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A True Fellowship

8/24

This week, a group of Presbyterians that call themselves “The Fellowship” is gathering in Minneapolis. Another set of meetings will follow right after, for representatives from “Committees of Correspondence” organized by the Presbytery of Santa Barbara.

Both groups claim to be looking for solutions that will comfort conservative Presbyterians who are anxious about the church, and today, I write with a solution that I hope they consider.

It is important for us all to remember that Presbyterian polity relies upon majority rule and, at the same time, allows for the possibility that majorities may err so the minority has the full right to bring its concerns to the body to be prayerfully discerned and decided again.  Our church depends upon a delicate balance between majority and minority.

I see the Fellowship and the Committees of Correspondence – at their heart – as an effort of the conservatives in the PCUSA to find a way to protect themselves from the majority that brought about the adoption of Amendment 10A.  This gets complicated because those in the majority and those in the minority vary from presbytery to presbytery.

So, what are conservatives to do?

I suggest that, together, we create a More Light or Covenant Network congregation in every presbytery.

What this does is offer a great advantage for both conservative and progressive members, no matter if they are in a majority conservative, liberal, or mixed presbytery.

For conservatives, the advantage is that this new congregation would remain under the care and oversight of the conservative majority.  It would mean that conservative churches would now have a place to refer LGBT members, instead of pushing them out of the PCUSA altogether.  For progressives, the advantage is that there would be an inclusive place for LGBT people and others who don’t feel comfortable in a declared conservative congregation any more.

This also means that any separation sought by some in Minneapolis would happen on the ground level of the church, rather than higher up, and all the congregations would have the ability to grow and thrive.  Overall, the benefit to everyone is that this allows us to remain as one Church, giving us greater opportunity to focus on mission, and to work harder to be one in Christ,

The potential for this solution to conflict in the PCUSA came home to me twice in recent days.  First, I received an email from a stranger who introduced herself as a member of a conservative church in my presbytery.  She explained that the session, after the adoption of 10A, had passed a resolution to enforce the rule of fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness for nominations to elder and deacon.  She was uncomfortable about this and asked for suggestions of churches where she and her family might feel welcome.  What if our presbytery did not have a More Light or Covenant Network church?  Might she and her family just drift away?

The other moment I saw the potential for this was watching a video about two Presbyterian churches in my neighborhood.  One of them, the more conservative Eastminster Church is the congregation where I was baptized and confirmed.  My Dad was a member there for over fifty years.  It works on mission projects with its neighbor, East Liberty Presbyterian Church, a Covenant Network church.  They show how congregations can differ on 10A and also engage in mission together to witness in word and deed to God’s love for the world in Jesus Christ. I’m including this video below.  Let’s replicate this all across the PCUSA!

I confess that all the other alternatives being presented by the Fellowship and Committees on Correspondence mystify me because they are all based upon some kind of hard and permanent separation between people like them and people like me.  Let me remind us of a simple fact we face here: There is no getting away from LGBT people for any of us in the PCUSA.  Though lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people will always be a minority among the faithful in the PCUSA, we will always be there, in whatever structures prove to be popular with the Fellowship and the Committees of Correspondence.

At the very least, one day some of their children will grow up to know them selves as LGBT.

All this said, I would be remiss if I didn’t bring attention to this simple, yet important question about any idea to further a schism brought forward by the conservatives: If these Christians judge me as a sinner, is it not their most basic call to engage me with the witness of the Gospel as they understand it, inspiring me to accept Christ as they understand Christ?  How can walking away from us be faithful evangelism?

Once again, I hope you see the Grace in a More Light or Covenant Network church in every presbytery.  There will be a liberal church of people to whom the conservatives can relate in safety and evangelize as they may be called.

Most importantly, the balances between majority and minority in the PCUSA will function as it is meant to — helping us to discern God’s will together as the church.

What do you think?

Peace,

Reverend Janet Edwards


62 Responses
  • Joe Sayre on August 24, 2011

    Perhaps we could also have separate but equal water fountains. In most Presbyteries it would be no problem for LGBT people to drive tens or hundreds of miles to make the controlling conservative majority feel more comfortable, because after all we wouldn’t want to push “teh gays” out. Please your idea is insulting and demeaning on the very face of it!

  • Marci Glass on August 24, 2011

    Thanks. I think this is a great idea. The more time I spend as a pastor, the more I realize that God has not called us to be all things to all people, or even all things to only people who agree with us. God has, instead, called me to serve the people in this particular congregation at this particular time. Some people are more comfortable in another congregation, and that is fine.
    But we have decided to the best we can do to minister to people seeking an inclusive church and trust that God has called other people to minister to the people who see church differently than we do.

  • Janet Edwards on August 24, 2011

    Dear Joe and Marci,

    Thank you, both, for sharing your response to this proposal for a welcoming church in every presbytery!

    Joe, I would love to hear what you suggest for the PCUSA now, especially for those LGBT Presbyterians who are in conservative presbyteries and congregations. What do you see as the best way to proceed?

    Marci, one important aspect of this proposal for me is how rooted it is in Presbyterian tradition. It is the solution that staved off schism between those who expected conversion of the heart and those who wanted subscription to doctrine in the 1700’s. And after a spilt for a few decades (and an attempt at something like the efforts of Santa Barbara Presbytery, as I understand what they are doing now), Presbyterians came back together with a commitment to honoring the majority/minority balances between these two in presbyteries. Like G-2.0104, we would return to our deepest roots if we were to do this.

