Home Presbyterian
Promise
News

Issue Number 7
December 2001

Articles
Welcome Hartford!
Stamford Case
Basics
Before After
Annual Meeting
Seven Talking Points
TAMFS Conference
First Impressions
TAMFS 10th Anniversary
Calendar
Contact Us
Invitation
 

Welcome Hartford!

As the conclusion of months of reflection, the session of First Presbyterian Church of Hartford recently voted to become a sponsoring member of Presbyterian Promise. Shortly after, the Rev. Janie Spahr was invited to preach there. Pat Wales and Ralph Jones joined her to welcome the Hartford congregation formally. The Hartford newsletter recounts:
... guest preacher for our pre anniversary Sunday was the Rev. Jane Adams Spahr, one of the three recipients of the 1999 Women of Faith awards presented by Women's Ministries Program Area of the Presbyterian Church. Rev. Spahr is the national evangelist for That All May Freely Serve (TAMFS), one of the organizations working to change the policy of the Presbyterian Church in regard to the ordination of homosexuals as ministers, elders and deacons.

Her appearance was an appropriate time for the session to announce its action to join as a supporting member of Presbyterian
Rev. Janie Spahr
Terry Davis
Promise, an organization working with TAMFS within the Presbytery of Southern New England. 

Following is the text of the action of session:

It was moved and passed that the Session of First Presbyterian Church become a full-supporting Session of the work of Presbyterian Promise of Southern New England.  In adopting this motion we will do the following:
grant permission to Presbyterian Promise to use the name, "Session of First Presbyterian Church of Hartford," as a full-supporting Session;
commit a yearly donation from the Parish Outreach budget to Presbyterian Promise; and encourage members of the congregation to give individually.
continue to welcome members and friends of Presbyterian Promise to worship and the work of First Presbyterian Church.
engage in study and scripture-based discussion about alternative lifestyles during the church calendar year
send a representative to the Board of Presbyterian Promise, when possible.
 
 

Stamford Case

On 4 December 2001 the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission declared moot the more than three year case concerning First Presbyterian Church of Stamford's decision to reinstall Elder Wayne Osborne. Elder Osborne's intended three year term concluded in June of this year. A successor has been installed. Osborne was Co-Moderator of Presbyterian Promise until last spring.

Both parties argued against mooting. The issue in question was the adequacy of the procedure used by the Stamford church session in examining Elder Osborne and approving his installation. The Permanent Judicial Commission of the Synod of the Northeast, after giving further instructions to Stamford, approved his installation in November, 2000. They were acting on an appeal of the decision of the PJC of the Presbytery of Southern New England.

  
Wayne Osborne
Wayne Osborne (right) speaks with NY Pride participants
Greg Price
The GA non-action leaves the Synod action standing. It may serve as precedent for other cases which almost certainly will develop. In the present situation, Presbyterians might ordain and install church officers under certain limited circumstances. Still, any church or presbytery which proceeds along these lines knows it is likely to face a time consuming, arduous legal battle. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians are unlikely to find much welcome in the present situation.

Consequences of the decision not to decide include the litigants' frustration and disappointment after all their time and effort and a potential for congregational uncertainty about the application of Presbyterian polity. Elder Osborne commented, "It's like a giant potato landing in wet sand. It's very disappointing. We want and need guidance from our church. As a gay man, I've learned that life isn't always fair, but you hope for exceptions." Looking to the silver lining, he notes, "not one court has found we [Stamford] acted unconstitutionally. The three members of the committee of council [for the church] are the real heroes. That's the one that hurts most."

Ralph Jones

Basics

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.
Our mission statement developed over months of prayer, reflection and informal meetings. It is ambitious. Beginning in God's promise, we seek community for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, their families and their churches. One might describe Presbyterian Promise as a ministry of reconciliation.

Conspicuously absent from our mission statement is anything about 'fixing' Presbyterian polity. Still, we face a major challenge to our efforts. We cannot ignore the way our denomination's official policy has been applied to exclude gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

  • The urgency and pain behind our mission is eloquently expressed in John Merz' sermon, Before After, given at our presbytery's worship on November 9.
  • Nothing in recent history seems to have energized the supporters of the constitutional bar to full church participation as has this year's proposed amendment 01-A which would remove the provisions barring g/l/b/t participation. Progressive Christians need to try to understand this intensity and be prepared to respond lovingly to it. Carl Dudley's Talking Points is a good beginning. Additional excellent resources for the debate are available from the Covenant Network  <www.covenantnetwork.org>. Look under "Resources on Amendment A."  <www.tamfs.org> also has information under "Amendment 01-A Resources Available." We must keep focused on the issue: returning to a polity where people and churches are trusted to act responsibly in love.
  • Four Pres Prom board members recently met with representatives from Pres Welcome (NYC), three churches in Hudson River Presbytery and That All May Freely Serve (Rochester). We agreed to jointly sponsor John Rhodes to coordinate tracking the votes and providing debate resources for this Synod's presbyteries. A further expectation is increased cooperation as we all seek to be faithful.
  • At our recent retreat with Janie Spahr, Susan Thomas (of TAMFS: Michigan) and Jim Vesper (Rochester), we worked on telling the story of inclusive love. Now all we need is an invitation from your church!
  • Our first annual meeting is at First Pres, Hartford on February 3, 2002 . Please plan to be there.
Ralph Jones

