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Issue Number 5
June 2001

Articles 
Of Chickens and Eggs
Along the Way
God Loves Us
GA 213
A Vision of Justice
Commissioning
Calendar
Contact Us
Invitation
Affirmation 2001
 

Of Chickens and Eggs

Much has happened in the short (at least to this editor) time since our last issue much to rejoice about, to be thankful for. Among our blessings:
  • Wilton Presbyterian's Session has become a member of Presbyterian Promise! Alleluia! We are deeply grateful to the elders, Pastors Graybill and Friedl, Chris Delmar and Elaine Shields and all the many good people who worked hard and patiently to bring this to pass. An adaptation of Pastor David's article follows.
  • Wayne Osborne invited a great group of friends to join him for an inspiring evening of song and readings followed by a fine reception. You really had to be there, but if you weren't, we are planning a CD of the event.
  • Wayne and some friends
    Harold Snedeker
  • Co-moderator Letty Russell was part of the team which drafted Affirmation 2001, an important theological reflection which we hope you will consider signing.  It is an excellent opportunity to strengthen your understanding of the Gospel. Text and signing information is enclosed.
  • We congratulate Westminster Presbyterian Church for planning a study program to help that congregation better understand human sexuality and faith.
  • We have benefited from three months with David Lewicki as a staff resource. It has been great to have someone thinking about our work and making contacts. We have been able to accomplish so much more with his help over this period. Thank you David for moving us forward!
  • As noted in the last issue, we are now a Connecticut corporation with our own bank account, our own bylaws. We even are well on our way toward becoming a non profit in our own right. Thank you Barbara Hager for all your legal efforts!
  • We have elected Maria LaSala as co-moderator, succeeding Wayne.
Presbyterian Promise is growing in many ways. Yet, if our shared ministry is to accomplish much, we have a long way to go.

We have learned that patience is in order to change and that with patience change does happen. We have learned that things do go better with staff. We have learned we can survive transitions in leadership. We have seen increasing awareness of the need for ministry in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. We've even learned that we can raise money. We have a way to go on this one....

With growth comes change and opportunity. In preparing our request for not-for-profit status, we had to identify our activities: Education, Worship & Proclamation, Outreach and Fundraising. With so much to do, we see just how important it is to have a staff resource to address these efforts.

Over these past two years (Presbyterian Promise was conceived in the spring/summer of '99) we have  become clearer about the urgency of our work, and its twofold nature:

  
Wayne Cuts the Cake Fantastic
Harold Snedeker
  • For generations society has discriminated against gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual people causing them enduring pain and despair and costing innumerable lives.
  • Presbyterian Promise is calling the church to remove the beam we have placed in our own eye. How may we, whatever our sexuality, hope for grace if there are those we 'know' are beyond God's reach?

Why?

Acting to make the church hospitable, to make our church more loving, arises from our own faith. It is a requirement of the Gospel itself. But it is loving we must show for ourselves. This work is up to us. As Christians we are often seen as being judgmental. We are known, not by what we believe, but by what others have said we believe. It is not enough to say, "Everyone's welcome." We have to go out of our way to make that welcome warm. That's why we need to work together to make this welcome believable, to show it comes from more than a few people in a few, isolated churches.

Where do we begin?

PresProm is at a point where it must grow or it will decline. So far, we've accomplished a lot with very few resources, but we know we can't accomplish the work this way. We need staff to turn the ministry we envision into reality. We need money to hire staff. We also know that having staff will greatly help with raising funds. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? ...hiring staff or raising money? It's up to you. Without your enthusiastic support, neither will happen.

Ralph Jones

Along The Way
"Presbyterian Promise"

Ours is a God of promise.
"I will adopt you as my people, and I will become your God," God spoke to Moses. "And be assured. I am with you always, to the end of time," Jesus spoke to his eleven disciples.
"There is... nothing in all creation that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord," Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome.
And we Christians called Presbyterian are a people who live into God's promise. 'Tis always been so. And 'twill, by the grace of God, always be so.