    I hope we hear from both of you again. Peace, Janet

  • Sonnie Swenston-Forbes on August 24, 2011

    As an openly-queer member of a church that has been part of the More Light movement since 1989 (even before Mt Auburn!), I strongly value this congregational identity. Our presbytery is also very conservative, with several congregations considering moves to other denominations or other presbyteries.

    I remember when a former church member was a college student. He was a young gay man who wanted to establish a local church connection. Before attending the church, he made a phone call to inquire about how welcome he would be: the pastor “suggested” that he find somewhere else to worship. What this pastor did not suggest was where this might be — and there was another church that was LGBT-inclusive only a few miles away. Fortunately this young man’s parents contacted me and I was able to connect him to the church that was right for him.

    Speaking of parents, I think that parents and other family members of LGBT people are far-too-frequently left out of the conversation. Many of them are less likely to leave the churches where they belong, even when statements are made that libel those who they love. I’ve had quiet side conversations with a number of these parents at presbytery meetings (I call them “narthex conversations”) during which they reveal the hurt that their churches have caused and are causing them. I think that if they were to be made aware that there were options for them they might take advantage and attend these churches — maybe only from time-to-time, which would be okay — or at least to hold out hope, knowing that such churches even exist.

    We always need to remember that “it’s not just about me” but about every member of the Family of God.

  • Marci Glass on August 24, 2011

    Sonnie, I think you are right about the families. Many of our recent members have joined our congregation because they know their GLBTQ family members would be welcome with us. I suspect the silent hurt in the pews is much bigger than most people have stopped to consider.

  • Janet Edwards on August 24, 2011

    Dear Sonnie and Marci,

    Thanks for reminding us that the Presbyterians who would benefit from a known welcoming church possibility in their presbytery go far beyond our LGBTQ members!

    And you also prompted me to remember that there are many aspects to our loyalty to a particular congregation. I would like to think that there is a loyalty to Presbyterianism and an understanding that the PCUSA is a big tent.

    As such, it makes sense that every presbytery is also a big tent. The presbytery is the Church with many kinds of congregations within it. In my vision, members would feel free to move among the congregations, appreciating them all but finding one to be at home.

    That is another way in which majority and minority work together.

    I treasure your further thoughts. Peace, Janet

  • Donna on August 24, 2011

    Hi Janet,

    It seems the obvious thing is that there is one requirement for these two churches to be able to work together as they do: the ability to look beyond “us and them” to Him.

    Your proposal is a good one: it would provide a “safety net” so that none are lost from the fold.

    Donna

  • Arthur Shippee on August 24, 2011

    “All this said, I would be remiss if I didn’t bring attention to this simple, yet important question about any idea to further a schism brought forward by the conservatives: If these Christians judge me as a sinner, is it not their most basic call to engage me with the witness of the Gospel as they understand it, inspiring me to accept Christ as they understand Christ? How can walking away from us be faithful evangelism?”

    I’ve been in the movement thirty years and more. But: 1) they don’t judge you (God’s job), but they call certain activities (e.g., sex outside marriage) sin. So do we all (e.g., lying). 2) Many sincerely feel they have tried to engage, and I’ve seen cases where their frustration has some justification; the mission of the 12 & 72 included knocking the dust off one’s shoes & moving on.

    One aspect I’ve seen that’s interesting, and frustrating, is how both “sides” use victim terminology, with some justification. (I’m not arguing strict parity: no anti-10-A Matthew Shepards so far as I know.) I’ve seen too much time spent at meetings with people not engaging with the concerns of those who disagree, but repeating the clichés that divide as if that’s dialogue.

    It’s hard and risky to listen, but perhaps now is a time for dedication to real listening to the other. One always learns from this. And we have some colleagues who are wise, and who disagree with us: a valuable resource, if we can use it.

    As for the main thesis, it would be interesting to ask about how one would refer people in disagreement (e.g., if I was called about an *anti*-10-A, to whom would I direct them?). The problem for some will be that, for them, the choice is not pointing to a group accepting Transubstantiation or the Assumption of Mary, but pointing to a group accepting fornication. They may chose to stay in the Union, but find it impossible to condone the approval of what to them are sinful activities.

    If we are seeking to listen, we must face the strong parts of the argument in its coherent (if erroneous in my view) state, as I’ve asked others to engage with the real issues, and not the caricatures.

    But it’s hard. Intellectually, it’s hard, and of course personally, it’s hard too.

    May we be open to God’s grace, as well as God’s will.

    God speed.

  • Joe Sayre on August 25, 2011

    I see no other choice but schism. Conservative (bigoted) people will never accept those that are different from themselves. They will only barely tolerate them. When they begin to feel threatened they will push them out. The stipilations and rules placed on a “designated” church would be outrageous and cumbersome. Aside from the fact that a church is an entity unto itself and cannot be designated by a higher body to be anything. I do not trust the persecutor to decide my future. When Jesus told the disciples to feed the 5000, he did not break it down into categories, he fed all equally without regard to who or what they were…”Feed My Sheep”!

