Evolving Towards Inclusion
No matter what the outcome in the vote among Presbyterians to remove the fence keeping faithful GLBT people from consideration for ordained ministry, things will never be the same. The shift from exclusion in 2001 to acceptance in 2009 in 27 presbyteries (including places as surprising as west Texas and West Virginia) indicates a widespread movement towards embracing our GLBT brothers and sisters in Christ.
As I reflect on this season of conversation and voting, I’m reminded of Gamaliel, the respected Pharisee who sat in judgment on the apostles in Acts 5.33-39. He counseled, “If this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them…”
I believe I’ve seen hints of God’s hand over these months of prayerful dialogue and conversation as we’ve wrestled over what ordination really means. Among the most touching is the courage of Elder Kevin Henderson, the Elder Commissioner from Edgewood Presbyterian Church in Sheppards and Lapsley Presbytery in central Alabama. In his statement in favor of Amendment 08-B during their debate, Kevin introduced himself as gay and explained that this was not a choice but a given which took a long time for him to accept. He shared that “. . .being gay does not define my relationship with God or my ability to serve God fully.” What a blessing to have this voice in our midst!
Then there are others who are choosing Gamaliel’s path of suspending judgment so that we can see whether God is at work in this movement toward inclusion. These folks stand in support of inclusion, on the whole, but do not want GLBT persons to be leaders in their congregations. However, they have begun to entertain the possibility that there may be churches who want to call GLBT people as leaders and there may be GLBT faithful who are, indeed, called by God to this service in the church. They are willing to allow such a possibility somewhere. And they hope that this will contribute to the peace, unity and purity of the PCUSA after decades of struggle.
I know there are also those who disagree with ordaining GLBT church members and who heartily pray for this controversy and the prayerful dialogues around it to end. They have won out for thirty years, ever since we started this conversation.
Yet the conversation will not die. Again and again the cries of GLBT Presbyterians who feel called by God into ordained ministry and of congregations who want these gifts of leadership challenge the church to think again.
If it is of God, we will not be able to overthrow them.