Marriage Equality & Pastoral Care on trial again in the Presbyterian Church (USA)

Rev Janie SpahMore Light Presbyterians Celebrate Love & stand in solidarity with Rev. Janie Spahr and Marriage Equality

 The National Board of Directors and national staff of More Light Presbyterians stand in solidarity and prayer with Rev. Janie Spahr and her faithful support for marriage equality and pastoral care.  The inspired and loving ministry of our beloved friend and colleague in ministry, Rev. Janie Spahr, is so much a faithful witness to a loving and just Church and society for all of God’s people that she has been charged once again for being a responsible and caring pastor by officiating at legal marriages of same gender loving couples.  "We rejoice in the faithful pastoral ministry of Janie Spahr.  There is no prohibition against same-sex marriage in Scripture or the Book of Order.  God created all of us for love and companionship, not just some of us," Rev. Janet Edwards, Co-Moderator. 

 "The growing support for marriage equality within the USA and around the world reveal a remarkable shift in the recognition of same-sex love and relationships.  Love is not restricted by gender any more than it is by race, ethnicity or religion.  One needs only look around to recognize the changing face of relationships within our families, congregations and world.  Love makes a family," Michael J. Adee, Executive Director & Field Organizer.

 We call all Presbyterians to join us in celebrating Love and praying for Janie and her trial on August 24 at Covenant Presbyterian Church, Napa, CA.  "Please join us in praying for the commission of Redwoods Presbytery.  We celebrate the love and commitment of the same-sex couples who will testify at the trial.  It is our hope and prayer that the conscience and the call to pastoral care for Presbyterian ministers will be recognized and honored in the decision of this commission.  In addition to Janie’s ministry being on trial, so is marriage equality and pastoral care.  We are grateful for Janie and all Presbyterian ministers who follow their heart, conscience and call to ministry by caring for same-sex couples and their families, too.  Together we are building a Church for all God’s people," Trice Gibbons, Co-Moderator.

 Rev. Janet Edwards and Trice Gibbons, Co-Moderators, More Light Presbyterians
Michael J. Adee, Executive Director & Field Organizer, and the National Board of Directors and Staff, More Light Presbyterians, www.mlp.org

Soulforce action covered by The Presbyterian Outlook

Soulforce’s actions at the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s recent General Assembly were covered The Presybterian Outlook.

Arrest at the PC(USA) general assemblyAbout 20 protesters from a group called Soulforce disrupted the plenary of the 219th General Assembly tonight (July 9), and some were arrested by the Minneapolis Police Department.

A group of protesters entered the plenary hall shortly before 5 p.m., and silently moved as a group to the front of the plenary hall, carrying signs protesting the policies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) regarding ordination standards; Christian marriage and same-gender unions; and pension benefits.

Cynthia Bolbach, moderator of the assembly, immediately called a recess. She said during a news conference later that she didn’t know whether any of the protesters were Presbyterian, but said "I think they’re angry because this discussion (on ordination standards) has been going on in the church for quite a long time." Bolbach said one protestor told her she was a former Presbyterian who had left the church; some were gays or lesbians, or have children who are gay and lesbian.

Photo by Erin Dunigan

Read the full article at The Presbyterian Outlook

11 arrested at Presbyterian convention

Participants in an action at the PC(USA) General Assembly hold signs before being arrestedToday, participants at the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly entered the convention center holding signs that read "Prayer: Ordination, Marriage,Pension" to remind attendees that justice delayed is justice denied in the wake of a vote to avoid any discussion, debate, or vote regarding marriage equality within the church. Eleven were arrested.

KARE 11 covered the event and you can read more on their website.
KSTP has video coverage on their website

Photo: KARE 11

Breaking News! 219th General Assembly votes for Ordination Equality

We are overjoyed and grateful to announce that the 219th General Assembly voted for Ordination Equality moments ago.  The Assembly approved by 53 to 46% the majority report from the Church Orders Committee which sent the "Revise-B" Ordination Overture from the Presbytery of Western Reserve to the Assembly for consideration.

This Ordination Overture offers our Church one ordination standard for all people in the Presbyterian Church (USA) regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status and any other human condition. 

We are grateful to God for this pro-LGBT victory.  We are grateful to all of the Sessions, congregations and presbyteries that sent Ordination Equality Overtures to this Assembly. 

