Thursday, April 28, 2011

Moderators Letter on Amendment 10-A

Moderators Rick Ufford-Chase, Freda Gardner and Bruce Reyes-Chow


April 27, 2011

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Grace and peace to you. While we've had the remarkable opportunity and privilege to serve as Moderators of the Presbyterian Church (USA), we are simply 3 Presbyterians as well. We are keenly aware of this moment in the life of our beloved Church as presbyteries continue to vote on the 219th General Assembly's Ordination Amendment 10-A.

We've been asked what we think about 10-A, so we decided to share our thoughts and hope with you in this way. We also know that some in our Church are anxious about 10-A and its passage. We imagine similar fears were expressed about women's ordination. All of us are aware of the natural kaleidoscope of feelings in the midst of change.

We believe that Amendment 10-A will be profoundly helpful to the mission, future and witness of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Rick Ufford-Chase: "Those who know me well know that I have believed for a long-time that we should drop any ordination standards that single out one particular class of people for exclusion. They also know that I have been frustrated at our inability to reach a theologically honest accommodation with one another, too often to the detriment of our ability as a church to take on the critically important work in the world to which God calls us.

Amendment 10-A will allow us, finally, to do just that. It doesn’t make our disagreement go away, but it places the conversation about ordination back in the context in which it belongs. Each of us brings unique gifts, and also unique challenges, to the practice of ministry in the service of Jesus Christ. It has always been the role of local congregations and presbyteries to weigh the gifts and the challenges of each candidate and to determine whether that person is genuinely called by God to the service at hand. Amendment 10-A reaffirms that history and places the obligation for such discernment back where it belongs once again.

As a result, several generations of faithful followers of Jesus who have been categorically excluded from service will feel welcome to explore their call within our denomination. Folks like my fifteen year old, whose life experience of people who are gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgender has only been positive, may begin to feel like the church is worth a second look.

In any case, this is the right thing to do. Let’s affirm our shared gifts, and our shared brokenness, and get on with the work of healing the world and building up the reign of God. I’m grateful for the movement of God’s Spirit as Amendment 10-A nears passage, and hope that you will add your voice and vote toward the movement of that Spirit."

Freda Gardner: "In the beginning God created heaven and earth and sometime after that: humans...of two varieties. And God claimed them as God's own and God's own son came among us to guide our lives and evoke all that was good about us. And we multiplied, made good and bad choices, loved and hurt each other and we discovered we are not all the same. For some love leads to marriage and that covenant calls to everyone who enters it and to all who live in the same world with them to honor them as God obviously did and does in creating them. And God kept and keeps calling us back to what was intended: that we love and care for the earth and each other. For every "each other”, even those who make us uncomfortable. Comfort is not the criterion…faithfulness is. It is out of this call from God for us to care for each other that I ask you to join me in supporting Amendment 10-A."

Bruce Reyes-Chow: "I am not naive enough to think that any statement by any former moderator will change your mind on Amendment 10-A. After all this time, from both “sides,” we have heard thoughtful interpretation from Biblical scholars, we have shared deep stories of pain and yearning and we have all entered into a time of reflection and discernment about the future of the Presbyterian Church (USA) when it comes to our standards of ordination. I have no doubt that each of us has been faithful.

So what I offer to you today is simply this, with thousands of others in our church, I stand up as one more asking you to vote yes on 10-A. I am humble enough to know that I will never fully understand the will of God and the mind of Christ about anything, but I am just as confident that God is moving the Presbyterian Church (USA), even in the midst of our deep division, to a place of full inclusion of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. For as deeply as I understand my limitations, if I do not stand up and vote for inclusion, I do not honor the God that Christ has led me to know. Now is not the time for silence, waiting or further posturing, now is the time to vote yes and I urge you to do just that. I am trusting in the unfolding of God’s reality for us all."

With God's grace,

Rick, Freda & Bruce

Rick Ufford-Chase, Moderator, 216th General Assembly, PC(USA)

Freda Gardner, Moderator, 211th General Assembly, PC(USA)

Bruce Reyes-Chow, Moderator, 218th General Assembly, PC(USA)

Monday, April 25, 2011

An Open Letter to the Presbyterian Church From One of Your Baptized Kids

April 25, 2011

Michael Adee
Grace and peace to all of you. I was baptized as an infant at First Presbyterian Church, Billings, Montana. I was taught faith, Scripture, the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and confirmed at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Sulphur, Louisiana. As a kid and teenager, I loved going to church and being part of a church family. I sang in our church choir with my Dad, loved our youth group of four and the all-church potluck dinners. I had Jesus' bumper stickers on my 1963 VW bug when I was in high school. I probably annoyed some of my friends in high school and college with my Christian zeal.

