More help for moving ahead
Food for reflection and discernment
to a more welcoming church
Click here for
earlier reports and comments on Amendment 08-B
For other reports on voting, often with commentary, check out:
Lisa Larges approved for ordination
After waiting 23 years, Lisa Larges was approved
for ordination on Tuesday evening, November 10, by the
Presbytery of San Francisco. The vote for ordination was 296
votes: 156 for, 138 against.
May Freely Serve, for whom Lisa serves as Minister Coordinator,
was approved as a validated ministry. 303 ballots were cast, and
152 votes were needed to pass the motion. The vote was 157 for,
144 against, with 2 abstentions.
Thanks be to God!
Beth Van Sickle
MLP Board Member
Click here for the report in the San Francisco Chronicle,
The San Francisco Presbytery agreed late
Tuesday to ordain the first openly homosexual minister
in the denomination.
The vote of 156 for and 138 against the
ordination came after hours of contentious debate at the
First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley. It is possible
that the decision to ordain Lisa Larges, a deacon at Noe
Valley Ministry Presbyterian Church, could be appealed.
It's a significant decision in the
Presbyterian church, which like many other religious
denominations around the country has struggled for years
over how to include gays and lesbians in church affairs.
"Change is happening in the churches,"
Larges said in a statement after the vote. "People are
realizing that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender
people have long functioned as contributing members of
their faith traditions. It is time to tell the truth -
we are all created in God's image."
The rest of the story >>
Presbyterian Outlook reports
that a "remedial complaint" will be filed, which would
put Larges' ordination on hold until the complaint is
Mary Holder Naegeli, a minister
from San Francisco Presbytery who has been involved
with earlier legal challenges to Larges’ efforts to
be ordained, released a statement to the news media
on Nov. 11, saying that “enough signatures were
collected at the close of the meeting to secure a
Stay of Enforcement while a remedial complaint is
filed with the Synod of the Pacific Permanent
How about a
lawsuit on behalf of clergy’s right to perform same-gender
Ronald Goetz, a "Proud PFLAG Dad" is proposing a
lawsuit on behalf of clergy and churches whose rights are being
violated because they cannot perform marriages for same-gender
couples. This is a turn-the-tables approach toward those
Christians who argue that marriage equality somehow violates
their freedom of religion. What do you think? Mr. Goetz is
looking for advice and input. He writes:
"Proposed Class-Action Lawsuit on Behalf of
Churches and Ordained Clergy Because of the Violation of their
First Amendment Right to Free Exercise of Religion"
There are many denominations that are on
record as supporting Marriage Equality and want to marry
same-sex couples as a matter of religious faith.
There are thousands of Open and Affirming
congregations nationwide that support Marriage Equality and want
to marry same-sex couples as a matter of religious faith.
There are additional thousands of ordained
clergy who want to marry same-sex couples because of their
The first amendment states, “Congress shall
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Congress includes state and local
jurisdictions, which cannot violate your civil rights either.
Thousands of churches and ordained clergy are
being denied the free exercise of their religion in violation of
their first amendment right.
I urge that this violation of the constitution
be resisted through a class-action lawsuit, or some other
appropriate vehicle. We are also guaranteed the right to
petition the government for redress of grievances.
I would like responsible parties (clergy,
denominational officials, attorneys) and enthusiastic supporters
to contact me. I need input, encouragement, and pro bono advice.
Please contact me at
and let me know what you think. Thanks!
forward this to anyone you think might be interested.
Proud PFLAG Dad
John Shuck, who posted this on
Shuck and Jive.
addresses Covenant Network conference as an evangelical who now
supports both marriage and ordination for LGBT persons
Dr. Mark Achtemeier, professor of theology at
University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, and a long-time
opponent of ordination of gays and lesbians, told the Covenant
Network gathering that he has shifted his position on the
marriage and ordination of lesbian and gay persons. Presbyterian
Outlook’s Leslie Scanlon provides a lengthy report on his
She explains that “Achtemeier, to his own
surprise, has made a trek through uncertain land over the last
eight years, a journey from life-long certainty that
homosexuality is ‘a kind of destructive addiction’ to what he is
today: a man who sees the Holy Spirit leading the church to ‘a
new and better place,’ and who thinks that gays and lesbians
should be able to marry and be ordained.”
In the kick-off plenary of the 2009
Covenant Network of Presbyterians gathering — which has
brought about 300 people to Cleveland Nov. 5-7 to consider
the theme of change in the church — Achtemeier gave his
testimony, telling the story of his journey in the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), from a man who grew up sure
that homosexual practice was wrong to one who now sees God
working in the committed relationships of his gay and
lesbian friends and in the faithfulness of their lives.
For her full report >>
Eric Mount, Rodes Professor of Religion at Centre College,
emeritus, at Presbyterian-related Centre College in Kentucky
Transylvania Presbytery’s preparation for the vote on G-6.0106b
offered seven regional gatherings that included ten minute
presentations by an advocate for each position. I was tapped to
speak on behalf of “New B” at several of the gatherings, and the
issue of biblical authority was central to the disagreement between
the spokesperson on the other side and me. He insisted that anyone
who believed that “Scripture alone” is authoritative for the belief
and practice of the church would reject the proposed change, and he
distributed a list of biblical references as proof. I took the
position that people could support the change because of the Bible
and not in spite of it, and I also made reference to the “Wesleyan
Quadrilateral,” which includes tradition, reason, and experience as
sources of authority along with the Bible. How is that for biting
off too much to chew in ten minutes!
Albert Outler, who coined the term “Wesleyan Quadrilateral” in 1964,
later rued the day that he did so because many concluded that
“quadrilateral” meant “equilateral.” John Wesley clearly did not
intend that recognizing other sources of authority should compromise
the centrality of biblical authority. In asking that the
contributions of tradition, reason, and experience be recognized, I
too did not mean to question the uniqueness and indispensability of
biblical authority for Christians. The pivotal role of the Bible in
defining our identities as Christians and informing our faith and
practice is not an elective but an essential requirement, but that
deference does not mean that biblical authority is exclusive or that
it is infallible on every subject in contemporary debates. At issue
for me and many others who share my position is the locus of
biblical authority (whether in a list of rules and regulations, for
example, or the workings of the Holy Spirit), the focus of biblical
authority (on the sovereignty God or the Lordship of Christ as
opposed to the sentences on the page), and the ways in which it can
work in tandem with the other sources of authority. My opponent in
the discussions seemed to believe that biblical truth and human
experience are airtight compartments, and that one must choose
either one or the other as one’s authority—Scripture alone or
experience alone. I beg to differ.
starters, let us consider the probability that drawing bright lines
of separation between the four cited sources of authority is an
oversimplification. Beginning with Scripture and experience, I would
first acknowledge that making one’s experience a shield against
encounter with unwelcome news from Scripture is a danger to be
reckoned with. However, it is also true the readers of Scripture
cannot avoid bringing their experience to that reading and that a
message that does not ultimately make sense in the light of our
experience will not be heard and appropriated. Furthermore, the
experience of biblical writers is reflected in their varied, even at
times contrasting, understandings of God and in the variety of ways
in which they understand “why bad things happen to good people.” In
turn, our experience will shape what explanations of suffering we
can fathom and embrace. The various liberation theologies show us
that the Bible is read differently from the underside than from a
position of privilege. I, for one, would not want to argue that the
spectacles of that marginalized experience are blinders to biblical
truth. We could say then that we, bringing our experience, enter
into a conversation with biblical writers, speaking out of their
experience as well as out of divine inspiration. The faith community
that produced and selected canonical scripture from its experience
is a dialogue partner with today’s faith community with its varied
Mention of reading from the underside moves us nicely to a blurring
of lines between Scripture and tradition as authorities. Martin
Luther’s protest against the papacy’s rendition of the biblical
faith (one example of tradition) does not mean that the unfolding
tradition of biblical interpretation after the era of biblical
events and communities does not produce “the breaking forth of more
light and truth from God’s holy Word,” as John Robinson put it. The
conversation mentioned above continues. And that conversation even
starts within the Bible itself as Scripture converses with Scripture
and differing interpretations and accounts emerge and are preserved.
The editors of the canon seem willing to include varied and even
contrasting accounts of pivotal events in the sacred story. Thus we
have two creation stories side by side, the merging of two flood
stories, the merging of two differing accounts of the exodus from
Egypt, the inclusion of two renditions of the receipt of the Torah
by Moses, two differing renditions of the occupation of Canaan
(Joshua and Judges), two renditions of David’s reign (the
Deuteronomic history and the Chronicler), four gospels, etc.
Galatians and James offer different interpretations of the Abraham
story, I Timothy derives a very different understanding of the
status of women from Genesis than Paul’s view in Galatians would
approve, and the views of Paul and James on faith and works are both
included despite their seeming differences. What we would call
tradition already begins in Scripture as Scripture interprets
Scripture, and the continued unfolding of tradition has brought
breakthroughs on slavery, the equality of women, and other
contentious issues. A conversation that includes variation,
contrast, and corroboration is ongoing. The faith community
continues to check and balance itself through the authority of the
then there is reason. Martin Luther had some harsh things to say
about reason, terming it a prostitute in at least one instance
because people can employ reason in the service of both noble and
ignoble ends. Notice, though, what he said when asked to recant his
Reformation-launching writings by Pope Leo X: “Unless I shall be
convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason, I
must be bound by these Scriptures which have been brought forward by
me. . . . [T}o go against conscience is neither safe nor right.”
Reason was evidently consulted. Faith informs the way we reason, but
reason can also contribute to our analysis of the Bible and
theology. John Calvin, the humanist as well as the Christian
theologian, thought that wisdom was forthcoming even from pagan
writers. Is it not possible that science can enlighten us about
matters that the writers of scripture did not fully fathom or, in
some instances, even consider? Given the dearth of attention to
homosexuality as an orientation in the Bible, might we have
something to learn about it from the American Academy of Pediatrics,
the American Anthropological Association, the American Association
for Marriage and Family Therapy, the American Counseling
Association, the American Medical Association, the American
Psychiatric Association, the American Psychoanalytic Association,
and the American Psychological Association? They have findings to
report and considerable consensus to relate.
