Monday, January 31, 2011

Amendment 10-A Voting Analysis - December/January Season

Votes so far: 43

Yes votes: 21
No votes: 22
Previous "yes" presbyteries retaining a "yes" vote: 18 out of 19*
Previous “Yes” presbyteries changing to “No”: 1 Previous “No” presbyteries changing to “Yes”: 3
Net Gain for Amendment 10a: +2

Presbyteries shifting towards pro-equality: 29**
Presbyteries shifting towards anti-equality: 10

* Note 2: This post - and others to follow - makes reference to 01-A and 08-B. These were amendments passed by the General Assembly in 2001 and 2008, respectively, (but were both voted down when voted on by presbyteries) and were similar to Amendment 10-A in intent. As such,voting records from those years are held up alongside current presbytery votes for comparison.

** Note 1: The Presbyteries of Northern New York, Utica, Cyuga-Syracuse and Long Island voted in favor of the amendment, but they took an unrecorded “raise your hand” or voice votes. As such, they do not have any data other than their final “yes” vote, rendering it impossible to tell whether or not they trended one way or another.

Long story short: The December-January voting season has been generally positive for supporters of Amendment 10-A, even resulting in two presbyteries shifting their votes from “No” to “Yes.” Some disappointing results from a few presbyteries, however, imply that there is still much work to be done.

The Positive:

In many ways, the tail end of December 2010 and most of January 2011 were very positive for supporters of Amendment 10-A. Of the 20 presbyteries that voted on the amendment, 15 ultimately voted yes. What’s more, two presbyteries - Riverside and Eastern Virginia - successfully switched their votes from “No” on 2008’s 08-B to “Yes” for Amendment 10A.

Finally, the overall pro-equality trend continues: of the 17 presbyteries that recorded voting tallies, 13 reported voting more in favor of the amendment than they did in 2008.

The Negative:

Despite generally positive news, there were some setbacks this season. The presbytery of Sierra Blanca - which voted to support a motion similar to Amendment 10-A back in 2001 but voted against 08-B in 2008 - saw a significant dip in support, ultimately voting 10-A down 18-28 (an even wider margin than the 08-B results). Moreover, Huntingdon presbytery in central Pennsylvania posted a heartbreakingly close call: despite decisively defeating 08-B in 2008 26-36, this past weekend resulted in a nail-biter - it just barely opposed 10-A with a vote of 32-33.

Still, the tail end of December and the month of January was a string of exciting (if mostly expected) victories for supporters of Amendment 10-A. But make no mistake: as it stands, only 43 of the 173 presbyteries have voted. That means there are 130 presbyteries that still haven’t voted - that’s a LOT of voting before either side reaches the 87 presbyteries needed to make any final decision on the amendment. There is much work to be done!

Keep checking back here for more information and voting analysis as we get it!

(click below to embiggen more data!)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Science, the Bible, and the Vote to Ordain Gays

"In the face of a conflict between science and the Bible, Calvin urged his readers not to reject science nor to ignore the Bible, but to understand the Bible differently," said Rev. Ben Daniel on the recent passage of Amendment 10-A by San Jose Presbytery (78 yes, 57 no). How can we bring science and Scripture together in this important conversation?

Rev. Ben Daniel writes at the Huffington Post:
My denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA) currently is engaged in a church-wide discussion about whether or not we will allow local congregations and regional governing bodies -- called presbyteries -- the freedom to ordain gay men and lesbians as lay leaders and as ministers. Our highest governing body, the General Assembly, has approved this proposed change but now it must be ratified by a majority of the denomination's 173 presbyteries in order to become church law. The last I checked, 15 presbyteries had voted in favor of allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in church leadership positions and 19 had voted to maintain the status quo.

On Jan. 22, my presbytery, the Presbytery of San José, voted for ratification. As we debated the issue, several people stood up and expressed what I think was genuine sadness at the fact that, while they know and love many gays and lesbians, they could not vote to include gays and lesbians in positions of church leadership. To do so, they contended, would be a rejection of scripture and would be unfaithful to the Calvinist tradition.

