Wow, my heart breaks! Our Methodist friends have been struggling for years over inclusion of all God’s children in the church, specifically LGBTQI people. In case you’re not familiar, that stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Questioning, Inquiring.
Presbyterians in the PC(USA), our denomination, struggled with this for years, too. If you’re a long-time member, you will likely remember the conversation. It started in the 70’s when a gay man stood up on the floor of the then United Presbyterian Church General Assembly and held up a sign that said, “Is anyone else here gay?” Not long after—as a denomination, anyone could be a member of the Presbyterian church, but it took us until this decade to become a fully inclusive church as it pertains to leadership and marriage.
And just because our polity permits it, doesn’t mean that every church in PC(USA) practices this kind of inclusion.
You can relax here at home; Presbyterian Church of Madison is open, affirming, and inclusive. All God’s children are welcome here in every capacity. Every. One.
PC(USA) crossed the first hurdle in 2010 and ratified in 2011 when LGBTQI could finally be elected and ordained as elders, both to serve on session and to serve as teaching elders or ministers of word and sacrament (clergy). The ordaining body of individual presbyteries and churches can choose to ordain anyone they elect to ordination. Love wins!
Shortly after we resolved the issue for leadership, marriage equality became a reality for the country and for our church as well in 2014. Each individual church and clergy person can choose to marry anyone they want to marry. Love wins again!
But, there is a price. We lost partnerships with other Presbyterian denominations in places around the world where even being gay is punishable by death. A number of Presbyterians outside the USA saw no way forward in partnership with us. PC(USA) lost members, even entire churches, to other branches of the Presbyterian family tree. Interestingly enough, Newton Presbytery (our mid-level governing body here in New Jersey) lost no churches. Not one. Love wins!
Yesterday in the United Methodist Church, what they call the “Traditional” plan passed at their special General Conference (a world-wide meeting) restricting the rights of LGBTQI members, clergy, and allies. While elements of this plan may later prove unconstitutional in their governance (polity), LGBTQI ministers who are currently serving can be censured, and any clergy who performs same-gender marriages in their churches is subject to censure. They can lose their credentials.
Please keep our Methodist friends in prayer! The conversation isn’t over.
We know what it feels like. Change is hard. Reformation is hard. The road ahead is bumpy, and there is tension. Even so, God is at work always in all ways.
Come Holy Spirit, come. Come Lord Jesus!
Grace and Peace,