February 11, 2010
Click on the poster for more information about this upcoming event at Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church on March 14th.
October 29, 2009
October 21, 2009
Join in a night of moving music, dance, inspiring testimony, and spiritual sustenance as we work together for marriage equality in the District of Columbia. This special service will be at Asbury United Methodist Church on 11th and K st. NW on October 29. The service will be from 7-9 p.m.
September 26, 2009
OPEN DOORS/MORE LIGHT ANNUAL MEETING!!!
Join us Sunday, October 4, 2009 for a worship service, dinner, and our annual meeting. This is a great way to introduce yourself and re-engage for another year with More Light!
Rebecca Fox, from the National Coalition for LGBT Health, is our special guest speaker.
Dinner will be provided ($10 donation requested) by California Tortilla.
Western Presbyterian Church
2401 Virginia Ave, NW, Washington, DC
(2 blocks from Foggy Bottom metro — Blue/Orange line)
5:00pm — Worship service in the sanctuary
approx 6:00pm — Dinner and Meeting in the Courtyard Room (1st Floor)
$10 donation for dinner
Receive information about plans for the year, exciting progress and continued advocacy efforts!
**** RSVP PLEASE!!! firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 577-1062
May 29, 2009
“Dear Friends and Members of MLP-OD,
Gay Pride is coming soon – Sunday June 14th. We will again have a
booth at the festival. We need folks who can spend a two hour period
in our booth. The time slots are 10:00 AM to 12 Noon, Noon to 2:00
PM, 2:00 to 4:00 PM, or 4:00 to 6:00 PM (we’ll probably close up
around 5:30 so the last slot will be shorter. The festival opens at
11:00AM and whoever can come at 10 will be able to help with the set
up of the booth.
In years past everyone who has volunteered has had a good
experience. This is a very good opportunity to interact with folks
in the GLBTQ community who are interested in finding a church that is
open and welcoming and inclusive. The appreciation of the people who
stop by the booth is palpable. You’ll love it and you’ll be helping
the cause of opening the churhc to folks who have not felt welcome
Please let me know what shift you would like to volunteer.”
rustylynn (at) earthlink.net
Last night, by a vote of 222 to 102, the National Capital Presbytery passed Amendment B-08, which would remove the anti-GLBT Amendment B from the Book of Order. More Light Presbyterians and other supporters of Amendment B-08 turned out in force, sporting beautiful hand-knit rainbow scarves that symbolize our hopes for a more inclusive and welcoming Presbyterian Church. Many of the commissioners to the meeting also wore rainbow scarves that had been knit for them by More Light and Covenant Network members.
Nationally, 87 presbyteries must vote to delete Amendment B before it can be removed from the Book of Order. The current tally of votes is 67 for removing Amendment B versus 84 for retaining it. Although it appears that we may not get enough votes to remove Amendment B from the Book of Order, there has been represents significant progress: so far, 27 churches have changed the position they took in 2001-02, now favoring the removal of Amendment B.
Many thanks are due from the Open Doors Chapter of More Light Presbyterians to our members and to members of the Covenant Network for all your help in organizing support for the vote to delete Amendment B, including knitting scarves, attending Presbytery meetings, strategizing, and providing moral and financial support to the effort. The beautiful rainbow scarves around the necks of commissioners and observers were a gratifying and inspiring symbol of the energy and love that have gone into this effort!
Last night was a big step forward towards being a more inclusive and welcoming Presbyterian Church. Now let’s work together on fostering much-needed dialogue within our Presbytery and widening national support for the removal of Amendment B. We’ll get there yet!
With great gratitude and high hopes,
The Board members of the Open Doors Chapter of More Light Presbyterians
When I was talking with Rev. Halvorson about this event, he asked whether I wanted to use PowerPoint and I declined, but as I contemplated my comments to you, it occurred to me that I missed a chance. I would have shown you faces. Faces of candidates asked to choose between their call to serve the church and the integrity of being honest about who they are, who realize that they cannot be faithful and effective ministers if they are not open and authentic human beings. Faces of moms and dads who eventually get over the pain and shame of the bogus message that their faulty parenting was responsible for their kids’ sexual orientation, and now just want their gay children to have the same respect, opportunity, safety in the world as their straight children. Faces of children who sense they are different from an early age, who when they begin to figure out how they’re different pray fervently for the feelings to be taken away, who when God doesn’t answer those prayers the way they begged for either get angry with God or turn their anger inward, who despite never having engaged in any sexual activity are told that they just need to repent, pray harder and when that doesn’t work fall into despair. Faces of young men in prison because they acted out the anti-gay attitudes of society, bolstered by the church, with violence; faces bloodied by gay-bashing. Faces of kids who drop out of school when they cannot face another day of being bullied because someone thinks they are gay whether they really are or not, and faces of kids who live on the street after being kicked out by their parents. The face of the father who thinks his son is burning in hell; the face of the mother who belatedly realizes that her refusal to hear the truth of her daughter’s life led her that beloved child to commit suicide… Less dramatically, the faces of the congregations who just want to ordain the leaders they are convinced God has sent them.
