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

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sex and the Presbyterian Obsession

Michael Adee of More Light Presbyterians recently wrote an essay entitled Marriage As Commitment. It received a couple of Facebook comments including the following from Ed Koster of Detroit who also posted it on Presbyweb:
Dear Editor:

I have posted the following Facebook response to Mr Adee's article:

"The article you cite proposes that the characteristics of marriage are commitment, permanence, exclusivity, and public declaration.

If the proposal to "legalize" the ordination of non-celibate gays and lesbians had been to require that the individual be in a publicly declared relationship characterized by commitment, permanence, and exclusivity, then a lot less damage would have been done to the church than has been done by the strategy that was used. I suggested this to you and other leaders in the movement over the years and was ignored.

I am saddened. While I believe our prohibition was wrong from the beginning. I cannot believe the prohibition could have been removed in any way more destructive to the Presbyterian Church than by the way this was accomplished."
Edward Koster
Stated Clerk, Presbytery of Detroit
As I understand Mr. Koster, he thinks that More Light Presbyterians should have advocated for marriage equality before ordination equality.

My first response to that is to ask what gives him the right to tell a group that has experienced hostility, prejudice, and exclusion at the hands of the church the appropriate way to fight for equality? LGBT people owe an oppressive church nothing. They have graciously given the church the opportunity to follow Christ. Removing prejudicial barriers is a start in the right direction.

The second response is, "Really?" You think the folks upset about gay ordination would have celebrated gay marriage? The idea that there is a nice, step by step process to end oppression can only come from privilege.

My third response is the obvious: not everyone is married or should be. Believe it or not there are people who are not married who have sex--and ethical sex at that. I am happy to have them as elders, deacons, and ministers.

The church would do well to end prejudice and its obsession over people's sex lives.

16 comments:

Alan said...

The process for proposing overtures is open to anyone. As an ordained MWS in the PCUSA, Mr. Koster could have submitted marriage overtures anytime he pleased (and still can.) If he is such an ally, his church could declare itself to be be a More Light Church any time it wants (it has not.)

If he's such an advocate for marriage, I'm sure we can expect an overture that he wrote coming from his session to the Presbytery of Detroit for approval soon...

Right?

I will not hold my breath.

Having been on the receiving end of having Mr. Koster point a finger and scold my husband and I as "Fornicators!!" during a congregational meeting (yes, seriously, he did that), let's just say that I find his suggestion that he's any kind of ally a bit, shall we say, weak, to put it nicely.

The process of pursuing ordination before marriage was correct, it gives LGBT people the ability to be ordained, and thus, for the first time, actually have a place at the table from which to discuss marriage.

Getting married in order to be ordained once again sounds like a remarkably Catholic suggestion from someone who is supposed to be Presbyterian, like Mr. Koster.

John Shuck said...

Now you're Californicators.

If he's such an advocate for marriage, I'm sure we can expect an overture that he wrote coming from his session to the Presbytery of Detroit for approval soon...

Exactly.

Edward Koster said...

I don't know who Alan is, but I doubt I ever accused anyone of being fornicators in the manner suggested.

I have not advocated for marriage. Never. I have stated and state here again that I believe it appropriate that those non-celibate gays and lesbians seeking ordination should have stood before the church and publicly pledged permanence, exclusivity, and dedication of the union to the service and worship of God. To allow for less is to allow what Mr Shuck advocates: no limits at all on sexual intimacy for anyone. I believe that is not in incompatible with Christian tradition.

Abundancetrek said...

Blaming the Victim is not what I want to see happening in the PCUSA or anywhere else. Thanks John for clearly stating that the oppressed should not be blamed for conflict in the church.

It has taken a long time for us to get our ordination standards right. Now the fight to establish what marriage is takes center stage. Good.

Here in New York, the government is ahead of the church putting us in the unenviable and even sinful situation of not permitting a certain category of marriages to take place in our churches so that they have to go elsewhere such as the UU or UCC or the local Magistrate. I hope we decide to allow GLBT marriages very VERY soon in the PCUSA.

love, john + www.abundancetrek.com + "The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, humankind will have discovered fire." -- Teilhard de Chardin

Presbyman said...

I hardly comment here anymore, but I will say that I have known Ed Koster for nearly 20 years and find Alan's accusation completely unbelievable. I would go so far to call it a smear.

John Erthein
DeFuniak Springs, FL

John Shuck said...

"No limits at all on sexual intimacy for anyone!"

Woo hoo!

Nope, I didn't say that. I trust that adults can make those decisions like they make thousands of other ethical decisions each and every day without the help of busybodies and sex police.

Yes, John Wilde, that is exactly it. Mr. Koster is blaming the victim for the conflict in the church.

Mr. Koster can lay blame all he wants on MLP because some people are leaving the denomination due to the passage of 10A.

More Light Presbyterians did not remove the ordination barriers. Everyday people voting in their presbyteries did it.

They voted their consciences and did the right thing rather than worry or fret that doing so might challenge the sensibilities of the prejudiced.

John Shuck said...

Alan can respond if he wishes.

I am curious @John Erthein, friend of Mr. Koster,

You would vote in favor of the ordination of "non-celibate gays and lesbians" if they had "stood before the church and publicly pledged permanence, exclusivity, and dedication of the union to the service and worship of God"?

