Here’s a Bit About My Journey. What’s Your Journey?
This week we took a step that has been thirty-seven years in the making.
As I wrote this past Tuesday, it has now become a certainty that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will allow the ordination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members as elders, deacons and ministers. With Twin Cities Presbytery passing Amendment 10A, the needed majority of 87 of the 173 presbyteries (regions across the USA) have ratified the General Assembly recommendation to remove the barriers in the church rules to ordination. And we know now that on July 10, 2011, the revised requirements will go into effect.
It was thousands of individuals sharing their journeys that led us to this joyous moment.
Through the ongoing conversations series here on TimeToEmbrace, I have made it my goal to help readers get to know more about the journeys of many of the wonderful people I’ve met through this work. Occasionally, but rarely, have I shared my own stories.
However, in this historic moment, I’d like to share a little about my personal journey in the hopes that it will inspire others to share theirs.
I grew up in the PCUSA. I enjoyed Sunday School, sitting by my Grandfather in worship, learning to pray, listening to great anthems by the choir and trying to follow the sermon every Sunday. I took the promises I made at confirmation seriously. When violent protests against the war in Vietnam began at my college, I went to the University Church and found spiritual guidance.
I made the decision to go to seminary when I was a senior. I knew that I did not want church to be just another organization or club I was part of. I wanted my faith in the triune God to be the genesis of all my conduct as a human and a Christian. Studying was what I knew best, so was a natural fit for this new quest. I applied to seminary to delve more deeply into my faith.
As I imagine is true for many, it was in seminary that I began paying attention to PCUSA church polity. One of my friends and fellow seminarians, Chris, was a Presbyterian from California who came out as gay in our first semester. This was in 1973 mind you. Chris was already in the process for ordination in the PCUSA and I got to know first hand Chris’s deep relationship with God in Jesus Christ and his rich gifts for ministry.
It was during this same time that New York Presbytery asked the General Assembly (GA) for guidance on how to proceed with a candidate for ordination who had informed them that he was gay. After a committee studied the case for three years, the GA in 1978 overruled their work and voted that lesbian and gay Presbyterians were not eligible to be ordained. What a blow this was! And because of this rule, Chris and so many other qualified candidates were stopped in place.
A year prior to that ruling, in 1977, I was ordained in Pittsburgh. I began participating in the debates and voting of Pittsburgh presbytery and right away, to me and to others, it looked like the presbytery was directing the commissioners to the 1978 GA on how to vote on gay and lesbian ordination. This was a clear violation of our Presbyterian commitment to listen carefully to the discussion, listen for the whispering of the Holy Spirit and then vote. So with others, I filed an objection to the conduct of my presbytery as it anticipated consideration of ordination of lesbian and gay candidates at GA.
In the end it didn’t change the outcome, but for me, this was really the beginning of my advocacy for full inclusion in the church. And it was that advocacy that eventually led to the two trials for my presiding at the wedding of Nancy McConn and Brenda Cole and eventually the creation of my website and blog here at TimeToEmbrace.com. It also led to joining in the work of More Light Presbyterians.
Since seminary, it has been clear to me that if LGBT believers are unworthy to be ordained then no one is worthy to be ordained. Judgment by my church against this one group of people has sent a signal to every person that the PCUSA chooses to judge rather than love and this judging stance toward LGBT people has belied our claim to witness to God’s love through Christ to everyone and anyone. It is no wonder we have floundered during these years.
Since 1974 the integrity of the Gospel proclamation of the PCUSA has been compromised. With the vote this week that Christian witness of my church home has been restored. Just think of all those baptized today and the church they are being welcomed into – a church that puts no barrier up for them if they are called to serve their God and their church. I am so proud to be a Presbyterian this week.
We all have a journey that brings us to this moment. How about sharing yours?