The risk of the call…

This response was posted online at Presbyterians Today.

The Current Issue of Presbyterians Today, “Our Hurting World” is truly important.

I read the issue and the insert about not being able to address all the “hurts” of this world in one issue, stating  that many of these concerns had been addressed in earlier issues and elsewhere. Yet, that would be true of every topic in this September/October Presbyterians Today, which points to choices made about “who’s in and who’s out” – who’s more current and important and who’s not?

From my point of view, we are all in and equally as important.

Every story in “Our Hurting World” is a powerful witness to God’s presence in our lives and God’s work through our denomination. Yet, as often seems to happen, there is no reference to our denomination’s recent progress in the more than 40-year struggle in the life of the denomination for full inclusion of folks who are LGBTQ. And, I don’t think it is because stories about these changes have been covered “too much.” In fact, the prophetic witness of our decisions on ordination and marriage equality seem to be barely whispered, from denominational media to events such as The Big Tent.

It is in the excellent piece in this issue by Mihee Kim-Kort,“Each One: Why Black Lives Matter in the Church” that the only reference to “gay” appears. It happens in quoting James Cone, who said: “God is red. God is brown. God is yellow. God is gay…I don’t use blackness to exclude anyone.”

Nor do I use being gay to exclude anyone. Quite the contrary, like others who understand this, it’s about coming together. That is at the core of theology, paraphrasing Dr. Cone, and why it matters.

Interestingly, the next paragraph in Kim-Kort’s article frames the problem for moving toward active inclusion for all oppressed groups: “Despite the tireless ministry and advocacy of mission workers, the Office of Public Witness, the Office of the General Assembly’s Committee on Representation, and many others, racial justice has generally occupied the periphery of our church concerns. We have been content to pursue diversity without unsettling our own racial privilege.”

“Content without being unsettled.” I don’t think it works that way.

The PC(USA) has taken a prophetic position in moving forward, entering into places where the harms that have been done by our teachings and practices of the past have the possibility of blossoming into real transformation and a global witness for healing and the Risen Christ in our midst.

The violence that continues to be meted out to folks who identify as other than heterosexual is a charge our denomination has called us to end. Violence that no teaching of Jesus condones.

And, yes, Kim-Kort is correct. Our witness as a mainline Protestant denomination is still thwarted by our dis-ease in the vocal denominational welcoming of our sisters and brothers, all.

The lack of a prophetic voice in the PC(USA) is hard to understand in terms of being faithful to the call and the “risk of the call” of the Gospel. There is no place in our denomination for fear, especially when it holds us back from helping heal a broken world with the message we’ve been given to share. We need to get that message out, which is why I think that in an issue – especially such as this – the referral to previous articles is insubstantial. We are in a time when the difference between unlocked doors and closed doors of our church is hard to discern for those we would welcome. We need to make it clear that the doors are unlocked, open, and all are welcome. There is no bartering for such things. It is or it isn’t so, at least from the voices and leadership of the denomination.

Again to all at Presbyterians Today, each of your stories in this issue contributes to the power of the Gospel and the need for us to go wherever it calls us to go, with eyes open and heads held high. It is a witness for which I am grateful and thanks to you all. However, this work is not complete until world equality for our LGBTQ community is included in the leadership and public witness of the PC(USA), all the time, time and again – until love replaces the violence we continue to find too uncomfortable to address.

It is true that silence invariably takes a side about who’s in and who’s out. In the midst of the coverage of this issue, the perception is that that – in part –  has happened again.

Rev. Ray Bagnuolo
That All May Freely Serve