Archive for ‘Church’

July 18, 2011

Wish Lisa a Happy Birthday!

Today is the birthday of Lisa Larges, our beloved Minister Coordinator. No birthday gift would make her happier than a contribution to TAMFS to go toward our work of supporting LGBTQ seminarians.

Go to our Network For Good page

Thanks!!! And now you can have a piece of this gorgeous birthday cake!

June 24, 2011

Lisa Larges: Hey Church, some day you’ll want to know this stuff!

“Pay attention,” my mom would say, “someday you’ll want to know these things.”

Pay Attention
My mom said this to me more than once. Often it was in the middle of a long car ride. We’d be on some summer vacation, and we’d be spending a night with some far-flung relative or another. My mother would be explaining just which cousin this was, whose son or daughter they were, their siblings, and the names of their children. I would be fidgeting.

Then she would say it, adding, “One day you’ll want to know your families history, and you’ll be glad we told you these things.”

Ok, so she was right. I’m not so good at remembering all those names – but I remember some, and I remember the wonderful stories about them. I like knowing who my people were, and what made them interesting, or a little odd. I like knowing where they settled and what they did.

Institutions too have a complex relationship to their own histories. A few years back, Mieke Vandersall and I worked together on an anti-racism training with other white Presbyterians (since it was our work as white folks to do.)  We set about haphazardly studying whatever we could find on the dynamics of race, racism, and resistance in the history of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and its predecessor denominations. We read about the historical black churches, the establishment of Presbyterian churches in immigrant communities, our troubled and complex missionary history among Native American communities, the biographies of pioneering leaders who broke through Presbyterian color lines, and more. We hadn’t learned any of those stories or that history while we were in seminary.

Our church—like families, people, nations and institutions—has many hidden histories. Now, with the passage of time and the movement toward greater equality, and a deeper commitment to diversity, some of those hidden histories are surfacing: books and scholarly articles are being written, courses are being taught at our seminaries, and women and men are being honored for their work. Sadly, we’ll never know just which stories were lost forever. As a still overwhelmingly white church, there’s yet a long long way to go before these histories become a part of our official history, and not just an adjunct to it.

Often when I’m traveling I hear stories about part of our lgbt history in the Presbyterian Church that I had previously known nothing about – stories of the early gatherings of the Presbyterian Gay Caucus, stories from General Assembly committee meetings, or late night strategy sessions (these last, a little more hazily remembered!). I also hear the stories of how one person intervened in the life of another, or of chance meetings that would change the course of our common history.

Some weeks back I was talking with a woman who had been a commissioner at the 190th General Assembly (United Presbyterian Church U.S.A.) in San Diego in 1978. She said she was one of the 50 persons who voted against the amendment that put “definitive guidance” in to our polity. I said how fun it would be to see if we could find as many of those fifty votes as were out there. Someone else chimed in with the apt observation that probably 100 people or more would now claim to have been one of those 50. No doubt!!

At some point, long after struggles for fairness and acceptance have been settled, institutions find a new interest in their hidden histories: they proudly claim as pioneers, even heroes, those who once were at best officially ignored, or at worst, publicly sanctioned. By that time, many of those stories will be lost.

So we need to be telling our stories. Books like Called Out, Called Out With, Far From Home, along with various videos, sermons, online archives and more, tell part of this story, but there’s lots more out there.

As a community of folks who have been working for such things as the passage of Amendment 10-A, it’s our job to pay attention to all those stories – to write them down, to share them and preserve them. One day, a now fidgety church will be glad we did!

May 26, 2011

Video: Service of Thanksgiving

Here is our Service of Thanksgiving with our board members, friends from Downtown Presbyterian Church and the Greater Rochester area. (It’s a little over 17 minutes long.)

May 4, 2011

Coat of Many Names needs your name!

Lindsay Louise Biddle is a Presbyterian minister living in Scotland. She pastored More Light Churches in the US, and is the author of a biblical self-defense course that can be found on the More Light Presbyterians website resources page (archived, but it’s there: She’s forwarded the following request, and YOU (or someone you know) might want to participate!