We are grateful to all those who support More Light Presbyterians and our allies who made this historic moment possible.  We are grateful for your financial and spiritual support that makes possible a "MLP GA Team" working here on the ground in Minneapolis.

We certainly celebrate and savor this joyous moment.  And, because this is an Overture calling for a change in the Book of Order it will need to be ratified by a simple majority of our 173 Presbyteries. 

So, let us all celebrate and give thanks to God for this moment of justice and love.  And, the ratification work begins now….

With hope and grace,
Michael

 PS — Please keep praying for the Assembly — the Marriage Equality Votesare set for tonight!  For more news and stories, check out the blog at http://www.ga219.org/

 Michael J. Adee, M.Div., Ph.D., Executive Director & Field Organizer
More Light Presbyterians, 369 Montezuma Avenue # 447, Santa Fe, NM 87501 USA (505) 577-0086, michael@aol.com, www.mlp.org

Update on PC (USA) Events

Events To Consider at PC USA

Covenant Network dinner                 July 2   F          6;30-8:30 PM
PVJ Orientation                               July 3   Sa        7:00-8:30 AM
MLP reception                                 July 3               4:00-5:00 PM
(no registration required)
MLP dinner                                     July 3               5:00-6:45 PM
PVJ awards                                     July 4   Su        noon-2:30 PM
Covenant Network lunch                  July 5   M         noon-1:30 PM
Voices of Sophia breakfast               July 6   Tu         7:00-8:15 AM
MLP Educational lunch                     July 6               noon-2:00 PM
MLP worship celebration                   July 6               7:00-9:30 PM
(no registration required)
Witherspoon dance                          July 6               9:00 PM – 1:00 AM

 GA wide picnic July 4   5:30-10:30 PM

            
TAMFS training for their youth is all day July 1-2
            Covenant Network training/overview is on July 2
            MLP hospitality suite open in evenings @7:30 PM July 3-8
           
Observer at Meetings Opposing LGBT inclusion
            Presbyterian Lay Committee
            One by One (ex-gay type group) Lunch on July 6                                      

These events do not overlap with the Pray In.

PC(USA) General Assembly Hotel Accommodations

COMFORT SUITES – Downtown Minneapolis
7 blocks to Convention Center
2 blocks to light rail station
Minneapolis
COMFORT SUITES – Downtown Minneapolis
425 South 7th Street
Minneapolis, MN US 55415
Phone: (612) 333-3111
Fax: (612) 333-7425
Comfort Suites Minneapolis website

 RATE:  $69.00/nite (king or double – 2 persons) + $9.50 tax
Parking: $12/day
Rates available: July 4 thru 15, 2010
Amenities: Suite room with cook to order omelette breakfast
CUT OFF DATE:  June 24, 2010
GROP NAME: Soulforce
Call 612 333 3111 for reservations
Cancellation: 4 pm date of arrival

Can take Minneapolis Light Rail from airport to Government Plaza Station ($1.50-2.00 depending on time)
Rooms are blocked on upper floors (updated rooms)

Anyone seeking roommates for your stay in Minneapolis, please send an email to kara@soulforce.org.  Kara will collect and share this information.

Soulforce at the PC(USA) General Assembly

Our schedule and promotional materials for the event

Dear Friend,

MinneapolisYou are invited to join Soulforce in a historic moment of speaking truth to power at a mass Pray In at the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly (GA) in Minneapolis, July 7-10.

Please make your plans now to join other Soulforce volunteers and staff team members as we bear witness to the Presbyterian community and the world.

At the Pray In, we will tell the members of the GA that religious oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer people and our allies must end.

We will call upon the General Assembly to repent of policies and practices that encourage spiritual violence. We will tell them that we have suffered too long, and that the suffering must end. If you will not be with us in person, we invite you to send testimonials, reflections, meditations, and prayer requests to Cindi Love (cindi@soulforce.org) which will take with us to the General Assembly actions.

Our best information tells us to expect the votes on our issues on Thursday July 8, Friday July 9, & Saturday July 10.  On these days, we will assemble in mass prayer, not blocking and not provoking, but in a highly visible process that encourages the members of the PC(USA) GA to do what needs to be done.  Whatever action the GA takes, we plan a powerful conclusion to the assembly that we pray can be a celebration of justice and love. If there is no cause to celebrate, we will be there in the words and spirit of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, to demonstrate: "…to those who have mistreated us so long that we are tired — tired of being segregated and humiliated; tired of being kicked about by the brutal feet of oppression…We have no alternative but to protest."