  • Joe Sayre on August 25, 2011

    Janet please answer me as to how far it is reasonable to expect a person to travel to go to a “welcoming Church? From where I live it is an almost 400 mile round trip. It is just another way of pushing lbgtq people out.

  • Janet Edwards on August 25, 2011

    Dear Donna and Arthur,

    Thanks for your words of encouragement toward this proposal. I certainly am not saying this would be easy–if talking together had been easier we would not have a gathering like the one in Minneapolis today.

    One of the things we have learned through these years is that talking has the best chance of actually happening when we are engaged in an activity together. This is one reason MLP sponsors the annual Rainbow Corps where MLP calls people to New Orleans to work within Presbyterian Disaster Assistance to rehab houses. We work along side people from all over the country and from all kinds of churches. Appreciation is built and conversations happen.

    A More Light or Covenant Network church in a presbytery would have the same potential. The leadership would be involved in presbytery committees, regular meetings on all topics, and all activities of the presbytery. Mission would be a common enterprise in a way similar to Eastminster Church and East Liberty Presbyterian here in Pittsburgh. Relationships would be possible and conversations happen.

    Minds might be changed; they might not be changed. That is up to God. What is up to us is the fellowship among Presbyterians within which the Holy Spirit has the opportunity to move.

    How does that sound to you? Peace, Janet

  • Janet Edwards on August 25, 2011

    Dear Joe,

    Deepest thanks for sharing more of your thoughts on this proposal! You prompt two comments and a question in my mind.

    First is to say that one of my spiritual disciplines is to make no assumptions about other people. My experience of conservative Presbyterians is very close to what you describe and yet I know that not all conservatives are alike. Not every one is exactly like what you characterize here. I think it is worth laying out the invitation to the right of the PCUSA to work with us in this parallel fashion. It is then their prayerful choice whether to accept the invitation of not. I make no assumptions about their reply.

    Second, one of the advantages of the Presbyterian Book of Order is that expectations and responsibilities of congregations and presbyteries are laid out pretty clearly. This means that what a presbytery can require of a church is already clear and would protect a More Light church from additional “stipulations and rules.” I would trust the majority of the presbytery to abide by the rules because we are Presbyterians together.

    My question, Joe, is this: what about helping a Presbyterian Church closer to you to become a More Light church? Michael Adee is great at helping a session and congregation move through the process of becoming a welcoming congregation. Or what about a new church start up in your neighborhood if an existing congregation would not be possible? The PCUSA has a commitment to starting thousands of new congregations. What about one in your area?

    I look forward to your further thoughts and answers to these questions, as well as any other idea you have about the near future in the PCUSA.

    Peace, Janet

  • Joe Sayre on August 25, 2011

    Which church, Farmington NM or Aztec NM, not going to happen. It amazes me a way is passed by the Presbyteries and people are looking to go around it already. Ask Michael yourself what he thinks the chances are of two old line Presbyterian Churches with a preponderance of elderly members holding tight control of the power and the money becoming More light. These people are appalled when the word gay is mentioned in church.

  • Calvin on August 25, 2011

    Yes, but the reality is that the liberals won’t be happy till they’ve taken over and destroyed as many churches as possible. Your suggestion, Ms Edwards, is too reasonable for most.

  • Sonnie Swenston-Forbes on August 25, 2011

    Hi Arthur,

    Years ago — like almost 45 years ago — the church to which I belonged had a change in pastoral leadership. The pastor who left was a true moderate. My own emerging worldview and theology were becoming more and more radically “left” during this time of the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. Conversely, the new pastor was an unapologetic hawkish ultra-conservative. When he preached on how the US was right to be in Vietnam, and should actually be fighting more aggressively, I left that church.

    At the same time, a girl who had been a friend for years had also left that church to go down a very different path — she had had a “born again” conversion experience, and was attending an Assembly of God church (complete with speaking in tongues and rolling in the aisles). Nevertheless, she was concerned about me as a person and me as a Christian, and she referred me to another local Presbyterian church — one that she knew would be a better fit for me.

    If she had not done this the chances are great that I would never have darkened the door of ANY church again after that. Remembering her and what she did for me, I would always, always reciprocate in kind if given the opportunity.

    Sonnie

    p.s. I didn’t realize that you’d moved to New York!

  • Sonnie Swenston-Forbes on August 25, 2011

    “Taken over and destroyed…” Sigh.

    I wonder how many of the rabbis of Jesus’ day accused him of wanting to take over and destroy the religious institution?

  • Joe Sayre on August 25, 2011

    thank you all for your kindness, it becomes more evident everyday as to why so many LBTQG are so disaffected by the church. I want to feel comfortable in the church I have chosen, not in the one designated for those of us that don’t quite meet the requirements to be a real Presbyterian.

  • Donna on August 25, 2011

    Here, here Sonnie!! Jesus associated (lived, taught, ate dinner, etc.) with the people that church leaders of His day considered “sinners.” Would that we all knew our place before the throne of grace.

    Janet’s proposal provides, at least, a “safe haven” for GLBT people, and, at best, the opportunity for congregations which differ politically to unite spiritually by focusing on and doing God’s work.

    Donna

  • Joe Sayre on August 25, 2011

    Janet’s proposal requires no official sanction, she should just do it, as she urged me to do. But as Presbyterians we must talk and have big expensive meetings before we decide to talk and have more meetings. We spend more on meetings than we do actually doing God’s work.