When I affirmed being gay in my late twenties, the Church was no longer a safe or loving place for me, so I left the Church. I give thanks to God for being loved back to faith by Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church, Cincinnati, Ohio. I was ordained and installed as an Elder there. I've served as an Elder at Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church, Cincinnati and First Presbyterian Church, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

I began serving as a volunteer with More Light Presbyterians in 1991 and on staff since 1999. I would not be in the Presbyterian Church, or in any church, if not for Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church and their unconditional welcome and invitation to serve God with them.

I believe the 219th General Assembly's Ordination Amendment 10-A offers this kind of unconditional welcome and invitation to faith, grace, salvation, church membership and ministry to all of God's children, not just some.

I've put a lot of my heart, thought, reflection on Scripture, prayer and my life experience into why I wholeheartedly support 10-A and believe it is a gift for God for our Church right now. Our Church will more lovingly and accurately reflect God's heart with the approval of 10-A.

My Top Ten Reasons to Support Amendment 10-A

1. This amendment returns our Church to the historic Presbyterian way of focusing upon faith and character as qualifications for ministry, not martial status or sexual orientation.

2. This amendment honors God's call to ministry and the recognition of gifts for ministry given by God to people regardless of gender, race, marital status, sexual orientation or other human differences.

3. This amendment allows for local congregations to call ministers, elders and deacons who can best meet the needs within their own communities.

4. This amendment affirms the moral equality of all persons and ends discrimination based upon marital status or sexual orientation.

5. This amendment affirms God's diverse creation that we can see in Scripture and in our life together in community.

6. This amendment affirms the gift of love by God to persons not limited by gender or race; and it provides support for the beautifully diverse and sacred reality of love and faithfulness experienced by couples and families in our world today.

7. This amendment allows our Church the chance to shift from 37 years of debate, legislation and judicial cases about sexual orientation and to place our energies on mission, service and a hurting world that needs our care and ministry.

8. This amendment is a helpful solution to the 14 years of departure from the historic Presbyterian standards for ordination. It's time to be honest, G-6.0106b has failed our Church. This "fidelity in marriage and chastity in singleness" requirement has brought nothing but hurt, suspicion, division and driven people away from our Church.

9. This amendment affirms that God's creation, God's love, God's grace and the Gospel of Jesus Christ are available for all persons, not just some.

10. This amendment affirms Jesus' commandment for us to love God, neighbor and self; and to recognize as Jesus' taught that all persons are neighbor in God's world, no exceptions.

Imagine, dream, pray and work with me for a new way of being Church and serving in our world with the passage of 10-A.

with hope and grace,
Michael

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Living Together in the Church of Jesus Christ

Arlo Duba
Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Presbyterian Church (USA),

I am convinced that the Holy Spirit was at work, moving me to a deep study of scripture that caused a change of my mind on the inclusivity of the Gospel. Luke in particular stresses the trajectory of inclusion that culminates in the story of Peter and his vision of the sheet, an experience that was for Peter most disturbing.God taught Peter that he should call no human being profane or unclean. He was challenged again and again, from Acts 10:28, until he finally said, “If God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God? (Acts 11:17)

Given Miriam and Deborah, leaders in the Old Testament, our previous exclusion of women is incredible. Given the acceptance of persons who are of a different race, or who are different in sexual or gender orientation, as found in Jeremiah (38:7) and Isaiah (56:3-8), there is Old Testament evidence that the prophets already saw the injustice in such profiling. Many from our previous generations didn’t see this. The inclusiveness of the Christian faith becomes most evident in Luke/Acts, though it is also evident in Paul’s emphasis that God’s grace, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, is a gift offered to every human being.

Both Peter and Paul obeyed the call to go beyond the limits of their “plain reading of Old Testament scripture” and they became powerful leaders in the church.The same thing can happen today. Those who we turn away could become power-houses of the Holy Spirit in the future of the church. In the New Testament we find instance after instance of a trajectory that moved from alienated fear, to inclusion, to vigorous leadership.

