Issue Number 2
What began in the warm sunshine of the Soul Force worship event and proceeded through the procrastination of referral to next year’s Assembly, concluded in the dark of Friday night’s proposed Book of Order amendment banning Holy Unions. While many Presbyterians who care about love, justice and hospitality were at this year’s General Assembly, once again the votes went against efforts toward recognizing those gifts in our polity.
November 17 – 18 is our last chance to act to encourage removing G-6.0106b, or on any other matter that calls for change in the Book of Order. The next stated presbytery meeting, on 10 February, falls after the 120-day overture deadline. We must also prepare to vote on the amendments proposed by this year’s Assembly. These include the ban on Holy Union ceremonies and removal of all specifically inclusive language from G-5.0103 (see enclosure for specifics).
Council’s reply to our letter encouraging the Presbytery of Southern
New England to hold a Unity We Seek in Our Diversity conference: “Members
of the Council have discussed at some length whether to hold such a conference
and have decided not to do so right now, because of matters of time, energy,
and resources.” Our presbytery may well vote on emotionally charged, divisive
issues after formal debate but without substantive discussion. If precedent
applies, at least 49% of us will go home feeling hurt and angry.
We have our work cut out for us! We may hope to carry the day in PSNE,
but should remember that several new, probably conservative, presbyteries
have been formed since the last vote. It will be very hard to stop these
amendments or to send a message that our polity should be more loving.
Please let me know if you would like to help! (203) 248-7386 or email@example.com
Many people, especially those who need good news most, do not see the Gospel as we do. They do not experience church as we do. For them, we are defined by others. That is why denominational statements matter. As I read Susan Quinn Bryan’s story, I keep wondering if it could have developed differently.
Let us be clear. These matters may affect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people first, but the struggle is over who defines the meaning and power of the Gospel. All church members must recognize the impact these matters have on their faith and hope before we may expect transforming change. Pray God is leading us!
Ralph Jones, editor
|Some reflections on our march down Fifth Avenue to
The Pride March in NYC was an inspirational event! To march through the throng of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, all cheering their support, was overwhelming. From the moment of silence, when all the parade stood silent and still in memory of those we have lost to AIDS ... to the jubilant crowd response to the lesbian couple in our group who sported a sign that read, “Just married” and on the reverse, “We Do Holy Unions!”
There was a large religious contingency that stretched for many city
blocks. What a change from years past. And most remarkable was that our
presence seemed expected and normal. I can remember when a religious group
just being in the Pride March turned heads and brought tears.
We marched shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters from Presbyterian Welcome. Cathy Blazer was great organizing us and keeping us together. Thank you Cliff and Cathy!
We were very proud of our new banner designed by Greg Price. It was bold and bright and stood out as a loud proclamation that there are supporters of GLBT people within the Presbyterian Church in Southern New England.
Most importantly I became aware of the great numbers of GLBT people. Young, old, skinny, fat, beautiful and not so much so, shy, and in-your-face. We saw them all lining the streets full of enthusiasm and pride. They are what we are about. They are those we are to minister beside. They are the “flaming bush” from which we hear God's voice saying “Let my people go!”
How fortunate we are to be called to minister with this wonderful group of people!!
|Pride 2000 NYC – 5th Ave & 30th Street, NYC
This would make a good, readily identifiable picture (I thought to myself) -- the Presbyterian Pride contingent with the Empire State Building in the background. Now, if only I could let go of this banner for a second, I could snap it. But nooooo, I had to selfishly hang on to it, block after block. “I could carry this all day,” I said, and I meant it. This was something I've wanted – needed – to do for too many years. A small step out. And perhaps, by sheer force of will and this really nice banner, someone, anyone, everyone will know that despite all that has been, is now and may yet be unwelcoming about the Presbyterian Church, there are places where everyone is welcome, where all may freely serve.
The excitement of marching for the first time – and the cheers of the crowds and support of the Evelyn Davidson Memorial water project – made it a relatively effortless event. Perhaps too easy, now thirty-one years removed from the march's genesis in the Stonewall Inn uprising, that fourth Sunday in June of 1969. It is well to remember, and not just in the 2:00 PM moment of silence during the march, those who are no longer with us, including those in whose footsteps we march, the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis. Who marched at some peril to their livelihoods, if not their lives, at a time when journalists referred to us as perverts and the thought of being accompanied by office holders would have been laughable, let alone enjoy the company of the mayor and first lady and a presidential proclamation of Gay and Lesbian pride month.
