Saturday, July 10, 2010

GLAAD at the 219th General Assembly

More Light Presbyterians (MLP) had the privilege of working with Ann Craig, GLAAD's Director of Religion, Faith and Values during General Assembly. Ann worked with us on messaging, press releases and media contacts. In addition to all Ann's work with MLP, she posted two entries about General Assembly to GLAAD's blog:

Presbyterians Vote for Ordination Equality; Vote to Study Marriage, GLAAD
A demonstration and press conference by leaders from Soulforce, More Light Presbyterians and That All May Freely Serve celebrated the progress made at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and urged commissioners to vote for full equality.
Presbyterians Move Toward LGBT Equality, GLAAD
LGBT leaders in the Presbyterian Church (USA) are very hopeful that Presbyterian commissioners to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) have set a trend for more inclusion as they worked in committees on the first two full days of a full week of meetings, in Minneapolis that will close on July 10.
To learn more about Ann's work, visit her archive on GLAAD's blog.

Encouraging All Presbyterians to Know their HIV Status

The Presbyterian News Service reports that Overture 19-05, Becoming an HIV and AIDS Competent Church: Prophetic Witness and Compassionate Action, passed late on Friday night. Overture 19-02, On Encouraging all Presbyterians to Know Their HIV Status, was answered by 19-05.
The report of the Assembly Committee on Health Issues closed out a long evening of business on Friday at the 219th General Assembly (2010).

Among the items approved by the Assembly was an overture encouraging all Presbyterians, especially pastors and church leaders, to be tested for HIV to help eliminate the stigma associated with such testing.

A theological student advisory delegate polled the Assembly with a show of hands to see who had been tested at this Assembly. After seeing the lack of raised hands, he said, “I see why this amendment is needed.”

The Assembly approved a floor amendment encouraging the PC(USA) to develop educational materials to discourage discrimination of HIV+ individuals as well as adding “Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C” wherever HIV and AIDS appear in the overture’s text.

Also approved was a second HIV/AIDS-related overture that directs the Stated Clerk to send a letter to the President of the United States and the governors of all 50 states to implement HIV testing and prevention awareness in prisons and correctional facilities.

Post General Assembly Pastoral Letter from the Moderator and Stated Clerk

Elder Cynthia Bolbach, Moderator, 219th General Assembly and The Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly have issued the post General Assembly pastoral letter to Presbyterian Church (USA) congregations. Included in the letter are two FAQ documents on civil unions and marriage and on ordination standards:

Extending Benefits to Same-Gender Spouses; Marriage

Here are the Presbyterian News Service articles on the General Assembly votes to direct the Board of Pensions to extend benefits to same-gender spouses and domestic partners and the marriage votes (photo by Danny Bolin).

Assembly approves benefits for same-gender households, Presbyterian News Service
The 219th General Assembly (2010) today urged the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Board of Pensions (BOP) to extend equal spousal and dependent benefits to same-gender domestic partners as it does to married plan members...

Many supporters agreed with Kati Chan, a Young Adult Advisory Delegate from San Francisco Presbytery, that extending benefits to same-gender households “is a matter of social and financial equality. … We have advocated equality for years. Why not practice it with those in our own churches?”

Opponents argued against the proposal on theological and financial grounds.
The Rev. Harry Hughes of New Castle Presbytery said approval of same-gender benefits “would validate same-sex relationships in violation of church policy and Scripture,” adding that the measure would “increase the level of conflict and division” in the PC(USA).

To address concerns that the added benefit would create a moral dilemma for some church employers, the resolution includes a provision urging the BOP to create a “relief of conscience” fund to segregate dues of employers who are conscientiously opposed to same-gender benefits. The board has a similar provision for employers who object to their dues being used to pay for abortion procedures.

Noting that the measure would raise BOP dues to 32.5 percent of effective salary, the Rev. Faith Jongewaard of Mission Presbytery said, “I’m in a church of 725 members and we could probably afford this, but a lot of small churches can’t, so this is also a justice issue for them.”

Commissioners seemed persuaded by arguments like that of the Rev. John Vest of Chicago Presbytery. “This is not about [gay] ordination or marriage,” he said. “It’s about employers who don’t give and employees who don’t get the same benefits.”

By a voice vote, the Assembly rejected a commissioners’ resolution that would have banned abortion as a covered BOP benefit. Andrew Browne, the board’s corporate secretary, said $11,000 out of $106 million in medical benefit payments last year went for abortions.
The 219th General Assembly maintains current definition of marriage, Presbyterian News Service
The 219th General Assembly (2010) voted Thursday night to maintain the current definition of marriage — between a man and a woman — in its Constitution.

Just prior to the Assembly’s action, the body accepted the recommendation of the General Assembly Civil Union and Marriage Issues Committee to approve the report of the Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage by a vote of 439-208. The Assembly decided to send both the special committee report and the minority report generated by three members of the special committee to the larger church for study after a motion to replace the final report with the minority report was defeated, 358-311.

Following that action was a parliamentary maneuver that resulted in the Assembly voting to let the approval of the special committee report “answer all pending items” on the remaining Assembly committee’s list of overtures that included changing the definition of marriage to “two people,” giving pastors and sessions discretion in deciding who may marry and whether they may use church property for the ceremony.

The vote was 348-324, with six commissioners abstaining.

Audible gasps were heard on the floor of the Assembly, and many commissioners and observers burst into applause as the result of the close vote (51%-49%) flashed on overhead screens at the Minneapolis Convention Center. 

The overtures, which were never considered by the full Assembly, had passed the Assembly Committee on Civil Union and Marriage Issues by approximately 2-to-1 margins.

The Rev. Ryan Balsan of New Brunswick Presbytery, who moved that the study should answer the overtures, said he did not want those overtures to prejudice the study process.

“The church was not yet ready to make a decision,” said 219th General Assembly Moderator Cindy Bolbach during a press conference following adjournment. “This kind of thing happens at every assembly.”

While many people will see the vote simply as winning or losing — “that’s human nature,” the Moderator said — Bolbach said more helpful thinking involves “trying to figure out where God is leading the church. Women’s ordination took us years and years to decide.”

