Shuck and Jive

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Four Presbyteries Vote Tuesday

The Presbyterian Church (USA) is back after a break for Easter to continue voting on amendment B. Four presbyteries vote Tuesday: Salem, San Francisco, National Capital and Wabash Valley.

The score on the amendment is 65-84, so barring the rapture of all the true believers who think LGBT people should be second class church members, it won't pass this year.

However, It is crucial that this amendment be debated and voted on in your presbytery. I talked about that here.

When you speak out you provide hope. People realize they aren't alone. Also, when you tell your story, hearts and minds change.

We need a good solid finish to counter claims that the church has "decided" against equality. It hasn't. Good momentum and witness for equality will put us in a good spot the next time the General Assembly meets in 2010.

Get out the word. Get out the vote. Make sure your presbytery has ample time to discuss this issue. Don't let the opposition get away with closing off debate because it is not likely to pass overall.

We have the national stage. The mic is open. The more conversation happens, the more people get that this is about equality and justice.

Make sure you pick up the latest copy of Jack Rogers' book, Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church (Second Edition). I gave a brief introduction here.

The chapter that is worth the price of the book for me is the one in which he looks at the arguments of the Christians who were pro-slavery in the 19th century. For them the Bible was clear that there was a distinction of races (based on the curse of Noah) and that slavery was divinely sanctioned. They read their then current philosophy of life into the Bible. The abolitionists were considered "unbiblical."

It is hard to imagine that people thought like that. From our perspective it's nuts. Yet similar arguments are given today to promote inequality. A philosophy of prejudice is read into the Bible today to justify repression of sexual minorities.

Now in response to this, I will likely receive comments that I am reading the Bible wrong and am denying Christ and Christmas. Whatever. Our descendants will look on those who have used the Bible to deny equality to LGBT people the same way we look on those who used the Bible to promote slavery, deny equality for women, and prevent inter-racial marriage.

I could be wrong. History could take a strange turn. Our descendants could end up in a fascist state that uses LGBT people as scapegoats for all the ills of society. Maybe added to the scapegoat list will be women, people of color, those with 'foreign ancestry,' holders of unpopular political opinions, pacifists, or white guys with ponytails.

Justice and equality are not inevitable. It is not just a matter of time. It is a matter of action, courage, vigilance, and speaking out. It certainly is not just about the Presbyterian church. Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.

Silence gives consent.


  1. Genesis 17
    For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised.

    There is no condemnation of buying and selling people for money, provided they are forcibly circumcised.

    Of course, many Christians would say that this passage belongs firmly in the Judeo part of America's Judeo-Christian heritage.

  2. Jack Rogers has come a long way on this topic since his days teaching at Fuller. Then again, so have I and I taught there as recently as 2000! :-)

    I like your blog. My theology is more along the lines of an Anabaptist adaptation of Moltmann, but I share most of your progressive political commitments, including to marriage equality.

  3. I agree, John. We definitely need to keep up the momentum, regardless of the final vote count in the Presbyteries. It would be great to still will the "popular vote" and I think that's still possible.

    In addition, every mind we change this time out will make it that much easier next time, and will result in one more supporter to help change other peoples' minds next time out.

    This isn't over by a long shot.

  4. But in the not-so-long-run, I think this is over. Civil same-sex marriage will be a fait accompli in the next decade for sure, and I suspect that with a bit more hard work, the ordination issue will be settled in the PC(USA) after the 219th GA.

    At least that's my prayer.

    Then we can go fight about something else!

  5. I understand what you're writing, John, and note that Wilberforce's staying power eventually stopped the slave trade in Britain.

    I know that you and many others have been struggling in this marathon, but people on the other side of the issue also struggle to maintain their faith. You and I have exchanged many slingshots, arrows, and duelling pistols over matters of faith, but it's because we're both passionate about what we believe.

    Perhaps, we both could heed what Gamaliel had to say about our own fledgling faith: (Acts 5:38-39)

    Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God."

  6. Thanks Levellers! I am supposed to be reading Moltmann in a book study I am in, but I missed the first meeting, and have to play catch up.


    According to Bruce Hahne's website the popular vote is 48-52 or so with a bullet!


    Thanks for the link to NYTimes article! Great article!


    I guess everyone has a role to play in life's dramas. Some see themselves as Gamaliel, some see themselves as apostles following the Spirit, some see themselves as protectors of the tradition.

    And the play goes on...

  7. utah votes, i think on may 8, though i'm not exactly sure. if there's any kind of discussion i know that pastor paul, and the other reps from first presbyterian of logan, will do their best to convince conservative utah to vote the right way.

  8. Stushie,

    I was wondering why the story of Gamaliel does not apply to anyone who takes upon themselves the mantle of the ministry.

    Or maybe that IS what you were saying.

    If the only impediment to ordaining someone is the fact that they are gay, but in all other respects we can find no difference between them and any other highly qualified well trained called for the ministry person, don't the words of Gamaliel tell us not to gag them?

    What is "ordination" except us giving our consent to let them serve the Church, and to let them preach, according to the calling and gifts of Holy Spirit?

    Gamaliel was right. We should let God run the Church every once in a while. The new Amendment B kind of gives Him better permission.