With the Most Vulnerable Among Us, Our GLBT Seminarians
The 219th General Assembly — a roller coaster ride, if there ever was one — has barely been written in the Book of Life as I participate in the annual gathering of some of the most faithful Christians I know: gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Presbyterians who deeply feel a call from God to serve in ordained ministry in the Church.
I draw immense inspiration from this group of GLBT seminarians each time I am privileged to worship and deliberate with them about their walk with Jesus. This year, I am particularly aware of both their great vulnerability and their hope in the wake of the 219th General Assembly (GA).
This GA took many actions that raise our hopes high that our beloved PCUSA is at last catching up with God’s love for all God’s children.
Most important, the Assembly sent a recommendation to the presbyteries to align section G-6.0106b of the Book of Order with the historical standards for ordination in the Reformed tradition. Now, only one step remains before these GLBT candidates for ministry can be ordained: a Yes vote on this recommendation by the majority of our 173 presbyteries.
The Board of Pensions also issued a directive to extend benefits to same gender spouses and domestic partners. This means that the Church will be ready to care for these candidates for ministry and their families when they begin to serve the Church as called by God (at least in the presbyteries where the state recognizes their love and commitment in some way).
Yet there were also some lows last week for those who value the rich contributions these seminarians bring to our Church. With the Assembly’s decision to study Marriage and Families for another two years, their most precious, loving relationships become an “issue” to be scrutinized by strangers yet again.
Then, the Special Committee Report on Marriage was used to prevent debate on two significant committee recommendations: One that would have allowed pastoral discretion on marrying same-gender couples where that is permitted under civil law, and a second that would have amended the Directory for Worship to define marriage as between two people. Consideration of these important recommendations was an opportunity for the PCUSA to show love and compassion for all God’s children. And it was missed.
But the conversation is far from over. This GA gave us immense opportunity to open the PCUSA to hear the call from God that these stalwart GLBT Presbyterians, blessed by God with powerful gifts for ministry, hear. As Lisa Larges, a wonderful Presbyterian who has been under care for ordination for 23 years because she is open about being a lesbian, has said “God chooses us, we don’t.”
And this is God’s clarion call to us: to see the Holy Spirit in one another, and to show God’s love to all God’s children.