The Cruel Winds of Our Long Judicial Season
I have written on the stalwart prophetic ministry of Lisa Larges before and I write again now. This week, the Synod of the Pacific Permanent Judicial Commission gives judgment on Lisa’s presbytery, San Francisco Presbytery, which voted to ordain her as a Minister of Word and Sacrament.
It will be a great new season for our beloved Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) when Lisa just goes about her business as a pastor in our midst. May this decision hasten that day.
The winds of this long judicial season have been cruel to Lisa. They’ve also been cruel to the PCUSA — threatening the very life of the church. They cannot end one second too soon.
One of the cruelties of this judicial season is that Lisa is never considered a party to these court proceedings even though they are about her and have immense consequences for her. The court case now and the ones in 1991 and 2009 were remedial challenges to Lisa’s presbytery for approving her for ordination. So it’s the presbytery speaking up in church court for its actions while Lisa sits in the back, listening to others argue about her as a person, a Christian and a servant of the church. How cruel to make any person an “It.”
The case against me was disciplinary. When the case was dismissed because the Investigating Committee filed their charges three days late, accusations were made again, initiating the process all over again. When the Presbytery Permanent Judicial Commission unanimously acquitted me on all charges, there was no appeal. We had all suffered uncertainty and discord for three long years. Even today, while relieved by the outcome, I am very aware of still being highly vulnerable and subject to accusations by my colleagues in ministry just for saying out loud what we all know — that LGBT couples shine with all the qualities we all recognize as marriage.
It is the accusing party’s right to bring charges, according to the rules. However, it is not kind. And it is not love in Christ.
Unlike the seasons in nature, we have control over this judicial season. Bringing charges against presbyteries and against people is a choice Presbyterians are making.
We can end this cruel season by choosing to behave differently. Revising the ordination standards to allow a presbytery to affirm the faith, gifts and call of other lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender candidates like Lisa Larges is one choice we all have before us. And when this happens, I trust we will experience the joyful grace given by God to us through the ministries of LGBT Presbyterians. We will enter a season of the love to which Christ calls us all.
And when we enter this new season, I imagine the church will recognize its cruelty and ask Lisa Larges to forgive us for our treating her as an “It” for decades. As the prophet she is, how will she respond? May the day come swiftly when we will find out.