Gratitude and Joy Before the Votes Are Cast
It’s been a typical week at a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly, full of intense conversations, raucous reunions with friends not seen since the last General Assembly, long meetings with complicated procedures, and above all, a shared desire for the church to embrace our deeply held convictions about God’s will for us.
As I post this on Friday morning, near the end of the assembly, some of the crucial votes that will direct the PCUSA for the next two years have been cast, others will be decided over the next day (if you wish, you can follow the live updates here). For Presbyterians, however, the General Assembly is much more than a series of debates and votes; it is worship. In committee and plenary meetings, caucus groups and strategy breakfasts — wherever we gather, the Holy Spirit breathes upon us to inspire the words we share with one another and the commitments we make after listening.
And so I pause to give thanks and praise for the courage, wisdom and power I have seen all around the Minneapolis Convention Center where Presbyterians have been at worship this week.
In particular, I have been grateful for those who spoke courageously for full inclusion of the GLBT faithful in our church. It began during the long process of nominations, introductions and questions to the moderator candidates last Saturday night. When the woman at microphone seven asked, “What is your comment on same gender marriage and Christian marriage?” the yet-to-be-elected moderator, Elder Cindy Bolbach, replied with another question: “Who honors marriage more? Larry King, who has been married seven times, or Harry and Bob who have been together 62 years and married two weeks ago in Washington, D.C.?” And then she sat down. Wow.
Then there was the stunning courage of Miriam Moore-Keish, a teenager who is volunteering at the GA with her youth group from the Central Presbyterian Church of Atlanta, Georgia. She testified in the open hearing of the Committee on Civil Unions and Marriage in favor of a more inclusive understanding of marriage. Before this conference room full of adults she said, “I know there are verses in the Bible that may be interpreted as anti-gay but the Bible also says that all men and women are created in God’s image, and God will love you whether you’re gay or straight.”
After the debates today the votes will be earnestly and prayerfully cast. And when the adjourning gavel falls tomorrow, we will all return to wherever we call home to continue the work of living together as the part of the Body of Christ that is the PCUSA. Whatever the consequences of the votes today, I will return home full of gratitude for the wonderful words of love for all God’s children, including our GLBT sisters and brothers, spoken boldly all week.