Now We Have To Talk
Last week marked two major milestones in church and American society in the ongoing conversation about the place of GLBT people in our midst. In my Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) the discernment and voting season ended when the last presbytery voted on whether our church should allow openly gay and lesbian people to be ordained. The outcome had been known for some time: the ban on GLBT ordination remains for the time being. In California the Supreme Court ruled that Prop 8, which limits marriage to a man and a woman in the state Constitution, stands — ending the period, since their ruling last year, which briefly opened the way for 18,000 same-sex couples to be married.
There is a theme in both these events that I want to highlight. In the PCUSA, the final vote of the elders and ministers across all the presbyteries was 10,416 For Amendment 08-B, 10,873 Against. That is 49% For, 51% Against. Out of over 21,289 votes cast, the difference between Yes and No is only 455 votes. In the Prop 8 vote last November in California, the vote was almost as close, 52% to 48%. And in both cases the vote was closer than the last time, 2001 in the church and 2000 in California.
To me this sends out one signal bright and clear: we need to talk.
Our nation and our church are deeply divided — almost right down the middle. So perhaps it is fitting that I quote both Jesus (Matthew 12:25, Mark 3:25, Luke 11:17) and Abraham Lincoln when I say, a house divided against itself cannot stand. We must not only talk, but listen — even to those with whom we disagree. At the end of the day, we all want the same thing: a spiritual home in our church and the best future for our country.
The closeness of these votes requires one crucial thing of us all. No one, whatever our position on the place of GLBT people in our church or community, can demonize those who disagree. There are simply too many good, hardworking, well-meaning people on the other side to be able to dismiss them in any way. Instead, I want to embrace. I want to talk so that we can hear each other’s voices and have a chance to see with one another’s eyes. Only then can we move forward together.