Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Day of Some Grace

Another day, another opportunity to testify. Today it was back into the ongoing struggle over ordination issues in the church. Here are my remarks to National Capital Presbytery on the overture from Clarendon to delete G-6.0106b from the Book of Order:

... I want to raise two brief concerns.
First, some of you may question the timing of this overture given the Birmingham General Assembly's endorsement of the Peace, Unity and Purity Task Force report's call for a season of discernment. On the other hand, some of you may also say, "we've been discerning on these concerns for more than 30 years."
Wherever you find yourself on that, I think it's clear that we tend not to talk about these issues absent a moment of decision. After all, it's been two years now since the PUP task force issued its final report and 18 months since GA endorsed it. For the past 18 months there has been a great silence across the church, broken for the most part only when candidates for ordination are questioned on the floor of presbytery about their sex lives.
The time has come either to delete "b" or recast it in language more faithful to our Reformed heritage, for it is clearly failed legislation that has, for the past decade, undermined the peace, unity and purity of the church. It has done so in part because it has only ever been used to target gays and lesbians and never to cast a light on those of us who, for example, regularly fail to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy.
So to the question of timing I would say simply, the timing is right, for it is never the wrong time to correct an error, and it is always the right time to do justice.
Secondly, I raise a simple pastoral concern. Last month a young woman visited us for worship at Clarendon. She was among that highly desirable "young adult" demographic. At the door after worship when I greeted her she said, "I'd like to ask you a question."
I was intimidated, but I said, "fire away."
She told me that she'd checked out our website and noted our claim that "all are welcome." She wanted to know if it was true, as we claimed, that we "treat all Presbyterians equally without regard to sexual orientation" and include all members in the full life of the church.
I assured her that this was the case, and then she told me that she'd come to worship that morning on behalf of two friends -- a lesbian couple -- who were afraid that they would not be welcomed ... afraid that they would not be safe.
I was deeply saddened and also angered that a couple who obviously wanted to come to church would feel that they needed to send an emissary to see if they would be safe.
The toxic language of the present "b" ensures that millions of folks -- gay men, lesbian women, and their friends and loved ones -- will continue to eye with deep and well-grounded suspicion every church sign that says, "all are welcome," because the language in our constitution clearly tells them that some are not.
It is from deep theological conviction and deeper pastoral concern that I urge your support of this overture. The time has come.

The overture was endorsed on a voice vote and will go to General Assembly this spring. By a 60-40 margin, an additional overture that simply deletes G-6.0106b also was endorsed. A day, perhaps, of some grace.


Anonymous said...

"Give to every human being every right that you claim for yourself." ~Robert Ingersoll

Good work! A day of grace and gratitude! May we escort this proposal to the General Assembly with prayers for compassion and acceptance. Thank you!

Beloved Spear said...

I'm pleased to hear that it passed, but am a bit surprised that a voice vote was sufficient.

Anonymous said...

We are all sinners -- everyone on of us. Some of us are sorry for our sin. Others want to have our sin affirmed and accepted. If the PC(USA) were to apply the standard regarding keeping the Sabbath, I'm sure there would be two types of people.

There would be those who would acknowledge that they do not keep the Sabbath, but who would be sorry for the failure, and who would say, "I struggle with my failure to keep the Sabbath, which I acknowledge as sin, and I promise, with God's help and the help of people who love me, to try to keep the Sabbath better."

Then there would be others who would say, "How dare you call not keeping the Sabbath "sin". God made me this way. It is truly a gift from God that I do not keep the Sabbath. God's love embraces all, including those of us who refuse to keep the Sabbath, so who are you to exclude me from ordination? Those who want to exclude non-Sabbath-keepers are hate-filled bigots because they expect us to keep the Sabbath."