At the same event, the Rev. Rick Nutt, moderator of the Assembly committee, said that “it would have been interesting” to discuss the overtures on the Assembly floor, “but the will of the Assembly is to pursue those issues in conversation,” meaning allowing churches and presbyteries to study the two reports.

Acknowledging the complexity of the decision to send both reports to the church-at-large, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly the Rev. Gradye Parsons said, “We’re going to have to draft a pretty good cover letter.”

Friday, July 9, 2010

MLP General Assembly Legislative Summary, July 9

A motion to reconsider last nights General Assembly marriage vote was defeated by 275 to 407. The General Assembly had voted to make Overture 12-12, The Final Report of the Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage to the 219th General Assembly (2010) Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the answer to all marriage overtures from Committee 12. This had ended discussion of all other pro-LGBT overtures.

Watch General Assembly Footage

Overture 18-06 On Directing the Board of Pensions to Extend Benefits to Same-Gender Spouses and Domestic Partners passed by 366 to 287 with 9 abstentions. The minority report failed by 295 to 379 with 9 abstentions.

Watch General Assembly Footage

Overture 19-05, Becoming an HIV and AIDS Competent Church: Prophetic Witness and Compassionate Action, passed by consensus. Overture 19-02, On Encouraging all Presbyterians to Know Their HIV Status, was answered by 19-05.

Watch General Assembly Footage

Marriage Equality at the 219th General Assembly...and what's next?

By Michael Adee

Yesterday was a day of mixed experiences and mixed emotions. We rejoiced with the extraordinary pro-LGBT vote approving by 53 to 46% a "Revise-B" Ordination Overture. This vote advances the moral equality of LGBT persons in both Church and society within the USA and around the world. There are Presbyterians in over 100 countries. So, creating one standard for ordination for all persons regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or any other human condition in the Presbyterian Church (USA) is remarkable statement for justice and equality.

Historic levels of support for Ordination Equality during the 2008-2009 Ordination Amendment 08-B Campaign offer hope and encouragement. We look forward to the life-giving and liberating conversations and work of a national ratification campaign to ensure passage of this overture. Everyone participating in this national grassroots ratification campaign will ensure its passage.

Late in the night after a drawn-out discussion of the Civil Union & Marriage Task Force's report commending the PCUSA to study marriage, the Assembly voted narrowly to have all of the other marriage overtures "answered" by the vote to study. This was a painful moment for those of us at the Assembly and I can only imagine how painful it was to see this happen via live-streaming.

This vote was certainly a disappointing response by not even bringing to the floor for discussion:  (1.)  the reality of faithful, same-gender loving relationships in our Church, (2.) the reality of legal same-sex civil marriages in states where Presbyterian pastors serve and the Authoritative Interpretation offering pastoral discretion to perform civil marriages in states where they are legal, and (3.) widening the Church's understanding of marriage to "two persons" in a faithful, loving relationship rather than the restriction of marriage between "a man and woman."

This morning there is work being done to encourage a reconsideration of last night's vote on marriage to bring to the floor the work of Committee 12. Please join us in praying that this will happen. "Justice Delayed is Justice Denied" signs and "Reconsider 12" were held by Soulforce, TAMFS and MLP supporters around the Assembly Hall.

Last night after the vote, Sylvia Thorson-Smith, Presbyterian Voices for Justice, and Elder, St. Mark's Presbyterian Church, Tucson, AZ, a More Light church, reminded us that:  "It is important to remember that marriage equality, widening the understanding of love and marriage to include same sex couples, and challenging the definition of marriage from "a man and woman" is new to our denomination." 

Marriage equality was introduced to our General Assembly only 2 years ago. At the 218th General Assembly in 2008, there was one marriage equality overture from Baltimore Presbytery with a concurrence from Hudson River Presbytery. In 2010, historic levels of support for marriage equality were achieved with 14 Overtures and concurrences sent to this Assembly.

The Overture Advocates for Marriage Equality offered powerful and inspiring teaching on marriage, testimonies before Committee 12 were remarkable. We know what happens when Presbyterians have a chance to actually meet and hear the faith and love stories from LGBT persons, our families and allies --- a change of hearts, minds and votes happens --- as was the case when Committee 12 approved by a large margin the "Marriage AI" and the "Expand W-4" characterization of marriage to two persons.

So, we hope and pray that the Assembly will reconsider Committee 12 today. No matter what, we have our "marching orders" as Rev. Janet Edwards, Co-Moderator, MLP, reminded the group of activists, Commissioners and delegates last night in the MLP hospitality suite. Those marching orders are to get the conversation moving and educational resources on marriage equality in all 173 presbyteries.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) does not have the final word on the goodness of God's creation including God's LGBT daughters and sons. God does.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) does not have the final word on the goodness of Love and the sacred gift of sexuality and companionship,  God does.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) does not have the final word on Love and marriage, God does.

We have plenty of faith and love stories to celebrate and share with our Church. So, may all of us share those faith and love stories with our families and local congregations. Start now to create opportunities in your presbytery to do what the 219th General Assembly has said -- study marriage. Let all of us be good stewards of this opportunity.

with hope and grace,
Michael

PS -- a great 2-page marriage equality educational resource for you right now:  "More Light on Marriage" - http://archive.mlp.org/resources/MLonMarriage.pdf

Songs of Celebration and Justice

One of the most memorable experiences of the 219th General Assembly was the MLP Choir under the direction of Partick Evans. They sang at the Welcoming Worship Celebration and at the Soulforce Press Conference. Here is the choir at the Soulforce Press Conference.

Media Coverage of LGBT General Assembly Votes

Presbyterian leaders approves gay clergy policy, The Boston Globe
Presbyterian leaders voted Thursday to allow non-celibate gays in committed relationships to serve as clergy, approving the first of two policy changes that could make their church one of the most gay-friendly major Christian denominations in the U.S.

But the vote isn't a final stamp of approval for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) or its more than 2 million members.
Presbyterians continue to be divided over gays, NPR/Associated Press
A split decision from Presbyterian leaders on two gay-friendly measures guarantees even more debate among the U.S. church's members on an issue they've been divided over for years.

