Monday, July 5, 2010

Live Blog from Church Orders & Ministry Committee, Day 1

All times Central Standard Time. Latest discussion at the end of the post.

9:00 am:

The Church Orders and Ministry Committee is beginning with worship and prayer. Open Hearings will begin at 9:30 am.

9:30 am:

Open Hearings:

For Inclusion:

Bear Ride: "I am a cradle Presbyterian. With humility I present myself as Exhibit A. It was not until my first day in Seminary that I realized that women could be ordained. At 42, I realized that I was a gay Presbyterian. I am still me. My ministry was put on extended hold, yet my affirmation for the vows for ordination still stand. Until this impediment is removed cannot serve."

Michael Adee: "I hear God's voice in the Psalms, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made." I hear Christ's call to discipleship that all of us are called to love God with all our heart, mind and soul. One of my teachers is Arch Bishop Tutu. He said, "God loves all. All All All. Which part of All do you not understand." Barriers dehumanize people. Exclusion makes a child of God doubt they are child of God. We don't need step children in Presbyterian Church."

"My son is gay and I struggled to put together my love for my child and the scripture. I became convinced that God’s love is available to all."

Mike Smith: "I have been a pastor for 40 years. I have ministered with many LGBT deacons, elders and ministers of word and sacrament. Some are not in the church serving their call. Shouldn’t the church participate in this openly, freely, without the rules that exclude. I believe it is time and I pray that you will want to play a key role in the change so that the church can participate in the wonderful reality of us all serving together."

Susan Craig: "In the last 10 years of ministry, I nurtured those called to ordained ministry. Of the 5 Presbyterians called: The straight student refused ordination in the PCUSA because of anti-gay policy. The second serves the Episcopal Church. The third stayed in the closet. The fourth serves the UMC. The fifth dropped out entirely."

Mitzi Henderson: "This debate going on since 1978 is causing problems to outreach to young people. Strong LGBT leaders can't hold positions of leadership because they cannot be ordained. They are leaving to other congregations. We have lost leadership because we have denied it to some of the best candidates. It is about who is coming to church. My grandchildren have LGBT friends and they are excluded."

"People I go to seminary with are LGBT and they are leaving. We are loosing good leaders."

"I’m 16. I speak in favor. I’ve gone to Central Presbyterian. Involved in music ministry program. I have been involved in the church. One of educators in our church is gay. Just because they are LGBT makes no difference to their leadership."

"I stand before you as someone who was told that gay people are hated. Left the church but I found a Presbyterian church that was willing to include me. I don’t live a gay lifestyle. I live a faithful Christian life as an openly gay man. LGBT people live perfectly normal lives. What has happened is that thousands of LGBT people have been thrown out of their homes..."

Against Inclusion:

Most of the arguments from the open hearings about keeping G-6.0106 as it is fall into these categories: Biblical stance; Ex-gay persons raising up the possibility of change; Potential disunity in the church; Speed of progress; Opposite gender constructions of marriage only; Don’t change 2000 years of church standards.

2:00 to 3:00 pm: 

Discussion about Delaying Ordination Overtures

Consideration of Ordination Overtures begins. The Overtures in this category seek to change the discussion on amending G-6.0106b to include LGBT people in ordination to the ministry of word and sacrament. Overtures include: 06-02, 06-03 and 06-20.

Overture Advocates:

Advocate 1: "We believe that it will create confusion to make major changes to the Constitution. Have we given ourselves time to consider this discernment process? Presbyterians remain divided, churches are leaving and the church is divided. Call for time of peace, healing, prayer and study. Call to Presbyteries to actively pray for discernment before any change is made."

Advocate 2: "This has been going on as long as I have been alive. We need a season of rest."

Advocate 3: "The minority has been large. The minority will remain large no matter which side the minority is. We need to address unity and peace on these issues. This overture calls us to take a fast from discussion so that we can discern more."

ACC (Advisory Commission on the Constitution): Caution was advised about directing actions for future assemblies.

Small Group Discussion of the Overtures. Table by table summary:

"We thought a moratorium would be shirking our responsibility"
"We did not think a moratorium would be responsible."
"We felt peace would not come out of a moratorium. More peace would come out of action than a moratorium."
"We were not sure people would follow a moratorium. It would be deferring to another group and we have the Spirit here. Kicking the can down the road does not do us any good."
"We've been dealing for 32 years. We don't want to hold back."
"It is difficult for people to wait for clarity."