Homosexuality and the Bible, Walter Wink makes a salient
point about the problem of authority. He finds the Bible rejecting
incest, rape, adultery, and bestiality and thinks virtually all
modern readers would agree. However, he finds the Bible condemning
seven sexual behaviors that we would generally allow and permitting
seven behaviors that we would condemn. These disparities lead him to
say that the Bible does not provide us with a sex ethic, but only
with a love ethic. We could debate individual items on his lists,
but he effectively challenges claims that the Bible is infallible in
its assumptions and directives about sexuality.
can say that biblical authority is central. After all, what gives us
Jesus? But it is also problematic . It presents Jesus as saying that
“not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law
until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18) and also saying, “But I
say to you . . .” (in contrast to ancient authorities). The Gospel
of John (16:12) has Jesus saying that he has others things to teach
his disciples, but not now. The Spirit of truth will take up that
educative function. Only God is an absolute authority, and regarding
every word of the Bible as infallible is idolatry. In this regard,
James Gustafson writes in the introduction to H. Richard Niebuhr’s
The Responsible Self about how Niebuhr’s radical monotheism
relates to biblical authority in Christian ethics. In relation to
authority of the One who is absolute, the authority of Scripture is
“mediate derived authority.” And although the Bible occupies a
unique role, the church has other mediate authorities, such as
nature (as understood by reason in the natural law tradition, for
example). Other communities also have a pluralism of mediate
authorities, as evidenced in science and politics. This pluralism
forces a balancing in which no one authority is absolute.
Gustafson continues, in a way, the church stands under the Bible
because of what it mediates; but in another way the church stands
beside the Bible, and rank orders are a mistake. The several sources
of authority are dialogue partners in a community held together by a
common Center of Value and inspired by the continuing influence of
the authority of the Holy Spirit. Thus our experience may
interrogate the Bible and tradition and conventional wisdom, and the
Bible may interrogate our experience, our traditions, and our
conventional wisdom. Both the Bible and our experience may have what
Niebuhr calls “corroborative authority” in an ongoing educational
dialogue, in a continuing corporate effort at discernment (as
recommended, for example, by the Theological Taskforce on the Peace,
Unity, and Purity of the Church). It is important to remember that
this is community activity and that in a community, authority is
jointly acknowledged, jointly debated, and jointly corroborated. And
the process should never become frozen in time and place.
Before my friendly opponent and I made our presentations at the
regional gatherings, we ate supper together along with our general
presbyter (who preached at each session) and the person presiding at
the gathering. We got to know each other pretty well and even joined
in the leadership of the communion service prior to the final vote
by the full presbytery. We could probably have given each other’s
presentation with precision if the other had been deterred from
showing up. As we sat together following our final effort, he
remarked that he appreciated the tone of our exchanges and that
neither of us had apparently budged the other even an inch. I
agreed. I don’t know how much we budged anyone else either. Although
our presbytery changed its stance on the original Amendment B vote
and supported G-6.0106b, I am under no illusions about how many
minds I changed. The debate on the floor of presbytery did not last
very long, and the most steam emerged in one commissioner’s effort
to reverse the decision to have a written ballot. People seemed to
arrive knowing where they stood, but the balance of positions on the
nature of biblical authority had shifted. Although the balance also
shifted in more than thirty other presbyteries that voted as we did
and many more that voted against “New B” by narrower margins than
before, the overall outcome supported the retention of Amendment B.
The conversation/argument will no doubt continue. Based on my
experience this time, I remain convinced that some widespread
assumptions about biblical authority still need to be challenged
without ceasing to acknowledge its indispensable and inescapable
|Church of Scotland and ordination of LGBT
Not ready to act – but there’s more
posted news from Scotland that the Church of Scotland had acted
to permit the Presbytery of Lochcarron-Skye to approve the
appointment of the Rev Scott Rennie, who is openly gay, to Queen’s
Cross Church in Aberdeenshire. That action was set aside, however,
when the General Assembly, meeting in Edinburgh, set up a study
committee on the matter, to report back to their next Assembly in
The Rev. John Mann, a former minister of the
PC(USA) who is now serving in Glasgow as a member of the Church of
Scotland, encourages us to avoid oversimplifying this matter, and
suggests looking at
a report by The Times, which is based largely on comments
by the Rev. Lindsay Biddle, who is his spouse, and is also serving a
church in Glasgow. She, however, has not transferred her membership
to the Church of Scotland, and so is not affected by the “gag rule”
which the Church of Scotland General Assembly has imposed on its own
Lindsay Biddle appeared earlier in May on an STV
news program report on Scott Rennie and his struggle to remain in
ministry after coming to terms with his own homosexuality.
Click here for the interview, which runs a little over two
John Mann sums it up by saying, “Those of us
working for justice are taking a positive rather than fatalistic
|Red Presbyteries, Blue
Presbyteries: Analysis of the Vote on Amendment 08B
by Dale A. Johnson
With the voting on
amendments to the Book of Order complete, some analysis of
the results of the most contested amendment, to change the language
of G-6.0106b, is urgently needed. Thanks to the several websites
that have kept close watch on presbytery votes over the past several
months—they include the
following the process by date of voting and running total; the
organizing alphabetically, with tallies from the three previous
voting opportunities; and the spreadsheet from
Bruce Hahne’s blog,
giving presbytery and raw votes, comparisons with 2001-02, and
percentage changes for and against 6b in these two ballotings—even
those of us without complex data analysis software are able to make
some judgments about what has happened, what the history of the
votes might mean, and what all this might say about future activity
on this contested issue in the denomination.
Anyone with even modest interest in the thirty-plus
years of discussion of homosexuality in the church will know that
the proposed amendment from the 218th General Assembly
has been defeated, but by a smaller margin than in any of the
earlier votes since G-6.0106b was ratified in 1996-97. Two
intervening attempts to change the language, the first in 1997-98
with a more generalized text, and the second in 2001-02 by deleting
6b and adding a new sentence specifying the authority of the
governing body to determine suitability to hold office, were each
defeated by a larger margin (67%-33% in 1998 and 73%-27% in 2002)
than 6b had been approved by initially (57%-43%). Because each
amendment addressed the issue in a different way, it is not easy to
make comparisons between them. One might draw a broad conclusion,
for example, that the church cared less for a generalized 6b than
the more detailed language—“fidelity within the covenant of marriage
between a man and a woman” and “self-acknowledged practice which the
confessions call sin”—and even less for the elimination of that
language altogether. Further, that the church could be somewhat more
attracted to the more subtle language of 08B referring to
constitutional questions for ordination and installation, the
authorities of the faith (Christ, Scripture, Confessions), and the
responsibilities of governing bodies to establish a candidate’s
sincere efforts to adhere to these standards. That, however, is just
a guess. The shift away from increasing margins of support for 6b
this time around may more simply be explained by the increasing
support for gay rights in the culture at large and by the drop in
the number of votes against the amendment (down by almost 19%,
leaving aside the four presbyteries that provided only voice vote
judgments, two on each side). This latter decline could again be
attributed to membership losses in the denomination over the past
several years, both in the congregations and individuals who have
departed because of differences with the perceived directions of the
church, rather than to any particular change of view or loss of
Much enthusiasm has been displayed by pro-amendment
groups in the shifts from the 2001-02 vote: 34 flips from No to Yes,
a 5.6% gain in raw vote to a 49% total. All that is significant, but
I believe that the analysis should not stop there. Religious
language is appropriate, of course, to the arguments, but
insufficient as explanations—“the need for a genuine biblical
ethic,” on the one hand, or “what God is doing in the church,” on
the other. When I returned from my involvement as an elder
commissioner to the 2008 General Assembly, I told several people
that “I came for politics, but I got a whole lot more.” Now, in
retrospect, having followed the voting on 08B closely, I think it
would have been good to have gotten a bit more politics, too.
national map provided by the Presbyterian Coalition to track the
votes on 08B suggests the title for this analysis, for the
presbyteries are color-coded red for opposing the amendment and blue
for supporting it. Such coding obviously calls to mind the political
analysis of the last presidential election, as well as any others
that have used tracking polls and other data to ask what the odds
are that a particular candidate or ballot measure would win, to make
projections as to how a race will turn out once all the votes have
been counted, and to ponder what the election might imply for the
immediate future. It would not have been unseemly for the
commissioners at the last General Assembly to calculate the chances
of a controversial overture being passed by the church or to project
the difficulty of surmounting the hurdles that two previous votes
had placed in the path of revision of the Book of Order. When
opponents of what became 08B made their case, it was largely in
terms of the threat that membership losses would escalate; and
neither side asked what would happen after winning or losing when it
became apparent that the church is almost evenly divided on the
In reviewing voting
patterns of presbyteries for an earlier contribution to the
Witherspoon Society website (February,
I offered three organizational categories to help frame the
discussion: those solidly on the 6b side (that is, for the “fidelity
and chastity” requirement), those solidly against 6b, and those that
could be labeled “too close to call” (with modest later revisions
for accuracy, 89, 41, and 38 respectively). Five presbyteries in the
latter category were in group favoring 6b, and seven in the group
opposing 6b, but with slimmer margins in the three voting
opportunities that warranted some hesitation. In the pro-6b group,
75 continued their support (I count Suroeste, which has yet to vote,
in this number), while 14 flipped—certainly the most notable of the
shifts of position on the issue. Of those presbyteries consistently
against 6b, only two did not support the amendment (San Francisco
and Sierra Blanca, the latter a “too close” presbytery from the
start). In the “too close” category, clearly a judgment call, 27
supported the amendment and 11 opposed it. While these sets of
results have given hope to the persons and groups opposed to 6b,
they also should set the longer task of “so much done, so much yet
contrast of 34 and 2 in the flips from the 2001-02 vote has
certainly been dramatic, but the initial gap was so great that the
gains can be misleading. A comparison with the original vote to
establish 6b is more sobering. Here the flips (Yes in 1996-97 to Yes
in 2008-09, No to No) are 16 to 13, respectively, where the needed
gain was roughly 13 to accomplish the change. Nine presbyteries
stand as consistently contrarian (two of them with tie votes this
year), opposing each of the four resolutions, while no presbytery
has consistently supported them. A solid 10-12 additional flips
would be needed in order to remove or revise 6b. Where will that
look at the votes from the presbyteries reveals that, just as in our
national elections, the church is not “one person, one vote.” Even a
rough calculation of the demographics offers interesting
comparisons. Of the over 75 presbyteries that registered one hundred
or fewer votes this time around, votes against the amendment more
than doubled those supporting it. In presbyteries with between
101-200 votes, supporters of the amendment led by 39-30. And in
presbyteries with more than 200 votes, the Yes votes led by 13-11.