The faces of actual human beings whom we love – whom God loves. That’s why this “issue” won’t go away – because it’s not an abstract issue, it’s real life, and sometimes death. If Amendment 08-B doesn’t pass this year, we’ll be back again until something like it does, because of the people. Absolutely there are principles involved, important ones, but first and last it’s the people whom we cannot abandon. There is an enormous human cost in maintaining the stigma against homosexuality that comes from the teaching that all same-sex practice is sinful. The suffering happening around homosexuality is overwhelmingly attributable not to homosexual practice, but to the stigma attached to homosexuality, and it’s not just homosexuals who suffer from it: the spiritual corrosion that comes from harboring hateful attitudes; anguish of parents burdened with false guilt, and siblings in conflict with each other over how to treat the member they learn is gay, so much for family values; self-image problems for gays and lesbians; loneliness; fear and even reality of rejection if one is honest, or the toxic effects of living a lie; the denial to some not just of the opportunity for legitimate and joyful sexual expression, but of all aspects of an intimate relationship, most of which has nothing to do with sex; overt discrimination and violence, both verbal and physical. And ironically, some of the suffering that does result from actual homosexual practice can be attributed to the stigma of sinfulness too, for when we deny the possibility of any legitimate homosexual relationship we inadvertently encourage promiscuity, and that is dangerous and damaging; until the church allows for the possibility of some form of legitimate homosexual relationship, it will be unable to encourage the values for gays that it ought to be upholding for all people – no casual sex, faithfulness within a committed relationship, mutuality and tenderness and respect and all the values that ought to characterize all relationships, intimate and otherwise. The lesbian and gay Christians I know are not asking the church to lower the standards – they want to be held to the same high standards as everyone else, where the only difference is the gender of the partner to whom they have committed themselves.
So much suffering inflicted because of a difference that’s as unchosen as left-handedness – another minority characteristic that used to be vilified. At the last Presbyterian Coalition Gathering, there was enthusiastic applause for a man who related his struggles, beginning when he was a boy growing up with an awareness of being different that he could not name. Though I would not discount anyone’s story, as I listened to the self-identified “ex-gay” man I thought of the many other lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons who are asking their fellow Christians to hear and take seriously their stories — the vast majority of them with different conclusions. Why, I wondered, would this man’s audience prefer him to have suffered through the years of isolation and agonizing struggle, the self-loathing and doubt, the pain his situation caused his wife and family, rather than living in a world in which he was encouraged to accept himself from an early age and seek a healthy, fulfilling relationship appropriate to his sexual orientation? Let’s be clear – this man’s testimony is that he has repented and changed, which is what I hear as the goal of those who believe that homosexuality is sin, but even so there has been incredible pain… not to mention the fact that the vast majority of mental health and other professionals assert that attempts to change sexual orientation rarely work and are strongly discouraged because they are actively harmful. From the publication Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation and Youth, endorsed by 13 organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association: “Despite the general consensus of major medical, health, and mental health professions that both heterosexuality and homosexuality are normal expressions of human sexuality, efforts to change sexual orientation through therapy have been adopted by some political and religious organizations and aggressively promoted to the public. However, such efforts have serious potential to harm young people because they present the view that the sexual orientation of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth is a mental illness or disorder, and they often frame the inability to change one’s sexual orientation as a personal and moral failure.”
Can we not imagine a world in which the stigma against homosexuality no longer exists, so that all of us are honored and celebrated and supported as we grow to understand our sexuality, all taught the same ethical standards regardless of the gender of those to whom we are attracted, all confident in God’s love for us and nurtured to reflect that love as we relate to others, sexually and otherwise? I firmly believe that that’s the world that the God I know in Jesus Christ wants us to build. And I don’t take that stance in spite of the Scripture – I take it because of Scripture.
