Where we go from here…
[A personal note: I attended GA as one under the umbrella of (but still brand new to) TAMFS. In addition to that affiliation, I have been involved with MLP nationally and locally, individually and congregationally, for years and years; and with CovNet as a local chapter leader (of a chapter that has chastised the national CovNet leadership for not being strong enough). I have also been active in the inclusive church movement through the Lazarus Project in Southern California. I consider my own best work to be at the grassroots level, and the bigger and wider the scope gets, the more painful it all gets for me.]
The Sunday morning Welcoming Worship during GA week was mutually arranged by representatives from MLP and TAMFS. The cooperation and mutuality was obvious. It was a delight to sing in the choir! There were numbers of people from the other progressive partner organizations–the Witherspoon Society, Covenant Network, et. al., in attendance–along with some “free agent” types who are not a part of or who would prefer not to identify specifically with any particular organization. It was also good to be with the good and kind people of Pilgrim Congregational Church (UCC) who hosted us and joined with us in worshiping the God we love. (In talking with one of the ushers, I found out that this is a church where they usually have 30-35 people in worship. Last Sunday, there were three busloads and numerous carloads of Presbyterians under their roof.)
The daily evening worship services were significantly smaller, but meaningful events throughout the week. They were co-coordinated and co-led by the Rev. Janet Edwards of MLP and the Rev. Beth Wheeler of TAMFS, chaplains of the respective groups. (By the way, Janet had to leave in the middle of GA to be with her father, who had a stroke. Janet and her family are in need of our prayers.) The personal spiritual consideration for each day was the question, “Where was God present for you today? Where was God farthest away?”
Something I don’t remember reading here is the fact that Robert Gagnon (http://www.robgagnon.net/), one of the key players among those who oppose us, not only served as a commissioner to GA, but he served on the Church Orders committee–the committee that had responsibility for the Heartland Overture and the other 21 overtures calling for the deletion of G-6.0106b. Gagnon took many opportunities to lecture the committee with his long-winded homophobic vitriol throughout the hearings. Even so, the committee vote to delete B was still 30-28 on a motion to disapprove. While I wouldn’t quite call this a “virtual tie,” I would call it very close–even with the other side having their “heaviest hitter” in the game.
So, it’s on to San Jose. California, where the civil situation for LGBT people is significantly better than in Alabama, and where we have far more of our own who can be in attendance at General Assembly.
And, sure, it is the goal of any social justice organization to put itself out of business. And wouldn’t that be great? But I don’t see it happening. Because there is always more light yet to break forth out of God’s holy Word, always more freedom to be found in service, always more work to be done.
One particular area where this is evident is in the work of the Theological Task Force on the Peace, Unity, and Purity of the church. The task force had a ridiculously huge charter to begin with: “The task force is directed to lead the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in spiritual discernment of our Christian identity, in and for the 21st century, using a process which includes conferring with synods, presbyteries, and congregations seeking the peace, unity, and purity of the church. This discernment shall include but not be limited to issues of Christology, biblical authority and interpretation, ordination standards, and power.” (see http://www.pcusa.org/peaceunitypurity/covenant.htm#mandate)
BUT THE TASK FORCE DID NOT DEAL WITH POWER ISSUES! I heard it said multiple times at GA presentations, and on multiple occasions leading up to GA, by a number of people who served on the task force: Oh, too bad we ran out of time, or we would have explored power issues… Maybe, just maybe, *power* should have been their starting place.
Having attended their recent national conference in Atlanta, I know that this power issue is something being examined by TAMFS. Clearly, this is an issue that Jesus had to deal with, and one to which we are always called–and always WILL BE called. Justice knows no season, and justice cannot wait, and indeed now is the time for justice; but Dr. King said in 1965: “‘Let justice roll down like waters in a mighty stream,’ said the Prophet Amos. He was seeking not consensus but the cleansing action of revolutionary change. America has made progress toward freedom, but measured against the goal the road ahead is still long and hard. This could be the worst possible moment for slowing down.”
Like it or not, we’re in it for the long haul.