Home Presbyterian

Issue Number 17
September 2005


The Real Work
LGBT Community Event
Hartford Pres. Acts
Proposed Overture
TAMFS Responds
Barbara Wheeler
Ellison Flyer
Thank you Brian
PFLAG - New Haven
Contact us


The Real Work

The Reconciling Dialogue Project, Presbyterian Promise's partnership with Plowshares Institute, got off to a great start with a powerful board retreat on September 10. We rejoiced together that God has led us here. We pray that this project will be a new and brave thing, a new tool to help move our church and its people through its current pain, frustration, and stalemate to a more vigorous and loving ministry. 

What is the Reconciling Dialogue Project?

In the Reconciling Dialogue Project, Presbyterian Promise will try to live out its goals of being both prophetic and pastoral. In our call to be prophetic, we will continue to challenge church and society's discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. With the Reconciling Dialogue Project, we hope to strengthen our nurture of a more pastoral environment for LGBT folk and their families, and of an environment of reconciliation. It is incumbent on us as Christians in community to do this. Inattention to these endeavors may be part of the cause of the denomination's stalemate, fatigue, and continued miscommunication around gender and sexuality issues. 

Our work with Plowshares Institute focuses on transforming conflict, energizing our individual and congregational abilities to communicate and empathize deeply, and finding ways to nurture pastoral empathy and vigor. Working with Plowshares, and sustained by God's grace, we will develop conversations that enable the sharing of individual stories and help us to identify and accept our differences. From these conversations, based on our individual experiences of vulnerability and faith, we will work to create "safe places" that strengthen congregations and enable them to accept diversity across the painful realities of misunderstanding, alienation and oppression. 

We believe that participating groups will begin to appreciate and be more prepared to address the issues of neglected ministry and gender-related injustice in our churches and communities. We are excited to imagine that the Project may be able to develop models that will be tested in this first year and may prove to be adaptable for use in other situations and other places. We hope that we may provide a process and environment here that others will want to emulate. We feel strongly that we have something important to contribute to the Presbyterian Church USA and to our own movement that has worked for decades for justice and love.

Specifically, the RDP will develop models that include: 

  • Skill and capacity building with the Presbyterian Promise board.
  • Networking and nurture with the LGBT community and supporters.
  • intra-congregational and inter-congregational conversations that promote (A) empathetic, heartfelt, and productive dialogue between those of different views and (B) a clearer vision of what ministry and effective pastoral care can be and a commitment to carry out that ministry more effectively.
  • A retreat for pastors addressing issues of awareness, biblical and theological interpretation, conflict transformation processes, and deeply empathetic pastoral care.

Why Plowshares?

When Presbyterian Promise advertised for a coordinator for the Reconciling Dialogue Project, we anticipated hiring an individual. Indeed, we received responses from some very gifted people who have worked diligently for a more welcoming church. But the spirit of experimentation and hope that led to the Project's pastoral and personal approach was honored by the arrival of applications from organizations that had extraordinary records of mediation and conflict resolution. Their work provided evidence of transformational peacemaking. With surprise and gratitude, the search committee met with these organizations and recommended to the Presbyterian Promise board that we contract with Plowshares Institute to carry out what we feel is important and prophetic ministry.

What is/who are Plowshares Institute

Plowshares Institute (PI) has worked primarily in the international realm, serving as a catalyst for social change by collaborating to design programs that build skills in conflict transformation. They work where people disagree strongly, where dialogue has become nonproductive, and where people take up arms to resolve the situation. Their impact has been such that the organization was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 by members of the South African parliament. The nomination declared that the Plowshares training aided both the negotiations that did away with apartheid and the reconciliation process that followed.

Located in Simsbury, CT, the Institute is led by Rev. Bob Evans, a minister member of the Presbytery of Southern New England, and Alice Evans, an elder at First Presbyterian in Hartford, CT, one of Presbyterian Promise's sponsoring churches. PI knows PSNE. Elizabeth Vélez and Matthew Bennett complete the Plowshares team. For more information see: www.plowsharesinstitute.org/

Plowshares has worked on LGBT issues before, and was attracted to the Reconciling Dialogue Project by what they saw as the possibility of doing something new, worthwhile, and transferable. We welcome them as friends, colleagues, and partners. To fulfill its role with integrity, PI will take no stance on the ordination issue that focuses so much of the controversy in our denomination. Their expertise lies in helping create and nurture transformational communication and healing. 