Delegates to the Presbyterian church's convention in Minneapolis voted Thursday for a more liberal policy on gay clergy but decided not to redefine marriage in their church constitution to include same-sex couples. Approval of both measures could have made the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) one of the most gay-friendly major Christian churches in the U.S.
Presbyterian leaders OK lifting gay clergy ban, Louisville Courier-Journal
The ordination vote sends the measure for ratification votes to regional presbyteries, where resistance to such changes has diminished in recent years.

Church representatives, meeting in Minneapolis at the weeklong General Assembly, voted 373-323 to lift the ban in the Louisville-based Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which has 2.1 million members.
Presbyterian leaders approve gay clergy policy, Associates Press
Presbyterian leaders voted Thursday to allow non-celibate gays in committed relationships to serve as clergy, approving the first of two policy changes that could make their church one of the most gay-friendly major Christian denominations in the U.S.

But the vote isn't a final stamp of approval for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) or its more than 2 million members.
Presbyterian leaders split on gay-friendly measures, The Tennessean
Leaders of the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted Thursday to remove the barrier keeping non-celibate gays out of the ministry but stopped short of redefining marriage to include same-sex couples.

Currently the denomination requires clergy and other ordained leaders to either be married or remain celibate. That rule remains in effect until the denomination's 173 regional presbyteries ratify the assembly's decision.

Justice Delayed is Justice Denied; Reconsider 12

Soulforce is greeting commissioners walking to the morning business meeting with two signs: "Justice Delayed is Justice Denied" and "Reconsider 12". Last night the General Assembly used The Final Report of the Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage to the 219th General Assembly (2010) Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to answer to all marriage overtures from Committee 12. The vote was 348 to 324 with 6 abstentions. As the vote stands, the General Assembly will not consider overtures changing the definition of marriage from "a man and a woman" to "two people" or giving pastors the discretion to marry LGBT people in States that provide civil unions.

Additional Media Coverage of LGBT Votes at General Assembly

Presbyterians: Gay Clergy Yes, Gay Marriage No, The Advocate
Delegates at the general assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted Thursday in Minneapolis to advance a proposal to allow gay clergy, but they decided against allowing same-sex marriages by a close margin. The gay clergy proposal now must be approved by a majority of the church’s 173 presbyteries, which rejected a similar measure two years ago.
Presbyterian decision reflects deep divisions, Minneapolis Star Tribune
For the Rev. Ray Bagnuolo, the Presbyterian Church's decision to table a landmark proposal permitting same-sex marriage was a slap on the face.

For the Rev. Clark Cowden, it was a measured response to a potentially divisive issue.

The U.S. Presbyterian Church's vote to sidestep the potentially explosive issue of same-sex marriage at its convention in Minneapolis this week reflected deep divisions within the church and the need to drum up broad grass-roots consensus, observers say.
Presbyterians continue to be divided over gays as leaders split on 2 gay-friendly measures, Washington Examiner
A split decision from Presbyterian leaders on two gay-friendly measures guarantees even more debate among the U.S. church's members on an issue they've been divided over for years.

Delegates to the Presbyterian church's convention in Minneapolis voted Thursday for a more liberal policy on gay clergy but decided not to redefine marriage in their church constitution to include same-sex couples. Approval of both measures could have made the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) one of the most gay-friendly major Christian churches in the U.S.

Even the more liberal stance on gay clergy faces more debate before it can become church policy. A majority of the church's 173 U.S. presbyteries must approve it. Two years ago — after years of efforts by supporters — a similar measure was sent out to presbyteries but died when 94 of them voted against it.
Presbyterian leaders approve gay clergy policy, Salt Lake Tribune
 Presbyterian leaders voted Thursday to allow non-celibate gays in committed relationships to serve as clergy, approving the first of two policy changes that could make their church one of the most gay-friendly major Christian denominations in the U.S.

But the vote isn’t a final stamp of approval for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) or its more than 2 million members.

Delegates voted during the church’s general assembly in Minneapolis, with 53 percent approving the more liberal policy on gay clergy. A separate vote is expected later Thursday on whether to change the church’s definition of marriage from between “a man and a woman” to between “two people.”

More Light at the Movies: Tru Loved

Tonight's 6:30 p.m. movie in MLP's Hospitality Suite at the Hilton Minneapolis (1001 Marquette Ave, Room 1936) is Tru Loved. If you are not with us at the General Assembly, we wanted to make you aware of this resource for your congregation. This and other print and video resources will be available in MLP's Lending Library in Fall, 2010.

Sixteen-year-old Tru is uprooted by her lesbian moms from her comfortable gay-friendly home in San Francisco and moved to a conservative, suburban community in Southern California. Tru's only friend is a closeted football player, and even that friendship is jeopardized when she starts the school's first Gay-Straight Alliance. 102 minutes.



See Also:
Tru Loved Movie Site

Thursday, July 8, 2010

MLP General Assembly Legislative Summary, July 8

Overture 06-09 On Amending G-6.0106b to include LGBT persons in ordination passed 373 to 323 with four abstaining. The minority report was defeated by a vote of 259 to 437 (The minority report sought to pass Overture 06-04 on “Restoring to full force and effect the interpretive statements concerning ordained service of homosexual church members by the 190th General Assembly (1978) of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, and the 191st General Assembly (1979) of the Presbyterian Church in the United States and all subsequent affirmations including the Bush v. Pittsburgh Presbytery (218-10) General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission decision.”).

Watch General Assembly Footage, Part 1
Watch General Assembly Footage, Part 2

The General Assembly approved Overture 12-12, The Final Report of the Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage to the 219th General Assembly (2010) Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) by a vote of 439 to 208 with 12 abstentions.

Watch General Assembly Footage

The General Assembly voted to make Overture 12-12, The Final Report of the Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage to the 219th General Assembly (2010) Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the answer to all marriage overtures from Committee 12. The vote was 348 to 324 with 6 abstentions. The General Assembly will not consider Overtures changing the definition of marriage from "a man and a woman" to "two people" or giving pastors the discretion to marry LGBT people in States that provide civil unions.

Watch General Assembly Footage

Dawn Black's Words to the General Assembly on Motion to End Marriage Discussion

Dawn Black's words to the General Assembly against the motion that would use the special report on civil unions and marriage to end discussion of pro-LGBT marriage overtures. The motion passed.

