Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I'll Have My People Call Your People

MLP Staff and Board Members Make Calls at BOL.
Photo by Richard W. Garnett.
The National Gay & Lesbian Task Force training team gathered us into a hotel ballroom at the Believe Out Loud Conference in Orlando. Through a presentation and practice session that were both informative and entertaining we were equipped for the serious business of working a strategy to ratify the General Assembly’s affirmative action on Amendment 10-A.

The humbling, exciting and unifying dimension of this particular phone call outreach was that less than a fourth of the approximately one hundred callers were Presbyterian. The rest were friends working in their own denominations toward a similar goal: the full inclusion of persons who are LGBT in the life of the whole Church. These friends worked side by side with us, calling on Presbyterians all over the country to stand for just reform of Presbyterian polity. Armed with an outline script and a five minute briefing on Presbyterian polity and vocabulary, they boldly took to the phones in solidarity with us.

“Ding!” “He said, ‘yes!’ and gave me the names of four other people.” “Ding!” “They have a More Light committee at their church and they’ll all work on the campaign.” “Ding!” “She has already started organizing in her presbytery for 10-A.”

Every time a call resulted in a volunteer eager to join the effort to ratify Amendment 10-A, the caller rang one of the service desk type bells that were scattered throughout the phone bank room. “Ding” was the encouraging sound that punctuated the evening and signaled we are indeed getting closer to being a church that welcomes all God’s children.

Rev. Heidi Peterson is the Pastor at Central Presbyterian Church in Kansas City, Missouri and serves on MLP's Board.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Amendment 10a Voting Analysis - Winter Season, Part 2

Votes so far: 23 (151 left to go)

Yes votes: 6
No votes: 17
Previous "yes" presbyteries held at "yes": 5 out of 6
Previous “No” presbyteries changed to “Yes”: 1

Presbyteries shifting pro-equality: 16*
Presbyteries shifting anti-equality: 6

*The Presbytery of Northern New York voted in favor of the amendment, but they took an unrecorded hand vote.  As such, they do not have any data other than their final “yes” vote

Long story short: The positive trend of support continues, but a few surprises and missteps reemphasize the urgent importance of our efforts to engage in open and prayerful conversation with as many voters as we can.

The Breakdown

The Good
As mentioned in the last update, most presbyteries that voted in this late-winter season (6) continue to show an upswing in support for Amendment 10-A when compared to votes on 2008-2009’s 08b amendment.  Presbyteries increased the “yes” percentages by as much as 11.4% over previous years.  This trend, again, is a positive sign, although not always enough to change the ultimate outcome of the vote.

We also saw our first positive vote reversal of the year: the presbytery of Eastern Oklahoma - which voted 49-56 against the 08b amendment in 2008/09 (or 46.7% in favor) - changed its vote to 55-53 (or 50.92% in favor) in support of this year’s 10-A amendment.  As wonderful as this vote is, it also highlights the effectiveness of the conversations being held between our staff and volunteers and members of the presbytery.  Unlike other presbytery votes so far, the raw number of voting delegates increased from 105 in 2008 to 108 in 2010.  This, combined with the vote outcome, indicates that our prayers and our telephone conversations helped to encourage 6 more people to the presbytery meeting this time around.  It’s a small number, but it was enough to change the outcome!

The Bad
Kendall Presbytery voted 5-17 against amendment 10-A, which is 2.2% less supportive than the 6-18 spread of their 08b vote.  More painful, however, were the results from Lake Huron: whereas the presbytery voted 43-32 in favor of the last year’s 08b amendment, this year’s 10-A vote ended in 33-39 (a loss of 11.4% support), changing from last year’s vote and defeating the amendment.

This loss was not without reason: there was a misunderstanding about when Lake Huron was set to vote on 10-A.  As such, our team found out the correct time and date just days before the actual vote, meaning that our volunteers and staff were unable to talk with very many members of this presbytery.