There is no direct correlation between size of presbytery and
urbanization, of course; but one might make a tentative judgment
that the more rural the area, the less likely the church is to
support inclusive ordination. It is at least worth noting that the
roster of presbyteries in the category of most dramatic flips into
the Yes column includes the cities of Charlotte, Birmingham,
Atlanta, Philadelphia, Dallas-Ft. Worth, and Los Angeles.
at the voting from a regional perspective also offers insights.
First, comparing synods: Alaska-Northwest, Southern California and
Hawaii, South Atlantic, and Puerto Rico voted strongly against the
amendment, while Northeast, Lincoln Trails, and Covenant voted
strongly for it. From a wider regional perspective, here following
the NCAA basketball divisions, West (11-27) and South (12-33) oppose
the amendment, while East (24-14) and Mideast (31-20) support it.
Quite apart from the contested views regarding a biblical ethic or
justice questions, this church is divided demographically and
regionally. If the more religious and moral questions are uppermost
in our ongoing considerations, surely these other factors are
relevant, too, as the next stage of discussion ensues.
was it? With three tied votes (Central Nebraska, Cincinnati, and
Mission) counting in the negative column, and fourteen additional
presbyteries where the margin was five votes or less, the vote was
closer than a 78-94 published result would indicate. But since the
margins could tilt in either direction, neither side should claim
too much. How much is victory worth? When next to take up the
cudgels? How might some diversity be possible in a divided church?
The questions for the church’s leaders at every level—congregation,
presbytery, synod, and national—are too serious to let the
discussion stop now that the voting is over.
Dale Johnson, who lives in Nashville, Tenn., was
an elder commissioner to the 2008 General Assembly and a member of
the Church Orders and Ministry Committee, which considered the
overtures dealing with ordination. He is emeritus professor of
church history at Vanderbilt Divinity School.
If you have thoughts or
to add to this analysis
send a note
to be shared here.
|The South makes the difference
A comment on this article from Gordon
Shull, a Witherspoon member in Wooster, Ohio:
Dale Johnson's analysis makes it
possible to discern that the Southern presbyteries
tipped the scales. With the South, the amendment
loses 78-94. Without the South, it wins 66-61.
I did a similar calculation on the
original vote on G6.0106B. With the South, the
amendment won 96-71. Without the South it would have
Am I still an ecumaniac? I don't
know: ecumenicity has its price.
May 27, 2009
|Church of Scotland backs away from its stand for
This report (with plenty of commentary) comes from
John Knox struck up the alleluias too soon it
appears. The Church of Scotland (behaving like all superstitious and
fearful cults--like the PCUSA) gave into its homophobic element.
I praised it yesterday for approving an openly gay man as
minister. The backlash has begun.
Instead of outright rejecting a motion similar to
the PCUSA's G-6.0106b (effectively banning gays without mentioning
them), the General Assembly decided to set up a commission.
From the BBC:
The Church of Scotland has avoided a
potentially damaging debate about whether gay people should be
allowed to become Kirk ministers.
At its General Assembly in Edinburgh, it
was decided instead that a special commission should be set up
to consider the matter and report in 2011.
There will be a two-year ban on the future
ordination of gay ministers.
"Avoided a potentially damaging debate" says the
news. Potentially damaging to whom? Those of us who have watched
commission after commission in the 35 year struggle in the PCUSA
know what these commissions end up doing.
The Church of Scotland will experience a shit
storm of fear-mongering for two years. At the end of this time, the
beleaguered commission will come up with some report. It makes no
difference what the report will say. Fundamentalist forces will
wrest control and tell the same lies and offer the same threats that
have been made here for the past third of a century. Then they will
come up with some horrific rule (just like G-6.0106b).
The Church of Scotland will be no further ahead
then than they are now.
It was fun for a day.
Scotland GA approves church's call of openly gay minister
After 3 1/2 hours of debate, the General Assembly of
The Church of Scotland meeting in Edinburgh on Saturday evening, May
23, 2009, voted 326 for and 267 against the Presbytery of Aberdeen's
action (taken in January 2009) to sustain the call (issued in
November 2008) from Queen's Cross Parish Church in Aberdeen, to the
Rev. Scott Rennie, an openly-gay minister in The Church of Scotland
who is in a committed relationship with his Christian partner,
David, who is a religious education teacher.
We thank God for an inclusive church, where all
This welcome news comes to us
from the Rev. Lindsay Louise Biddle, a minister of the PC(USA), who
is now serving the Church of Scotland in Glasgow along with her
husband, the Rev. John Mann.
Click here for the Associated Press report >>
But beware: The AP, like
a number of others, makes the mistaken assumption that the Church of
Scotland is related to the Church of England, and is thus a part of
the worldwide Anglican Communion, so that this policy decision is
seen as reflecting the Anglican struggles over gay ordination.
We know that is not the case!
|More presbyteries switch to support inclusive
|A late addition:
One more switch for inclusion
Presbytery of Missouri River Valley
and Southwestern Iowa) tonight approved Amendment 08-B
by a vote of 50-41-6, becoming the 34th to switch in
favor compared to 2001-2. The presbytery
had faced a recommendation to take no action, but voted
that down; in addition, they directed a committee to
design and implement a plan for further dialogue about
this and other controversial issues, keeping the
Thanks to Tricia
Dykers Koenig of Covenant Network
Over the past two weeks two more presbyteries have
shifted their votes in support of amendment 08-B, which opens the
door further to ordination of LGBT Presbyterians by making clear
that suitability for ordination does not hinge on sexual
On May 9, the Presbytery of Utah approved
Amendment 08-B by a voted of 28 to 25.
On May 8, the Presbytery of Northern Waters
voted Yes on 08-B by 53 to 11, which is a 25% pro-LGBT shift from
its vote in 2002.
Then on May 12, by a vote of 100 - 90 - 3, the
Pacific Presbytery became the 33rd presbytery to switch from
opposition in 2002 to support for LGBT equality and justice in 2009.
The same day, the Presbytery of East Iowa
voted Yes on 08-B, 74 to 21, which is a 25% pro-LGBT shift from its
vote in 2002.
Thus far, with the last presbytery vote scheduled
for May 30, 77 presbyteries have approved the amendment for
inclusive ordination, which is 35 more than the final count of 42 in
2002. Michael Adee, of More Light Presbyterians, who has furnished
these reports, concludes his own report: “As the prophet Isaiah
spoke, ‘surely God is doing a new thing in our midst.’ ” To which we
can only say Amen.
For a careful and insightful analysis of the
voting, you may want to look at
Bruce Hahne’s statistics and commentary.
|Voting on 08-B goes on,
with surprises happy and not-so-happy
While your Web-Weaver has been in the beautiful
Blue Ridge Mountains of North Georgia for his son’s wedding (ask me
about it sometime – a wondrous experience in the diversity of life
these days!), a few presbyteries have taken their actions on the
proposed amendment to the Presbyterian Church’s Book of Order, which
would have eliminated definitively the old G-6.0106b ban on
ordination of anyone living in a same-sex relationship.
It is now clear that the amendment will not be
passed, but the voting is still significant as a statement of
progress that is being made in our church. So here are reports from
some of the voting last week:
The Presbytery of Middle Tennessee voted on May 7, according
to Gene TeSelle, "95 for, 139 against, and 1 courageous abstention."
His report continues:
It has been difficult to predict the vote.
Middle Tennessee voted against Amendment B in 1996-97, probably
because it looked like something new, intruding on presbytery's
prerogatives. But it voted against any change in 2001-02,
perhaps because it was now the existing law.
A presbytery task force had carefully
organized a series of three discussions on Sunday afternoons
(simultaneously in five different locations). The impression is
that these were attended mostly by people favorable to 08-B, and
that attendance from small town and rural areas was lower than
from the greater Nashville area. But impressions, of course, are
Before the vote, a number of ministers and
elders received a copy of the agenda with a box saying "Vote
No," just like what you receive outside your precinct on
election day. With it were two statements from conservative
ministers in the presbytery, with bullets on why the amendment
was wrong and counterproductive.
Two procedural observations. The committee had
recommended that there be a vote, that there be five-minute
statements from one proponent and one opponent, then that
statements be two minutes, alternating pro and con, and that the
vote be by written ballot. (a) They forgot to mention that only
commissioners should vote, and this was announced only after
ballots had been distributed. And (b) the last time, proponents
and opponents who wished to speak gathered at the front and
lined up, and were able to yield to each other as the debate
went on. This time, since no one had thought about it, speakers
rose one by one from the floor, making it difficult for them to
decide who should speak and when.
John Shuck added this comment on the Middle Tennessee vote:
The anti-equality forces mobilized in Middle
Tennessee Presbytery today, defeating B, 95-139 compared to 95-118
last time. Those hoping for a flip received a sober slap in the
face. Let us learn from this.
Equality is not automatic.
Alan Wisdom of the IRD writes in
After the Vote:
There is a larger "progressive" narrative
operating here. Our liberal friends are convinced that history
is on a steady leftward course: towards greater individual moral
autonomy, greater freedom in entering and exiting sexual
relationships, and reduced relevance of traditions or
authorities that might restrain individual autonomy and freedom.
(If they are religious, our friends hail these trends as the
will of an "inclusive" God.)
Progressives see themselves as "prophetic."
History will vindicate them, they are sure, and they will become
the majority and sweep us conservatives into the dustbin. If
they don’t win a vote today, they will win it tomorrow. And if
society goes their way, then the Church must surely follow.
This "progressive" myth has many obvious
problems. The Church does not always follow the culture.
Sometimes it resists the culture. Sometimes it changes the
culture. Christians in past generations have taken stands
against dueling, abandonment of unwanted infants, and
polygamy—all common in their day, and all rare today.
Did you get that? Wisdom compares LGBT equality
with "dueling, abandonment of unwanted infants, and polygamy." He
had to dig deep into the recesses of his phobias to find those
But Wisdom does have a point. Equality and justice
are not automatic. The culture of empire that the IRD represents and
the deity that it worships is well-funded, full of fear, and
overflowing with falsehoods. Remember what happened to the Southern
Have you read Jeff Sharlet's The Family
yet? You really should. Just don't read it alone at night.