My usual presentation about Scripture and homosexuality takes more than my allotted half hour so I can’t give that this morning. In it, I take each principle from the official General Assembly Position Statement Presbyterian Understanding and Use of Holy Scripture, and briefly apply each principle of biblical interpretation to this issue. You have a couple of hand-outs that reflect this – one that details the Guidelines for Interpretation adopted by the General Assembly, and another that summarizes the conclusions I and many others have come to from our study of Scripture. Very briefly, only a few points from the overall case: First, what about the six or seven verses quoted as prohibiting homosexual practice? Many of us are convinced that these are quite proper condemnations of behavior that was exploitative, such as the attempted rape in Sodom, and the sexual use of boys or slaves; or cultic, that is, a part of idol worship – that homosexual practice per se is a matter of uncleanness rather than sin, an abomination in the same way that eating unclean animals was. [See Leviticus 11 for only one set of examples. Genesis 43:32 is only one of other verses that use to’evah.] The Bible does reflect the cultural assumption that heterosexuality is normative, and of course most people are heterosexual so this is to be expected; but then it also reflects the assumption that women are the property of men – “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house…, wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.” Just as we can retain the admonition against covetousness without continuing to consider a wife as comparable to an ox or a donkey, and without approving of owning a slave at all, we can retain the condemnation of exploitation, prostitution, and idol worship without condemning all same-sex practice. Our guidelines for biblical interpretation involve figuring out which timeless principles underlie particular biblical provisions, then applying those principles to our circumstances. Then, what about the rest of the Bible outside those few specific verses? Those who claim that Scripture recognizes no legitimate intimate relationship outside heterosexual monogamous marriage are ignoring quite a few biblical realities: Abraham, Jacob, Judah and Tamar and the commandment of polygamy in levirate marriage, Rahab, Solomon, just to name a few from the Bible who were used by God without fitting the supposedly timeless pattern. If we weren’t wearing the blinders that assume it couldn’t be, might we not recognize same-sex love between Jonathan and David, and in the centurion who begged Jesus to heal his “highly-valued” slave?
The creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2 are descriptions of the predominant pattern of male-female human relationships, and affirmations of that pattern. It is an unnecessary leap to insist that an affirmation of one pattern is a prohibition of all others. And even if one believes that the order of creation is proscriptive, Christ’s grace supersedes that order. Remember Galatians 3:24-28 – “Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
When we read Scripture as a whole and in context, all the major themes lead us away from a conclusion that results in treating gay and lesbian persons as defective or less-than. In the Old Testament we celebrate exodus, liberation from bondage and oppression; the prophets continually call for justice and denounce the domination of some by powerful others. The story of the early church is a history of breaking down barriers that divide. Jesus started it by associating with women, lepers, “outcasts and sinners.” Paul insisted that faith in Jesus, not adherence to a set of legal requirements, is the constituting factor for membership in the covenant people. The Book of Acts relates the systematic extension of the gospel to those previously considered outsiders. Take the story of Peter and his encounter with the Gentile Cornelius [Acts 10-11]. Peter has a vision of food and is shocked at the notion that he should eat something not kosher; and then he learns that the real subject of the vision about clean and unclean is not food, but people: “What God has called clean, you must not call profane.” He witnesses the gift of the Holy Spirit to those his tradition has always considered unclean and outside the covenant community, and he concludes, “If God then gave them the same gift that God gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” Many of us have witnessed the Spirit and the Spirit’s gifts in our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers – who are we to hinder God? When Jesus was asked about the most important commandment, he told us to love God with all our whole being, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. As Paul writes in Romans 13:10, “love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” Now when I say that I base my understanding of Scripture’s view of same-gender relationships on Jesus’ law of love, I do not mean “anything goes as long as it’s for love.” I mean that Christ calls us to follow the course that is most conducive to individual and community well-being. I’ve already talked about the suffering caused by the stigma against homosexuality. I just cannot believe that the God I know in Jesus Christ cares more for a particular law, or a particular form of human relationship, than for all God’s children, not all of them even gay, who suffer the consequences – unintended perhaps, but nonetheless real – of believing homosexual practice always to be sin. If God is love, that can’t be right; what kind of God would be ok with the pervasive collateral damage inflicted by the church’s teaching against homosexuality? I could go on about Scripture so don’t think this is all there is to say on the matter, but I need to turn to the amendment itself. You have a handout comparing the wording and I encourage you to consult it. 08-B returns us to consistency with the constitutional ordination and installation questions, in which we promise obedience to Jesus Christ, under the authority of Scripture, and guided by the confessions. Where the current language of G-6.0106b doesn’t mention Jesus at all, the amendment lifts up the principle of a Christocentric approach to the Bible; we don’t know Christ apart from Scripture, and what we know of Christ in Scripture helps us to interpret the whole. But we worship the Triune God whom we know in Christ, not the Bible itself. Focusing on Scripture rather than Christ is like fixating on the hand that points, rather than looking where the hand is pointing.
The amendment neither requires nor prohibits the ordination or installation of any individual candidate, but leaves with sessions and presbyteries the responsibility to discern call, to examine and certify candidates for ordination. This is not some recent innovation; as the Book of Order [G-6.0107] says, “the right of God’s people to elect their officers in inalienable. Therefore, no person can be placed in any permanent office in a congregation or governing body of the church except by election of that body.” Some governing bodies would ordain and install lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender candidates; others would not. But in all cases, the decision is made by the body who actually knows the person, and who can evaluate matters related to sexuality in context with everything else they know about the candidate. For those who are tired of talking about this, it won’t come up for you unless there’s a particular person whose gifts have already been recognized by the community. It won’t cause more judicial cases unless some people insist on interfering with the decisions of governing bodies seeking to be faithful in their own contexts. 08-B maintains high standards for ordained office by focusing on the Lordship of Christ and a candidate’s entire manner of life, without singling out sexual behavior (which remains one aspect among many) and without absolutizing a single, highly-disputed interpretation of what God commands. It returns to the time-honored Presbyterian way of maintaining unity by respecting freedom of conscience in the interpretation of Scripture and the duty of mutual forbearance; if you disagree with my understanding of Scripture, you are still free to hold your view, but without imposing it on those whose consciences lead them in another direction. 08-B will free the church for mission – both evangelism and social justice – by eliminating official policy that has contributed to the impression of the unchurched, especially youth, that Christians are primarily, quoting from a recent Barna Group study, “judgmental, hypocritical, and anti-gay.” [Kinnaman and Barna, UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity] And it corrects the absurdity that is the last sentence of current G-6.0106b, “Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained or installed…” Friends, the idea that we have been adhering to this makes us all big collective hypocrites. In the first place, the confessions themselves declare that we ought not be using them like this: “All synods and councils since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err, and many have erred; therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith or practice, but to be used as a help in both.” [Westminster 6.175] There are a couple of hundred or so practices the confessions call sin. For example, one of many sins “forbidden in the Second Commandment,” according to the Westminster Larger Catechism, is “the making any representation of God, of all, or of any of the three Persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever.” [7.219] I’ve pointed this out in numerous churches which have pictures of Jesus and symbols of persons of the Trinity, and so far as I know, not a single one has purged itself of Sunday School flannel boards or the Presbyterian seal, so apparently they have refused to repent without consequence. There are some practices in here that we just don’t think are sinful now, and some we do that many of us keep on committing. 08-B is simply realistic in recognizing that we are all on a journey of discipleship, striving to follow even if perfection is unattainable. I take the reality of sin too seriously to pretend that it’s possible to repent of everything, or to think that I could be worthy if somehow I could get the checklist just right; we are all reliant entirely upon the grace of God for our salvation and for our growth in faithfulness. Another example: The Ninth Commandment is “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor,” and the Westminster Larger Catechism says one of the sins forbidden by it is “misconstruing intentions, words, and actions.” [7.255] Now whether you agree with our conclusions or not, it is indisputable that numerous Christians who love the Scriptures, including large numbers who teach in our colleges and seminaries, have applied the principles of interpretation that derive from our confessions and determined that Scripture supports gay ordination; yet I continually hear, from people who I am sure have heard our testimony, that we with my viewpoint are refusing to submit to the authority of Scripture, sometimes even that we have thrown off the Lordship of Jesus Christ. How is this accusation not “misconstruing intentions, words, and actions”? But since they keep doing it, it seems that they have refused to repent. On the other hand, I believe that those who persist in teaching that all homosexual practice is sinful are offending against the law of love, and that in so doing they are certainly sinning and perhaps in danger of throwing off the Lordship of Christ, having