The Reconciling Dialogue Project in the broader Perspective: 

One of the persons responding recently to the Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity, and Purity Report put it this way: "I think we're seeing the Presbyterian version of the 'Washington Bubble' — the disconnection of leadership from the membership. . . . We can't expect someone else to solve our problems for us. No small group of people, no matter how faithful, is going to fix us. In order to make the church whole, the whole church must do the real work."

In the next year, in partnership with Plowshares Institute, we intend to begin to "do the real work" here in PSNE among our brothers and sisters in Christ. This work carries on the work we've been engaged in, but in new and hopeful ways, with partners who bring refined and powerful gifts that may help us move beyond the stalemate that stymies us. We will strive to make the Reconciling Dialogue Project an experiment that emphasizes the pastoral dimension of our movement's work and explores the possibilities of justice-making through reconciliation. Perhaps, God willing, our project will be a vehicle for the Holy Spirit to permeate and transform us, to flow freely "high surging where it will."

Dick Hasbany


First Presbyterian Church, Hartford
      Acts to Promote Inclusiveness

When the Presbytery of Southern New England meets in September commissioners will receive from the session of First Presbyterian Church in Hartford a request that the Presbytery overture the General Assembly to eliminate all of the existing interpretative statements concerning ordained service by homosexual church members, and to send to the Presbyteries for their votes an overture to eliminate G-6.0106b from the Form of Government. 

We are requesting that commissioners study and pray over this request and its accompanying rationale and be prepared to discuss and vote on it at the November meeting. It is our hope that by November a number of other Sessions will have taken similar action.

The General Assembly Task Force on Peace, Unity and Purity believes that the unity of the Church will be best served by making no constitutional changes in regard to ordination.* We totally reject that conclusion. It is the moral equivalent of the argument made before the civil war that the Presbyterian Church should make no statements on slavery because it would split the Church. Witnessing to the truth and opposing injustice are more essential to our spiritual welfare and to the purity of the Church than preserving unity at any cost.

Further we believe that passage of this overture will ultimately promote peace and reconciliation within the Church. There can be no reconciliation while some of our brothers and sisters are excluded from ordained service because they act on their sexual orientation and refuse to hide this fundamental fact of their lives. 

There can be reconciliation when every Church is free to discern whom God has called to serve as elders and deacons, and when every Presbytery is free to discern to whom God has given the calling and gifts for service in ministry. No Session, Congregation or Presbytery will be compelled to ordain homosexual persons, or to accept such persons into service in their particular Church or Presbytery nor will any governing body be prohibited from doing so.

If we can learn to respect the judgment and actions of our brothers and sisters in Christ then the whole Church can be united by the huge body of faith and convictions which Presbyterians hold in common and which are highlighted by the report of the Task Force on Peace, Unity and Purity.

We urge every Presbyterian who shares our vision of an inclusive Church to request their session to join in support of this overture, and work for its passage in November.

The full text of the action of the First Presbyterian Church session follows this article.

*To read more about the report of the Task Force on Peace, Unity and Purity go to
There is a link that will allow you to download the entire report in PDF form.
An interesting analysis of this report is available at http://www.pcusa.org/pcnews/2005/05446.htm

Terry Davis, Pastor

Session Request to Presbytery

At its meeting on June 21, 2005, the Session of First Presbyterian Church (Hartford) voted to ask the Presbytery of Southern New England to overture the 217th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) as follows.

We further request the Council to distribute this action to the Commissioners at the Presbytery of Southern New England's stated September meeting for information and to schedule debate and action on this for the stated November meeting.

Proposed Overture for the 217th GA (2006)

On issuing an authoritative interpretation clarifying standards for ordination, and deleting G-6.0106b:

The Presbytery of Southern New England respectfully overtures the 217th General Assembly (2006) to do the following:
Provide the following authoritative interpretation:

  1. Interpretive statements concerning ordained service of homosexual church members by the 190th General Assembly (1978) of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America and the 119th General Assembly (1979) of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, and all subsequent affirmations thereof, have no further force or effect.
  2. Direct the Stated Clerk to send the following proposed amendment to the presbyteries for their affirmative or negative votes:
              Shall G-6.0106b be stricken?