Before September 11
     After September 11

Rev. John Merz' spoke during the Presbytery of Southern New England worship on  9 November 2001.
We are asked to reflect tonight about the impact of September 11, 2001 on our specialized ministries and our lives. So, here are my prayer-inspired thoughts:

Before September 11, my clients at The CT AIDS Residence Coalition were poor, disenfranchised, ostracized, and living in a world that was neither safe nor fair to them. People hated them for what they have, and for what they do not have. They are people of color, speak different languages, make love to persons of the same sex. After September 11, they are still poor, disenfranchised, ostracized. They still live in a world that is neither safe nor fair. For them, the only difference is that they now have a lot more company.

There have been changes since September 11, yes; but I think the changes have been more jarring for many of you than for some of us:

Before September 11: Most of you lived as if you were free but not all of us did.
Before September 11: Most of you lived as if you were safe but not all of us did.
Before September 11: Most of you lived as if you were accepted and acceptable   but not all of us did.

After September 11, you asked, "Why do they hate us?" and "How can people hurt other people in the name of God?" and "When will the next attack occur?" but some of us asked those questions long before September 11, "Why do you hate me?" "Why do you seek to hurt me?" "When will the next assault come?"

On September 11, we lost 5,000 innocent men and women. Tragic. Inexcusable. Unforgivable.

On July 4, 1991 we lost Paul Broussard, a 26 year old who was beaten with a 2x4 with nails protruding from the end and then stabbed with a hunting knife; on Christmas Eve, 1993 we lost Brandon Teena, a 20 year old who was brutally raped and beaten to death; on October 12, 1998 we lost Matthew Shepard, a 21 year old who was beaten and tied to a fence and left to die; and on July 16 of this year, we lost Fred Martinez, a 16 year old who was bludgeoned to death with a blunt object. The list could go on. All were innocent. All were murdered by those who hated them for who they were. Three were gay, one was transgendered. Also tragic. Also inexcusable. Also unforgivable.

During this presbytery meeting, we will begin anew the discussion on whether there is a place in the Presbyterian Church USA for gays and lesbians. And my mind and soul cannot keep from making the leap between the similarities of my clients, those in our nation who have been murdered because of their sexual or gender orientation, and those of us who are gay and lesbian in this church. Before September 11, gays and lesbians were not fully welcome in the PCUSA; after September 11, gays and lesbians are still not welcome.

Yes, there have been changes since September 11, and now you too live in a world that is neither fair nor safe. Welcome to an all too familiar world.

Since September 11, slogans abound on billboards and car windows and computer screen savers: Land of the Free, Home of the Brave; One for all and all for one; You can attack our buildings but you cannot attack our spirit; United we Stand; One Country under God. Let Freedom Ring; God Bless America.

I hope that these are slogans that our nation can put into action. I really do. Not into acts of retaliation but into acts of love. And I hope that they are slogans that the Church, too, will embrace. I hope that we are changed forever by the events of September 11. Not just in our international dealings or in the way we ensure homeland security. Not just in who we pray for but whom we let pray. In the way we speak to and about one another and the way we treat one another. In whom we ordain to Word and Sacrament. I hope that we can become the land of the free, united under one god, with liberty and justice for all.

Maya Angelou writes in her poem Equality,

Take the blinders from your vision,
Take the padding from your ears,
And confess you've heard me crying,
And admit you've seen my tears.

Hear the tempo so compelling,
Hear the blood throb in my veins.
Yes, my drums are beating nightly,
And the rhythms never change.

Equality, and I will be free.
Equality, and I will be free.

We pray that the holy war started on September 11, 2001 against our nation will cease. Let us also pray that the holy war against gays and lesbians also ceases. Otherwise, my friends, and I tell you this truthfully, the assaults by those within our beloved Church of Jesus Christ are no less hurtful than the assaults we are experiencing at the hands of our fellow citizens and at the hands of our international enemies. My prayer this day is that we choose equality that we may all be free. In Christ Jesus, your lord and my lord, I pray.
Amen
John Merz

Pres Prom Annual Meeting

A first! Our first annual meeting will be at 4 PM at First Presbyterian Church in Hartford on 3 February 2002. We plan a fun and rewarding time with worship, refreshment, time for discussion of our shared ministry, a bit of business and a study led by Letty Russell.

