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Issue Number 14
January 9, 2004

Articles
TWO Meetings
Western New York
Baltimore
Calendar
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TWO Meetings – ONE Issue

 
Presbyterian Promise Annual Meeting
New Hope in an Old Debate: 
Advocacy in This Time
3 PM
Sunday
February 1, 2004
First Presbyterian Church
Hartford CT
&
Presbytery of Southern New England Meeting
9:30 AM
Saturday
February 7, 2004
First Church of Christ
250 Main Street
Wethersfield CT

What's Happening?

  • First Pres Hartford has asked our Presbytery to concur in an overture from the Presbytery of Western New York revising the language of G-6.0106b.
  • Crossroads Presbyterian is asking PSNE to support Baltimore Presbytery's overture deleting 'b'.
  • Other sessions are likely to act similarly.
It is not yet clear how these requests will come before PSNE.

Why are these meetings critical?

We must make a unified witness. The Presbyterian Promise annual meeting is the only opportunity to pray, think and plan before presbytery meets. Our denomination's policy continues to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. With two (or more) options before us, the progressive witness could easily be lost in internal debate. We need your faithful wisdom at both meetings.

There are good arguments for both Western New York and Baltimore. The texts follow in this newsletter.

Baltimore would simply delete 'b'. That's a clear statement of justice and affirmation. But as the Theological Task Force has not reported, there is little reason to expect GA to approve it or even seriously consider it.

Western New York revises 'b' to permit ordination of people in "committed relationships." In so doing it challenges us to think more clearly. Will churches call and install LGBT pastors in unclarified relationships? Would the removal of 'b' just reveal a de facto discrimination of practice?

About our meeting

We will:
  • begin with worship prepared by Richard Lindsay, who is studying at Yale Divinity School,
  • conduct a very short business meeting, which will include announcement of Presbyterian Promise's exciting hopes for 2004,
  • then move on to the crucial discussion.
  • A light dinner will follow, hosted by Terry Davis and friends at First Presbyterian, Hartford.
Please RSVP to Terry if you will stay for dinner!  RevTDavis@aol.com or (860) 246-2224.
Please join us.

WESTERN NEW YORK

This Overture was passed 20 May 03, has been received by the Office of the General Assembly and numbered 04-1. The text is from the Office of the General Assembly and reflects conversion to General Assembly format standards.

The session of Third Presbyterian Church, Rochester NY has unanimously moved to request that the Presbytery of Genesee Valley concur with 04-1.  Genesee Valley should debate and vote at their January meeting.
 

Overture 04-1. On Amending G-6.0106b Regarding Gifts and Requirements for Officers—From the Presbytery of Western New York.

The Presbytery of Western New York respectfully overtures the 216th General Assembly (2004) to direct the Stated Clerk to send the following proposed amendment to the Book of Order, Section G-6.0106(b), to the presbyteries for their affirmative or negative votes:

Shall G-6.0106(b) be amended as follows: [Text to be deleted is shown with a strike-through; text to be added or inserted is shown as italic.]

“b. Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001) a covenanted relationship between two persons where a lifetime commitment is intended, or chastity in singleness. Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin does not conform with this discipline shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament.”

Rationale

Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, preached a gospel of love toward all the people of the earth (John 3:16); and therefore all people should be equally welcomed in the church, remembering that it is in the spirit of Christ to reach out most of all to those who have been persecuted and shunned by society.

We acknowledge that passages of Scripture have led to the condemnation of sexual intimacy between two people of the same sex; yet after long and intense discussion, prayer, and study of the Scriptures as a whole, we do not believe it was, or is now, Christ’s own desire to condemn sexual intimacy between people of the same sex as inherently bad. Sexual intimacy is a gift of God intended for sealing the most committed relationships that one person can have with another.

Our Lord’s gospel of love was also accompanied by high standards of self-discipline that he set for his followers, even that we should love our enemies.

In accord with our Lord’s teachings, we believe all people should be guided by the same principles of sexual behavior regardless of sexual orientation, summarized as chastity in singleness and fidelity in a covenanted relationship before God with one other person where a lifetime commitment is intended.

We also acknowledge that there continue to be strong differences of opinion among our members and churches over these matters, and that contrary opinions may be held in good faith with the backing of historical precedent; yet we believe Christ wants us to move forward here.

 

BALTIMORE

The Presbytery of National Capitol has been asked to consider concurrence.

