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.


Reverend Janet

4 Responses
  • Michael J. Adee on July 16, 2010

    thank you Pastor Janet for this report on the Presbyterian Assembly, the justice accomplished, the justice work yet to be done. Thank you for the reminder of the vulnerable place the anti-LGBT church policies and practices put our LGBT seminarians in — our Church needs to consider this seriously and continue to remove barriers to LGBT people serving in the Church. I am grateful that the 219th Presbyterian Assembly did approve one ordination standard for all Presbyterians regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or any other human condition. May the 173 Presbyteries pray, consider thoughtfully and approve this Ordination Amendment!

  • Janet Edwards on July 16, 2010

    Dear Michael, I join in your prayer! Thank you for reminding me of the opening sections of the PCUSA Book of Order where our commitment to being one with all people regardless of human condition is so clear. To bring our ordination standards into harmony with our most basic Christian understanding of how to be the church will bring such healing to our church family and to our Gospel proclamation. And, Michael, thanks for all you do to heal the church. Peace, Janet

  • Donna on July 24, 2010

    Dear Janet…forgive me the length of this…and perhaps my own simple way of looking at things…

    The more I learn about Presbyterianism, its struggle with GLBT acceptance, and the more I learn and think about what happened at the 219th General Assembly, the more I believe that the PC(USA) is in a kind of “coming out” process. To me, it seems this struggle is a journey of burgeoning love (for God and neighbor). By that I mean that we know that for GLBT people “coming out” is a process, which is unique to everyone. We know as well that “coming out” as a supporter of GLBT people is a process, which is also unique to everyone. I hazard to say that organizations, too, like the church, can experience a “coming out” process as they endeavor to take pride in a diverse workforce or membership. While this doesn’t explain why other denominations (or individuals) have reached GLBT acceptance before the PC(USA), it does indicate a need to respect that the church is going through a process.

    We also need to look at our own expectations. Like all GLBT children who look to their family and friends for acceptance of our “coming out” as GLBT, we are looking to our church family and friends for acceptance. And so we, too, need to recognize that that process of acceptance is unique: some parents readily accept, others do not, but most will, if given time and persistent love and opportunity. Most parents eventually learn that their GLBT child is no different than before they came out – they are the same loving, brilliant, happy, good child as before. Many of those who raised their GLBT children in a church and to love God realize that this, too, does not change after coming out.

    That being said, the 219th General Assembly’s vote in favor of ordination for GLBT people, in my mind, means that the PC(USA) for the most part understands the premise Lisa Larges puts forth that “God chooses us, we don’t.” It is an acceptance on the church’s part that 1) God has made us as we are (GLBT or not) and 2) that God calls us as we are (GLBT or not). In the process, that’s two hurdles leapt in one bound.

    As for the 219th General Assembly’s vote to “study” the issue of marriage, I’m not surprised. Our “parent” church has only just accepted our declaration of “Mom I’m gay.” Moving from acceptance of the individual to acceptance of relationships is another step in the process, like accepting the idea to accepting the practice, like a parent accepting a child’s gayness and then extending that to a partner. That process takes time.

    In the meantime, there are any number of things we can do to help: offer to help and be a resource, continue to love the church and God, pray, bring others to Jesus, help debunk myths and irrational fears, certainly free the word of God from a history of political bondage, and stand ready to serve. Maybe we can even say to the church “Thank you. We love you. We know this process is hard.” I don’t believe this struggle or the path before us all is a choice; it’s God calling his family together.


  • Janet Edwards on July 24, 2010

    Dear Donna,

    What an awesome statement of love for the church family with much food for thought as the PCUSA moves to the next step in our process, the discernment and vote on ordination within all our presbyteries over this next year!

    And you remind us all that the study of marriage is an integral part of this coming out process in the PCUSA and the more GLBT Presbyterians step forward, sharing ourselves in the conversation, the swifter our process will be toward understanding that the heart of marriage is the love between the partners. And we will have seen with our own eyes loving Presbyterian partners whose relationships have all the qualities we recognize as marriage. The outcomes of our study will be clear to us all, then.

    Thanks for your honest and caring meditation on our church. Peace, Janet

Comment on this post