, and in conversation asked him what made him come to us when he left the hospital. Without missing a beat, his answer was: "It was where I knew I could find God." For him, on that night, God was a welcome, food, clothing, and help in finding a place to rest. His faith did, indeed, set him free.
It didn't matter that as the pastor of the church I am gay. In fact, being gay in the PC(USA) no longer matters any more than being straight does. People will argue about that, but we, as a church, have already deleted G-6.0106b. It's gone in our hearts and in practice. True, some still find comfort in the same kind of teachings that once held women and people of color to be second-class in God's eyes. However, the reality is that we already work together and serve God as a community of great diversity that includes gender identity fully.
I honestly do wish to continue to dialogue with those who disagree, because I believe they are being faithful in their own ways and we need to pray and talk together. However, those who are unable or unwilling to accept the truth that this artificial division between us is no longer valid cannot be allowed to prevent others who believe differently from full inclusion in this church. The lives of faithful people cannot be divided along gender identity any more than they can along the lines of the sexes or color.
In a short time, we will all gather in Minneapolis for our General Assembly. We will worship together, work together, share meals, cabs, and conversations. We will pray and seek God's will. And, the "we" will include many of us who identify themselves as gay, whether spoken aloud or not. We will agree and disagree. Sooner or later, it will be apparent that, in fact, G-6.0106b has been deleted in the way God has moved this church and its people. Sooner or later, the constitution will catch up. In the meantime, none of us can be held hostage by what we know in our hearts to be wrong.
Like the gentleman who found us on that cold night, there are too many people "seeking God" for us to deny any qualified candidate from ordination based on G-6.0106b.
Scott Anderson is clearly qualified to be ordained. To hold G-6.0106b against him or anyone else is to hold this church hostage to an aberration in our constitution. We no longer allow the few who still hold onto prejudices against women and people of color to hold us hostage to their beliefs, nor should we allow those who have yet to embrace the gay community to marginalize or exclude us.
It is no longer about G-6.0106b.
Ray Bagnuolo, Minister of Word and Sacrament
Serving Jan Hus Presbyterian Church and Neighborhood House
New York, NY