Our Labor Day Turn into the Hard Labor


Labor Day, for me, means the start of the new school year. The late summer days in September, with their slanting light and thin, spent warmth, still give me a sense of hope and anticipation for new areas of study and challenge.

As I reflect, I am grateful for this week’s rise in hopeful energy. The challenges before my church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), during this next year are large ones. And unlike the challenges that made my heart quicken when school started, these are serious concerns that weigh heavy on my spirit because they have real, lasting consequences for peoples’ lives.

Today, I bring one of these before you for your prayerful consideration: the ordination vote.

Between now and May, 2011, every presbytery in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) must vote on Overture 10-A, a revision of G-6.0106b in the Book of Order that would restore the standard for ordination to the historic standards of faith, gifts and calling. A “yes” will open ordination to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) candidates for ministry.

Since 1997, when this section of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Constitution was passed, there have been four opportunities to delete or revise it. In 2001 the overture to delete G-6.0106b lost by 35 presbyteries. In 2009, the revision overture lost by 9 presbyteries.

This progress gives me hope that the birth of a new day, one in which our LGBT faithful will be just like all other Presbyterians within the church, is near.

However, change takes hard work. When I gave birth, at a certain point I knew the baby was coming and I also knew that a good deal of hard labor was needed on my part to make that happen. In the PCUSA, as a community, we have been heading toward this birth for a long time and these years have had all the pain and weariness of a difficult labor.

Rev. Janie Spahr’s trial, earlier this month, was another labor pain. And in the months to come when we are reaching out to our fellow Presbyterians to vote “yes” on Overture 10-A, I expect there will be many others. Like a mother in the final throes of birth, we can be heartened all along the way by the promised outcome.

When this voting season concludes, may we have delivered the church into the new day we all know Christ has in store for us and for our next generation of faithful Presbyterians. Our LGBT deacons, elders and ministers will witness among us all to Jesus’ loving embrace. And the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will shine with Jesus’ love, transforming the world.


Reverend Janet

6 Responses
  • Michael J. Adee on September 10, 2010

    I am grateful, too, for this rising tide of hope within the Presbyterian Church (USA) and for the God’s work of love, justice and healing in our midst and in the world.

    We can be informed and inspired by earlier generations of Presbyterians that did the right, moral and Christian thing by dealing with slavery and the subordination of women.

    Now is the time for the Presbyterian Church (USA) to support one ordination standard for all Presbyterians regardless of gender, race, sexuality, gender identity or any other human difference.

    It is my hope and prayer that all Presbyterians — starting with myself — will open our hearts, minds and spirits to God’s work in our lives and within our Church.

  • Janet Edwards on September 10, 2010

    Dearest Michael,

    Thanks for lending your voice to encouraging us as we approach this prayerful voting season on 10-A, restoring to its historic meaning our ordination standards in the PCUSA!

    You remind me that the essential qualification for ordained office is Baptism into the one Body of Christ, the church. In the church we are one in the Spirit. Ordination is the process by which we discern, by God’s inspiration, who will best engage in particular work of the church: deacons for service, elders for leadership and ministers for teaching. It makes sense, then, that the standards for ordination have historically been faith, gifts and call.

    It also makes sense that our church has been wandering, as if in a wilderness, since we strayed from our historic roots. May seeing how far we have gone astray charge us up so that we have all the energy we need to return to the essentials of our Reformed faith. This is my prayer.

    Peace, Janet

  • Ray on September 12, 2010

    Won’t it be ironic if the Overture passes and opens ordination to LGBT persons but the church continues to prohibit them from perform GLBT marriages?

  • Janet Edwards on September 13, 2010

    Dear Ray,

    Thanks for your pointed question–you remind me how difficult it was for me to grasp “irony” in senior English even with the help of Jane Austen!

    And, Ray, you remind me also of the way in which we are all on a journey.

    Perhaps you have witnessed, as I have, the journey of the LGBT community from dismissing, on the whole, marriage or having children as a possibility, to seeking unions, both civil and blessed by the church, to claiming for ourselves marriage with all it entails as a legal right and as a covenant before God. With thanks to Evan Wolfson for guiding us.

    The church is on this same journey to accepting our unity as human in the midst of our diversity. We have witnessed during the last four years the addition of marriage equality to the thirty plus year effort for ordination equality. Both marriage and ordination touch upon our common humanity: our deepest commitments of love in marriage and our strongest efforts to use our gifts to serve God as called in this life by seeking ordination.

    Given my seeing clearly that the PCUSA does not, in fact, prohibit marriage between two men or two women or ministers of the church presiding at those weddings, we are actually further ahead right now on the road to marriage than on ordination. When the church says nothing about something, as is the case right now with regard to same gender marriage, then it is allowed.

    Still, it is important that we pass ordination equality this year and that our definitions (which are not rules) reflect actual Christian experience. And I expect we will find that this is not the destination, but just a way station from which the journey continues.

    Thanks again for prompting me to ponder upon these things. Peace, Janet

  • Gail O on September 27, 2010

    I too am hoping and praying for a Yes vote on Overture 10-A. I am not certain how it will play out in our Presbytery. Our Church is torn. Our minister would vote No, I would vote Yes. The rest of the session is split.

    Presbyterians have been talking too long about this. Pass it and move on.

  • Janet Edwards on September 28, 2010

    Dear Gail O,

    Hearty thanks for sharing with us the situation in your session which really reflects the mind of the church at the national level as well.

    The decision of the Synod PJC in the remedial case concerning San Francisco Presbytery’s approval of Lisa Larges for ordination could not have been closer, 5-4.

    And the vote of all 22,000 commissioners across the presbyteries two years ago, who voted on revision of the 1997 clause on ordination in G-6.0106b was 51% to 49%. When we disagree in this way, our tradition allows the ordaining body to decide, which is what the Amendment 10-A before us this year reaffirms in a revision of G-6.0106b.

    I join in your conviction that it is time to pass this revision and move on together. I hope you join others in your presbytery to work as hard as you can to make that happen this year.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. Peace, Janet

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