Wednesday, March 16, 2011

after 18 years, I may sign on

When I was in my twenties, like many people, I huffed and puffed that I didn't need church to be in a relationship with God.  Now I'm not so sure I believe in God, but for the most part I'm OK with church. Or at least, I'm OK with our church, and I think there are a pretty good percentage of churches that are like ours.  They're not perfect.  There are things about ours that I don't like.  My spouse is on session right now (meaning he is one of the Elders, or leaders, of the church), and the bad thing about that is that you hear a lot more about the things you don't like than you would if you just showed up for church on Sunday mornings.  But generally speaking, our church is doing the kinds of things I think a church should be doing-- actively participating in the community, doing our best to help people that need help, puzzling over what it means to have faith. My life is enriched by being a part of a community of people that comes together to support each other in their faith (or lack thereof, I suppose, might be more appropriate in my case)

But one of the things I've never liked about our church is its exclusion of members of the GLBT community (gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons) from positions of leadership.  It's a PC-USA church (which is one of the varieties of Presbyterian), and the language of the Book of Order (which is sort of like the constitution for PC-USA churches) states that candidates for ordination must "live...within the covenant of marriage between a man and woman...or chastity in singleness."  And since in PC-USA churches pastors, elders, and deacons are ordained, that means not just that there are no GLBT Presbyterian pastors, but also none can serve as Elders or Deacons, the positions of lay leadership in the church.  (Women have been able to be ordained in the Presbyterian church since at least the 1950s, and we have many female elders and deacons, and also a woman lay pastor.)

It's for this reason that although I've attended our church for 18 years now, I've never officially joined as a member.  It's a technicality, I know.  We volunteer at our church, we attend services on average 1-2 times per month, we give them money.  It's kind of lame to say that I'm protesting their stand on gay ordination by refusing to join-- especially since probably not that many people realize that I'm not a member, and the ones that do probably don't know that this is why I refused to join.  But there it is.  Although there are many, many churches in our town, there are only a few that even allow ordination of women, so when we moved here, we didn't have many choices.   

Last July, the PC-USA General Assembly voted to change the wording of the Book of Order to allow gays/lesbians to be ordained-- actually, what they did was remove the words about marriage and singleness.  They've done this before, but approval by the General Assembly must be followed by ratification in a certain number of presbyteries (regions), just like a certain number of states must ratify any amendments to the U.S. constitution.  None of the previous efforts made it past this stage.  So we're all waiting to see what happens this time.  I am cautiously optimistic.  And I told our pastor that if it passed, I'd join.  At this late date, the idea makes me smile.  We'll see.

1 comment:

  1. Your stand is a personal one. But it has more depth than that.
    I hope they do change this, it would make a wonderfully huge statement. Good for you, and good for those folks who are taking this very important step toward what it really means to be a truly loving person.