Reconciliation is the hope of this overture. Despite all the passionate rhetoric, rumors and innuendoes, we believe reconciliation through clarification and resolution was the hope of those who drafted and ratified what is now G-6.0106b. Sadly, G-6.0106b has failed in its purpose. If anything, it has deepened the painful divisions experienced by men and women of good faith.

Reconciliation must be our hope. Reconciliation is not a compromise of true belief. It is the possibility God has given us. We are God's people, brothers and sisters. As God's people, we have no choice. We are family. Anything that makes reconciliation harder must be overcome.

Reconciliation is God's promise to us. All have sinned. None deserve God's love. It is not ours to use God's gifts to cause the alienation of any of God's people. Reconciliation is not ours to withhold. It is God's gift.

Reconciliation will not be achieved by winning votes. Yet this overture must pass before the work of reconciliation can begin. Removing G-6.0106b will not heal our denomination; it is a step toward that end. Removing it will affirm our trust and love for each other. It will affirm that we trust each other to act for the good of the whole church when we ordain and install leaders.

Reconciliation is our hope in God. In calling for the passage of this overture, we lay claim to hope. G-6.0106b and its related interpretive statements create a situation where some have power over others. Many dare not speak the truth of their experience of God. Many live in fear that their truth will cause others to exclude them from their livelihood, from their church community, from their family. People of all theological perspectives know this fear. Many experience G-6.0106b and its interpretations as denying the reality of God's reconciling grace. We still see as if in a dim mirror. In humility, we need to learn all we can from each other. We need to move beyond our past efforts, however well intentioned, so we can reason together and again show the world how Christians love one another.


Join us for some Truth Telling
and Hope Building

The LGBT community and the Church: 

What it is like, here on the ground
What it can be 

The Second event in our Reconciling Dialogue Project

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Christians, their parents and relatives, and their friends, are invited to share a morning and luncheon together, as community, in conversation about the realities of being gay and being faithful. It will be a place to share the pain of it and also the hopes. 

Not only will we have a chance for the kind of deep sharing that seldom happens in our own congregations, we will have a chance to envision healing and begin to build skills that can make us more effective in sharing with others in our faith communities. 

The workshop will be facilitated by members of the Nobel Peace Prize nominated Plowshares Institute (described in the lead article). This is a unique opportunity that promises to be an enriching and empowering event..

For information and to reserve your place, call Dick Hasbany at 777-4579.

October 29, 2005
First Presbyterian Church, New Haven CT
9:30 – 1:30
Lunch will be provided


TAMFS' Response to 

"A Season of Discernment: The Final Report of The Task Force on Peace, Unity, and Purity of the Church"

Essential to the work and core values of That All May Freely Serve is the belief that there can be no second-class membership for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) people in the full work and worship of the Presbyterian Church (USA). 

The National Board of That All May Freely Serve is sincerely grateful for the efforts of the Theological Task Force as it has thoughtfully and prayerfully written its report. Our response to the Theological Task Force and its work offers respect and appreciation for their achievement but disappointment for what was left unsaid and undone. 

That All May Freely Serve holds up the Task Force's affirmation of the constitutional provisions of G-6.0108 a. and b. These provisions are firmly rooted in "The Adopting Act of 1729" and the "Plan of Union of 1758." The principle and practice of "scruples" is steadfastly based on the right and responsibility of the governing body that ordains and/or installs a candidate. That governing body is the ultimate deciding body in judging whether or not the candidate has departed from the essentials of Reformed faith and polity and thus worthy of being ordained and/or installed to an ordained office. 

Our polity makes it clear that the General Assembly establishes the ordination standards that are to be held in common across the denomination. In alignment with that fact, we uphold the principle of Presbyterian polity: presbyteries and sessions are given responsibility and authority, as succinctly summarized in G-6.0108, to decide what candidates may or may not be ordained and/or installed by that particular governing body. That All May Freely Serve cites Amendment G-6.0106 b. as an aberration set within the context of this rich and historical principle of Presbyterian polity. For this and many other reasons G-6.0106 b. must be deleted without delay.

What disappoints us is that the exclusionary practices of this church continue to be tolerated as part of a timeline for the promise of peace, purity, and unity. Such a position at any level of our government or in any recommendations is tantamount to accepting the inherent violence in the exclusion of the LGBT faith community as an acceptable price to pay. That All May Freely Serve can never acquiesce to any recommendation, amendment, or other provisions that prolong marginalization of our LGBT family. We work and pray for an awakening in our church that finds its prophetic voice with a resounding "No!" to any practice that continues the oppression and dehumanization of our LGBT brothers and sisters.