If possible, please plan to attend the pre-Pray In training on Wednesday evening July 7, 2010 and the post-event de-brief on July 10, 2010.

Follow Soulforce in real time during the PC(USA) General Assembly: http://twitter.com/SoulforceOrg
Promote the PC(USA) General Assembly via Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=130936533607436&ref=mf

In addition, a core group of Soulforce Presbyterians will assist 5 Presbyterian groups already working on LGBTQ equality issues (Covenant Network, More Light Presbyterians, Presbyterian Promise, Presbyterian Welcome, and That All May Freely Serve). 
Covenant Network and More Light Presbyterians need volunteers to:

  • Staff exhibit hall booths and hospitality suites at the Convention Center
  • Set up for their dinners and luncheons (Fri/Sat/Mon/Tue)
  • Witness at opening worship on Sun (July 4) & MLP worship service Tue evening (July 6).
  • Knit or crochet one or more of 1500 rainbow scarves to be distributed as witness to God’s radically extravagant love.  Instructions and yarn type and color can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/256or4s

In addition to the Soulforce signup (below) we highly recommend that you review the schedule for the General Assembly at the PC(USA) GA website.  For lodging, you may avail yourself of one of the GA hotels ($104-125 + tax) within walking distance of the Convention Center by registering at their website before June 1.  Or you can stay at the official Soulforce hotel, the Comfort Suites – Downtown Minneapolis ($69 + tax, walking distance to Convention Center and the light rail line), by following this link for information about the hotel and how to make your reservations directly with the hotel. More information on how to register with Soulforce’s group rate.

Dr. Stephen Sprinkle at Brite Divinity School likes to say that we are "walking systemic interventions" when we enter into dialogue face-to-face with those who discriminate against us. Don’t miss this moment in time to stand for your own liberation and be part of changing the world for our community!

Soulforce is attending the 219th PCUSA General Assembly and Seeking Presbyterians to Join the Effort!

The Presbyterian Church (USA) established a “Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage” at its 218th General Assembly and charged it to answer the question, “What is the place of covenanted same-gender partnerships in the Christian community?” The committee has met and filed a preliminary report and requested feedback from Presbyterians at large.

And, the Presbytery of Detroit voted to send an overture to the 219th General Assembly meeting in Minneapolis in July that removes barriers to the ordination of LGBT members as elders, deacons, or ministers.

And, More Light Presbyterians, individual members and congregations of the Presbyterian Church (USA) working for the full inclusion of LGBTQ people in the full life of the Church, is planning its strategy for continuing its work at the upcoming General Assembly. MLP declares that “Spiritual equality, ordination equality and marriage equality inspire our work, outreach and legislative organizing for the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), July 3 – 10, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.”

In this setting, SOULFORCE is planning to attend the 219th PC(USA) General Assembly and bring our unique witness for truth and justice to the voting members and other attendees. And, we’re looking for a few good Presbyterians who are interested in helping plan and participate in our SOULFORCE witness. If you’ve been involved in SOULFORCE actions in the past, maybe even the 2000 Soulforce action at the PCUSA General Assembly in Long Beach, CA, and you’re passionate about giving the Presbyterian Church a hand with its confusion about the wholeness and goodness of the LGBTQ members of its denomination, then please send a note to us at info@soulforce.org and let us know about yourself and about your interest in being involved in this exciting direct action.

SOULFORCE, guided by the spirit of truth and empowered by the principles of relentless nonviolent resistance, works to end the religious and political oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning people. Join us as we join the effort to end this oppression within the Presbyterian Church.

Standing Vigil at the Presbytery Meeting, Tampa, Florida

Tampa VigilOn Saturday, February 24, 2001, volunteers from Soulforce vigiled outside the Presbytery of Tampa Bay (Florida) meeting at the Forest Hills Presbyterian Church. This Presbytery was scheduled to deliberate the national amendment that, if approved, would prevent church property from being used for and ministers from taking part in ceremonies or events that pronounce blessing or give approval of the church or invoke the blessing of God upon any relationship that is inconsistent with God’s intention for all people to live in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or in chastity in singleness. Approval would prevent congregations from performing "Holy Unions."