3:15 to 5:00 pm:

Consideration of Ordination Overtures

The committee will now consider the Ordination Overtures both for and against the Ordination of LGBT persons. Overtures under consideration: 06-04, 06-05, 06-06, 06-07, 06-08, 06-09, 06-10, 06-11, 06-12, 06-13, 06-14, 06-15, 06-16, 06-17, 06-18

Overture Advocates:

Against Inclusion:

Advocate 1: "The Scripture expresses Christ's will clearly, for the sake of the church. God has created and commanded us to express our sexuality only within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman. This is the consensus reading of Scripture and it has not been supplanted. The Church has standards for its ordained officers. Those called are required to live with the standards of Scripture and the confessional standards. We ask the committee to retain the standards. We ask the committee to restore the Authoritative Interpretation. Confusion has resulted from the removal of the Authoritative Interpretation. It has resulted in court cases. The Authoritative Interpretation restores Biblical teaching."

Advocate 2: "The Authoritative Interpretation gives a resource that helps us to live out the will of God in our Presbytery. We have used these interpretations in a way that has helped congregations. Please restore the authoritative interpretation."

Advocate 3: "I am representing 160 congregations. I agree with Advocate 1, but Shenandoah Presbytery overture is better (06-05). The new Authoritative Interpretation we bring is much stronger. We are people of the book. The Bible, the confessions and the Book of Order."

For Inclusion:

Advocate 4: "21 overture advocates are urging you to delete or amend G-6.0106. The overtures arise out of our prayerful consideration. Our overtures are grounded in Scripture. We see God creating all things new. Jesus gave us a new commandment that you love one another just as I have loved you. Jesus reinterpreted many Old Testament prohibitions. We look to Jesus as savior and teacher and God. The new reality revealed in Jesus Christ is a new humanity, reconciliation is accomplished. The Church is the body of Christ and is called to give shape and substance to this truth. One paragraph denies the reality of God's new creation. We know gay people. They are our friends. By the late 90's, anti-gay prejudice began to ease. By 1996 attitudes were changing. Instead of standing apart from a permissive world, we are standing apart from each other. We need to become a new creation."

Advocate 5: "This creates two classes of baptized members. There is nothing in Scripture about establishing first and second class Christians. Our constitution bars people from ordained leadership because they are different. Our daughter belongs to another denomination because she is lesbian and does not feel welcome in this church. She is one of thousands who stand outside of the walls that we have created. We say, "We really love you, but we cannot fully embrace you." We are loosing people to other denominations. Surely God's love is deep enough to embrace my daughter."

Advocate 6: "In every way that I know God, God is love. This love has moved people through struggles and trials. In the presence of this love, our church is called to rise and demonstrate fairness and equality. We need to expanded our welcoming witness. I did not choose to be called into ordained ministry, I did not choose to be gay. I chose to follow God's call. I had not idea that being in ordained ministry would be this painful. LGBT Presbyterians, indeed all Presbyterians, have been terribly hurt by G-6.0106. I am here asking you to lead the way to love and understanding. Will we the church welcome all our sisters and brothers equally. I pray the answer to this question is yes."

Advocate 7: "I was ordained as a women. At the time they were opposed to the ordination of women. I was ordained and so should LGBT people."

Advocate 8: "We have struggled and prayed and we believe all called should be able to serve."

Advocate 9: "Let's talk about Scripture. The early church was challenged to welcome gentiles. Today, more people know LGBT people. More of our preconceived notions have been challenged by the quality of the lives of LGBT people. This is a message from the Holy Spirit. Biblical prohibitions have nothing to do with the committed, loving relationships we see today. Consider Jack Rodgers. These texts do not justify our history of exclusion. Our conclusions are grounded in the Scripture. Freedom of conscience in interpretation of Scripture and forbearance."

Advocate 10: "The whole church has suffered loss by G-6.0106. I served 6 years on the committee for preparation for ministry. This paragraph has added anxiety to candidates for ministry, an obstacle to discerning people's calling."

Advocate 11: "I want to speak about evangelism. We need to talk about all families. I came to this church as an openly lesbian. They welcomed me and my partner with open arms. Our church has been transformed and we are no longer an aging congregation. People came to the church because of our welcome."

