PCUSA approves Amendment 10-A
Following article is from the TAMFS National Website.
May 11, 2011
Brothers and sisters, we know that there is yet work to be done in our neighborhood, in
our state, in our nation, in the world and will be work to do until Jesus comes
again in glory. But today we celebrate this piece of work that has been accomplished, and
the blessing of justice which opens the door to the great gifts God will share with the
church through our brothers and sisters in the GLBT community. As my own child said to me
in a one-line email last night, Its about time.
- from a congregational letter written by Karen Henn
Pastor and Head of Staff at Rock Spring Presbyterian Church,
The Presbyterian Church (USA) has been voting on an amendment to our church
constitution which would allow for the ordination of publically-identified gay and lesbian
(and to a lesser degree bisexual and transgender) people to answer Gods call to
serve as Ministers of the Word and Sacrament, Elders, and Deacons.
Last night, at the meeting of the Presbytery of Twin Cities Area, the 87th affirmative
vote for ratification was cast. The amendment will now go into the Book of Order effective
July 10, 2011, one year after it was adopted by the 219th General Assembly.
Here are the words of the amendment:
Standards for ordained service reflect the churchs
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 candidates calling, gifts, preparation, and
suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be
limited to, a determination of the candidates 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.
We give thanks to God! We also give thanks for each of you for supporting our ministry
in whatever way over the years.
Opening Remarks for Debate with Dr. Michael
Charlotte, NC, Feb. 14, 2008
Harry Knox, Director, Religion and Faith Program
©2008 The Human Rights Campaign. Reprinted by permission
I am grateful to each of you for the great effort it took for you to be here tonight. Time is precious, and time with loved ones even
more so. So for you to give up a Valentines
Day evening to come hear and interact with me and Dr. Brown is a great gift. Thank you.
You have come, I suspect, for the same reason I have because the stakes are high. We are in the midst of a conversation in the
church and in the larger society about who we lesbian and gay people are, what God thinks
of us, and whether or not we should be safe and embraced and respected in our
congregations and our secular communities.
Perhaps you have come because you care passionately about the condition of my mortal soul,
or the soul of another person. Maybe
youve come because, like me, you have been singled out for violence because of who
you are. Perhaps, like me, you have been
denied the right to work because you are lesbian or gay.
Maybe, like me, you love someone so much you have taken on all the responsibilities
of making a family with him or her and yet you have been denied the basic protections and
benefits available to your married neighbors.
Some of you have come because you have seen the injustices perpetrated against your gay
and lesbian sisters and brothers, heard the injustice blamed on the God you love, and had
a difficult time reconciling what you know of Gods unconditional love and boundless
grace with the hatred and vitriol you see directed at your neighbors in Gods name.
And you have wondered what it is doing to your own soul to be aligned with such unkindness
and outright violence.
Because the stakes are so high our discussion tonight requires two things that are often
contradictory utmost civility and care for each other in word and deed and
absolute honesty. May God help us confront
our own sinful natures and those of others with both honesty and grace.
I have spent my adult life begging my mostly Christian neighbors to stop killing me with
kindness. For the most noble of reasons, a
desire to call me to holiness, my neighbors have denied me the right to work, looked the
other way when I was a victim of hate crimes, denied me and my partner the protections and
benefits of marriage, sought to silence my voice in church and heaped ridicule and shame
on my family.
No matter their motivations, they have proven that they are not my friends. You cannot deny my basic human rights and expect
me to consider you to have my best interests at heart.
The stakes are much too high.
Those who have sought to punish and oppress me have used the most powerful tool I know of
as a weapon against me. They have perverted
the Holy Bible that powerful standard of justice for even the most marginalized
among us the touchstone of grace that offers hope and reconciliation they
have perverted the Bible into a tool of oppression.
Im a Christian and a gay man. I am at
perfect peace with God about the condition of my soul.
I have prayed through many sleepless nights begging forgiveness for the sins
that separated me from God and those around me. But
as God and I have worked together through what it means for me to be gay, as I have
studied the Bible and prayed, and sought the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I have been
given perfect peace about the fact that my sexual orientation is one of Gods many
gifts to me and therefore to deny it is to deny the One who is its author and who seeks
its highest good through me.