An  Overture From The Presbytery of Baltimore
Approved at the September 25, 2003, Stated Meeting of The Presbytery of Baltimore

The Presbytery of Baltimore overtures the 216th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to:
Direct the Stated Clerk to transmit to the presbyteries for their vote the following proposed amendment:
That G-6.0106b be stricken from the Book of Order.

Rationale

The peace, unity, and purity of the PC (USA) has been ruptured by the presence of G-6.0106b in our Book of Order. Rather than solving the issue of ordination standards, this addition has created a hostile and divisive environment in our Church that is contrary to God's reconciling love. Numerous judicial cases have been brought to governing bodies over issues of ordination from individuals who are unaware of the calls and gifts of ministry of those against whom they file complaints. These judicial actions have cost individuals, congregations, and governing bodies untold time and money to defend those who have been accused. There is no longer any possibility of honest and open dialogue on this issue without fear of retribution. Section G-6.0106b does serious harm to our church by forcing the appearance of consensus and depriving the church of the benefit of discussion.

The wisdom expressed in G-60106a is sufficient in setting standards for ordination. The strength of the PC (USA) lies in its ability to hold freedom of conscience and church order in tension, and its trust of the governing body closest to those it ordains (G-6.0108b). Sessions and presbyteries have the responsibility to weigh the confessions, to determine which segments reflect essential tenets of the faith, and to judge the gifts and qualifications of those candidates who come before them.

The effects of G-6.0106b are contrary to our Constitutional call to "seek the grace of openness in extending the fellowship of Christ to all persons" (G-5.0103). Instead it has the explicit and implicit effect of targeting one category of people, defined as "self-affirming, practicing homosexual persons", and of denying to them the full rights and privileges of active membership within the PC(USA) (G-5.0202). Through this constitutional ban, G-6.0106b disregards the fact that a pluralism of methods of biblical and theological interpretation currently exists within the PC(USA) concerning homosexuality. Among these methods is the strongly held belief among many conscientious Presbyterians that homosexual practice is not a sin per se and that both heterosexual and homosexual relationships are capable of being either faithful and life-affirming or sinful and destructive. G-6.0106b, and its predecessor "definitive guidance" and subsequent affirmations, delineates human sexuality in categories more narrowly defined than the scriptures seek to claim. For example, while Christians disagree on the interpretation of the limited biblical references to homosexuality, most acknowledge that the Bible is silent on the issue of life long faithful homosexual partnerships. In contrast, the Bible is clear in its themes of covenant: the covenant between God and humanity, and the human covenants made before God. Removal of G-6.0106b from our Constitution would allow presbyteries and sessions to follow their understanding of the Holy Spirit's leading in making decisions about candidates for ordination/installation by the application of a common ethic of faithfulness and fidelity within human covenantal relationships. This return to a mutual trust in each ordaining/installing presbytery's or session's ability to make individual judgments concerning the fitness of a candidate for ordination/installation would restore to the presbyteries and sessions their traditional duty and prerogative to approve, ordain, and install persons whom, after due examination, they deem gifted, worthy, and called by God through the voice of the people.

 

Calendar

1 Feburary 2004
3 - 5:30 PM
3rd Presbyterian Promise Annual Meeting
First Presbyterian -- Hartford CT
7 February 2004
PSNE meets at Weathersfield CT Congregational
Friday
13 February
MCC National Town Hall Marriage License Actions Co-Sponsored by People of Faith for GLBTI Civil Rights  www.pfgcr.org
Join same-sex couples across the country requesting marriage licenses.
Valentine's Day 
Saturday 
14 February 2004
PFGCR 
Marriage Equality RALLY
State Capitol, Hartford 
2004 is the year opponents of equality will push a  Defense Of Marriage Act in CT and the "Federal Marriage Amendment" nationally.  It is crucial that all supporters of marriage equality attend! 
23-26 May 2004
First MLP, TAMFS, and Shower of Stoles Conference – Kansas City, Missouri
26 June 2004
216th General Assembly convenes in Richmond VA

 
 
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OUR MISSION STATEMENT 
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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.

 
Visit us at
Crossroads Presbyterian Church, Waterford CT (860) 442-3693
First Presbyterian – Hartford, Hartford CT (860) 246-2224
First Presbyterian – New Haven, New Haven CT (203) 562-5664
Providence Presbyterian Church, Providence RI (401) 861-1136
Wilton Presbyterian Church, Wilton CT (203) 762-5514

…working to extend the hospitality of Christ to all God's children….