Madame Moderator my name is Dawn Black and I am a TSAD from LPTS. I speak against this motion. On December 6, 2008 my brother, Bradley Gibbs Ciliberto was joined in legal marriage to my brother-in-law Christopher Gibbs Ciliberto in Darien, Connecticut to the joy and excitement of our entire family. This event occurred in a court house, not a church. It was officiated by a Justice of the Peace, and not a Minister of Word and Sacrament. I believe in the sanctity of marriage and my Christian faith calls me to believe that being married in the eyes of God should be done by a Minister in the Church. I was married in the Presbyterian Church and was allowed to do so based on society’s rules and regulations, those rules are now growing and changing and the church needs to respond to this growth, or be left in the dust. We continue to speak about decreasing numbers in the church. I joined the church I was married in. As I imagine others who were married in a church may have done so as well. How many out there will join us when we become inclusive of all people?

I stand in against this motion and I will hopefully by the grace of God stand for and in a church with joy and in witness on June 4, 2011 at the welcoming and inclusive marriage of two of my dearest friends, two Christian Presbyterian Lesbian children of God.

Pro-LGBT Ordination Vote Press Conference

Press Conference with Elder Cynthia Bolbach, Moderator of the 219th General Assembly, The Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly and Elder Theresa Denton, Moderator of Committee on Church Orders and Ministry after the pro-LGBT ordination vote at the General Assembly.

Resolution from the Board of Lutherans Concerned/North America

WHEREAS, the Presbyterian Church (USA) is meeting in its 219 General Assembly the same week as the Lutherans Concerned/North America Biennial Assembly and Reconciling in Christ Conference, and

WHEREAS, the Presbyterians are considering policies and practices that will further the full-participation movement, such as the removal of a policy that requires celibacy of people who are gay and lesbian, and denied their calling to “the rights and duties of membership”, as well as establishing marriage as a blessing and covenant available to all people, and

WHEREAS, More Light Presbyterians, That All May Freely Serve, Presbyterian Welcome, and Soulforce are some of LC/NA’s sister organizations working at the Presbyterian General Assembly for the cause of full-participation whose work closely mirrors LC/NA, and

WHEREAS, Lutherans Concerned/North America has been in the same place that our Presbyterian brothers and sisters are now, therefore

BE IT RESOLVED that Lutherans Concerned/North America call on the Presbyterian Church (USA) to enact policies and practices that enhance the full participation of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the body gathered for Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters lift up in prayerful support those who are working for full participation in the Presbyterian Church, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this message of support be shared immediately through More Light Presbyterians with all those who are working for full participation in the Presbyterian Church USA.

Soulforce Press Conference

Soulforce hosted a press conference today outside of Wesley Methodist Church. Here is what Rev. Cindi Love (Soulforce Executive Director), Lisa Larges, Dr. Michael Adee (MLP Executive Director) and Rev. Ray Bagnuolo (MLP Board Member) had to say.

Press Release: Pro-LGBT Presbyterians and Soulforce hold Noon Press Conference

Media Contacts:

Cindi Love, Soulforce (972) 358-5907
Michael Adee, More Light Presbyterians (505) 577-0086
Lisa Larges, That All May Freely Serve (585) 615-0613

July 6, 2010 — Soulforce and pro-LGBT Presbyterian groups held a noon press conference in front of Wesley Church on Thursday, July 8 in the middle of a two-day Pray-In across the street from the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) meeting from June 27-July 10 in Minneapolis, Minn.

Young and veteran Presbyterians spoke to their hopes and dreams for inclusion as the denomination moved into its final days of deliberations on issues such as benefits to same-gender spouses; ministry for all couples who are wedding; and removal of all barriers to ordination. If key decisions such as ordination and the definition of marriage pass, they will have to be ratified by two-thirds of the 183 regional presbyteries across the country. In early 2009, traditionally conservative presbyteries supported a similar recommendation in larger numbers than ever.

Speakers:

Rev. Dr. Cynthia "Cindi" Love is an award-winning entrepreneur who has served as a corporate executive, educator administrator and clergy person. She and her partner of 31 years, Sue, are legally married in Canada, live in Abilene, Texas, and have two adult children. Love serves on the "Faith and Religion Council" for the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, D.C. and was part of the Clergy Call on Washington in 2009 to lobby for passage of the hate crimes bill and the employment non-discrimination act. From 2005 to 2009, Love served as the Executive Director for Metropolitan Community Churches worldwide. In 2009, the Human Rights hosted three Town Halls in North Dakota and Minnesota which featured Dr. Love’s work on the topic “Would Jesus Discriminate?” Love spent many years in the business sector, founding companies, the last of which was acquired by The Toro Company in 1996. She was named one of the "Top 50 Entrepreneurs" in North America by Inc. Magazine, MIT and YEO.

Jason Conner is a 26 year old activist currently working with Soulforce, Inc. as a denominational action organizer. He was a Soulforce Equality Rider in 2010. Jason is originally from West Virginia, and is currently living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Jason has worked in the nonprofit sector for the past five years, mainly focusing his work on economic justice and immigration reform issues.

Michael J. Adee, M.Div., Ph.D., Executive Director of More Light Presbyterians, a national organization founded in 1974 that works to achieve spiritual, ordination and marriage equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Michael became a human rights activist after being fired from his university teaching position for starting a GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) at Northern Kentucky University. During this same time, he was the first openly gay Elder at Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church, Cincinnati, Ohio. A judicial charge was brought against the church for his ordination that went to the highest court in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Michael recently climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania as a benefit for LGBT equality. Michael lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Lisa Larges, Minister Coordinator for That All May Freely Serve, (TAMFS), felt the call to ministry early in life, graduated from St. Olaf College in 1985 and received her M.Div. from San Francisco Theological Seminary with honors. A lifelong Presbyterian, Lisa became a candidate for ministry in the Twin Cities Presbytery as an open lesbian. Lisa has sought ordination over 20 years and has been approved by the Twin Cities Presbytery and the Presbytery of San Francisco. Each time her ordination was blocked through judicial actions. In 2002 she was called to serve as the Regional Partnership Coordinator with TAMFS, and became Minister Coordinator in 2007 when TAMS Minister Director, the Rev. Jane Adams Spahr, retired. In her statement of conscience, Lisa wrote, “The provision is a mar upon the Church and a stumbling block to its mission.”

