A Call to Reconciliation

A Call to Reconciliation: Overture 050 by Ray Bagnuolo
Updated May 7, 2106; Original publication date March 2, 2016

A Call to Reconciliation: Overture 050
Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. (Matthew 6:12)

But what of religious institutions that have played a role causing harm to others? How does a religious body ask God for forgiveness for what it may have done in trespassing against others? How does a church ask forgiveness of those who have been hurt by its practices and actions?

These questions are at the heart of Overture 050: On the Admission of, and Apology for, Harms Done to the LGBTQ/Q Members of the PC(USA), Family and Friends, on the docket for the 222nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to be held June 21-28 in Portland, OR. This overture calls for our denomination to initiate critical and difficult conversations, acknowledging its role in exclusionary practices, while evangelizing The Great Ends of the Church with new vigor and humility. As stated in our Book of Order(F-1.0304), The Great Ends of the Church are:

  • the proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind;
  • the shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God;
  • the maintenance of divine worship;
  • the preservation of the truth;
  • the promotion of social righteousness; and
  • the exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world.

In effect, Ovt 050 calls for our denomination to convincingly witness to what has been decided constitutionally, recognizing the decades of struggle and subsequent changes in our polity and practices. Ovt 050 unleashes a powerful voice, with the PC(USA) accepting its place among the most welcoming and affirming communities of faith on Earth. With that voice in mind, this overture calls for the denomination to expand its mission in a world thirsting for a faith whose dimensions of love include humility and enough courage to ask for forgiveness.

Anyone involved in the work of the PC(USA) understands that there have been innumerable groups of people who have been characterized as other and treated as less than. This marginalization is not limited to our community of family and friends who identity as LGBTQ/Q. In fact, some of the criticism of this overture has been that it “leaves groups out.” Instead, this overture follows recent constitutional changes to begin a timely conversation about who we are and who we are striving to be in this world. Ovt 050 is an invitation to all who are open to reconciliation and willing to consider that the first step toward such a place requires an honest admission of harms done. When one says to another, “I have wronged you” years of distance begin to melt. Relationships are given a chance to begin anew with one another – and with those who still wonder if we are a church where the legislation we pass truly signals a change in our witness.

There are also objections to this overture from others who see it as an attempt at imposing statements and beliefs against their conscience. Instead, the overture publicly presents what has been constitutionally decided, acknowledging that such changes grew out of practices and harms that preceded the need for revisions in our constitution. It calls on the institution of the PC(USA) to avoid any hesitancy in boldly witnessing these changes out of deference to groups or individuals who may disagree. One’s conscience will always be between the individual and their God.

Our denomination has been called to this time for more than just the Presbyterian Church (USA). With destructive, violent and harmful teachings continuing to spew from some religious groups,[1] Ovt 050 gives us the opportunity to respond in ways that make it clear who we are striving to be: a welcoming denomination that deeply understands its call and its mission in the world – for all.

…[and] ye shall go out with joy… (Isaiah 55:12)

As of this date:
Passed by:                 The Presbytery of the City of New York
Concurred with by: The Presbytery of Genesee Valley, The Presbytery of Chicago

[1] (Pastor) Kevin Swanson is just one of many despicable voices spewing hatred and the violence that fills the vacuum wherever love is absent. Please be advised of the graphic and disturbing nature of his comments to his congregation. The original video has been removed on the church’s site. What is offered here is a clip available from a report by Rachel Maddow on MSNBC – youtu.be/GBDbGyv6SIQ