Monday, November 29, 2010

Voting Analysis: Season One

As the holidays draw closer and as presbytery voting on Amendment 10a starts to slow down, let’s take a moment to quickly analyze the data from this first season of voting. Despite the scoreboard (5 wins 12 loses) there are some definite positive trends, and - if one looks at previous votes from 2001 and 2008 (08-B and 01-A, or previous overtures similar to Amendment 10a) - the news is encouraging.


A QUICK SUMMARY OF VOTES FROM THIS FALL:


Yes votes: 5

No votes: 12

Previous "yes" presbyteries held at "yes": 5 out of 5


Presbyteries shifting pro-equality: 13

Presbyteries shifting anti-equality: 4


Long story short: the final "yes" and "no" votes were expected, but the close margins were not - there is a good bit of movement in support of 10A. The key word here is "momentum."



THE BREAKDOWN:


1) Supporters of 10a are holding important ground and increasing margins of victory. Of the 17 presbyteries that have voted thus far, every presbytery that ratified 2008’s 08-B overture (5) also ratified this year’s 10A Amendment. More importantly, of the 4 presbyteries that produced voting numbers (the Presbytery of Northern New York - which voted in favor of the amendment - took an unrecorded hand vote) all voted in favor of 10a with a higher margin than that of 2008’s 08-B vote.


2) There is momentum. James presbytery, for instance, was only 39.4% in favor of 2008’s 08-B resolution, yet jumped 10% in favor of this year’s 10a amendment, resulting in a 50/50 tie. Moreover, of the 17 presbyteries that have voted thus far, only 4 saw a dip in support from their 2008 08-B vote, and none by more than 5.5% (most were within a point or two). The other 12 that produced vote tallies all saw 3-20% increases in support when compared to the 2008 vote.


3) Early returns signal that approval for the amendment is increasing, including areas where support has waned in the past. Of the 17 presbyteries that have voted thus far, 8 were less supportive of the 2008’s 08-B resolution than they were of the 2001’s 01-A resolution. This time around, however, these limited downward trends seem to have stopped: 7 of those 8 presbyteries were more supportive of 2010‘s 10a than of 2008’s 08-B.


For a visual explanation of all of this, check out the picture below. It shows the shifts from 2001 to 2010, and includes the overall “percent yes” tallies from similar votes from previous years. More importantly: notice the large amount of green beginning with the 10A voting numbers. For supporters of 10a, this is an encouraging sign.



(click the image to make it bigger)

Green = upward trend of support. Red = Downward trend. Gold = Ratified Amendment 10a

When you put it all together, these early results exhibit encouraging trends: supporters of 10a are holding ground, running up the score, and bolstering support in new areas.



Sunday, November 21, 2010

219th GA Overture Advocate Rev. Peggy Howland on Amendment 10-A

Rev. Peggy Howland: "I was the 12th woman ordained a minister in the Presbyterian Church 52 years ago only two years after women's ordination was approved."



Friday, November 12, 2010

God Has Blessed What the Book of Order Tries to Prohibit

Rev. Randall Tremba
Rev. Randall Tremba, pastor of Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church in West Virginia, shared the following testimony with the elder commissioners of the Shandendoah Presbytery before they voted on Amendment 10-A.
Dear colleague in ministry,

As pastor of the only church in our Presbytery to knowingly ordain a “practicing homosexual,” I’d like to tell you of the consequences—consequences none of us anticipated at that highly controversial and precarious moment in January 2002. The consequences in a word: blessings.

While I was away on a three month sabbatical in the fall of 2001, the nominating committee prepared a slate of nominees for the offices of elder and deacon. Upon my return, I learned that one of the nominees for deacon was a lesbian, a devoted member, and a long-time Presbyterian.

I was shocked and dismayed by the nomination because I anticipated a conflicted and embattled Session and a divided congregation. I was pretty sure the Session was not of one mind on this matter. And it wasn’t. The one thing we all agreed on was to abide by the constitution of the church. We recessed for a week to allow each elder time to reexamine the Book of Confessions, the Book of Order and the Bible in light of this pending decision.

We convened a week later. Each elder stated which way he or she was leaning and why. Some leaned for; some against. We listened to each reason. Then we took a 20-minute recess to be alone and pray. After reconvening, the vote was unanimous to ordain.

In brief, none of us believed that Christ would ever call a 25 year-long-relationship of love and care (in sickness and health) for another person, unclean or unchaste. This deacon-elect, we believed, had “practiced chastity” as a “single” (legally unmarried) person in an unofficial “covenant” relationship. As it turns out, chastity is not celibacy! Chastity we discovered was something Calvin intended for married couples to practice. Still, as you may know, Presbytery rebuked us for “irregularities.”

Despite that rebuke, the Lord is doing a new thing among us and within the larger Shepherdstown region. The Lord has honored our work and witness more than any could have imagined. Devout and even lapsed and disillusioned Christians (homosexual and heterosexual) have risen up to praise God and to give their hearts to serving our Lord anew. Many are returning to the church for the first time in a long time. Together we gladly and boldly proclaim that Christ’s way of bold and courageous love is indeed THE way, the truth and the life. There is no other way!!

More people than ever are attending Sunday services (two) and participating in multiple education and formation classes, seminars and forums. Our Sunday School is bursting at the seams. Our youth group has multiplied. Our youth take great pride in being part of a church that publicly welcomes homosexuals. Until last year’s economic crunch, we were able to meet (and sometimes exceed) Presbytery’s shared mission “askings.” We have increased our staff and are about to undertake yet another building refurbishment project.

