Posts tagged ‘Ordination’

October 15, 2012

Out of Order


Please take a look at the preview for “Out of Order” — a documentary in progress

December 9, 2011

An important letter to our supporters

This letter has gone out to the mailing list of our supporters,
and we want to share it with everyone who has supported our work in any way over the years.

December, 2011

Blessings of joy and love
be yours in this season of hope
and may our world know more of peace
in the new year ahead…

Dear friends,

As the Coordinating Team of the Board of That All May Freely Serve, we are writing to share with you the decision of the board to draw to a conclusion in the work in its current incarnation of That All May Freely Serve in the year ahead.

At our October meeting the board gathered around an oval table over dinner, and then under the wise gazes of Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony, whose portraits hang on the walls of our meeting space at the Downtown United Presbyterian Church. Together we prayed, carefully weighted each option before us, and then discerned to the best of our abilities the leading of the Holy Spirit for the way ahead.

What remains clear to each of us is that the work of creating a truly welcoming church for all is just beginning. The passage of Amendment 10-A makes it possible for all to serve, but, we are not yet at the point when all will freely serve without the impediment of prejudice, ignorance, or fear. The day is not yet here when any young LGBT person can walk in to a Presbyterian church and know that they will not be rejected because of who they are. We know that the day is not yet here when same gender and opposite gender couples may share equally in the blessings of marriage honored by both church and state. We know that the day is not yet here when presbyteries won’t attempt to make the way more difficult for LGBT candidates and when those same candidates will have a full and fair chance of being considered for positions in churches all across the country.

Nonetheless, the passage of Amendment 10-A provides a moment for us to step back and assess how best the work ahead may be carried out. We believe that this landmark moment in our church offers an opportunity to consolidate the efforts of our movement for full welcome in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). We remain grateful for the work that so many will continue to do, especially More Light Presbyterians, the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, and Presbyterian Voices for Justice.

For the last nineteen years, the hallmark of That All May Freely Serve has been its ability to “person the issue” — to put faces and stories and the witness of faith to the abstractions of prejudice, fear and discrimination. This fundamental operating principle has led us to align ourselves with all who are on the margins and to do our work within the core values of honoring relationship, acting through integrity, seeking the leading of the Spirit and of making a place for all at the table of grace. We will work to insure that our legacy will live on. As a board we are considering options for how we might best do this, and we will keep you informed of specific decisions we make toward that end.

Lisa’s Call

Through her own discernment, and in consulting with our board, Lisa believes that she is being called to seek ministry elsewhere in the church or in her new home of Minneapolis. As she is being called away from That All May Freely Serve, it seemed to us that this decision provided a natural transition point for TAMFS. Lisa will continue on a full time basis until the end of 2011 and then as needed in the first half of 2012.

We realize–with a bit of irony–that even as a judicial action in the Presbyterian Church provided the spark for creating That All May Freely Serve, we will be winding up the formal work of That All May Freely Serve with another judicial action still in progress. The case involving Lisa’s ordination has been appealed back up the the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and we anticipate that it may be heard sometime this spring. We will continue to walk with Lisa through the ordination process and have some hope that it may be resolved even as we are concluding our work. Nonetheless, we are deeply disappointed by the way in which delaying actions of the court and further appeals from members of the San Francisco Presbytery have thus far thwarted our dream of ordaining Lisa to her work with us–a goal we have labored for since we first called Lisa ten years ago.

There is much yet to do, and it will take all of us to do it. We hope you will join us in rededicating yourself to creating a church where all will indeed FREELY serve. We rely on your generosity to bring That All May Freely Serve through this next transition, and extend our promise to you that your gifts will be used to ensure that our work, our values, and our commitment will live on in new forms. Thank you for sharing this journey with us. Blessings of joy and love be yours in this season of hope, and may our world know more of peace in the new year ahead.

With gratitude,
John DeHority, Mary Rees, Ed Saphar, and Rob White
Coordinating Team,
That All May Freely Serve National Board

October 17, 2011

Lisa Larges: National Going Out Day

Note: This is a few days late in the posting, but the message itself is timeless.