We vigiled from 8 until 11:45 a.m. At that time, ten Soulforce volunteers accepted an invitation to lunch with the 250 commissioners. This gave us the opportunity to share our stories and tell why Soulforce, Tampa Bay was present and concerned. We believe this may have been the first time some of the commissioners had engaged in dialogues with supporters of holy unions. Many think they do not have homosexuals in their churches or, as some described, "the homosexuals are no longer attending."

After lunch, the meeting resumed and five of us accepted the Presbytery’s invitation to attend their meeting as observers. There was vigorous debate, but unfortunately, the moderator offered the commissioners the opportunity to limit debate and this offer was approved. A motion to go to executive session that would have excluded the observers, TV cameras and reporters was defeated. While we considered this a positive, a later motion to have a written ballot was defeated and may have made a difference in the vote totals. Some commissioners may have feared retribution if they voted against the amendment. After the final vote, the amendment was approved by a vote of 140 to 100. We are, of course, disappointed, but the 42 percent opposed, represent a significant increase in the number of those who understand the damage created by the Presbyterian Church, USA’s doctrine that prohibits same-sex marriages.

Nationwide, 173 presbyteries are voting on the proposed ban of same-sex unions. At the time of this vote, it appears that the vote by the Presbytery of Tampa Bay will not be significant in the national vote because the nationwide vote is showing that a majority of the Presbyteries are rejecting the amendment. For the amendment to pass, a majority of the Presbyteries (87) must approve. (Presbyterian Church, USA Web Site: www.pcusa.org)

Subsequent to this vote, a motion was made to approve a proposal initiated by a New York Presbytery that would lift a ban which prevents "practicing" homosexuals from being ordained. This motion was voted down. Nevertheless, the New York proposal will be considered at the next national meeting.

Soulforce – Tampa Bay believes it is important to hold the leadership of these various denominations accountable for their actions. We must not allow them to do their work of impression under cover. That’s why we think it’s important to be present at the Presbytery meetings all over the country. Find out when the Presbytery in your area is meeting and ask to attend the meeting. Let them know that there are real people being affected by the exclusive policy on which they are voting. We will continue to look for the opportunity to stand with the religiously and sexually oppressed. We intend to relentlessly oppose spiritual violence wherever we find it and we will be faithful dissenters by withholding financial support to our congregations if they are not fully welcoming.

Dwight Lawton

Bless the LORD, O My Soul

June 2000

Let me add a few personal thoughts to my participation in the Soulforce counter-worship service at the General Assembly. I had and have read criticism of Soulforce’s civil disobedience tactics from friends as well as from The Christian Century magazine. It was described there as cheap "street theater." One gifted clergy remarked "what a joke" such tactics are in the name of King and Gandhi. Another wonderful friend thought we ought to read King’s "Letter From the Birmingham Jail," to show how pitiful Soulforce’s actions are in comparison. And there were many such comments which gave us all pause.

Such comments were inevitable and we all need to be forthright. I agree with Barbara Wheeler, the President of Auburn Theological Seminary, that all of us should declare what "we deeply believe to be true…The peace of Christ is not a sentimental blanket in which we hide and smother our differences." And Soulforce’s tactics aside, we do need to be clear about what we surely believe. The present policy and theological understanding of the Presbyterian Church regarding homosexuality is anathema. It is sinful. It is heresy. Jesus, within his deepest being, would have challenged it as the idolatry it is. And primarily, ecclesiastical disobedience is the option we must not only consider but pursue. It is time to be more Presbyterian than less!

Nevertheless, I certainly had my doubts about being a part of the particular disobedience called for by the Soulforce demonstration. But before I submitted to being a part of it, I did weigh the opinions of allies, I did re-read King’s message, and I did review everything on Soulforce’s excellent web page. And since I was asked to be one of the seven speakers, I did go to Soulforce’s thorough pre-training event before making up my mind about being arrested. Let me share my reasoning.

First, what was convincing was the integrity of Soulforce’s message. This was evident in what Yolanda King said of her participation of Soulforce’s arrest in Cleveland. She spoke of her Father’s message from jail that its main message was about the "white churches" refusal to do justice for racial minorities and now how white and black churches refuse to do justice for sexual minorities. That is why she needed to be there among those who would choose civil disobedience as a public protest.