We should celebrate what has happened in our New
England states, but without vigilance and action, rights and
freedoms can be taken away just as quickly (i.e. California).
People think that the younger generation is more
accepting of gay and lesbian folks. Yes, but...young people can be
turned into fundamentalists too as they are educated in their home
schools and churches that Adam and Eve (not Adam and Steve) hung out
with the dinosaurs.
Things can change for the worse. All it takes is a
prolonged economic downturn and a smooth-talking theocrat steps in
to save the day with a scapegoat at hand.
Niebuhr warned us not to rely on "progress."
Justice is not automatic.
The Presbytery of Northern Waters (northern
Minnesota and Wisconsin) met on May 7, and voted in favor of 08-B,
by 52 to 11. Just in from our presbytery meeting.
Thanks to the Rev. David
Oliver-Holder, of Bayfield, Wisconsin, for this report.
Utah makes the shift for inclusion and equality
The Presbytery of Utah, meeting on Saturday, May
9, voted in favor of amendment B, by 28 to 25. This was a major
shift from a vote of 21-32 against equality last time. The
Presbytery of Utah thus became the 32nd presbytery to shift from
opposing inclusion in 2002, to supporting equality in 2009.
Tricia Dykers Koenig of Covenant Network adds
I've seen a report that Dakota Presbytery
(non-geographical Native American) disapproved unanimously in a
voice vote last weekend .... That brings the presbytery tally to
74-90. The Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley, which approved 08-B
in February, at today's meeting was facing a motion from two
Sessions to rescind their previous vote – but the motion was
withdrawn, so the prospect of a cycle of do-overs was avoided,
thanks be! ...
Utah's approval of 08-B reaches a milestone record
of 75 presbyteries that support ordination standards based upon
faith and character, not marital status or sexual orientation. We
rejoice that 75 presbyteries call for the end of discrimination
against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Presbyterians who are
gifted and called by God to serve as Ministers, Elders and Deacons.
We now stand at 75 supportive presbyteries which
is already 33 more than the final count of 42 in 2002 with more
presbyteries yet to vote. The last presbytery vote is scheduled for
May 30. As the prophet Isaiah spoke, "surely God is doing a new
thing in our midst."
Two more presbyteries shift to support
In their meetings today, the presbyteries of
Lehigh (Eastern Pennsylvania, by a vote of 60-46-2) and Detroit (by
141-92) brought the number of presbyteries switching from their
2001-2 opposition to 30, and the total approving Amendment 08-B to
Thanks to Tricia Dykers-Koenig of
Amendment 08-B will not be approved, but
the struggle for a more just and inclusive PC(USA) will continue
by Doug King, your WebWeaver
April 25, the number of presbyteries voting against Amendment 08-B
reached a total of 87, which constitutes a majority of presbyteries,
and thus defeats the proposed amendment of the Book of Order.
Amendment 08-B, which would have removed the explicit ban on
ordination of LGBT members of the church, will still be voted on in
a number of presbyteries, and it’s important to keep working on
those votes, for they will be counted in the final tally.
The Presbytery de Cristo (Southern Arizona and
Southwest New Mexico) maintained its previous support (59-48), but
Sierra Blanca (Eastern New Mexico) did not (23-30), becoming the
second presbytery (after San Francisco) to shift from previously
supporting inclusion to opposing it in this vote. Also, the
Presbyteries of Boise (Southwest Idaho, by a vote of 25-34) and
Northern Plains (North Dakota, by 21-33) continued their rejection
of the change in ordination standards.
The current tally stands at 69 in favor of 08-B,
with 88 having voted against. (Actually, three of the “No” votes
were ties, which are counted as No votes.)
Fifteen other presbyteries have yet to vote, and
judging by past actions, at least five of them seem likely to
support the change.
So what's next?
national reporter Leslie Scanlon offers
a very good survey of the situation, including opinions on both
sides of the issue, and some astute analysis as well. She writes:
... [T]he result has already been determined: the “fidelity and
chastity” standard will stay.
Despite that, however, this vote has convinced virtually no one that
the gay ordination issue is now dead and buried in the PC(USA). Why?
For one reason, the vote was closer this time than ever before –
with 27 of the 127 presbyteries that wanted to keep “fidelity and
chastity” the last time around (when the vote was taken in 2001 and
2002) voting this time to change the standard. Many presbyteries in
the South – for example, four of the five presbyteries in North
Carolina – shifted. Only one presbytery – San Francisco, in a close
177-167 vote – flipped the other way. [She was apparently not yet
aware of the negative vote in Sierra Blanca.]
even though a majority of the 173 presbyteries have voted to retain
“fidelity and chastity,” there’s been a visible, almost visceral
shift in the support – with the final vote when all the presbyteries
have weighed in expected to be closer than ever before.
What is this “visceral shift”? Many observers have
noted, as Scanlon does, the number of presbyteries even in the South
that have shifted from their long-standing opposition to inclusive
ordination to support for it. This shift is seen against the
background of clear changes in our culture, ranging for legalization
of same-sex marriage in at least four states, to increasing
awareness among straight people that they know LGBT people and find
them to be ordinary human beings, not the strange specimens they’ve
often been portrayed as being.
do “bend toward justice”
The Rev. Dr. Janet Edwards, co-moderator of More
Light Presbyterians, has captured this well in
her essay for the Washington Post. She takes her title
from the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, calling it “Presbyterians
Bending Toward Justice.”
It seems as if, slowly and sometimes painfully, we
Presbyterians are catching on to the wild idea that God is more
interested in love and justice than in some ancient notions of
The trends are
As More Light Presbyterians notes in
their statement following the weekend votes:
The trends are clear: the Presbyterian Church (USA) is remarkably
close to removing the barriers so that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and
Transgender people can faithfully answer God's call to serve. The
witness of this ratification process across the country indicates
without a doubt that a growing number of Presbyterians believe that
LGBT persons and their families should have the same opportunities
and responsibilities of full participation, membership and ordained
service in our Church offered to their heterosexual sisters and
is the way to go
The Rev. John Shuck, pastor of First Presbyterian
Church in Elizabethton, Tennessee, and a strong supporter of an
inclusive church, responds to the defeat of Amendment 08-B by
arguing that continuing legislative efforts are needed. Citing Janet
Edwards’ article and the shifts in presbytery voting, as well as
attitudes toward homosexuality and same-sex marriage, reflected
in surveys reported by Forbes magazine and others, he
For those like myself who see this change as positive and who work
for it in the civil and in the ecclesiastical worlds, we think the
method of advocating legislative change is going pretty well.
► It provides the best opportunity available to
change hearts and minds.
► It encourages individuals to speak and to
work toward removing discriminatory barriers.
► It reflects the trend toward equality in
church and society.
will continue through legislative means to give the church the
opportunity to vote for equality and non-discrimination.
One church is
already going down that legislative route
In one very concrete response, Northside
Presbyterian Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has already approved
another amendment to the Book of Order, which “would allow the
ordination of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT)
They will send this overture to the Presbytery of
Detroit for action, and if approved there it will be sent to the
219th General Assembly in 2010. Their hope, of course, is that be
approved there, and sent again to all the presbyteries for another
Thoughts from one
These cogitations from your WebWeaver are my own,
offered on behalf of the Witherspoon Society to our own members and
the church at large, but not reflecting any official action by the
Board. We welcome your comments and suggestions!
send a note, and (unless you specify otherwise) we’ll share it
here. Doug King
One Presbyterian elder wrote a note to her pastor,
which he shared on an MLP email list. She wrote:
is heartbreaking that we as a church are still not ready to love
each other heart and soul – just as we are. But we all have to get
to the place of acceptance and I am not patient – (the hardest
lesson for me) but I know it will come.
job now is to be open to people where they are, to listen to fears,
and to respond in love.
Perhaps that’s a good place to start –
acknowledging the pain we all feel as walls of separation remain
standing, exclusion continues, and people are condemned for simply
being who they are.
But this is also a time to move forward, buoyed by
shifts that are clearly present in the Presbyterian Church and in
our wider society, and energized by the patient, unfailing grace of
God toward all people.
It’s not clear yet just what forms that forward
movement might take, but here are a few thoughts gleaned mostly from
what others are saying and writing.
► We must not stop our efforts for change. As the struggles
for racial justice and for equality for women have shown us, change
comes, but slowly, and often at great cost. But the struggle must go
► The work must be guided by those whose lives are on the
line – the ones directly impacted by the walls of exclusion and the
systems of oppression.
► Changing the rules in the Presbyterian Book of Order must
remain a major focus.
► As in votes on proposed amendments in the past, there is
a danger that amendments offered at the next General Assembly, in
2010, will be greeted with great groans of weariness, and even if
passed by the Assembly, will be buried in the presbyteries by people
who feel they’ve said what they have to say about inclusive
ordination, and don’t want to hear about it again.
► It seems therefore that coming back with proposed changes
that have already been considered may be unfruitful. It might be
helpful, though, to do some serious rethinking of the issues and of
the proposed steps forward, offering a new approach that could give
people a chance to rethink their positions.
► Presbyterians love to study, and this could be a
challenging focus for just such study. This would not be a
call for more delay, but an urgent invitation for people to gather
voluntarily in their presbyteries, or in affinity groups, or just in
little groups that want things to get better in the Presbyterian
Church (USA), to seek fresh approaches, fresh ways to think and talk
about justice and grace and sexuality. Organizations such as
Witherspoon, and More Light Presbyterians, the Covenant Network and
That All May Freely Serve, and many others might join together in
supporting and resourcing these efforts.
► The hope would be that some of these small-group
conversations could produce proposals for amendments to the Book of
Order, or for other steps forward. They could present them in
presbyteries, and seek to move them on to the 2010 General Assembly
► Some of these groups might shift their focus from
ordination to other gender-related issues, and specifically the
question of same-sex marriage. There will be a report on this
subject coming to the 219th General Assembly, and
proposals might well build on that.
Other reports and comments:
Jerry L. Van Marter of
Presbyterian News Service
lists the presbyteries voting for and against the amendment, and
those shifting from one position to the other. He also notes that
“Twenty-seven of the 127 presbyteries that voted ‘No’ in 2001-2002 –
plus Western New York Presbytery, which voted to take ‘no action’
last time – have voted in favor of this year's amendment. Two
presbyteries that voted ‘Yes’ last time - San Francisco and Sierra
Blanca - have switched to a ‘No’ this year.”