I have come to believe that all the pious and proper polity explanations in the world would never have had the evangelical power of that one simple, public act of ordination to ministry. We all know—as missionaries have taught us—that ministry must always be done in context. I don’t know about your particular context, but I can tell you this: in our parish the Lord has mightily blessed what the current Book of Order (G-6.0106b) tries mightily to prohibit. This is a gracious opportune moment to remove that offense to the work of the Holy Spirit.

In Christ,

Randall Tremba
On November 10, 2010 the Shanendoah Presbytery failed to ratify Amendment 10-A by a vote of 93 yes to 106 no. The Shanendoah vote for Amendment 08-B in 2009 was 82 yes to 112 no.

Download Letter from Rev. Randall Tremba (pdf)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Top 10 Steps to Ratify Amendment 10-A

Get involved! Help build the Church that reflects God’s heart, one conversation at a time.
  1. Why do you support the ratification of Amendment 10A? Can you articulate it in 5 minutes or less?  If you need help, study the resources available on: http://www.amendment10a.org/p/campaign-resources.html and http://www.covnetpres.org/category/amendment-10-a/
  2. Start close to home. Talk to your friends and family. Not only can they help you hone your ideas, you never know who they might know or how they might want to help. Your enthusiasm might ignite theirs to get involved!
  3. Talk to your minister and encourage her/him to be involved. MLP has powerful bulletin inserts and other resources to help humanize the “issue” of LGBT inclusion. These inserts could be great discussion starters. They would also be perfect support for a pastor preaching on 10 A. Download bulletin inserts and placemats here: http://www.amendment10a.org/2010/11/yes-on-10-inserts-placemats.html
  4. Encourage discussion about the Amendment in your own congregation. Host a coffee hour, suggest a Sunday school seminar, and get people thinking. If yours is a More Light Congregation, take the lead and host a discussion to share your experience and answer questions about Amendment 10 A for your presbytery.
  5. Learn what is happening in your presbytery. When is the amendment coming forward for discussion and a vote? Plan to attend and organize other supporters to attend with you.
  6. If you aren’t the Elder Commissioner for the 10 A vote, talk to your Elder Commissioners. Let them know why you support 10A. Encourage them to support it and speak to their support on the floor of presbytery.
  7. Write a letter to the editor of one of the Presbyterian magazines explaining why you support Amendment 10A. Use the resources from the websites above to help you in your explanation.
  8. Sign up with MLP to recruit volunteers. debra@mlp.org
  9. Sign up with MLP to engage in conversations with voting delegates in targeted presbyteries. debra@mlp.org
  10. Write your heartfelt experiences as you build the Church and share them with me. We will select some to put on the web as inspiration to others.


Friday, November 5, 2010

Knit and Pray Our Way to Adopting 10-A!!

I hope you have seen a picture or a story that captures the gracious presence of the rainbow scarves knitted and crocheted by so many last year for we Presbyterians gathered at the 219th General Assembly in Minneapolis last July.

Each one of the almost 2,000 scarves was a beam of light around necks, hanging from belts, draped over shoulders--all kinds of imaginative ways to carry the message of God’s love for all God’s children, including our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender beloved. And your witness has helped give us the opportunity to inspire the presbyteries to vote YES on Amendment 10-A so that we can return to the PCUSA tradition of ordination resting upon faith, call, gifts and preparation.

Help us NOW to witness in our presbyteries
to God’s love for all!!

Though you know I think big, the fact is over 20,000 commissioners in our 173 presbyteries will be voting between now and June on Amendment 10-A. I am not asking you all to knit or crochet that many.

I am asking you to knit and crochet as many as you or your knitting group is able to create so that we can send them to every commissioner voting in the presbyteries that have less than 100 voting members. For so many reasons I am sure you recognize, the gift of handmade scarves as a witness to God’s embracing love for the recipient and for God’s GLBT children in the church can have a mighty impact in this small presbyteries.

Presbyteries are already voting though most will vote in the late winter, early spring. Please send them to me as fast as you can, as soon as you can:

Janet Edwards
1117 South Negley Av
Pittsburgh, PA 15217

If you have any questions you can email me: janetmccuneedwards@yahoo.com

I am knitting away myself. I use large needles, 10 stitches across, a yard long and I leave the tails to symbolize that the work (Grace for our GLBT children) is not done yet. We need quantity right now.

But I am sure you all can combine quantity and creativity!

I look forward to receiving your scarves and sending them on to our Presbyterian brothers and sisters. THANKS in advance for your sacrificial effort!!

Here are the knitting instructions from the 219th General Assembly:

Knitting Instructions.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Yes on 10-A Bulletin Inserts & Placemats!

"Yes on Ordination Amendment 10-A" worship bulletin inserts & placemats for church fellowship meals are available now for download. You can download and print out these inserts and placemats for Sunday worship, your community fellowship meals and for presbytery meetings. Each insert and placemat tells the stories of Presbyterians serving God in and through the Presbyterian Church (USA). Our hurting world needs as many Presbyterian deacons, Elders and ministers serving now more than ever regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or any other human condition. These inserts & placemats inspire us to understand fully why one ordination standard for all Presbyterians will be good for our Church and the world.

Download Bulletin Inserts
Download Placemat


Monday, November 1, 2010

219th GA Overture Advocate Rev. Ray Bagnuolo on Amendment 10A

MLP Board Member Rev. Ray Bagnuolo: "So I am asking that we together as a faith community lead the way toward love and understanding by eliminating G-6.0106b and following instead the new GA's recommendation to focus on each candidates calling, gifts, preparation and suitability for the responsibilities of the office."