The Presbyterian General Assembly continues to meet all week, and it could be days before there is any clarity on the important decisions to be taken on ordaining openly gay pastors, or on church recognition for same sex unions. One hopeful early sign though, may have come from the election of the new Moderator, whom Christian Post describes as “pro-gay”.
No, correction: it’s not just the CP that calls her “pro-gay”. She does so herself, very explicitly:
A pro-gay marriage candidate was elected Saturday to serve as moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for the 219th General Assembly.
Cynthia Bolbach, an elder from Arlington, Va., was the only candidate out of six to express unqualified support for same-sex marriage, as reported by the denomination.
“Who poses the greatest threat to the institution of marriage: Larry King who has been married 8 times” or a gay couple (friends of hers) in Washington, D.C., who have been together for 62 years and who got married two weeks ago?” she said.
The debate over homosexuality has persisted in the PC(USA) for decades. This week, delegates who are meeting for the General Assembly in Minneapolis will consider around a dozen overtures that seek to change the definition of marriage in the PC(USA) Book of Order to be more “inclusive,” allow noncelibate gay clergy to serve, and extend benefits to same-gender spouses and domestic partners.
“I sense that there are some within the PC (USA) who want the ongoing debate over the role of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people in our denomination to just go away,” Bolbach said. “The reality, though, is that the time for deciding when this issue gets resolved is in God’s hands, not ours.”
The new moderator urged Presbyterians to “continue the conversation” and “reason together.
“Those in favor of the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in our life together – and I include myself in that group – believe that we fail to satisfy the Gospel imperative of inclusiveness as we continue to exclude gays and lesbians from leadership in our church,” she said. “But there are also many within our church who believe that homosexual behavior is a sin that violates Scripture’s mandates. I respect their beliefs, and I want to continue in conversation with them about this basic issue.”
Bolbach noted that she doesn’t believe the PC(USA) is ready yet to change the definition of marriage from between a man and a woman to between two people. But she hopes the denomination could develop guidelines for pastors in jurisdictions where same-sex marriage is legal.
What I always find encouraging in reports from the Presbyterians, as from the Lutherans and others, is an emphasis on the importance of dialogue and a search for consensus, and on prayerful discernment, which is so refreshingly different to the Vatican reliance on simple blind obedience:
“We cannot keep retreating to our theological bunkers and lobbing hand grenades. We have got to find a way to gather around the table of Jesus Christ and work these questions out,” said Jim Szeyller, a North Carolina pastor and chair of the Special Committee on Civil Union and Christian Marriage. “I am naïve enough to believe that people can gather around Jesus Christ.”
Read the full report at Christian Post
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- In Celebration: Rev Jane Spahr, “Lesbyterian” (queerhistory.blogspot.com)
- Michael Adee Addresses Believe Out Loud Summit (mlp.org)
- Gay Clergy: God’s Spirit at Work (Huff Post) (queertheology.blogspot.com)
- Shower of Stoles Promotes Dialogue (mlp.org)
- Gay Marriage: Coming (Soon?) to a Church Near You. (queering-the-church.com)
- LGBT Inclusion in Church: A Study in Contrasts (opentabernacle.wordpress.com)