The full story >>
The Layman reports
that Terry Schlossberg, coordinator the Presbyterian Coalition’s
Campaign to Defeat Amendment B, declared that “It is time to
accept the Church's decision. Since the 1970s the PCUSA has heard,
considered and responded to appeals to change her standard of sexual
morality. Those who wish to change the Biblically-rooted standard
have continually pressed the matter and required repeated votes that
have had the same outcome each time. It is well past time to
acknowledge that the Church today, as throughout her history, knows
her mind on this matter, and that it is the mind of Christ. It is
time to call for forbearance from those who constantly disturb the
peace and unity of the church.”
Institute on Religion and Democracy
IRD’s Vice President for Research and Programs, and Director of
Presbyterian Action, writes:
This is fourth
time in 12 years that PCUSA presbyteries have voted on sexuality
standards. Each time they have upheld “fidelity and chastity.”
If ever there were a case when the church had made up its mind
on an issue, this is it. Faithful Presbyterians ask the
proponents of non-marital relationships to stop forcing this
divisive issue and instead endeavor to live within the church’s
Witherspoon member comments:
The Rev. Bobbie
McGarey, pastor and Witherspoon member, gets the last word. Or two
Well this vote is in....
And as a beautiful lady
said to a colleague and me following a vote in GA at Ft. Worth,
"Don't worry darlin's.
Just remember, sometimes it's a long way around the teacup till you
get to the handle. I've been there. – Don't give up."
I read today an article
about Bishop Desmond Tutu and discovered this quote on the
Appointment of the Anglican Bishop Gene Robinson:
Tutu has remarked that
it is sad the Church is spending time disagreeing on sexual
orientation "when we face so many devastating problems – poverty,
HIV/AIDS, war and conflict."
Well so it goes.
Here is the reference
given for the Tutu, from
Click here and you’ll find the quote in the second paragraph
on “Church reform,” with a link to another source.
The Rev. Bobbie
McGarey is Interim Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Lawton,
|Two more presbyteries shift to approve Amendment
08-B, but San Francisco shifts to oppose inclusion
A number of presbyteries have met this week to vote
on proposed amendments to the Book of Order, and two of them shifted
from opposing the ordination of LGBT Presbyterians to approving
(in North Carolina) approved the change by a vote of 156 to 149,
with one abstention, while Wabash
Valley Presbytery (in Indiana) voted 78 to 60. Both of these
were shifts from their opposition to ordination equality in 2001-2.
Presbytery first rejected a
recommendation from their Bills and Overtures Committee for “No
Action” by a resounding voice vote, and then approved the amendment
by 222 to 102, with one abstention.
But San Francisco
Presbytery, a traditionally supportive presbytery, became the
first one this year to shift from support of inclusive ordination to
reject Amendment 08-B, by a vote of 167 affirmative votes to 177
negative, with 4 abstentions.
That leaves the total tally thus far at 68
presbyteries in favor of 08-B and 85 opposed.
As Tricia Dykers-Koenig of Covenant Network
comments, “Because 87 is the number needed for passage, it would
take an even bigger miracle than we have yet experienced for the
amendment to be approved (nothing is impossible with God!); yet we
continue to rejoice in the progress we have made, and continue to
work in the presbyteries that have yet to vote. Even if we don't
amend the Book of Order this year, we are on track to do better than
ever before; let's keep sending a strong signal about where the
PCUSA is headed, and let's keep engaging in the respectful witness
that advances our cause regardless of vote totals.”
Thanks to Covenant
Network and More Light Presbyterians for these reports.
|Two presbyteries have voted today on Amendment
The Presbytery of San Jose, meeting at the Los
Gatos Presbyterian Church, Los Gatos, California, voted 84 Yes to 81
No to approve the 218th General Assembly's Ordination Amendment
08-B. They were the 65th presbytery to approve the
But also today, the Presbytery of South
Louisiana came closer than in the past to approving inclusive
ordination, with a vote of 42 Yes to 55 No. Still not enough, but
the last vote was 51 to 71.
So the total of presbytery votes so far is 65 Yes
to 82 No.
Scroll down for more on Amendment 08-B ...
|... but South Louisiana voted No
The Rev. John
Shuck offers this painful but helpful comment this evening on his
always lively, always thoughtful blog,
Shuck and Jive
And that is the clincher, I am afraid. I held out
for a win until it was pretty much mathematically impossible to do
so. With the score 65-82, only five presbyteries are needed to
defeat it. There are five presbyteries that have historically voted
'no' unanimously or nearly so still yet to vote.
Now, team, we play for pride.
Our motivation is first of all to change hearts and minds one by
one. This is the opportunity to tell the stories and to witness to
the inclusive love of the gospel by proclaiming the equality of all
We also play the spoiler.
What we want to spoil is the claim by the voices against equality
that the church has 'decisively spoken four times with increasing
margins, blah, blah, blah....'
We have spoiled that already. 25 presbyteries have switched from no
to yes, and the margin within most presbyteries who have voted no
has decreased. The "popular vote" is nearly equal. These are clear
factors that the denomination is moving toward equality. There is no
decisive voice. We are about dead even and everyday hearts and minds
change for equality.
This means we need to make this presbytery vote as close as possible
and perhaps win the 'popular vote.' All of that matters as we look
ahead to 2010.
has a great analysis of all of this as well as commentary. He
reminds us that we are in a marathon not a sprint.
‘In a certain city there was a judge
who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city
there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, “Grant me
justice against my opponent.” For a while he refused; but later
he said to himself, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect
for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will
grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by
|A Tale of Two
Pastors & Two Different Kinds of Churches
of More Light Presbyterians
reflects on a newspaper report on the Grace Presbytery (Texas)
meeting which approved Amendment 08-B by a vote of 203 to 182.
I do not know Rev. Kathy Collier or Rev. Ron
Scates. They are the 2 pastors quoted in today's Dallas Morning
News' article "North Texas Presbyterian leaders vote to ease way
for gays' ordination" by Sam Hodges. The entire article about Grace
Presbytery's recent vote of 203-182 in favor of the 218th General
Assembly's Ordination Amendment 08-B can be
found on their website >>.
Certainly one or two quotations do not sum up a
human being, or give a fully accurate picture of someone or the
totality of their beliefs and values. However, I was struck by the
profound contrast of these statements made by 2 pastors who serve
Presbyterian churches within Grace Presbytery in north Texas.
In many ways, the contrast between Collier’s and
Scates’ statements may indeed reflect and reveal two profoundly
different understandings of God's creation, faith, Scripture,
ministry and what it means to be the Church. Frankly, I see,
experience and feel "grace" in one and "law" in the other. Jesus
lived and spoke often about such things.
On the one hand, for Rev. Scates: the sky is
falling, the Church has lost its way, he appeals to fear and
threatens schism when Ordination change occurs. "The PC(USA) is just
one symptom of the greater demise of the American church, which has
lost its biblical moorings," he said. Scates added that he's
confident the language will not be changed in this national vote,
but he wasn't so sure about the next time. "It may pass, in which
case you're going to see the PC(USA) fly apart."
I would not recommend Scates' picture of the
Church to an evangelism committee working on outreach in their
community, to a confirmation class or youth group, or frankly
consider it a life-giving one for my own heart and soul.
To be fair, of course, this is not the only thing
Rev. Scates has ever said about the Church or Christian faith.
However, this is what he chose and did say knowing he would be
quoted and that his words in that moment would "paint" a picture of
God, faith and the Church to everyone who might read the story.
On the other hand, Rev. Collier said: "This is a
call from God for us to welcome all of God's children." As Sam
Hodges reported from the presbytery meeting: "Kathy Collier, pastor
of First Presbyterian of Forney, supported the change, saying it was
past time for the denomination to accept qualified pastoral
candidates regardless of their sexual orientation."
Collier said this is the God who calls us to be
open, loving and welcoming to all of God's children – and that all
of us are God's children, part of God's good creation, not just some
of us. Collier calls for a Church that is accepting, not one that
discriminates. Collier paints a picture of God and the Church as
open, welcoming, full of grace.
Based upon these two statements and their
connotations – which are only snapshots, of course – which picture
of God, faith and the Church, essentially of Christianity, do you
want to prevail? Which picture do you want to be "the last word"
about what it means to be Presbyterian, to be Christian, to be a
follower of Christ?
For me, Jesus paints the picture for all of us as
recorded in the Gospel of Mark 12: 28 - 31 when he was asked what
was the most important commandment. Jesus said: "You shall love the
Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with
all of your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this,
"You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
The sacred gift of Amendment 08-B for our Church,
and every local congregation, is that it restores the importance of
faith, character and love while removing barriers to being part of
God's church and following one's call to ministry regardless of
one's marital status, sexuality or other human conditions.
For the story from the Dallas Morning News >>
|Northern New York and Long Island presbyteries
continue support for inclusion and justice
The Presbytery of Northern New
York approved Amendment 08-B by voice vote today, following its
pattern of support for ordination of LGBT Presbyterians in the past.
Terry de la Vega, an Elder in First Presbyterian
Church, Potsdam, NY, says: "The votes were not counted, so we
do not know the exact level of support, which was kind of
anti-climactic for me. In any case, when we gave our voice vote, Yes
was decidedly louder than No, which was good enough for our
moderator to call it. I hope and pray the momentum keeps going until
we reach 87 Yes presbyteries!"
To which we can only say Amen!
And the Presbytery of Long Island,
also meeting today, voted by 78 to 29 to approve Amendment 08-B.
That leaves the tally of presbytery votes at 64 in
favor of Amendment 08-B, and 81 opposed.
Thanks to Michael Adee of MLP,
and Tricia Dykers Koenig
of Covenant Network, for these reports.
|More presbyteries shift to support inclusive
Of the six presbyteries meeting on Saturday, March
28, all six voted to ratify Amendment 08-B, which would
remove the explicit ban on ordination of LGBP Presbyterians as
elders or ministers.
Grace Presbytery (in the Dallas-Ft.Worth
area of Texas) was presented with a recommendation by Presbytery
Council to take No Action; rejecting that recommendation, they voted
for Amendment 08-B by 203 to182, with 6 abstentions.
