07 March 2008

Open Letter to the Church

Open Letter to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Date: March 2008
From: Your Candidates and Inquirers for the Ministry of Word and Sacrament who are Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer
Re: Bush vs. Presbytery of Pittsburgh PJC Ruling Regarding Ordination Standards and G-6.0106b

We, your sisters and brothers in Christ, your colleagues in ministry, faithful members of Presbyterian churches are saddened by the recent ruling of the Permanent Judicial Commission (PJC) which singles out the requirement of fidelity in heterosexual marriage and chastity in singleness as an essential tenet of Reformed faith. This ruling contradicts some of the most important work of the Peace Unity and Purity Task Force, which put forward a more gracious and open way for us to live together as the body of Christ in the midst of our differences.

This PJC decision puts a wedge between theology and practice, belief and action, being and doing. It demeans the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer persons by again reducing our lives to sexual acts. It fails to recognize God’s ability to choose whomever God wills to serve the Church. It perpetuates the mythology that sexual orientation is simply a matter of behavior. It says that we are not filled with God’s grace.

Our Reformed understanding of Scripture teaches that the way in which we live our lives as responsible, faithful Christians is intimately connected to our faith. Our love, commitment, and indeed our manner of life is an inescapable expression of our faith as we seek to both know God’s will and to live into it. We are filled with the Spirit, a Spirit made manifest in our Christian discipleship and acts of Christian witness: by teaching Sunday School; giving our time, talent and treasure to our congregations; working in soup kitchens; financially supporting ourselves and paying tuition to Presbyterian seminaries; visiting the sick and shut-ins; working for justice; being present with individuals in their last days of life on earth; singing in choirs; tutoring children; yearning to preach the Word and administer the Sacraments; proclaiming the liberating and good news of Jesus Christ, and welcoming and raising new disciples to serve Him.

Many of us have found ourselves in holding patterns, serving in whatever capacities we can create while waiting for the church to open the door to the Holy Spirit and usher us into ordained ministry serving Jesus Christ. Many of us have been removed from the ordination process when we have been honest about the magnificent ways that the Holy Spirit has moved through our lives, calling us out into the world as whole people, burning with the desire to serve Christ. We have been removed because we cannot serve with our whole heart while hiding our sexuality and gender identities. A few of us have been ordained, some of us have been unable to utter the full truth of our lives, and others of us have been in spaces safe enough to disclose our full identities.

We fear that the direct effect of this ruling will be to once again impose upon the ordination process a don’t ask, don’t tell policy. We are a gospel people, called to proclaim the good news of how God has loved and redeemed us and freed us for joyful service. The good news of Jesus Christ is about witnessing to the fullness in which God has moved in our lives. It is tremendously painful and theologically suspect that our church should find it expedient that we must edit our
lives, denying our full humanity which Jesus came to fully redeem, in order to be acceptable candidates for ordination.

We live in hope for the healing of the church. We live in hope that all policies which hinder our voices and witness will be removed. We know that only when this day comes will we experience full participation in the life of this denomination. We live in hope that our sisters and brothers in Christ will know us, in the fullness of how God creates us, and affirm our gifts and call. We live in hope that policy decisions are not made on our backs but that we may be treated with equality and the respect we deserve. We live in hope that we will one day soon serve this church as Ministers of Word and Sacrament who happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer. We pray for that day with all of our strength.

1. Scott Anderson, John Knox Presbytery
2. Steven Andrews, Whitewater Valley Presbytery
3. Meghan Foote, removed from Sheppards and Lapsley Presbytery
4. Chris Gannon, Presbytery of Long Island
5. Sára Herwig, Boston Presbytery
6. Jenny Howard, Presbytery of Detroit
7. Lisa Larges, San Francisco Presbytery
8. Paul Mowry, Presbytery of New York City
9. Alex McNeill, Western North Carolina Presbytery
10. Melinda Nichols, Presbytery of Greater Atlanta
11. David Paul, New Hope Presbytery
12. Kathryn Poethig, Presbytery of New York City
13. Heather Reichgott, Redwoods Presbytery
14. Katie Ricks, Presbytery of Greater Atlanta
15. Anonymous, Presbytery of Greater Atlanta
16. Anonymous, Hudson River Presbytery
17. Anonymous, Pacific Presbytery
18. Anonymous, Synod of the Covenant
19. Anonymous, Synod of Lincoln Trails
20. Anonymous, Synod of the Mid-Atlantic
21. Anonymous, Synod of the Mid-Atlantic
22. Anonymous, Synod of the Northeast
23. Anonymous, Synod of the Northeast
24. Anonymous, Synod of the Pacific
25. Anonymous, Synod of South Atlantic
26. Anonymous, Synod of South Atlantic
27. Anonymous, Synod of Southern California and Hawaii
28. Anonymous, Synod of the Trinity