Shuck and Jive

Sunday, April 26, 2009

B Stings

For those who were holding out to the last breathless vote, you can breathe now. Amendment B has failed. Northern Plains, Boise, and Sierra Blanca all voted no on Saturday. Presbytery de Cristo voted yes.

69 presbyteries in favor of equality. 89 presbyteries for discrimination and injustice. (And you can call it any damn thing you please, but that is what it is).

The voting is not over. A number of presbyteries are still scheduled to vote. It is important that allies hold this vote. When we look back on the scoring of how presbyteries voted, it won't matter if presbyteries voted before or after. So it is over, but it isn't over. We are now playing for pride, witness, and the future.

Here is a reflection from Michael Adee of More Light Presbyterians:

In what has been a much closer situation than in 2002, 2 oppositional votes today meant defeat for the national ratification of 08-B. However, the good news is that 69 presbyteries have voted in favor with 14 presbyteries yet to vote. The final tally of support for policy change in 2002 was 42. It is important to recognize that 110 presbyteries out of the 155 presbyteries that have voted thus far demonstrate pro-LGBT equality shifts....

The trends are clear: the Presbyterian Church (USA) is remarkably close to removing the barriers so that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people can faithfully answer God's call to serve. The witness of this ratification process across the country indicates without a doubt that a growing number of Presbyterians believe that LGBT persons and their families should have the same opportunities and responsibilities of full participation, membership and ordained service in our Church offered to their heterosexual sisters and brothers.
The day after the 87th vote was taken an overture was sent to presbytery en route to the 2010 General Assembly. Here is a news release from Northside Presbyterian Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan:

Ann Arbor, MI – Today, Northside Presbyterian Church, a congregation in the Presbyterian Church (USA), proposed a new amendment to the denomination’s constitution that would allow the ordination of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) members. This action was taken as a response to the narrow defeat of a similar proposed change that the denomination has been debating during the past year. Northside’s new proposed amendment would allow the ordination of anyone in the denomination whom God has called, regardless of sexual orientation.

Today, a majority of presbyteries, the local governing bodies of the PC(USA), considered, but by a razor-thin margin failed to ratify, a similar amendment to Part II of the denomination’s constitution, The Book of Order. This was the third such vote in the past 12 years. In contrast to those previous votes, this year an unprecedented number of presbyteries reversed their positions and now stand for justice and inclusion for their LGBT members. In spite of today’s setback, with such powerful momentum building for equality in the denomination, Northside Presbyterian believes it is imperative that the struggle for full inclusion in the life and ministry of the PC(USA) continue without delay and so proposes this new amendment.

“We are seeing something today akin to what happened in our denomination in the 1950s with the ordination of women,” said Brian Spolarich, Elder and Clerk of the Session, the governing body of the congregation. “It took over a decade of organizing, and multiple votes for our denomination to get it right, but in the end we recognized the Holy Spirit leading us to draw the circle of leadership more broadly, not more narrowly. I have faith that we will eventually get this one right, too.”

The new proposed amendment will go to the Presbytery of Detroit for action. If approved, it will be sent to the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) for action in 2010. Then, if approved by the General Assembly, the amendment would require approval from a majority of the 173 presbyteries in order to be ratified.

About Northside Presbyterian Church:

Located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, we are a small, dynamic congregation of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Celebrating our 50th anniversary this year, we attract a diverse membership from all over Southeastern Michigan. In our denomination, the PC(USA), Northside Presbyterian Church takes a stand as a More Light congregation, affirming and celebrating the Spirit’s marvelous gift of diversity in ministry and ordained leadership, welcoming all sexual orientations and gender identities. Find out more about our faith community on our web site,

About More Light Presbyterians:

More Light Presbyterians, the oldest gay rights group in the 2.3 million member Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), works for the full participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of faith in the life, ministry and witness of the PCUSA. Web site:


  1. Keep fighting the good fight, everyone. Remember these words:
    First they ignore us.
    Then they mock us.
    Then they fight us.
    Then we win

  2. However, what's the point of winning if the Church is lost? As the Duke of Wellington said after the battle of Waterloo when he saw all of the destruction: "The only thing worst than losing a battle is actually winning it."

    John, I want to try something new. How about I try to arrange some sort of prayer and discussion meeting at Tusculum College in Greeneville?

  3. If equality for lgbt people means the church loses or self-destructs or whatever, then I guess the church isn't worth much in the first place.

    When discrimination is finally written out of the constitution, some people in the church will leave the denomination (I don't know the percentage; I don't care).

    Most though will stay with it.

    Better than that, the PCUSA will finally be a denomination that speaks for justice and inclusivity for all people.

    All of those people our discriminatory policies have excluded may even come back.

    And we will get some great ministers who have been refused service.

    As far as Tusculum, sounds interesting. What did you have in mind?

  4. "And we will get some great ministers who have been refused service." Sounds like the UCC right now.

  5. "However, what's the point of winning if the Church is lost? "

    Interestingly I'd ask the conservatives of our denomination the same thing: What good does it do to win these fights if the cost is the church's soul?

    If a few conservatives leave the PCUSA over this, that's sad. But what is often ignored is the constant flow of people, both gay and straight, who have left the church over the last 3 decades because they've decided they don't want to be part of a church that discriminates. Conservatives trumpeting their wins and trying to hold the church hostage to threats of leaving don't seem to want to count those people who have already left, nor do they ever see fit to even mention them. I wonder why that is?

  6. When 11-year-olds hang themselves because of bigotry, the stance of: "Welcome but not affirming" is despicable.

    Good for you Northside PC- and thanks again for your blog John

  7. Hey Alan,

    Thanks to your great congregation for sending the overture!


    Thank you for that disturbing article. That is what it's about.


    The UCC as a whole have shown us the way, now other denominations (like the PCUSA) are close to following.

  8. Just as a side note. I'm one of those who grew up in the PCUSA and left it over a decade ago because of it's stance on GLBT folks. Ended up in UCC and Disciples pastures though I salute those who remain and working for a more just church. I doubt folks like myself get counted or considered when the right bemoans the loss of members.

  9. I think you're right, Dwight. Sadly. The right didn't consider the feelings of folks like you when you were in the church, so they are not likely to consider your feelings now.

    It will be a great day when the church can welcome you all back in!

  10. Thanks Debbie and John. I'm sure there will be many, many more overtures before the next GA, but I'm proud that our Session passed the first one.

    Dwight. Exactly. Their threats to leave and their concern for the peace, unity, and purity ring hollow because they ignore the people who have already left.

  11. Alan

    Does your Session usually meet on Saturday? Or did they plan a special meeting figuring this was coming. I mean, that was fast!

  12. Bob,

    Want us to slow down eh?

    Not a chance of that. The Holy Spirit is providing the wind for our sails. If you can't catch he wind, you'll be "left behind".

  13. Alan

    Wasn't asking you to slow down. Just wondered how you got up to speed so fast.

    Decently and in order, I'm sure.

  14. Our Session is always decent and in order and they think it's best to be prepared for any eventuality. :)