Friday, July 6, 2012

GA220: A Display of Rainbow Grace!

I know. We ended up this assembly with ANOTHER STUDY. True. But what continues to be most amazing about this assembly is not the outcome but the demonstration, the promise of what is to come.

Think about what happened here. We had a vice moderator who resigned because of pressure she received for marrying a lesbian couple. We cringed at how she was treated. And, at a meeting to process the swirl of rumor and fact that surrounded her stepping down, ministers stood up and identified themselves openly as having performed same gender weddings. Ruth Hamilton, David Ensign, Mieke Vandersall, and I made it clear that we, too, conducted and will continue to conduct these marriage in states where they are legal - as being faithful to our ordination vows.

Others will follow as we simply refuse to accept the injustice. More will come...

Rev. Ruth Hamilton, a commissioner to the GA from National Capital, in a powerful statement from the plenary floor called others to COME OUT and identify themselves, their churches, and councils as having been part of the growing number of ministers and churches marrying same gender couples.

Looking for prophetic voices?  We haven't heard anything yet!

I don't know if you remember, but to get someone to even whisper such things in the not too distant past was almost impossible except for a very few. And they often found themselves quickly charged. It seems such threats, whether based in polity or out of efforts at intimidation have lost their salt. 

And, consider that it was at the last assembly that we passed Amendment 10-A that is now ratified and in our Book of Order. We are now ordaining pastors who would have been kept out with G-6.0106b, just two years ago. And today, at the very next general assembly we are in the process of bringing marriage equality to a mainline protestant denomination - the PC(USA). 

Yes, we are behind...but we are catching up in a hurry.

I can't help think about how many years it took to get G-6.0106b out of the Book of Order.  

And marriage? 

Remember, it was at the last general assembly that a parliamentary procedure was used to prevent marriage from even being discussed. We never even got to talk about it, following the exceptional report compiled by the marriage committee. And this year we not only get the amendment to the floor of the presbytery, we come back and nearly pass an amendment to change the constitution to become more welcoming for same gender couples in marriage with a margin of less than 5% separating the voltes: 308 - 338! 

And! In the process of getting to this vote, the commissioners turned back two minority reports, did not limit debate, and dismissed a series of claims about whether or not the amendment was even in order. What followed was more than a four hour conversation on the lives of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender - those who love them, their pastors and families, and what this church is not doing to make us as welcome and safe as we all should be as baptized sisters and brothers. 

The evidence of grace is everywhere. I truly believe that every minute every single person who ever worked for justice and love in this church for the LGBT community is building to critical mass. Call it a crest, a tipping point, an emergence, or the Holy Spirit - it is happening and we have a terrific community building in numbers and strength to take us forward. Just take a look at the YAD's, TSAD's, and others - who even in disagreement came together. Courage, too, was on display.

Yes, there was some snarky stuff that happened, the comments that took the air out of the room, the extreme anger and ignorance that surfaced here and there, not to mention the treatment of the Tara and Neal. It was on display for more and more people to see just what we face all too often - and what no one should ever face in the church, any church, especially not this church.

I also have to mention the powerful sermons of The Rev. Dr. Margaret Aymer Oget and Elder Tony De La Rosa, with thanks to Cindy Bolbach for bringing their message to us all. My friend Joe Gilmore, the pastor of South Presbyterian Church in Dobbs Ferry, NY once told me that he often thought of God pacing the horizon, waiting, waiting for us to catch up. We're on our way God, on out way...and we've got a rainbow scarves around our necks, flowing in the wind!

I came here expecting to leave with it all. And, honestly, we will leave with more than we expected -- and work to do.

Thank you all for your hard work and faithfulness in staying true to this call. We have only just begun, and the clock to the 221st General Assembly has already started. 

In all the ways you may know God, give thanks - as I do for each and every one of you.

Ray


4 comments:

Cleve Evans said...

Thanks so much for this post. I think you are absolutely right about everything -- and thanks for all you have done for the cause yourself. You are a big part of why we are where we are today, Ray.

David Ensign said...

Thanks Ray, for this uplifting piece and all the more so for your continued powerful and faithful witness to the church. I am so grateful to be able to call you a friend and colleague in ministry. Peace my brother.

mistrojock said...

Ray,
I am not a Presbyterian. I am a student the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, and some of my closest friends and colleagues are students or graduates from UPSem. I am very encouraged for what is happening at GA, specifically with the LGBT Christian community. You are correct in that there is still more to do within the kingdom of God. It is my hope other members of the Church, will listen and be guided by the Holy Spirit, and not by the vicious attacks.
Blessings,
Tom Baynham
Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond

Tony De La Rosa said...

Thank you for your very kind words about my sermon, Ray, and thank you for all that you do to advance the radically inclusive love of Christ.
Tony De La Rosa