Some Presbyterians express this concern whenever we engage in conversations around the inclusion of gay men and lesbians in the life and leadership of the church. I want to address the issue as someone who seeks to have the roots of his spirituality deeply set in the soil of holy writ and as a pastor whose favorite theologian is John Calvin...
Read the full story at the Huffington Post.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Your Whole Foundation Can Shift in a Day

Ted Coppick
Ted Coppick's love for his daughter drives his activism in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and in advancing civil rights for LGBT persons in Iowa. A member of More Light Church Westminster Presbyterian in Des Moines, Iowa, Ted is active in his presbytery to make sure Amendment 10-A is ratified. He has found that the best way to resolve differences is to talk personally and share life experiences.

In the "Dreamers & Doers" series of the Des Moines Register, Rekha Basu writes:
Your whole foundation can shift in a day.

Ted Coppock discovered that 15 years ago. A longstanding membership in the Republican Party, a career in insurance and ages-old religious affiliations and understandings of right and wrong had not prepared him for this phone conversation with his daughter.

Valerie, 30 at the time, divorced and living in the Washington, D.C., area, was planning for her parents' visit at Thanksgiving. She wanted them to know beforehand that she was in an intimate relationship. With a woman...

Coppock, who calls himself a citizen lobbyist, has played that role before. Sharing his own story, he's lobbied members of his party to expand the state's civil-rights law to protect gays and lesbians. In his church, Westminster Presbyterian, he's president of the Gay Lesbian Affirmation Small Group. He's been active in the bid to get the entire Presbyterian Church to change its stance that homosexuality is not in line with its beliefs, and to drop the requirement of chastity or heterosexual marriage to be ordained as a minister, deacon or elder.
He has found that the best way to resolve differences is to talk personally and share life experiences...
Read the full story at the Des Moines Register.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

More Than the Ratification of 10-A

By Rev. Ray Bagnuolo

All Are Welcome
The continuing struggle for the full welcoming of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) faithful into the work and worship of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has become a cycle unto itself. The wheel of change continues to spin, with arguments for and against full inclusion. Messages often blur as the motion of the debate goes around the center upon which it turns.

Any movement relies upon a working structure, whether in the laws of motion or the polity of a church. However, in the PC(USA) a breakdown appears to have occurred, in which parts of its design have become litmus tests of its members’ faithfulness. As a result, the center and central mission of the PC(USA) has come under question based on how welcoming we will be depending upon a vote for or against this amendment. The answer is once more perceived to be wrapped up in a decision on ratification of Amendment 10-A, currently before the presbyteries. Simply, the answer to the question of our faithfulness cannot be scripted by any amendment. The ratification of 10-A can only bear witness to the deep faithfulness that long preceded any debate, overture, or constitution, for that matter. The ratification will bear witness to how we choose to love one another, reflecting how we see God’s love for us. This is about much more than the ratification of 10-A.

Surely, study, examination, and review are important to the foundations and direction of the PC(USA), those it serves, and the world in which it witnesses. Problematic is that in any community of faith such methods only go so far. They cannot travel to the fullness of the heart or its design by God, let alone define God’s intentions. No one can. The mystery of God’s presence in the heart is limited in human understanding. Rather, God offers us an invitation to the mystery and wonder of giving of one’s self, one’s community, one’s world unto the care of God through the longings and listening of the heart, as well as the study and examinations of the mind. In short, a response to God as Love calls us to love and welcome others – including every baptized brother and sister into the full work and worship of the PC(USA). To do otherwise is to ignore the heart and the mystery God has given us; a heart yearning for us to trust more than to study. Any study that points otherwise must be flawed.

Perhaps, this time, there will be enough constitutional arguments and shifting within the PC(USA) for the ratification of Amendment 10-A, making this church a prophetic witness and model for others to follow. Certainly, thoughtful individuals who are expert, scholarly, and faithful in the ways of the PC(USA), its Constitution, and its traditions have provided ample paths to making such a choice.

Whatever the exchange, no argument or position can claim God or Love for itself, alone. Further, no argument can claim God or Love to exclude what God has created. Lastly, what no argument can claim is that God as Love would ever accept or tolerate the violence that is inherent in any decision toward marginalization and oppression of those God has created and those God continues to call. We avoid the discussion of violence, perhaps because given the choice in such terms would easily end the separation we now practice. None of us wishes to be complicit in hate crimes or their foment, and yet, our language of distance, amplified by being a “church,” indeed has impact that causes others harm.

