End “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” in the PCUSA, too


As I watched the historic steps taken last week toward the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – the policy that bans GLBT people from serving openly in our country’s military – I was reminded of the Presbyterian Church’s policies concerning those called to serve the church.

Successful service in the military and the Presbyterian Church both rest upon the fulfilling of duties that need to be done. In the military, each person must know how to do the job given to them and do it when the order comes. My church lives by the same principle. While we don’t have the command structure found in the military, orders, if there are any, come from a group like the session discussing a situation at length to reach a decision.

The fact is that success in the church comes in the same way it does in the military: through each person knowing and doing the job that fits with his or her gifts and inspiration. From the Sunday school teacher to the Moderator of the General Assembly, Presbyterians are called to an office and their service builds up the Body of Christ.

Rules against gifted GLBT people serving have cost both institutions dearly. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has cost our country the service of thousands of patriotic Americans who would put their lives on the line to help defend us, but have been turned away because they are GLBT. Likewise, through ordination standards that exclude GLBT Presbyterians who are honest about who they are, the church has lost wonderful gifts for service in the church. And in both cases, we ignore powerful callings – to serve our country and to serve God.

The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the military, when it comes, will be the answer to the prayers of many, and the product of intense, persistent work on the part of thousands of patriotic Americans. I pray that the church may take inspiration from these developments to welcome all who are called to leadership in its own ranks.

When ordination for our GLBT members comes in the PCUSA, it will also be the result of unstinting, faithful effort on the part of thousands of stalwart Presbyterians. We stand on the ancient Truth that the church is “a holy priesthood (I Peter 2:5)” — a priesthood of all believers in which God calls some of us, including GLBT faithful, to ordained office.

There is still more to be done to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the military and I hope you who are reading this will find your way to help. And there is still time for the Presbyterian Church to catch up and even go ahead. The 219th General Assembly in July has a host of overtures on ordination to consider. Check out More Light Presbyterians, That All May Freely Serve and Covenant Network for ways you can join in the work to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the PCUSA, too. Now.


Reverend Janet

6 Responses
  • Donna on June 4, 2010

    Preach it, sister… Many are called to be soldiers for their love of God and country.


  • Wes Ellis on June 4, 2010

    Excellent column, Rev. Janet!
    I served in the U.S.Army at the end of World War II (yes, I’m that old–83) and in my unit there were gays. Of necessity, most were deeply closeted. I think most everyone knew they were gay but it was a non-issue for the most part. I don’t remember there being any problems.
    My feeling is that the real issue in this matter is the subjugation of truthfulness, honesty and Christian love. With a DADT policy, whether in the military or the church, we are encouraging (maybe demanding is a better word) dishonesty, deception, rejection. Are these Christian attributes? Of course not, but it’s what DADT demands.
    I pray that the GA of the Presbyterian Church will correct this grievous and un-Christian policy of discrimination and rejection.
    Wes E.

  • Janet Edwards on June 4, 2010

    Dear Donna and Wes,

    Thanks for your encouraging words!

    You both remind me of another similarity between ordained ministry and military service. These are callings that can be successful only when they arise from deeply rooted integrity in the person called. By integrity I mean a harmony of body, mind and spirit that allows one’s gifts to be focused powerfully on the job to be done. This is because the jobs required in both the ministry and the military are so very difficult.

    It is this integrity that DADT in any community so harmfully undermines.

    I join your prayers. Peace be with you both, Janet

  • Wes Ellis on June 4, 2010

    A loud Amen to that! Your last statement, “It is this integrity . . . ” is especially powerful.

  • Michael J. Adee on June 5, 2010

    The parallel between the discrimination and cost of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to the military and to the Presbyterian Church and other faith traditions is so clear.

    Imagine calculating the cost since 1978 in the Presbyterian Church (USA) of the harm and loss of LGBT persons serving God in and through the church?

    79% of people in the USA believe DADT is wrong and needs to be repealed. Surely, a growing number of Presbyterians want discrimination to end in our Church, too.

    I am hopeful and praying for the 219th General Assembly, PCUSA, meeting July 3 – 10 in Minneapolis. This Assembly has the opportunity to call for repeal of discrimination against LGBT persons in the Church. May discrimination end in both the military and the church.

  • Janet Edwards on June 7, 2010

    Dear Michael,

    I remember the amazing GLBT people who grew up in the PCUSA with such wonderful gifts for ministry and clear calls from God for service in the church. It is so terribly grievous how many have had to go to other denominations and vocations in order to maintain their integrity, I feel so terribly sad for them and for our church. The harm and loss goes beyond calculation.

    May our grief and anger sustain our strength and courage to work until we end DADT among us.

    Thanks for all you do to bring that day, Michael. Peace, Janet

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