Later this morning, I’ll drive 50 miles up the freeway to check out the Minneapolis Convention Center where the various entities that will comprise the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) will be setting up. As I write this, the live feed from the PCUSA convention website says the convention will open in 1 day, 4 hours, 37 minutes, and 45 seconds.
First, I’ll check in with the Cokesbury bookstore, which will carry my historical fiction book about the Apostle Paul, and finalize the arrangements for my personal appearance in the bookstore on Monday afternoon to autograph copies of A Wretched Man.
Next, I’ll visit the various LGBT advocacy groups including Soulforce and More Light Presbyterians (MLP). I have signed up to do some volunteer work during the week. Soulforce is multi-denominational while MLP is obviously specific to the Presbyterian church.
The Soulforce blog suggests:
Our best information tells us to expect the votes on our issues on Thursday July 8, Friday July 9, & Saturday July 10. On these days, we will assemble in mass prayer, not blocking and not provoking, but in a highly visible process that encourages the members of the PC(USA) GA to do what needs to be done. Whatever action the GA takes, we plan a powerful conclusion to the assembly that we pray can be a celebration of justice and love. If there is no cause to celebrate, we will be there in the words and spirit of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, to demonstrate: “…to those who have mistreated us so long that we are tired — tired of being segregated and humiliated; tired of being kicked about by the brutal feet of oppression…We have no alternative but to protest.”
Meanwhile, a post from the MLP blog sets the stage for the Minneapolis event:
As the denomination gathers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, many are aware that in the same hall, one year earlier, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American voted to allow ministers in partnered same-sex couples to be listed on the official roster and to serve the church. All requirements to limit participation were dropped and Lutherans are living into the new policies by receiving clergy back into the church.
Lisa Larges, head of That All May Freely Serve, said, “Faith traditions are moving toward a new understanding of God’s diverse creation. The time for policies based on our love of God and call to serve has come. Churches are learning to affirm gifts for ministry rather than reject ministers because of whom they chose as a life partner.”
The PCUSA currently allows gay and lesbian people to serve in official capacities if they maintain “chastity.” An amendment to lift the requirement for “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness” was passed at the 2008 General Assembly, but after the long process of voting by regionally based presbyteries, the constitutional amendment did not garner the required number of presbytery votes.
What was impressive was that presbyteries in relatively conservative areas like Alabama, Texas, North Carolina, Arkansas, Kentucky, southern Illinois, rural Michigan, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Montana voted to support equal acceptance of all those who feel called to serve the church, including those in same-sex committed relationships.
Will this be the summer for the Presbyterians to step forward into full inclusion for their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters? Stay tuned.