National Going Out Day
Scripture: Matthew 22:1-14

It’s the same architecture in Matthew and Luke—the banquet, the guests who make excuses, the gathering of the many until the hall is filled.

Luke’s version is the one with which we’re more familiar. Matthew’s is wedding banquet meets world of war craft. Sure, in Luke’s version, the banquet giver is justifiably insulted by the brazen excuses of the invited, but he doesn’t go all Terminator on them.

By the end of Matthew’s parable there are a lot of bodies on the floor, slaves murdered—someone didn’t get the don’t-shoot-the-messenger memo—villages razed, and finally, for good measure, one guest thrown into the outer darkness: Talk about a wardrobe malfunction!

In Luke it’s all about the eating. There are nineteen meals in Luke, 13 unique to Luke’s gospel alone. Luke is the Paula Deen of Gospel writers. So in Luke’s telling, the central compelling image in the parable is of that banquet hall overflowing with guests:

“The servant came back and reported this [the excuses of the invited] to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ ‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”

Here is the great fact of God’s hospitality, a sumptuous banquet for all the ill-fortuned, miss-begotten, down-trodden, of-no-account, disreputable, bedraggled, stinking, rowdy, joyous mass of teeming humanity.

Were we to play the game of Match the Reformer to the parable, we would give Luke’s great banquet parable to Luther, with all of his table talk and beer guzzling and four-part singing. The Matthew account is for us Calvinists.

In Matthew’s version of the parable, God’s hospitality is still a central concern, but see what a terrible serious thing it is. By Matthew’s telling, God’s hospitality is as much burden as blessing—Calvin would love that. Hospitality is God’s absolute prerogative and the consequences are dire for anyone who dares spurn God’s invitation. The Old Testament smiting God is back in town!

Within the structure of the Gospel, Matthew places this parable within a series of polemics against the Pharisees that will culminate in that great crescendo of condemnation in the next chapter; the one which begins “Woe to you Scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites, you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. You yourselves do not go in, and when others try to enter you stop them,” and ends with the heartbreakingly plaintive: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Such fierceness is the mark of a new community straining to define itself. We hear the rancor of that family feud as Jewish, and now some gentile Christians claim their identity as something independent from, and even hostile to older schools of ardent religious conviction like that of the Pharisees.

So it is that the wedding feast is for the new community—a thing which looks altogether different than those first converts had imagined. For this reason, Matthew adds some detail about the role of the messenger. Here again, within the larger structure of the Gospel, we’re on our way to that final resounding imperative, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey everything that I have taught you.”

Just a few chapters back, in sending out his disciples Jesus has given them the helpful bit of advice, “If you enter a town and they do not receive you, leave that town and shake the dust from off your sandals.” But now, Jesus makes clear that they may be lucky to have the privilege of leaving at all. “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them.”

The final and perhaps most striking difference between the Matthean and Lukan telling of the banquet parable is the interesting bit Matthew throws in at the end about the inappropriately attired wedding guest. Here again, whereas Luke’s straightforward telling emphasizes the unbounded hospitality of the divine, Matthew begins and ends the story with a warning to those who would disdain such generosity.

And now comes the painful part of today’s sermon, by which I ask you to recall 10th grade English class, and that day when you were forced to learn all those technical figures of speech designed to suck all the joy and spontaneity out of otherwise lovely free range poetry. Back there in the hazy corner of your brain do you happen to remember the term synecdoche? Alright, it’s a rhetorical question. Synecdoche is the literary device by which a part represents a whole, or a subset stands in for a broader category. In “give us this day our daily bread” bread stands in for food, for example. Well, it’s occurred to me more than once, as a lesbian and a Presbyterian, and someone who’s been advocating for fairness in our ordination standards, that we LGBTQ Presbyterians have introduced a kind of synecdochic error. We’ve let fairness in ordination standards stand in for true welcome. We’ve even let ordination of teaching elders stand in for ordination of all officers, belying the equality of all offices in our polity.

