The Focus Beyond DADT


The mid-term elections are written in the Book of Life and now Congress will return for the lame duck session. The House has already passed the bill to end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) and the Senate leadership has promised to pass it before the end of the year. If all goes well, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans will be able to serve openly and honestly in the armed forces by the start of next year.

In my eyes, the repeal of DADT is more than just allowing LGBT service members to serve openly. It’s an opportunity for the entire military community to get to know some of their own as who they truly are. After all, LGBT people have been serving our country in the military all along, just serving in silence about those they love.

In many ways, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is at the same juncture. Just as in the military, LGBT people have been a part of the church and serving as deacons, elders and ministers all along. Yet, the reality is that since the 1970’s, we have been living with a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy when it comes to ordained office.

For Presbyterians to address our version of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, we must ensure that Amendment 10-A passes the presbyteries to become church law. It will assure that ordination rests upon assessment of the candidate’s call, gifts, preparation and suitability for the office. This will mean that in some presbyteries openly LGBT candidates can come forward and be honest about themselves without fear. What a healthy joy to fully embrace inclusion in our church!

When it comes to the efforts to end DADT in our culture, both in the military and in our church, there are many different kinds of people that are important to reach in the hopes to change our hearts and minds. Most important to me is our need to focus our prayers and concern on those straight people who do not want to believe, think, or know about the many LGBT people in their midst. I mean those who refuse to ask and don’t want you to tell. I know this will require a pastoral care and a pastoral response, the focus being on easing fears, and showing people clearly and confidently that life beyond DADT can work. And I believe it can.

In the PCUSA specifically, we need to focus on helping all to see the spiritual gifts of our LGBT faithful and the blessed consequences of those gifts inspiring us all. We need to let the light of LGBT Presbyterians shine so that all may see clearly God’s love at work through them in this next moment in our history.

I am confident that both the military and our church can end this bad policy and embrace the kindness and inclusion God demands of us.


Reverend Janet

2 Responses
  • Ray on November 6, 2010

    Sorry, but I don’t see Amendment 10- A as a solution. An openly GLBT candidate may be ordained in one presbytery but his/her mobility will probably be limited because other presbyteries will be unwilling to accept the person who has openly revealed his/her sexual orientation. The real solution is for the G.A. to totally eliminate the Presbyterian version of DADT.

  • Janet Edwards on November 6, 2010

    Dear Ray,

    Thanks for adding your thoughts to this conversation!!!

    I agree completely that, for the next stretch of time, if 10-A passes, LGBT ministers will be limited in their service. Some presbyteries, like mine actually, are unlikely to receive them into their bounds because the majority in those presbyteries, following their conscience, will find LGBT ministers unsuitable for office. This is a fact of Presbyterian history and polity.

    This is the reason the 1974 Kenyon GAPJC decision, which declared women’s ordination an essential of Reformed faith and polity and required it across the church, has proved to be so corrosive. The national enforcement of women’s ordination has cast a shadow over the effort to allow ordination for LGBT Presbyterians. Those Presbyterians whose reading of Scripture and conscience before God leads them to be against women in leadership were forced to participate in women’s ordination. They fear they will be forced again to violate their own conscience. The fact is 10-A overturns the Kenyon decision (as did the PUP AI and the John Knox AI) and returns us to the foundation of Presbyterian polity that governing bodies choose their officers.

    I guess what I am saying, Ray, is that 10-A is the Presbyterian end to DADT. There is no further act of the church beyond the reestablishment of the sessions for elders and deacons and the presbyteries for ministers evaluating the call, gifts, preparation and suitability of candidates for office and then abiding by a majority vote.

    There is the further act of LGBT candidates pursuing calls from God to ordained office in the PCUSA as has been true all along. After 10-A there will be places where this can be done opening and joyfully. As the whole church witnesses the fruits of the Holy Spirit of our LGBT officers, the time will come (swiftly, I pray) when my presbytery will welcome gifted ministers who are LGBT because we will desire the blessing they will be among us.

    And the minorities in presbyteries like mine will continue speaking from our conscience and our devout understanding of Scripture for embrace of God’s LGBT children. I hope this will hasten the day both you and I yearn for when every corner of the PCUSA will joyfully receive LGBT candidates for office.

    But I expect you see things differently. What do you see as total elimination of the Presbyterian version of DADT and how can GA bring that about? I look forward to your answer.

    Peace, Janet

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