This year, at the Presbyterian General Assembly, LGBTQ people & allies of the upcoming generation will claim their birthright at members of a just & inclusive church.

27 June 2008

Breaking News: Presbyterians Vote to Recognize Equal Rights for Families of Same-Gender Partners

Presbyterians Vote to Recognize Equal Rights for Families of Same-Gender Partners

SAN JOSE—The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) voted 516-151 (13 abstentions) Friday night to recognize equal rights for families of same-gender partners.

In so doing, the Assembly sought to “renew and strengthen the long-standing Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) commitment to equal protection under the law for lesbian and gay persons and the 216th General Assembly (2004)’s affirmation of the right of same-gender persons to civil union and, thereby, to all the benefits, privileges, and responsibilities of civil union.”

The Assembly further recognized that “married couples enjoy more than 1,000 protections, benefits, and responsibilities that are denied to committed couples in same-gender partnerships and their children.”

The Assembly also requested Presbyterians to urge state legislatures and the federal government to apply the principle of equal protection to same-gender couples and their children.

A special committee will be appointed by the Moderator, representing the range of perspectives within the PCUSA, to study the history and current policies governing marriage and civil union; the theology and practice of marriage in the Reformed and broader Christian tradition; the relationship between civil union and Christian marriage; the effects of current law on same-gender partners and their children; and the place of covenanted same-gender partnerships in the Christian community.

However, the action clearly expressed its intent that “This overture seeks to renew and strengthen the commitment of the PCUSA to equal protection under the law, encourage steps to reinforce this commitment and to affirm the importance of pastoral care and outreach to non-traditional families, including those same-gender commitment partners. This overtures advocates for equal rights and does not seek to redefine the nature of Christian marriage.”

An action seeking to consider redefining the understanding of marriage as a covenant and civil contract between “two people” instead of the current language of “a man and a woman,” was defeated earlier in the evening 540-161 with three abstentions.

Still, the action asserted the PCUSA’s “Support [for] congregations, sessions, and ministers of Word and Sacrament who are seeking to extend pastoral care as well as outreach and evangelism to same-gender couples and their nontraditional families who are more and more our neighbors on our streets and our fellow members in our pews.”

The full text of the Assembly action can be found at:

For more information and related articles, please visit: That All May Freely Serve

June 27, 2008
By Le Anne Clausen

New Church (R)evolution is the young adult program of That All May Freely Serve, which seeks full inclusion of all members of the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA).

Presbyterians Seek Alternatives to Litigation Against Departing Congregations

Presbyterians Seek Alternatives to Litigation Against Departing Congregations

SAN JOSE—The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) voted 519-157 to ask individual congregations and regional governing committees (presbyteries) to develop processes which allow congregations to depart the denomination without resorting to costly litigation.

Previous church policy has held that individual church buildings and property belong to the Presbytery in their geographic location rather than the congregation; and that a congregation wishing to dissolve their relationship with the denomination would lose their property in the process. According to speakers on the floor, 39 lawsuits have been filed by presbyteries and the national denomination against congregations seeking to leave the church body.

This issue has generated particular interest given the deliberation of the PCUSA over full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered persons in the life of the church, especially in recognizing same-gender marriages and ordination. Fear of congregations leaving the denomination has been a frequent concern expressed by those opposing full inclusion, and those favoring inclusion believe this is a significant reason full inclusion has not yet been affirmed by the denomination.

Speakers in favor of today’s action noted the burdensome cost of pursuing litigation and the barrier to open communication and pastoral care that often occurs with litigation. They also noted that such litigation is also “deadly to the cause of Christ,” and causes harm to relationships.
The action states, “the presbytery’s pastoral responsibility… must not be submerged beneath other responsibilities,” and that “it is our belief that Scripture and the Holy Spirit require a gracious witness from us rather than a harsh legalism.”

The Reverend Robert Austell, Presbytery of Charlotte, and Elder Archie Smith, Presbytery of San Joaquin, offered the following hope in their written rationale for the move:
“This could result in a final picture, not of two embittered enemies in court, but in mutual blessing and partnership in the midst of the sadness of parting. We envision presbytery leadership and local church leadership working together to bless and make way for a majority group and to take great care to relocate and shepherd a minority group. This could be the last great joint mission effort of two parts of Christ’s body who are focusing on different mission fields.”

Full text of the action may be found at:

Further information may be found by visiting:

New Church (R)evolution is the young adult program of That All May Freely Serve, which seeks full inclusion of all members of the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA).

June 27, 2008
By Le Anne Clausen

Breaking News: Presbyterians Deny Recognition of Same-Gender Marriages

Presbyterians Deny Recognition of Same-Gender Marriages

SAN JOSE—The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) voted Friday evening to deny a change of language that would recognize marriage as a covenant between “two people” instead of “a man and a woman.”

The vote differed 540 to 161, with three abstentions. However, Youth Advisory Delegates, Theological Student Advisory Delegates, and Missionary Advisory Delegates were split nearly evenly on the issue.

The overture, originally presented by the Baltimore Presbytery, asked for the denomination to send the proposed amendments to the presbyteries for their affirmative or negative response. The Baltimore Presbytery reasoned that "in our churches and communities same gender couples are living together in loving, committed, monogamous relationships. They are raising children, caring for aging parents, and making positive contributions to their communities. These couples include new and long-time members of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Their relationships are equivalent to a marriage in every way but formal recognition by the church and by most states in which they live, though some states are recognizing their relationships as marriages or civil unions."