When all debate is exhausted and biblical scholars have made their considerable contributions, the last question to answer in choosing whether to ratify Amendment 10-A will be “How do we Love?” Or, perhaps, “How do we welcome others to God?”

The choice in favor of Amendment 10-A is a choice of Love. There are enough arguments to provide ongoing debate, even suggesting a pause. That will always be so, until our faithfulness goes beyond the debate, into the Love that precedes all – all. These guiding questions for final consideration in voting for ratification are suggested:

a) Can we be faithful by excluding our baptized sisters and brothers who are LGBT from the full work and worship of the PC(USA)? Is ours a God who excludes those God has created?

b) Can we be faithful to the teachings of Jesus and the Church by fostering a climate of violence towards our LGBT sisters and brothers, affirming others’ hatred and homophobia with our decisions to marginalize?

c) Can we be a faithful reflection of God as Love by using our Constitution or fears to create a class of people less welcome or worthy than others?

Were that this was simply a matter of making a decision about loving one another as God loves us. It may be that such love is still growing in us, but with a decision to ratify Amendment 10-A, it may be much closer than we think in leading us to the family and witness we are meant to be.

Crossposted from Ray's Net.

Ray Bagnuolo is an openly gay minister of Word and Sacrament. He currently serves Jan Hus Presbyterian Church and Neighborhood House and its inner city ministry in NYC. He was one of the few openly gay Candidates for minister of Word and Sacrament examined and cleared to seek a call since the passage of G-6.0106b, refusing to abide by the G-6.0106b as a matter of conscience during his examination in 2005. Ray also serves on the Board of More Light Presbyterians.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Are We Who We Say We Are?

Rev. Nate Philips made the following speech in the New Castle Presbytery in support of Amendment 10-A. The New Castle Presbytery ratified Amendment 10-A by a vote of 79 yes, 34 no and 2 abstentions. Rev. Dr. Douglas D. Gerdts, Pastor at Wilmington, DE's First & Central Presbyterian Church, writes that Nate is "young, dynamic, respectful (wore a suit!), and passionate. Everyone was choked up. Nate's finish was all heart."

Rev. Nate Philips' Speech:

Five years ago, almost to the day, I stood in the pulpit of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, hopeful that you would bless me with ordination as minister of Word and Sacrament. I was wide-eyed and willing; but, more importantly, you were gracious and encouraging. Today, I stand before you here, at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Rehobeth, as part of this gracious, encouraging body inviting you to join me in voting for new and hopeful language for the PC(USA) and its ordination standards. That language is expressed in Amendment 10-A.

In five years of membership, this is the first time I've stood before you and made my opinion known on any piece of presbytery policy. For those that know me, you can imagine what kind of discipline that has taken. Today, I stand to speak - not because this is a referendum on homosexuality - because it isn't. Not because this is a referendum on chastity - because it isn't. No, this vote is a referendum on us, and it is a referendum that asks, “are we who we say we are?”

Are we or are we not a community that believes that God alone is Lord of the conscience, as touted by our Book of Order? While opponents to 10-A cling to scripture passages like Leviticus chapters 17-26, contemporary scholars offer a new, compelling read. Dr. Choon-Leong Seow of Princeton Seminary relays a litany of offenses to the Leviticus holiness code, including that priests should not trim their sideburns, have an impaired leg, be too small, have defective eyesight, or marry widows and then says “how do we decide that these regulations that are explicitly concerned with ordination to the ministry are not relevant today, but the prohibitions about homosexual acts are?” (1)

Dr. Beverly Gaventa, also of Princeton Seminary, offers similar exegesis for the oft argued Romans 1 (2). Aren't these interpretations equally as valid as the ones that have come before, and if they are, should the Lord not be permitted to embolden our collective conscience through them?

Are we or are we not a church reformed and always reforming - again, as touted by our Book of Order? It is difficult to argue with Martin Luther King, Jr who said, “the tragedy is that the church has too often been a taillight rather than a headlight, and it is time for the church to be a headlight on all these problems that we face.” Even still, in the last half-century alone we have broadened our positions on ordination regarding race, gender, and divorce. Each time we feared how the church would recover, each time the church's leadership was richly blessed by their account.