We need your vote! This will be the first time our board is elected by our membership. This is both a big step forward for us and an opportunity for your insights to be realized.

You may be a member of Presbyterian Promise without even knowing it. Our bylaws recognize as individual members all people who support the mission of Presbyterian Promise and commit their prayer, their time, their advocacy, their enthusiasm and their annual financial support. If you have contributed, you are a member! Our quorum is 10 percent of our members.

It's NOT TOO LATE to affirm your concern and join PresProm. See you there!

Ralph Jones

 

Seven Talking Points about 01-A:

Suggestions to adapt and make your own.
1.    Amendment 01-A is about conversation and listening, not about who has the "best argument." Ask:
about personal relationships,
about sharing experiences of family members and friends,
about sharing awareness of people who are gay and lesbian,
about sharing most deeply held beliefs and commitments.
2.   Amendment 01-A is about focusing on what's really important in faith and mission, including our Presbyterian emphasis on:
Sovereignty of God (vs. lesser loyalties),
Election for service (vs. private gain),
Covenant life (vs. exploitation of the poor),
Faithful stewardship (vs. exploitation of earth), and
Rejection of idolatry and tyranny (including in ourselves)
Commitments worth dying for, and living for.
      Not about continuing this endless fight in the margins.

3.   Amendment 01-A is about the core, essential message of scripture (according to most biblical scholars in Presbyterian seminaries) to witness to the love of Christ, and bring Christ's love into the world.
      Not argue over proof-text for a few disputed passages about homosexuality.

4.   Amendment 01-A is about the continuing revelation of Holy Spirit, which guided our church to change its views in the past few years about slavery, status of women, racial segregation, interracial marriage, divorce and remarriage, homosexuality not a sin, etc.
      Not about protecting a narrow and recent cultural interpretation of sexuality.

5.   Amendment 01-A is about affirming the foundations of Presbyterian Polity

That "God alone is Lord of Conscience;"
That authority is located in the Presbytery to ordain and install clergy;
That our unity is in essentials without uniformity in non-essentials;
      Not about demanding conformity that inhibits the ministry and mission of Christ.

6.   Amendment 01-A is about affirming a "middle ground" in an aggressively inclusive church that makes sense to the Baby Boomers and GenXers;
      Not about the stained glass views that protect the elder, (white) male dominance in traditional cultures throughout the world.
7.   Amendment 01-A is about simple authenticity in ministry for the future,
      Not about co-opting church symbols to sustain an outdated, elitist view of church leadership.

Carl S. Dudley


 

The April TAMFS Conference -- in Stony Point

This year the TAMFS conference will be held almost on Presbyterian Promise's doorstep. In 2002, from April 4-7, it will be at the Stony Point Conference Center in New York. What an opportunity for people in Southern New England and Presbyterian Promise. We won't always have a chance like this. I'm inviting each person reading this newsletter to mark your calendar now and plan to be at Stony Point.
 
Janie Spahr, Dick Hasbany and Carl Dudley
after worship at Hartford
Pat Wales

Here are some reasons that the conference is important:

1. The focus is on developing leadership. Workshops will be aimed at developing the skills and ideas we need to do our work in the PSNE.
2. The conference is bringing together some amazing leaders some are pioneers of the movement for an inclusive denomination, some are fresh, new voices.  To hear them reflect together on how standing for justice and inclusion has changed their lives will be a powerful experience.
3. Worship is integral to TAMFS conferences, and this year worship is being planned by seminary students from Union, Yale, and Princeton under the guidance of Marilyn Nash, a liturgical artist finishing her Ph.D. at Chicago Theological Seminary, and Patrick Evans, Artist in Residence at Union Theological Seminary. Worships will be moving and memorable.
4. This is the best chance people in this area may have to meet folks who are speaking, working and moving ahead in the seven other regions of TAMFS. If you have ever been curious about what kind of committed and interesting people they are, here's your chance to meet and network with them. There will be a wealth of wisdom, ideas, and support at Stony Point, and it's ours for the asking.
Please consider being there. I would love to speak with your further, and provide you with materials. Or check the TAMFS website <www.tamfs.org> under "Events."  Just give me a call: (w) 203-789-4311 or (h) 203-777-4579, or dick_hasbany@yahoo.com.

We want you to be with us at Stony Point, but even if you cannot attend, you can still help. You can sponsor someone else who is unable to afford the registration fee. Or if you are one of those lucky persons with "air miles" or a ticket you could transfer, such donations will be very helpful to persons who need to fly to get to Stony Point. Your contribution to the conference will be greatly appreciated.