Daniel Williams, student at Hendricks College, near Little Rock, Arkansas, and lifelong Presbyterian, became an elder in the Emmanuel Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at the age of 17. Daniel is an organizer for the Arkansas Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice. He is openly gay and plans to go to seminary and will seek ordination in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Watching General Assembly Like a Pro

If you're watching General Assembly today from home and want to watch like a pro, here are a few tips:

1) Point a browser window to live streaming at: http://ga219.pcusa.org/
2) Point a browser window to live legislation tracking: http://pc-biz.org/ClientHomePublic.aspx
  • Click on the green SessionSync button (on right)
  • Click on "General Assembly"
Schedule
Based on the current Docket and Minutes, the General Assembly will start considering ordination today at 2:00 pm CT and marriage at 7:30 pm CT.

Same-Sex Marriage on Media Radar

Today's media coverage of LGBT issues at the General Assembly was strongly focused on the potential of same-sex marriage in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Presbyterian Church USA to vote on same-sex 'marriage,'ordination, Associate Press
Mainline Presbyterians (Presbyterian Church USA) at their General Assembly in Minneapolis could vote today to approve same-gender "marriage" and ordination.

Michael Adee, who heads the homosexual-rights group More Light Presbyterians, says he has "dreamed and prayed and worked for these moments" for years.
Presbyterians consider backing gay marriage, NewsOK
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is poised to become the largest U.S. Christian denomination to permit same-sex marriage if church leaders meeting for their national convention in Minneapolis go along with a committee recommendation.
Presbyterian's General Assembly to consider redefining marriage, Digital Journal
As the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) meets this week one important subject they will be looking at is should the church redefine marriage to include same-sex couples and allow the ministers to perform same-sex weddings.
A new moderator was chosen, Cynthia Bolbach, an elder from National Capital Presbytery in Washington from six candidates. The moderator is the top leadership position for the assembly.
Presbyterians to vote on gay marriage, Sacramento Bee
Delegates at a national conference of Presbyterians will vote Thursday on whether ministers should be allowed to perform same sex marriages in the church. If passed, it will be the largest denomination in the country to marry gay couples.

Four Sacramento area delegates are attending the national gathering of church leaders for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in Minneapolis, Minn., and are expected to cast their votes. One of them is Dan Roth, a member of Westminster Presbyterian Church.
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) committee recommends allowing same-sex marriage, Louisville Courier-Journal
The Louisville-based Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) would become the largest denomination in the nation to allow same-sex marriage if it follows a recommendation made Tuesday by a church legislative committee.

And another church committee, gathering for the church's weeklong legislative General Assembly in Minneapolis, recommended the church begin ordaining non-celibate gays and lesbians.

More Light at the Movies: De Colores

Tonight's 6:30 p.m. movie in MLP's Hospitality Suite at the Hilton Minneapolis (1001 Marquette Ave, Room 1936) is De Colores. If you are not with us at the General Assembly, we wanted to make you aware of this resource for your congregation. This and other print and video resources will be available in MLP's Lending Library in Fall, 2010.

De Colores is a bilingual documentary about how Latino families are replacing the deep roots of homophobia with the even deeper roots of love and tolerance. 28 minutes.



See Also:
Women's Vision

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

MLP General Assembly Legislative Summary, July 7

The Board of Pensions, Foundation, and Presbyterian Publishing Committee was called back today because of a contradictory vote between Overtures 18-06 and 18-01. Both Overtures directed the Board of Pensions to Extend Benefits to Same-Gender Spouses and Domestic Partners. The committee action today was to approve an alternate pro-LGBT resolution with comment by 39 to 6. Here is the text of the alternate resolution with comment:
Alternate Resolution: That the 219th General Assembly (2010): 1. Urge the Board of Pensions to adopt amendments to the Benefits Plan to extend eligibility for spousal and dependent benefits under the Plan to Benefits Plan members, their same-gender domestic partners, and the children of their same-gender domestic partners, on the same basis as, and equivalent to, benefits made available to Benefits Plan members, their spouses, and the children of their spouses. 2. Approve an increase in dues for the Benefits Plan of up to 1 percent, effective January 1, 2012, to be allocated among the plans of the Board of Pensions, including but not limited to the Pension Plan, as the Board, in its sole discretion, deems necessary to fund the cost of the additional benefits. Should the Board not implement these benefits for any reason, approval of the increase in dues is rescinded. Comment: That the Board of Pensions be highly urged to provide relief of conscience, to be implemented simultaneously with these actions, for those congregations for whom these actions cause a moral dilemma. (Action on Comment was separate: 39 affirmative; 6 negative; 0 abstention)
The General Assembly Special Committee on the Heidelberg Catechism's Overture 16-11 passed in the General Assembly by voice vote. It recommends that the General Assembly appoint the present committee to present a new translation of the Heidelberg Catechism to the 220th General Assembly. For more information on the significance of this Overture, read MLP's paper on Restoring the Heidelberg Catechism or the FAQs.

Overture 16-12 from the Special Committee on the Belhar Confession recommending its inclusion of the The Book of Confessions passed in the General Assembly by 525 to 150 with 3 abstentions. The confession is the South African churches' response to apartheid and it addresses racial justice and reconciliation. Overture 16-01 sought to end the process on the Belhar Confession entering the Book of Confessions because it was thought to champion liberation theology and press other issues such as full equality for LGBT persons.

Hidden In Plain View

Rev. Heidi Peterson, the pastor at Central Presbyterian Church in Kansas City, MO and MLP Board Member, preached the sermon at MLP's Welcoming Worship Celebration on Tuesday at General Assembly.

Sermon Text:

1 Corinthians 12:12-27



Hidden In Plain View, Part 2

Press Release: Presbyterians Move Toward LGBT Equality


Coalition Media Contacts:  

Michael Adee, More Light Presbyterians (505) 577-0086
Pam Byers, Covenant Network of Presbyterians (415) 310-0371
Lisa Larges, That All May Freely Serve (585) 615-0613
Mieke Vandersall, Presbyterian Welcome (917) 776-0292

July 7, 2010 — Presbyterian commissioners to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) set a trend for more inclusion as they worked in committees on the first two full days of a full week of meetings, in Minneapolis that will close on July 10.

