Lisa Larges Approved for Ordination, But


On Tuesday, the San Francisco Presbytery voted to approve Lisa Larges for ordination and to validate her leadership of That All May Freely Serve. This merits both a muted hazzah and a long moment of deep prayer. For 23 years Lisa has remained steadfast in her sense of call to ordained ministry in the PCUSA while the church held her in limbo as a Candidate Under Care because she had the integrity to share openly that she is lesbian.

Lisa could have gone elsewhere to serve in professional ministry. Some GLBT Presbyterians have walked away when the PCUSA has thwarted their clear sense of call from God to use their gifts in ministry. The church suffers from the loss of their energy, intelligence, imagination and love.

Taking a different path, Lisa persisted in the PCUSA because, as she told me during her visit a month ago, it was not hers to do the work of the church. If the church discerned that she should not serve in ordained ministry in the PCUSA, it was the responsibility of the church to explain and enact that denial. The outcome was years in which Lisa was left in limbo, no action either way, waiting.

Year after year Lisa remained a Candidate Under Care, keeping in touch with the Committee on Preparation for Ministry and being her engaging self with every person she encountered along the way. And slowly, slowly the church changed regarding the place of GLBT people within it, largely because of courageous GLBT Presbyterians, like Lisa, willing to be fully themselves in the church.

This change has not yet been enacted jn the rules of the church; G-6.0106b, requiring GLBT candidates for ordained office to be celibate, remains in The Book of Order. But with this vote, San Francisco Presbytery has publicly accepted Lisa’s “scruple,” her statement that she cannot in good conscience comply with G-6.0106b, and her argument that this departure is “not an essential of Reformed faith and polity.” This has opened the door for Lisa, almost.

Almost, because it looks very likely that members of San Francisco Presbytery who oppose ordination of GLBT faithful will challenge presbytery approval of her call. So the dialogue shifts once more into the judicial commissions of the PCUSA, where the arguments will be made, the reasons given and decisions will be reached. And Lisa, who clearly knows how to wait upon God, will wait a little longer. This opportunity for a final decision, the product of Lisa’s amazing faithfulness in responding to God’s call, drives me to long, deep, heartfelt prayer.

The decision on the part of the presbytery is worthy of a muted hazzah. My celebration of the presbytery’s decision has to be muted because we continue to place extra burdens on GLBT candidates not required of others. This vote was a great step forward for Lisa and the PCUSA — hazzah — but how much further there is to go! So please join me in earnest, pleading prayer for Lisa and for our church.


Reverend Janet

3 Responses
  • Donna on November 13, 2009

    Dear Janet,

    I recently had the opportunity to read “To Know As We Are Known” by Parker Palmer, and I was struck by his chapter, “What is Truth?” In it, he illustrates the exchange between Pilate and Jesus:

    “From the outset of their encounter Pilate tries to objectify Jesus by forcing him into the category of ‘king.’ He is trying to make Jesus a comprehensible and dispensable entity in the political terms of the time…” (p. 48) “…But Jesus, the person, resists. He refuses to be reduced to Pilate’s terms [that is, Pilate’s political definition]; he asserts his own integrity and personhood. He says, ”King’ is your word’ – and proceeds to tell Pilate how he understands himself.” (p. 56) [brackets and comment added are mine]

    Also within those pages, Palmer makes a statement that I think underscores Jesus’ entire ministry:

    “To encounter the other as a person is to encounter the most objective, irreducible reality in the universe – a person, who, unlike a thing, actively resists our most determined efforts to diminish him or her to our limited self-serving images.” (p. 56)

    How many in Jesus’ day were so defined by the church as outcasts and untouchables, but Jesus gathered everyone to Him and called them son, daughter, brother, sister, child of God, and spent every day with them.

    Lisa’s ministry is a continuation of Jesus’ ministry in exactly these ways. For, even while she is defining herself before the church, which has often chosen to try to diminish and dispense of her based on its political terms, her ministry continues, and will continue, as it has for 23 years. The result of her ministry is that she and others who are educating the church in this way are, more and more, being treated as people, not as the church’s old self-serving image of abomination.

    For this same reason, I am conflicted about Bishop Shelby Spong’s decision. His book: “Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture” was one of the first books I read upon re-entry in the Christian community. He is, to me, an incomparable educator. So, while I understand his reasons for not wanting to dignify prejudice by engaging in discussions about it, I rue his decision to decline in actively educating others.

    That is unfortunate because the church’s definition of GLBT people needs to change and that is only possible when GLBT Christians and allies follow the golden rule: that is, we cannot expect others to listen to and suffer with us if we are not willing to listen to and suffer with them. The golden rule makes us all “us.”

    We need voices like Lisa Larges’, Bishop Spong’s, and yours to keep that education going, because education is perhaps the only way to change the church’s age-old concepts of homosexuality. That’s not easy to do because GLBT people have allowed ourselves for thousands of years to be defined erroneously by the church and society. Only of late (the past few decades) have we taken it into our hands to define ourselves, as a people, as a community, and as religious and spiritual beings (in all faith traditions).

    Like it or not, we have to continue to do that. And like it or not, that obligates us to engage in educating others. As we do so, we reclaim our personhood in society and in the body and family of Jesus Christ, just as Lisa has done.

    I pray, too, that Lisa receives her ordination.

  • Janet Edwards on November 13, 2009

    Dear Donna, There is not one thing more I can add to your thoughtful and provocative comments except for thanks that you join in prayer with me and so many others, for Lisa’s ordination–yes–and also for the Spirit to blow through the church to waken us from our sleep. Peace be with you, Janet

  • Rev/ Rpbert Forsberg on December 13, 2009

    Sorry that I left an earlier comment in your bl;og, dealing with Lisa Larges, not yet having seen and ready your fine piece here on Lisa, with more detailed and accurate info than I had mentioned. Thanks again for your continuing ministry of prayer and education on the situation of GLBT people in our churches. You and Lisa are two wonderful sisters and partners in that ministry. May God fully bless both of you for the rest of your lives.

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