Issue Number 10
On The Road
Statement of Compliance
Hospitality in the church is urgent, personal and challenging, as Ruth
Chartier's article makes clear. We welcome her to this Presbytery and to
Presbyterian Promise News! Currently pastor of the United Parish of Fall
River, she comes to us from eight and a half years serving a rural church
in Northeast Ohio.
This has been a challenging summer and fall for us. We've visited churches from Wilton to Westminster to Providence, witnessed at Connecticut PRIDE and the November meeting of this Presbytery, worshiped and celebrated on Reformation Sunday and are at work planning several youth oriented events.
Presbyterian Promise is here to serve you. That's our challenge. This is a big ministry. We are a small organization. To meet the challenge of serving you, we need to grow. We need staff – some one person you know you can turn to both personally and professionally as your church and church members struggle with issues of human sexuality.
Put simply, we need money. Here's our present challenge. Respond to Pat Wales' and John Merz' recent letter offering to match your generosity dollar for dollar, up to $5,000. If our year end appeal raises $5,000, PresPromise banks $10,000. We're counting on your help! Let us know how you'd like to get involved.
We can't grow without you.
I met these individuals when their church going relatives were hospitalized or died. I had never met them before meeting them in hospitals or funeral homes. It was clear they were unsure how I would react to them when they met me. It was important to build relationships and establish a trust level. That began in the context of the pastoral care given to their families to whom I was called to minister. It was a safe context for them because the focus was not on them but included them.
The result of establishing these relationships was that it opened the door for introductions to their friends and others who also questioned their welcome in the church or by the pastor. I became known as a "safe pastor." They were good teachers.
Regrettably, I made mistakes. TM, a gay man, lived in the rural Ohio town where I served as pastor. We had lunch from time to time and enjoyed ever more open and intense conversations about theology, what love is, what is truly important in life, prayer, and what it is like to know and love Jesus. Early in our relationship I asked him if he attended a church. He said he did, but that it was away from the town where he lived. I mistakenly made the assumption that he had a church home. I also assumed that he knew he was welcome to attend the church I served in his home town. It took too many years for me to realize I was wrong on both counts.
TM and I went to lunch shortly before my last Sunday in Ohio. I asked him if he had understood that he had always been welcome to worship at the church I served. I was saddened when he answered that he had not been sure. I assured him he was always welcome.
Later I wrote a note asking TM to please come to worship on my last Sunday. I told him we had had many wonderful discussions together but we had never celebrated the sacrament of holy communion. TM arrived just before worship began. I stood before the congregation at the communion table, invited them to take the bread and eat, and looked directly at TM. We took the bread together. There were tears in our eyes.
Building trusting relationships, making it clear that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals are welcome, and extending a clear and explicit invitation to come to worship are important elements of being a truly welcoming church. Believe me, the church will be better for it.
Co-Moderator Letty Russell explained our request by introducing the several board members present, distributing our brochure and describing recent activities – conducting educational events at the request of churches in the presbytery, participating in two Connecticut Pride events, and joining with Presbyterian Welcome and several churches in Hudson River Presbytery in planning the recent Reformation Sunday Celebration at South Presbyterian Church in Dobbs Ferry, NY. After about an hour of debate, the request was approved by 60 to 43.
What does this mean? We don't really know. We are the first organization the presbytery has recognized. Several people noted this might improve communication within the presbytery about these issues. The bylaws provide for our using presbytery mailing lists, reporting to meetings, distributing literature and visiting sessions when invited. We hope to be a regular presence at meetings, available for conversation, and as a witness to the many Christians who feel unwelcome in the church.
The following is my summary of the fabulous Reformation Sunday Celebration service which took place at South Church in Dobbs Ferry, NY.
Contrary to what the Layman online reported in the following...
