Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ratification's Challenge: The Good News

The recent ratification of Amendment 14F by greater than a 2/3 majority of presbyteries reflects a powerful statement by the Presbyterian Church (USA) and its members. Added to the the changes in ordination and marriage equality, this ratified revision of the description of marriage - erases the constitutional barriers to inclusion based on gender and sexual identity in the denomination.
It is almost a moment too great to contemplate. Forty years and lifetimes of prayer and sacrifice; decades of marginalization met with steadfast resistance; the resulting study of the bible and texts; the lifting up of God's glorious diversity in one another; and the refusal to let others define us: these reflect only part of the story of prophetic and courageous acts of justice and love by this denomination's members. We have truly made the way clear for the PC(USA) and others to follow in the evangelism that is now ours to share.
But we are not done.
Long before there existed any progressive movement or the advances that have been achieved, the treatment of our sisters and brothers who identified as queer -- was wrong, terribly wrong. And, recent legislation did not make us somehow, suddenly "right."
The changes we are witnessing have to be viewed as the acknowledgment that for years our and other communities of faith have been wrong, sinfully wrong in the way our sisters and brothers who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer+ have been unwelcome. The charges of inhospitality carry a heavy price in the sacred texts, and our queer community has borne the brunt of exclusion and the residual violence - simply because others refused to see what the majority of folks have now come to know.
While one could make the argument that these changes and levels of acceptance and understanding take time, and they would be correct to do so -- I would counter that the levels of love and hospitality, supplanted by fear and judgment is where the original error exists, not in who God created us to be.
Our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers have brought about more than a change in the constitution of the PC(USA), our sisters and brothers are bringing about a change in the way we love and accept one another. These forty years have been forty years of bringing the Good News to resounding levels that can now be heard by more people than ever before.
The question is: Is the church up to this new thing God is doing?
To be heard, institutions such as the PC(USA) cannot simply rely on legislative changes or practices to point to catharsis. Years of teachings and practices that have caused so much pain, suffering and contributed to the violence of so many -- have to be directly addressed at the highest of levels. It is such an acknowledgment of the wrongs and harms done as a result of the past positions of the denomination that first must be spoken -- before the new welcoming to those who have been shunned can be heard.
This ancient practice of amends and admission of wrongs done is now more critical than ever before. Any prospect for reconciliation that lay ahead will depend upon it, for this is the path that must be followed if we are to eliminate fear and judgment with love and hospitality.
It is a time to admit and acknowledge that the Love of God and one another has been renewed in ways by the Presbyterian Church (USA) that was long-lost and has now been found. A time to welcome, as never before!
Such an admission and invitation, spoken with courage and humility, will open our doors more widely than we could ever imagine. It will change the way the church and its teachings and practices have been misused to harm others for way too long.
This is what the ratification of 14F now challenges us to do.
And, my friends, this is the Good News. Good News for all.
~ Ray Bagnuolo

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Coming out is not always easy...

"And he said to them, 'Is a lamp bought that is placed under a basket, or under a bed? Should it not be placed on a lamp stand? For there is not anything which is hidden that will not be revealed, and not anything existing in secret that won't be revealed. If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.' And then Jesus said to the disciples, 'Watch what you hear. With that measure that you measure. It will be measured to you and it is increased to you, those who hear.' For to those who have, it shall be given. And for those who have not, also it shall be taken from them.'" Mark 4:21-25 [Aramaic English New Testament - modified for inclusive language]
Coming out is not always easy. It can happen in many ways and at any time. Still in places today, the threat of being "outed" is used to keep our "lamps" hidden away, held back from the darkness that so needs the light. The closet and the darkness continue to do untold damage, "measuring life" by the limited space in which our spirit breathes freely, constraining the light - never a good thing to do. Living in a complex of secrets riddled with fear obscures not only what we perceive but also what we hear; constraining the kindom of God that is within and what it calls us to do...in all the many ways we are called.
Attempting to hold back God never ends well. Whereas the opposite frees us to embrace more of "the measure" that is given us to participate in our world, loved by God and loving others in that measure and steadily growing free of fear. Living into our light dispels the darkness of oppression, revealing all - whether the marginalization of gender differences, the bigotry that thrives on fear, or any other form of domination.
Some might say we have a choice about coming out. In small ways, that is true. In the larger sense of who we are created to be and the lamp we have to shine so that others may see and hear and shine their lamp in the company of others who know the way... we have only the responsibility to be the light God created us to be.
To do otherwise is to be silenced and complicit in the darkness.
Never a good thing...
~ Ray Bagnuolo, May 9, 2015