Although the legislation has not reached the full body for a final vote, the committees approved recommendations by significant margins that:
  • Give pastors discretion to celebrate legal weddings and civil union ceremonies;
  • Change the definition of marriage to apply to “two persons” instead of “a man and a woman”;
  • Establish one set of standards for ordination rather than having a separate standard for gay and lesbian candidates for ministry.
“We know that the church is living into a future that allows Presbyterians to follow their God-led consciences as they consider each person for ministry,” said the Rev. Tricia Dykers Koenig, National Organizer of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians.

Lisa Larges, head of That All May Freely Serve, said, “Faith traditions are moving toward a new understanding of God’s diverse creation.  The time for policies based on our love of God and call to serve has come.”

Two years ago, the PC(USA) voted for ordination equality and subsequently came closer than ever to ratifying it in regional Presbyteries across the country.  Traditionally conservative areas like Alabama, Texas, North Carolina, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Montana voted in favor of the amendment.   Some of the actions sent to the full General Assembly would also require ratification by a majority of presbyteries.

“There is a growing consensus among Presbyterians that we have spent enough time trying to keep people out of the church and it is time to celebrate our progress and our common baptism,” said Mieke Vandersall, head of Presbyterian Welcome.

Michael Adee, Executive Director, More Light Presbyterians, said "There is a spirit of grace at this General Assembly.  The church knows that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender daughters and sons are not outside trying to get in.  We are baptized and nurtured members of the church—and Presbyterian ministers should have the privilege of blessing our unions and supporting our families.”

The Same-Sex Marriage Recommendations

The Presbyterian Church USA would become the largest denomination in the nation to allow same-sex marriage if the recommendations from the Civil Unions & Marriage Committee are approved, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports.
The Louisville-based Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) would become the largest denomination in the nation to allow same-sex marriage if it follows a recommendation made Tuesday by a church legislative committee.

And another church committee, gathering for the church's weeklong legislative General Assembly in Minneapolis, recommended the church begin ordaining non-celibate gays and lesbians.

The assembly's committee on Civil Union and Marriage Issues voted 34-18 to change the definition of marriage in the church constitution to describe marriage as a covenant between "two people" rather than between "a man and a woman."

This "would recognize committed, lifelong relationships that are already being lived out by our members," said a committee statement.
The Presbyterian News Service provided detailed reporting on the Civil Unions & Marriage Committee:
The Committee on Civil Union and Marriage Issues voted Tuesday (34-18-2) to recommend to the full Assembly changing the definition of marriage in the Directory for Worship from “a woman and a man” to “two people.”

Heeding the advice of the Advisory Committee on the Constitution, the committee agreed to replace “couple” with “two people” because, according to Advisory Committee on the Constitution representative Catherine McDonald, “couple” in some languages “automatically translates as husband and wife.”

The committee also recommended approving an Authoritative Interpretation that gives ministers of the Word and Sacrament and commissioned lay pastors discretion over which marriage services they'll perform. Sessions may refuse the use of church property for wedding ceremonies of which they don’t approve.

An Authoritative Interpretation requires no approval by presbyteries and does not amend the church’s constitution. If it’s approved this week in plenary session, it becomes effective immediately.

The other nine overtures the committee considered Tuesday were either not approved or were similar enough to the two recommended overtures that they were considered by the committee to be “answered” by those overtures.

Advocating for changing the church's language of who may marry, Laura Marsh, an elder from East Iowa Presbytery, said her church, First Presbyterian of Iowa City, decided that “until we are allowed to marry everybody, we aren’t going to marry anybody. Is everybody happy? No. But there’s been no mass exodus, and we didn’t implode. But we’re urgently asking you to act.”

Committee member the Rev. Marion Haynes-Weller of Donegal Presbytery called herself “a pastor of one of those small rural congregations we seem to be worried about. We are in a very conservative community but it’s a congregation committed to welcoming (gay) members who are impatient with our lack of solidarity in standing with them.”

Young Adult Advisory Delegate Paige Eubanks of Mid-South Presbytery said “My fear is that if we open up Scripture to interpretation, we compromise purity, we become susceptible to deception and this body, my family, will disintegrate.”

More Light at the Movies: All God's Children and 7 Years

Tonight's 6:30 p.m. movie in MLP's Hospitality Suite at the Hilton Minneapolis (1001 Marquette Ave, Room 1936) is All God's Children and 7 Years. If you are not with us at the General Assembly, we wanted to make you aware of this resource for your congregation. This and other print and video resources will be available in MLP's Lending Library in Fall, 2010.

All God's Children is an African American response to homophobia. It looks at the relationship of lesbian and gay African Americans to their churches, and includes strong statements of support from prominent African American religious, intellectual and political leaders, including Jesse Jackson and Cornel West. 26 minutes.


All God's Children from Garrett Lenoir on Vimeo.

See Also:
A Woman's Vision
United Nations Association Film Festival

7 years explores how gay people in Kenya manage to live within a hostile environment where practicing homosexuality is punishable by 7 years imprisonment. 26 minutes.



See Also:
Frame Line

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Soulforce National Pray In

Soulforce starts Nonviolent Resistance Training tomorrow for the National Pray In on Thursday and Friday. Please join Soulforce at the Pray In action at the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in Minneapolis on July 7-10, 2010 at The Plaza (Outdoor Park at the Minneapolis Convention Center).
  1. Nonviolent Resistance Training, July 7, 6:30-9:00 p.m. (Not Required to Attend Action on July 8-9). Westminster Presbyterian Church CHAPEL 1200 Marquette Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55403
  2. PRAY IN, July 8-9, 2010, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Please bring your favorite scripture, prayer or reflection to read; or personal testimonies to share). The Plaza (Outdoor Park at the Minneapolis Convention Center).
  3. Commissioning Event, July 10, 2010 8:00 a.m. (Not Required to attend action). Westminster Presbyterian Church CHAPEL 1200 Marquette Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55403.