Since 1991, the PCUSA has worked under an 'Authoritative Interpretation' that distinguishes between same-sex unions, which it has permitted within the church, and homosexual marriage, which it has not. In 2000, an ecclesiastical court ruling (Benton v. Presbytery of Hudson River) affirmed this teaching and distinguished between "a permissible same-sex ceremony and a marriage ceremony is that the latter confers a new status whereas the former blesses an existing relationship."

Still to be decided tonight by the Assembly is whether to affirm the committee's recommendation to recognize the family health care rights of domestic partners, and whether to persue through litigation properties belonging to congregations who elect to leave the PCUSA.

By Le Anne Clausen
June 27, 2008

For more information, please visit:

Breaking News: Presbyterians vote to approve change of ordination policies for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender ministers, deacons, and elders

June 27, 2008

San Jose, CA --Shortly before noon on Friday, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) voted to change ordination policies of the denomination. Up to now, requirements included "fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness." The new passage simply states that candidates for ordination "pledge themselves to live lives obedient to Jesus Christ the Head of the Church, striving to follow where he leads through the witness of the Scriptures, and to understand the Scriptures through the instruction of the Confessions." The motion will now be sent to the individual presbyteries (regional clusters of congregations) for ratification, and will need to pass by a simple majority in order to change the Book of Order (constitution).

For more information, please visit:

Hate Group Accosts Presbyterians at General Assembly

San Jose, CA—Carrying signs and shouting epithets such as "Jesus hates you" and "All Presbyterians will burn in hell," a hate group accosted dozens of participants in the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA)'s General Assembly at the San Jose Convention Center Wednesday night.

The group arrived a day after the denomination's committee recommendation to the Assembly to delete G-6.0106(b), a clause that excludes gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons in relationships from being ordained to the ministry of word and sacrament.

The group brought large signs declaring, "Homosexuality is a Threat to National Security," and positioned themselves on the plaza outside the Convention Center. Presbyterian commissioners (voting delegates), youth delegates, and other participants in the Assembly were returning from a supper break when the incident occurred.

In response, members of New Church (R)evolution (NCR), a young adult program of That All May Freely Serve, formed a nonviolent counter-witness by kneeling in a line in front of the protestors and praying and singing about God's love for all people. NCR members also offered freshly-baked cookies to comfort Presbyterians who were distressed at the behavior of the protestors.

A male protestor who appeared to be leading the group shouted obscenities at the women kneeling. After several more statements such as these, a young woman kneeling with the group broke down in tears. One of the protestors shouted at her, "You'll be crying when you're burning in hell!" Later, another young woman observing the group also broke down in tears as the man began to harangue her also. NCR members counseled the women and escorted them away from the man.

The group's signs advertised that they belonged to Bema Ministries. According to Bema's website (, they are "a husband and wife evangelism team…..[intending to] publicly preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all people, mostly on college campuses and at large events such as the Super Bowl, Mardi-Gras, Fantasy Fest, and the like." A photo on their site shows two of the group members who were present at the Convention Center incident smiling and wearing t-shirts saying, "Only Jesus Christ the Messiah can save you from burning in Hell!"

Later in the evening, Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick, the administrative head of the PCUSA, advised the Assembly that the police had been called to intervene with the protestors because their behavior had "offended and concerned" many members of the Assembly. However, he explained, the police could not intervene further since the protestors were on the sidewalk and not on public property.

New Church (R)evolution plans to continue being a nonviolent presence in response to the Bema group throughout the Assembly as needed.

For photos and more details, please visit

By Le Anne Clausen
June 26, 2008

Other links:
Also available on Facebook "New Church R Evolution"

Howard B. Warren Award to Jim and Jackie Spahr

Today That All May Freely Serve honored two life-long advocates of LGBT equality. Each year TAMFS presents the Howard B. Warren Award to individuals who embody the same passion and radical inclusion that Howard Warren envisioned for the church. Warren was often described as “God’s Glorious Gadfly!” Today we celebrated Warren’s deep-seated love for the Church as TAMFS presented Jim and Jackie Spahr with the Howard B. Warren Award.

Jim and Jackie have a long history of supporting LGBT equality. They were the founders of the PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) chapter in their community, and were at the forefront of advocating for full insurance coverage of those living with HIV/AIDS. Jim and Jackie have also been strong proponents of marriage equality and full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the church.

Today’s event took place outside the San Jose Convention Center where the 218th General Assembly of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is currently meeting.

see photos here

Out of Place - my experience at the OnebyOne luncheon

by Heather Grantham (

I had the opportunity on Tuesday to attend a luncheon sponsored by the group OnebyOne. On its website, OnebyOne claims its mission is to, “equip and educate the church to minister the transforming grace and power of the Lord Jesus Christ to those who are in conflict with their sexuality.” They believe homosexuality is a sin. They also believe gay individuals are not “gay” per se, they are just “suffering from same-sex attraction.”

Walking into the luncheon, Lisa Larges and I were accosted with hospitality. We were ushered to our seats and brought drinks and box lunches. We sat front and center at a table where we, with our rainbow stoles and pins, were obviously on a different wave-length than those seated around us. The atmosphere was awkward. On one hand, the people speaking with us were welcoming and loving. On the other hand, I couldn’t help but think that the people who appeared so loving were also damning Lisa and me into hell for not agreeing with their stance on LGBT issues. We soon stopped our conversation and turned to the podium.