I know I risk sounding ungrateful, and nothing could be further from the truth. But I’m still longing for a church that takes seriously its collective and common pastoral duty of making tangible God’s hospitality even unto the furthest margin. I hope to be ordained—preferably before I retire—but what is my ordination, if still in some Presbyterian church, a young man leaves that Sunday night youth group, the virulent rhetoric of religiously fueled homophobia poisoning his soul, sits down in his bedroom, puts the gun in his mouth, and pulls the trigger? In just a few days, our church will ordain Scott Clark—someone whose call and gifts are so demonstrably evident; but what is the relative importance of that ordination if still, somewhere, some 18- or 19-year-old or altogether terribly young kid and his buddies, jacked up on beer and the Bible, assault one more transgender woman on the streets outside our church doors? That our church may now ordain publicly identified LGBT persons indeed does have both real and symbolic significance, but the real measure of that significance must be in whether the fact of LGBT ordination contributes to ending the violence perpetrated in the name of all of us—LGBTQ and straight alike—who call ourselves Christians.

Two days ago, when Scott Anderson, a beautiful gay man, put on that stole and thus ushered in a new era in the life of the Presbyterian Church, it meant a tremendous amount to all of us who have been working for just such a day. But what matters more than that one act of ordination are the thousand acts of pastoral care that you will offer: to the parents with the son who died of AIDS, to the young woman just coming out, to the same-gender couple who comes to you in all the vulnerability of love and offers you the great honor of officiating at their wedding, to the teenager figuring out that their own internal identity is different than the gender identity they present to the world. Fair ordination is great. Welcome is everything!

For the last two generations our church has enforced policies which rendered LGBT persons as ineligible for ordained office in our church; in so doing we dishonored the hospitality of God—and therein lies our sin and our shame. Throughout our history we have often yielded to the temptation of claiming for ourselves the power to determine who is in and who is not, when that prerogative is God’s alone. Jesus’ most stinging indictments are for just such offenses.

Our years of church fights over Biblical interpretation, theology, modernism, post-modernism, etc. provided all of us, LGBT and straight alike with a grand distraction from the difficult work of being a messenger. Church fights are exhausting and demoralizing, but going out to the margin, that’s terrifying.

Tomorrow is another National Coming Out Day, but for two generations now, LGBT folks have given the church the great gift of our coming out. We have told you our stories, made ourselves vulnerable in your presence, patiently answered insulting questions, waited while the church dithered, defended our understanding of Scripture, borne the prejudice and the misinformation, had our hearts broken, and hung in there.

Maybe instead what’s needed now is a National Going Out Day. Going out to those queer kids who know only that the church is at best hypocritical, and often hateful; then to all those who the church has marginalized; and then on to the very margins of the margin. Because the banquet is ready! It’s been ready all along, and all along, our only job has been to deliver the invitation!

  • Lisa Larges
    October, 2011
    San Anselmo, California
October 15, 2011

Lisa Larges: Wearing the Stole

In 1993 the Presbyterian’s General Assembly voted to call its members to engage in dialogue concerning human sexuality. The vote was in response to calls for the church to allow for the ordination of LGBT members as Deacons, Elders and Ministers. Presbyterians have a long, if not especially noble, history of studying, dialoguing, and forming special task forces instead of taking action. Maybe the call for three years of dialogue was one such delaying strategy, nonetheless, many Presbyterians—especially LGBT Presbyterians—took the mandate seriously.

Two such members were a pair of ministers and also a couple, Tammy Lindahl and Martha Juillerat. Both served in little churches in the Midwest. Before 1993 both went about all the duties of a pastor: visiting the sick, baptizing babies, preaching, folding the Sunday bulletin, watching out for those in need, all while living closeted lives. But, when the church called for dialogue, Martha and Tammy answered. They decided to put a face on an issue, and share their experience as ministers, Presbyterians, lesbians, and Christians. Often they would be invited to events that were more like debate and less like dialogue. “There came a time when I just couldn’t be called an abomination one more time,” I remember Martha saying.

