Archive for November 2010

November’s synchroblog posts

November 9, 2010

The November Synchroblog, “Seeing Through The Eyes Of The Marginalized” now has a number of posts. A synchroblog is a collection of similar articles or posts made by a diverse group of bloggers who have agreed to blog on the same topic on the same day.

Here’s a list of all the contributions for this month’s synchroblog:

I’m new to this, so I don’t know what I’m doing (except for the writing part). But you don’t need experience. Let me know if you’re interested in participating in future synchroblogs and I’ll get you in touch with the coordinator(s).


Synchroblog: Thru the Eyes of the Marginalized

November 9, 2010

Here are all of the blog posts that have been written on this topic.

Seeing Through the Eyes of the Marginalized

November 8, 2010

This post was inspired by an invitation to participate in a synchroblogging theme. So here goes…

First of all, it’s interesting that the topic is “seeing through the eyes of the marginalized,” because one of my dear friends and companions on the road is a blind woman. I cannot fully share in her journey, but sometimes I’m privileged to walk alongside of her. She, indeed, is marginalized.

My mom lost her sight prior to losing her vision. (She had a series of mini-strokes, or TIA‘s that caused blindness, then dementia caused by years of cigarettes. If you smoke, quit now.) Servers in restaurants would treat my mom like she was a rock or a pet, or maybe a pet rock, by addressing questions to me: “What would SHE like?” My mother invariably responded in anger: “SHE is blind, not deaf!”

That said, here we go:

Long before I knew I was queer, I grew up feeling … different. I couldn’t put a name on it. I couldn’t exactly touch it. I couldn’t even talk to any of my friends about it. I just knew I was somehow … different.

I finished high school early. I didn’t know what to do with myself. This was the late 1960s. The Vietnam War was going on, and had been going on for years and seemed like it would continue to go on forever. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated; others too — killed for their beliefs and trying to make the world a better place. Along with many of my friends (even the cheerleaders and jocks), I was a pot-smoker, which was a way of trying to self-medicate and to try to make a sad and brutal world “normal.”

But even if you were somehow able to strip off these layers (impossible, since this was so foundational to my being), you’d still find someone who felt … different.

So I decided to go on the road. After a few nights staying at the YWCA in Long Beach, I hitchhiked up the Pacific coast. I had grown up in a family with pretty much nothing so it wasn’t daunting to me, but I really learned how to be a survivor on this journey as I went. There were numbers of other young people on the road, and we talked and shared tips about places to get free food, places you could sleep for free (“crash,” in the lingo of the times). I spent a few weeks in Berkeley (of course). Then I took off for the unknowns of America.

Again, the social and political climate of the country was always Vietnam, always included counterculture and civil rights. Hitchhiking was a way of getting from one place to another, but there was a price: the fare that I paid was listening to the stories of those who chose to pick me up and give me a ride. Sometimes my ride would be a short one; other times it would be hours — even days — and the driver would open up and reveal his or her soul to this anonymous teen-aged stranger who was briefly sharing a time and space with him or her. I learned about difference. I learned that even people who looked very mainstream and conventional had stories to tell, stories that they had never or rarely been able to share — not because they couldn’t articulate these stories, but because they had never found someone they felt safe enough to be able to open up with. And so I had a long series of intimate encounters with strangers as a traveled around the country in search of myself.

My point in this is that we are all somehow marginalized. The football player on a scholarship who really wants to be in country music. The housewife and mom who wants to go with me. Sure. But mostly people who are mostly happy in their day-to-day lives, but have something deep in themselves that makes them somehow … different.

At some point I got tired of living on the road. I had worked a number of jobs along the way, but I got to the point where I was mostly tired of living off of the kindness of strangers. I headed back to Southern California. I got a job as a campus organizer for an anti-war organization, which led me to some folks working on the McGovern for President campaign who offered me a job. Guess what? Back on the road, working a number of state primaries.

Again, more good people helping out, and hearing more stories from these people.

After the general election — after we lost, the country lost, and Nixon was revealed to be Nixon — I went off to college in Northern California. I fell in love with a woman, and I discovered my identity as a sexually “different” person. (This can certainly be the source of another post or 1,000, because I really don’t believe that any two people have the same sexual identity or orientation, but that we’re all as unique in this as in all other aspects of our lives.)