Since writing the article that appeared in the Presbyterian Outlook, I have received many letters from folks who were surprised, remembering that I had agreed with what I thought was the biblical stance regarding persons of a different sexual or gender orientation. A few say that they can’t agree with me, but many have been encouraged. Some have friends and relatives who would be excellent leaders if only the church would receive them. As for me, I have continued my Bible study and find more and more in scripture to deepen my conviction in this matter.

My fervent hope is that we will stick together through any transition, recognizing that many of us, obedient to the Holy Spirit, have seen what many are now saying about this period in the church. We Christians have identified ourselves by our differences, instead of by our agreements. On this side of the Second Coming, we must live as Walter Kaspar says, in a “differentiated consensus” and even with “complementary opposites.” In the Church of Jesus Christ we must live together. We must live out our answer to Jesus’ prayer for our unity (John 17:11 & 20).

I believe that we must trust in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and I believe that only a fragment of covenant faithfulness is represented in the present G-6.0106b. Covenant faithfulness is more thoroughly modeled theologically in the new text: “to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G-1.0000). Yes, that puts a burden on the members of Candidates Committees, but on the other hand, it relieves them of the possibility that they might be put in a position where, according to our present constitution, they must on occasion hinder God. Please consider a “Yes” vote in support of the mission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Yours in the service of the gospel,

Arlo D. Duba

Rev. Duba is the Former Director of Admission & Director of Chapel at Princeton Theological Seminary and the Former Dean at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. 

See Also:
By Grace Alone
My Mind Was Changed

Friday, April 15, 2011

Honoring the Christ-Inspired and Intentional Inclusiveness of Our Polity

A member of Hillsboro Presbyterian Church shared this letter that the Session wrote and sent to other congregations in the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee in support of Amendment 10 A. The presbytery discusses and votes on 10-A on May 5, 2011.


March 23, 2011

From:  The Session of Hillsboro Presbyeterian Church

To:  Sister Churches in the Presbytery of Middle TN (via Clerks of Session)

At our May 5th Presbytery meeting in Clarksville, our representative Presbyters will vote on proposed Book of Order Amendment 10-A which replaces G-6.0106b. If this Amendment passes, sexual orientation will no longer be a litmus test prohibiting ordination of Elders and Ministers in the PCUSA.

Our Session, by vote of 15 to 1, shares the consensus opinion of the PCUSA General Assembly Church Orders and Ministry Committee on this question. We believe G-6.0106b elevates the Book of Confessions over the authority of Scripture. We note that Jesus said nothing on the issue of homosexuality specifically. We find, with the Committee, that the New Testament is quite ambiguous on the issue, offering a wide range of interpretations. Thus, we believe this issue is best left to God, and that the present text of G-6.0106b mars the otherwise Christ-inspired and intentional inclusiveness of our Polity.

We hope our Presbyters will vote in support of Amendment 10-A, and we encourage our sister churches to review as background for the May Presbytery meeting http://oga.pcusa.org/pdf/proposed_amendments3.pdf as well as additional arguments for the Amendment at http://www.amendment10a.org.

We close by including the Book of Order text that will be stricken and its italicized replacement if Amendment 10-A should pass nationally.

Sincerely

The Session of Hillsboro Presbyterian Church

Insert:

Current G-6.0106b

Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. 

Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness. 

Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament.

Amendment 10-A

Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G-1.0000).

The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation (G-14.0240; G-14.0450) shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office.

The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003).

Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.


See Also:
219th General Assembly Overture Advocate Speeches for Including All in Ordination
219th General Assembly Legislative Summary for July 8, 2010

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Presbyterians Celebrate San Francisco Presbytery Vote in Support of Allowing Gay Clergy

Media Contact:  Janet Edwards 412.302.3827
Media Release:  April 12, 2011

All across the United States, Presbyterians have been voting in each of the 173 regional presbyteries to determine whether or not the Presbyterian Church (USA) will drop the ban on gay clergy.  The yes vote in San Francisco on Tuesday, April 12, puts the denomination seven votes away from the simple majority required to enact this historic change.  But contrary to public opinion, San Francisco Presbytery was not necessarily expected to vote yes.

“While San Francisco has often led in equality in civil society, the San Francisco presbytery did not always vote to support LGBT people in ministry.  But here, and in places like Oklahoma, Alabama and Georgia, we are seeing changed hearts.  We believe God's Spirit is at work as more people are understanding that faith and character are more important considerations for ministry than one's marital status or sexual orientation," said Michael Adee, executive director of More Light Presbyterians.

