December 7, 2017
A blessed Advent to you! I appreciated something I heard the Jesuit priest James Martin say the other day. “There’s good news and there’s better news. The good news is there’s a Messiah. The better news is, it’s not you!” Isn’t that on target? In the midst of the breakneck pace of this season, the pressure to “do it all,” I pray you are finding margins for rest and renewal. You are a gift to the world. You are more than enough.
I’m writing to update you on the work of our Session and the Inclusivity Team it appointed several months ago. As you may recall, Session charged this group to study and prepare a theological statement of inclusivity, especially as it relates to God’s children who identify as GLBTQ. For many years, our church has been welcoming to the GLBTQ community, but we have never studied the issue in depth and published a formal statement. We believe God is calling us to do that now.
The team – comprised of Bill Bishop, Nancy Freeman, Laura Lyman, Sheila Ryan, Sue Sklansky, Mary Watt and Jeff Lehn – has met numerous times, prayed together, read Scripture, studied the writings of theologians across the spectrum, and viewed a number of blog posts and teaching videos. Last summer, we decided to include Session in our discernment. At its monthly meetings this fall, Session has been getting up to speed on the conversation, reading and studying biblical and theological texts together, sharing from their own experience, as they prepare to vote on a statement early in 2018.
Before we draft a statement and vote, however, we wanted to invite you into the process. To that end, we will hold a congregational forum at 11:30am on Sunday, January 21, 2018 in the Wallace Moore Fellowship Center. Any and all are invited to learn more about our process, ask questions and share stories. Please do join us if you can.
In preparation for the forum, I wanted to share some of the resources with you that we’ve found most helpful in our discernment. (These resources will be found below when available, or paper copies by request).
We have studied the eight passages of Scripture that are often lifted up in conversations about GLBTQ Christians. We have read a book by retired Presbyterian professor Mark Achtemeier, The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage (Louisville: WJK, 2014), who change his mind on this issue after many years. We also benefited from the perspective of a chapter in a book by Richard Hays, professor at Duke Divinity School (chapter 16, p. 379-406, of The Moral Vision of the New Testament [San Francisco: Harper, 1996]). We have also reviewed some work by Matthew Vines, a young and gay Christian, who has spoken and taught around the country in recent years (here’s a link to a video of a recent lecture and the transcript). Throughout the process, we have referred to the language in the “Directory of Worship” of our Book of Order (part II of the constitution of our denomination, the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.), which changed by action of the General Assembly in 2014.
Of course, if you have questions or insights or concerns, please don’t hesitate to speak with any member of our Inclusivity Team or Elder currently serving on Session. They would be happy to hear from you before or after the forum. We are grateful for the leading of the Holy Spirit throughout this process and look forward to the challenge and opportunity to live into God’s inclusive love for all both now and in the future.
With gratitude and Advent hope, and on behalf of the Inclusivity Team,
Rev. Jeff Lehn
Inclusivity Team Members: Bill Bishop, chair; Nancy Freeman, Laura Lyman, Sheila Ryan, Sue Sklansky, Mary Watt and Jeff Lehn