Renegades have trashed the Lord's Supper...yes, contrary to this report, the Reformation Service hosted by South Church in Dobbs Ferry, NY and coordinated by the Hudson River Dissenting Churches, Presbyterian Promise, and Presbyterian Welcome was deeply moving. The service began at 3 PM on Sunday, Oct. 27, the day when Presbyterians traditionally celebrate our roots in the Protestant Reformation and our call to be "reformed and always reforming." [Note: the full texts of the liturgy and sermon are available on the Presbyterian Promise web site]
The front of our bulletins read, "To go against one's conscience is neither safe nor right. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise," from Martin Luther's second appearance before the Imperial Diet at Worms, 1512. That statement and that principal which we hold dear, set the tone for a moving and powerful worship service. After processing in to "A Mighty Fortress is Our God," and a call to worship that incorporated the voices of PC (USA) members stating why they cannot comply with G-6.0106b, we were invited to come forward and place pre-written statements of our vision of the reformation we would like to see the PC (USA) take on nails that protruded from a door at the front of the sanctuary. One by one, worship participants pushed their hopes onto the nails. This was followed by a "fanfare for organ and nails." Between waterfalls of booming organ scales came silence, and then hammering by host pastor Rev. Joe Gilmore from the balcony above.
Dick Hasbany (of Pres. Promise and long time More Light supporter) read from Jeremiah 31:33. Host associate pastor Rev. Susan DeGeorge and Rev. Cliff Frasier of Pres. Welcome NYC led the litany of confession which contained the congregational response refrain: "You have made a new covenant with us, and written its law of love on our hearts." One of the wonderful confessional parts was "Give us the courage and strength to confront others with compassion when misinterpretations of your law are given as reasons to exclude some of your people from the table you've prepared for us and from the ministries to which you have called us." Rev. Jean Holmes of Nauraushaun Presbyterian Church in Pearl River, NY brought us a wonderful assurance of God's grace. Reaffirming this assurance was the Ambassador Chorus of the Gay Men's Chorus of NYC singing "Something So Strong Inside."
Rev. Liz Alexander of Church of Gethesemane, Brooklyn, NY then read Matthew 13:24-30 from the Christian writings, followed by the heartfelt and faithful words of Rev. Hal Porter, pastor emeritus at Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, OH, who preached about the nature of the reform we seek and why in Dissenting in Place.
The sermon was followed by a reaffirmation of the ordination vows of Presbyterian Elders and Deacons who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. Lisa Larges (Regional Coordinator of TAMFS) and I then invited everyone gathered to the joyful feast of all the people of God and we celebrated together the sacrament of communion on the door which became transformed into the table of the Lord's Supper. We said, "Come as you are. God does not rely on human divisions and prejudices, but welcomes all who yearn to be whole, who see in Christ Jesus the hope of the world." Lisa then broke the bread and lifted up the cup as I declared the words of institution. We said, "Remembering therefore Jesus' death and resurrection, we set before you this bread and cup, thankful that you have counted us worthy to stand in your presence and serve you as your priestly people." The Gay Men's Chorus sang as we all ate together.
Ray Bagnuolo, an Elder and candidate for Ministry at South Church, then read from Martin Luther's speech ending with the words that we began with on the front of the bulletin. We processed out into the front of the church and sand together "Here We Are, Lord." Rev. Dae Eun Jung of Palisades Presbyterian Church in Palisades NY, led us in the Benediction and sending out.
After the service was a reception and an information table with postcards pre-addressed to the Moderator and Stated Clerk of the General Assembly allowing participants to state their commitment to: Stay within the PC (USA) and participate fully and faithfully in the life of the Church, including its judicial process; Support and encourage the ordination and installation of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons for church office; work and pray for a Church as inclusive as God's grace.
What an incredible service affirming the great power of reformation in the Presbyterian tradition! Our lives as a people in love with justice are refreshed and renewed by individual and corporate acts of conscience declaring our commitment to a just and welcoming church. What a joy it was to do this in community together at the Reformation Sunday Celebration and service of worship at South Presbyterian Church in Dobbs Ferry, NY.
Together We Serve,
Rev. Katie Morrison
[Rev. Katie Morrison is National Field Organizer for
More Light Presbyterians with particular emphasis on
outreach to youth, young adults, and seminarians.]