Presbyterian Promise is a ministry called "to an inclusive love that welcomes all people to God's table. That invitation is central to the Gospel. God calls us to embrace those who have been excluded or marginalized, to welcome them into the fold, and to honor their call and their desire to serve God. Presbyterian Promise is committed to a vision of a just and inclusive church."

And Presbyterian Promise is a ministry called to educate and raise the consciousness of people in churches within our Presbytery about the (inadvertent or intentional) exclusion, discrimination, and rejection many gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered Christians experience within our churches and to work toward the welcome and affirmation Presbyterian churches might offer them.

At Wilton Presbyterian Church we regularly declare in worship that every thing we are and everything we do "as disciples of Jesus Christ ... is for the glory of God and the love of all humankind." And, for your pastors and elders, the time came in March for us to deepen and broaden our incarnation of this witness to our God of promise.

We promised to study the Scripture, from a variety of perspectives, regarding the sexual orientation/choices people may make that are different than our own may be.

We promised to support Presbyterian Promise in its specific ministry by "signing on" as a Sponsoring Member church and by supporting a proposal to the Endowment Committee for a 2001 grant to support its educational work.

We promised to print "All are welcome" in our worship bulletins and in the weekly newspaper announcements.

Each of these promises reinforces the promises of previous sessions to work resolutely within our system of government toward repeal of a provision in our constitution that prohibits the ordination of practicing gay and lesbian persons and single people who do not live in chastity. They also underscore the promises of this Session to select two members to serve on the board of Presbyterian Promise (Thanks, Chris Delmar and Elaine Shields, for your good  work).

Certainly, Presbyterian Promise is a ministry that focuses on a single issue, albeit with several "faces:" the gift in all and the struggle of many with issues of human sexuality. Yet, insofar as we are all created by God with human sexuality, we are all to one another "just folks" with similar hopes and dreams, ambivalences, fears, and guilts our common faith in Jesus Christ calls us to address in just and loving ways.

But Presbyterian Promise, at least for me, also opens my consciousness to become mindful of many, many other ways we exclude, discriminate, and reject people different sometimes radically different than we are. As I preached last Sunday (to myself as much as to any of you), the love of all humankind not only includes gay, lesbian, and transgendered people in a narrow world of heterosexuality, but also

    • fat people in a culture of "thin"
    • average kids squeezed between special needs and gifts and talented;
    • disabled  people  in  a  culture  of perfection;
    • singles in a world of couples;
    • Work "how are we going to make ends meet today" people in a culture of affluence.
Presbyterian Promise is about our welcome to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people. That is true. But that is far from the whole truth. It is about our welcome to all who live on the margins of our ever-so-limited, ever-so-imperfect, ever-so-human definitions of what is good, and right, and acceptable to our Lord.

If Presbyterian Promise causes us to be mindful in Christ of people with different orientations, choices, and gifts than our own sexual or otherwise, it is not only not wrong, it is clearly right!

Jesus prayed on the eve of his full display of God's love on the cross: "Holy Father protect by the power of thy name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are one." Through our involvement in the ministry of Presbyterian Promise may we grow both into deeper unity with  the  Living Christ and into deeper understanding, empathy, and affirmation of those who live on the margins of our lives. The Lord is risen. He is risen, indeed.

David Graybill
excerpted from the April Wilton PC Newsletter
 

God Loves Us

Join ten "welcoming" congregations in New Haven in a Welcome Worship. The congregations cover many kinds of Christian (and Unitarian) faith expression, and share a commitment to fully welcome and include lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Christians in their spiritual and community lives. The worship will be an expression of the church at its diverse and faithful best. Rev. John Selders, a dynamic African-American United Church of Christ minister from Hartford will be preaching. Special music will include Wayne Osborne, the gay Presbyterian whose installation as an elder at the Stamford Church has been stopped by judicial action. 
Please mark it on your calendar: 
10:30 AM Saturday, June 9 at United Church on the Green
Help Presbyterian Promise proclaim God's justice and love
in the New Haven community!