Dear More Light friends,

I Lindsay Biddle have been appointed as the PC(USA) delegate to this year’s General Assembly meeting of the Church of Scotland, which is expected to act upon “ordained ministry and same-sex relationships.” As an ecumenical delegate, I am encouraged to wear my “national costume” and so I plan to wear a Coat With Names of Ordained Transgender, Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay Presbyterians

  • Email me your name (however you want it to appear) and I will affix it:
  • Add your partner’s name (however they want it to appear) and I will put you together in the X-shape of Scotland’s patron Saint Andrew.
  • Deadline: May 15

Then when people ask I can respond, “These are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered Presbyterians who are ordained deacons, elders, or ministers.”

And I’ll stay warm and dry!

April 25, 2011

Lisa Larges: Our Chance to Be the Church

Whether you are passionately for or passionately against Amendment 10-A (the amendment now before the Presbyterian Church which would replace existing language in our Constitution which effectively bars LGBT persons from holding ordained office) here is some good news: God is still in charge. Sure, believers across the world would agree with this fundamental truth, but we Presbyterians believe it with a particular ferocity. We count as our spiritual forebear one Mr. John Calvin, who was strenuous on the point:

“Truly God claims omnipotence to himself, and would have us to acknowledge it,–not the vain, indolent, slumbering omnipotence which sophists [quibblers] feign, but vigilant, efficacious, energetic, and ever active– not an omnipotence which may only act as a general principle of confused motion, as in ordering a stream to keep within the channel once prescribed to it, but one which is intent on individual and special movements. God is deemed omnipotent, not because he can act though he may cease or be idle, or because by a general instinct he continues the order of nature previously appointed; but because, governing heaven and earth by his providence, he so overrules all things that nothing happens without his counsel.”

That’s how very in charge God is. But, John Calvin was a practical theologian and his emphasis on God’s omnipotence was meant less as an instruction on who God is than on who we are to be. It’s a point that Paul made directly and succinctly to the Church in Rome: “…Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought …” For Calvin, as for Paul God’s sovereignty requires our humility.

A few weeks back, I was an observer at the called meeting of San Francisco Presbytery as the presbyters voted on Amendment 10-A. At several points during the proceedings the Moderator reminded the body of the controversial nature of the vote, and urged graciousness and decorum, especially after the vote was announced and the meeting adjourned. “There will be those who will be celebrating,” he said, “and those who will be upset by the results and we need to treat one another with kindness and respect.”

He was right. When it comes to votes on LGBT issues, San Francisco Presbytery is just about evenly split. I appreciated the call for civility and grace; but still, the word “celebrate” hit an off note in me.

As it turned out, Amendment 10-A passed in San Francisco Presbytery, which would put me in the camp of the celebrators. But—though I was glad about the outcome— “celebrating” didn’t have much appeal.

I’ll confess to you right here, right now, that there have been times at presbytery or at a General Assembly when I’ve felt gleeful about the result of some vote or other. I’ll further confess that, once or twice (and I’m not proud of this) I even felt just a wee bit of glee that others, who had worked so strenuously against something that I cared about, were now feeling the sadness of having a vote go against them. Calvin would have had a word for that kind of cheap glee, and that word is sin. It’s sinful because it breaks relation with another part of the body of Christ, and it’s sinful because it demeans the sovereignty of God, as if we could be certain of God’s purposes.

The church is surrounded by a culture that measures the world by winners and losers. So saturated are we in it that we drag that language of win/loss, victory/defeat in to the church, where it never belonged, and where it only does us harm.

All of this is meant as a little shout out to those, who—like me—will be rejoicing should Amendment 10-A be ratified. It’s a reminder to all of us to practice the spiritual discipline of equanimity.

Paul again:

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through the One who gives me strength.”

Here’s our chance. Here’s our chance to be a living demonstration of graciousness, humility, and generosity. Here’s our chance to practice radical hospitality.

And, as a whole Church, bound by the unity of Christ’s body, here’s an opportunity to model a bit of positive Calvinism. We are not in charge – ain’t that good news?

