Posted tagged ‘TAMFS’

My One Minute Sermon

May 15, 2011

You have heard of the One Minute Manager, of course. Well, this isn’t about that. It’s about a one minute sermon.

A sermon in a mainline Christian church that only takes up one minute?
Whoever heard of such a thing!

Let me give you the context:

  1. This week the Presbyterian Church (USA) received the minimum number of votes required to ratify an amendment to the Book of Order part of the church’s constitution that has to do with the ordination of LGBT people (particularly those in relationships) as clergy and lay leaders (or more formally, Ministers of Word and Sacrament, Elders and Deacons); the old provision said no, the new provision says that local governing bodies (presbyteries) can ordain and install such ministers and churches can ordain and install such elders and deacons. It’s a return to the system that the denomination has had since the Reformation — that God calls and the person answers the call, and it is up to those who know the person best to affirm (or deny) that call. (The text of both is below if you’d like to read them.)
  2. I serve on the board of an organization dedicated to the full participation of LGBT persons in the church. This organization is called That All May Freely Serve. Because of actions by the denomination barring ministry by one person, The Rev. Dr. Jane Adams (Janie) Spahr, at the Downtown United Presbyterian Church of Rochester, New York, TAMFS is based at that church. Our board anticipated the date of passage of the new G.6-0106b and planned our Spring board meeting to coincide with this date. Fortunately, we were exactly right!
  3. Following our board meeting, we were invited to stay over and worship with DUPC on Sunday morning. Some of us (and other former board members and friends) were then invited to be worship participants. Since this is a momentous occasion — one that many of us have been working toward for many, many years — the church wanted to give us a chance to say a few of our own words, and not just be the ones to introduce different parts of the service of worship. Because there were so many of us, we were requested to keep our statements — our “sermons” — to one minute. (Most of us exceeded that, but … well, you know. The clock had to stop running when people cried tears of joy. More of these will be published on TAMFS’ Dreaming Church blog soon.)

Worship bulletin for today's service

Clearly my introduction of the context is longer than my one minute(ish) sermon itself, but I was the one who was asked to give the benediction.

Here it is:

It is so good to be among you this morning. I always appreciate being here in Rochester, and at this church, so deeply imbedded in progressive politics and religion for so long.

I come from a different place: from San Gabriel Presbytery, the presbytery that brought Amendment B to the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1996. As a matter of fact, the church that proposed Amendment B is in the town where my wife and I live, and the pastor of that church was the overture advocate for what became G.6-0106b at the Albuquerque General Assembly.

Over the years, some in San Gabriel Presbytery have brought charges against my little More Light church – one of only four in all of Southern California – for ordaining and installing publicly-identified gay or lesbian elders; some of these same people – Ministers of Word and Sacrament and Elders in our denomination – have been downright cruel, with the result being chasing the extremely gifted Katie Morrison out of the presbytery and, ultimately, to the UCC.

This past Tuesday night during our presbytery meeting, the expected vote result from the Presbytery of Twin Cities Area came to me and others who were monitoring Twitter and Facebook. Although there was no announcement at our meeting, word quickly passed through the room – with varied reactions, as you can imagine. This was just as our presbytery was debating Amendment 10-A.

I had prepared three two-minute floor speeches, but instead of standing in the line to deliver any of them, I listened to what other commissioners had to say. I was blessed by words from people like Jack Rogers and Dale Morgan, while I was cursed by words of some others.

Following the debate, in Presbyterian fashion, we prayed and then cast our written votes; we then adjourned for dinner. The results were announced following worship (which I don’t remember much of). Our moderator said, “Ladies and gentlemen, our tellers counted the ballots four times: the result was a tie, 92-92.”

In our system, a tie vote counts as a loss, but in my presbytery it was an unimaginable gain. Never before have we come close on an issue pertaining to same gender-loving people. Many have called it a miracle, and I can’t argue with them.

Despite the fact that it is a parliamentary “loss,” the lesson that I want to lift up going forward is that God has given us in San Gabriel Presbytery – and hopefully to the whole church – a reminder: that God loves each of us, and loves us equally. As Gene Peters says in The Message, Jesus said that we are to love God with all our passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and to love our neighbors as well as we do yourselves. This passage in Luke continues with Jesus describing “who is our neighbor” in the familiar story of the Good Samaritan, after which he concludes saying, “Go and do likewise.”

So this week, remembering that we are God’s face in the world for many people, let us go out and do likewise!


This was the question sent to the presbyteries by the 219th General Assembly.