There were threats made to revoke their ordination status, and far more serious threats on their lives. So in 1995, Martha chose to take the action of setting aside her ordination. She did so at a regular meeting of her local presbytery, a regional governing council of the Presbyterian Church.

As she did so, Martha wanted to make clear that she and Tammy were, in fact, two among many. Plenty of other LGBT Presbyterians were also quietly serving the church as ministers. Still others had either left the Presbyterian Church to serve as ministers in more open denominations or had left the ministry altogether. In this latter category was Scott Anderson, a thoughtful, quiet, button-down kind of guy who had been serving in California as a pastor until members of his congregation threatened to go public with their suspicion that he was gay. Instead, Scott—like Martha—set aside his ordination, and came out.

Just a few weeks before she was to set aside her ordination, Martha put out a call asking for current or former LGBT Presbyterian ministers to send her a liturgical stole (a symbol of ordination for ministers in our tradition) which she would place on the Communion Table in the sanctuary of the church where the Presbytery meeting was to be held. Remember, there were usenets and online bulletin boards and other such things way back in 1995, but largely the invitation spread by word-of-mouth. But spread it did, and 80 stoles arrived in Tammy and Martha’s mailbox in the first week or so. One of those stoles belonged to Scott Anderson. Now there are more than 1,000 stoles, and the collection includes other sacred objects from traditions which don’t use liturgical stoles. Since becoming part of the Institute for Welcoming Resources, the project has expanded to be interfaith, and represents more than 30 faith traditions from around the world.

Of course the point of recalling this history is simply, as the media has reported, to mark the historic moment that occurred on October 8, when Scott Anderson was ordained a second time as a Presbyterian minister and he put on the stole that the Shower of Stoles Project returned to him. It’s the first such time that the Stoles Project has returned a stole to a publicly identified LGBT person on the occasion of being formally recognized by their faith tradition.

Since the Presbyterian Church changed its policy to allow qualified LGB persons to be ordained to the offices of our church, there have been several ordination services, of which Scott’s was the first. Later on that same day, Steve Andrews was also ordained, and on October 16 Scott Clark will be ordained as well. If you’re wondering, the Presbyterians also ordains women, but it just so happens that with the ordination of Scott, Steve and Scott, three of the finest most gifted Presbyterian men now have taken on the responsibilities of serving the church.

It may happen that sometime in the future we might ordain a few mediocre LGBT folks—just as we’ve ordained some less-than-stellar straight folks over the years. But it just so happens that we’ve pretty much led with the best—three men who, though their gifts and skills and ministries differ widely, remarkably share the same manifest quality of profound gentleness. I mean, if you sat down next to any of these three, you would almost immediately feel as though a warm beam of compassion was shining directly on you. Or, at least that’s been my experience.

So, on behalf of LGBT folks everywhere, I’d like to be the first to say to my Presbyterian brothers and sisters, “You’re welcome!!! We’ve known all along what gifts of faith and skills for service we can offer, and we’re so glad you finally get to experience that firsthand through Scott, and Steve and Scott.”

And, since we began with a little foray into history, let’s end with another short history lesson. While Scott Anderson was indeed the first publicly identified LGBT individual to be ordained since the policy change that took place this past July, there have been five openly LGBT Presbyterians ordained as ministers before the rules changed. This came about because five courageous Presbyteries believed strongly in the calls of these five, and were willing to risk a judicial challenge by ordaining them. Among these are:

  • The Rev. Katie Morrison
  • The Rev. Mieke Vandersall
  • The Rev. Tanya Denley
  • The Rev. Ray Bagnuolo and
  • The Rev. Cheryl Pyrch

Now that we’ve opened the history file, there are many other stories we could tell—of the many, many Presbyterian LGBT Elders and Deacons (lay leaders in our church who are also ordained and whose ordination—in theory if not so much in practice—is understood to be equal to that of ministers) who served openly before the new rules, and of those who blazed a trail for all of us—but those are wonderful stories for another time.

