Wednesday, May 11, 2011

About Last Night ...

Yesterday the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) took a leap of faith into a future that looks more like the rich garden of God’s good creation. The Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area became the 87th presbytery to affirm a change to the denomination’s constitution that will allow for the ordination of faithful, called and qualified gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender candidates for clergy and other ordained church offices. With the vote last evening, more than one half of the denomination’s 173 presbyteries have voted to affirm a change adopted by last summer’s 219th General Assembly (which, by coincidence or providence, also met in Minneapolis).
My wife and I celebrated the change over dinner with the first openly gay, partnered elder in Virginia, his partner of more than 20 years, and another friend. This dinner by coincidence, or providence, had been arranged by the friend well before we knew that yesterday, May 10-A, would be the day that would see passage of amendment 10-A, as the measure has come to be called.
The dinner had nothing to do with the church’s politics, and everything to do with my congregation’s long-standing, deep commitment to radical hospitality. The soup for dinner, as well as the idea for this gathering, came from a young woman who has been worshipping with us for a few months. She is the victim of what I would call theological abuse or church malpractice. The details of her story belong to her, but I will simply say that when she suffered a debilitating illness as a teenager her fundamentalist pastor told her adoptive parents that the disease was a result of her sinfulness, and her parents threw her out of the house. To say that she is leery of church is a profound understatement.
But she has found a new experience of faith community at Clarendon, and a huge part of that has come in the incredible hospitality and generosity shown by the couple we shared dinner with last night.
Their lives – their whole lives – testify to their deep faithfulness, and they are not alone. Our little church has dozens of deeply faithful people who welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, care for the lost and the least, and also happen to be gay or lesbian or bisexual. A healthy handful of those men and women have been ordained to the office of elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in defiance of the long-standing ban on such ordinations. They have served (and some continue to serve) their terms of office in good faith, “submit[ting] joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life,” as the newly adopted language puts it.
Like many (some straight, some not) these faithful men and women did not live in “fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness,” as the Book of Order has read from the mid-1990s until today’s change (which becomes effective after the final presbytery votes on July 10.) They lived, instead, in fidelity in same-gender relationships – marriages as true as my own to my beloved of 29 years.
As a new day dawns for the Presbyterian Church, my prayer is that the entire church will get to experience the full range of gifts from the full range of our membership. Together we can bring more light to the vast parts of the nation and the world that still dwell in such deep darkness when it comes to the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Together we can witness more fully and faithfully to the love and justice of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

No comments: