The 219th General Assembly of the PCUSA (Presbyterian) will convene in Minneapolis on July 3rd. This past Sunday, many Presbyterian congregations anticipated GA219 by celebrating “More Light Sunday” in reference to the Presbyterian LGBT advocacy group known as More Light Presbyterians (MLP). Pastor John Shuck, a Presbyterian pastor and provocateur to more conservative Presbyterians, noted the occasion in his Shuck and Jive blog. Here are the ten MLP affirmations.
1. We celebrate the unity we create in the midst of our diversity.
2. We affirm the inherent beauty, worth, and dignity of every GLBT and straight person.
3. There are many paths to the sacred. The spiritual paths of GLBT persons are among
4. The choice is not whether to be GLBT or straight but whether or not to live an
5. Coming out is a courageous and spiritual act.
6. Sexual expression is one of the many sacred ways that GLBT and straight adults can express the depth of love in their relationships.
7. We support each person’s journey of integrating spirituality and sexuality which
leads to wholeness.
8. Marriage is a sacred union for people who are committed to each other without regard to gender. Love makes a family.
9. Spiritual leaders must take responsibility to lead, protect, and affirm GLBT people:
children, adults, and their families.
10. No one is free when others are oppressed.
The issue of gay and lesbian clergy will certainly arise again at GA219 as it has in previous years and as in other mainline denominations. Coincidentally, the venue of GA219 is precisely the same Minneapolis convention center that was the site of last year’s momentous decisions by the ELCA regarding gay clergy and LGBT relationships. The precise provision at issue for the Presbyterians is known as G-6.0106b, which restricts LGBT persons from serving as clergy. Yet, Pastor Ray Bagnuolo of Jan Hus Presbyterian Church and Neighborhood House in New York City suggests that removal of the onerous G-6.0106b would be a mere formality, a de jure recognition of the de facto status quo. In the following article, he spoke of ministering to a homeless man:
It didn’t matter that as the pastor of the church I am gay. In fact, being gay in the PC(USA) no longer matters any more than being straight does. People will argue about that, but we, as a church, have already deleted G-6.0106b. It’s gone in our hearts and in practice. True, some still find comfort in the same kind of teachings that once held women and people of color to be second-class in God’s eyes. However, the reality is that we already work together and serve God as a community of great diversity that includes gender identity fully.
I honestly do wish to continue to dialogue with those who disagree, because I believe they are being faithful in their own ways and we need to pray and talk together. However, those who are unable or unwilling to accept the truth that this artificial division between us is no longer valid cannot be allowed to prevent others who believe differently from full inclusion in this church. The lives of faithful people cannot be divided along gender identity any more than they can along the lines of the sexes or color.
In a short time, we will all gather in Minneapolis for our General Assembly. We will worship together, work together, share meals, cabs, and conversations. We will pray and seek God’s will. And, the “we” will include many of us who identify themselves as gay, whether spoken aloud or not. We will agree and disagree. Sooner or later, it will be apparent that, in fact, G-6.0106b has been deleted in the way God has moved this church and its people. Sooner or later, the constitution will catch up. In the meantime, none of us can be held hostage by what we know in our hearts to be wrong.
Like the gentleman who found us on that cold night, there are too many people “seeking God” for us to deny any qualified candidate from ordination based on G-6.0106b.
Scott Anderson is clearly qualified to be ordained. To hold G-6.0106b against him or anyone else is to hold this church hostage to an aberration in our constitution. We no longer allow the few who still hold onto prejudices against women and people of color to hold us hostage to their beliefs, nor should we allow those who have yet to embrace the gay community to marginalize or exclude us.
It is no longer about G-6.0106b.