Doors Open Wider!

The doors of Presbyterian Church, with a recent decision to allow for same sex weddings, have just been opened wider for those in the LGBT community wishing to be married.  While I join with Presbyterians from around the country celebrating our becoming a more inclusive church, we must also remember the need to be pastoral toward those in the church who, in heart-felt ways, disagree with this decision.  Let’s be honest!  Many in the church have strong feelings that this was a bad decision.

From a pastoral letter written by Rev. Jim Browne, the General Presbyter for the Presbytery of Lake Huron—the Presbytery of which I am a member:

What this means is that anyone authorized to perform a marriage and lives in a state where this is legally possible will be able to officiate at  same sex weddings as well as traditional weddings, between a man and a woman. The pastor still is vested with the authority to decide whether a particular wedding is wise and should go forward. The Session which is still given the responsibility to control the use of the building still retains the right to authorize the use of the building for a particular wedding, or to refuse it. The rights of the pastor and of the congregation, vested in the Session, will remain unchanged from before.[1]

Rev. Browne calls upon those in our beloved church to be “gentle with one another”.   I like this!  While some, like myself, want to celebrate this change in our church constitution, I also know some of my best friends at the core of their being are in disagreement with where the church when it comes to this issue of marriage.

I am proud to be in a church that wrestles with difficult questions – always putting Christ at the center of our deliberations.  We are grounded in scripture recognizing there can be varied interpretations when it comes to how God’s Word inspires and guides us in making difficult decisions–living our lives as faithful Christians.

It comes down to this for me:  The door is now open wider for those in the LGBT community who wish to join in worship in Presbyterian churches knowing they are fully included as participants in the sacred institutions, like marriage or holding ordained office–institutions and offices we hold near and dear to our hearts.

Note:  Rev. Grady Parsons, the Stated Clerk and spokesperson for the Presbyterian Church shares an excellent letter showing how decisions on the issue of the inclusion of the LGBT community has evolved since the 1970’s—a short letter for those interested in learning more about how the PCUSA came to this decision. 

http://oga.pcusa.org/section/ga/ga221/message-stated-clerk-grady-parsons-marriage/

[1]   Bi-weekly News of the Presbytery of Lake Huron, March 18, 2015

PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH–PROPOSED MARRIAGE AMENDMENT 14-F

The Presbyterian Church is considering an amendment to the constitution that changes the definition of marriage so that persons of any sexual orientation can be married.  Already approved by the General Assembly, Presbyteries now must vote to ratify this proposed change (highlighted):

Marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman, to love and support each other for the rest of their lives.

I am in favor of this amendment.

As a pastor, I recognize there will be those whose consciences differ when it comes to how they will vote on this amendment.  This is okay.  Different people may read and discern what scripture says in ways that differ from my reading of God’s Word.  For me there is nothing vague about the decision that needs to be made.  While traditionally marriage has been between a man and a woman, this amendment opens a door for the spirit of God to work with clergy and with churches who see women and men or those with diverse sexual orientations as ‘children of God’ who have the right to be joined in marriage.

An important point:  The decision is mine and mine alone to make as to whether I perform a marriage—any marriage.  The decision up to the session of a particular church whether to allow a marriage on their property—or not!  The only restriction would be if a vote on this amendment should fail.

Nothing herein shall compel a teaching elder to perform nor compel a session to authorize the use of church property for a marriage service that the teaching elder or the session believes is contrary to the teaching elder’s or the session’s discernment of the Holy Spirit and their understanding of the Word of God.

 

To see the entire section of the constitution impacted by this proposed change to the constitution go to this link:

http://covnetpres.org/amendment-14-f-marriage/

May we pray for unity of our collective heart a presbyters when voting on this amendment.  May our decisions continue to lodged in our respect for one another and in giving glory to God.

 

marriageguide.mlp.org

MARRIAGE & THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (U.S.A.)

A peoples guide for study and conversation

 The issue of gay marriage has become a ‘hot potato’ topic in church and society.  I found this study guide produced by More Light Presbyterians a helpful guide to add to the arsenal of resources for study and conversation.   You can download it from this link.  

Keep this prayer in mind from the Book of Common Worship.  

 “Through the embrace of love and the bonds of godly affection, make us one in the Spirit by your peace which makes all things peaceful.  We ask this through the grace, mercy and tenderness of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Book of Common Worship pg. 812

PRE-ASSEMBLY and PRAYER and REFLECTIONS from a GENERAL ASSEMBLY JUNKY

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PRE-ASSEMBLY and PRAYER and REFLECTIONS

FROM A GENERAL ASSEMBLY  JUNKY

 Most gracious and glorious God:  Guide me in prayer for the 221st meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) meeting in Detroit June 14-21st.  I ask for you to surround elected commissioners with your spirit of discernment.   Empower committee leadership and staff as this assembly seeks to do Your will in doing Your work.

