RE: Marriage Equality at the 219th General Assembly… and what’s next?

Yesterday was a day of mixed experiences and mixed emotions.  We rejoiced with the extraordinary pro-LGBT vote approving by 53 to 46% a "Revise-B" Ordination Overture.  This vote advances the moral equality of LGBT persons in both Church and society within the USA and around the world. There are Presbyterians in over 100 countries.  So, creating one standard for ordination for all persons regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or any other human condition in the Presbyterian Church (USA) is remarkable statement for justice and equality.  

Historic levels of support for Ordination Equality during the 2008-2009 Ordination Amendment 08-B Campaign offer hope and encouragement.  We look forward to the life-giving and liberating conversations and work of a national ratification campaign to ensure passage of this overture. Everyone participating in this national grassroots ratification campaign will ensure its passage.  

Late in the night after a drawn-out discussion of the Civil Union & Marriage Task Force’s report commending the PCUSA to study marriage, the Assembly voted narrowly to have all of the other marriage overtures "answered" by the vote to study.  This was a painful moment for those of us at the Assembly and I can only imagine how painful it was to see this happen via live-streaming.  

This vote was certainly a disappointing response by not even bringing to the floor for discussion:  (1.)  the reality of faithful, same-gender loving relationships in our Church, (2.) the reality of legal same-sex civil marriages in states where Presbyterian pastors serve and the Authoritative Interpretation offering pastoral discretion to perform civil marriages in states where they are legal, and (3.) widening the Church’s understanding of marriage to "two persons" in a faithful, loving relationship rather than the restriction of marriage between "a man and woman."  

This morning there is work being done to encourage a reconsideration of last night’s vote on marriage to bring to the floor the work of Committee 12.  Please join us in praying that this will happen.  "Justice Delayed is Justice Denied" signs and "Reconsider 12" were held by Soulforce, TAMFS and MLP supporters around the Assembly Hall.

Last night after the vote, Sylvia Thorson-Smith, Presbyterian Voices for Justice, and Elder, St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church, Tucson, AZ, a More Light church, reminded us that:  "It is important to remember that marriage equality, widening the understanding of love and marriage to include same sex couples, and challenging the definition of marriage from "a man and woman" is new to our denomination."  

At the General Assembly in 2006, there was one marriage equality overture from Baltimore Presbytery, a handful in 2008, and historic levels of support for marriage equality with 14 Overtures and concurrences for this Assembly in 2010.

The Overture Advocates for Marriage Equality offered powerful and inspiring teaching on marriage, testimonies before Committee 12 were remarkable.  We know what happens when Presbyterians have a chance to actually meet and hear the faith and love stories from LGBT persons, our families and allies — a change of hearts, minds and votes happens — as was the case when Committee 12 approved by a large margin the "Marriage AI" and the "Expand W-4" characterization of marriage to two persons. 

So, we hope and pray that the Assembly will reconsider Committee 12 today.  No matter what, we have our "marching orders" as Rev. Janet Edwards, Co-Moderator, MLP, reminded the group of activists, Commissioners and delegates last night in the MLP hospitality suite.  Those marching orders are to get the conversation moving and educational resources on marriage equality in all 173 presbyteries.  

The Presbyterian Church (USA) does not have the final word on the goodness of God’s creation including God’s LGBT daughters and sons.  God does.  

The Presbyterian Church (USA) does not have the final word on the goodness of Love and the sacred gift of sexuality and companionship,  God does.  

The Presbyterian Church (USA) does not have the final word on Love and marriage,  God does.  

We have plenty of faith and love stories to celebrate and share with our Church.  So, may all of us share those faith and love stories with our families and local congregations.  Start now to create opportunities in your presbytery to do what the 219th General Assembly has said — study marriage.  Let all of us be good stewards of this opportunity.

With hope and grace,
Michael 

PS — a great 2-page resource for you right now is our "More Light on Marriage" available here: http://www.mlp.org/resources/MLonMarriage.pdf

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