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.


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


Archive Page

Archive Page

Friends, this is a post from our newsletter at Sayville Congregational United Church of Christ where I serve. So much that goes through my mind brings me to you and our work in one another’s lives and the communities we continue to change. So, in case you are interested… With love, Ray

Forcibly separating children from parents and guardians; closing America’s border to aliens of a certain variety; a still unresolved response to natural disasters in Puerto Rico – it appears that if you are “the other” in this country or on your way here – you are going to have a tough go at it. And there appear to be many who agree with this at some level, at least enough to make this an argument. And argue they do. Not me. At least, not so much!

Over the years, I’ve had my fill of “arguing” about who’s in; who’s out and on and on. It’s simple:

We’re in: all of us. In this place of faith we share, we’ve already agreed that it is about love and welcoming and hospitality toward each other and the stranger among us. As one among you, I know we know this, and I know how inadequate love can sometimes feel in the absence of reason.

Still, that doesn’t make love weak or impotent, it just means not everyone gets it – yet. In many ways, we are the yet that others are coming to know. It’s why the smallest acts of kindness and compassion are so important. It’s why the occlusion of love in others by anger – calls us to love even more in the all directions and calls we follow.

Yes, it’s true: not everyone starts from love, or even wishes to. Anger feels so much more powerful to the angry. Ironically, it is true that love feels so much more powerful to the loving. Funny how that works. For many of us, there’s more to it than the false equivalence of a binary choice:

Jesus taught us that love is the answer and that’s the difference.

We have it on good authority that love and hospitality are the fundamental tenets of the kin-dom of God. Good News that it is, it also does not mean that everything will get better right away, and in those cases, especially, our loving is critically important.

Friends, our challenges in this world are many, including how we enter into dialogue that helps us to engage one another in civil and thoughtful ways. Seeking dialogue to galvanize a loving response in the face of the many injustices that brings us together is critical, while leaving a path for those who are uncertain or oppositional to follow, while we carry on. We cannot be held hostage to those who are not ready to change. We love them, perhaps, most of all.

Loving others does not require everyone to love us, first.

Seeking change does not require everyone to want the change.

It just means that we, who are inclined in the way of love, begin the process anew each day, sometimes several times a day: because we love.

Especially now, as we see and seethe with the pain and struggle of others because of our government’s response to their actions, let those who lead feel the full force and heat of the love we have and the faith we share in calling for change.

We are always best when we lead from our position of strength: love.

Ray Bagnuolo
June 19, 2018

Thank you to everyone for your donations.
Because of your generosity, we have been able to support March for Our Lives with this $1,000 contribution

Microsoft Word – 2018.03.22.March for Our Lives

Never Again.
That All May Freely Live…

Friends, please support the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student organized  “March for Our Lives” through this campaign managed by That All May Freely Serve. 100% of all donations will be submitted to “March for Our Lives” by March 19, 2018 – helping to pay costs for the March on Washington, D.C.  on March 24th.

All donations received by TAMFS between March 3 and March 15
will be donated to support the Never Again Movement.
Please give using our online kiosk

Whatever you believe may be the solution to gun violence, we all agree that no student should ever be shot to death in a school or elsewhere, ever! By helping the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in their movement, we can help to restore the dignity and respect for life that all our beliefs call us to hold without exception.

Friends, many of us have worked in movements as activists, advocates and allies. We call on you to now act as all three in supporting these young people from across the country with your financial gift and your individual actions and ongoing prayers.

Too many of us know what it is to lose someone to gun violence.  In their memory and for all those who look to us for their safety, care and love – please give today.

Thank you, Ray

Rev. Ray Bagnuolo, Chaplain and Minister Director of That All May Freely Serve, a ministry of the Presbytery of Genesee Valley, New York with financial oversight provided by Downtown United Presbyterian Church, Rochester, New York. He also serves Sayville Congregational United Church of Christ as pastor.

The picture shows the lawn of Sayville Congregational United Church of Christ in Sayville, New York. Following the shooting, we placed seventeen crosses and Stars of David on our lawn, along with floral wreaths and flowers as a memorial. Since then, we have distributed crosses throughout the area for others who wish to create their own witness to solidarity. At one point, Sayville Church had over 600 crosses on the lawn, beginning with the Sandy Hook, Newtown, CT shooting, adding crosses over the next several months as others died from of gun violence. Whatever the causes and whatever the blend of solutions needed, we agree with the students and with you – Never Again