Tuesday’s lunch focused on the problems of “lesbianism” and “bisexuality.” The main speaker was the Executive Director of OneByOne, Kristen Johnston. Kristen focused mainly upon the causes of “same sex attraction.” She delved deep into psychoanalysis, quoting various, unnamed studies showing that most women who self identify as lesbian or bisexual suffered sexual abuse, negative relationships with their mothers, and/or bad body image.

Negative body image and sexual assault is something the majority of women deal with. If sexual abuse and bad body image “cause lesbianism,” why aren’t there more self-identified lesbians out there!? If Kristen’s statements are true, then the majority of women you meet on the street are lesbians! However, this is not the case. OnebyOne, in their attempt to explain lesbian and bisexual individuals, is just placing smaller boxes around an already marginalized group.

I was also struck by Kristen’s statement that many lesbian and bisexual women turn to feminism because they hate men. This is a huge leap in logic and is just plain false. Feminists do not hate men. I am a self-proclaimed radical feminist whose closest friends are men and who relishes in the company of many people on various places of the gender spectrum. Kristin also stated that lesbian and bisexual women have rejected their femininity by refusing to receive. I was a little perplexed by this statement. Why does there have to be this binary of “feminine” and “masculine”, of “receiving” and “giving”, of “gay” and “straight”?

I do not want to bash OnebyOne, however I feel they are manipulating facts to serve their “mission.” I do not agree with OnebyOne’s stance on LGBTQ folk, but I do know they feel strongly that they are being led by God. All the individuals I met at the luncheon were wonderful people, and I could see us agreeing on many issues. But the fact that they want me to deny who I am and who God calls me to be, severs the possibility of a positive, life-affirming relationship. Because each one of us is a child of God’s and is called into community, I feel it is important to dialogue with OnebyOne. It is important to talk to those with whom we disagree in order to grow wiser in the Spirit of God. Perhaps down the road, OnebyOne and That All May Freely Serve can just agree to disagree and stop trying to change each other. But until that day, let’s discuss the things we can agree on - like sexuality being a gift from God.

Heidelberg Catechism

Today the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted 436 to 280 (11 abstentions) to begin the process of correcting mistranslations found in the Heidelberg Catechism. The debate circled around Question 87 which contains a reference to “homosexual perversion” which is not found in the original German text nor in any subsequent translation in any language published prior to 1962. The affirmative vote the by the assembly will begin the lengthy process of removing this language from the Heidelberg Catechism. To make any changes to the Book of Confessions each presbytery will have to ratify the changes before taking effect.

Dr. Jack Rogers, former moderator of the PC(USA), spoke on behalf of the overture informing the assembly of the need to restore this confession to its original form. Dr. Jack Rogers has written extensively on this confession and states on his website, “From a scholarly perspective, it is inexcusable to insert words that were not in the original text of the Catechism…the fact that this unauthorized and theologically incorrect insertion is used to condemn a whole class of church members makes it all the more egregious.”

Those speaking against the overture cited that making changes to the confessions will confuse folks sitting in the pews as well as continue to divide the church over the issue of homosexuality. Others highlighted that this same overture had been disapproved by the 209th and 210th General Assemblies (1997) and (1998).

The will of the assembly; however, denied this argument and went on to approve the changes recommended by the committee.

26 June 2008

Glimpses of the New Church Revolution: Techno Evening Prayer

Glimpses of the New Church Revolution: Techno Evening Prayer
By Le Anne Clausen

An abandoned parking lot sits in the midst of the city, not far from the glitz of convention centers and high-rise hotels. Strains of Moby and a thumping beat lead people into this space off the beaten path. Sidewalk chalk marks out a labyrinth to one side, and young adults walk along its paths thoughtfully. There's an RV, and undulating images to accompany the music are projected against the large white walls of the vehicle. Nearby, there's a table with cookies and a cooler full of water to revive tired worshippers. Dozens of tea lights flicker and form paths in the darkness.

Welcome to Techno Evening Prayer, held nearly every evening during the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA). Members of the New Church (R)evolution create the alternative worship space each evening, after the fervor of the Assembly proceedings.

In a quiet corner, a rug and pillows allow people to pray quietly alone or with a prayer leader. In the center, people are dancing, wearing and waving glow sticks. Others are playing with beach-balls. Still others are painting designs on each others' faces. The music is lowered for opening and closing prayer and words of welcome.

Here twenty to thirty young adults, and often members of older generations gather to dance, sing, pray, hug, cry, shout and laugh with one another. There's something for everyone, and leaders and participants alike actively seek to make everyone feel welcome.

Sure, it's advertised as the 'church of the future,' but what does this have to do with full inclusion of LGBTQ members of the church? For some, it is simply a safe place to express identity and practice acceptance of themselves and others as they are created. For others, the variety of activities available as forms of prayer and worship illustrate the many kinds of people that are in our churches and how worship and prayer in community need to be made available and accessible to all.

Last night, after an anti-gay hate group accosted members of the Assembly, worship participants drew out in sidewalk chalk all the meanings they could think of for love. The parking lot was filled with handwriting and some profound thoughts, from 'Love doesn't endure abuse' to 'Love is Radical' to '[Love] is always enough.' Techno Evening Prayer will continue to be held each night at 11:30 just off the Parkside Walkway between the San Jose Civic Center and the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

For more pictures and details, please, or visit us on Facebook.