Are we or are we not a church that “has to start taking young adults seriously” as argued by Columbia Seminary President Steve Hayner at last summer's General Assembly? (3) It is a sentiment echoed by Princeton sociologist Robert Wuthnow who maintains, that “religious leaders risk the very future of their faith communities if they ignore the changes that are taking place among younger adults.” And yet, the church has a significant image problem with young adults. In fact, the latest research on young adults reports that the vast majority of non-Christians — 91% — said Christianity had an anti-gay image. That’s what they think you are.

But, you are the Presbyterian Church - I've known you my whole life and I've known you are so much more than these statistics.
You gave my family a roof over our heads when my parents were married at 18 and couldn't afford a home...

You gave me the youth group that was a respite from my father's alcoholism and abuse...

You gave me the summer camp where I met my wife, the love of my life... You sent me to the seminary where i cultivated a passion for ministry...
You blessed me with ordination and, as far as I know, supported every second of my service.

That is what you are about. All of that.
You are the Presbyterian church, I've known you my whole life, I've loved you, I will love you no matter how this vote goes...and I want to spend the rest of my life with these words on my lips for my generation and my daughter's generation, “Look!  See the church I know...we are more than who we say we are, we are the church Jesus calls us to be!” Thank you for voting yes to Amendment 10-A.
1  Homosexuality and Christian Community, p. 15

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Presbyterian Outlook: My Mind Was Changed

"I was never a gay basher...I just never questioned that the church might not have gotten it right."  Rev Dr Arlo D Duba of Princeton, had his mind changed. Rev Duba is the former Director of Admissions and Director of Chapel, Princeton Theological Seminary and former Dean, University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. Click on the link below to see the ad about his conversion in the current issue of the Presbyterian Outlook. Click on the interview link to learn how his study of scripture led him to support the full inclusion of LGBT persons in the life and leadership of the church. Click on the weblink below to continue the dialogue with Rev Duba and to thank him for his leadership.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Letter Supporting Amendment 10-A

Towson Presbyterian Church
We wanted to share Madeleine Mysko's letter to her church supporting Amendment 10-A. Madeleine is a member of Towson Presbyterian Church in Towson, Maryland. If you would like to write a letter in support of Amendment 10-A to members of your church and presbytery, we included some ideas in last week's MLP News.

Dear Friends at Towson Presbyterian,

As you know, last June we were all encouraged by Session to study Jack Rogers's Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality.  I participated in the study, as did more than 20 other members of our church. Before the study I had paid little attention to the position of the PCUSA on persons who are gay or lesbian.  After the study, when the understanding began to roll over me, I began to question whether I could stay in a church wherein (as it seemed to me) one's fidelity to the Peace of Christ had to be compromised for the sake of unity. 

But then I met the More Light Presbyterians. From them I have learned to recall daily this one truth: All are welcome to work joyfully in the Kingdom, never mind that some say that's not true. More Light Presbyterians ministered to me--a straight person--when I was very discouraged. I watch them now, as they minister to all who are hurt by this divide in our church--on both sides--with unflinching kindness. They truly believe that the grace of our loving God will give us the strength and resilience to do what's right, and also to stay together.

I write urgently today because now many presbyteries are preparing to vote on the 219th General Assembly's Ordination Amendment 10-A. Today I read this appeal to all Presbyterians, and I want to share it with you: "Imagine a Church that keeps its promises to all of the children it baptizes, not just some. Imagine a Church that celebrates the presence and gifts of LGBT persons and trusts God's call for them to serve. Imagine a Church having thousands more deacons, elders and ministers to care for a hurting world." (Michael Adee)

I am new to this call.  There are others who articulate the need for your attention and support better than I.  I humbly ask that you take a look at the two links below my signature, if only because a member and elder of your church (me) asked you to. 

Thank you for listening to me today,

Madeleine Mysko

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

More Light Update, January 2011

"Imagine a Church that keeps its promises to all of the children it baptizes, not just some. Imagine a Church that celebrates the presence and gifts of LGBT persons and trusts God's call for them to serve. Imagine a Church having thousands more deacons, elders and ministers to care for a hurting world." You can help pass Amendment 10-A…here are some tools:
More Light Update January 2011