I have come to that peace, not in spite of the Bible, but because I have studied it
with reverence and found it to be a model of liberation and reconciliation, not a tool of
terror. But if, having studied it and come to
love it, I mostly run to the Bible now with confidence, it was certainly not always that
I first studied Genesis 19 not out of love for the text but out of a drive to survive. My hands shook when I turned the pages, and if
yours dont, go back and read it again until they do.
For though I found when I actually read the story that it doesnt have
a thing to do with committed relationships like mine with my partner Mike, it speaks very
powerfully to me as a person of privilege in America.
Do you remember the story?
Angels who look like men show up at Lots house in Sodom and Lot does what is
required by his faith and the rules of community, he takes them in and feeds them. As they are eating, there comes a loud knock
a banging on the door. When Lot
goes out he sees all the men of the city standing around his house. No women thats no surprise
women have only in my lifetime begun to be sent out to war and make no mistake,
those men are out for blood. Bring those guys out here, they say, so we
may know them. That sounds benign doesnt it? So we may know them. Lot can tell the difference. Scholars have argued about the Hebrew word
thats used here, but the context of the story makes it clear that the men of Sodom
intended to use one of the oldest tools of war to make sure those two visitors to their
city and anyone else like them knew they were not welcome. They intended to rape them in public.
Theres a story that is almost the mirror image of this in Judges 19-20, only the
city is called Gibeah. Same scenario
strangers, people we dont understand, people not like us, people not from around
here (you might call them immigrants) are taken in by the householder and the men of the
city show up demanding that they be turned over to them.
The householder refuses, but does precisely what Lot had done in the same
situation he offers his daughter to the men instead.
Women, are your hands shaking yet?
Unlike the men of Sodom, the men of Gibeah accept the householders daughter and they
rape her until she dies. They throw her dead
body up on the steps. The householder (hard
to call him a father) cuts her up in twelve pieces and mails one piece to each of the
twelve tribes of Israel. The tribes are so
incensed at this horrible act of injustice (hard to just call it inhospitality) that they
dispatch twelve armies to wipe Gibeah off the map.
The sin of Sodom is not homosexuality and the sin of Gibeah is not heterosexuality. Their sin was the same: gross mistreatment of the
stranger, the person not known or understood, and the horrid use of rape as an act of war. These were hate crimes crimes committed not
just against the immediate victims, but perpetrated in order to send a message to everyone
remotely like the victims you are not welcome; you are not welcome; you are not
welcome. And for these sins Sodom and Gibeah
were removed from the earth, but not from our history.
I used to read Genesis 19 and Judges 19-20 and think they were good stories, but they
didnt apply to me. But then I saw the
pictures from Abu Graib Prison, men stripped naked and stacked on top of each other, dog
collars and leashes hanging from their necks and a soldier, one of my neighbors from
America grinning stupidly beside them. And my
hands started to shake
I dropped back to Leviticus and wrestled the Holiness Code for a blessing.
Sometimes its hard to take the Holiness Code of Leviticus 18 and 19
seriously. Are you going to give up eating
shrimp and pork, wearing wool coats with cotton pants, and playing football in order to
prove youre a good person? All those things are on the list of proscriptions that
includes me lying with a man as with a woman.
There are a lot of people who want me to live up to the Holiness Code and I understand
why. I understand the desire to live as a
reflection of the love of God in a world that wallows in the dark misery of sin. I do. I
hear with power and resonance the teachers command to the Israelites wandering in
the desert to set themselves apart from the idol worshippers of the land to which they
were going - to set themselves apart by not wearing the kinds of clothes the Canaanites
wore, by not eating the local foods, or touching the dead skins of the unclean pigs that
must have seemed nasty, abominable to sheep herders.
