Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Welcome Table

Our congregation's monthly newsletter, The White Spire, is on the way to mailboxes and is on-line. This issue is June/July. Here is my letter to the folks announcing the good news of the passage of Amendment A:

Dear Friends,

On May 10th, 2011, the Presbyterian Church (USA) received the 87th and deciding vote to remove barriers to ordination for those previously excluded by this sentence:
"...the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness."
While this decision is more nuanced and complicated then the declaration that barriers to ordination have been lifted for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, still, there is truth to that. However we slice it, we have been arguing and politicking over the place of gay people in the church for the past 35 years.

This decision could also affect single heterosexual people. The change allows ordaining bodies to make the decisions regarding candidates for leadership without requiring narrow proscriptions regarding who can love whom, when and how.

It has been a long struggle and one with which I have been engaged since seminary. For those who have been following my blog, you know I have been writing about this for some time. On the bulletin board, you can read articles about this decision in the Johnson City Press, the Kingsport Times-News, and the Elizabethton Star.

When I entered the ministry I never dreamed that advocacy for LGBT people would take such a central role. Today, I am proud that our denomination has taken an important step toward recognition of the diversity and the gifts of all members of the human family.

This vote is about ordination specifically, but it is also about change. Michael Adee, executive director of More Light Presbyterians, said:
"More people will be able to live the truth of their lives, parents will talk more about having gay kids and people will come out in Presbyterian churches."
I am grateful for that. I am pleased to pastor a congregation that has taken a stand of welcome and affirmation of LGBT people. I think we provide an important and necessary ministry.

We will be celebrating this decision and celebrating the lives and gifts of LGBTQ people in the life of the church on More Light Sunday, June 5th. It will be a service of laughter, tears, great music, and cupcakes to follow! Wear your rainbow colors.

I am pleased that work for advocacy, education, and support is happening in the Tri-Cities with organizations such as PFLAG Tri-Cities, the Tennessee Equality Project, LGBTieS at ETSU, and a new group for LGBTQ students ages 17-21 called "The Change." Read more about that in this newsletter.
Link
Much of this important work in our community is carried out by folks connected with this congregation. Thank you. It is the right thing to do, especially in light of some the mean-spirited legislation created by the Tennessee legislature this session. We need to make it clear to our legislators:
"No longer will you score political points by bashing gays."
I am also aware that some in our presbytery disagree with this action by the PC(USA). Our congregation and I value our presbytery community. We are honored to take an active role in the ministries of this presbytery. We are committed to working on those ministries we share in common and to build relationships. We seek also to respect each other's freedom of conscience.

This decision is not win/lose. It is win/win. Everyone is invited to the welcome table.

Blessed Be,
John

Then...
Old Text:

STRIKING: “Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness. Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament.
And now...
New Text:

AND INSERTING: Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G-1.0000). The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation (G.14.0240; G-14.0450) shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003). Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.”


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