Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Gettin' Gay-Hitched with Jesus

The LayMAN is rousing up the evangelistas to do their part to prevent people from enjoying basic civil rights, because that is the kind of thing Jesus would do. Here is the deal. The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church met in June 2008 and charged this committee to go and figure out gay marriage and come back and give us a report. You can imagine what a useless thing that is going to be. Please don't mock us. Doing useless things is our strength.

Apparently, the poor souls on this committee are looking for your input, dear reader. The LayMAN sees a juicy opportunity to spread homophobia far and wide. They are hoping that their little band will not only contact the committee but post their diatribes on the LayMAN's website as well. It appears we have ourselves a little pissing contest to see how many emails can be sent to this committee.

Here is why I am so snarky about all of this. We know what is the right thing to do.
  • Marriage between same-gender couples needs to be legal (as it already has become in six states) and the Presbyterian Church and its clergy should be allowed to marry gay and lesbian couples. Period.
  • We should have liturgy that allows us to do that. Period.
  • We don't need bigoted busybodies taking us to church court for doing it. Period.
It is that obvious. We don't need any more studies. All the studies do is placate the moderates who think that by having them we are doing something when in fact we are simply delaying what needs to be done. Here is what needs to be done. You need to vote for civil and ecclesiastical equality. That is it. What happens when you do that? The busybodies will scream and threaten and foam at the mouth. You know what you do then? You ignore them and you do the right thing anyway. Period.

Since we have this committee who needs something to do, here is my email to them.

Dear Members of the Special Committee on Civil Unions and Christian Marriage:

I have been a minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for 17 years. During my ministry I have officiated at ceremonies for over 100 couples including gay and lesbian couples. I don't know if I am supposed to call these ceremonies between the same-gender couples marriages or not. They should be marriages in the eyes of the state in which they were performed and in the eyes of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) They certainly were as holy and sacred as any other marriage at which I have had the honor of being an officiant. These couples need the legal protections that marriage offers.

The marriages for gay and lesbian couples are an important part of my ministry of pastoral care. It is an important part of my current congregation's ministry. To be blunt: It is time for the rest of the church to catch up. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has an opportunity to atone for its sins. It is a sinful organization that discriminates against its LGBT sisters and brothers--its own children.

I have put up with bullies my whole life from the playground to the boardroom. In the playground, gay and lesbian kids (or those perceived as such) are bullied with words (fag, dyke, queer) and too often with fists. In the boardroom clergy who advocate for equality are bullied with threats of reduced pledges, threats to leave the church, threats of church court cases. Sometimes these threats even materialize. The purpose of all of these threats and bullying is to keep gays and lesbians in the closet and to keep allies silent. It is discrimination and it is as ugly now as it has ever been.

The only way to stop bullying is to stand up to it. You as a committee have a chance to do that right now. The church has been bullied for the last 35 years by a right wing intent on controlling the lives of others and spewing hatred by hiding behind a few select verses in the Bible. I don't know if you have any idea how much pain, how many suicides, how many families have been torn apart by ignorance and fear that comes straight from the pulpit. Here is a common story from my neighborhood.

Frankly, I don't expect much from your committee. You likely will come up with some lame report that tries to pacify the right wing out of a desire for unity. In the meantime, a church that can't stand up to bullies will continue to allow its own children to be rejected and forced to live as second-class citizens.

Just in case there is a chance that you will do the right thing, here is what you need to do:

Propose that the 2010 General Assembly:
  1. Allow clergy in the six states (and in any future state) that have legalized same-gender marriage to sign marriage licenses and solemnize these marriages in the church.
  2. Affirm that clergy may consecrate marriages (in the eyes of the church) for same-gender couples even in those states that have yet to legalize same-gender marriage.
  3. Change the definition of marriage from one man and one woman to two people in all relevant documents.
  4. Modify the Directory for Worship to create marriage rites suitable for same-gender couples.
  5. Advocate for marriage equality throughout the United States.
I doubt you will be able to pull all of that off although you should try.

The following is the bare minimum. To the moderates and liberals on this committee, you must not give in on this. At the very least, you must allow freedom of conscience for clergy and for sessions regarding pastoral care to LGBT people. This includes freedom of conscience regarding all rites and observances regarding marriage.

Good luck.

Rev. John Shuck, Minister
First Presbyterian Church
Elizabethton, Tennessee

You can send your own message to the committee (1000 words or less) to

For fun, you can send your message to the LayMAN too!


  1. Excellent. We're already working on our letter.

    I hope this isn't one of those opportunities in which folks say to themselves, "Gee, that sounds like something we should do", but then keep putting it off.

  2. Snad & Alan,

    Thank you. Now, it does matter if this committee gets an email or letter. It doesn't have to be fancy, just honest. If you are Presbyterian, send an email either as an individual or as a session. The deadline is August 16.

    Personal stories are always best. It is a chance to tell the truth, and you never know, they just might do the right thing.

  3. Hi again to all you great folks in Elizabethton! As Mike and I take another deep breath and yet once again discuss this issue we always seem to arrive back at the same underlying problems.

    First, the opportunity for true dialogue between progressive and conservative Christians really are few and far between. Our experience has been that the most constant statement to us is "I know what I know" and the discussion quickly ends.