Shall G6.0106b be amended by striking the current text and inserting new text in its place:
[Text to be deleted is shown with a strikethrough; text to be added or inserted is shown as italic.]
b. 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 (W4.9001), 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.
b. Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G1.0000). The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation (G.14.0240; G14.0450) 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 (W4.4003). Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.


The case against the Rev. Jane Adams Spahr

March 24, 2011

NOTE: I am a member of the board of That All May Freely Serve, the organization co-founded by the Rev. Janie Spahr after another church court denied her call to serve at the Downtown United Presbyterian Church in Rochester, New York. I am also a legally-married-to-a-same-gender-spouse-in-California who was married in church in a service officiated by an ordained clergymember. It is impossible for me to be unbiased, and I make no apologies for that.

A lot happened today in the appeal of the verdict rendered last summer in the case of Presbytery of the Redwoods vsthe RevJane Adams Spahr.

I typically live-tweet or live-blog such events–something I did during the trial itself–but the (in my opinion) archaic policy of the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Synod of the Pacific disallows the use of electronic communications of any kind while they are in session. Consequently, I was reduced to taking notes via pen-and-paper.

I will share what took place in today’s appeal, but I am making the very intentional choice tonight to not do so until after this body has rendered its verdict. Not that they will likely be reading (or be influenced by) the writing of a blogger who sat through the hearing, but you never know.

In the meantime, I have been thinking and praying about this case, about Janie and the myriad of charges that have been filed against her over the years. In so doing, I started where I often begin: with seeking a definition of the terms. So what is a trial? Here is what the dictionary says:



  1. Law:
    a. the examination before a judicial tribunal of the facts put in issue in a cause, often including issues of law as well as those of fact.
    b. the determination of a person’s guilt or innocence by due process of law.
  2. the act of trying, testing, or putting to the proof.
  3. test; proof.
  4. an attempt or effort to do something.
  5. a tentative or experimental action in order to as certain results; experiment.
  6. the state or position of a person or thing being tried or tested; probation.
  7. subjection to suffering or grievous experiences; a distressed or painful state: comfort in the hour of trial.
  8. an affliction or trouble.
  9. a trying, distressing, or annoying thing or person.
  10. Ceramics:
    a piece of ceramic material used to try the heat of a kiln and the progress of the firing of its contents.

Some of these definitions go far beyond what we most often think of in terms of charges being filed and the courtroom-type process to come up with a verdict; and some of those words are so appropriate. Trying, distressing or annoying. Affliction or trouble. Subjection to suffering or grievous experiences.

Hopefully, having friends and colleagues who love Janie with her today provided that “comfort in the hour of trial” listed among the descriptions as well.

Also today, as the opposing counsel presented her arguments, I had a scripture passage, a psalm, echoing through my head. This passage is the favorite of the father of one of the women who testified at Janie’s trial; it was a favorite of God’s glorious gadfly, the Rev. Howard B. Warren, as well.

Psalm 139

1 Yhwh, you’ve searched me,
and you know me.
2 You know if I am standing or sitting,
you read my thoughts from far away.
3 Whether I walk or lie down, you are watching;
you are intimate with all of my ways.
4 A word is not even on my tongue, Yhwh,
before you know what it is;
5 you hem me in, before and behind,
shielding me with your hand.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
a height my mind cannot reach!
7 Where could I run from your Spirit?
Where could I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you’re there;
if I make my bed in death, you’re already there.
9 I could fly away with wings made of dawn,
or make my home on the far side of the sea,
10 but even there your hand will guide me,
your mighty hand holding me fast.
11 If I say, “The darkness will hide me,
and night will be my only light,”
12 even darkness won’t be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day—
darkness and light are the same to you.
13 You created my inmost being
and stitched me together in my mother’s womb.
14 For all these mysteries I thank you—
for the wonder of myself,
for the wonder of your works—
my soul knows it well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
while I was being made in that secret place,
knitted together in the depths of the earth;
16 your eyes saw my body even there.
All of my days
were written in your book,
all of them planned
before even the first of them came to be.
17 How precious your thoughts are to me, O God!
How impossible to number them!
18 I could no more count them
than I could count the sand.
But suppose I could?
You would still be with me!
23 Examine me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts—
24 see if there is misdeed within me,
and guide me in the way that is eternal.

This is the framework of my thinking and my prayers until we hear from the PJC. I invite you to join in continuous prayer for love and justice until their verdict is issued.

Grace and peace,