Second, even if being arrested was a rather tame event in Long Beach, and it was, there were no assurances it would be. Many Soulforce members stayed two days in jail in Orlando at the Southern Baptist Convention. Being arrested is never to be taken lightly. You give yourselves over to the police and freedom is certainly lost. A gentle slap on the wrist is not guaranteed. Surely being arrested at Long Beech was a mild measured step but it was a step.

Third, although I never really want to be foolish, we sometimes will risk what Paul knew that "we are fools for Christ’s sake." As it turned out, I was the only strait pastor to speak although there were also two straight Elders who also spoke and with much wisdom. We felt it to be very much an honor to identify with those who were GLBT – the most ill treated members in our churches. Even as they were willing and able to stand alone, they welcomed our presence. I also found it meaningful to be handcuffed with William Thompson, from 1966 – 1984, the Stated Clerk of our denomination, who, as he said, had changed his mind and sought to repent of his homophobia. What a courageous confession and person of faith!

Fourth, it was good to give witness outside of the main concurrent worship service at the General Assembly because, at that service, there was not a place set at the table for everyone. And, yes, I appreciated the former moderator of the Assembly, the Rev. Douglas Oldenburg, saying. "I can’t help but believe that most Presbyterians are appreciative and grateful for the silent witness of the Soulforce people and are turned off by the more strident and arrogant witness of those who oppose them."

Fifth, although there were many non-Presbyterians there, especially from the good army of Soulforce folks, the service was all Presbyterians. After working with Soulforce’s founder, Mel White, I found I was pleased by his pastoral skills and his deliberate efforts to stay in the background. Besides, he and the others were not interlopers but persons of the Body of Christ. They had every reason to protest the policy of the Presbyterian Church, as do we.

I believe that the worship service and the arrests made a positive witness. We should give thanks for its occurrence and the many that made it possible. There were many fine words spoken, much better than my own. Still, I offer my own remarks for those not there.

"I speak as a Pastor in my 40th year in the Presbyterian Church – most recently as a pastor of a church, Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. This congregation has over 250 member who are straight and 100 members who are homosexual persons. The first person we ordained who was openly gay and unrepentant of his sexuality was Michael Adee, the extraordinarily gifted person of faith who is now the National Field Director of the More Light movement. Thank you, Michael.

I have blessed gay and lesbian marriages, baptized their children, counselled and heard their confessions, been with them in their deaths and bereavements. They have blessed us with their strong gifts of faith and brought joy and delight and incredible growth to our congregation – making possible a deeper sense of the Gospel than we have ever known.

1. So we say enough! We need no new studies, theological or scientific, to tell us what we know that GLBT persons are not intrinsically different from us straight folks. But we do know that justice delayed is justice denied and already this Assembly has voted for delay.

2. We say enough! What the Presbyterian Church calls sin for GLBT persons, the psychological, medical and scientific professions call "natural affections." And we Presbyterians are supposed to be a church where faith is exposed to reason and reason enlarged by faith!

3. We say enough! We here admit to our own failings but we charge our own church with a double standard!

  • We ask GLBT persons to bear burdens we ourselves refuse to bear. Jesus rightly called that "hypocrisy."
  • Our church asks the world to treat the GLBT persons with justice and equality but we do not offer equality or justice to them in the church.
  • We have made an idol out of heterosexuality.
  • We have become a fundamentalist church taken over by reactionaries who are trapped in the culture of homophobia.
  • We Presbyterians seek to embrace GLBT persons but with only one arm.

4. We say enough!

  • Jesus said love your neighbor and he didn’t say first check out their sexual orientation.
  • We have replaced Jesus with Biblical texts which are out of context from the Bible’s overall message of equity and compassion for all.
  • Sadly, our church has become a stumbling block, limiting the grace of God and the universal Good News of Jesus.

So we declare that we will not abide by any institution, including the Church we love, or the false God of Privilege, that demeans homosexual persons. We excommunicate ourselves from such policies in our beloved church. We say No to such abuse and Yes to God’s full embrace of them and all persons.

Hal Porter
Pastor Emeritus
Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church
Cincinnati, Ohio