  • Calvin on August 25, 2011

    If you would read the Bible, the answer is none.

  • Calvin on August 25, 2011

    For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

  • Arthur Shippee on August 25, 2011

    J. and sinners: and he called them to sin no more, and called disciples to be perfect, &c. This J. ate with sinners argument alas does not prove what people say it does. The real question in the end is marriage equality (perhaps s. identity equality). None of us think it’s o.k. to live sinful lives; I don’t think a married gay couple is living a sinful life. We do need to keep the logic correct.

    To ‘Calvin’ — your posts are just drive by shootings, without logical value. Ignoring the arguments made by many concerning the points you note is not analysis. Listen and engage, please, and stop ranting. You might have a chance of convincing someone if you actually participate.

    There are smart, caring folks on both sides, and likewise idiots (God loving all of course). We need to engage the well-argued positions, and not go nuts over the dross.

  • Arthur Shippee on August 25, 2011

    No, still here but I work in Queens.

  • Joe Sayre on August 25, 2011

    Thank you for the selective choice of the small portion of that passage that aligns with your narrow minded bigotry. Please feel free to tell me you agree with the other exhortations to death. Would you give up your daughters to unspeakable violation to prevent such acts?

  • Arthur Shippee on August 25, 2011

    Alas, two examples of one of my points. Neither is helpful as stated: not to me, certainly, & I doubt to the participants, nor to readers.

    The Romans passage should be seen in the context of its larger argument, but it is one that needs serious study.

    I would suggest to all Acts 15, and how the role of the Holy Spirit in scriptural interpretation is portrayed. It’s a remarkable passage, very relevant to our discussion, and under-studied.

  • Donna on August 25, 2011

    “The Romans passage should be seen in the context of its larger argument, but it is one that needs serious study.”

    …such as the question: what is “natural”?

  • Calvin on August 25, 2011

    Scripture is not dross, but thanks for sharing.

  • Calvin on August 25, 2011

    You lovers of perversion have been dismissed by God. You have been handed over. Enjoy it in the now; for the eternal I ache for you’

  • Calvin on August 25, 2011

    Not once in Scripture is homosexual behavior looked upon in a positive light. Not once. Jesus’ mentions of marriage were always about a man and a woman. Always. You can work at twisting Scripture, but you don’t believe it yourself. Its just ungodly rebellion.

  • Calvin on August 25, 2011

    What gay men do with each other is not natural. The Scripture is clear and you know it. It just brings on terrible diseases.

  • Janet Edwards on August 26, 2011

    Dear Joe, Donna, Sonnie, Arthur and Calvin,

    I confess it is unnerving for me when one of my post ignites passion which jumps from your comments and replies. I yearn for the dialogue and have come to see how difficult it is for such passionate exchanges to stay within the bounds of “A TIme to Embrace.”

    To Calvin, I want to say that your conclusions about the meaning of Scripture is well known to me and the other writers here, I expect. Your view of Scripture is not the measure of our faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. The triune God is our only Judge, no one else. Of course, you can share your view with us.

    I understand that it is difficult for many to grasp that a variety of interpretations of Scripture and the Christian life can be held by devout Christians who abide together in Christian fellowship. However, it is done all the time in congregations and presbyteries and churches around the world.

    The most basic meaning of G-2.0104 which went into effect in July was to disestablish that there is one, and only one interpretation of God’s will in the Presbyterian Church. It recognizes that there is disagreement in the church and places the required discussion (required because it is through talking together that we discern God’s will) at the level commended to us in Scripture–congregations and presbyteries. I join with Arthur about the guidance about our present monet for us in Acts 15.

    I am grateful for all your comments here on this idea of a welcoming church in every presbytery because I was seeing primarily one thing: the presence in every presbytery of an inclusive church which will send elders to presbytery, committees of presbytery and all activities of the presbytery. The voice of LGBT Presbyterians, our allies and loved ones will be at the table. And the necessary discussion will be where it has not been before. You have helped me see that there is more to this that needs to be considered.

    I look forward to further exchange among you all and comment on my thoughts in the spirit of a time to embrace.

    Peace, Janet

  • Calvin on August 26, 2011

    Words of prophecy are not sweet and embracing. Jeremiah could testify to that. The only spirit to be embraced is that which is Holy. You have embraced an unholy spirit. Time to, not ’embrace’, but repent. You are leading people astray and away.

  • Sonnie Swenston-Forbes on August 26, 2011

    I will not engage, Calvin. We’re told to turn the other cheek no matter how many times we get slapped around. It’s a good thing that all of this is God’s job to sort out and not ours.

  • Calvin on August 26, 2011

    I understand that you will not engage. It is apparent you have not engaged with Christ, so why engage otherwise? The good news is that it is not too late for you, me or anyone else. Engage with the Lord and see your life really change; the illness you posses be healed…..
    Christ wants so much better for us all….

  • Sonnie Swenston-Forbes on August 26, 2011

    Why is all of this important to you Calvin? My relationship with the Christ is just that: between me and Jesus. You don’t get a vote, and you don’t know my heart. God’s job is judgment. Mine is to try to love as best I can, even when someone like you gets off on pushing other people’s buttons. I’m sorry for you.