[Rev. Letty Russell shared these insights with the New Haven congregation as part of their Reformation Sunday observance. During the service, Presbyterian Promise also honored that congregation as our first sponsor. The Center for Faith and Life is an educational opportunity offered the community consisting of four terms of various five week courses.]INTRODUCTION:
Today we celebrate the Protestant Reformation and the call of the church to be reformed and ever reforming. Feminist theologies are an important part of this celebration because they share in the ongoing task of reformation by calling Christian communities to be come what God intends: communities of women, men and children who are called in Christ to "love God and serve the people," and to "serve God and love the people."
We could even say that Reformed Feminist Theologies take up the call to reform directly from the opening three chapters of Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. In this section Calvin introduces his instruction in Christian theology with the topic of knowledge of God and of ourselves and how they are to be interrelated.
The task of feminist theologies, like the theology of Calvin, is to make sense of our faith in God so that we have insight into God's presence in our lives and actions day by day so that, in the words of the Westminster Confession, we can "enjoy God and glorify God forever."
KNOWLEDGE OF OURSELVES.
Feminist theologies are ways of thinking about God that advocate the full humanity and worth of women together with men and in harmony with the creation. As such they support women in their search for self-knowledge and self-worth as children of God, created in God's image.
They help both men and women look beyond their own gender stereotypes to find ways of living and working together as partners in responding to God's will and to the needs of their neighbors.
This is why this church has a Center for Faith and Life; so that people can all learn together ways of overcoming prejudice and ignorance about the world in which we live and the possibilities of continuing reformation of our lives, faith communities and world.
KNOWLEDGE OF GOD.
Calvin himself, having begun with knowledge of self and God, right away moves on to the biblical tradition that tells us how we come to know God through the stories of the Hebrew people, of Christ and of the church.
Feminist theologians have offered us many fascinating interpretations of scripture that lift up the lives of women as role models and argue with texts used to exclude people because of race, gender, sexual orientation or ability. They help us to wrestle with texts of terror that read like modern horror stories of rape and conquest.
Feminist scholars have helped us to have an ever reforming faith; one that over and again reminds us that the Holy Spirit enlivens the word of scripture and the word itself is always in need of interpretation. Even the metaphors for God are challenged as we learn, not to control God, but to know the God who is beyond all our metaphors and images yet present to each of us as a Spirit.
Reforming so that persons of every gender, race, ability, and sexual orientation are included in the offices of the church and empowered by our response as representatives of God in our midst –
Reforming so that each and every one of us discovers new ways to enjoy God and to use God's gifts to reach out to others. Amen.
21 September 2002 – Presbyterian Promise joined several other religious organizations, non profits, vendors and Fleet Bank at the Connecticut Pride event in Hartford's Bushnell Park. Our presence allowed us to introduce a number of people to our sponsoring churches and offered a clear witness – even to those who only walked by looking – that there are hospitable Christians. It was a time for listening to moving stories and for making connections with numbers of people involved in the movement. Jack Hartwein-Sanchez shared some of his, and our, story:
I am here today because I have pride in who I am: A Christian who happens to be gay. Like many of you, I have come out to my friends, my coworkers, my family and my church. I thought that coming out to my church would be hard, but I found that the folks in my congregation didn't mind at all. What surprised me was how hard it has been to come out in the GLBT community as a Christian. Believe me, I understand the distrust that so many have of the Christian
Taking Lisa's example seriously we have had our own road trips this fall. This included church visits, adult education and Board meetings in Wilton, New Canaan and Providence. We have enjoyed the hospitality of these wonderful churches and learned a good deal about how different people practice hospitality.
Let us know if you would like a visit. We would welcome the invitation and, by now, we know at lot about I 95!
It is going to be a fun weekend of worship, music, mission work, and networking! See if your church can help pay and there will be some scholarship money available. Can't wait to see all you YAYAs there! If you have any questions contact me (Brian@mlp.org) or Rev. Katie Morrison at Katie@mlp.org
Elder Brian Cave
More Light Presbyterians Liaison for Youth and Young Adults
|Statement of Compliance
with G-6.0106b of the PC (USA) Book of Order
Christ Church, Presbyterian, Burlington, VT
[As a number of churches in the Presbytery of Southern New England are developing statements, this thoughtful and informed approach may prove helpful – ed.]Since paragraph G-6.0106b was enacted in 1997, Christ Church, Presbyterian has struggled mightily with how to extend fully the grace and hospitality of Jesus Christ to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, while at the same time remaining faithful to the Church's constitution.
