Another Easter Week, Another Conversation on the Road
Once more we have greeted one another on Easter morning with the joy of “Christ is risen!” “He is risen, indeed!” We have sung the great alleluias upon Christ rising from the dead, welcoming this fresh morning made new by God’s everlasting love.
And once more, Easter week comes with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in the midst of presbytery voting on a revision of the church constitution that would open ordination to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Presbyterians. Two years ago a similar vote called 08B stood during Easter Week at 65 Yes, 82 No. Today the vote on 10A is 80 Yes, 59 No, with 34 presbyteries yet to vote.
It is difficult to capture how fraught this present moment is. I will try.
Although other mainline denominations in the U.S. have made decisions at the national level to allow the ordination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender candidates for ministry, none of these denominations have faced, in the same way, the process unfolding in the PCUSA right now. The difference is that in the PCUSA, each local area (presbytery) engages in serious conversations among faithful Christians that lead to a vote, a choice, Yes or No, on allowing the possibility of LGBT Presbyterians being ordained to church office.
This week, I connect the thousands of conversations that have been going on in this voting season — over lunch or coffee, at a presbytery study, with an article in The Presbyterian Outlook, at the registration table before the presbytery meeting, or in the debate on the floor — with that astounding conversation on the road to Emmaus reported by Luke (24:13-53). Every one of these conversations has had the potential — and many the actual outcome — of the participants asking with these disciples, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?”
And this conversation was just the beginning for the disciples. Luke says they returned to Jerusalem with great joy, blessed God in the temple and then he turns to the second volume of his story, The Acts of the Apostles, where he describes how their burning hearts spread their joy far and wide to Jew and Gentile alike.
There are many conversations still to be had this Eastertide in the presbyteries yet to vote. Two years ago, the majority of 87 was reached a few weeks after Easter. Right now, only God knows what will eventually be written in the Book of Life. What we do know is that the outcome depends upon the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the thousands of conversations still to be had around the PCUSA where our hearts will burn within us as Christ speaks to us.
What we do know is that Christ is risen — He is risen, indeed. In the invitation to the Communion Table in my church last Sunday, the leader enjoined us to remember “all the tombs from which we have been delivered.” Suddenly, the past forty years in the PCUSA felt to me like that tomb. It struck me that the silence forced upon lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Presbyterians has been a tomb; 10A will roll away the stone. And it struck me that many voting on 10A — no matter Yes, No or Abstain — have felt entombed by the contention of this generation. And the wording of 10A felt like an Easter gift in its deep Presbyterianism, its return to our roots, it respect for and trust in us all to follow Christ out of this tomb.
That is worth having a conversation about!