  • Marci Glass on August 26, 2011

    Amen, Sonnie. Prayers for Calvin.
    And as someone familiar with the churches Joe refers to, I agree with his point that Janet’s proposal makes more sense in urban areas than it might in smaller communities. But Joe, I know there are people at the Farmington church (and I’m sure the Aztec one too) who are supportive. We need to find ways to make safe spaces wherever they may be found.

  • Arthur Shippee on August 26, 2011

    Dear “Calvin”

    I’ll take at face value your sincerity in caring for and warning us. Given that, you have achieved the opposite goal, hardening resolve and not softening hearts.

    Don’t kid yourself that you have done good here. The point of prophecy is not rudeness nor alienation. It is communication and conversion.

    Paul spoke boldly at times, but he always spoke as the situation warranted, gently or boldly, briefly or at length.

    You have fallen short of his model, and failed in doing what you say is your goal, reconciliation to Christ.

    This is something you may want to repent of.

    Yours in Christ, my Lord and yours,
    Arthur

  • Donna on August 26, 2011

    Calvin,

    The question of “nature” is exactly that: nature is what God created. There is a heterosexual nature and there are non-heterosexual natures. The underlying sin of the Romans passage you quoted is “lust,” people who were naturally heterosexual engaging in homosexual sex out of lust – purely physical sexual gratification.

    The sin of lust would be no different if it were applied to naturally homosexual people engaging in heterosexual sex for mere physical sexual gratification.

    This not “twisting” scripture. It is grappling with interpretation. It is also incorporating the truths that GLBT people are GLBT because it is their given nature.

    Can you accept that an Almighty God created us all, judges us all, and redeems us all? And ours is to love one another as He loves us?

    I would encourage you to watch the films: “For the Bible Tells Me So” and “Anyone and Everyone” to help you understand some of these things.

    God bless…

    Donna

  • Janet Edwards on August 26, 2011

    Dear Sonnie, Arthur and Calvin,

    I am so very glad that you all have continued to engage here. Like Sonnie, and Arthur, I want to respond in my way to your comments, Calvin.

    Before that, I want to remind us all of one thing. Sonnie and Arthur, please correct me if I am wrong about you. This is certainly true for me: Calvin, your perspective on Scripture and God’s will is well known to me. I have lived with it, eaten it spiritually, prayed about it and come to a different conviction about what the BIble is telling us about God in Christ. I just want to make clear that your position is very familiar to me.

    So I want to say this about the holy. Paul is clear that the signs of the Holy Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. These are the tests of the holy. And, in this, Paul is reflecting Jesus’ reformation of the Holiness Code.

    By that, I mean that Jesus violated the Holiness Code many times. He ate without washing. He allowed a woman with a flow of blood to touch him. He spoke with Samaritans and non-Jews. For Jesus, what was holy as to love God and love your neighbor. What Paul did was to flesh out the qualities we embody when we love our neighbor.

    I agree that seeking to be holy is important but, obviously, I understand being holy in a way different from Calvin and I do so because I am following the way Jesus and Paul show me to be holy.

    Thank you all for continuing this conversation. I look forward to your replies.

    Peace, Janet

  • Janet Edwards on August 26, 2011

    Dear Marci and Joe,

    Your reflections upon having a More Light church in every presbytery have been great and very helpful to me.

    Marci, you echo one of my thoughts as I pondered upon the situation Joe describes in his rural setting. I expected that there could well be some supportive people in these congregations (grandparents of LGBT people or of young people who have LGBT friends, for example).

    This is exactly the kind of group in a church which can begin the process to become More Light. They can talk with the pastor about a Bible study or a movie night where those interested can watch a movie like the ones Donna mentions here. They can, themselves, contact Michael Adee and get his help on how to build a heart for inclusion in their congregation, step by step.

    Joe, tell me if I am wrong. I have come to see that you heard me say, “Every LGBT Presbyterian or ally should get themselves to a More Light church,” which is not what I meant to say. What I propose is that a More light church come to every place including your corner of New Mexico. And I am passionate about this for many reasons, not the least of which is that a wide welcome is the Gospel and therefore the future of the church–the whole church.

    I hope that clarifies some things and I hope both of you add your further thoughts.

    Peace, Janet

  • Arthur Shippee on August 26, 2011

    J’s violating Holiness Code — this is a bit trickier than you seem to suggest. Esp. clearly in Matthew, Jesus is acting as divine Son of God (I think Mt’s Christology is very high, and that Mt. portrays J. as God), and hence e.g. he cannot be defiled, he’s God, &c. As such, he’s not nec. modeling behavior for us. This needs care in argument.

    But to the point: our claim is not about J. being with sinners, but that the rules for gay or straight are the same: if it’s not sin for the straight, it’s not sin for the gay.

    Again, Acts 15: Believing Pharisees note that Scripture prohibits inclusion without circumcision. No one challenges this. But, due to works of the Spirit (prophetic dreams & presence of the Spirit at Baptism; cf. Deut.) the community recognizes that this rule has been changed.

    If we can show through clear signs of the Spirit’s presence, then we may recognize and celebrate a new opening. I think we can, but we need to do that work.

    God bless, & keep dry.

  • Arthur Shippee on August 26, 2011

    “Nature” & Paul. Paul, of course, did not use the word “nature”, he used the Gk word “physis”, a suggestive word with a wide range, influenced by Stoic ideas as well as by Hellenistic Jewish thought, & so on. My point is that, it’s not simple to apply to modern categories. So, I’m not comfortable with the straight-acting-gay solution, since it seems to be based on an easy translation of categories.

