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 23, 2016

Social Justice Committee Unable to Apologize for Spiritual Abuse of LGTBQ/Q People

Committee 11, Social Justice Issues (11-05) couldn't muster up the self-reflection to apologize to decades of spiritual abuse directed at its LGBTQ/Q members because of the PCUSA's policies and theological doctrines.  Instead the committee substituted a tepid "statement" to  LGBTQ/Q people by using the passive voice that is tantamount to "I'm sorry you feel that way."   To add salt to the wound, the substitute action the committee approved apologized in an active voice to those who left the church because they could not agree with the PCUSA's steps toward justice for LGBTQ/Q people.

To take this action following the mass slaughter in Orlando because of LGBTQ/Q hatred is particularly shameful.   I wrote about this apology previously so I will not repeat my arguments here.  Now is the time for the PCUSA to make a bold statement and a clear apology that its views have done and continue to do irreparable harm.

On Wednesday night, the assembly approved the Belhar Confession.  It reads in part:
  • that the church must therefore stand by people in any form of suffering and need, which implies, among other things, that the church must witness against and strive against any form of injustice, so that justice may roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream;
  • that the church as the possession of God must stand where the Lord stands, namely against injustice and with the wronged; that in following Christ the church must witness against all the powerful and privileged who selfishly seek their own interests and thus control and harm others.
Therefore, we reject any ideology

which would legitimate forms of injustice and any doctrine which is unwilling to resist such an ideology in the name of the gospel.
Here is an opportunity for the PCUSA to live into this new confession.  It is not a faithful interpretation to continue to express the ideology of homophobia that directly leads to violence.

The Covenant Network is wrong on this one.   The reason they are wrong is that they think it is a higher value to seek unity with those whose ideologies we must reject than to stand with those who suffer because of these ideologies.    

The plenary will have the opportunity to revisit this unfortunate action during Thursday evening's plenary.   Read more at That All May Freely Serve

Below is Ray's excellent statement to the committee:
First, I begin this time asking for silence to remember the victims of the massacre in Orlando. For this, too, is ours. Please join me in a short moment of silent prayer. Thank you.

Forty years of the struggle for inclusion in this church has produced harms, as any conflict of such magnitude and duration is sure to do.

Years of unaffirming church practices toward our LGBTQ and supportive siblings have harmed our missions our families and one another in many ways including:

- Refusal of calls for queer folk
- Exhaustive and demeaning accusations, charges and trials against us and our allies
- Loss of pension benefits, careers,
- Being outed against our wills
excluded from our worshiping families sending too many to harms worse than these

Our institution has too often permitted dysfunction to rule, confirming public suspicions that QUEER folks and their allies were unwelcome here. At times, we have spread a disenfranchising gospel, one centered on exclusion, proselytizing fear as a path to love.

It doesn't work that way.

We can change this all beginning with 11-05.
we can accelerate an institutional admission And apology that brings us together. In so doing, We can recognize the PCUSA as one of the most welcoming faith communities in the world, committed to honoring those whose injuries have been real, long lasting and unaddressed.

Orlando, 11-05 can be statement of humility and courage and hope from a mainline Protestant denomination, profoundly impacting our church and our nation, even as we grieve such unimaginable loss.

For a time such as this, we, too, have been called. To this hope in our calling we have gathered. May we be ready now.

Clergy Letter Project Passes General Assembly!

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted to endorse The Clergy Letter, 14-02 by a vcote of 374-194.   This was an overture that started with the session of Southminster Presbyterian Church.  Last Fall, Cascades Presbytery endorsed it and sent it to the General Assembly.  It received concurrences from Eastern Virginia, and Upper Ohio Valley.
 
Kathleen Huddleston, an elder from Southminster, was the Overture Advocate.  She did a fantastic job presenting the overture to the Theological Issues and Institutions Committee and it was approved by the committee 66-10.   This is something I have been working on for some time.   The approval by the denomination will help on a number of levels.  It an atmosphere of science-denial, this will put the PCUSA on record as unambiguously supporting the teaching of evolution in public schools as "a foundational scientific truth."   It will show by example that people do not have to choose between science and faith.   It will invite the church to rethink its theology and its theological symbols in light of the advances in science, particularly the challenges of evolution in regards to ideas such as Creation, Providence, and what it means to be a human being.   Rather than regard science and evolution as an enemy of faith, this overture calls the church to befriend science and learn from it.

The General Assembly also approved overture 14-13, from the Presbytery of Boston.  This overture with concurrence by Cascades, Denver, Milwaukee, and Wabash Valley, was approved by the General Assembly, 305-264.    More specific than the Clergy Letter, this new affirmation provided a list of things that we know from scientific exploration:

today with confidence we can affirm:
•              That God has been calling this universe into being for at least 13.8 billion years and continues calling upon the Creation to bring forth new creatures;
•              That God’s creative call has resulted in virtually countless stars and planetary systems, and new stars and planetary systems are continuing to be created;
•              That, in response to God’s creative call, the Earth took form at least 4.6 billion years ago;
•              That, in response to God’s call, living creatures emerged on the Earth at least 3.6 billion years ago;
•              That God has connected all life on Earth in a network of kinship by virtue of descent with modification from common ancestors;
•              That, in response to God’s call, we Homo sapiens emerged as a species over more than 6 million years of hominin development;
•              That, since our line of descent split from the line that resulted in our contemporaries, the chimpanzees and bonobos, we Homo sapiens were preceded by at least eighteen already identified hominin species, all of which are now extinct;*
•              That, in the providence of God, we Homo sapiens have come to exercise extraordinary power over other creatures and their habitats, the Earth’s geological structures, and the meteorological systems of the Earth;
•              That, by virtue of the powers of intellect and creativity called forth in us by God, we bear exceptional responsibility for the future of the Earth and all its constitutive creatures.

Since science would not speak of "God," this statement is a theological statement and invites an ongoing "interactive engagement" between theology and science.   One of the challenges for theologians is to explore what we mean by using the word "God" among other things.   

Thanks to the Presbyterian Association of Science, Technology, and the Christian Faith and in particular to Overture Advocate, Sara Joan Wasson Miles, who provided an excellent explanation of this overture to the committee.