Advocate 12: "Removing this language will be good. It will help attract young families. The Book of Confessions was never intended to be a book of prohibitions. Books are "Not to be made a rule for practice". God's will will eventually be abundantly clear to use. Leave issues of conscience to God. We owe each other mutual forbearance."

Advocate 13: "In this room are sisters and brothers all seeking after the will of God. God's purpose is being worked out. The more we tighten the reigns, the more anxious we become. At the foundation of our reformed faith is the notion that God alone is God. God will call as God will call. Calling David who had been overlooked. Calling Mary an unwed girl. G-6.0106 gets in God's way for us all, regardless of where we stand in these disagreements. Puts the church in the role of judge. Scripture says there is no distinction. The Spirit has something better for us. Let God be God. Let God call who God wants."

Advocate 14: "In the end it is all about faithfulness, to God, to the gospel, the faithfulness of those who seek to serve the church."

Right now we have counted 10 commissioners on this committee wearing scarves!

7:30 pm:

Small group discussion of the Ordination Overtures will begin shortly. In about an hour, we will live blog the reports from each small group.

Here are the report summaries from the tables:

"We were encouraged, stressed, surprised, optimistic. Both sides well prepared. It would be nice to turn that passion into sharing the gospel. There was positive debate. There were many in both camps. There was surprise that there were homosexuals in seminary who could not be ordained. The issue gets harder every year. Important issue, but there may be more important issues. Talked about membership decline. Talked about Scripture...God does not change. Talked about slavery, civil rights, women's rights. Is it a choice?"

"Our discussion was open and honest. It brought us to a real sense of community."

"We are all exhausted. We are all overwhelmed. We are anxious. We were not surprised by what we heard today. We were surprised by how nice we are at each table. We are scared about the process. We feel that God is saying different things to us. Is one sin worse than another. There might not be a right answer to this question. All of us may have many different interpretations of the issue. We have a lot of cradle Presbyterians at the table. We affirmed our ordination vows. We were frustrated that we are spending so much time on this. For many of the younger ones in our midst it is not an issue. It is all over the map at our table. There was amazing faithfulness on all sides of the issue."

"People are exhausted and torn. We have heard so many compelling stories. Some of us are anxious and concerned. Some of us are concerned that we are irreconcilably divided. We were happy with the respect among people at our table with the exception of one. There was a whole range of theological opinions. Some folks felt that they feel like God is talking through the voice of estranged folks and that is painful. Our group very early on found a level of trust. Folks were very candid about what they were experiencing. Our church has not done a good job reaching out to our LGBT brothers and sisters. We had candid admissions that there are gay and lesbian folks in our families."

"I think that we are very comfortable expressing our opinion on this topic. We were feeling hopeful, disappointed, humbled. Some of us were surprised by the contrast in the long presentations. Surprised by the many people claiming to be cured from homosexuality. Amazed by wide geographical distribution. God is saying why is this an issue, take more time, there must be a third path. God is telling us to turn to Scripture, "Quick to listen, slow to speak." Perhaps there is space for everyone."

"We were feeling less anxious now. An awareness of all the work we have to do in a short amount of time. A sense that God's presence was being felt in this moment. We were happy with the general respectfulness of the conversation on both sides. Many of us spoke specifically of which overtures we are in support of. We all agreed that it is important to maintain high ordination standards. We disagreed about what high ordination standards were. We were leaning toward Overture 9. Language about all unrepentant sin instead of identifying people."

"We felt some hope. Each of us felt grateful for what was shared with us. God is saying some amazing things to each of us. They were shared freely and with passion. We were thankful for one another. God has been speaking to each of us."

6 comments:

Ralph said...

Thanks for posting these synopses. Hard to hear the calls for delay and the rejection. Keep the faith and allow the Spirit to move the committee and Assembly.

Debbie said...

Thanks for all your hard work - and for keeping us up-to-date with the live blog.

Kathy said...

Amen to Ralph's and Debbie's comments. This is an awesome service. Thank you!

sharon said...

It is interesting that membership decline may be more important than allowing those called by God to serve in the ministry. Perhaps the decline is related to denying God's call.

Kyle said...

By all means, let's get the whole committee scarves!

bethpeakthompson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

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