    What Paul would make of *our* question (s’x’l id. equality) I think is unanswerable — he lacked the categories to discuss it. I can’t count him, by simple reading, either for or against.

    Hence the need for more interpretive arguments (e.g., as were needed against slavery 150 years ago). Hence my appeal to Acts 15: I believe we can make the case that we are seeing the Holy Spirit doing a new thing in our midst. But we need to demonstrate the signs clearly.

    But no one ever promised us it would be easy. If anything, quite the reverse. The world grinds on the eccentric, and we are called to have Christ as our center.

    God bless, & keep dry.

  • Calvin on August 27, 2011

    Donna, honestly 98% of the world’s Christians (and the witness of the historic church) would say that it is a twisting of Scripture; having studied the verse (trusting those who know Greek) this and other N.T. passages are clear; completely.

    The ‘nature’ argument opens up soooo many cans of worms that going there is dangerous. Let’s list pedophilia, beastiality, or whatever as ‘natures’ then. How about my (obviously)genetic disposition towards addiction? Is that a nature to be celebrated? True Reformed thinking understands the fallen nature of humanity; and Christ’s redemption includes attempting to live above our ‘natures’, even if it means bearing our crosses daily. Giving into these ‘natures’ is a false witness to Christ; indeed when I give my witness to the world is sullied. The witness on this blog is no-existent; it is simply a witness to rebellion and excess.

  • Calvin on August 27, 2011

    Arthur, if your heart is hardened towards Christ, that just may be the Lord’s doing. My purpose here is to provide a clear warning to those who may have followed a link or stumble on to this site of false Christianity.

    The point of prophecy in the Bible was to drive people back to the word of God. Many of the prophets were considered rude. Read Jeremiah.

  • Donna on August 27, 2011

    Calvin,

    I disagree, but that doesn’t mean your point isn’t well taken. In answer, unlike the other “natures” you list here, GLBT sexuality within a committed, consensual, loving relationship does no harm to others.

    Paul had no concept of that.

    The literalist approach to Scripture with regard to this topic only serves to bolster an elitist Christianity, wherein the Bible is used to create outcasts (as it has been in the past).

    The point of this discussion is how to live out the command of Christ to love one another as He loves us, to love our neighbor. That neighbor may be GLBT, or Muslim, or homeless, or a prostitute, or a rapist, or…you fill in the blank. But what “neighbor” is, is a fellow sinner, for we are all sinners saved by grace.

    In my opinion, the refusal to live out that command to love is the true rebellion and feeds to excess a personal pride wherein a person feels as righteous as God to judge others.

    Donna

  • Janet Edwards on August 27, 2011

    Dear Arthur, Donna and Calvin,

    Your exchange here is intense and important because what you each are saying is what many Christians think but rarely share with the other Christians who see differently. Thanks for staying engaged.

    Arthur, you seem to have a higher Christology than I do or, better, Matthew does. In that, you remind me that there are a host of ways in which Christians vary in our understanding of Scripture and tradition. And, of course, there are variations among the gospel writers. At the same time, we confess that Jesus is “fully human, fully divine.” And, regardless of the nuance of a particular gospel writer, are we not to be followers of Jesus on the Way? How do you see us following Jesus as an example of how to be human?

    Calvin, I get that you understand your view of Scripture to be the one and only possible Truth. What I would love to hear from you is how you read Acts 15, as I share with Arthur the way it is central to how I approach the whole of Scripture. “Gentile” is not a meaningful category of outcast people in our time. “Gay” is and I see the way the church leaders in Jerusalem accept Gentiles into the fellowship as the guide for how we embrace the outcasts of our time into the church. Please share with us how Acts 15 is meaningful to you today.

    Donna, thanks for continuing to articulate your understanding of Paul. You are our teacher. And my response to Calvin concerning his “can of worms” is that LGBT people in general, and LGBT Christians in particular, have shone clearly in word and deed that we are not in that can even though Calvin may place us there. What I want from Calvin is the Christian respect to deal with LGBT people as we are and to stop assigning guilt by association convenient to him.

    Thanks again to you all and I look for further word from you and from others listening in.

    Peace, Janet

  • Donna on August 27, 2011

    Hi Janet,

    My humility leads me to believe that we are all in the can of worms, which is to say, that none of us (Christians) is any better or worse than any other, that we are all sinners redeemed by Christ, and therefore unable to judge the state of salvation of any other.

    For all we know, Calvin may be a recovering addict who fails everyday in his recovery. Would that be reason to exclude him from the congregation or church leadership? Is it our place to judge his state of salvation with Christ? No. According to Jesus, we are to love him regardless, just as he is required to love GLBT people regardless. The refusal to do so is rebellion which is based in self-righteous pride.

    It is the question inherent in the parable of the two sons (Matthew 21:28-32). Which did the will of the Father?

    I’m no teacher, Janet… I came back to Christian community, out from the wilderness, after being raised a fundamentalist Christian. The more I study and learn and contemplate, the more God shows me that the words and actions of Jesus are subordinated to those of His apostles and His forebears. It makes me want to run back to the wilderness away from so-called community.

