The Church Body Needs Our Conversations, So “Let’s Talk!”


“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body — whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”
(1 Corinthians 12: 12-14)

A strange season has come upon us in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), a time between the times.

The outcome on Amendment 10A, the revision to the Book of Order that will open ordination to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Presbyterians, is certain. The requisite number of 87 presbyteries, a majority of the 173 presbyteries, have already voted Yes and the revision will go into effect on July 10, 2011.

At the same time, there are still presbyteries to vote and there are still many in the PCUSA who are confused about or oppose ordination of lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender Presbyterians. There is also a great temptation to disengage, to quit the dialogue that has brought us here. An ad in the Wall Street Journal this week from the Presbyterian Lay Committee reflects this approach.

Please do not succumb to that thinking!

Now, more than ever, it is important to step up the conversation in the PCUSA.

I look to Paul’s letters in Corinthians. As Paul says, “there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”” (1 Corinthians 12: 19-21)

To be the beacon of Christ’s love that we yearn to be in the PCUSA, we need all parts of the Body. We need all to be engaged on level ground. And we cannot say to each other, “I don’t need you!”

One of the basic blessings of the coming revision to the Book of Order is that there will now be level ground for the full diversity of the body of the Church in a way that hasn’t been before. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Presbyterians are now recognized as full participants in the church and in our ongoing exploration of the gospel message of Jesus’ love we are compelled to proclaim to the world. No longer will the church proclaim: “We don’t need you!”

There are those in the Presbyterian Church family, however, who voted “no” on 10A. For some of them the coming revision to the Book of Order causes much anxiety and fear. This is another reason why growing the conversation, rather than quieting it, is so important right now. That we are all full and equal participants in church deliberations, and in discerning God’s call to leaders in the PCUSA, calls us to find common ground and work together as a whole. It calls us all to not cut off our nose to spite our face. We need all!

I am not saying this will be easy — I am saying it is crucial that we do it. The dialogue in the comments section that followed my thoughts on the passing of 10A is a great example of how the conversation could go. Little is easy or comfortable there, you will see. My gratitude to everyone staying in the dialogue is sincere because I know all the comments there are honest, heartfelt and Spirit-led. I pray that you all find the courage displayed by pj, Donna, Bill and Frank to engage in conversations with other Presbyterians in this tender, waiting time.

The Holy Spirit is beckoning us into the next moment in the life of the PCUSA and we can follow best when we, every one of us, are strong and clear about where we stand – as One in the Body of Christ. The leading of the Holy Spirit will emerge from these conversations — honest, heartfelt and Spirit-led — among us all. When we do this, we are One in the Spirit. We are One in the Lord. And, as Paul says, we can “now eagerly desire the greater gifts,” that come with our being One in Christ.

So, what do we do in this time between the times while we wait for voting to be complete and the page to turn in our church? Seek out a Presbyterian who disagrees with you and say, like Scott Anderson has, “Let’s talk!”

What are your thoughts about all this?

Link to respond to this video


Reverend Janet Edwards

8 Responses
  • pennyjane hanson on May 28, 2011

    good morning, janet. i do so admire your persistance, your love and kindness. sincerely, i’m asking for instruction: how does a struggling, unknowing, seeking searcher have an actual conversation with someone who is possessed with *THE TRUTH*?

    the only reference point i have for this is when i pray with God. i don’t know how to make it happen with other people.

    please, show me…i need to know now!

    much love and hope. pj

  • Janet Edwards on May 28, 2011

    Dear pj,

    Back at you with appreciation for your persistence and for your desire to engage!

    The thing is, I can not answer your question because it is a basic belief on my part that none of us know “THE TRUTH.” If we did, then we would live by certainty, not by faith. This means that we are always talking with someone who only sees through the glass darkly, just like me.

    The other person might claim to know “THE TRUTH or we may perceive the other person as claiming to know THE TRUTH. We often do those things. But underneath that is the fact that everyone of us is a “struggling, unknowing, seeking searcher.”

    Always perceiving others in this way no matter how he or she might speak and no matter how I might hear their speaking has two helpful consequences for me.

    First, it compels me to listen to that person with an ear for the gift that person has to give to me. At my best, that is all I listen for. Much more in ideas and feelings may be expressed but the only important thing is the gift that person has to give and every utterance has the potential for one.

    Second, this frees me to be clear and honest in what I say. Since the other person is at heart a searcher, then my words may be a piece, at least, of what he or she is seeking. My sharing then becomes an offering to the other person. I hope it will help them in their search.

    pj, I think you give yourself your own answer: how to you speak with God? Of course, what I am saying is that none of us are God but we do well to speak with one another as if the other were–with that level of respect and honor. For example, how do you converse with people in your church? How about talking with everyone in that fashion? Would that initiate and foster a good conversation?

    So you know how. Does that make any sense to you?

