Repentance and forgiveness…a beginning

tamfsWe convey to you the request of Rev. Marc Benton for forgiveness in bringing forth the  charges and legislation that  produced Benton v. Hudson River, et al. We also refer to Rev.  Benton’s newly stated support for same gender marriage. In so doing, we  acknowledge  his courage and commitment in taking responsibility for his role in the harm, pain and  suffering produced by his earlier  actions.

We also acknowledge South Presbyterian Church’s Session and pastors, Joe Gilmore and Susan De George, for their ongoing commitment to the LGBTQ/Q community when Rev. Benton insisted that they be investigated and charged for doing same-gender commitment services. It is such faithful perseverance by these folks and others that are at the heart of the changes we are witnessing today.

We stand firmly alongside, deeply indebted and thankful to everyone who has ever been hurt, harmed, punished or pushed away because of Benton v. Hudson River, et al or any of the other charges, hearing, rulings and deep anguish caused by such actions. We are here to do whatever we can in healing, reconciliation and moving forward so that such actions and harms never happen again.

We pray that Rev. Benton’s decision and forthrightness will prompt others to step up, acknowledging their roles in the harm caused our community and making amends for their participation in decades of marginalization and exclusion of our Christian sisters and brothers. We encourage and support all who seek assistance in moving forward on this path, and we will never forget the suffering and pain of others whose lives are the foundation for these changes.

The toughest road, we think, is ahead. This journey for healing will only be complete when the church accepts its responsibility, admits the harms it has done, and makes amends for the teachings and prohibitions it has supported and allowed in the discrimination of our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning community.  With recent changes to the Book of Order and those currently under consideration, we feel the church is also charged with taking an active and corporate role in facilitating these changes. We are ready to support such efforts, as well.

“Redemption appears as the liberty to interpret in trust…
all that happens to us and to which we react as occurring in a final context
of life giving rather than death-dealing.”  H. Richard Niebuhr, The Responsible Self

When we can witness to one another and  the world our faithfulness to the Gospel and all it requires us to be in love for one another, then perhaps redemption to which we are called will achieve its life-giving purpose.

Sincerely,

Ray Bagnuolo


Cover page from the Hudson River Presbytery September 9, 2014

The Rev. Marc Benton, the pastor who brought the suit Benton v. Hudson River Presbytery that defined PC(USA)’s distinction between marriage and holy unions, has repented of his position and is seeking forgiveness from the members of the Hudson River Presbytery.

At Rev. Benton’s request, the Hudson River Presbytery has prepared this press release and is sharing his statement with the wider church.

Attached, please find a the release and Rev. Benton’s statement.

Rev. Benton’s statement has been shared with members of the Hudson River Presbytery and he will be joining our presbytery at its regular meeting in September.

1) Statement from Rev. Susan Andrews, Executive Presbyter; Hudson River Presbytery

2) Rev. Marc Benton’s Statement

 

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It’s different this time…

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Dear Friends,

We have often talked about the “new thing” God is doing in this world over the course of our struggle for the Gospel of Justice, Mercy and Love. And, here we are! – entering into a “new thing” many thought would never be seen in their lifetimes: a new again time manifesting the presence of God in astounding and resilient ways!

  • The Presbyterian Church (USA) and its decisions on ordination, marriage equality, and the revised definition of the definition of marriage in our constitution to “between two people”…
  •  The Supreme Court of the United States’ ruling on marriage equality, the upholding of the Affordable Care Act and recent decisions in challenges to housing practices for folks who have low incomes…

All of these –  “great victories” of profound impact; policy decisions that will change (have changed!) this society and the world  in ways we have yet to imagine. Celebrate? Oh, yes! Celebrate, indeed! With time for pause that honors the celebration…knowing as we do…

the enormous sacrifices of arriving at this shore;
the violence;
and the many who are not with us because they did not live long enough to see it –
or lost their lives getting us here.

Celebration calls for remembrance, always, so we pause and honor all those who have placed in our hands “the wonderful key” that has the promise to set us free.

Even with that “key in hand,” we know that once the legislative work is done, the work of changing hearts and minds continues. The planting of love and the withering of violence toward each other continues with new and robust laws and polity on our side.

I suggested this to someone yesterday, and they responded that I shouldn’t be so quick to “draw a rainbow” over the world, just yet!

But there is something different this time. It is palpable…

It’s not that so many positive things are happening, but the confluence of it all – against the landscape of the faith, spirit and hearts of our sisters and brothers of Mother Emmanuel in Charleston…

President Obama was right in his eulogy when he said our eyes have been opened by the Grace present in our community, yes our community, of Charleston. How simple they made it for us who are too complicated to see: at the core of every dream and hope and promise we have is the willingness and practice to forgive and love one another no matter what. No matter what. No matter who. No matter why.

Have we been and can we be loving and courageous in the face of such tragedy? Clearly, the answer is, “Yes.” Yes, or we wouldn’t be this far. But we’re in the new stratosphere of our dreams and aspirations with these changes that we have worked to attain – and the assailants who might hope to deflate us are even more determined to do so; too often in revolting and despicable ways.

But opponents’ actions, no matter how heinous and wrong cannot change our greatest saving grace, our amazing grace, if you will – that we are loved by God and called to love one another no matter what. Whatever others may do, they must be…

Held accountable and loved;
Challenged and loved;
Taught how wrong the are and loved;
Stopped from doing harm and loved –

And forgiven, no matter what. I know…

I don’t know if I can do this, honestly, certainly not by myself. But when we do it together, when Mother Emmanuel does it, when victims of crime time and again forgive their oppressors, when the saints of our progressive movement have done it time and again… when congregations, families, communities and more embrace and accept nothing less than love, it seems I can, as well.

“Love God with all you have -and  love one another as you love yourself.”

It really is different this time – not the message but the possibility that we have heard it in ways that will clear the path for the “new thing” God is doing. A “new thing” that will take hold with doves and a rainbow such as we’ve never seen before!

Peace,

Ray

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