A Pastoral Letter on Marriage and Reconciliation to the PCUSA
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Dear Friends in Christ,
The decisions of the 221st General Assembly in favor of marriage equality are welcome relief following decades of conflict in our church. That All May Freely Serve believes that these outcomes of allowing pastors to legally perform weddings and for presbyteries to consider amending W-4.9000 will bring us closer together than was possible just one week ago.
The impact of the commissioners’ votes powerfully addresses the violence tied to the exclusion of our family members who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning (LGBTQ/Q) with a clear answer that the church has chosen a new way. We rejoice in this prophetic response that establishes a loving witness for all and advances us in the elimination of discrimination in our denomination. As Paul says, “Love is not boastful or rude,” and we see these events as a call to come together.
As members of the PC(USA), our LGBTQ/Q community has been greatly impacted by the deliberations and decisions of previous General Assemblies — decisions that have wounded our congregations, families and friends, while pushing many others away. Yet, on this long journey, we have always striven to honor the full humanity and dignity of those who oppose us, and we are especially alert to doing so now. We bring our Christian love, healing and hope to our future together. The ministry of That All May Freely Serve is dedicated to such healing, as we advocate for justice and love for all in the PC(USA), making sure that no one is ever alone in this struggle and carrying the message of the Good News wherever we go.
The 221st General Assembly’s decisions fill us with gratitude, joy and hope for the conversations and healing that can now occur throughout the church. We readily join with all of good will on this Emmaus path. We embrace the road of reconciliation of our many families in the Body of Christ, and we pray without ceasing for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in this new dawn of hospitality and justice for all.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Peace be with you and on behalf of That All May Freely Serve,
Ray Bagnuolo, Teaching Elder and Chaplain
Dr. Susan G. DeGeorge, Teaching Elder and Advisor
Lisa L. Larges, Candidate for Ministry, Minister Director Emerita
Dr. Jane Adams Spahr, Teaching Elder, Founding Evangelist Emerita
Sonnie Swenston-Forbes, Ruling Elder and Chaplain
Elisabeth “Betsy” Winters, Ruling Elder and Advisor
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Pastoral Letter on Marriage from the PCUSA & OGA Leadership
June 19, 2014
To congregations of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.):
Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Earlier today, the 221st General Assembly (2014) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) approved a recommendation from its Assembly Committee on Civil Union and Marriage Issues allowing for pastoral discretion to perform “any such marriage they believe the Holy Spirit calls them to perform,” where legal by state law.
They also approved a recommendation to change language in the Book of Order to indicate that “marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman.”
Both decisions came with much thought, discussion, and prayer, and clearly the entire body that is the PC(USA) will be interpreting these actions for some time.
Please know that the same triune God in whom we place our hope, faith, and trust in is still in control, and that the assembly’s action today is the result of deep discernment to hear God’s voice and discern God’s will.
We concur with the feelings expressed by Teaching Elder Commissioner Jeffrey Bridgeman, moderator of the Assembly Committee on Civil Union and Marriage Issues, during his presentation to the assembly.
“The apostle Paul tells us that ours is, in fact, ‘the ministry of reconciliation’ as ‘ambassadors of Christ,’ and he died for us so that we might be reconciled, that we might become reconcilers,” Bridgeman said.
In this season of both happiness and sadness over the assembly’s decisions, we call on you to remember the overflowing grace and love God gifts us with, and to take seriously our charge to bestow the same grace and love on one another.
In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord,
Ruling Elder Heath K. Rada
Moderator, 221st General Assembly (2014)
The Reverend Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Ruling Elder Linda Bryant Valentine
Let this be the day
Today’s decisions by the plenary of the 221st General Assembly of the PC(USA) will change the church and much more.
If the 221st GA chooses to give pastors authority for marriage equality – overnight, the beginning of a reversal of teachings and practices that have harmed our LGBTQ/Q community for decades will start.
Our church family will become united in a way for which we have prayed and longed.
And, the prophetic witness that will rush forth from this assembly will breathe life into our LGBTQ/Q sisters and brothers who live and love in faith and other communities around the world.
Yes; the prophetic witness is like that – and it is one of the reasons so many who oppose us try to prevent it from being unleashed.
Let this be the day…that God has made and been waiting for us to embrace for as long as memory records.
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