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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wednesday Festival: Why is it the Women?

Kathrynzj at Volume II writes this week about the path of Amendment 10-A in her Presbytery, her participation in that process and vote, and her observations thereafter. Whether of that denomination or not, many of us have followed with interest the process of this amendment.

It's been a few days since Amendment 10-a didn't pass on the floor of our Presbytery. I was an advocate for this amendment and the speech I read can be found here.

If you are not a Presbyterian, the above link will take you to the exact language of the amendment, but suffice to say that the rhetoric is over the removal of the only ordination standard specifically listed which is: "...the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness."

Basically, if you're gay you can come to church but you cannot be ordained as a Deacon, Elder or Minister of the Word and Sacrament. Despite the fact that all of us fall short of the glory of God, you - as a GLBT person - are a second class citizen.

I have spent a lot of time the last few days running through a variety of alternative speeches that I could have prepared. None of them would have worked. Folks showed up knowing how they were going to vote, myself included.

As my emotions have moved from blind rage to simmering anger, I've been better able to put my finger on some of the things from our 'debate' that frustrated me so (the failure of the amendment to pass being primary, of course). Of all of the things there is one thing that I cannot seem to process enough to shake.

It's the women who I know for a fact came to our denomination from other denominations that would not let them have a voice in the church and certainly not an ordained voice. The one woman who spoke most vehemently (read:irrationally) about what "bringing in the gays" would do to the church and the denomination was one that I myself welcomed into our fold. At one time she and I talked about the wonderful gift that the PC(USA) is as it holds on firmly to the reformed tradition and is inclusive to women's voices as well. This denomination has been inclusive of women for the past 150+ years (Deacon), 100+ years (Elder) and 50+ years (Minister of the Word and Sacrament).

It is truly a gift to be part of a denomination that even if not at the forefront, does continue to evolve in its inclusiveness. So how DARE she slam that open door in the face of those who would like to step through next?!

I find this unconscionable.

Don't get me wrong, there were women on the 'for' side as well and there were men on both sides. But I find particularly reprehensible the act of suppressing another human being's voice and Call from God by those who once had their own voice and Call kept from them.

Have you written about this situation and amendment on your own blog, or would you like to share your thoughts now? Please do so in the comments. You can add a link to your post using this formulation: <a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a> For a complete how-to, click here.


  1. As a woman who left one denomination for another (SBC for UCC), this is hard to hear. I was thinking of kathrynzj as she made her speech, and I wrote about it here: Some of My Best Friends are Presbyterians.

  2. Thank you for the post highlight.

    The amendment continues to trend as if it will pass and that will hold its own challenges, including being inclusive of those on both sides of the issue.

  3. I'm one of the few--maybe the only--members of RevGals who does not support the passage of Amendment 10-A.

    For those of us who are opposed, it is not an issue of civil rights but an issue of the authority and interpretation of scripture. I had a debate with the Vice Moderator of the PCUSA on this subject last fall on a podcast.

    It does look like the amendment will pass by a very narrow margin. As clerk of session of one of the largest churches in our denomination I can assure you that this is already causing division in the body of Christ. This is a very serious matter which is occupying a great deal of my time.

    The passion that kathrynzj expressed for her viewpoint is matched by those who disagree. I agree with her comment above that the challenge will be for the PCUSA to be inclusive of those on both side of the issue after the vote. I doubt that is possible in the long run and I grieve for it.

  4. As has been already pointed out, with passage of the amendment will be another set of challenges. As a Lutheran (ELCA) seminarian, I rejoiced with a similar decision made at the churchwide assembly in 2009. Now on internship in a different synod, I see the angst as parishioners in various churches try to reconcile this with their understanding of scripture. May God give you all wisdom and grace as you move forward.

  5. QG,

    I am glad you commented. I was hoping we would hear your voice as it was unfair of me to comment on the viewpoints of the "opposition" since that is no longer where I stand on the issue.

    I pray for the grace and mercy of God upon all of us as we collectively fall short of the glory of God.


  6. Thinking about what kathrynzj wrote about those who are welcomed without being welcoming:

    In the 90's at an inclusive W&A (welcoming and affirming) American Baptist church in Ohio, the newly liberated and fully-accepted gay men in the congregation became antagonistic toward the feminists in the congregation because inclusive language and women's strong leadership didn't fit into their traditional ideas of what God would bless. I just scratched my head over that one!

    I think that's why it can be so difficult to hear and see women, who were kept away from the table for so long for genuinely held biblical reasons, keeping others away.

    It's also why it's hard for me to see my own UCC being less than intentional about nominating women for leadership roles.

    I appreciate that our ring is big enough to welcome many strong, thoughtful women, and for the diverse expressions of faith.

  7. Praying for all of us on all sides of this issue. The Episcopal Church faces this as well.

    And so grateful for this community which allows us to share our voices and opinions respectfully.

  8. I posted on this just recently, but not overtly, since we have an embargo on goign public on this issue until it is debated at this year's General Assembly in May. I know it raises issues whatever way the vote goes but I just crave for the ability for us to live together broadly and thoughts are here
    Once again, giving thanks for this community where we can share our differences and still support each other.