The 198-143 vote on Tuesday, moves the Presbyterian Church one step closer to joining the millions of people in three other major Protestant denominations that accept ministers based on their skills and qualifications rather than who they marry or chose as a life partner.

The nationwide vote to garner a majority of the 173 regional presbyteries began after their national legislative body meeting in July of 2010 in Minneapolis.  For the fourth time, leaders at the General Assembly voted to eliminate the requirement of "fidelity in marriage or chastity in singleness" which has been a barrier used against gay clergy.  Previously the amendments did not pass; but each time more and more support was recorded in the presbyteries.  Today, with 35 presbyteries left to vote, only seven more “Yes” votes are required for the amendment to pass. Supporters are hopeful that the 51% required votes will be reached by the middle of May.

"This amazing support for amendment 10-A reveals that Presbyterians want to return to the historic Presbyterian way of selecting officers to serve in the Church. Local governing bodies can more effectively discern the gifts and qualifications of ministers, elders and deacons. Our Church and world will benefit from the service of LGBT persons as we learned when we removed the barriers to women serving in the Church," said the Rev. Dr. Janet Edwards, co-moderator of More Light Presbyterians.

                                                               ###

More Light Presbyterians, a national network of people and congregations seeking the full participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of faith in the life, ministry and witness of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Friday, April 8, 2011

Local Presbyterian Leaders Favor Gay Ordinations

Good news from the City of Brotherly (and Sisterly) Love about 10-A. On March 22, the Presbytery of Philadelphia passed 10-A by 182 to 108. Here are Michael Adee's comments to the Philadelphia Gay News about the vote.
Michael Adee, executive director of More Light Presbyterians, which works for the full participation of LGBT individuals in the Presbyterian Church, said this year’s vote looks more promising.

This marks the first time that the “yes” votes are ahead, and 14 presbyteries that voted against the policy change the last time around have switched sides.

“We stand at a remarkable moment in the life of the Presbyterian Church,” Adee said. “We are just 13 votes from ratification of the policy change, so we’re starting down a tunnel of probable policy change right now. But this isn’t just about policy change, it’s really about cultural change. It’s about people understanding that LGBT people can be faithful Christians, good ministers and officers in the church.”

While cultural change has been spreading throughout the country since the last vote, Pennsylvania still has a way to go — of the state’s 11 presbyteries that have thus far cast votes on 10-A, only Philadelphia and Donegal did so in support. Three more presbyteries will vote before June, with only one, Lehigh, having approved the amendment last time.

The Presbytery of Pittsburgh voted 163-80 against 10-A and the Presbytery of Shenango, which will vote in June on the measure, two years ago voted 101-4 against ratification, making it one of the most conservative in the nation.

But, Adee noted, advances have been made in the Keystone State.

The Presbytery of Donegal, which covers York, Lancaster and Chester counties, was one of the 14 that switched to “yes” votes in the past two years, and Philadelphia widened its margin of votes about 10 percent, up from the 2009 vote of 153-139.

“I’d compare Pennsylvania to what we’ve been seeing in places like Georgia, where we had one presbytery that supports it with an overwhelming margin — Atlanta — and then for the first time Savannah also voted positively, but we expect big losses in a lot of the other presbyteries throughout the state,” Adee said. “And a key difference in Pennsylvania is looking at the presbyteries of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. They’re both very large, major cities with large gay communities and universities and a lot that would make you think they’d support change, but the cast of the Pittsburgh presbytery is still pretty hardline conservative.”

Adee said the fight for LGBT participation in the Presbyterian Church dates to 1974, when the Rev. David Sindt was the first Presbyterian minister to come out. Several years later, a church commission undertook a study to determine how gay and lesbian ministers could fit into the church and, despite a recommendation that open gay and lesbians be permitted to serve, the General Assembly in 1978 approved a policy banning the ordination of open gays and lesbians. The rule, however, left the decision of the ordination of celibate gays and lesbians up to local-level church leaders.

In 1996, the church amended its policy to include the “fidelity and chastity” language, and efforts have been undertaken at each General Assembly since for its repeal.