25 June 2008

On Hatred and Cookies: Hate Group Accosts PCUSA

Wednesday, June 25, during the supper break, an anti-gay hate group brought signs to the plaza of the Convention Center and accosted Commissioners (voting delegates), youth delegates, and other participants in the PCUSA General Assembly in San Jose. The New Church (R)evolution youth, along with other supportive groups, offered a nonviolent witness in response by kneeling, praying, and singing about Christian love and peacebuilding. NCR also handed out cookies and consoled the Assembly delegates, some of whom were quite upset at the hate group's remarks.

For more photos and details, please visit the website:

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The Presbyterian Church Needs to be Inclusive, says “New Church (R)evolution”

The Presbyterian Church Needs to be Inclusive, says “New Church (R)evolution”

san jose, ca, June 25, 2008:

On the evening of June 24, the (R)evolutionary Revival Worship Service took place at the Parkside Walkway in downtown San Jose. There were about a hundred enthusiastic participants at the worship service. Most of these were in San Jose for the biennial General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). This service was coordinated by a group calling itself “The New Church (R)evolution,” a group of young people associated with the organization That All May Freely Serve (TAMFS).

TAMFS is a national ministry based in Rochester, New York, working to create an inclusive church for all who are disenfranchised: a church honoring diversity and welcoming lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons as full members. Full membership includes eligibility for ordination to the offices of elder, deacon, and Minister of Word and Sacrament.

Joining with the Presbyterians was a choir and band from the Metropolitan Christian Church of San Jose, who brought their rocking upbeat inspirational Christian gospel music to the crowd. "The choir was absolutely uplifting and remarkable," said one attendee. “The Spirit is definitely on the sidewalks of San Jose tonight.”

The sermon was preached by the New Church (R)evolution team coordinator, Richard Lindsay.

"There is a new Generation rising up in this church," Lindsay said in his sermon, "a welcoming generation that doesn't feel the need to fit sexuality and gender into the traditional categories."

Lindsay further pointed out that the Presbyterian Church is not losing an ideological fight with the religious right. He recognized that the Presbyterian Church is aging and failing to regenerate itself. The church needs to be more diverse and inclusive in order to attract new constituencies to the church and retain young people said Lindsay.

"We have discovered a new church in the wilderness that was once the Presbyterian Church. We are not asking them if we can be a part of their church; we are inviting them to be a part of the church that we've found." said Lindsay.

"I've been waiting for the time when the LGBT folks can be fully included in the Presbyterian Church for many years now. I am keen to fully participate in church as an ordained member, but the existing church polity is not allowing this. I feel like a second-class member of the church. It is frustrating," a lesbian at the worship service commented.

Still, there is hope for the Presbyterian Church.

Earlier in the afternoon, one of the committees of the General Assembly, Church Orders and Ministry, decided decisively to recommend that G-6.0106b be removed from the Book of Order, one of two parts of the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s constitution. This provision, also known as Amendment B, has been used to exclude LGBT persons within the Presbyterian church from being ordained to serve as church officers or ministers.

The entire body of the PC(USA)’s General Assembly will now convene in plenary sessions for the next three days. Minister- and Elder-Commissioners, along with Youth Advisory Delegates, Theological Seminary Delegates, and delegates representing the international mission of the denomination, will decide whether or not to heed the invitation of the welcoming generation to be fair and inclusive.




SAN JOSE – That All May Freely Serve (TAMFS), a group advocating for full membership of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), hailed a 41 to 11 committee vote to remove discriminatory language from the church’s constitution, opening the door for ordination of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

"Today was an historic day for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals who have been waiting for the Presbyterian Church to embrace all people as equal members," said Lisa Larges, Executive Director of TAMFS. "This was the most votes on record affirming LGBT people who are called to ministry."

The next step in the process is for the full assembly to vote on the recommendation made by the “Church Orders and Ministry” committee. The vote is expected to occur either Thursday or Friday of this week. If the full assembly votes affirmatively on the committee’s recommendation then each of the 173 presbyteries across the country will have to ratify the decision before it takes effect.

For more information about the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) please visit HYPERLINK "" \o "blocked::"

For more information about TAMFS please visit HYPERLINK "" \o "blocked::"