Thus, the lesson is clear: when we engage in respectful and strategic conversations, we can change minds, encourage participation, and influence the ultimate outcome of the presbytery’s vote.  When we don’t, we run the risk of losing presbyteries, even if they once supported our cause.

Eighteen presbyteries are scheduled to vote during the month of January.  We encourage you to contact us and volunteer.  Together we can build a church that more fully reflects God’s inclusive heart.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

219th GA Overture Advocate Ralph Jones on Amendment 10-A

Elder Ralph Jones: “I served our committee on preparation for ministry for six years during which time we spent many hours wrestling with the implications of G-6.0106b. Despite our differences, I think it fair to say we came to recognize that the present language was not helping us or our inquirers and candidates as we tried to discern God's calling in their lives.”

Friday, December 10, 2010

Floor Speech of Rev. Todd Freeman in Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery

Rev. Todd Freeman
Pastor of College Hill Presbyterian Church
Tulsa, Oklahoma

Of a hundred points I’d like to address, I’ll mention only two. And although I speak with passion, I also speak from the heart.

1.  The categorical exclusion of others, and the establishment of partisan polity that marginalizes some of our sisters and brothers (as I and so many others believe G-6.0106b does concerning gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons of faith) encourages others to believe that homosexual persons are somehow deserving of the wrath and punishment of God – simply for being who they are – therefore justifying fear and the wrath and punishment of and by some prejudiced humans toward them.

This, in my opinion, has made our denomination unwittingly complicit in the physical, emotional, and spiritual violence (including bullying), directed toward gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.

2.  Though it took me years to arrive at this point, I am among many who no longer believe that homosexuality is sinful in and of itself. Nor are committed, monogamous relationships between same-gendered couples. And I don’t take this stance in spite of Scripture, but because of it.

I ask that this presbytery vote in favor of Amendment 10-A.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Presbyterian Outlook: The Samaritan Woman

Our efforts to ratify Amendment 10-A have been enhanced through the generous gift of an anonymous donor, allowing us to communicate every month with the readers of the Presbyterian Outlook through full and half page advertisements. Look for the ads – point them out to others – and be ready to answer any questions that might come your way. In an effort to help you extend the reach and impact of these ads, we have included a little bit of information that can assist you to be an ambassador for the ratification of Amendment 10-A.

We have found that there are basically three areas from which questions might arise or that you might wish to speak to as you share your support of Amendment 10-A– the issue of community choice, of an unlikely messenger, and/or about the essentials.

If you are asked about community choice it might help to remember that:

“Amendment 10-A will restore the ordination practice and principles affirmed in the Adopting Act of 1729. It’s a way of maintaining unity by respecting freedom of conscience in the interpretation of Scripture and leaves the responsibility to discern call and determine whether standards have been met with those who know the candidates best—our sessions and presbyteries.”

If you are asked about the use of an unlikely messenger it can be helpful to think about:

“The heart of the story, which is used in the ad, of the woman at the well is that sometimes God chooses unlikely vessels to share God's message. It’s in that spirit that Amendment 10-A is so important—it will allow sessions and presbyteries to approve those they determine are suited to serve, including some that others may consider as unlikely vessels.”

And if you are asked about the essentials, it is helpful to remember:

“Jesus Christ, son of God, crucified and risen for our salvation – that is an essential of our faith. Beyond that, we can trust the Spirit-guided consciences of our sessions and presbyteries to determine those best suited to serve.”

Click here to download the ad for your own use.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

219th GA Overture Advocate Libby Davis on Amendment 10-A

Libby Davis: "In these matters I speak from personal experience. We're 4th generation Presbyterians and yet our daughter, a child of the covenant, a believer in Jesus Christ, belongs to another denomination because she is lesbian and doesn't feel welcome in this the church of her birth and baptism. And she is just one ...of the thousands of our baptized sons and daughters who stand outside of the wall we have created."