April 22, 2011

Covenant Network and Presbyterians for Renewal Joint Call to Prayer

Following the last General Assembly of the PC(USA), this prayer was jointly offered by the Covenant Network of Presbyterians and Presbyterians for Renewal. It’s always a good time to pray for peace and reconciliation, but especially during Holy Week.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Grace to you and peace. The 219th General Assembly again put before the PC(USA) an amendment regarding ordination standards. Following the 218th General Assembly (2008), an amendment to delete G-6.0106b was supported by 78 presbyteries and defeated by 91. Presbyterians from across the country and across the theological spectrum acknowledged that deliberations were more respectful and less antagonistic, but there is a weariness with this debate on all sides.

Presbyteries are already considering the current amendment with new language about ordination standards. While we who serve in the leadership of Presbyterians for Renewal and the Covenant Network of Presbyterians do not agree on the desired outcome of this overture, we can find agreement in the hope that elders and clergy within the presbyteries of the PC(USA) will engage in this new round of deliberations in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called, “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3). It is our intent to witness to the reconciling love of Christ, even and especially when we disagree.

We invite you to join us in this commitment and in prayer:

Most gracious God,
we humbly pray for your Church.
Fill it with all truth; in all truth with all peace.
Where it is corrupt, purge it;
where it is in error, direct it;
where anything is amiss, reform it;
where it is right, strengthen and confirm it;
where it is in want, furnish it;
where it is divided, heal it,
and unite it in your love;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.   Amen.

[from The Book of Common Order of the Church of Scotland (first line adapted)]

March 28, 2011

Our secret winning strategy

Perhaps it’s time that we who have been advocating the passage of 10-A can share a bit of our strategy for getting out the vote. I know I risk giving away trade secrets here, and of course, as it says somewhere in Scripture, “it ain’t over til it’s over”—nonetheless, if you promise to keep it on the QT I’ll let you in on this one proven organizing strategy for ratifying 10-A.


Call the Honorably Retireds!

That’s it. Call the Honorably Retired clergy members. Ask them to attend the Presbytery meeting, and inquire politely as to whether they would like to carpool to the meeting. While you are speaking with them on the phone, you might also share with them your own convictions about our ordination standards. You’re almost guaranteed a fair hearing. More important, on that phone call you might want to ask them about their ministry in our church. You might learn something, and probably, it will be interesting.

Anyway, there you have it. Call the Honorably Retireds. It’s not any more complicated than that.

I know: sometimes those who support the current language of G-6.0106b claim that we have a well-funded multi-level comprehensive plan—spelled out in detail on page 168 of the homosexual agenda. I wish we were that smart, and financially subscribed. But, sadly, we’re not. We just remind each other when we’re calling to remind Presbyters on upcoming votes on the amendments before our church, “Don’t forget to call the HRs.”

I don’t know that there has been any research showing that Honorably Retired ministers in our denomination are by-and-large more supportive of an inclusive church than other constituents, but I can tell you that it’s more or less accepted as a commonplace among those of us who are working on the ratification efforts. There’s also been no end of speculation as to why this might be so.

Perhaps, some argue, pastors who no longer have to navigate the very complicated world of congregational politics feel more free to vote for change.

Perhaps, other say, it’s because the current generation of retired ministers pastored in the sixties and seventies when progressive social reform so much defined the work of the church, thereby disposing them to be more “liberal” than their younger colleagues.

Still others make the point that most of the retired ministers were schooled at Presbyterian Seminaries—even in Presbyterian colleges—which instilled in them a commitment to Presbyterian principles—principles which they find reflected in the language of 10-A and less clear in the current formulation at G-6.0106b.

As I say, all this is based on anecdotal evidence and hunches. Some of you have already stopped reading this and are about to hit the submit button after listing in your comment all the reasons why, in point of fact, Honorably Retired ministers are more likely to vote against 10-A than for it. For all I know, you may be right.

We’ll keep making our phone calls though.

There’s also this: a lot of us, myself firmly among them, natter on about the conspicuous absence of young persons in our denomination. Like Madison Avenue ad agency execs, we pant after the 18-35 demographic. It’s true, of course, that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) won’t survive unless a new generation finds our witness compelling; but, at the same time, let’s not neglect to express our gratitude for those who have been here all along.

