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


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Ratification’s Challenge: The Good News

The recent ratification of Amendment 14F by greater than a 2/3 majority of presbyteries reflects a powerful statement by the Presbyterian Church (USA) and its members. Added to the the changes in ordination and marriage equality, this ratified revision of the description of marriage – erases the constitutional barriers to inclusion based on gender and sexual identity in the denomination.

It is almost a moment too great to contemplate. Forty years and lifetimes of prayer and sacrifice; decades of marginalization met with steadfast resistance; the resulting study of the bible and texts; the lifting up of God’s glorious diversity in one another; and the refusal to let others define us: these reflect only part of the story of prophetic and courageous acts of justice and love by this denomination’s members. We have truly made the way clear for the PC(USA) and others to follow in the evangelism that is now ours to share.

But we are not done.

Long before there existed any progressive movement or the advances that have been achieved, the treatment of our sisters and brothers who identified as queer — was wrong, terribly wrong. And, recent legislation did not make us somehow, suddenly “right.”

The changes we are witnessing have to be viewed as the acknowledgment that for years our and other communities of faith have been wrong, sinfully wrong in the way our sisters and brothers who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer+ have been unwelcome. The charges of inhospitality carry a heavy price in the sacred texts, and our queer community has borne the brunt of exclusion and the residual violence – simply because others refused to see what the majority of folks have now come to know.

While one could make the argument that these changes and levels of acceptance and understanding take time, and they would be correct to do so — I would counter that the levels of love and hospitality, supplanted by fear and judgment is where the original error exists, not in who God created us to be.

Our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers have brought about more than a change in the constitution of the PC(USA), our sisters and brothers are bringing about a change in the way we love and accept one another. These forty years have been forty years of bringing the Good News to resounding levels that can now be heard by more people than ever before.

The question is: Is the church up to this new thing God is doing?

To be heard, institutions such as the PC(USA) cannot simply rely on legislative changes or practices to point to catharsis. Years of teachings and practices that have caused so much pain, suffering and contributed to the violence of so many — have to be directly addressed at the highest of levels. It is such an acknowledgment of the wrongs and harms done as a result of the past positions of the denomination that first must be spoken — before the new welcoming to those who have been shunned can be heard.

This ancient practice of amends and admission of wrongs done is now more critical than ever before. Any prospect for reconciliation that lay ahead will depend upon it, for this is the path that must be followed if we are to eliminate fear and judgment with love and hospitality.

It is a time to admit and acknowledge that the Love of God and one another has been renewed in ways by the Presbyterian Church (USA) that was long-lost and has now been found. A time to welcome, as never before!

Such an admission and invitation, spoken with courage and humility, will open our doors more widely than we could ever imagine. It will change the way the church and its teachings and practices have been misused to harm others for way too long.

This is what the ratification of 14F now challenges us to do.

And, my friends, this is the Good News. Good News for all.

~ Ray Bagnuolo

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