Adee said the building momentum to overturn the policy and allow full participation by LGBT people has been inspiring, especially in light of the role that religious organizations have played in constructing the social consciousness toward gays.

“This vote on 10-A goes a long way in changing that and creating a different way of understanding moral equality for LGBT people and straight people. This isn’t about ordaining every gay person — one still has to be qualified. But ordination needs to be about faith and character, not marital status and sexuality.”
Read the full article at Philadelphia Gay News.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

When Exclusions and Fears Disappear, the Fruits of the Spirit are Planted

Katie Turpen
Katie Turpen serves the Presbytery of South Louisiana as a Young Adult Volunteer. South Louisiana became a transformed presbytery and passed 10-A by a vote of 46 to 28.

Hello. My name is Katie Turpen, and I am currently serving the Presbytery of South Louisiana as a Young Adult Volunteer. I came to this Presbytery in August to journey along side others in the rebuilding of lives and communities in southern Louisiana. In my short time here volunteering with the outreach missions of two small churches in New Orleans, I have been blessed to witness the warm spirit and ever present resilience of the people of this Presbytery. It is a privilege to be able to work in a community with such loving individuals, and it is a privilege to be able to speak before you today.

Our denomination currently finds itself amidst a time of change and transformation. My hope and prayer for the PCUSA is that in a world crying out for justice and peace that we can answer our call to affirm and accept people of all walks of life. I feel too often my generation is discouraged by the church because they see its mission as gate keeping, and where love should reside, they see only exclusion. I feel God is calling us to return to our original purpose which is opening our doors with compassion and love in the same way Jesus opened up his heart to the people on the margins. If we are to be living reflections of Jesus’ teachings, we must allow all of God's children to be welcomed and affirmed for who they were created to be. If a person exhibits an individual calling, faithfulness, suitability, preparation, and the gifts of ministry and leadership, then he or she should be given the opportunity to be an ordained leader using unique gifts to share Christ’s love.

Our history reveals that when exclusions and fears disappear, the fruits of the spirit are planted. By seeing each other as God sees us, as the Beloved, our eyes and hearts are opened to see these fruits reflected in one another. Once again, I am honored to be able to speak to you today and to be a part of this Presbytery and the fabric of the PCUSA. I hope you vote "Yes" on Amendment 10-A. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for your time.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Knowing LGBT People as Christ Does

When we know LGBT people as Christ does, we will be with them as Christ is. And we will sin no more.

I got to know my uncle in my childhood when he would come to Pittsburgh from his home in California. He would arrive in the Fall with his friend, who my grandmother adored. Telling stories is an art form in my family so many October afternoons, year after year, were given to listening in as the adults swapped stories on my grandmother’s side porch or sitting room. My uncle and his friend would stay for some days before traveling in the East, enjoying the change of season. Nothing was said beyond how much my grandmother appreciated these opportunities to catch up with her oldest son and with his friend.

In college I began to connect the dots, putting together that my uncle was probably gay and his “friend” was his partner. Still, nothing was said, and this idea wasn’t something I could run by my family.

Then, in the mid-1990’s when I was middle aged, I was visiting with my aunt. She told me the story of her brother, my uncle: How his father had ridiculed him for being gay; How the family had twice sent him to a sanitarium in New England to be “cured” to no effect; How his effort to enlist in World War II had failed because he was gay; How a small inheritance allowed him to move to what, for this family, was the edge of the world, Southern California.

It was there that my uncle met his partner, years before I was born. They bought a house in 1955, which his partner still lives in to this day. My parents visited them a few times, but I did not go there until a few years ago. When I did, I came home with a large stack of family photographs, wedding pictures and framed Christmas card family pictures, saved over seven decades. My uncle’s partner still has the best recollection of family history of anyone in our senior generation. I am sure he heard about all these relatives over and over through the years.

My uncle grew up in a Presbyterian Church. He was a devout man but he did not go to church. Though the Crystal Cathedral was nearby, he was certain he would not be welcome and, sadly, he was probably right. So he would watch church on TV instead. His partner would slip in and out of Mass at the Catholic parish church, until he stopped doing that too. The church failed them both.

I confess to them and to the millions of LGBT people like them that we, the church, have sinned against you and against God who made you good.

My uncle suffered from what is common in my family: strokes. For most of the 1990’s he was bedridden. When his partner could no longer care for him at home, my uncle moved to a nursing home where his partner came to care for him and be with him every day. My uncle died at age 89 in 2000. He and his partner had been together 52 years.