Dick Hasbany

First Impressions

I was privileged to attend my first Presbytery Meeting on May 11, 2001 in West Hartford. As part the experience of being a participating elder, I was invited by Dave Lewecki to attend a coffee and dessert get-together of Presbyterian Promise, Inc. held "after hours" in West Hartford. Presbyterian Promise, Inc. believes that the time has come to "live out God's call to love our neighbor as ourselves by embracing those who have been excluded or marginalized." Their mission is 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."

I was able to meet Co-moderator Rev. Dr. Letty Russell and others in Presbyterian Promise, while sharing food and fellowship with some of my dear friends (gay and straight) from the Presbyterian church. It is clear from the meeting that more dialogue is desired from people on both sides of the gay and lesbian ordination issue. Those who profess a faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior have been invited to the table for dialogue. Please consider contacting Presbyterian Promise for more information. Or to invite them to your church.

For an informative booklet on this issue, read Walter Wink's Homosexuality and the Bible. This writing does a great job of helping us to see the love and caring between two consenting adults as an expression of the "love ethic" found throughout the Bible. He challenges us to consider any domination against men, women and children as not being a part of the love that is God's gift to us. He reminds us it is love that calls us to end the suffering of any one of our brothers and sisters. The Bible demonstrates a love ethic, not a sex ethic, according to Wink. While we reject some of the sexual mores (sexual norms) the Bible permits (for example, we reject sex with slaves), we follow others that the Bible condemns (for example, we allow the naming of sexual organs and nudity.)

Wink elaborates on what happens with the texts that mention homosexuality: we seem to have arbitrarily singled out this sexual more for condemnation. He encourages us to consider what interpreting the Bible in light of new knowledge about homosexuality and in light of our current culture of growing acceptance toward homosexuality, just as we did to resolve the debate over slavery. (Psychology has done a similar thing, I might add. Homosexuality is no longer listed or described in psychology's diagnostic manual of psychology disorders and pathologies. Psychology, in its inclusion then exclusion of homosexuality as pathology, must confess to having been influenced by culture, despite its firm beliefs that diagnosing individuals is strictly scientific in nature. Is it time for religion to reinterpret its traditions?)  PresPromise has copies of Wink's booklet, or see <www.melwhite.org/biblesays.html>.

Cheryl Molina
Cheryl Molina is an elder at Crossroads Presbyterian Church and an addiction therapist. Similar articles previously have appeared in Crossroads' newsletter and Prism, the PSNE Presbyterian Women's news.

TAMFS 10th Anniversary

That All May Freely Serve (TAMFS) observed the 10th anniversary of the Rev. Janie Spahr's call to Rochester, NY November 17-18th, 2001. I was chosen to represent Presbyterian Promise partly because Rochester was formerly my hometown. It was good to come home.

On Saturday, November 17th,  forty-two people representing most of the TAMFS regions and many local supporters gathered at Judith Foster's house for dinner and celebration. While the house was crowded, it was a 

Wayne Osborne
Virginia Davidson, John Fife and Janie Spahr
at the 10th Anniversary Dinner
Greg Partridge
wonderful community of good cheer and a time to reconnect with many familiar faces. Each regional member was recognized and made a brief statement. After dinner, gifts were given to the guests. Each region received a rainbow-colored teddy bear and a TAMFS anniversary book chronicling the decade.

Sunday morning brought us together again at the Downtown United Presbyterian Church for worship, music and words of prayer and praise. This worship service and reception commemorated DUPC's call to Janie Spahr a decade ago. John Fife, moderator of the 1993 GA preached, reminding us of our endurance in our struggle for justice and equality. Ralph Carter and Pat Rickey brought words of welcome from MLP, one of the sister organizations. A symbolic ordination of seven gay and lesbian pastors, elders and deacons came forward to receive stoles in recognition of their office which they cannot hold because of their sexual ordination. It was a beautiful event which inspired us to go forth continuing the cause of gay rights and service within the church and everywhere.

Pat Wales
Presbyterian
Promise
News
Is published by
PRESBYTERIAN
PROMISE
Home

704 Whitney Avenue
New Haven CT
06511
 

Maria LaSala
Letty Russell
Co-moderators
Jack Hartwein-Sanchez
MLP liaison
Pat Wales
Secretary
Ralph Jones
Treasurer

Affiliations
That All May Freely Serve
More Light Presbyterians 

    Calendar of Events

    30 December 2001
    3:00 PM
    Board Meeting
         at New Haven: First
    3 February 2002
    4:00 PM
    Presbyterian Promise Annual Meeting:
    Worship, Education, Food, Celebration and a little Business
         at Hartford: First YOU are needed!
    9 February 2002
    PSNE Meeting
    First Presbyterian Church, Fairfield CT
    VOTE on Amendment 01-A
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.
  • If you are not yet on our mailing and e-mailing lists, please contact us at the addresses in the masthead.
  • Write a story for the next issue.
  • Keep your experience of God's inclusive love before the leaders of your congregation.
  • Rejoice!