    MLP General Assembly Legislative Summary, July 6

    Pro-LGBT ordination Overture 06-09 from Western Reserve Presbytery On Amending G-6.0106b passed in the Church Orders & Ministry Committee by 36 to 16 with one abstention.

    The Civil Unions & Marriage Issues Committee passed a number of different pro-LGBT marriage Overtures:
    • An Overtures that amend the language in W-4.9000 from "a man and a woman" to "two persons". See Overture 12-04 (12-02, 12-03, 12-10 were answered by 12-04).
    • An Overture that allows Ministers of the Word and Sacrament and Sessions to exercise pastoral discretion in marrying same-sex couples with civil marriage licenses. See Overture 12-06 (12-07, 12-08, 12-09 were answered by 12-06).
    The General Assembly Special Committee on the Heidelberg Catechism's overture 16-11 passed in committee. It recommends that the General Assembly appoint the present committee to present a new translation of the Heidelberg Catechism to the 220th General Assembly.

    Overture 16-12 from the Special Committee on the Belhar Confession recommending its inclusion of the The Book of Confessions passed in committee.

    Rev. Jean Southard on Marriage Equality

    Rev. Jean Southard spoke at MLP's Educational Luncheon today about marriage equality and her trials in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Jean Southard is a retired Minister of the Word and Sacrament and officiated at a legal wedding of two women in Massachusetts. Charges were filed in the Presbytery of Boston and were dropped on August 22, 2009. This decision was appealed to the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Synod of the Northeast. The Synod ruled against the Presbytery and Jean. The Synod decision will be appealed.



    Rev. Jean Southard on Marriage Equality, Part 2

    Today the Civil Unions and Marriage Committee are voting on overtures that allow pastoral/session discretion in performing weddings in those states that have legalized marriage for all couples.

    Afternoon: Live Blog from Church Orders & Ministry Committee, Day 2

    The committee is in session.  Apologies for the delay.

    Committee members are addressing the floor regarding 06-09 and the substitute motion.

    "Does this church stand for something?  Does this have some meaning in what we do?"

    The committee is voting on whether to stop debate or not to vote on the question.   It passed, so now they are voting on whether or the the substitute question will become the main motion.  That did not pass, so the original question of 06-09 will be considered.

    "Spirit of the Living God" has been sung, and prayer is being offered.

    Question now on the floor is asking who is able to sign the minority report, and which way one will need to vote to do so.

    The question to stop debate on 06-09 has been called.  The motion has passed.

    The committee has voted to approve 06-09.  The vote was 36-yes, 16-no, 1 abstaining.  06-09 is going to plenary to be considered.

    The committee is taking a break.

    We are back from the break.

    A commissioner is at the microphone speaking to the floor about the need for unity.  He encourages the committee to stay together.  "Maybe you were chosen to be here to show the rest of the world something." This man is an ecumenical advisor, an Episcopalian bishop.  He thinks that Presbyterians like debate.  "Show us Episcopalians how to do it better."

    The committee is again discussing 06-04:  http://www.pc-biz.org/Explorer.aspx?id=2237.


    The question has been called to approve the following:  "Declare that the interpretive statements concerning ordained service to homosexual church members by the 190th General Assembly (1979) of the UPUSA and the 191st General Assembly (1979) and all subsequent affirmations thereof, are returned to full force and effect."  This was not passed.

    A motion was made to throw out all other overtures regarding G6-0106B.  The vote was 41 yes, 11 no.  Motion passes, which means that Committee 6 is finished with their work.  G-6.0109 amends the language currently in G-0106b


    A minority report will be issued.

    The committee is worshipping together and sharing communion.

    Overture Advocate Speeches for Including All In Ordination

    Overture Advocates supporting the pro-LGBT ordination overtures spoke before the Church Orders & Ministry Committee on July 5, 2010 at the 219th General Assembly. The full transcript of their remarks is below. MLP Board Member Rev. Ray Bagnuolo (photo) said:
    I’m Ray Bagnuolo, Minister Member of the Presbytery of New York City. In every way I know God, God is Love. Since the beginning of time, this Love has moved nations and peoples through struggles and trials, and has carried us through to this moment. In the presence of this Love, once again, our church is called to rise and demonstrate its fairness and equality, its commitment to reforming and leading the way in an expanded, welcoming witness of Love, faith, and the power and grace of God in our lives.
    I did not choose to be called to ministry.  I did not choose to be gay.  I did choose to respond as faithfully as I could to God’s call.  But I did not expect that the call to serve others as a Minister of Word and Sacrament would be this hard, this painful, this agonizing. All I knew then, and what I still believe so fervently today, is that as Jesus set his face to Jerusalem, I needed to join with others who had set their face toward God’s will, regardless of the personal cost.
    Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Presbyterians – indeed, all Presbyterians – have been terribly hurt by G-6.0106b.  But many of us are still here.  I am still here. And I am here asking that, together as a faith community, we lead the way toward love and understanding.
    Before you is a momentous decision: “Will we welcome all our sisters and brothers equally, with no special clauses or language, using the same historic standards of ordination for all?” I pray the answer to that question is “Yes!” and that you will recommend deletion of G-6.0106b. In so doing you will return us to our historic ordination standards, fulfilling the promise we make to each other at baptism, at membership, and at ordination.
    Overture Advocate Speeches for Including All In Ordination

    Morning: Live Blog from Church Orders & Ministry Committee, Day 2

    The committee moderator is outlining the day for the committee.

    The committee is in a period of discernment in their small groups.

    Stated Clerk Rev. Gradye Parsons has outlined to the committee who can speak and in what context.

    A commissioner has moved that Overture 06-09 be approved.  The motion has been seconded.  The commissioner is speaking in favor of the motion.

    A substitute motion is being recommended:   the group is asking that the Authoritative Interpretation of GA218 be removed and have no further effect.  The commissioner making this recommendation is speaking to the motion.  This is in regard to 06-04.  http://www.pc-biz.org/Explorer.aspx?id=2237

    The substitute motion is not consistent with the ACC's advice.  The ACC had advised that the committee address G6.0106B.

