Shuck and Jive

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

Saturday, January 24, 2009

My Two Minute Speech

The voting on amendments to the PCUSA Book of Order, including the new amendment B, are taking place. Presbyweb has a chart of the votes. 19 presbyteries have voted so far, 14 against and 5 for the new "B."

For the uninitiated to the Presby story, we have been voting for a number of years (decades, really) regarding ordination. The presenting question, although not always stated as such is the place of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons in the life of the church.

Sexual ethics is part of the question. This is a question for heterosexuals, homosexuals, and bisexuals. When is sexual activity "good" and when is it "not good?"

Gender identity is another part. What makes a person male or female or transgender? How does the church and society respond to those whose human experience challenges societal gender norms?

Another part of the question is the meaning of membership and ordination. Who is allowed to be a full member of the church and a minister (or elder or deacon) and who is not? Who makes those decisions?

This is important conversation and we have been struggling with this conversation for some time. This conversation is not about an issue or an abstraction. We are talking about the lives of real human beings. This conversation is personal and often painful. This conversation also is passionate and at times ugly--and of course, political.

Science, human experience, church tradition, the Bible (and its interpretation and use) are brought in as conversation partners, as resources, and as sources of authority. We spend a lot of time spinning around in the mud and slinging this mud at those we feel are against us.

Welcome to the human experience.

The presbytery of which I am a member, Holston Presbytery, will have a conversation about all of the amendments including B on Sunday, February 8th. Anyone, whether or not she or he is a voting member in the presbytery, is welcome to participate. It will be held at 4 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Greeneville, TN. Commissioners from our presbytery who participated at the General Assembly will lead the discussion. I am pleased we are having that conversation.

Our presbytery will vote on Saturday, March 7th also at First Greeneville.

Here is my thing. If you look at the voting history for my presbytery on the chart, you will see that we are solid yellow. The last time a similar vote came before the presbytery the vote was 74-22 against removing barriers toward ordination.

I harbor no delusions. I am doubtful that I will come up with a rousing two-minute speech that will change the minds of hearts of my fellow presbyters and cause them to vote "blue." I could be wrong. Spirit is mysterium tremendum.

I would say it is a safe bet that our presbytery will again vote yellow. Aside from my blathering on this blog, I haven't done any politicking and getting out the vote as I might do if I were in a "swing" presbytery.

I feel, strangely enough, a sense of freedom and relief in that. Given that I will likely "lose the vote" how might I most productively use this conversation time on February 8th and my two minutes of fame at the March 7th meeting?

I am thinking that this might be an opportunity to speak in a pastoral way about the resources available for congregations and pastors so they might minister more effectively to their gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender members and their families. Perhaps it will be an opportunity to talk about an organization with which I closely work, PFLAG Tri-Cities.

If you are in a similar position, what would (or will) you do?