Shuck and Jive

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Covenant Network Conference

The Covenant Network of Presbyterians, an organization within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) that was formed to move our denomination ahead on lgbtq issues, held its conference this week in Minneapolis. The focus of this gathering was the General Assembly's recommendation that presbyteries pass a new amendment to the constitution replacing G-6.0106b with a new text.

Doug King of the Witherspoon Society reported on this conference today. Doug writes:

The Covenant Network was founded in 1997 to work for the full inclusion (and ordination) of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). But as the Rev. Dr. Tim Hart-Andersen acknowledged in one plenary discussion of strategy for supporting the proposed Amendment 08-B, the leaders of the group are not entirely agreed on how to respond to this opportunity for change.
The Presbyterian Outlook reported on the conference as well.

But the Covenant Network leadership is calling for a discussion over gay ordination that’s less angry, more open to listening.

“We need to learn that polarization is not helpful to the country, it has not been helpful to the church,” said David Colby, a pastor from St. Paul and Covenant Network board member. It’s not a good idea, he said, for people to come out of their corners “and try to beat our opponent into a bloody pulp.”

The Presbyterian News Service reported on an address by William Stacey Johnson:
All sides in church debates have misused scripture, Johnson asserted, rendering the Bible static by using it to prove their arguments “as if it’s an abstract object of investigation rather than a testimony to a dynamic God…”
The best quote? From Tricia Dykers-Koenig:
To those on both sides of the issue who say they’re tired of fighting about homosexuality, Koenig offers this: Vote now to remove the “fidelity and chastity” standard. Because “until this blight on the constitution is removed,” she said, “we’re going to have to keep working on it.”
Yes. Thank you, Tricia.

I appreciate very much the work of the Covenant Network.
My congregation is affiliated with CovNet. They are friends. They are allies in the struggle for justice for lgbtq people. They worked hard at this summer's General Assembly to pass some very important legislation including removing the harmful Authoritative Interpretation. I also think it is understandable and fine for allies to disagree on matters of strategy.

However, some allies seem to miss the point. The struggle for justice is not about "beat[ing] our opponent to a bloody pulp" as David Colby is quoted. Just because people get angry with you, it doesn't mean you are doing a bad thing. We are not on even footing. This is not about two sides fighting over something. It is about a group singled out and denied basic dignity and freedoms.
‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, “Grant me justice against my opponent.” For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.” (Luke 18:2-5)
Do what you can to build bridges. But in the end, you stand with someone. You keep knocking on that door for justice.

Pass the new G-6.0106b. If it doesn't pass, knock again.


  1. Justice and love never grow weary my friend.

  2. True for sure.

    So what is the tireless love and justice response that is needed?

  3. Keep talking. The elephant in the room is that LGBT/Q people are an affront to the "American way of life" and I think that this is the kind of language that is bleeding into the church. People are simply grossed out by male/male sex and are afraid of it. My wife and I are more convinced of this.

    I think we need to step back and ask ourselves why we get married at all. Do we do it for sex? Do we do it to pro-create? Do we do it for intimacy? As you and I know, gay people want to get married for the same reasons that straight people do (and that distinction is more and more offensive to me by the people are not "crooked" or "bent" as opposed to straight).

    I think Johnson's book A Time to Embrace is the kind of discussion we simply need to continue to force people to have. If people are grossed out by gay sex (for if two men did not have sex I am not so sure it would be a big deal at all), we need to talk about that and come to an understanding of why that is so. When we discuss more, we learn more. When we learn more we accept more because we change.

    We need to be open and frank about sexual desire as a church. Sex is beautiful, but the church has has a view of it that it is private and to be repressed.

  4. gay people are not "crooked" or "bent" as opposed to straight).

    We could call ourselves "breeders."

    We need to keep the conversation going and open up avenues for that.

    My disagreement with some of my allies is that conversation is not a substitute for legislative action.

    Only with legislation on the table is there incentive for conversation.

    In fact, there will only be real conversation when discriminatory policies are removed.

  5. Well, the thing is that legislators are not going to put themselves out front of the people. They want their constituents to "show them the money" before they put their reputations in danger for something that they feel affects so few people. This is why conversation - and lots of it - in the ranks is necessary.

  6. Hi John -

    Thanks for your posting and for your steadfast voice.

    I agree with you, Tricia, and many others that G-6.0106b in its current form needs to go. It is still hard for me to accept that after all this, there are still some who recommend a "no vote" on the ratification that is in the presyteries, at the moment.

    Yet, when I think about it, it shouldn't be a surprise. Part of the prolonged marginalization of LGBT/Q folks has been the unwillingness of some of the "supporters/leaders" to change the constitution on behalf of our community. Protecting part of a document over any part of God's creation is where it all begins to spin out of control.

    This will be a truly remarkable year if we can finally "delete b," as we know it and begin knocking on the inner doors of true welcoming and healing for all.

    Peace, and thanks!
    Ray Bagnuolo

  7. " If people are grossed out by gay sex (for if two men did not have sex I am not so sure it would be a big deal at all)"

    Which is why people should be *for* gay marriage.

    I once heard Mel White in a radio interview. A caller asked him what he and his partner did in bed. The radio host was going to cut off the caller, but Mel answered the question. I'm just paraphrasing, but it was something like, "We're 65 years old, we've been together for 20 years. What do we do in bed? We sleep."

  8. Snad--The legislation is already on the table. It is up for a vote now in our presbyteries. It was no easy matter to get it to this point. Some allies (one on record, I guess) think presbyteries should vote no action which is essentially no. Which at this stage of development, as Ray points out, is truly bizarre.

    This is what CovNet has been fighting for. It is the reason it exists in the first place to remove or change this section in the Book of Order.

    Some appear to be getting cold feet at the last second.


    Protecting part of a document over any part of God's creation is where it all begins to spin out of control.

    Well put. This piece that needs change has only been in the constitution since 1997! It isn't as if it has been in there forever.

    There is motivation that now and then gets stated. It goes like this: if we work to change G-6 and it doesn't pass we will look bad. It is a fear of losing I guess. Personally, I would rather love and lose than never love at all.

    This isn't about fighting and beating people to a pulp. This is an action of love on behalf of the gospel. It is putting the gospel into action.

    Thanks for the comment and for your voice, too!

  9. Ah, yes. Of course. Sorry. I somehow got off target and was thinking about US governmental legislation, not US(PCS).