The Focus Beyond DADT
The mid-term elections are written in the Book of Life and now Congress will return for the lame duck session. The House has already passed the bill to end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) and the Senate leadership has promised to pass it before the end of the year. If all goes well, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans will be able to serve openly and honestly in the armed forces by the start of next year.
In my eyes, the repeal of DADT is more than just allowing LGBT service members to serve openly. It’s an opportunity for the entire military community to get to know some of their own as who they truly are. After all, LGBT people have been serving our country in the military all along, just serving in silence about those they love.
In many ways, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is at the same juncture. Just as in the military, LGBT people have been a part of the church and serving as deacons, elders and ministers all along. Yet, the reality is that since the 1970’s, we have been living with a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy when it comes to ordained office.
For Presbyterians to address our version of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, we must ensure that Amendment 10-A passes the presbyteries to become church law. It will assure that ordination rests upon assessment of the candidate’s call, gifts, preparation and suitability for the office. This will mean that in some presbyteries openly LGBT candidates can come forward and be honest about themselves without fear. What a healthy joy to fully embrace inclusion in our church!
When it comes to the efforts to end DADT in our culture, both in the military and in our church, there are many different kinds of people that are important to reach in the hopes to change our hearts and minds. Most important to me is our need to focus our prayers and concern on those straight people who do not want to believe, think, or know about the many LGBT people in their midst. I mean those who refuse to ask and don’t want you to tell. I know this will require a pastoral care and a pastoral response, the focus being on easing fears, and showing people clearly and confidently that life beyond DADT can work. And I believe it can.
In the PCUSA specifically, we need to focus on helping all to see the spiritual gifts of our LGBT faithful and the blessed consequences of those gifts inspiring us all. We need to let the light of LGBT Presbyterians shine so that all may see clearly God’s love at work through them in this next moment in our history.
I am confident that both the military and our church can end this bad policy and embrace the kindness and inclusion God demands of us.