Notes from Pittsburgh

Here’s an email from our Evangelist Ray Bagnuolo. Please keep the GA in your prayers!

Hi Folks –

I apologize if there are any duplicates in sending this message. I’m still working out my group lists, but I wanted to give you a quick update about General Assembly, in particular about the marriage work. Sonnie has been tweeting and keeping all the media information up-to-date, so you may already know this. Thanks to Sonnie for the great work she is doing here. To have Sonnie as our TAMFS Chaplain, we are blessed.

Last night, after some pretty intense committee work over the previous two days, the marriage committee passed two motions: (1) to study the marriage issue in conversation within the presbyteries for two years and (2) to send to the plenary a motion for an amendment to the constitution to change the wording in the Directory for Worship to be inclusive of same gender loving couples.

It was a stunning outcome. We (TAMFS, MLP, and others) had advocated for both the AI and a Marriage Amendment, as a logical process, providing immediate relief for pastors to marry folks now in states where same gender marriage is legal, while going through the longer process of changing the constitution. Others, such as COvNet, had felt that only an Authoritative Interpretation was right for the time, arguing that the church had been through too much in the last couple of years and didn’t need to go through another constitutional battle.

As it turned out, had we not had the marriage amendment in the discussion, we might have ended with nothing.

So, there is much commentary about what did or didn’t happen to produce this outcome. My own sense is that this particular committee did not want to go the Authoritative Interpretation (AI) route, concerned about the ambiguities in passing an authoritative interpretation that was in conflict with the constitution (since the Directory for Worship would still refer to marriage as being between a man and a woman, unless changed).

There was also an almost inordinate concern with the impact an AI might have with our mission partners around the world. While that is important, it seemed to take on almost a “frenzy-like” importance, stirred up by several different groups. It was part fo the “if we pass this people will vote with their feet and leave the church” — argument. Clearly, we are close to seismic change to get these hyper-arguments, now adjusted to include the rest of the world. Those who oppose us know the inevitability of the change, as long as we continue our work, and they are truly perplexed.

While there is some truth, I think, to the suggestion that those in opposition to our Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Community ever having the right to “marriage” in the church have made a calculated decision that passing a motion for constitutional change in the committee will never get past the plenary, thus satisfying their intentions to thwart the momentum – there was also real, deep, concern from many on both sides that if this is going to happen – it has to be a church-wide decision (sort of like placing it on the ballot at the polls). The yearning for deep discussion and conversation was real, even in the midst of other forces. There are more folk, every day, supporting the idea that we are one in the eyes and creation of God and are called to love each other. It’s a slow process, but because of all the work that has gone before, our continuing presence, and the changes around us — it is happening. You can see it here, as well. It is still true that getting to know one another personally is what produces the real change in hearts and minds.

So, in a couple of days, we will know whether or not we will be working to help ratify the next amendment to bring greater love and inclusion to our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender sisters and brothers. Whatever may be ahead, and anything can happen on the floor of the plenary! — we will all have a chance to serve in this work going forward.

Thanks for all your prayers. Thanks again to Sonnie for all her help and to Betsy, who is here with us, encouraging us forward! Let us know if you have any questions, and we’ll do our best to get back to you as soon as we can.

Blessings, Ray

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