I don’t share their names here today because I still am not sure they would associate themselves with being gay. I never talked with them about it. They were a couple committed to one another in a time where they faced severe stigma. And I know that they were for me the single most important thing to open my eyes to God’s full love for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. If truth is in order to goodness and the goodness of these men is proven by their fruits then they are good and worthy of full participation in the life of the church.

I am very grateful this perspective on God’s will for us was in place so early in my life.

If you say you do not know of any LGBT people, you can say it no more. It has been my joy to help you know a little about my uncles. And I encourage you to read through the great conversations I have been privileged to have with lovely LGBT Christians over the past two years. When we know LGBT people as Christ does, we will be with them as Christ is. And we will sin no more.

Reprinted from Rev. Janet Edwards' Blog, A Time to Embrace. Rev. Janet Edwards serves as Co-Moderator on the National Board of More Light Presbyterians.

Monday, April 4, 2011

What Will Amendment 10-A Mean If Passed?

Brian Spolarich
Floor speech from Brian W. Spolarich. Brian moderates the Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC) at Northside Presbyterian Church in Ann Arbor, MI and is a former MLP Board Member. He also served as Clerk of Session. The Presbytery of Detroit passed 10-A by 113 to 66.

Given the perennial nature of the matter before us this afternoon, I want to respond to two big questions that are likely in the minds of many of us in the room.  First, “Why do we have to keep voting on this question?”  Second, “What will Amendment 10-A mean if passed?”

A flip answer to the first question might be “Until we get it right!” but I think that there is a deeper truth at work here.

Hear then these words from the 32nd chapter of Genesis:
Then Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.25When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day is breaking.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go, unless you bless me.’
“I will not let you go unless you bless me.”  So too I think we lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons in this denomination have been wrestling, wrestling with this church and its discriminatory policy that has been used to prevent us from claiming the equality promised to us by Christ Jesus, an equality sealed by our baptism and remembered each time we share a common loaf and cup with our heterosexual sisters and brothers. 

I want to also point out that it has taken an act of not civil, but “ecclesiastical disobedience” to have a person officially banned from ordination argue for the adoption of this Amendment.  I am deeply humbled to have the privilege to speak on behalf of those who have been silenced in our Church for too long.

We will not let you go unless you bless us.  Not because we believe we “deserve ordination”, or have “more light” than anyone else, but because we have felt the Spirit’s calling in our own hearts.  Some of us have been raised in this denomination, and others have come as adults.  But we are your sisters and brothers, and we want to serve alongside you using the gifts that the Spirit has seen fit to give us, in the ways that God has called us to serve.

As to the second question: what would this Amendment actually mean to my church and this Presbytery if adopted?

It would mean that governing bodies would be permitted to determine a candidate’s fitness for ordained office using the same historic principles and standards that have served this denomination well for the past 232 years.  No congregation would be forced to ordain or install anyone they do not feel God has called to that office, nor would this Presbytery be required to ordain a minister that it did not likewise feel was called to that ministry. 

And crucially, it would be those in closest relationship with the candidate who would make that determination, both through personal discussion and the biblical process of discernment and consent by election, subject to the movement of the Spirit.  However it does put lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender members of this denomination on equal footing with our heterosexual brothers and sisters.  And it does so on the basis of relationship, which models the same values that Jesus taught us in His ministry.

To put this in the most practical terms, at Northside, this has meant that we have had people who disagree with us, like Reverend Bohn [Rev. Christine Tiller-Bohn was an “Against” speaker who followed me], moderate the Session on which I served as clerk.  We can work together.

Some have argued that by amending G-6.0106(b) we will open the floodgates for sexual immorality in our denomination.  I do not find such ‘slippery slope’ arguments persuasive, and I am confident that we can trust ourselves to apply the high standards for ordination that have existed in our denomination for the last 232 years.

The important question here is whether we will approve this amendment and uphold our historical Presbyterian principles of fairness and equality, or whether we will instead continue to arbitrarily ban one group of people from ordained service, representation, and leadership.

Some will also argue that the amendment before us does not go far enough.  But I believe that this Amendment represents a practical solution, a “third way” that enables us as a connectional church to move forward together, while honoring the gifts of faith, service and ministry that LGBT persons possess and have been waiting, some for decades, to demonstrate and to share.