Still, we stay and work tirelessly for a season of justice sooner, rather than later. We welcome and invite full and open dialogue with our brothers and sisters who may share different views. However, we ask all to hear us when we say there can be no pause in our work until G-6.0106 b. is deleted from the Book of Order. We are bound by our conscience, our calls, and the lives of those we serve to reject any moratorium in the furtherance of this mission.

There can be no rest for us until our LGBT family worships and works in this church with the same rights as our heterosexual sisters and brothers. Peace, purity, and unity can only be achieved when the doors in this church are taken off their hinges opened widely so that all may freely serve. Only then will we be able to embrace one another in the wonderful diversity of our Creator and be faithful servants to the baptism we share as members of the Body and Church of Jesus Christ.

Press Release: September 5, 2005


Barbara Wheeler
    at First Pres, New Haven

Is the Presbyterian Church broken beyond repair? Like other mainline denominations, we have spent the last decade in ongoing struggle, primarily over the place of gay and lesbian Christians in our midst. Are we destined to become two separate churches?

Barbara Wheeler, the President of Auburn Theological Seminary in New York and member of our denomination's Peace, Unity and Purity Task Force, will describe both the four year long process of dialogue among leaders from across the political and theological spectrum of our denomination and the report the Task Force has issued.

First Pres invites you to join in this conversation on 

Monday, November 28th at 7:30 PM.


Civil Union?  Gay Marriage?  None of the above? 

Sorting Out the Issues

Presbyterian Promise
invites you to be part of

A Weekend with Marvin Ellison 
October 22-23, 2005

Rev. Marvin Ellison’s work focuses on the ethical issues relating to sexuality, spirituality, and justice. 
His Same-Sex Marriage? A Christian Ethical Analysis explores the issues 
behind one of the most urgent discussions facing Christians.

Come to both Events!

Saturday, October 22

       Same-Sex Marriage and Beyond: What Do Good Relationships Ask of Us All 
Westminster Presbyterian Church, West Hartford. (directions below). Civil and religious debates about same-sex marriage have focused attention on questions about intimacy, sexual difference, moral values, and the role of church and state in promoting families and healthy relationships. 
          This event includes a free keynote and Q & A session (which may be attended separately) followed by an in-depth workshop that includes lunch. The workshop helps participants explore the tough personal questions about gay marriage and civil unions that couples need to explore as they make decisions that are appropriate for who they are. It is a chance to sort out the issues in a supportive spiritual environment! All are invited to the keynote and Q & A session. There will be a charge for the workshop. Enrollment will be limited. To register, see below. 

Sunday, October 23

          Rev. Ellison will preach at Wilton Presbyterian Church, 48 New Canaan Road in Wilton, CT (directions below) Worship begins at 10:00 AM. Rev. Ellison is a graceful, humorous preacher whose message is informed by ethical nuance and commitment to social justice.

Marvin M. Ellison is a Presbyterian minister who teaches Christian social ethics at Bangor Theological Seminary. He founded Maine’s Religious Coalition against Discrimination to support civil rights protections for LGBT people. He co-chairs the Maine Interfaith Council for Reproductive Choices. His publications include Same-Sex Marriage? A Christian Ethical Analysis, and Body and Soul: Rethinking Sexuality as Justice-Love. He lives in Portland, Maine with his partner. 

Join us for both events.

Saturday, October 22, Same-Sex Marriage and Beyond: What Do Good Relationships Ask of Us All

Keynote talk with Q & A, 9:30 – 10:30 a.m.,
Workshop: 11:00 – 2:30, lunch included in registration
Registration fee: $25  (includes lunch)

Directions to Westminster Presbyterian Church, West Hartford
2080 Boulevard, West Hartford (at the intersection of Ridgewood Road and the Boulevard)    860-521-6240

From Interstate 84 (either direction)
Take Exit 43, Park Road.  At the end of the exit, turn left (west) onto Park Road.  Go through the first traffic light (may be blinking yellow).  At the second traffic light, turn right (north) onto South Main Street.  At the first traffic light, turn left (west) onto Boulevard.  The first traffic light on Boulevard will be at the intersection with Ridgewood Road – the church is on the northwest corner. 