 

GA 213

Yes! When they gather in Louisville June 9th, this will be the 213th time this family of Presbyterians from across this nation have gathered. Finding a faithful balance will be the essence of their hard work, just as it has been in some sense for the 212 previous. Not all balances can be faithful. There is no faithful balance between good and evil, between tolerance and intolerance, between justice and justice delayed, although faithful people have been known to accepted such for the sake of the 'peace, purity and unity' of the church. Rather the hard and challenging work before our commissioners will be to find the balance between various faithful understandings of God's living word, the balance which is life giving for God's people in our present situations, the balance between people who hear God's call in different accents.

Balance implies tension. Maintaining that tension is essential to our survival as a community of faith. Consider the words of Jack Rogers, one of this year's candidates for moderator, from an article in the 1988 Mission Yearbook,

Presbyterians hold two values in tension. One is the freedom of individual conscience, the other is the integrity of the community's standards. This tension is as old as American Presbyterianism. It represents our desire to be always reforming, granting freedom to those who seek to reform us. It equally represents our desire to be Reformed, maintaining a continuity with the past which has shaped our identity. We have been healthiest as a church when we have maintained a balance between these two values. In earlier centuries we split along New Side/Old Side and New School/Old School lines when we were not able to maintain the tension. We came back together when we realized that we needed the balance which these differing emphases gave.
Let us pray that our commissioners find their way to keep in balance the things which belong in balance while acting decisively for justice and love in those matters where no less is faithful.

Among the specific issues before the assembly are:

  • Over thirty overtures and overtures of concurrence, including ours from PSNE, calling for eliminating G-6.0106b from our church constitution. That's the paragraph which is used to justify excluding gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons from office,
  • A social policy paper on domestic violence,
  • An uplifting of campus ministries,
  • Abortion policy,
  • And our unity and diversity as a denomination.
The That All May Freely Serve web page has useful details on all these matters. At www.tamfs.org, look under 'News' for info about GA 213. The denomination will also have extensive reports including texts of actions and overtures at www.pcusa.org
Ralph Jones
 

A Vision of Justice

Losing Matt Shepard: Life and Politics in the Aftermath of Anti-Gay Murder; Beth Loffreda; Columbia University Press; 2000; 189pp.

Beth Loffreda, a new member of the English department at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, suddenly found herself in the maelstrom of events surrounding the murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard. Even though she had never met Shepard, as faculty advisor to the GLBT group on campus, she soon got to know a lot of people who knew Matt and were not only grief-stricken at what had happened but scared and angry as well. They feared for their own lives and were convinced that hate crimes bias laws were needed, despite the popular folklore about Wyoming being a quietly tolerant place to live.

Matt Shepard soon became an icon in the press: pictures of the fence to which he was tied and beaten to death appeared in all the national news magazines along with photos of the aggrieved, tearful parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard; Congress and the White House weighed in about the tragedy (but the former could not pass a hate crimes bill including sexual orientation); gay and lesbian rights organizations expressed outrage and sent staffers to Laramie; Fred Phelps and his ragtag band of gay haters arrived for the trials of Henderson and McKinney to remind the nation that queers deserve what they get; guest celebrities such as Elton John and Peter, Paul and Mary flew in for "quickie" fundraisers. In short, the murder became a flash point in American culture, exposing once again the volatile cross currents of sexual orientation, social class, intolerance, media hype, religious bigotry and elected officials blandly intoning "all crime is hate crime."

Ms. Loffreda does an admirable job of taking the reader back through the events surrounding Shepard's murder; the book is not, thankfully, an academic treatise, but rather a series of thoughtful reflections based on the author's extensive interviews with various people from Laramie including Matt's friends and fellow students, local LGBT activists, the police who investigated the crime and community members who tried to get the Laramie city council to pass a meaningful hate crimes bill.