In June 1998, Christ Church, Presbyterian's Report to the Presbytery of Northern New England stated that we had not found a way to be in compliance with G-6.0106b without harming deeply the church community that we are called to lead. We also believed that no congregation could be fully in compliance with G-6.0106b without violating numerous other provisions in the Book of Order that clearly mandate an inclusive church.
Since then we have been prayerfully listening to the wider Church and we have heard many voices.
"We have been engaged in a continuing process of congregational discernment in light of the GA-PJC decision in Londonderry Presbyterian Church vs. Presbytery of Northern New England, the help we have received from the Pastoral Committee established by the Presbytery pursuant to this decision, and recent PJC decisions interpreting and applying G-6.0106b. The Session of Christ Church, Presbyterian, grateful for new opportunities for creative witness on an issue it cares deeply about, hereby sets aside our Resolution of April 20, 1997, and the Report of June 18, 1998, so that we can clarify and strengthen our statement of present conviction."In Londonderry vs. the Presbytery of Northern New England, the GA-PJC challenged us (and the Church as a whole) to find a way of resolving tensions and ambiguities in the Constitution in such a way as makes effective all of its provisions. At the time of the PJC decision, this seemed a daunting challenge. But today, following a period of study, dialogue, discernment, listening and prayer, we now realize that the task can be accomplished.
Whereas in June of 1998 we had not found a way to reconcile G-6.0106b with other provisions in the Book of Order calling for full inclusiveness, we now have. Our error was in leaving the interpretation of G-6.0106b to others, rather than exploring for ourselves what it is that G-6.0106b actually says. After closer examination as instructed by the GA-PJC in Londonderry vs. the Presbytery of Northern New England, we now realize that our church's stand on inclusiveness, the Constitution's requirements for inclusiveness, and the provisions of G-6.0106b are not mutually exclusive. When properly and faithfully interpreted, G-6.0106b and other constitutional requirements for inclusiveness can coexist.
Let us, then, examine the provisions of G-6.0106b and assess whether or not they constitute a bar to ordination of gay and lesbian persons of faith:
"G-6.0106b: Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture…We are reminded of the GA-PJC admonition to give effect to all parts of the Constitution. In the foregoing, we have addressed specifically the provisions of G-6.0106b; but we must not overlook the preceding paragraph in the Book of Order, G-6.0106a, which provides in positive terms the qualifications for ordination: "(Candidates) should be persons of strong faith, dedicated discipleship, and love of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Their manner of life should be a demonstration of the Christian gospel in the church and in the world." While we cannot overlook potentially negative traits that might disqualify candidates from leadership in the church, we must – and will – give significant attention to the qualities called for in G-6.0106a.
In giving effect to all parts of the Constitution, we affirm that "God has put all things under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and has made Christ Head of the Church, which is his body." We confirm that membership, and all rights of membership, are based solely on one's profession of faith. We hold high the right of the people to choose their own leaders. We believe in giving full expression to the rich diversity within our membership. We believe in welcoming all who respond in trust and obedience to God's grace in Jesus Christ. We affirm that all active members are entitled to the privileges of the church, including the right to vote and hold office. We pledge to continue working for reconciliation and unity in the midst of our diversity, and, in so doing, we pledge forbearance towards those who differ with us and ask the same of them. And we remain open to God's continuing reformation of the Church.
With full confidence that we are abiding with the Constitution, including the provisions of G-6.0106b, the Session of Christ Church, Presbyterian vows to continue welcoming persons living singly or in committed relationships, regardless of sexual orientation, into the life, membership and leadership of this congregation on an equal basis, including eligibility for election and ordination as a ruling elder or deacon.
Adopted by the Session November 11, 2002
Is published by