Shuck and Jive

Monday, April 27, 2009

Advocating for Legislative Change is Our Best Option

Some voices in the Presbyterian church think the defeat of amendment B means that the church has clearly spoken. Others argue that attempting to remove G-6.0106b through the legislative process will not work.

Facts and trends are presenting a different case.

So far in the voting on amendment B,
  • 69 presbyteries voted for equality (compared to 46 in 2001-2).
  • This includes 48.6% of the popular vote among individual commissioners.
  • Of the 157 presbyteries that voted, 110 demonstrated a pro-LGBT shift.
What does the vote on amendment B signify? Check this article in the Washington Post by Rev. Janet Edwards, who blogs at A Time to Embrace:
This year, a record number of local church bodies voted for inclusion of our GLBT brothers and sisters in the ordained leadership of the Presbyterian Church. And although the amendment did not pass, the conversation has changed forever.
Since this time last year we have witnessed big advances for equality in both the ecclesiastical and civil realms.
  • In June 2008, the PC(USA) voted that the Authoritative Interpretation of 1978 has no longer any force or effect.
  • Individual states (Vermont, Iowa, and others) are moving toward civil equality in marriage.
Those who oppose basic civil and ecclesiastical rights and privileges for LGBT people for religious reasons are already starting to sound like Rev. Robert Lewis Dabney who was still arguing for God-ordained slavery after the Civil War.

We are not there as a society or a church. But we are getting there.

This is from Forbes magazine regarding recent polls:

Answers to other survey questions about homosexuality do show greater acceptance.

For example, should homosexuality be legal? Forty-three percent gave that response to Gallup in 1977; 55% did in 2008.

Should homosexuality be considered an acceptable alternative life style? Again from Gallup, 34% agreed in 1982, 57% do today.

Should homosexuals have equal rights in terms of job opportunities? Fifty-five percent said yes in 1977, 89% in 2008.

And what about gays in the military? Two-thirds support it, up about 10 percentage points from a decade ago.

Attitudes on two sensitive subjects in the past, hiring homosexuals as elementary school teachers and gay adoption, have changed too.

In 1977, 27% of poll respondents told Gallup that homosexuals should be hired as elementary school teachers; 54% said that in 2005.

Forty-six percent supported adoption rights for gays and lesbians in 2000, and 53% do today.

Beyond that, two-thirds or more now say that inheritances, Social Security benefits, health insurance and hospital visitation should be available to gay and lesbian partners.

Most polls about civil unions date to the beginning of this decade.

In February 2000, a Princeton Survey Research Associates/Newsweek poll found that 47% of respondents said there should be legally sanctioned gay and lesbian unions or partnerships. In December of last year, 55% gave that response.

What accounts for the growing acceptance?

Six in 10 people polled told Gallup last year that a friend, family or co-worker had told them he or she was gay--and familiarity fosters acceptance.
Just since 2000, 47% of Americans have said yes to legally sanctioned gay and lesbian unions compared to 55% today.

That I think is a good indicator for the change in voting patterns regarding amendment B this year as compared to 2001-2.

We can interpret these changes in attitude as a move toward equality and against prejudice.

Or, we can interpret these changes in attitude as the devil's work corrupting our morals.

It is pretty clear that whatever the opinion, the PCUSA is moving along with the tide.

For those like myself who see this change as positive and who work for it in the civil and in the ecclesiastical worlds, we think the method of advocating legislative change is going pretty well.
  • It provides the best opportunity available to change hearts and minds.
  • It encourages individuals to speak and to work toward removing discriminatory barriers.
  • It reflects the trend toward equality in church and society.
We will continue through legislative means to give the church the opportunity to vote for equality and non-discrimination.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I've had this discussion with several folks on both sides. Many think that the continued legislative action is a bad or damaging, or mean-spirited thing. Some folks see these political options as dirty, worldly, cynical stuff in which Christians shouldn't be involved. I sort of think they missed some key information in the PCUSA brochure. ;)

    This is how the PCUSA decides things. It is probably the worst possible way, except for all the others, but it is exactly how we decide these things and how we always have.

    Ask the women of the church who were around in the 1950s. They had the task of convincing a bunch of men to vote for ordination. Like our votes today, that took them a while too, and they were 50% of the church. Now LGBT people have the task of convincing the other ~90% of the church that God is calling them to ordained service. It isn't surprising that it's taking some more time. But the Spirit works in mysterious ways ... and is obviously working.

    For better or worse, advocating for legislative change is a political process. We can try to dress it up with happy Jesusy sounding words, and hold hands and give each other hugs, but it is still a political process. We can pursue it with honesty and integrity, but it is still a political process in which there are two sides, and a debate, and vote, and an outcome.

    Is there any other alternative to getting G-6.0106b out of the Book of Order? Is there any other process for getting rid of it? None that I'm aware of. Advocating for legislative change isn't just our best option, it's the only option if we want to get rid of B.

  3. I am thinking as I write, but if the conservatives allowed for the scruple option to really work, G-6.0106b would be on the books but ineffective.

    I don't like the scruple thing, but my point is that the ball is in the conservatives' court.

    If they go hard-line on not allowing for any scruple and using their legal war chests to go after clergy, sessions, and presbyteries, then there will most definitely momentum for the GA to send a delete/change G-6.0106b.

    A lot can happen between now and June of 2010 in the civil and church realms.

    Who knows what the mood will be then? It is good now to put a delete G-6.0106b on the table so the GA will have to wrestle with it.

    I know the conservatives are pushing to reintroduce the old AI (or a form of it).

    So who is mean-spirited?

    Nobody. It is politics. That is what we do.

  4. What I find interesting is the proposal for non-geographic presbyteries or synods. In other words, a convoluted local option -- the very thing they've been arguing against for decades (through, I might add, the creation of more bureaucracy, something they've also been arguing against for decades.)

    If we just stuck to *ahem* classical presbyterianism, allowing ordaining bodies to do their jobs rather than making things more difficult by creating even more unnecessary bureaucracy, we'd be just fine.

    I think the fight over a new AI would be interesting to watch. Amendment B got approved at least partially on the false claim that this wasn't just about teh gays. I think it would be much harder to make that case on a new AI at this point, since they've clearly shown their hand over and over. Unless, I suppose, they actually go for honesty points and issue a three word AI: "No gays. Period."