24 June 2008

Same Gender Wedding - Story from Presby Outlook

Story originally appeared at:
Written by: Katie Pate, OUTLOOK GA correspondent

A same-sex wedding made possible by a recent California Supreme Court decision was held June 21 at the conclusion of the More Light Presbyterians’ traditional reception and dinner during the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
After First Church, Palo Alto, Calif., received the More Light Presbyterians’ Inclusive Church Award, two of its members, Derrick Kikuchi and Craig Wiesner, received the National More Light Presbyterians David Sindt Leadership Award.
As the longtime couple accepted their award at the podium, Kikuchi stunned the gathering by asking Wiesner to join him to make their marriage legal in the state of California.
“Though it will be on the front page of the Layman tomorrow,” Wiesner said, “I will.”
The couple was greeted by surprised exclamations, whoops of delight and a standing ovation by the body gathered there.
Michael Adee, national field organizer for More Light Presbyterians, said in an interview that Kikuchi and Wiesner were married in a church ceremony 18 years ago at First Church in Palo Alto – in a service that he said the session of that congregation recorded as a “marriage,” not a same-sex union.
The wedding at the More Light Presbyterians dinner was possible because the California Supreme Court on May 15 struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional. That makes California the second state in the country, following Massachusetts, to legalize same-sex marriage. Four other states allow civil unions. California just began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on June 16 – just in time, as it happened, for the Presbyterian General Assembly.
The couple called on Diana C. Gibson, the pastor who presided over that service 18 years ago to perform the ceremony. “I’m not asking for us to be married before God because this was already done in our church in 1990.” Wiesner told Gibson. “Will you join us to make this a legal civil marriage?” Gibson accepted, and the two witnesses from the church service 18 years ago, Julie McDonald and Mitzi Henderson, served as witnesses again this time. Gibson is a former pastor of First Church in Palo Alto, and now the executive director of the Santa Clara Council of Churches.
The gathered body was silent as the couple repeated the vows they composed in this largely self-directed ceremony, among them, “to find ... the courage to resist the many deaths by which love can die, ... to be willing to take the risk to accept the vulnerability to love again and again and again.”
After the couple repeated their vows to each other, the body was invited to stand and commit to support Kikuchi and Wiesner, and couples like them. Gibson declared with careful emphasis on the last word, "By the authority newly given me by the state of California, I declare that Craig and Derrick are married in the eyes of the state.”
Supporters were invited to stay to sign the marriage certificate.
“This is a proclamation in a public place saying why this union -- although often scorned by people -- is blessed by God,” Weisner said at the close of the ceremony. We've made an incredible journey these twenty years to be here with you tonight. May God bless us all.”
“This is the legal completion” of what happened 18 years ago, Adee said. The couple believe they were reaffirming the vows they made in a church marriage 18 years ago – “they consider that they had already been married in their faith community 18 years ago,” he said – and now are being married civilly under California law.
So does this amount to a wedding in the eyes of the church?
“I don’t know where it fits,” Adee said.
But he also said: “Diana (Gibson) is aware that she could likely be charged with an offense with this one.”
Like much at the General Assembly, this same-sex ceremony comes with a shopping cart loaded full of history and not a few nuances.
Court rulings. The debate over same-sex unions is not new to the PC(USA), although this is the first time a General Assembly has been held in a state that was currently permitting same-sex marriage.
The most recent twist in the PC(USA)’s ongoing debate over this was a ruling in April 2008 in a case involving Jane Adams Spahr, a California minister who was brought up on charges for performing two by performing two “ecclesiastical” marriages for lesbian couples.
The General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission – also known as the GAPJC and the PC(USA)’s highest court – ruled April 29 that Spahr had not violated the church’s constitution, because what she described as a “marriage” in fact, in the court’s view, was not.
The GAPJC ruled that the denomination’s constitution does not prohibit a Presbyterian minister from performing a same-sex union ceremony, as long as that ceremony is not represented as a marriage.
And since the PC(USA) constitution defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, “a same-sex ceremony can never be a marriage,” the GAPJC ruling stated.
The ruling also stated that the commission “does not hold that there are no differences between same-sex ceremonies and marriage ceremonies. We do hold that the liturgy should be kept distinct for the two types of services,” and that church officers authorized to perform marriages “shall not state, imply or represent that a same-sex ceremony is a marriage.”
That raises the question of whether – now that the GAPJC has ruled in the Spahr case – a Presbyterian minister could face charges that would stick if he or she conducted a same-sex ceremony that was represented as a marriage.
Ironically, Spahr also was in the news this week. She performed a same-sex California wedding June 20 at a government building in Marin County and, according to the Associated Press, said after the service that "I pronounced them married under the authority granted me by the state and as a minister of the Presbyterian Church." One of the women involved in that wedding was Sara Taylor, a lawyer who represented Spahr in her case before the GAPJC, and who has been involved in a committed relationship with her partner, Sherrie Holmes, for 18 years.
Overtures. The assembly itself – meeting in San Jose June 21-28 – will be dealing with several overtures related to same-sex partners.
An overture from Baltimore Presbytery would change the definition of marriage in the church’s constitution, to say that marriage is between “two people” rather than a between a man and a woman.
The PC(USA)’s Book of Order currently reads that “marriage is a civil contract between a woman and a man. For Christians marriage is a covenant through which a man and a woman are called to live out together before God their lives of discipleship. In a service of Christian marriage a lifelong commitment is made by a woman and a man to each other, publicly witnessed and acknowledged by the community of faith.”
The overture proposes to change the language to say: “Marriage is a covenant between two people and according to the laws of the state also constitutes a civil contract. For Christians marriage is a covenant through which two people are called to live out together before God their lives of discipleship. In a service of Christian marriage a lifelong commitment is made between two people, publicly witnessed and acknowledged by the community of faith.”
Two other overtures – similarly worded, one from New Brunswick Presbytery, one from Denver Presbytery – deal with the issue of rights for same-sex partners. They refer to the denomination’s long-standing commitment to equal protection under the law for gay and lesbian persons.
And they ask the General Assembly moderator to appoint a special committee, with diverse representation, which would study the issue of same-sex unions – including laws and history, theology, and the relationship between civil union and Christian marriage – and to report back to the assembly in 2010 with possible policy recommendations.