But here’s the deal, here is what I learned from life on the road, from others’ stories, and from my own experiences: being marginalized is something that is imposed on us, not something that is a real status. It is an attempt by others to push me, and anyone else who somehow identifies as being … different, to the edges and beyond. It’s my mom saying that she wasn’t an object, a non-entity — but was a real someone to be reckoned with. So my strength, my own identity grows through my pushing back!

In that way, being “marginalized” is a good thing, and I wouldn’t want to be any other way.

PresbyMEME: Why I am voting yes on Amendment 10A

November 2, 2010

Bruce Reyes-Chow, a Presbyterian minister and Moderator of the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), has provided an opportunity for people to engage in a conversation online about why we are voting yes on Amendment 10-A.


Shall G-6.0106b be amended by striking the current text and inserting new text in its place as follows:


Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness. Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament.


Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G-1.0000). The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation (G.14.0240; G-14.0450) shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003). Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.

Questions for the PresbyMEME:

  1. Name, City, State
  2. Twitter and Facebook profiles
  3. Presbytery and 10a voting date
  4. Reason ONE that you are voting “yes” on 10a is…
  5. Reason TWO that you are voting “yes” on 10a is…
  6. Reason THREE that you are voting “yes” on 10a is…
  7. What are your greatest hopes for the 10a debate that will take place on the floor of your Presbytery?
  8. How would you respond to those that say that if we pass 10a individuals and congregations will leave the PC(USA)?
  9. What should the Presbyterian Church focus on after Amendment 10a passes?
  10. How does your understanding of Scripture frame your position on 10a?

I’m Sonnie Swenston. I’m a member and Clerk of Session of the First Presbyterian Church of Baldwin Park, California. I live in neighboring Covina.

My Twitter name is @HeySonnie. I have livetweeted a number of Presbyterian-related events, including #ga219 and #revjanie. On Facebook, I’m Sonnie Swenston-Forbes. I’m also on the board of That All May Freely Serve, serving as webspinner and as one of the social media coordinators for that group (Facebook, Twitter).

We are in the Presbytery of San Gabriel, and the Synod of Southern California and Hawaii. Our vote on Amendment 10-A is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, March 8, 2011.

The first reason I am voting yes on 10-A is that it is a return to historic Presbyterian values about ordination.

The second reason I am voting yes on 10-A is that it gives us an opportunity to set right something that has been so wrong about the church and ordination standards.

The third reason I am voting yes on 10-A is that so many who have been called by God to serve the church in ordained capacities will be able to do so.

My greatest hopes for the 10-A debate on the floor of my presbytery are: (1) that we will actually have a debate on the floor of presbytery, since there are some on council who would prefer that we move directly to a vote without any conversation prior to the meeting or debate on the floor; (2) that the tone be decent and in order rather than the horrid hateful homophobic rhetoric we have often heard in the past; and (3) that the debate not be a rehashing of the same old points given by the same old voices who we’ve heard from in the past, but that we hear from at least some people who haven’t spoken up on this before. (I particularly would like to hear from some elders. I’d also like to hear from some younger people, but our presbytery is pretty typical in that we just don’t have younger people who are commissioners to presbytery.)

How would you respond to those that say that if we pass 10-A individuals and congregations will leave the PC(USA)? Individuals and congregations have already been leaving the denomination. Some of these are the conservatives, of course, because there has been a lot of their self-generated publicity about this. I am quite sure that there is also a large number of progressives who have left more quietly, unable to abide what they consider to be the unhealthy, hypocritical state of the denomination. Honestly, I believe that holding the church together is not necessarily what we are called to do when the cost is the church causing so much pain to LGBT people and their family members and friend — and others who are of various “outsider” status.

What should the Presbyterian Church focus on after Amendment 10-A passes? Loving God, and loving our neighbors as ourselves. Doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God.

How does your understanding of Scripture frame your position on 10-A? To make this quick, I have to state this more as a negative. I believe that the current form of the Book of Order’s G-6.0106b are very unscriptural. The exclusive imposition of sexual orientation as THE standard for ordination is absurd, given that Jesus said nothing about same-sex relationships or orientation. Joyful submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life is both far more biblical and far more reformed — and far healthier for both individuals and the church.

Feel free to contact me for more detail, or to engage in conversation.