Since its half-a-loaf support of civil rights in 1978 the not-so-generous Assembly of our church has sat uncomfortably on the fence, resisting retreat, unwilling to move forward, testing the ties that bind. How long, PC (USA), how long?
This year More Light Presbyterians presented their
Inclusive Church Award to A Community of the Servant-Savior, Houston, Texas.
Reflecting on the requirements of our Book of Order, every member of this
church’s session self acknowledged sins they felt disqualified them from
continuing in office. Their presbytery did not consider their cases. Accepting
the award on their behalf, their pastor, Reverend Susan Quinn Bryan, shared
Almost twenty years ago I lived in a smaller town in Texas and was Director of Christian Education at the church. I had not been there long – about six months – when an older woman in the church asked to paint my portrait.
I agreed (though I was mystified). During the sittings it became clear to me that she was testing me in some way – feeling her way to a safe place to share something important. The minister I worked with counseled me to just be patient and let things unfold naturally. After many sittings, she finally opened up and told me her story:
She and her husband had three children, twin boys and a girl. He was very excited about the little girl, but as she grew, she was not the sweet, petite, little lacy girly-girl dad had in mind. She was large boned, athletic – a tomboy. She was a disappointment to her dad. They had a lot of conflicts. As she headed into junior high, high school and college, she found lots of things to help her avoid pain: alcohol, tobacco, drugs. She had bouts of depression and suicidal tendencies. She was hospitalized and even given electric shock treatments.
Finally, near the end of college, she had a breakthrough with a wonderful counselor: she recognized she was a lesbian. The counselor did not treat this as a disease. She began to thrive. AA helped with the alcohol and drugs, but the biggest thing was coming home – to herself. The truth does set people free. She could live with this. She wasn't alone. She found some other lesbians and discovered she wasn't crazy – just different. She finished college. She was an artist, and her work moved from being dark and suicidal to being bright and vivid.
A few years later, she met the love of her life. They committed their lives to one another. She decided to tell her parents, so they went home to visit. Dad went ballistic. Kicked them out of the house and said he no longer had a daughter. Told his wife that as far as he was concerned, she was dead – never to speak her name to him again. Mother arranged a weekly telephone call while her husband was out of town. But their relationship became strained. Over time, mom grew in understanding of her daughter and of her love for her partner.
The daughter and her lover moved out of state. They bought a house in the country. Her partner was teaching in the elementary school. They joined a local church. They worked with the youth (everyone loved them – especially the youth, and the youth group grew). They were on committees and helped mow the lawn, bake cookies, teach Sunday School. They were blissful.
Then one day, they were called in to the pastor's office, and with a few elders, they were confronted. Rumor had it that they weren't just roommates but lesbians, and even if that weren’t true, they couldn't work with the children anymore. No one wanted them on their committees anymore, either. The pastor was sorry, but, well, we all know what the Bible says.
They drove home, realizing if that rumor was going around the church it was only a matter of time until the one lost her teaching job and they lost their steady income. In that case, the other couldn't continue to paint. They knew there was no place they could move that this wouldn't also be the case. And so they wrote a letter and committed a double suicide.
A few days later when her mother did not get the weekly phone call from her daughter she became worried. A few more days passed. Her mother began to panic – and risked her husband's ire by calling her daughter herself – no answer. It was summer. The teacher wouldn't be at school and they never took a trip without telling her where they were going. Mother knew something dreadful was wrong. She and one of the twins drove the thousand miles to their home – to discover the bloated and rotting corpses of her beloved child and her beloved.
As the mother told me this story, I was sobbing. She handed me a lace-trimmed handkerchief, with which I mopped my wet face. She continued, telling me that she and the two boys had the bodies cremated and scattered near a place special to the two women, as they had requested. No minister officiated. Then she reached out her hand for the handkerchief. I demurred. “No, let me launder it, it is soaking. I will give it back to you.” “Please, don't wash it,” she said, as she pried it from my fingers, and pressed it to her heart. “These are the only tears shed by someone beside me and my sons for my daughter. I want to save this handkerchief. These tears mean the world to me. They mean God has heard my pain.” She could not tell her story in her own church because homosexuality was not discussed.
Shame. Shame on the church. Shame on a church that condemns loving and tolerates violence, dis-fellowshipping and silence ... murderous silence.
I have committed my life and ministry to make sure this story is not repeated in any way in my church.
Susan Quinn Bryan
Is published by