Bruce Reyes-Chow has asked Presbyterian bloggers to take on the challenge of answering a series of questions in his post “PresbyMEME: Why I am voting yes on Amendment 10a” If you’re not a Presbyterian or play one on TV, take a look at the background info on Bruce’s site (here). This is an ongoing debate that comes down to whether GLBTQ Christians who are called into ministry can be ordained if they are not willing to practice celibacy. The ordination standards as written require ordained officers and ministers to practice fidelity in marriage (between a man and a woman) and chastity in singleness.
I’ve hesitated posting this, wondering if it is particularly wise to stand so boldly as an ally in this fight when I am at this point in my own journey toward ordination. But the reality is that silence is assent. While I am willing to abide by the constitution of the PC(USA) until God calls me to another church, I do not hear a call to silence when I have voice as an elder. This is where I stand:
- Laura Viau, Orlando, Florida
- I’m @lauraviau on Twitter and Laura Schmidt Viau on FB
- Central Florida Presbytery will vote on 10a in December. I’m not likely to be a commissioner to the meeting, but I will be at the meeting to observe in my role as an intern at the Presbytery office. Here are the reasons I’d vote yes on 10a…
- Reason ONE – The call of God to specific ministry is not limited by human expectation. One need only look to scripture to see the highly unlikely, broken, imperfect kinds of people God called, ordained, and used to set the stage for the church we are entrusted with today. God continues to call women and men of all sorts – gifting and blessing them to bless others. Knowing what a shock it was to hear God calling me to ordained ministry, I cannot in good conscience pretend that God’s GLBTQ children are any less likely to hear that same call.
- Reason TWO – I honestly believe that being asked whether I can joyfully submit to Christ’s lordship in all aspects of my life is a much higher standard than the current focus on the sexual matters. I am challenged to think through what areas of my life are not subject to the lordship of Christ. If I am honest, there is a pang of conviction every time I consider that question, and it’s not always the same sin that God calls me out on.
- Reason THREE – I cannot bear to see any more of God’s children driven from our churches by our inability to take a new and honest look at who they are. GLBT and Q aren’t just letters. And they aren’t attitudes or behavioral patterns. They are as much a part of these people’s being as their eye color, intelligence, and fingerprints. We cannot continue to “hate the sin and love the sinner” when science continues to bear out the fact that one’s gender and orientation is at the very essence of who they are and not something people choose. Children who have heard and taken to heart the words, “God made you just the way you are and God doesn’t make mistakes” see right through the hypocrisy of our stance.
Bonus Reason FOUR– as I understand the history of the Presbyterian church(es) in the United States, we have traditionally looked to the governing body closest to the individual to determine fitness for service. We trust the Holy Spirit to guide examinations, just as we trust the Holy Spirit to raise up those women and men who are to be set aside as spiritual leaders in a particular time and place. We have always trusted presbyteries to examine those ministers seeking to move from one place of service to another, guided by the Holy Spirit. The “local option” is part of our shared Presbyterian heritage, not some recently introduced loophole. Let’s allow those who are in a position to really know the candidate’s fitness for and call to ministry (as deacon, elder or pastor) discern God’s desire for God’s church.
What are your greatest hopes for the 10a debate that will take place on the floor of your Presbytery? That people will listen with hearts of compassion to those who speak on both sides of the issue. It is in listening that I have come to understand that those I disagree with really do believe that they are hearing God’s response to this issue. I hope that people can see that in me, as well. I also hope to hear more voices speaking out in favor of the amendment, as a ministry to those who are pained as much by the silence as the hurtful words. I don’t know that minds will be changed by debate. In fact, I seriously doubt it. But I hope that hearts will be softened and that the Spirit moves people to consider others’ pain as they choose their own words.
How would you respond to those that say that if we pass 10a individuals and congregations will leave the PC(USA)? They are probably right. I suspect there are a large number of people and congregations poised to say “I told you so” and start the exit process. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, really. There are some whose continued presence really is toxic and who should have left long ago. I think sometimes we enable manipulative behavior when we encourage them to stick it out. And yet, we are called to discern God’s will for us, whether that be in or out of fellowship. If God is calling them someplace else, they should go. If God is saying, “Stay,” they should be asking, “Lord, what would you have me learn while I am here?”
What should the Presbyterian Church focus on after Amendment 10a passes? The Great Ends of the Church as lined out in our Constitution. The Great Commission. But most of all the Great Commandments… to love God with heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbors as we love ourselves. That means loving those who are called away as much as those who enter the community for the first time, and it means turning our eyes to the mission God has prepared for us in advance.
How does your understanding of Scripture frame your position on 10a? God loved the world so much that God sent Jesus – not for some of us, but for all of us. Jesus lived, taught and ministered to all. And he commanded us to do the same. We are to go to the ends of the earth, baptizing, teaching and making disciples along the way. We are to love as fiercely as the God who first loved us. We are never to call unclean that which God has called clean. We are to see one another in terms that transcend the labels we use – we are to bring to the church those gifts the Spirit lavishes on each of us for the edification of the Body and for the building of the Kingdom. And when the time comes, we will rejoice with those from every tribe, tongue and nation before the throne of the Lamb. In light of all of that, I would rather err on the side of love and grace when it comes to trusting God to call whomever God wants to preach, teach, serve, and love God’s people. I will happily pray in discernment with my brothers and sisters, just as others have been on my journey of discernment with me. I long to be part of a community of faith that seeks and trusts God that way.