Rob Debree, in particular, the chief investigating officer for the case, is portrayed as a kind, reflective man, someone who freely admitted his own homophobia and unexamined prejudices. As the grim details of Matt's death pile up, DeBree awakens not only to the horror of what was done to Matt, but also to the reality of everyday discrimination GLBT people face. His conversion into a staunch supporter of hate  crimes legislation (he  would travel to Washington to testify for anti-bias laws) is a poignant reminder in a small and very personal way (why "personing" the GLBT issue can be  so effective and humanizing) of what happens to ordinary citizens who open their hearts and minds especially when tragedy forces an unexpected examination of conscience.

In the end, one of the most valuable lessons that Loffreda gleans from the Shepard tragedy as the city of Laramie tries multiple times to pass a hate  crimes bill (a watered down version eventually passed) is that "you get political power by acting like you have it." The real work, when the trials are done, the cameras packed up, the protesters and sympathizers dispersed, must now begin: how to change people's thinking on GLBT issues by believing that you already have the power to do so and acting on it every day.

The parallel between the citizens of Laramie and folks working for change in the Presbyterian Church (and other denominations) couldn't be clearer. You stay and fight, you challenge, you build supportive organizations, you move forward, acting on a vision of justice and inclusiveness, knowing it will never be easy:

" If Matt bequeathed Laramie anything, he bequeathed us the passion and necessity and freedom of dissent, and as the town continues to remember and forget, to speak the languages of tolerance and admonition both, we should all of us hold that inheritance close."
Reviewed by Craig Machado
Commissioning Celebration


 

3 June 2001

It was great folks.

Yesterday, we of Presbyterian Welcome   Inclusive Churches Working Together held our fourth annual service to Affirm and Commission Volunteers, Leaders and Friends. A church full of folks from NYC plus Presbyterian Promise in CT, our Hudson River friends, Long Island, New Jersey, Ohio and who knows where attended the 4:00 p.m. service at the beautiful Riverdale Presbyterian Church in the Bronx. Great music. A wonderful service of worship. Five sermons!!! (short ones, saints be praised!) and chalices from across the city. A few octogenarians. Folks of all races. It was great! Oh. I said that.

And the FOOD! Those Riverdale folks sure can throw party! Thanks to Rev. Jo Cameron, the Riverdale Choir and all the worker bees of the church who all did a really fine job. Our own Rev. Cliff Frasier did a wonderful job of organizing things. I loved it. But one word of warning. Do NOT, under any circumstances, allow Byron Schafer to extend the invitation to the Offering! You'll be broke. Something about "reach in your pocket; pull out the largest bill...now double it!" My Scottish grandmother is still spinning.

See you all in Louisville!

John Rhodes


 

Affirmation -- 2001

has its own website

www.auburnspirit.org

Please read the Affirmation there

You can even cosign it!

 

Presbyterian
Promise
News
Is published by
PRESBYTERIAN
PROMISE
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P. O. Box 227
Greenwich CT
06836-0227

203.961.9970
 

Letty Russell
Moderators
Jack Hartwein-Sanchez
MLP liaison
Pat Wales
Secretary
Ralph Jones
Treasurer

Affiliations
That All May Freely Serve
More Light Presbyterian

    Calendar of Events

    June 9
    10:30 AM
    Welcoming Churches ecumenical worship
         -- United Church on the Green, New Haven
    June 7 - 16
    General Assembly -- Louisville KY
    July 1 3 PM
    Annual "4th of July" Pres Prom Picnic at Pat Wales
      patwales@worldnet.att.net or 203 230 8303 for details.
    September 15
    PSNE Meeting
    November 7 - 11
    Janie Spahr to visit Presbyterian Promise
    November 9 - 10
    PSNE Meeting -- Holy Family Retreat Center
OUR MISSION STATEMENT 
-- 
To proclaim God's promise of justice and love in Jesus Christ by organizing inclusive and inquiring churches in the Presbytery of Southern New England into a community of mutual support for the empowerment of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered persons, and for outreach, education, and Christian evangelism.

Invitation

  • Share this newsletter with your friends.
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  • Write a story for the next issue.
  • Keep your experience of God's inclusive love before the leaders of your congregation.
  • Rejoice!