Wednesday, May 11, 2011

PC-USA Approves GLBT Ordination

Big news in the church world: the Presbyterian Church USA -- not to be confused with its more conservative cousin, the Presbyterian Church of America -- has finally approved allowing the ordination of GLBT ministers. It only took 33 years!

Well, no one can ever say that they needed more time to discuss the issue!

Pastor John Shuck has the details for those interested in the technicalities.

To me this is just another brick felled in the wall preventing full inclusion in our society for gays and lesbians. Try as some folks might, you can’t stop the culture from changing. They couldn’t stop blacks and whites from marrying, and you won’t be able to stop the gays, either.

Meanwhile, yesterday we read news that the U.S. Navy was preparing for the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” by writing guidelines for performing same sex marriages on Naval bases. This prompted the usual freak-out, and an immediate reversal:
Washington (CNN) -- The Navy did an abrupt about-face late Tuesday, suspending earlier guidance that could have allowed same-sex marriages on military bases once the Pentagon scraps its present Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.

A memorandum from the Chief of Chaplains, Rear Admiral M.L. Tidd, suspended one he issued about a month ago.

"My memorandum of 13 April 2011 is hereby suspended until further notice pending additional legal and policy review and inter-Departmental coordination," Tidd wrote on Tuesday to all Navy chaplains and "religious program specialists."

The green light for gay marriage on military bases prompted a new round of Congressional opposition to ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Of course it did. But don’t worry, brothers and sisters. The bricks are falling. This one will, too.

Years ago I served on the session of a local Presbyterian church which had welcomed several openly gay families into our congregation. These people were talented and active in the church; we knew they had a lot to contribute to the life of our congregation, so we nominated two individuals to be part of the church’s Session, which is basically the church board. And then we all had to be reminded that in approving their inclusion on our church session we were running afoul of official PC-USA policy. While no one expected this to happen, it was possible our pastors could be removed from their positions.

This was a sobering thought, and it hardened our resolve. We approved their nomination and became what I believe to be Nashville’s first PC-USA church to have two openly gay elders serving the congregation. It sent a powerful message when these folks went to Presbytery meetings and other denominational functions. Several other congregations followed. And now the entire denomination has changed.

This is how change happens. The first step is always the hardest, but those steps have already been taken, long ago. Throughout our history, as our understanding of the human family has grown, we have opened the doors of our society wider to more people. Those fighting against full equality are marginalizing themselves by standing on the wrong side of history.