Elvis Has Not Yet Left the Building


So now we know the outcome of the presbytery vote on Amendment 08-B. Our church will not open ordination to GLBT Presbyterians this year. But as we say in Pittsburgh when the outcome is still in doubt, Elvis has not yet left the building!! A record number of presbyteries voted in favor of allowing GLBT Presbyterians to become ordained ministers, deacons and elders – even in surprising and conservative parts of the country – and that gives me great hope for the future.

Although we didn’t quite get there this year, the tide is continuing to turn. In fact, if you count the actual number of people who voted (think of it like the Electoral College, with the presbyteries being the states), the “popular vote” among the leadership of our church was so close it is almost a tie. And this changes the dialogue forever. Full inclusion of our GLBT brothers and sisters is no longer just the hope of a small minority, or even a silent majority, but is now embraced by an undeniable and growing number of the faithful.

Of course, Jesus has been living this Gospel all along; the church is just catching up.

I hold fast to the point made by Rev. Denise Mason in a sermon some years ago on John 12.32, where Jesus says to his disciples, “When I am lifted up, I will draw all people to myself.” Denise asked us, “Where is the ‘but’ in all?” This has been the question placed before the PCUSA by the Holy Spirit in every dialogue held in every presbytery across the nation. And, as Presbyterians from Florida to Alaska have concluded, “There is no ‘but.,’” the day comes every nearer when our rules will reflect this Good News.

But most importantly, this vote is not the end of the conversation. It is simply a noticeable milestone along the road. There are presbyteries yet to vote, and countless conversations still to be had. And while it will not change the outcome in the short term, their voices can still move us closer to the day when the church shows Jesus’ kind of true love and inclusion to all the faithful. Elvis has not left the building.


Reverend Janet

6 Responses
  • Donna on April 25, 2009

    Even a glimmer of light in a darkened room changes the room forever. Praise God for the glimmers and beacons, candles and Mag lights – Praise God for the light!

  • Mike F on April 26, 2009

    I honestly have such conflicted feelings about this. I am at once disappointed, angry, frustrated, struggling for hope and seeing positive signs.

    My heart is with my GLBT friends and family members as they strive to make sense of the way the Spirit is working in the church and the (seeming) glacially slow pace that change is brought to bear.

    While hope puts our eye on tomorrow, I feel as if, in fact, nothing has changed for today. I know that hearts and minds have moved toward a clearer picture of what a more fully welcoming church would look like but it is tough to keep hanging in there.

    It is tough to support the Church with time, talents and purse when the values that are still at the heart of the Book of Order seek to exclude some. Conversations with like minded members of the Session of my church have yielded similar sentiments.

    For the moment I feel like a Presbyterian by habit not by choice. While Elvis may not have left the building unfortunately many of my GLBT Presbyterian friends have. When will we finally get it?

  • Janet Edwards on April 27, 2009

    I know Mike F. speaks for many and that the PCUSA has been bleeding it’s life away as GLBT people and their loved ones walk out because they can not live anymore with the majority and the rules in the Book of Order which they passed and upheld once again this year.

    The question was posed to me several years ago: “Who is the church?” And the answer of that pastor was “You and I are the church!” The majority is not the church. The Book of Order is not the church. We, the minority, are in the church and have all the rights and privileges of the church. The present majority telling us we are wrong does not make us wrong. The majority only has the power that we give to them and I wil give them no more than acknowledging that they are still the majority today.

    For me, everything has changed because the minority is almost as large as the majority and we all see what the future holds. Our challenge will be to be better than the present majority when we become that.

  • KQ on April 29, 2009

    I am an elder in the San Francisco Presbytery. I was not able to be present for the meeting and vote last week, but I did hear about it from our two elders and pastor who represented my church. Yes, the tide is turning in the greater PCUSA. But when I heard that my region “flipped” the other way it felt like a sword had pierced my heart. How can I look my LGBTQ brothers and sisters in the eye and say, “we are still making progress”? How do I tell the young woman who was baptized and grew up under our eyes, bravely came out at age 19, and still comes to church that she is not “qualified” to serve?
    It is difficult to remain hopeful. Dear God, how we continue to hurt each other!

  • Donna on April 29, 2009

    John 11 and the story of Lazarus has always been special to me. It provides a nice portrait of Jesus. Maybe the messages in it will help lift your spirits. This struggle is not an end, but for the glory of God. Jesus went where he knew he wasn’t wanted. Walk in the light, even if it is a glimmer of light. Go to awaken.

    I guess I needed to read that today again, too…

  • Janet Edwards on April 29, 2009

    KQ, I feel like I need to sit with you, your church and your brave lesbian life long Christian friend – as Job’s friends sat with him. Perhaps we can count the days since the heartbreaking loss of Amendment 08-B in San Francisco Presbytery as our sitting together in silence – as Job did with his friends.

    Nothing we say will ease the present pain.

    Our challenge is to not take it personally. It is a difficult spiritual discipline, I know.

    But we need not take this action personally, if you look at it closely. Those who voted against 08-B, by and large, do not know and willfully avoid knowing their GLBT sisters and brothers in Christ. In my own presbytery here in Pittsburgh, I was disappointed that, on the day of the vote, we were prevented from having the dialogue and prayerful discernment encouraged by the national General Assembly that would have helped us to know each other better.

    What we need to do right now is be with those who know us and love us, express our pain, sorrow, disappointment and despair to them and to God, to pray for those who do not know us but hurt us, and to hold fast to Jesus’ promise that ALL are welcome at His table. In time we will have the strength to once more help God’s kingdom come in the PCUSA and this world.

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