(Soulforce demonstration at GA. Photo by Erin Dunigan. See more photos here.)
I wish I had been there. I have been watching the proceedings on livestream and tweeting along with other members of the Peanut Gallery Advisory Delegation (those twittering with the #ga219 hashtag). But it is hard to get a feel for the mood when you are not physically present.
Last night, there was twitter talk about this demonstration and I picked up on some energy of LGBT activists who didn't appreciate the action by Soulforce. I felt a little funny about it myself. I used the analogy of an uninvited neighbor interfering and taking sides in a family spat.
There was some question whether or not Soulforce and the other advocacy groups who are within the church (TAMFS, More Light Presbyterians, Covenant Network) were on the same page. Yet I was challenged by others who thought Soulforce did a good thing. After a night's sleep and more reflection, I now have more appreciation for the demonstration.
If the PCUSA is a "family" we are an abusive, dysfunctional one. This family has treated its own LGBT family members like crap for a long, long time. Maybe it has been going on so long that it takes intervention from someone outside the family for us to realize how we are perceived from the outside.
Of course, the PCUSA is not a family. It is a religious corporation. It is an institution. It is an oppressive institution. The PCUSA participates in and contributes to spiritual violence against LGBT people through our policies and our inaction. Obviously, there are many who have been devoted for decades to justice and equality. I mean no slight whatsoever on individuals and groups who have been working and sacrificing for equality within the church and doing so from their own particular stance of conscience and strategy.
Nevertheless, as a whole, the PCUSA is oppressive. The effects of this oppression, this spiritual violence, go beyond our denomination. The General Assembly silenced Committee twelve and did not even hear the recommendations regarding marriage equality. We can talk about that in terms of Presbyterian family dynamics, procedures, and whatever. Fine. But Soulforce reminded us that this silencing shows our true colors as a denomination. We need to be reminded of that. Sometimes it does take a group from the outside, like Soulforce, to show us and to shame us.
Some of us have been at this for a while and so we tend to know all the players and the arguments and the strategy and we tend to think along those lines. We don't want to anger the opposition unduly. They are after all, family. We are happy when we get small victories. We need to celebrate them, claim them, and work from them. We should never forget, however, that these victories also remind us of what we do not have. There is no reason, none, that we shouldn't as a denomination embrace full equality now.
In today's Johnson City Press, an Associated Press report reads,
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."Could have" means "didn't."
As Soulforce reminds us, "Justice delayed is justice denied." More Light Presbyterians reported on the demonstration and arrest. Other news reports are here and video here. Also a report from Presbyterian Outlook, and GLAAD.
In terms of what happened at GA:
- The GA passed a revised G-6.0106b that will now go to the presbyteries. Get your game on!
- The GA approved directing the Board of Pensions to Same-Gender spouses and Domestic Partners. No ratification is needed by the presbyteries.
- The GA did not approve any changes to the definition of marriage or make any statement regarding clergy who officiate at weddings in states where same-gender marriage is legal.