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Issue Number 1
May 2000

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Welcome
CE
WOW
Leadership
Worship
Hospitality
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Invitation
 
 
WELCOME! ... to the first issue of the Presbyterian Promise newsletter! "Oh No! Not another newsletter! Our mailboxes are full already!" How can more words be needed about something so obvious? I remember Chris Glaser’s aggrieved comments at the 1998 GA MLP celebration. “…after civil rights and the ordination of women, we figured this would be a piece of cake! Five years max!” Well, it's thirty five years after women were ordained to what Presbyterians now call the Ministry of Word and Sacrament. The talents of many, many called, gifted and faithful Christians have been squandered and lost. And it's not just gay, lesbian, bisexual and trangendered people who've lost faith and given up on the church.

No matter how urgently needed and prayed for, no mere change in polity will resolve our struggles to understand God's love. Each day brings good news and bad news. One day Wayne Osborne can be installed. The next, the matter is stayed again. The Session at Stamford recently received a supporting opinion from Southern New England's PJC, but the matter has now gone back to the Synod PJC. We may expect it eventually to go to the GA PJC.

We're in this for the long term. God's Grace does abound. We are free to enjoy and rejoice. This inaugural issue reflects times of grace we've recently shared. We hope it serves both to encourage you and to invite you to the celebration.

Ralph Jones, editor
 
CONTINUING EDUCATION!

Presbyterian Promise invites persons interested in developing their theological understanding of Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual and Transgender issues to audit a course on Queer Theology at Yale Divinity School this fall. The official title of the course is Readings in Liberation Theologies and it will be taught by Letty M. Russell, Professor of Theology. The course will be held each Tuesday night from 7:00 to 9:30 p.m. in room 113 at the Divinity School. Those auditing are expected to attend class each week. Requests to audit the course should be made to Letty Russell by phone at: 203-453-6640 or on email at: letty.russell@yale.edu. Classes begin on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2000 and end on December 5, 2000. There is no fee but space is limited.
Letty Russell

 

WOW 2000  -- Presbyterian Promise Should Be There

Witness Our Welcome, 2000, or more affectionately known as WOW 2000 can be a great resource for Presbyterian Promise's work in Southern New England. Sponsored by the welcoming programs of eight denominations in this country and Canada, WOW is an historic witness of people who believe that God's love includes people of all sexual orientations. Over 1200 participants are expected to converge on Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois from Aug. 3-6, 2000 for a weekend of creative worship, Bible Study, celebration, and preparation to further our shared vision of a truly inclusive church of Jesus Christ.

The weekend will bring together some of the most famous theologians, thinkers, and activists of the welcoming movement, including Carter Heyward, Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, and  Jimmy Creech. More Light Presbyterians have been involved in WOW from its inception and the people who've worked for welcome in our denomination are prominent in the program. Rev. Jane Spahr will preach in the Sunday worship, and she will be joined by Chris Glaser, Michael Adee, field organizer for More Light Presbyterians, and Martha Juillerat and the Stoles Project. In our work since 1978, Presbyterians have contributed much to the welcoming movement, and we will be able to share much of that in DeKalb. But welcoming groups in other denominations have also struggled mightily and have a lot to teach us as well.

The program includes over 50 workshops led by people from all eight denominations. Some of the workshops focus on how lives have been changed by people coming to a new understanding of gay and lesbian Christians. Many focus on the work of spreading the word of welcome and will be useful tools for our work in Southern New England. There will be workshops on doing outreach to congregations, supporting welcoming congregations, developing non-hostile communication skills, working with parents of lesbians and gays, developing welcoming worship, creating truly inclusive youth ministry. In short, many workshops are aimed at equipping us to do our work right here.

We hope that people from this region will be among the 1200 gathering in DeKalb. For more information, please call Dick Hasbany, who serves on WOW's coordinating committee, at (203) 791-9926, and visit the website at www.wow2k.org.

Dick Hasbany


 


That All May Freely Serve
National Leadership Conference

From March 24-26, eleven representatives from Presbyterian Promise attended the National Leadership Conference sponsored by TAMFS (That All May Freely Serve) in Rochester, New York. The conference provided a forum for regional representatives from across the country to gather together, plan organizing strategies, and infuse the work with an increased level of energy. Representatives departed Rochester on Sunday afternoon not only with briefcases full of new and exciting material, but enlivened by the time spent in fellowship with men and women who share a common mission.
Before Sunday Worship – Presbyterian Promise at the TAMFS National Conference – Howard Taylor, David Lewicki, Pat Wales, Greg Price, Belinda Phillips, Ralph Jones, Craig Machado, Dick Hasbany, Wayne Osborne

As a new member of Presbyterian Promise attending my first national conference, I was eager to see the ways that our work on a local level ties in to the national movement. Toward this end, there was an extremely effective exchange of ideas throughout the conference between folks from across the nation, whether through formally structured workshops or informal discussions; people were very clear about what has worked in their regions and what hasn't. Further, the movement's national leaders, like Janie Spahr and Michael Adee, were accessible for one-on-one conversations throughout the weekend. It was critical for me to meet the people who are the public face of this movement, to hear the stories of how they came to be involved, and to allow myself to be caught up in the energy that they create.

