How Wide Is Our Welcome?
Amendment 10A has passed, which means the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has voted to allow the ordination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members. It doesn’t matter whether you voted for or against Amendment 10A, everyone paying attention to this knows that the spiritual earth has moved under our feet in the PCUSA. The terrain where we now stand is unfamiliar and together we face the question: How do we move forward together in this new spiritual landscape?
I reached out and invited two amazingly faithful Presbyterian leaders who have helped the church come to this new land to share their reflections upon what we can do together to best be the body of Christ in the world after the passing of 10A.
Michael Adee, the executive director of More Light Presbyterians, and Lisa Larges, leader of That All May Freely Serve, have helped me many times to grasp God’s word to us. They do this once more in their response to my query.
Lisa Larges replied to me: “Laws change, and the work continues. And that’s all right, because it’s good work, and wonderful work to do together. We’ve had nearly forty years to develop the Spiritual Disciplines of bearing witness to God’s wildly inclusive love, in the face of fear, hostility, judicial and legislative challenge, and conflict. It required a lot from us, but we gained a lot of wisdom and strength that is now our common legacy to draw on.”
Exactly. For those who voted No on Amendment 10 — so that you find yourselves in the place Lisa and Michael have moved from for decades — Lisa and Michael have the best wisdom on how to speak your truth with integrity now. We all do well to learn from them and imitate their grace.
Michael ponders upon “trust,” a commitment we all know is central to going forward now in the unity of Christ. He wrote to me saying: “Trusting God and each other will free all of us and the Church to be a healing and helping presence in a hurting world… My hope and prayer is that all of us will stretch our hearts, minds and faith to trust God to be at work in and through the passage of 10-A.”
As Reformed Christians for whom the sovereignty of God in all things is central to our faith, trust that God is at work in the adoption of 10A is not in question. How we see God at work in this may vary but we can pause for a moment on the blessed common ground of acknowledging God at work in the church and the world in this vote. We can join together in keeping our eyes on God’s presence and inspiration and move ahead.
Trust is also a great challenge before us. The renewed effort to find a way for the PCUSA to be together while not being together that was raised in February by a number of pastors gives us a measure of that challenge. A writer to The Presbyterian Layman wrote recently in response to thoughts I shared there that he flat out does not trust Presbyterians like Lisa, Michael and I.
In the end, trust is a choice. It does not rest upon agreement. For me, it rests upon acceptance that the other person means to be faithful to God in Christ, inspired by the Holy Spirit, in the same way I do. It rests upon a willingness to listen to the other person as a child of God whose words may be God’s words. That is what I mean by trust and I agree with Michael that it is essential for us if we are to succeed in being the church, a healing presence in a hurting world.
This statement in a church bulletin recently caught my attention: “We welcome everyone who welcomes everyone.”
Are we wide enough in the PCUSA to welcome everyone? What about even welcoming those who do not now welcome everyone? Michael and Lisa have given us good markers to show us the way.
What are your thoughts? How do we go forward as one in the Body of Christ, trusting each other, and welcoming all from this moment?