Yesterday, I visited the exhibit hall at the Mpls Convention Center where 2100 Presbyterians (PCUSA) will gather this week for their 219th General Assembly. The local newspaper offered an excellent preview. According to the lead in the Minneapolis Star Tribune article:
Motions about same-sex marriage, gay clergy and a controversial stand on the Middle East will give convention delegates lots to talk about in Minneapolis.
Even though the official opening of the assembly was still 24 hours away, the exhibitors were all in place and early registrants wandered about. In a prominent location in the exhibit hall, four or five adjacent booths comprise the LGBT corner. Many early shoppers stopped by the LGBT corner and gladly accepted a rainbow colored prayer shawl.
Eleven months ago, this same venue hosted the ELCA Church Wide Assembly, and I was there as a Goodsoil volunteer. Goodsoil was an umbrella organization of several LGBT groups, and I wonder why the several Presbyterian LGBT organizations don’t combine their efforts and resources in a similar fashion.
Gay and lesbian people may be denied the formal recognition of marriage in many places, but we are married nonetheless. Our relationships emerge out of the countless little, implicit promises that we make to each other, day after day, until one day we wake up and realize that in fact we are married. It’s not as much fun as parties, perhaps, but certainly as real and often more enduring. Anyone who doesn’t know that by now simply hasn’t been paying attention.
My favorite definition of the love that I share with my partner of twelve years now comes from a Broadway show, courtesy of Barbara Streisand – clichéd, I know, but true nonetheless: “His is the only music that makes me dance.” Or we can look to the assessment offered by David Nimmons, a gay activist in New York: “We are gardeners of each other’s hearts.” And if that doesn’t do it for us dour Presbyterians, perhaps we resonate to the views of Law & Order’s Jack McCoy: “Let ’em marry. Why shouldn’t they be as miserable as the rest of us?”
We know that there is a hard practical reality, and a deep theological truth, in McCoy’s remark. Living in committed, lifelong relationship is in fact a means of sanctification – the daily discipline of learning, in ways large and small, to find the understanding, patience, compassion, and support that can help another person to flourish. It is a life of generosity and self-denial that enables each of us to grow more fully into the people God intends us to be. When we deny marriage to any group, we deny them a powerful means of discipleship.