been given numerous opportunities to repent. I may be misconstruing myself – another explanation is that sincere Christians simply disagree about what faithfulness requires – but yet I’m ordained. My point is that the way the paragraph currently reads is impossible. You don’t cultivate respect for the Constitution by defending a clause that nobody follows because it can’t be done. Friends, I could be wrong in my sincere attempt to discern the will of Christ on this matter. If so, and I have grievously sinned by teaching error and leading God’s children astray, when I stand before my Lord on Judgment Day I will only have grace to cover me. If others are wrong, and the primary sin in question in this controversy is the harm caused by maintaining the stigma against homosexuality, a position that leads persons to question their own worth in God’s eyes, gives them the anti-evangelical message that they have been abandoned by God and are not welcome in the church, and suggests that the Good News might not apply to them, then those sinners – like me – will be covered only by grace, too. I stake my life on the promise in Romans 8 that nothing in all creation can separate me from the love of God in Jesus Christ my Lord. If neither death nor life nor angels nor rulers nor all the other powers in that glorious affirmation can separate me from God’s love, how is it possible that my mere mistake could have that much power, even my mistake about something important? Or that a lesbian or gay person’s could, as in their own conscience before God they believe that their committed relationship is life-giving and upbuilding? Our salvation does not depend on getting this right. If it did, the logical conclusion would be that we would have to be right about everything in order to be saved, and I’d be lost for sure – how about you? Our salvation does not depend on getting this right. God has already taken care of that, thanks be. But the well-being of a lot of lives here and now does, and the witness of our church does, which is why we will keep at this until the PCUSA practices what it preaches: that all persons are loved by God, of sacred worth, and not to be subjected to any kind of discrimination or violence, physical or verbal. Until in the PCUSA, in the words of Romans, we “welcome one another, therefore, as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” [15:7] Really welcome, not with a caveat – except you, or except to ordained service. Amending the Book of Order is necessary for that witness. Let’s get on with it. Thank you.
April 20, 2009
IMPORTANT REMINDER ANNOUNCEMENT TO MEMBERS AND FRIENDS
OF THE OPEN DOORS CHAPTER OF MORE LIGHT PRESBYTERIANS:
AND CORRECTION TO PREVIOUS MESSAGE – TO SIGN UP FOR PRESBYTERY MEETING, CALL
JEANNIE SPARGUR AT 240-482-1562 OR ROB MONROE AT 240-482-1577, email@example.com
Please join us at the April 21 meeting where our Presbytery will vote on the question of whether to delete Amendment B from the Book of Order and thereby become a more welcoming and inclusive church for all God’s people. While non-commissioners have not been given an opportunity to speak, it is important to make our presence felt! So we want to have a strong showing of GLBT people and friends at the meeting, wearing rainbow scarves and offering them to any commissioner who would like to wear one in solidarity with us!
The April 21 meeting, which includes a dinner, is from 4 to 8 p.m. at the National Capital Presbyterian Church, 410 Nebraska Avenue N.W.,http://www.natpresch.org/location.php. It is a five-block walk from the Tenleytown metro station and there is a big parking lot behind the church.
After the meeting, please join us at Guapo’s Restaurant for food and drink and fellowship – 4515 Wisconsin Avenue (across the street from the Tenleytown metro station). We don’t know how the vote will go yet – either in our Presbytery or nationally — but we have come a long way and we have a lot to be grateful for – so let’s celebrate!
We need you to do the following:
1. RSVP to Diane Curran (firstname.lastname@example.org) to let us know you are coming. And recruit your friends! We want to get at least 50 people to attend!
2. Sign up for the meeting by calling Jeannie Spargur at 240-482-1562 or Rob Monroe at 240-482-1577, email@example.com. (Presbytery is requiring people to sign up, and it will help them plan to have enough seats for us.)
3. Either bring $10 to pay for dinner or bring your own dinner.
4. If you can, come to the meeting 15 minutes early and help us hand out scarves to commissioners as they are coming in.
5. Wear comfortable shoes in case we have to stand. If there aren’t enough chairs, we will cycle people in and out of the room to take rest breaks.
6. If you are a knitter, we need you to help us make 100 rainbow scarves! Please contact Wendy Turman for information. firstname.lastname@example.org.
7. MOST IMPORTANT — Come with joy in your heart, a prayerful attitude and love to share with your fellow More Light witnesses and the commissioners to the Presbytery.
Hope to see you there!
From the Open Doors Chapter of More Light Presbyterians