My hunch is no. In fact, no hunch is needed, is there? Those who are all upset about 10A, who Mr. Koster is worried over, wouldn't give one whit whether or not gay couples had relationships of permanence, exclusivity, and whatever else.

If sexual intimacy isn't restricted to one man and one woman in the context of marriage it is sin, right, John?

Mr. Koster's claims are meaningless for all the reasons I stated above.

Presbyman said...

John,

No, but so what? Ed has been advocating a solution that would appeal to the broad center of the denomination. I don't belong in the broad center. By PC(USA) standards I am far to the Right.

As a friend of Ed Koster's, I can vouch for his sincerity and intellectual honesty, even when I find myself in great disagreement with him, which is often.

And the idea that he would have shaken his finger at anyone and called them "fornicators," is just in the realm of fantasy.

But what do I know? I mean, he's only been my friend since 1992!

Anyway I won't bother your blog again.

John Erthein
DeFuniak Springs, FL

Alan said...

Yes, that did indeed happen, Ed. In fact, after the two of us stopped laughing, my husband asked you for a definition of the term "fornication" in that case. You seemed rather incredulous that he had to ask. There were many witnesses; it was during a congregational meeting. Honestly, it was hardly out of the ordinary treatment of our congregation by our Presbytery. In my opinion, compared to other actions by the Presbytery or its designees, this was fairly tame.

But all that is hardly the point, nor does it really matter to me, I bring it up as only one example of the lack of real commitment to marriage or to any other kind of union for LGBT people by Mr. Koster.

The fact remains, if Mr. Koster actually believed what he says, I think his actions would follow those beliefs and he would have submitted an overture to that effect, and/or become involved in the organizations that have for so long worked for a just solution so that he could have pushed for the solution he suggests. He did neither.

I believe the term is "Monday Morning Quarterback."

John Shuck said...

It looks like the "broad center of the denomination" passed amendment 10a, otherwise it wouldn't have passed.

Only the far to the right group, you, are upset about it enough to leave or threaten to do so. His "solution" wouldn't even have mattered as the far to the right group wouldn't accept his "solution."

The point is he that he is just blowing smoke after the fact.

Brian W. Spolarich said...

This is Alan's husband. I was also at the congregational meeting in question and the events did transpire as Alan has described.

Basically our congregation was being taken to task for having passed an inclusive marriage policy, and we were "encouraged" to engage in another discernment process around the policy. This involved having our Stated Clerk come and visit with us and give us a lecture on fornication, our status as 'traitors' to the constitution of the PC(USA) (to be fair in the context of a rhetorical argument comparing the US federal constitution to the Book of Order), fornication, and the level of seriousness which our congregation took its ordination vows and commitment to the connectional church.

At one point I asked straight out (as it were), "So Ed, is what you're saying in concrete terms is that Alan and I should shut up, stop trying to share our gifts for leadership in this congregation and sit at the back of the bus until the rest of y'all are ready for us?" My recollection of the answer was "Yes" but I was pretty pissed and insulted at that point and had probably stopped listening.

We had to pass some other hurdles as well as part of this discernment process, which we took seriously, and what came out of it was a renewed understanding and refinement of our marriage policy.

This isn't about airing dirty laundry, although during my 14 years at that church I think we were treated pretty badly at times by those in power over us because of our disagreement over national church policy. I admire Ed's longtime service to the Presbytery and he has a keen knowledge of our parliamentarian processes and church history.

But Alan's point is central to my understanding of both our polity and theology: ordination is critical to the theological notion of the radical equality promised us as members of Christ's body, and having the ability to be a member of Session (if so elected) is crucial to the practical matter of having a voice and vote in Session, Presbytery, church councils, and GA.

Then we can have a real conversation about marriage. The other way around just means that the conversation continues to be 'about us' instead of 'with us'.

John Shuck said...

Thanks Brian!

But Alan's point is central to my understanding of both our polity and theology: ordination is critical to the theological notion of the radical equality promised us as members of Christ's body, and having the ability to be a member of Session (if so elected) is crucial to the practical matter of having a voice and vote in Session, Presbytery, church councils, and GA.

Then we can have a real conversation about marriage. The other way around just means that the conversation continues to be 'about us' instead of 'with us'.


Worth repeating.

Snad said...

Yes, indeed, Brian!

Then we can have a real conversation about marriage. The other way around just means that the conversation continues to be 'about us' instead of 'with us'.

"What do we do about us" certainly sounds more Christian than "what do we do about them," doesn't it?

Abundancetrek said...

Thanks for the interesting and informative sharing here. Democracy is always messy and those who think conflict can be avoided are not living in the real world. I respect those who are willing to practice civil disobedience for their beliefs and values even when jail or police beatings and even injury and death are the possible consequences. I respect those who practice ecclesiastical disobedience for their beliefs and values even when excommunications and employment terminations and, in the past, burnings at the stake, are possible consequences.

love, john + www.abundancetrek.com + “To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else -- means to fight the hardest battle+ which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting” – E. E. Cummings

Nomi said...

Most of this conversation is more foreign to me than Portuguese....

John, I love that line about privilege....

John Shuck said...

@Nomi

Our Presbyterian squabbles must indeed sound like a foreign language! But the despite the language barriers, the struggle for equality and dignity against privilege and oppression is the same the world round--