    Secondly, we can't count the times that when the topic of gay marriage or civil rights has been reported in our local paper and the Christians that will comment, "Gays are not born that way." How would they know? How can a person comment on something they know nothing about? Do they really think that one "chooses" to become gay at the age of.... 21? Oh, yeah, because it says so in the "good book." Please accept our apology if that sounds disrespectful in any way. What we really think is disrespectful is how anyone could use the Holy Bible for abuse.

    Gays have been criticized for comparing our struggles with those of African Americans and a lot of folks have said that it is not even close to being the same. Well, it is. The Bible, religion, and church were all places where people found their justification for "owning" another human being. But, things did change. However, not without struggle, tragedy and death.

    We in Montana (and across the nation) have just celebrated gay pride in June. This year our festivities were held in Kalispell (MT). There were churches that were disgusted by the events so the following weekend they organized and held a pro-family, heterosexual, "God's Blessings" parade. (By the way, when did gay people collectively decide that we are against families?" It's always such a struggle to remember what the new gay agenda is for us.)

    What they did for us was confirm that we all have a right to celebrate, assemble, and stand up for what we believe. However, for us, everyday is "straight pride day." After all, we feel as if we're living in their straight world.

    To conclude, many, many gay people that we know in their struggle to come out did pray to God. We prayed to make us "the same" and not different. We prayed to not get bullied at school anymore. We prayed that somewhere, somehow we could "fit in" too. Now, we know that a lot of Christians will not believe the following statement but it is true. One can pray and if he or she prays long enough, the answers will come. (We bet they're still with us up to this point.) But...when God finally gave us the answer, "I made you. I made you gay. Go - be yourself and live a happy life." There is a sense of peace that came over us. Then, instead of being angry at God for making us different, we thank him for making us feel special. And that's where we feel that we fit in because when one is truly touched by the light of God's love, he or she does indeed "feel special."

  4. **It's always such a struggle to remember what the new gay agenda is for us.)**

    LOL! I love you guys. Can't wait to see you again this summer. Wonderful, wonderful words!

  5. I'm not serving on this committee, thankfully. (If I were, I'd be pretty turned off by the tone of your letter, despite agreeing with your points and position. Calling my work "lame" and suggesting that I'm unlikely to "do the right thing" is not a great way to convince me to do something. Though I do understand your frustration)

    Here's the text of the letter I sent:

    Dear Members of the Special Committee on Civil Unions and Christian Marriage,

    I am a 34 year-old Presbyterian. My husband, daughters, and I are very active in our local PC(USA) congregation. We are the young church today, and we have no plans to leave the denomination in a huff regardless of what church leadership decides to do on this single issue.

    Which is not to imply that this issue is unimportant to us.

    We believe in civil and ecclesiastical equality for all. We believe that our churches should not make gay and lesbian couples feel somehow "less" than their straight communicants. We believe that our church will look back on this issue as it does on the issues of racial segregation and the ordination of women as elders and clergy. We believe that our grandchildren will not consider this a divisive issue.

    St. Louis, Missouri

  6. Sarahlynn,

    Thanks for writing the letter!

  7. BTW Sarahlynn,

    I appreciate your critique of my letter. You called me out on it and you are right.

    It is likely that my tone will keep the committee from considering my points.

    I am glad you wrote a polite letter. : )

    My frustration is not with the individuals of course or how hard they will work on this or their commitment to doing what it is they need to do.

    My frustration is that after 30+ years of committees we still think it is up to them. We really don't need any more committees to study the "issue of homosexuality" regardless of how it is framed, ordination or marriage.

    There is no half-way. There is no magic decision that any committee can dream up that will do justice AND enable prejudice at the same time.

    By delaying our decisions and passing them onto study committees all we do is enable prejudice.

    The question is always: "How can we do the justice thing for lgbts and keep those who don't want equality for lgbts in the church?"

    You can't have both. Studies and delays serve to pacify those who do not want equality. They'll be happy to study this issue for another 30 years as long as they don't have to vote on it and things stay the same.

    My apologies to the committee members if it seems that I am projecting my pessimism onto them.

    I am really calling on the larger church to stop enabling prejudice by being passive and refusing to do what needs to be done--justice.

    The artificial concern for keeping the church together is a right wing control tactic. It has nothing to do with justice for LGBT people.

    The privileged party in our denomination is saying to LGBT people: "You are threatening the unity and we will break the relationship if you get justice."

    Only a sick church gives in to that threat. Would you give into that in a marriage? No church (or marriage) worthy of being bound in the name of Jesus Christ would.

    The committee may find an excuse to ignore me because of my tone. So be it. I put the cards on the table, though.

    Enough of the pandering, placating, enabling, and wringing of hands. Do the right thing.

  8. "By delaying our decisions and passing them onto study committees all we do is enable prejudice."


    I think the powers that be keeping punting this issue into committees, hoping that eventually it will cease to become an issue. (Which is happening, albeit at a glacial pace.)

    I think conservatives know it, and that's why they're so irate over something as . . . impotent as committee recommendations.

  9. **impotent as committee recommendations.**

    That said it!

  10. As a queer woman who is also a Christ-follower, THANK YOU for you advocacy for our community. As a little girl i grew up in the Presbyterian church. i have been through right wing conservative charismatic churches where i hid in the closet, dealt with depression, suicide attempt, and deep self-hatred. i finally reconciled my sexuality and faith a few years ago. The LGBTQ community needs more straight allies like you working along side us on our behalf for equality. i really appreciate what you are doing.