By Sunday afternoon, several themes of the conference evolved that I hope to bring back to Connecticut to share with those who could not be present in Rochester:

  1. The movement to make the Presbyterian Church (USA) affirming of the full participation of GLBT members is not only important, but also urgent. To hear stories told throughout the weekend of peoples’ rejection by our church, I understand more clearly how much hurt our church causes when we don't take an aggressive and open stance welcoming GLBT members to full participation. As a straight ally, I am like thousands of others who have never felt exclusion in these same ways and I struggle to know the feeling of being unwelcome, or of being unable to express myself in church. In the personal stories of conference attendees, the urgency of our work is clear:  our church must no longer be the cause of such hurt.
  2. This movement is about inclusivity, not just homosexuality. Many conference attendees suggested a powerful idea:  the way our Church ultimately resolves this issue reflects not only our view on the morality of homosexuality, but also how we, as the body of Christ, interpret the boundaries of who is welcome in Christ's church. In the positive sense, those of us who believe that all who seek to follow Christ are welcome, have the opportunity now to develop a language, an organizational structure, and a coalition that will make this belief a reality.
  3. The importance of acting locally. While the Presbyterian Church (USA) is guided by the decisions of the General Assembly, local churches and presbyteries have authority to shape the way our churches look and feel to those who worship, learn, and engage in fellowship therein. Regional efforts based in presbyteries, such as Presbyterian Promise, have the capacity to have significant local impact far before the General Assembly can make its decisions. Concerned church members acting locally can make a difference.
I felt more excited about our Church at the TAMFS conference than I have felt in a long while. It is a wonder to be in the midst of so many faithful people, and it is a joy to know that Presbyterians in Southern New England are quietly and systematically pushing forward a movement that will ensure that churches in the Presbytery of Southern New England welcome and affirm the full participation of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered members. In this national movement, if not yet in the PCUSA, it is true that all are welcome.
David Townsend Lewicki


 

It's The Worship, Virginia!

The Second Annual TAMFS conference in Rochester this past March was a wonderful event due to the extraordinary mix of people and the ideas that are generated by such an intense and heady exchange of viewpoints, feelings, emotions, perspectives. I have always come away from these conferences - whether they've been More Light or (in a former lifetime) PLGC - drained, talked out, giddy, exhilarated and overwhelmed. Over the years of my on-again-off-again involvement with GLBT Presbyterians and their marvelous cohorts, it is the worship services that stick most in my heart and mind.
 
Michael Adee and Rev. Janie after worship
photo: Ralph Jones
 

I don't know exactly what it is - this particular mix of people, their troubled but ultimately joyous journeys into truth and accountability before God, the "gay" spirit or sensibility always present, the love of art and music and drama - but worshiping together is a rare and ennobling treat. In fact, it comes closest to what I feel worship should really be always about: high drama, celebration, a reinvigoration of the customs and shared practice humans have developed to explore the perplexing mystery of life.

I must admit that I rarely have this same feeling in other worship venues where everything seems, in comparison, dry, understated, controlled, glossed over, minimized, rote. How do we bring the "good news" of the wonderful worships we have as LGBT & Company to the church at large? In between conferences the struggle plods on and I contemplate the next time we "all will be together, if the fates allow."

Craig Machado
Hospitality
Notes from Rev. Janie Spahr and Virginia Davidson's Visit with Presbyterian Promise – March 2 - 5, 2000
  
Rev. Janie Spahr and Virginia Davidson
in Providence
photos: Hartwein-Sanchez
Thursday, March 2 was a day for doing theology. We began with a lunch with pastors and continued over a pot luck dinner graciously hosted by Providence Presbyterian Church. After dinner, people from the greater Providence RI area, members of Presbyterian Promise, Virginia and Janie, began to share some of their hopes, pains, concerns and beliefs. We talked about our sense of call and our understanding of the Gospel. We talked about the heartache of being told you just aren't good enough. We prayed together. And we left rejoicing in the time we had shared.

Friday, Janie was able to revisit places in Rhode Island where she had lived when she was first married.

Presbyterian Promise at dinner
photos: Hartwein-Sanchez
The evening included a festive dinner at Rev. Letty Russell and Shannon Clarkson's home. It was a chance to relax, renew acquaintances, converse, plan and meet new people -- including Letty's 103 year old mother. Saturday was a day for work. The Pres Prom board met morning and afternoon....
 
 
Sunday, the Wilton Presbyterian Church invited Janie to preach on their Children's Sunday. Shortly after worship, about thirty elders from five area churches gathered over a soup and salad lunch to discuss ministry and hospitality with Virginia, Janie and Presbyterian Promise. Significant discussion concerned what makes a church seem open, welcoming, inclusive, hospitable.

Among the responses: 

Coffee Hour at Wilton PC
photo: Ralph Jones
  • Having a visible rainbow sign outside.
  • Rainbow ribbons worn by greeters.
  • Advertising in gay papers.
  • Support of inclusiveness in church newsletters.
Both big and small things count:
  • What's on the church bulletin board says a lot.
  • Are children included in discussion of g/l/b/t matters? It was very meaningful that Janie was invited to preach on a Sunday that was also devoted to children.
  • Including g/l/b/t people in prayer
  • "Don't be so neutral."
  • Inviting committed g/l/b/t families to talk to our families and youth. This is a mission of Presbyterian Promise.
  • "Being there" with the families of g/l/b/t people in their joys and struggles.
Ralph Jones, with help from Dan Blackford, Jack Hartwein-Sanchez, Chris Delmar and Craig Machado


 

Presbyterian
Promise
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PRESBYTERIAN
PROMISE
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P. O. Box 227
Greenwich CT
06836-0227

203.961.9970

Wayne Osborne
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Pat Wales
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That All May Freely Serve
More Light Presbyterian

Calendar of Events
  • June 24 - July 1 - General Assembly, Long Beach CA

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  • June 25 - Presbyterian Promise will join Presbyterian Welcome for the Gay Pride parade in NYC. Please join us! Call or e-mail Presbyterian Promise for details….
Invitation
  • Share this newsletter with your friends.

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  • Keep your experience of God's inclusive love before the leaders of your congregation.

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  • Rejoice!