Personal Statement on G-6.0106b

Today I attended the hearings for the removal of G-6.0106B from the Presbyterian's Book of Order. Over 60 people signed up to testify for or against the deletion of this amendment. I spoke in favor of having G-6.0106B removed to the committee that will eventually vote to send it to the full floor of the assembly. It is hard to comprehend sometimes why any Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender (LGBT) person would remain in the PC(USA). Even with so many supportive and loving people in this denomination I am not sure why we continue to stick around. The church has made it explicitly clear that LGBT people are not welcome. Psychologists, therapists, and probably most people would say we are a bit insane. And to some degree I concur. It is a bit insane! I'll come back to this in a minute.

I first want to talk about the people who spoke to keep G-6.0106B in the Book of Order. The majority of people were part of the X-gay movement. I am not sure if they actually went through an X-gay degayification program, but you know what I am talking about. They would get up there and say, "I have struggled all my life with same-sex attraction. I even experienced life as a gay/lesbian individual and my life was horrible. Thanks to the church and Jesus Christ I was brought back to my heterosexuality. And here are the three children [holds up picture of children] that I have had with my husband/wife. So please keep G-6.0106B in the Book of Order." There were at least 7 people that said something like this while I was in the room today. First of all how sad is that? That was my first response. How horribly sad for these people. My second thought was how the HELL does this have anything to do with G-6.0106B? If a gay/lesbian person wants to live their life as a pseudostraight person then great! But how does choosing that path provide an argument for keeping someone like me from being ordained in the PC(USA)? The whole thing is just ridiculous.

The other thing that struck me today were all those beautiful gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals bearing witness to God's call in their life and the church's refusal to accept them as leaders. You can see it on every single LGBT person that has stuck with the church. You can see it in their eyes and you can see how their hearts ache. Beautiful children of God sharing what they know to be true. The church says one thing and yet we know that God's call is real and powerful. We know another reality exists. It always reminds me of the story of the blind man that was given sight in John's gospel. The Pharisees keep asking, "how could this happen!?!" And the blind man always responds, "I don't know I can only tell you what happened to me...I can only share the experience I know." That is all we can do as LGBT people...share the call God has placed in our hearts. We have no idea why it is happened to us no more than a straight person called by God. All we know is that it has happened. If the Presbyterian Church wants to know how this can happen...then my advice is for them to drag Jesus to the stand and have Him testify. But my guess is that the church is really not interested in what Jesus has to say about this issue even if they could get Jesus on the stand. The church is too busy trying to protect the purity of the church than to listen to Jesus.

So why again do we LGBT people stay in this broken discriminatory denomination? There are some things I guess we can never fully answer. For me I stay because I care. It sucks that I care, but I do. I wish I didn't and I could just walk away. But right now I care too much to walk away. So I am here in San Jose taking a week of vacation from my job to testify why the church should allow me and so many others to be ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

-from the desk of David Paul

22 June 2008

Who I am and why I'm here with NC(R)

My name is Heather Grantham. I grew up in a conservative Presbyterian church in rural Oklahoma. I’ve had the privilege of working with the Presbyterian Church (USA) in various capacities: local churches, national office, mission field, to name a few. My love for the church runs deep through my veins. However, I’m disappointed with this institution. Instead of sharing the love of Christ with all of God’s children, we are denying a specific group of people from sharing in the fullness of the church.

I did not consciously know of any Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or Queer (LGBTQ) folks growing up. Being “gay” was something that we did not talk about in my household. Gay people were projected in the media as something “different” or “other” or even “gross.” Any education about the subject was from the media. Our sex ed curriculum in Middle and High school only covered STDs and abstinence. I was ignorant to the spectrum of sexuality. I remember the first time I even talked about LGBTQ issues was in High school when a young man I was in love with told me he was gay. After digesting what this man told me, I went to the church to see its opinion. Up to that point I had accepted most of what the church told me to believe. However, the propaganda espoused by our church body left a bad taste in my mouth. How could God be love, yet reject a certain group of people? When I asked this question to a Christian group I belonged to in college, the answer was “God hates fags.” This is illogical when placed up against the inclusive phrase, “God is love.”

God does not hate LGBTQ folk. All of God’s children are wonderfully made! God calls each of us - regardless of sexuality - to be in full communion with our Parent. So why does the PC(USA) still reject LGBTQ people from the pulpit? Why does it reject the covenantal relationship between two same gendered people? I don’t have the answers to these questions. I only know that this is against the message of Christ to be an intentional, covenantal, loving, and inclusive community.

I joined the New Church (R)evolution simply because God is inclusive. God is love. We in the PC(USA) need to be inclusive of LGBT individuals who hear the call of God in their life. We need to listen to the Holy Spirit and follow the lead of Jesus Christ. We must change our stance on ordination because it is the fair and loving thing to do.

20 June 2008

Why it's not "trendy" for churches to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality

Last summer, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (which, despite its name, is the largest and most liberal Lutheran body in the U.S.) voted recently at their bi-annual Churchwide Assembly to allow their bishops the leeway not to remove or punish gay clergy in committed relationships. It was a major step forward, as it basically allows liberal bishops in the church to ordain openly gay clergy as they see fit.

Here was Cal Thomas' reaction, as published in the Washington Post’s “On Faith” section:
“The Evangelical Lutheran Church bishops have embraced trendiness and abandoned the very scriptures that are their basis for evangelizing. If these bishops choose to
violate God's instruction book, church members have two choices, should they wish to continue to honor the authority of scripture and its Author: They can remove the bishops from office or they can leave the denomination. To remain in the denomination and do nothing makes members co-conspirators in the bishops' apostasy."