    Jesus pointed out that Moses was not always right, and even after years of training the disciples still made mistakes. How is it that people like Calvin can point to Mosaic Law or Paul so as to refuse the command of the Son of God?

    This is a simple question that cuts through theological argument to what Jesus was all about. The Old Testament has its place, and the Apostles have their place, but all are subordinate to the Son of God.

    Donna

  • Janet Edwards on August 28, 2011

    Dear Donna,

    Thanks for your helpful thoughts, Donna. I have a comment and a question for you.

    My comment is only to add to your claim that we are all sinners saved by grace (which I also believe) my conviction that same sex love is not a sin and therefore not to be included in the can of sins, so to speak. In other words, we are all in the can of worms. LGBT people are not in the can because of who they love.

    My question concerns your emphasis upon Jesus’ example and teaching (which I also share with you). Jesus does say that he came to fulfill the law not to destroy it. So how do you understand the connection between the Old Testament and Jesus? Christians through the ages have come to a variety of conclusions to this question and I am interested in yours. And others reading this as well.

    I know you will give these your prayerful consideration and for that I am grateful.

    Peace, Janet

  • Donna on August 28, 2011

    Hi Janet,

    Some short answers to your questions…

    Within the understanding that sexual orientation is a continuum created the way God intended, and that we are talking about GLBT people who seek long-term, loving relationships, then I agree with your conviction that same-sex love is not a sin.

    My understanding is that Jesus came to fulfill the law, the covenant of the ten commandments, to bring it to life, to teach God’s intent of the law (not the ritual and bondage it had become), to reveal how the law is to be lived out and how it is based in love.

    The Mosaic Law was the religion that Jesus practiced, but continually “broke” in order to reveal God’s intent of forgiveness, gathering people in, and love, rather than the punishment, the creation of outcasts, and legalism it had become. In doing so, Jesus pointed out, at least in the case of divorce, that Moses “accommodated” humanity, and that other customary laws lacked common sense as well as the Spirit of God’s intent.

    Several times in the Old Testament God renews or extends His covenant to include marginalized populations. Jesus is both the conclusion of that action and yet the beginning of a new covenant that has been extended to all people for all time.

    With regard to the “can of worms,” my meaning is that Jesus leveled the playing field, that we are all sinners saved by grace and there can be no sin greater or worse than another.

    When people point to portions of the Bible to “prove” their own sense of self pride or sense of righteousness, they deny the words of Christ not to judge, but to love instead.

    There is one trait to humanity that has occurred in communities over and over and over since the beginning of time: the creation of an enemy, an “other.” There must always be an “other” that a community must be against in order to feel superior or better than. However, in Christ, there is no “better than.” We are all sinners saved by grace. This schism in the church is exactly that. Pointing to Paul (Romans) or Leviticus in order not to be in loving community with GLBT people is evidence of that, and it is rebellion (by making excuses) against the primary teaching of Jesus: to love another.

    Not sure if that is helpful or not.

    Donna

  • Donna on August 30, 2011

    But, I have to say, I cannot say whether whether homosexuality is a sin or not.

  • Joe Sayre on August 30, 2011

    But, I have to say, I cannot say whether whether homosexuality is a sin or not.

    There you go! You finally get it. It is not up to you, it is up to me and my God. We will reckon with this, not anyone else!

  • Janet Edwards on August 30, 2011

    Dear Donna and Joe,

    You both make great points here–THANKS!

    Donna, I think you have said it all when you say that “sexual orientation is a continuum created the way God intended.” And your emphasis on long term committed relationships is very thought provoking. It suggests to me that the key to peace in the church is accepting marriage as the love and commitment between the partners. Then marriage is a level field that people on all points of the continuum can participate in and the church can support.

    And, Joe, knowing Donna a bit, I expect that she agrees with you. Judgment belongs to God alone and is solely between each person and God, with Christ as our Advocate. Of course, she can speak for herself. I certainly wonder at our difficulties in grasping Jesus’ teaching not to judge and, particularly, the image of the log in our own eye. Judgment strikes me as much more clearly sin, so I too, try not to judge and repent when I realize that I am doing it again.

    I treasure your comments here.

    Peace be with you both, Janet

  • Joe Sayre on August 30, 2011

    Janet, It is not even about judgement, it is understanding that what I do doesn’t concern you. What makes Christians think that they have to be co-dependent. I do not need anyone to “understand” or interpret what I say and feel. I just want them to let me be me. What I write stands for itself and does not need a mediator to translate it into “Church” language. Jesus spoke in parables but he also spoke quite passionately and simply. Never allow anyone to minimize the passion you feel. Being queer (how I identify) comes from a lifetime on the outside, never quite fitting, always being careful, waiting, waiting, waiting…I am tired of waiting. Time is short for so many of us. The young have many years to enjoy the things the old have made happen. But we must act, we must be embraced, and the Church is either a part of it or the Church will die with the elderly that control the money and power. Strong words, but the time for talk is over, the time for action is upon us.

  • Donna on August 31, 2011

    I cannot say whether same sex love is a sin or not because Jesus did not say, and because it’s not my place to proclaim what is sin and what is not, other than to know what Jesus taught and the ten commandments.

  • Janet Edwards on August 31, 2011

    Dear Joe,

    Here’s my hearty Amen to all you say here, Joe!