  9. Perhaps we at RevGals will serve as a model for ways in which to be inclusive of all viewpoints, regardless of the ultimate outcome of the PC(USA) vote this time around. QG and I are very much on opposite sides of the fence on this one, but I count her as a good friend, and neither want nor expect that to change.

    I expect this to be an issue in my hoped-for ordination. I don't question my capacity to minister faithfully and lovingly to people on all sides of this issue, but I know that not everyone will see it that way.

    I pray that we all, here and in the broader church community, know God's wide embrace as we struggle with this.

  10. Even in the parts of the world where we are still struggling with whether women should be ordained or not, it is always completely baffling and appalling to me that women are in the "no women's ordination" category. There are women inpositions of power in secular life that are positions of power in church politics who will (their own words) "never" approve a woman for ordination.
    "I pray for the grace and mercy of God upon all of us as we collectively fall short of the glory of God." Amen.

  11. As a pastor in the ELCA, I am tired and heartbroken about what has been happening since the ELCA Assembly decision in 2009. At the time, I was serving with my husband in Africa, and we were confronted personally by the leadership of the church there about the heretical, nonbiblical nature of the decision. We returned to a denomination that is fracturing and congregations that are in conflict. The issue of homosexuality and church leadership has been a thorn in my side since before I started seminary 30 years ago! So much time, energy, emotion and money have been consumed in studies, discussions, seminars, arguments, and now break-away congregations that could have been focused on the Gospel ministry of outreach and service. In my mind's eye, I see Jesus weeping as he prays, "I ask not only on bahalf of these, but also on behalf of those who well believe i me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me."

  12. Regarding my previous post: please know that I am not in disagreement with the ELCA's decision. I rejoiced when it was made, and I celebrated with my GLBT friends that they could fulfill their God-given calls to ministry in the church. I, too, am praying for the PCUSA as Amendment 10-A is being considered. Thank you, kathrynzj, for your bravery in speaking in front of your presbytery.

  13. I started in a denomination that doesn't ordain women and eventually came to the ELCA. I still wonder, occasionally, if I am called, if I'm sinning boldly or if I'm just sinning. Scripture points persistently to the difference between words and actions. It points to the chasm that can exist between what we want church to be and what God desires the body of Christ to be and do. We cannot say that the way church used to look and what we used to do was the right way and was meant to be the shape of things for all time.

    New occasions call for new duties. It may be right to reject what seems new because it is wrong. It may not be right to reject it because God may be doing a new thing. God did in John the Baptist. God did in Jesus. God did in Peter, Mary, Paul, Elizabeth, men and women of the Reformation, and countless others.

    We have the written word that shows us God’s history of acting in unexpected ways and with unexpected people. We have the Living Word, unexpectedly risen and among us, compelling us into the world with the good news that God’s habit of the unexpected is not just history, but is still happening. And God’s routine use of unexpected people isn’t over either. It continues, through the power of the Holy Spirit, in each of us.

    When the ELCA voted in 2009 to ordain gay men and lesbian women in relationships, my heart leapt in joy and then fell to the floor. I could not cheer for I could see the faces of the people who would leave this church (and did). I could not lament because I believe the church took a stand for the Spirit's work going beyond the bounds of our understanding.

    My congregation lost 16 members last year over this and not a week goes by that I don't think of them at one point or another. I'm grieving the first Easter (coming) without their faces. Somehow, the alleluias are dusty in my mouth.

    Yet, I'm doing premarital counseling for a lesbian couple who struggle with feeling included in church. Each of the 16 former members found a new church home within 2-3 months, even if it didn't feel like home right away. These two women previously felt like they had no where to go.

    There's gospel in there somewhere.

    Come now, O Prince of Peace, grant us your wisdom.

  14. Sigh.
    Prayers abound.

    And, as a pastor who happens to be a lesbian, I am so grateful for the work and witness of those before me to open wide the doors of my denomination so that I can follow God's call to be in ordained ministry.

    So, thank all of you...for your witness, your advocacy, your light...and the gentle and respectful voices from all sides of the issue.

  15. As an Episcopalian, I'm pulling for this amendment to pass for my PCUSA sisters and brothers. It is not an easy road, but in my heart I believe full inclusion is where God is leading us.

    I also feel somewhat betrayed by women (in my denomination and out of it) who side with conservative factions--sometimes even when it means denying or possibly giving up their own ordinations. I just don't understand it. Misogyny and homophobia are so closely related...and all sorts and forms of oppression are just wrong.

  16. Rev Dr Mom, Not all who believe 10A is wrong are homophobic. Although some are.

    Some are convinced that the Biblical witness against homosexual behavior is clear. The reformed branch of the church erred when making the case for ordination of women by relying on social arguments instead of Biblical ones. There is a Biblical case for women's ordination. I am not convinced that there is a Biblical case for ordination of non-celibate homosexuals. As one of reformed faith, I am committed to draw my conclusions in these matters not from my heart or my experience or from society, but only from scripture.

    For those who feel that the church is choosing to ordain unrepentant, even deliberate sinners; this is an egregious betrayal of the faith-- even perhaps a thumbing of the nose at the God who died to free us from the slavery of sin.

    All of us sin. Not all of us agree on what constitutes sin. Therein lies the crux.


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