The Presbytery of Philadelphia also
supported ordination equality for the first time in an amendment
vote, by 152 to 139.
The Presbytery of Western New York
(including Buffalo) returned to the supportive column after having
taken no action (which has the effect of a 'no') in 2002. Their
vote was 66 Yes to 48 No.
Continuing their support of an inclusive church,
two Upstate New York presbyteries voted to approve 08-B: Genesee
Valley Presbytery's vote was 93 Yes to 24 No, while the
Presbytery of Susquehanna Valley voted 59 Yes to 23 No. New
York City Presbytery also voted to approve the amendment by 76
In 2001-2, a total of 42 presbyteries voted for
justice and to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender persons in the Presbyterian Church (USA). This year, 62
presbyteries have already approved Amendment 09-B, while 81 have
rejected it. So 143 out of a total of 173 presbyteries have voted.
With 30 presbyteries yet to vote, those who support a just and
inclusive church will need to work hard, pray with passion, and urge
their friends to reflect deeply on this matter, and vote for a
church that will more faithfully reflect the inclusive, capacious
grace of God.
Hans Cornelder, editor of the
site, whose reporting on the voting has tended to emphasize the
odds (if that’s the right word for a Presbyterian enterprise such as
his!) against passage of the amendment, yesterday posted this
evaluation of the tally as the voting nears its end:
29, with 30 of 173 votes yet to come
The proposal might pass
and Chastity requirement is hanging by a thread
at the 2001/2002 margins in the presbyteries that yet
have to vote, it appears very likely that the end result
will be closer than 76-97. As a matter of fact, I think
it is not entirely impossible that the proposal will
pass. Why? Most of them had margins before that are
smaller than or comparable to presbyteries that have
|Three more presbyteries shift to support
inclusive ordination [3-21-09]
Three more presbyteries voted on Saturday, March 21,
to support Amendment 08-B, reversing their past rejections of
|The Presbytery of Mackinac in Northern
Michigan approved Amendment B by a vote of 44-32. |
|Newark Presbytery voted by 42 to 8 in favor
of the new Amendment B.|
|The Presbytery of West Virginia from
92-114-4, in 2001-02, to a very convincing 93-56-2.|
In addition to these three that shifted to support
change, the Presbytery of Grand Canyon (Arizona, including Phoenix)
continued its support, in spite of an official committee
recommendation against approval.
There were also presbyteries continuing their
rejection of the change: The Western Pennsylvania presbyteries of
Redstone and Northumberland voted 'no' today, as did Abingdon
(Western Virginia) and Olympia (Washington) on Thursday.
Thanks to Steven Hammond, Pastor
of Alpena (Michigan) Presbyterian Church, John Shuck of First
Presbyterian Church, Elizabethton, Tenn., and Tricia Dykers-Koenig
of Covenant Network, for these reports.
John Shuck concludes his report:
Score? 51-79. We need a hero. We actually need 36 heroic
presbyteries to go blue.
We welcome your reports and
on voting in other presbyteries.
Just send a
|More voting on Amendment 08-B
No big surprises in last weekend’s presbytery vote
|Just in -- another
Presbytery of West Jersey, meeting today, switched from
its 2001-02 vote to support Amendment 08-B, by 88 for to
Recent presbytery votes have pretty much followed
their patterns in past votes, with presbyteries that have supported
inclusive ordination continuing to do so, and opponents remaining
The votes for the Amendment 08-B came in these
|Northern New England: 57-30|
|Twin Cities Area: 138-54-10|
Presbyteries voting against the amendment all did
so by a narrower margin than in the past – except for San Juan
(Puerto Rico) which acted by a voice vote. The other presbyteries
|Muskingum Valley: 44-70-2 |
|Providence (North Central South Carolina):
|Hanmi (a non-geographic Korean presbytery, in
the Synod of Southern California and Hawai'i): 1-30. Somebody
had real courage there!|
This leaves the total vote count at 46 for the
amendment, and 74 opposed. But a number of presbyteries that have
been supportive of inclusive ordination have yet to vote, so it’s
Michael Adee, of More Light Presbyterians, offers
some helpful reflections on “where we’re at” right now. See
the next item below.
Thanks to Tricia Dykers-Koenig of
and many others, for providing helpful information.
|Concerned about 08-B? Vote Tally: Fear Not. Have
Faith. Continue Praying. And Keep Working.
of More Light Presbyterians writes:
A recent story from the Presbyterian News Service
suggested that "the signs" in the ratification voting process on
08-B so far indicate two things: incredible shifts toward LGBT
equality are clear since 2001-2 across our Church and in many
surprising places as indicated in the number of presbyteries that
have "flipped" from opposition then to support now; and that the
current voting tally clearly shows that our Church will not ratify
the 218th General Assembly's Ordination Amendment 08-B.
I agree wholeheartedly with the first sign which
is obvious — that our Church is opening up to God's Spirit and
leading us away from discrimination against our LGBT sisters and
brothers; and there is much to disagree with the "foregone
conclusion" of the second, that 08-B cannot be passed now.
A surface read of the current 08-B tally of 43 YES
- 73 NO with 116 presbyteries having voted might lead one to such a
conclusion that 08-B cannot be passed now. But I invite all of us to
look beneath the surface. Bruce Hahne, Elder, First Presbyterian
Church, Palo Alto, CA and a recent MLP Board member, has been
crunching the numbers, doing thoughtful analysis, looking at trends,
etc., and he reports that there is much more story to be told,
beneath the surface. Hahne's analysis from today gives us more
accurate information than a surface read of the tally or a foregone
conclusion that 08-B cannot pass now.
|Lisa Larges going to court (church court, that
who has been a candidate for ministry for over 20 years, and who
remains convinced of her call to ministry, is still being challenged
by another judicial proceeding which will come before the Permanent
Judicial Commission of the Synod of the Pacific very shortly.
Ray Bagnuolo, an ordained Presbyterian minister
who is also an out gay man, has written a strong and loving
affirmation of Lisa and her cause. Andhe invites us all to join in
prayer with and for her in these days.
More on Bagnuolo’s blog >>
More presbyteries vote on Amendment 08-B
Twin Cities Area
says Yes – again
Witherspoon member Peter Soulen
reports that the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area, meeting today
at Faith Presbyterian Church, Minnetonka, Minn. approved Amendment
08-B by a vote of 138 Yes, to 54 No, with 10 abstentions. [So
Amendment B received 71.9% of the Yes votes. The 2001-02 vote for
inclusion was by a margin of 63.8%.]
again says No to inclusion
This report comes to us from
Witherspooner Gordon Shull:
You may have learned that Muskingum
Valley Presbytery defeated Amendment 08-B, today, by a vote of
44-70. The debate was conducted fairly, with two minutes allowed per
speaker, and rigorously enforced; all who wished to speak were
heard. I attach the talk I gave.
Opposition arguments were almost
entirely based on simplistic interpretations of scripture.
Supporting arguments dealt with scripture, experiences with gay
family and parishioners, and the merits of some features of
Amendment B. One opponent urged us to give the PUP proposal a try.
Another was all in a tizzy over the Amendment's reference to
transgendered and bisexual people - as if they require separate
My own assessment is that people
came with their minds made up. I doubt that more than a few minds
were changed by our eloquence. But I wish that supporters had lined
up a series of 2-minuters on the scriptural issues.
This report comes to us from
Witherspooner Gordon Shull
[So we note that in Muskingum
Valley, Amendment B received 38.6% of the votes as affirmative; in
2001-02, it received just 30.4% of the votes.]
Gordon Shull’s talk to the
Ordination Amendment 3-09
I am Gordon Shull, an
elder of First Pres,, Wooster.
I must be perfectly
honest with you. I am Straight . . . but not by
choice. I cannot point to a moment when I asked
myself, "Shall I be Gay or Straight? . . . Gay or
Straight? . . . Straight!"
Can YOU? (Be honest
with yourself! Did you choose your sexual orientation,
or just discover it?)
I have two sons who are
Straight - but not by choice.
And I have a third son who is Gay -
but also not by choice. What Dave knows is that for
years he struggled with what he was finding in himself.
He hoped he would outgrow it. He dated wonderful young
women, hoping he could fall in love with one of them.
But in all honesty and integrity, he could not. Like 5%
of the whole animal kingdom, Dave is Gay.
Dave also felt called
to the ministry. He and his partner – another gentle,
sensitive, wonderful young man – have been pastors for
20 years. They are gifted preachers, beloved pastors.
(They are a profound blessing to each other and to the
churches they serve.) They, and we, thank the God and
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ that they found a church
who could celebrate their gifts, and welcome them as
Some day the
Presbyterian Church we love will decide that some of the
gifted men and women among us discover in themselves a
different sexual orientation than most of us have; that
some of these hear a clear call to Christian ministry
within the Presbyterian fold; and that we should trust
ordaining bodies who know such people best to judge the
integrity of that call.
Let that time be now.
|More votes on Amendment 08-B
Two more presbyteries shift to support change
Again yesterday (Tuesday, March 10) two
presbyteries shifted from opposing an inclusive church to supporting
Amendment 08-B, which would take the Presbyterian Church one more
step toward making “ordination standards” a matter of faith and
life, and not of sexual identity.
The Presbytery of Transylvania voted by 84 to 61
to approve the amendment, having voted by 50 to 83 against change in
2001-02. And Eastminster voted for the change by 60 to 39, with two
abstentions, where they voted 54 to 65 against the 2001 proposed
Lake Michigan Presbytery and New Brunswick both
continued their support for change.
One presbytery – Riverside – rejected the change,
but by a much narrower margin (45-53) than in 2001-02 (18-94).
San Gabriel voted to reject the amendment, and
Nevada rejected it by a wider margin than before
So the total presbytery vote tally now stands at
42 approving the amendment, and 69 rejecting it.
News Service’s latest report on the voting, from Jerry Van
Marter, portrays the amendment as “trailing,” but describes the
voting as “closer than last time.”
Blogger John Shuck analyzes the voting and concludes that in
numerous presbyteries the margin by which the amendment has been
rejected have been very close (and in three the vote has been tied,
which counts as a defeat that would have been reversed by one vote).
So a few more votes could be making a big difference.