So, if you’re an Honorably Retired Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), however you may have voted or will vote on Amendment 10-A, “Thank You.” Thanks for making a way, thanks for building up the body of Christ, thanks for sharing your experience and hard-won wisdom, thanks for your dedication and commitment, thanks for what you’ve given me as teacher, pastor, counselor, and pastor, and thanks for hanging in there!

You’re not called “honorable” for nothin’!

  • Lisa Larges
March 9, 2011

Feast of the New Day

God’s Steadfast Love never ceases, and of God’s mercy there is no end.

Join us this Easter season by sharing in a service of thanksgiving and praise! Whatever the final vote on Amendment 10-A, we will give thanks for all who have worked so hard to share the good news of a church that welcomes all. It is always right to give our thanks and praise!

We invite you to join us by planning a Service of Thanksgiving in your town during this Eastertide, April 25-June 11.

We’re already planning for one such  Service of Thanksgiving for May 14 in Rochester, New York, and plans are in the works for other cities.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Let us know if you’re interested in working on a service for your area
  • Submit your own litanies, songs, and hymns to be posted here
  • Send in your suggestions for incorporating art into worship
  • Check here for worship resources and ideas
  • Share your service with us through live video streaming and/or pictures
  • And, check back often to see the schedule of services and to help spread the word!

For more info, to volunteer for your area, or to submit resources, email Lisa at, and THANKS!

We give thanks for truly a new day is at hand!

Make a joyful noise, everyone!
Worship with gladness;
Come, singing!

Know that the Holy One is God.
And we belong to the Holy One!
We belong in the Land of God.

Enter with thanksgiving,
Come, with praise.
Give thanks to God, bless the Unnameable’s Name.

For God is good, so good;
God’s steadfast love endures forever and ever,
from our greats, to our grands, to ours, to us, to theirs

– A Paraphrase of Psalm 100 by Carolina Treviño

February 28, 2011

Video: Wind Up Squirrel

We have a new video up for you to watch!

Or you can see all of our videos on our You Tube channel.

Creative Commons License
Wind Up Squirrel by That All May Freely Serve
is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
February 16, 2011


Dreaming Church:
A Virtual Conversation on the church we long for

Past PC(USA) Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow, Chicago pastor Larissa Kwong Abazia, and TAMFS Minister Coordinator Lisa Larges will host a 60 minute virtual gathering to spark a conversation on


  • Where’s the joy, where’s the energy, what gets us excited about the church and its mission?
  • Where do we sense the Spirit’s leading? Christ’s calling?
  • What models of church are working?
  • How do we move beyond controversy to break in to the new?

Everywhere we are noticing possibilities. In the multiple conversations in Presbyteries about all of the Constitutional Amendments before us, in the open letter of February 7 to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the outpouring of responses to it, what’s most heartening is the depth of faith expressed and the yearning for something better, more Christ-like, and Spirit-drenched. It’s that faith and that yearning that we hope to tap in to in this virtual conversation.

This webinar has been initiated by That All May Freely Serve. Clearly we advocate a particular point of view regarding the place of LGBT persons in the life of the church. Our advocacy arises out of our love for the church and the conviction of Christ and Scripture in our lives. We have had the privilege of sharing in deep, honest and grace-filled conversation with those who do not share our goals but who equally love the church and live by the convictions of their faith.

It’s that kind of gracious engagement that excites us and gives us hope. We also find energy in the conversations taking place across the church about how we can live in to this experiment in grace that we know as church! We want to discover what can happen when a diverse gathering of Presbyterians comes together to dream church.

  • Where’s the joy, where’s the energy, what gets us excited about the church and it’s mission
  • How will we move from internal conflict to outward engagement?
  • How do we act out of our passion for what church can be?

Join us!

Thursday, February 24 — 5:00 pm Pacific / 8:00 Eastern

Space is limited, so sign up now.

And you can do that by emailing Lisa at

Put “Dreaming Church Webinar” in the subject field.

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.”

●  1 John 3:2