I have had only two encounters with Rev. Joan Gray, Moderator of the 217th General Assembly (2006-2008) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Both of them have been memorable and helpful to me in understanding how to be a Christian and a Presbyterian.
This past Tuesday, the highest ranking court in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission, rendered decisions in cases concerning the long-awaited ordinations of two devout Presbyterians; Scott Anderson who is gay and Lisa Larges who is lesbian.
We all have passages in Scripture that rise to the top for us and become a personal sacred canon within the communal sacred canon of the Bible. Parts of 1 John 3—a chapter in the first of three letters ascribed to the evangelist, John, and directed to Christian communities steeped in the perspective of the Gospel of John—have been in my personal canon since I was a teenager.
This spring, with other former moderators, Rev. Lamar signed a letter calling for unity in the face of the ratification of Amendment 10A. Now in retirement in upstate New York, I sought him out last week and asked him to share with me, specifically, how the church can best do that now. I treasure his wisdom and want to share it with you here.
The whole point of the revised ordination requirements is this: Love. God’s love is not a new thing, of course. When asked what God’s greatest commandment for us was, Jesus replied: Love. Love is Jesus’ Truth about God that He lifted up, emphasized, and established through His words and actions in the world, including His death on the cross.
I love having a good conversation with someone who disagrees with me. Over the years, I’ve had hundreds of these types of conversations – mostly with colleagues in the church who disagree with me about the place of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender faithful.
To be the beacon of Christ’s love that we yearn to be in the PCUSA, we need all parts of the Body. We need all to be engaged on level ground. And we cannot say to each other, “I don’t need you!”
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.
Occasionally, but rarely, have I shared my own stories. However, in this historic moment, I’d like to share a little about my personal journey in the hopes that it will inspire others to share theirs.
Today, Tuesday, May 10, marks the day now written in the Book of Life when it has become a certainty that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will allow ordination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender faithful Christians as elders, deacons and ministers in the church communities that wish for these candidates to become ordained.