Shuck also notes the most recent
The Layman’s website, which views with alarm the trend
You want more?? Here are links to some of the
sites that are providing tallies of the voting:
|Capetz restoration case sent back to synod PJC
Test case on ‘scrupling’ must be tried, GAPJC
Presbyterian News Service reports that the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s highest court has remanded back to a
lower church court a case that will decide whether a former minister
who refuses to promise that he will live in celibacy may be restored
to active ministry.
The case revolves around Paul Capetz, a former
PC(USA) minister and seminary professor who was ordained in 1991 but
in 2000 set aside his ordination because of his conscientious
objection to G-6.0106b of the church’s Book of Order, which requires
of church officers “fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman
or chastity in singleness.”
rest of the story >>
Another presbytery shifts to support inclusive ordination
Presbytery voted earlier today in favor of Amendment 08-B by a vote
of 25 yes, 23 no, 1 abstain.
This is another
major shift, for a presbytery which has voted consistently against
equality in the past.
The total tally now stands at 37 yes – 57 no.
Thanks to John Shuck for this good news
Click here for a full page
of reports and commentary on this major concern in the PC(USA) >>
|Presbytery voting on Amendment 08-B continues
The past week was not a good one for those seeking
a welcoming, inclusive church. [3-2-09]
Thirteen presbyteries voted during the past week
on the constitutional amendments proposed by the 2008 General
Assembly. Of those, ten have been clearly opposed to removing the
effective ban on ordination for lgbt Presbyterians which was added
to the Book of Order a few years ago in the form of provision
Proponents of the new pro-inclusion amendment had
some hope that one presbytery, Indian Nations, might well shift this
year to supporting the change, since its last vote, in 2001-02, was
split 52 to 52 on a pro-inclusion amendment. That tie vote was
counted as a rejection of the proposed change, but it was pretty
close. This year, though, opponents of change were ready to resist.
They moved that the vote should be taken on 08-B
without presentations or discussion. Their motion was passed, in a
clear rejection of the call by the 2008 General Assembly for a
careful process of discernment throughout the church.
So the week ended with 11 presbyteries rejecting
the amendment, and 2 (Hudson River and Milwaukee) continuing their
strong support for change – both by even higher margins than in
2001-02. As Bruce Hahne notes, though, most of those rejecting the
amendment still saw an increase in the number of commissioners
supporting it. The tide is clearly turning!
That leaves the total tally so far at 36
presbyteries approving the amendment, and 57 rejecting it.
Bruce Hahne, who is keeping a careful tally of the
voting, complete with analysis and commentary, offers a list of four
tactics that appear to be used in various situations by opponents of
|Here are some popular tactics that
can be used by anti-equality groups to game the voting
system so that pro-equality overtures have a reduced
probability of success at the presbytery level:
|"Stifle the Spirit" tactic: Don't
allow discussion of the equality overture, just go
directly to a vote. Variation: schedule only a token
time interval for discussion.|
|"Public intimidation" tactic:
Don't use secret ballots -- make people stand up in
the middle of presbytery meeting to have their vote
counted. Works particularly well in presbyteries
with a strong majority on either side.|
|"Endurance test" tactic: Schedule
the vote on the overture at the end of a 7-hour
meeting so that younger voters with kids at home
have to leave before the vote.|
|"Consent calendar" tactic: Put a
"no" vote on the overture onto the consent calendar
to try to sneak it through. Even if pro-equality
supporters catch this trick, they then have to go
through procedural hoops on the floor of presbytery
to get the item removed from the consent calendar.|
For more information and comment:
|More presbyteries voting on Amendment 08-B this
These presbyteries will be moving
through the process of discernment on 08-B in the days ahead. We
continue to witness a strong movement of the Spirit in the decisions
of many presbyteries, as we seek ratification of this amendment and
an inclusive and unified church for all. We invite you to keep all
those who will be part of these meetings in your prayers.
North Puget Sound
Thanks to Ray Bagnuolo
|Lutherans move to allow gay clergy – sort of
News Service reports:
A blue-ribbon panel recommended on Thursday (Feb.
19) that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America lift its ban on
partnered gay and lesbian clergy, but only after the church agrees
in principle on gay relationships and respecting the consciences of
those who dissent.
A majority of the 15-member Task Force for ELCA
Studies on Sexuality believes that “it is possible to devise
guidelines and policies that would allow ... some flexibility” in
its ordination standards.
The 4.8 million-member ELCA currently allows gay
or lesbian clergy who pledge to be celibate; partnered or sexually
active homosexual clergy are technically not allowed in ELCA
pulpits, though some buck the rules without punishment. ...
If adopted by the ELCA’s Churchwide Assembly in
August, the proposals would remove the blanket ban on non-celibate
gay and lesbian clergy, empowering local congregations and governing
bodies to make their own decisions on whether to allow them.
The full story >>
And for a report from the heartland
(or should it be Mighty Fortress?) of the ELCA, here’s a story from
|More heartening results from presbyteries voting
today on Amendment 08-B
The Presbytery of Greater
Atlanta, the largest presbytery in the PC(USA), met today at
Druid Hills Presbyterian Church, Atlanta, and voted by 243 to 233 to
approve Amendment B, which would effectively remove the ban on
ordination of lgbt Presbyterians. This is the first time Greater
Atlanta has voted for inclusive ordination.
Another shift came in the Presbytery of New
Hope, meeting at Cary Presbyterian Church, Cary, North Carolina.
They approved Amendment 08-B by a vote of 177 Yes to 139 No, with 10
abstentions. In 2001-02, New Hope voted 153 Yes to 159 No, rejecting
a similar move toward equality.
Yet another shift came in the Presbytery of
Ohio Valley. Today they voted 57 to 44 to approve Amendment B,
while in 2001-02 they voted 90 to 74 against it. Also, the
Presbytery of Arkansas voted 116 to 64 in favor of Amendment
B, after opposing such changes in the past.
Continuing their earlier support for full
inclusion, the Presbytery of Santa Fe and the Presbytery of
Mid-Kentucky (formerly known as Louisville) both approved
Amendment B. Santa Fe voted 110 Yes to 23 No, with 1 abstention.
Mid-Kentucky voted 90 Yes to19 No. Giddings-Lovejoy also
continued its support for inclusion, voting 125 to 83 for Amendment
B. The Presbytery of John Knox voted 39 to 13 for the change
-- in a snowstorm.
The presbyteries of The James, Lake Erie, North
Alabama, Homestead, and Tropical Florida all remained steadfast
in their opposition to this change.
Of 77 presbyteries reporting so far, 34 have voted
Yes, and 44 No. And of the presbyteries voting Yes, 15 have shifted
from previously opposing inclusive ordination to supporting it this
and to Bruce Hahne
for most of this information.
|The Vote on
Amendment 08-B Marches On: Analysis and Prospect
by Dale Johnson
Election Day in the PC(USA) is six months long! As
of February 18, 2009, just over one-third (61) of the presbyteries
have voted, with the division being 23 in favor of the amendment and
38 opposed. Eleven of the twelve presbyteries that voted before
Christmas opposed the amendment, and from the vote totals, it
appears that these bodies did not think there was much to talk about
(in only one case was the vote close). Since then, the votes have
been almost equally divided, although the margin of the opposition
has increased slightly. A look at past voting records and what that
might suggest for those presbyteries that have yet to vote reveals a
number of observations:
1. In 1996-97, the General Assembly’s
establishment of ordination standards language in the current
Book of Order’s G-6.0106b was approved by the presbyteries by a
vote of 57% to 43% (97 presbyteries supporting and 74 opposing the
addition). After the succeeding General Assembly voted to alter the
language of “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man
and a woman, or chastity in singleness,” the presbyteries voted not
to accept the proposed amended language by a vote of 67% to 33%
(114-57 in the actual count). Again in 2001 the General Assembly
proposed altered language, and again the church rejected it by an
even larger percentage, 73% to 27% (127-46 in presbytery numbers).
With the 2008 General Assembly’s further attempt at altered
language, some have suggested that “the times,” generational shifts
in consciousness, or demographics (i.e., some members and
congregations moving to either of the more conservative Presbyterian
denominations) would make this a much easier sell to the churches.
But that view seems to ignore the large vote total that must be
reversed to make this happen.
2. Of the 173 presbyteries in the church, I count
a total of 85 that have been solidly on the side of G-6.0106b: that
is, they voted to support the original proposal and they voted twice
to reject proposals to alter the language. Of these 85 presbyteries,
34 have voted to this point; 31 continue their opposition to
changing the language, while 3 that have consistently supported 6b
have now shifted to oppose it (in the reports I have seen, this is
typically referred to as “flipping”). These are Charlotte, Western
North Carolina, and East Tennessee; I note also that they are
contiguous geographically, although I am not sure whether this is
accidental or if there is some underlying meaning in it.
3. Of the 173 presbyteries, I count 41 that have
been solidly against 6b since its adoption: that is, they opposed
the original proposal and they voted twice to support altered
language. Of these 41 presbyteries, 14 have voted to date, with all
14 supporting Amendment 08-B. Thus, there have been no “flips” from
this side to the opposition.
4. Of the 61 presbyteries that have voted through
February 17th, 9 presbyteries have “flipped,” that is,
gone from a No vote in 2001-02 to a Yes vote in 2008-09. No
presbyteries have flipped in the reverse direction. Besides the
three significant shifts noted above, three presbyteries (Cimarron,
Great Rivers, and Lake Huron) had had close votes in the previous
three ballots, first voting against the initial language but then
voting against the two proposed changes of language; their votes
this time (19-16, 85-74, and 43-32, respectively) suggest that
depending on the number of possible commissioners not present to
vote, these could easily have gone the other way. As in our November
national election, getting out the vote will turn out to be crucial
in many presbyteries.
5. The three additional presbyteries that went
from No in 2001-02 to Yes in 2008-09 are Maumee Valley and Scioto
Valley in Ohio (Synod of the Covenant) and Southeast Illinois. The
first two had voted against the original 6b and for the 1996-97
amendment, but then voted against the 2001-02 amendment language.
Margins here in these last two votes are worth noting: from 51-70 to
65-58 in Maumee, and from 103-105 to 115-88 in Scioto. Similarly,
the two votes in Southeast Illinois went from 69-77 to 68-56.