    My own answer to your question about what drives the church to such co-dependent tendencies is our answer to the question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” We answer Yes and therefore feel compelled to get into each other’s business that really is only between each of us and God. I wonder if you see that same dynamic at work.

    With regard to the church either being welcoming or dying so that the time for talk is over and the time for action is upon us, my question is “What action do you see as being upon us?” For me the action required for the church to be part of God’s work now is talk–talk with those both Christian and non-Christian who see LGBT people as less than. And, of course, we talk while we are doing all the good works Jesus requires of us in the world–is that the action you are speaking of, or something else?

    Thanks so much for deepening this conversation, Joe.

    Peace, Janet

  • Janet Edwards on August 31, 2011

    Dear Donna,

    I certainly agree with you that it is not our place to proclaim what is a sin and what is not (though I would say we may have opinions that we are willing to share and discuss but only as opinion).

    I would love to hear what your understanding of Jesus’ comments on eunuchs in Matthew 19 is. Could this be a foundation for Jesus accepting same sex love? Is there a connection between Jesus’ comments in Matthew and the affirmation of eunuchs in Isaiah 56?

    Donna, I so appreciate your engagement with the ideas put forward here and I look forward to your further word.

    Peace, Janet

  • Donna on August 31, 2011

    Thanks Janet, but I’ve already drawn those conclusions elsewhere on this site.

    Quite honestly, as I heal more and more from a recent trauma, I realize that I was much, much happier before I returned to the Christian Community, and certainly much happier before I became PC(USA). When I choose to leave, I am criticized. If I choose to stay, I am miserable and an outcast. Is it God prompting me to chuck organized religion (again) for a purer walk with Him? I think so. From what I’ve seen, as I have seen at a church level as well, Jesus is drowned in politics and posturing, people claiming to be Christians stuffing political knives into each others’ backs.

    It doesn’t matter anymore to me which “side” anyone is on. All anyone seems to care about is that they are “right.” It’s no more about doing the will of God or “justice” than is governmental politics.

    Can anyone deny “the other” theory as given above? When the “conservatives” had full power, they chose to (and still do) make GLBT people “the other.” With the “win” of ordination for GLBT candidates, GLBT people roared here about making conservatives “the other.” We’ve even seen within the “T” orientation, how there is differentiation between “Tgd” and “Tvt” – how some “belong” and other don’t. People who talk Christianity on the internet but in reality treat others unkindly, ungraciously, unless others can somehow conveniently serve their purpose/agenda.

    It’s all very incredible and it fills me with disgust. So you’ll have to forgive me for being entirely disinterested at this point.

    Donna

  • Joe Sayre on August 31, 2011

    My Pastor attended the “Fellowship” meeting so I asked him if he and the session were advocating for withdrawal from PCUSA. Here is his reply:

    Joe,
    I do not believe that leaving the denomination at this time is wise. There is a lot more discussion that needs to occur between the Fellowship of Presbyterian and the PCUSA. That being said, there are some churches that do feel the gracious separation is the way to go. I spoke about my experience in Minn. last week after worship.

    Because of my job I cannot make it to church activities. I think his statement speaks volumes in its evasiveness.

  • Joe Sayre on August 31, 2011

    Janet I think we just would rather condemn other,s sin rather than admit our own. Maybe it is more along the lines of what Donna spoke of, this church is not where God wants us to be. Maybe the path is outside the PCUSA, it is my feeling we will never be embraced, but always marginalized. If you control the nomination committee you control the direction of the Session. I have seen sessions act out of petty revenge, warning people not to rock the boat. Welcome to the world of Presbyterian shunning.

  • Donna on August 31, 2011

    Interesting word: shunning…

  • Janet Edwards on September 1, 2011

    Dear Donna,

    You articulate so precisely here a place of understanding how human the church is and so inevitably disappointing. This is a place that every thoughtful Christian comes to more than once, as you have, Donna.

    I share with you the conviction that following Jesus’ teaching and example is the most important thing for us. And Jesus’ example is to be in community most of the time (not all the time). This is important to me in keeping me committed to the church however cruel we often are toward people–and we are. Perhaps this is one reason you try again despite prior experience.

    At the same time, I would say no one should stay where they are miserable. I am so sorry that is your present experience in the PCUSA, Donna.

    Asking forgiveness feels presumptuous. I do pray for peace for you, Janet

  • Janet Edwards on September 1, 2011

    Dear Joe,

    That for sharing the exchange with your pastor and your further thoughts on church arising from hurtful first hand experience.

    It does make me sad to think of people like you, Joe, and Donna leaving the PCUSA at the very moment that G-2.0104 gives lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Presbyterians access to voice and vote on the councils of the church. I can certainly understand that it has been a long and weary road to this moment and too much for some souls.

    At the same time, I appreciate your recognition, Joe, that you are “feeling we will never be embraced” because never have we had as great an opportunity as we have now to impact the life and polity of the PCUSA. WE can be Presbyterians in a different way.

    And pastors like yours or others in Minneapoliz last week may fear that we will treat them as badly as they have in mirror image of Presbyterian shunning. But I sang tonight, “They will know we are Christian by our love, by our love” and that tells me how to behave no matter how anyone else behaves.

    And that gives me hope of new possibility beyond the expectations we bring because of prior experience.

    I hope this makes some sense to you, Joe, and look forward to you response.

    Peace, Janet


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