Coming Down on the Side of Grace: A Father’s Plea for His Church to Embrace His Gay Son
Mike introduced himself to me several years ago as a Presbyterian and the father of a gay son. Just last week he represented his church at the Pittsburgh Presbytery meeting where the majority voted down Amendment 08-B, the revision of our church Constitution which would open the door to ordination of GLBT people in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). He has graciously agreed to share his statement in favor of 08-B here. I know every word in this was a labor of love and faith on Mike’s part. And the cry from Mike’s heart for those against 08-B in our church to include our GLBT children echoes my own heart.
I stand before you today to ask you to vote yes on the overture we are considering on behalf of my family and hundreds of families like mine in the Presbytery for whom the issue of the ordination has become a wedge. It is a wedge that splits us in our love of church and the blessings it provides in our lives and the love of our family members who are gay.
The current ordination standards are like a knife that cuts at the very heart of what the huge majority of faithful Presbyterians believe about their family members and friends that are gay. That they are precious and just as likely to be called to ordained service in the church as anyone else and they are just as qualified.
To our gay brothers and sister, the message these standards send is that they are less qualified to serve or some sort of super sinners because of who they are and how behaving in a way that is normative for a straight person disqualifies them for ordained office in the church. But worse than that, it sends my son the message that he is not worthy and because he happens to be gay and the love of his life happens to be of the same sex. How am I to respond when I know in my heart the church would be much richer for having him serve than not?
A no vote continues to alienate families like mine but not only them. It alienates families with no openly gay members, families whose values tell them this issue is a matter of simple justice. It alienates our youth, who see their gay friends living openly and honestly and who believe that as a matter of simple fairness standards should be applied equally to them.
To be compelling in our message to these folks, it requires us to admit that some discover, connect with and live out their faith in Christ in ways different than our own. Why is that so difficult? Why have we been so afraid to step out in faith on this matter? Why can we not give people the benefit of the doubt because there is doubt? Over 40 presbyteries have voted yes. There is doubt.
Today we have a choice to lift people up or to keep them held down. Christ’s example was to choose people over custom and the law. My prayer is that we are people of spirit who will shout out to the country and to the world come and be one of us, people of the living God as revealed in JC who love and honor all and exclude none.
Thank you, Mike. I treasure our friendship.
By the way, Mike is active in two groups with very helpful resources worth checking out – the Taskforce on Ministry with Sexual Minorities of Pittsburgh Presbytery and Pittsburgh Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays (PFLAG).