Cincinnati’s vote was a tie (83-83), thus putting it in the No
column – a gain in percentage of Yes votes from 2001-02, but still a
No. While getting commissioners to support the amendment was clearly
important here, the drop in the number of persons arguing for the
preservation of 6b may indicate declining interest or moves to a
more conservative denomination where the question about ordination
standards in this form is not an issue.
6. On the basis of previous voting patterns and
the relative closeness of one or more votes, I would label 37
presbyteries as “too close to call.” These include some that might
be called “contrarian,” that is, they voted No on the initial 6b
language, but then voted No on the two previous attempts to alter
that language. Alaska, Arkansas, and Boise, for example, just to
take some from the front of the alphabet, fit this category; Boise’s
2001-02 vote was actually a tie, and thus counted against the
7. Two other “too close to call” groups consist of
presbyteries that have either consistently supported or consistently
opposed the language of 6b, but where the margins are narrow enough
that actual numbers voting or efforts on one side or the other could
affect the decision. These overlap a bit with the first two
categories above, but their margins have been narrow enough to
imagine shifts without great difficulty. On the supportive side for
6b, Central Nebraska, Homestead, Salem, New Hope, and Indian Nations
presbyteries are good examples; in New Hope, the margin was only six
votes out of more than 300 votes cast, and in the latter case, the
2001-02 vote was a tie and thus was placed in the No column. Of
those consistently opposing 6b language, East Iowa, Giddings
Lovejoy, John Knox and Sierra Blanca presbyteries provide examples;
the 2001-02 John Knox vote was a slim 66-62, while Sierra Blanca’s
three votes have progressively narrowed the margin on the opposition
to 6b side, with the last being a razor-thin 18-17. Clearly, work in
advance of the vote this year is crucial in these cases.
8. A larger group of voting patterns – and less
easy to categorize – includes presbyteries that have split their
votes over the three ballot opportunities since 1996. Detroit,
Minnesota Valleys, Ohio Valley and Utah presbyteries voted No, Yes,
and No in these referenda, which may suggest that a Yes vote will be
more difficult to obtain this time. On the other hand, de Cristo and
Grand Canyon presbyteries voted Yes, No, and Yes, and a vote in the
Yes column this time will not be called a flip but will clearly not
be a foregone conclusion. If, as in the case of North Central Iowa
and Northern Plains, presbyteries voted in favor of 6b at the
outset, but then voted Yes and then No on the amendment votes that
followed, there could be a flip to the Yes column this year, but
perhaps the language of the amendment itself will be an important
9. Here are a few geographical notes from tracking
presbyteries within synods, on the basis of previous voting
patterns: In Alaska-Northwest, 6 of 7 presbyteries have been solidly
behind 6b; similarly, 16 of 16 presbyteries in South Atlantic, 7 of
8 in Southern California and Hawaii, and 9 of 12 in the Synod of
Living Waters have voted consistently to establish and uphold the
language of 6b. On the other side, 16 of 22 presbyteries in the
Synod of the Northeast have been consistently on the side against
6b. These affiliations could well make it more difficult to switch
from one side to the other, although it is clear that the greater
predominance geographically favors the No votes in this referendum.
The clearest conclusion from this data, both from
the current votes and the voting patterns from three previous
ballots, is that changing the church’s mind on this contentious
issue is difficult and challenging. It involves considerably more
than simply getting out the votes for your side. It requires
continuing conversation to unpack the arguments, engagement with
contemporary reflection on the subject, and a willingness to engage
the other side of the debate so as better to see your own. All of
these are crucial elements in a thread that goes back to the early
1970s, and may well provide the key to change this year.
Dale Johnson, who lives in Nashville, Tenn., was
an elder commissioner to the 2008 General Assembly and a member of
the Church Orders and Ministry Committee, which considered the
overtures dealing with ordination. He is emeritus professor of
church history at Vanderbilt Divinity School.
If you have thoughts or
to add to this analysis
(or reports on voting that we've missed)_
send a note
to be shared here.
|Another presbytery switches for inclusion
20, at Grace Presbyterian Church of Midland, Texas, the Tres Rios
Presbytery affirmed the 218th General Assembly's
Ordination Amendment 08-B by a vote of 37 YES to 34 NO.
The Ordination Amendment vote in 2001-02 by Tres
Rios Presbytery was 17 Yes, 54 No. This is a remarkable 28% positive
shift from the previous vote to the one today.
Another presbytery (in
Alabama) shifts to support equality in ordination
Sheppards & Lapsley presbytery
, in central Alabama,
voted today to approved Amendment 08-B, to restore
ordination to its proper role as a commissioning of people
for service in leadership of the church, and not as a test
of sexual orientation. The vote was close -- 77 for
the amendment and 75 against. But it was a major shift
from a history of strong opposition to equality in past
presbytery continued to reject the change, but by a
narrower margin than in the past (11 yes and 23 no votes).
|Amendment 08-B -- What now??
Considering the voting so far in presbyteries on Amendment 08-B, the
Rev. Ray Bagnuolo offers this analysis, with suggestions for ways to
give further support to change toward a more inclusive church.
February 18, 2009
This is the time…
News From Covenant
On Tuesday, February 17, three
presbyteries reversed their votes from 2001-2002:
Maumee Valley (Northwestern Ohio, Southeastern Michigan),
Great Rivers (Western
Illinois), and Scioto Valley
(Central Ohio) and approved 08-B. "That makes 9
presbyteries that have switched in favor of ordination inclusivity."
~Tricia Dykers Koenig
Since September sixty-one
presbyteries have voted on Amendment 08-B, the reformed language of
1. As of 2/17/09, there
remain one hundred and eleven presbyteries yet to make their
2. For 08-B to be ratified,
64 of the remaining votes are required.
3. As of 2/17/09: 23 Yes
Votes and 38 No votes.
In the votes to date, nine
presbyteries that voted "No" on the last attempt to delete G-
6.0106b, have reconsidered and voted "Yes" in favor of 08-B. To
date, there have been no reversals of previous "Yes" votes.
There is a shift underway, which
can be seen even in the ties and close votes that have moved toward
ratification A shift that emphasizes the real chance we have of
embracing the recommendation of the 218th General Assembly to ratify
Across the national church,
progressive organizations are faithfully at work, reaching out to
minister members (active and retired) and elder commissioners of
every presbytery. We ask you to join us in contacting all who have
yet to hold their presbytery meetings, encouraging them to attend
their gatherings and vote. We also ask that you extend to them the
resources that are available from every major progressive group to
assist in their discernment process. (Attached is an extensive
packet from More Light Presbyterians that is comprehensive and very
It is important to know that in
each progressive group, individuals are prepared to talk with you
and others you suggest, ready to answer questions and provide
support. We welcome those who are in favor of ratification, and we
respect those who are unable to support the position for change. Be
assured that everyone is honored with such respect and courtesy.
Christian ethics and practices never cease; during such times, they
are critical. This is about the Church of Jesus Christ, the Body of
Christ and our relationship with one another – differences and all –
in a church that is near to welcoming our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual,
and Transgender sisters and brothers as never before.
Please Help in Welcoming Unity and Healing:
The real work of unity and healing
will follow the ratification of 08. We need you to help end this
forty-one year struggle and usher in a new time. Here are some of
the things you can do:
you are able, be a voice in small groups and on the floor of your
presbytery. Contact us if you would like help in ideas in
participating in this way.
take note of the upcoming presbytery meetings. If you are a member
of any of these presbyteries, contact minister members (active and
retired), Elder commissioners, Commissioned Lay Pastors, and all
those who might vote. Dialogue with them, encouraging them to attend
the presbytery meeting (offer to travel with them, if you can), and
extend to them the resources that are available. http://www.presbyweb.com/Indexes/votes-08-B.htm
you know others in different presbyteries that might be willing to
support the ratification of 08-B, reach out to them, asking them to
attend their meeting and vote.
the attached resource packet from More Light Presbyterians to all
those you think may find it helpful.
you have someone you would like contacted, reach out to one of the
progressive partners of let us know. We are ready to speak with
you know anyone in your or other presbyteries that may need a ride
to a meeting, contact us. We are creating a network to make sure
that anyone who wishes to get to a meeting, requires child care, or
has other special needs are accommodated so they are able to vote.
If there is anything else you can
think of, let me know or contact any of your friends within the
progressive groups that are listed below or others in your regional
areas. Everyone is ready to help.
We have until May 18th
to enter into the promise of this kairos, a passage that will lead
us to a time of unity and healing, embracing the teachings of Jesus
AND one another, extending the gifts and energies of all into a
world that needs us, more than we know.
Blessing upon you all,
914 682 3659
Minister-at-Large Presbytery of Hudson River
Member of the Board of More Light
Tricia Dykers Koenig firstname.lastname@example.org
Presbyterian Welcome www.presbyterianwelcome.org
Resource Packet on 08-B on the
website (also attached)
www.mlp.org Debra Peevey email@example.com
Comprehensive and up-to-date information on the vote
All May Freely Serve www.tamfs.org
Witherspoon Society www.witherspoonsociety.org
This essay is posted on Ray's own blogspot, too.
ratified (or not) by the presbyteries
A number of the most important actions of the 219th
General Assembly have now been acted upon by the presbyteries,
confirming most of them as amendments to the PC(USA) Book of Order.
We provided resources to help inform the
reflection and debate, along with updates on the voting.
Our three areas of primary interest have been:
which removes the current ban on
lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as
possible candidates for ordination as elder or ministers.
which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of
Confessions. Disapproved, because as an amendment
to the Book of Confessions it needed a 2/3 vote, and did not
10-1, which adopts the new Form of Government
that was approved by the Assembly. Approved.|
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Some blogs worth visiting
Mitch Trigger, PVJ's
Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where
Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and
views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both
personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!
You can post your own news and views,
or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.
Voices of Sophia blog
Heather Reichgott, who has created
this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:
After fifteen years of scholarship
and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the
voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy,
students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers
and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God
in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God
through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through
articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and
John Harris’ Summit to
Theological and philosophical
reflections on everything between summit to shore, including
kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology,
politics, culture, travel, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New
York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood by a progressive
New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the
Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian
Church in Flushing, NY.
John Shuck’s Shuck and Jive
A Presbyterian minister, currently
serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton,
Tenn., blogs about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized
and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and
Got more blogs to recommend?
send a note, and we'll see what we can do!