And I surely understand a rule against copulating with homeless boys taken
in as temple prostitutes by the priests servicing the Canaanite idols. Good children of Abraham that we are, we
wouldnt want to do the things that might cause us to be mistaken for those who
recognized any God other than the one true God. I
What I dont get is what any of that has to do with my love for my partner and the
generative creativity of our shared life or the ecstatic community we feel on the rare and
sacred occasions when our bodies speak of love and trust and sacrifice and mutual care in
language unutterable. But I do understand
how unspeakably bad it is to value anything of this world more than we value the God who
created it. The message of Leviticus 18 and
19 is that we must be willing to stand out in order to call the world away from idolatry.
Heres what makes my hands and my heart quake.
You and I have been called to ministry, whether lay or ordained, at a time
of great ferment in the Church we love. Most
of the denominations that purport to represent Christ are in thrall of a great idol called
the unity of the Church. They are heaping
before its unblinking visage the bodies and souls of your lesbian and gay sisters and
brothers in an attempt to satisfy what cannot be sated.
The idol always wants more and never really gives anything in return. While over and around us weeps the God who
requires only justice and mercy as acceptable sacrifices.
I turned to Pauls letter to the Roman Christians.
Ancient Rome was full of temples to fertility gods and goddesses. In those temples priests copulated with
adolescents you know they were homeless kids with nowhere else to go in
hopes of ensuring good harvests and growth in populations threatened by disease and war. The lives, the feelings and well-being of
individual children were sacrificed for what was perceived to be the common good and in
the process it became a commonplace of the priestly life to take part in orgies that, if
they were not good for the children, were pleasurable indeed for the adults. To leave that part of the story out of your study
of Romans 1 is intellectually lazy for you and spiritually life-threatening for your
lesbian and gay neighbors. But explanation of
Pauls writings in that context, though scary and provocative, offers you the chance
to speak words of real hope and reconciliation to a nation obsessed with sex and talking
about sex in every venue except church. And
please dont forget to go on to study Romans 2, where Paul begins to admonish us not
to judge our neighbors.
How badly America needs to hear the message of hope through Christ expressed in 1
Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1! As Mel White
has written, Paul shouts across the distance, You are breaking Gods
heart by the way you are treating one another.
In those texts Greek words that lazy, or prejudiced, translators have
shortened to homosexuals actually mean boy prostitutes and the older men who
patronize them. Congressman Mark Foley needs
to hear a sermon preached on those texts. And
lest you think its only the gay Congressmans problem, remember Congressman
David Vitter was recently caught exploiting the bodies of women in Washington.
I pray you wont fail to preach those sermons and share those insights in
Sunday School and in your home Bible study. At
the same time I pray you will help people understand those texts dont say a word
about my loving relationship with Mike. The
word homosexual didnt even exist in the English language until the middle 1800s. We have only just begun to understand anything
about sexual orientation and we must not put words into Pauls mouth that he
wouldnt even have understood.
When Paul wrote to Timothy, he urged him to remember Who he served and to confront and
encourage those around him consistently even though it would cost him.
I know what it costs someone to preach on Leviticus 18 and 19 and point its message
at the institution that holds her or his retirement account. It cost me my ordination, though not my ministry.
I know how much easier it is let people think the Sodom story is about people like
me when its really about empire and war and a lot of things you dont want to
touch when making your livings at places like Fort Bragg.
I know that since 90% of pedophiles are men who abuse girls, and that since it is
your neighbors who make pornography one of the largest industries in America, it is easier
for you to let folks think Paul was only worried about homosexuality.
But I must finally be true to my calling and ask you to live deeply in the texts
that are before you. I urge you to be true to
those texts and to live into your tasks as pastors and teachers because the stakes are
high. Your parishioners and neighbors are
desperate for your guidance and if you fail to teach them what these troubling texts are
really about there will surely be others willing to do your job for you in order to
accomplish their own ends.
I come to you with quivering hands. I say all
of this to you with the discomfort and trepidation required by our task for today. I would like to send you out shouting, but that is
not my job. Mine today is to have you hear
the words of Paul to Timothy that have proved timeless enough to become scripture:
Always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your
ministry fully. I myself am already being