    Peace, Janet

  • Bill on June 4, 2011

    I’ve said this before. Anyone with a heart for the Truth can hear it. The Bible is made for us to understand. Verse upon verse confirms this. To think otherwise is ignoring the nature of God who wants us all to read and understand his word. It just doesnt make sense for it to be otherwise……

  • Bill on June 5, 2011

    Oops! IMO……

  • Frank on June 15, 2011

    Hello Janet,

    I have been back a couple of times to see if things have settled down. It appears maybe they have somewhat so I thought I’d take another shot at interacting from time to time. Hopefully this wasn’t a bad idea.


  • Janet Edwards on June 16, 2011

    Dear Frank,

    Great! I am very, very glad for the inspiration in you that has brought you back here, Frank.

    I expect you know the historic principle of the PCUSA which says, “There are truths and forms with respect to which men (sic) of good characters and principles may differ.” Right now, the experience of the past 30+ years have taught us that the place of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians in the church is one of those truths and forms over which we differ.

    One imperative for the church to thrive, then, is that we all let go of insisting that our truth in this matter is The Truth. From that mutual forbearance we can join in a fruitful dialogue, inspired by the Holy Spirit. And The Truth with emerge, I trust.

    Your return encourages me that you agree with me about these things, Frank. I look forward to your contributions in days to come.

    Peace, Janet

  • Donna on June 16, 2011

    Welcome back Frank!


  • Thomas Fultz, Elder on February 15, 2013

    I wonder if you have seen this post on the COvenant Network, and if so, what do you think about this approach to PCUSA polity?

    The Rev. Dr. Daniel M. Saperstein
    Covenant Network Regional Conference
    Denver, CO January 27, 2013

    It includes: “Certainly, any effort to reframe our polity to accommodate marriage equality in the PCUSA must at some point – whether at the Assembly or in the presbyteries – confront the beast in the room, namely, the naïve assumption that the dominant model of marriage as understood by our members is in fact THE “biblical” model of marriage.

    You can recite the qualities of this dominant model. Not only is the assumed biblical model a heterosexual coupling of two virgins, but it is also monogamous, and sexually exclusive. In previous generations, and in some circles, even today, the model embraced other characteristics, which were accepted uncritically as well: for example, patriarchy, procreativity, and permanence.

    We know this model all too well.[16] You might call it the “Father Knows Best” vision of marriage. Those who oppose marriage equality go to great lengths to defend this model biblically, disregarding not only that the model is no longer normative for our society, but that it wasn’t even normative for the ancient Hebrews or New Testament church.[17]”

    Does not come across as an invitation to dialogue that you favor….and there is more:

    “So how do we overcome the political, theological, and strategic obstacles to marriage equality? Politically, we must acknowledge that the definition of marriage found in W-4.9001 is a “third rail” topic. Changing it is unlikely to pass the Assembly, much less the presbyteries, anytime soon. It is therefore necessary to affirm the definition as NORMATIVE but not BINDING. We can leave unchallenged the theological assumptions of the right regarding natural law, gender complementarity, and creation while creating space for accommodation of other relationships within the broad scope of divine grace and compassion.

    Theologically, as the 2008 Special Committee noted, we are deeply divided on the topic of marriage equality. There is no consensus on the biblical witness, and hammering on a wedge only splits the wood more deeply. If there is to be a way forward, we must reframe the debate from the definition of marriage and the remediation of injustice to a debate on which there is broad and historic consensus, such as the historic right of pastors to exercise discretion in the conduct of pastoral care.”

    Why have a Book of Order if nothing in it is “binding”?

    How do you sense this approach will preclude an explosion of the PC(USA): “Do not seek to amend W-4.9001 on the definition of marriage. Rather amend W-1.4005a on rights of the pastor as worship leader by adding the following (or similar) provision:

    Teaching elders, and ruling elders commissioned to pastoral service, shall have the freedom to exercise discretion regarding the conduct of worship as pastoral care except where explicitly proscribed in this Constitution.”

    Do you see the words “same-sex” or even “marriage” in this overture? No. It is not about that, although it would create a space in most presbyteries to allow same-sex marriages to be performed under the protections it guarantees. There is careful language that I have vetted with some of my colleagues that would overturn existing AIs from 1991 and after.”

    So the Covenant Network says do not address the justice issue directly but subvert the current requirements of the Book of Order by pleading “pastoral care”. If marriage equality is the issue – why would an advocate hide it in an attempt to accomplish the end result by any means? Is this a demonstration of the gospel of Jesus Christ?

    Please help me understand how this methodolgy advances the Kingdom of God. Is it okay because “relativism” is normative in our culture, or have I missed the Scriptural warrant for deceitfulness in order to advance a cause of justice? Presbyterians like me must always be making “naïve assumptions” – that is ones that do not align with the views of progressive Presbyterians……so why would the Covenant Network and those who support similar views dialogue with us?

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