Sunday, October 23, Rev. Ellison preaches during worship at Wilton Presbyterian Church.   Worship begins at 10:00

(From New England direction), Take Exit 41 (rt. 33) off Merritt Parkway.  Turn left and go on Rt. 33 toward Wilton (2.7miles).  Turn left onto Wolfpit Road at traffic light.  Cross 2 bridges, climb steep hill, and go to 4-way stop (1.2 miles).  Continue straight (road becomes New Canaan Road).  The church is ¼ mile on right in same building as St. Matthews Episcopal Church.

  For more information, call Dick Hasbany, (203) 777-4579

Saturday Workshop Registration
(detach and send) 

Enrollment will be limited to permit interaction and discussion.  Deadline to register is October 15.

Name: _____________________________________________________________________

Address: Include city and zip code: _____________________________________________ Zip _________

Phone: daytime: (_____) _______________   evening: (_____)  ______________________

E-mail: __________________________________________(We will confirm your registration by e-mail) 

_____  I will attend the keynote: ______   (9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. )  (free) 

_____  I will attend the Workshop and luncheon (meat and vegetarian selections will be available)  (11:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.) 

Registration fee:  $25 per person  (Make Check payable to Presbyterian Promise. For scholarship information, call Dick Hasbany)

Mail to Dick Hasbany, 195 Mill Rock Road, Hamden, CT  06517.  It must be received by October 15.

Deadline, October 15, 2005


Thank you, Brian!

At its meeting in August, Co-Moderator Brian Merritt advised the Board that he was resigning. Seems his wife Carol has taken a position at Western Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC, and he thinks the commute will be just a bit too long.
We are all most grateful to Brian for his leadership, enthusiasm and hard work. He has served as Co-Moderator for almost two years and has been on the board since 2003. We will sorely miss him! We wish Brian, Carol and Cala Godspeed!

And an Invitation

We will miss him particularly as we begin the Reconciling Dialogue Project. Presbyterian Promise has more work than ever. Have you ever thought about volunteering some time? We particularly need meeting organizers, fund raisers, and plain old event go-ers. Your commitment can be for a few hours — or a lot more. Please think about your gifts and your call and let us know! Write to us at PresbyPromise@att.net
Ralph Jones


First PFLAG Meeting Tuesday 

You are invited to the first organizational meeting of a new PFLAG chapter serving the Greater New Haven and Shoreline areas of Connecticut. The meeting will be on Tuesday, September 20, at 7:30 p.m. in the Sterling Room of the Church of the Redeemer, located at 185 Cold Spring Street (corner of Whitney Avenue) in New Haven. PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) seeks to support, educate and advocate on behalf of parents and relatives and their gay loved ones. 

Monthly chapter meetings will take place on the third Tuesday of every month, starting on October 18. The New Haven chapter may be reached at 203-907-0518 or via e-mail at greaternewhavenpflag@yahoo.com. If you're interested in helping us build the new chapter, or just want to find out what PFLAG is all about, please join us on September 20!

Dick Hasbany


I want to share in the work of Presbyterian Promise!

__ $500   __ $250   __ $100   __ $35   __ Other 

I can share these talents: 

Name  Phone 
Address  e-mail 
City ST Zip 

Please list my (our) name(s) as: __________________________________________________

Make checks payable to Presbyterian Promise and send to 704 Whitney Avenue, New Haven CT 06511


10 September
Board RDP Retreat
20 September
7:30 PM
PFLAG New Haven founding meeting at Church of the Redeemer
24 September
11 AM – 6 PM
Hartford PRIDE
Bushnell Park
18 October PFLAG NH meeting
22 October
9 AM - 2 PM
lunch included
Workshop with Marvin Ellison
What Do Good Relationships Ask of Us All: Same-Sex Marriage and Beyond
Westminster PC – West Hartford
23 October
10 AM
Worship with Marvin Ellison
Wilton Presbyterian Church
29 October
9:30 AM
Reconciling Dialogue: 
The LGBT Community
First Presbyterian, New Haven
28 November
7:30 PM
Barbara Wheeler 
on Peace, Unity and Purity
First Presbyterian, New Haven


Is published by
704 Whitney Avenue
New Haven CT

That All May Freely Serve

More Light Presbyterians
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 Church – Hartford CT 
(860) 246-2224
First Presbyterian Church – New Haven CT 
(203) 562-5664
First Presbyterian Church – Stamford CT 
(203) 324-9522
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 people….