We’ll leave aside for the moment that his theology of the bible is indistinguishable from that of a seven year-old—or Christopher Hitchens. What I’d like to comment on is his denunciation of the denomination’s “trendiness.”

As an evangelical and a former spokesperson for Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, Thomas is not expected to have attended a national meeting of a liberal protestant denomination like the one where the Lutherans made their decision. These conferences happen during the summers on annual or bi-annual or tri-annual schedules. Thousands of Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Congregationalists get together in massive convention halls in a protestant-palooza of worship, meetings, and committees. The proceedings usually resemble Congress more than church, with measures and counter-measures being voted on, reports being issued, and bishops and moderators elected. For the last 15 to 20 years, the pressing issue at these national mainline meetings has frequently been gays.

What Thomas doesn’t know (or chooses to ignore) is that these mainline denominational meetings are full of good, mainline people. Red state and blue state people. The kind of people that, as Bill Clinton used to say, “work hard, pay their taxes, and play by the rules.” And these good people agonize over the place of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in their churches. Should they be ordained? Should they be married? What does this say about the state of the family in our church and in society? And good people disagree—often speaking on the floor and voting with tears in their eyes—then hugging members of the side that has “lost” the vote. These are not trendy people. They’re not hippies smoking pot and handing out condoms to teenagers. They’re mostly white, middle class, increasingly aging, and rending their Polo shirts trying to make a decision that is just, compassionate, and Christian.

The reason they struggle is you can’t go to one of these national meetings without getting to know the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender members of the church. Gay rights affinity groups in the denominations have made a distinct effort for the last 20 years to make themselves known in their churches. What these gay Christians are doing is telling their churches who their ministers, organists, Sunday school teachers, and deacons really are. And how they live their lives. And who they really love.

And you can’t be a member of any church, whether liberal protestant, evangelical, or Roman Catholic, without knowing about the tragedies. Like Reverend Brent Dugan, beloved pastor of 18 years at Community Presbyterian Church of Ben Avon, Pennsylvania, who checked into a motel room in November of 2006, took a bottle of aspirin and washed it down with alcohol. Before he died, he left a note speaking of his "profound sorrow and sadness, and sense of solemn grief and embarrassment, about what he thought would come to be known about his personal life." His former lover was threatening to expose him as a gay man to the local media. As a Presbyterian I can tell you the Presbytery of Pittsburgh is one of the most conservative in the country. No sir, they’re not trendy. They know what’s what. Thank God they never gave into the “gay agenda” long enough to let Reverend Dugan come out of the closet. He might have gayed up the whole damn church.

Responding with compassion to the tragedy of those who have died because of their struggle with their sexuality is not licentiousness. Looking at a public servant like senator Larry Craig taking a ridiculous risk because he is so desperate for the touch of a man and wondering if maybe there’s something wrong with society, not with him, does not go against the Gospel. Listening to members of your church who are sharing a profound spiritual truth about themselves is not being trendy, that’s loving people. You know, like Jesus did.

But the Cal Thomases of the world will continue to sneer at the mainline churches for going down the path to cultural accommodation. They will insulate themselves from the very real struggles of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their churches by calling it “trendy.” They will shake their heads ruefully as they chalk it all up to meta-theories of a hedonistic society run amok. Meanwhile, gay people will fight for their lives.

from the desk of Richard Lindsay

16 June 2008

Richard Lindsay - (R)evolutionary

Richard Lindsay, New Church (R)evolution Team Coordinator, began his activist career with That all May Freely Serve, a grassroots organization working for full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the Presbyterian Church (USA). After graduating with a Master of Divinity from Yale University, he worked at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, focusing on raising the profile of their National Religious Leadership Roundtable. He was the media director on the first Soulforce Equality Ride in 2006, and continued as interim communications director for the summer 2006 Soulforce protest of Focus on the Family. He currently works as a communications consultant to the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry and Pacific School of Religion. Richard is a PhD student in Art and Religion at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA.

13 June 2008

Jai Wells - (R)evolutionary

Jai is very excited to join the TAMFS (R)evolution team, and brings
with him 8 years of experience with the PC(USA). He began his
affiliation in college, through campus ministry groups, and is
currently a member of a More Light Congregation in Louisville, KY. He
has been lucky enough to attend 3 past General Assemblies and a young
adult retreat with More Light Presbyterians. Jai also attended
Louisville Presbyterian Seminary, where he obtained a Masters in
Marriage and Family Therapy, a Masters in Religion, and worked with a
group of people to organize annual Transgender Day of Remembrance
events on campus. Currently, Jai works as a therapist and case manager
to foster children and as a supervisor to foster families, and lives
in Louisville, KY. Jai identifies as transgender, and has recently
begun using male pronouns.

06 June 2008

Katie Anderson - (R)evolutionary

Katie Anderson is a restless pilgrim journeying with the Church. She
is (patiently) wading through the process of becoming an Inquirer in
the PC(USA). She lives in Louisville, Kentucky and works with a
fantastic organization committed to supporting feminist art for social
change. Katie will be attending McCormick Theological Seminary in the
fall and pursuing an MDiv. She stays in the Church because she
desperately wants to be a leader in its ongoing reformation - one that
she hopes will be deep, honest and provocative - one that must call
the Church into radical, theological transformation. She believes the
Church needs her just as much as she needs the Church. Katie is proud
to be Presbyqueerian.