Hear the prayers of your church for sacred worship.  May worship and fellowship fuel this assembly through Word and Sacrament.   Fill our congregations with faith and hope and love as we live out our baptism.    

 Hear my prayers.   AMEN

 


 

REFLECTIONS

 

My first meeting of General Assembly in the former United Presbyterian Church was over forty years ago.   I believe the first Assembly I attended was in Denver in the mid-1970’s.  I have been able to attend about one-third of these Assemblies throughout my career.  [I would have gone to all of them but for the work I was called to do as a pastor.]    

 

I didn’t really become a true “junky” until elected to the General Assembly Council twenty years ago. It was while serving on the GAC and the COGA (Committee on the Office of General Assembly) that I grew to appreciate all the efforts of staff and elected leadership in creating a balanced national conversation on issues we face in church and world.  It is these conversations we hold officially as an assembly among elected representatives that lead to decisions that help build this part of the church we call ‘Presbyterian’. 

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) now meets biennially in even-numbered years.   It saves money to meet every other year.  This also gives the church to deliberate and implement as congregations and mid-councils the work that has been done nationally.   The General Assembly consists of commissioners elected by each of its 173 presbyteries. The GA consists of ten long days, worship, business sessions, committee meetings, an exhibit hall, and tours sponosred by the Presbytery of Detroit—the host for this 221st Assembly.   These assemblies create life-long memories for ruling and teaching elders as well as those who visit these national meetings.

The first day of this Assembly on Saturday, June 21, will consist of worship and the election of a new moderator.  I am biased.  A friend and colleague, John Wilkerson, is running for moderator.  (see http://www.johnwilkinsonpcusa.com/a-shared-vision/)  In my mind and heart, I cannot think of a more qualified person to lead our church with “energy, intelligence, imagination and love”.  I wish I were a commissioner so I could give him my vote.  My voice of support is what I can offer through this blog.

From the official web page of the General Assembly:  

The General Assembly has several specific responsibilities outlined in Chapter 3 of the Book of Order. The assembly seeks to protect our church from errors in faith and practice, is responsible for assuring that the expression of our theology remains true to the biblical standards in our historic confessions. The General Assembly presents a witness for truth and justice in our community and in the world community. It sets priorities for the church and establishes relationships with other churches or ecumenical bodies.  http://oga.pcusa.org/section/ga/ga/  

 

There are literally hundreds of issues that go before various committees as commissioners meet.   This is always an intense, joy-filled meeting in giving glory to God for the gift of Jesus God’s beloved Son.  At the same time as in all family gatherings, this national meeting of Presbyterians also has a fair share of controversy and healthy debate.

 

There will be those issues that threaten to divide us as Presbyterians. For me two issues top the list – the issue of same-gender marriage and Middle East Peacemaking top the list of controversial issues where the Assembly is unlikely to find full consensus.  The challenge, as I see it, is lodged in the HOPE that those who don’t always agree on complex issues will not forget we all are called to be “One in the Spirit, and One in our Lord”. At the same time we pray for our polity that allows us to move forward even if it means agreeing to disagree.    We are called to seek God’s will committed to pray for God’s love and peace to build us up and bind us together.

Finally, may we join in regular prayer for this Assembly.  Let’s take time to follow the work that national leaders are doing on behalf of us all. 

May God continue to bless Christ’s Church and the denominational family named ‘Presbyterian’.

 

The Gospel Is Not At Stake. It’s Just Not.

YoRocko!

I’ll finish up my NEXT Retrospect series tomorrow, because today I want to say something about the World Vision controversy.

If you haven’t been following, World Vision announced earlier this week that it would lift its ban on hiring Christians in legal same gender marriages. Supporters reacted swiftly and vigorously, accusing World Vision of everything from harming children to not believing the Bible to trivializing the cross. Many supporters either threatened to pull child sponsorships directly or speculated that lots of people would (in one of those predictions meant to bring about the thing it predicts).

Amid that wash of evangelical furor, bloggers like Rachel Held Evans defended World Vision and gaped at the pitch of its now disillusioned supporters. Evans even urged people to sponsor a child through World Vision who never had before.

Now World Vision has reversed course and asked for its supporters forgiveness for what it is calling…

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