    The committee moderator does not believe that the substitute motion is appropriate.  A motion is on the floor is on the floor to sustain the decision of the moderator, meaning that the moderator's decision is under protest.  The moderator's decision has been upheld.

    A committee member has spoken against 06-09 (http://www.pc-biz.org/Explorer.aspx?id=2309).  Committee members are speaking in favor of and against 06-09.

    A different committee member is reading a substitute motion to the committee.  The motion to accept the substitute motion has been moved and seconded.

    The committee will perfect the wording of 06-09 and then perfect the wording of the substitute motion.  Once this has happened, the committee will vote on which version will be discussed in committee.

    The committee is voting to send the letter to all churches, etc., via US Postal Service and via email.  This is an amendment to the substitute motion.  This is an amendment to an amendment.  The question has been called, and the amendment to the amendment has carried.

    The committee is currently perfecting the pastoral letter contained in the substitute motion.

    It's noon; the committee is in recess until 1:30 p.m.

    Tuesday Afternoon Live Blogging

    More Light at the Movies: Out in the Silence

    Tonight's 10:00 p.m. movie in MLP's Hospitality Suite at the Hilton Minneapolis (1001 Marquette Ave, Room 1936) is Out in the Silence. If you are not with us at the General Assembly, we wanted to make you aware of this resource for your congregation. This and other print and video resources will be available in MLP's Lending Library in Fall, 2010.

    Out in the Silence captures the remarkable chain of events that unfold when the announcement of Joe Wilson's wedding to another man ignites a firestorm of controversy in his small Pennsylvania hometown.  Drawn back by a plea for help from the mother of a gay teen being tormented at school, Wilson's journey dramatically illustrates the universal challenges of being an outsider in a conservative environment and the transformation that is possible when those who have long been constrained by a traditional code of silence summon the courage to break it. 65 minutes.



    See Also:
    Out in the Silence

    Monday, July 5, 2010

    MLP General Assembly Legislative Summary, July 5

    The vote on the Overture 18-01 On Directing the Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to Extend Benefits to Same-gender Spouses and Domestic Partners was to recommend against advancing it to the Plenary. It failed 22 to 20 with two abstentions. MLP has not heard if there will be a minority report (See July 6 Legislative Summary Update).

    The Church Orders & Ministry Committee heard from overture advocates and witnesses on a variety of subjects related to ordination overtures. The testimony was followed by small group discussions among members of the committee. The small group discussions concerning postponement of action on ordination overtures seemed to be strongly in favor of moving forward. The small group discussions concerning the ordination overtures themselves were hard to assess for the potential progress of the pro-LGBT overtures.

    The Civil Union and Marriage Issues Committee heard witnesses for and against Overture 12-12 The Final Report of the Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage. The committee spent most today perfecting the majority report and the minority report. In a final vote, The Final Report of the Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage was sent to the Plenary. The vote was 47 to 8 with 2 abstentions.

    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."

    More Light at the Movies: Dangerous Living: Coming Out in the Developing World

    Tonight's 6:30 p.m. movie in MLP's Hospitality Suite at the Hilton Minneapolis (1001 Marquette Ave, Room 1936) is Dangerous Living: Coming Out in the Developing World. If you are not with us at the General Assembly, we wanted to make you aware of this resource for your congregation. This and other print and video resources will be available in MLP's Lending Library in Fall, 2010.

    Dangerous Living: Coming Out in the Developing World is the first documentary to deeply explore the lives of gay and lesbian people in non-western cultures. Traveling to five different continents, we hear the heartbreaking and triumphant stories of gays and lesbians from Egypt, Honduras, Kenya, Thailand and elsewhere, where most occurrences of oppression receive no media coverage at all. By sharing the personal stories coming out of developing nations, Dangerous Living sheds light on an emerging global movement striving to end discrimination and violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.



    See Also:
    First Run Features

    Sunday, July 4, 2010

    MLP National Celebration Dinner Highlighted

    The Presbyterian News Service highlighted MLP's National Celebration Dinner and awards on Saturday. If you have not had a chance to view the photos of the event, they are located on Flickr.
    At Saturday night’s More Light Presbyterian (MLP) National Celebration Dinner at the 219th General Assembly (2010), Ross Murray, interim executive director for Lutherans Concerned/North America, issued reassurance to all dinner attendees: “One year ago, we, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), were meeting in this very place discussing the same issues [on homosexuality] when tornados and lightning struck and we knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore. Well, there was no little man hiding behind a curtain to help us … it’s been a year for us, and we are praying for you as you go through this process.”

    The program that followed rallied support to face that storm head-on.

    In his address to attendees at the dinner, Michael Adee, MLP executive director and a former college professor, recalled that in the 1990s, “Homosexuality [in the church] was greeted with either silence or hostility … from there the church began debating, voting and studying and we’re still debating, voting and studying.”

    Keynote speaker the Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, director of the Institute for Welcoming Resources, told of a traditional Jewish story about how God’s world is destroyed and that it takes all of God’s people to rebuild it. She related that story to the state of the Presbyterian church today. “The church is falling apart and it is only by acceptance and all of us working together that we can rebuild it,” said Voelkel.

    “How desperately we need a church whose people can say that ours is a church where all people are accepted in love,” she concluded.

    The award ceremony highlighted national support for MLP churches. The Rev. Jean Southard was awarded the Rev. David Sindt Leadership Award for her nationwide efforts in raising awareness of the necessity of MLP churches.

    St. Luke Presbyterian Church in Wayzata, Minn., was awarded Outstanding More Light Church. The Rev. Gwin Pratt, pastor, proudly recalled that in 1988, St. Luke’s was referred to as “irregular,” and said, “We plan to stay that way.”

    The Outstanding MLP Chapter award was given to Open Doors More Light Chapter in Washington, D.C. Accepting the award was the Rev. Jean Mackenzie.

    The Three Faces of Power

    During the keynote address at the National Celebration Dinner, Rev. Rebecca Voelkel of the Institute of Welcoming Resources shared some of the lessons she'd learned about the Pro-LGBT Religious Movement to support and inspire the critical work at the 219th General Assembly and beyond. The full speech is after the videos.



    The Three Faces of Power, Part 2
    Rev. Rebecca Voelkel's Speech National Celebration Dinner