Kate Smanik Moyes - (R)evolutionary

Kate Smanik Moyes, 29 (as of June 14th) is an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament in the PC(USA). She currently serves as the Helen Carnell Eden Chaplain at Wilson College in Chambersburg, PA. As a student at the College of Wooster (class of 2001) Kate developed a passion for Social Justice issues as a Women's Studies major. She continued this work at Yale Divinity School through participation in coursework that explored issues of gender equality at the US Air Force Academy, and through her work as Coordinator for the YDS Women's Center in the 2004-2005 academic year. In her work at WIlson College, Chaplain Kate Smanik Moyes, co-advises the Allies Club, and the Habitat for Humanity Campus Chapter, as well as working collaboratively with a variety of departments on campus to promote and plan educational opportunities for students around issues of Social Justice. Kate's claim to fame is that she and her mother, Jinny Smanik were ordained together after graduating from YDS in the same class. Of all of the wise council in her life, Kate's mom is the best.

Kate Kozinski - (R)evolutionary

Kate Kozinski is in her final year of the M.Div program at Chicago
Theological Seminary and is on the ordination track in the United
Church of Christ as an out lesbian. For the past three years she has
worked for DEPTH Youth, Inc., a Lily grant-funded program catered to
accompany high school aged young people as they consider questions of
vocation and social justice concerns. She is a total church geek and
currently lives in Oak Park, just west of the Chicago city limits.

02 June 2008

Luke Williams - (R)evolutionary

Luke Williams just finished his first year of seminary at San Francisco Theological Seminary, and is currently under care of the Presbytery of San José as an inquirer. Luke, who was raised in a conservative evangelical home, became a Presbyterian in high school.
He was drawn to the prophetic witness of the PC(USA) (such as the Confession of 1967 and many of its social witness policies) and its representational government. Luke has tried to stay active in social justice movements, especially since starting seminary, and is excited to do more of that at the General Assembly. Luke enjoys liturgy, beer, and living in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Carolina Treviño - (R)evolutionary

Carolina Treviño is a student at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. She is a life-long Presbyterian, a double PK, and currently interns with the non-profit Presbyterian Welcome. She hopes to get a call as a Peacemaker when she finishes her seminary studies in 2009.

Katy Moore - (R)evolutionary

Katy is an M.Div student at Union Theological Seminary in New York, where she plans thesis work building a queer christology, thinking about "the body of christ" in conversation with marginalized bodies today. Katy is currently working as an intern at The Brick Presbyterian Church, working mostly with youth ministry and worship leadership. She will be an inquirer in the PCUSA as of June 12, and hopes to create a welcoming church home that pushes the boundaries of what church can be.

Courtney Hoekstra - (R)evolutionary

My name is Courtney Hoekstra, and I currently live in Louisville, KY, where I just completed my Masters of Divinity at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. I spent the past year working as the Student Coordinator of the Women's Center at Louisville Seminary, where I was involved in planning and participating in many events that educated people and advocated for justice for LGBTQ folks. This coming year, I will be working on a Th.M. at the Seminary, and hope to go on to do Ph.D. work in theology in the future.

Angie Gunkler - (R)evolutionary

My name is Angie Gunkler and I am an active Elder at the Downtown United Presbyterian Church in Rochester, NY. I currently co-direct the church’s youth group and am a member of both the session and Marketing Ministry Team.
I enjoy living in Rochester and experiencing all the opportunities for music, art, and culture that the area offers. I have been singing in the Rochester Women’s Chorus for 3+ years. This semi-professional group performs many styles of music and this past May put on a concert to benefit Water for Sudan. This organization is dedicated to building wells in the drought-ridden areas of Sudan.
I am a full time nanny as well as a student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in early education. After finishing my master’s degree in education I would like to go to seminary.

Heather Grantham - (R)evolutionary

Heather Grantham is a Middler at San Francisco Theological Seminary.
She is originally from Oklahoma and is an inquirer with the Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery. After a year in the Philippines with the Young Adult Volunteer Program and a year working at the Presbyterian National Office with Women's Advocacy, Heather followed the call to SFTS. She currently works at Noe Valley Ministry PC(USA) in San Francisco as the Director of Family Ministry.

Le Anne Clausen - (R)evolutionary

Le Anne Clausen, 30, is a candidate for ordination in the PCUSA from the Presbytery of North Central Iowa. She is a senior at Chicago Theological Seminary (UCC), which has become the premier institution for training LGBTQ ministers and religious leaders in the United States. Raised Lutheran, she is passionate about the Reformed tradition and the social justice activism found in the PCUSA and Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and related programs. In Chicago, she serves as Director of the Center for Faith and Peacemaking, a new program that brings young religious leaders together across faith lines to work on a wide spectrum of peacemaking and justice concerns.

Kelly Carlblom - (R)evolutionary

I grew up in Taipei, Taiwan, where my parents were missionaries for over 25 years. I am a junior at Coe College, majoring in Global Development Studies. I play soccer for Coe, and am involved with our diversity club, Coe Egalitarians, and our gay-straight alliance. I also am very involved with campus religious life, serving as a peer minister with our chaplain, Kristin Hutson. I first became conscious of GLBT issues when several friends came out to me in the course of two weeks. As I have learned more, my ideas have changed to be more inclusive and welcoming of GLBT people in the Church.