August 8, 2011

Mardee Rightmyer: Lisa’s Twenty Five Years…

About five years ago Lisa asked me if I would preach for her ordination when the time came. Since then I have accumulated a thick file folder of sermon outlines as each affirmative “ready to receive a call” vote started my preparation for a sermon only to have it thwarted by another long and winding court process.

"23 Years Later"

An idea for the sermon I had hoped to be preaching in a month or so comes from an article by Eugene Peterson called “Twenty-Three Years… Persistently.” The prophet Jeremiah says “for twenty -three years… the word of the Lord has come to me, and I have spoken persistently to you, but you have not listened” (Jer. 25:3). Peterson says “for twenty three years Jeremiah got up every morning and listened to God’s word. For twenty three years Jeremiah got up every morning and spoke God’s word to the people. And for twenty three years the people heard nothing.” Peterson then says that the key to this life is the word morning – a new day that gives the opportunity for surprise and creativity and God’s faithfulness.

Peterson concludes his article “the mark of a certain kind of genius is the ability and energy to keep returning to the same task relentlessly, imaginatively, curiously, for a lifetime… The same thing over and over, and yet it is never the same thing for each venture is resplendent with dazzling creativity.” Is this not Lisa to the core? Look at what she has done with her life as she has persistently listened for the word of God and spoken it regardless of the outcome. And look at the young adults who have been drawn into the church by this creativity in spite of church polity.

But perhaps it is for the recent PJC decision that I have been preparing rather than Lisa’s ordination sermon; Lisa learned this lesson long ago. This word is for me as I grapple with my deep yearning for justice for Lisa in the midst of the message that God is in control no matter how the people respond. May it sustain us in the coming year as we persistently wait for the church to catch up with God’s calling.

  • Mardee Rightmyer
    TAMFS Board Member
    (and dear friend of Lisa’s)
July 28, 2011

Ordination Trials

Although the Presbyterian Church (USA) has replaced the “fidelity and chastity” G.6-0106b provision in the Book of Order with new language that allows for the possibility of the ordination of Teaching Elders (as Ministers of the Word and Sacrament are now called), Ruling Elders and Deacons, two cases go before the PC(USA)’s “Supreme Court,” officially called the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission (GAPJC). Since these cases predated the change in the Book of Order (the church’s constitution), they are still in need of resolution.

These cases are Parnell, et al v. Presbytery of San Francisco and Session of Caledonia Presbyterian Church, et al v. Presbytery of John Knox. Although neither is a named party, Parnell is a case attempting to reverse the approval of the ordination of our Minister Coordinator Lisa Larges by San Francisco Presbytery, and Caledonia similarly attempts to reverse the approval by John Knox Presbytery regarding the ordination of openly gay and partnered Scott Anderson. Legal counsel for both presbyteries have filed motions to have these cases declared moot because of the intervening removal of the grounds for these cases.

The GAPJC will hear these cases tomorrow, July 29. Deliberations will continue over the weekend and their rulings are expected on August 1.

Neither Lisa nor Scott is an official party in these cases, but — since their ordinations and their futures hang in the balance — they are in Louisville for the proceedings.

We’ll provide you with news as it develops.

As we have posted several times on our Facebook page, we ask that you all keep everyone involved in this case in your prayers. Thank you.

July 18, 2011

A Quick Note from Lisa

Hey All,

Q: What’s better than a church, like the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) which doesn’t discriminate against LGBT persons seeking ordination?

A:  A church that values the gifts, honors the call, and welcomes the witness of all it’s LGBT members.

2011 marks the 25th anniversary since I first became a candidate for Minister of Word and Sacrament.

Help us out by making a donation of $25 or more to That All May Freely Serve, as we make this the year when we showcase the gifts, faith and witness of LGBT Presbyterians!!!!

May 24, 2011

Lisa Larges: It’s Your Turn!

So, what is all the fuss about? The church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has been ordaining gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people since – well, since before there was a Presbyterian Church… or even a U.S.A. Sometimes we ordained a gay person without knowing we had done so. Sometimes – and not infrequently, I would guess – we did so with a half-knowing, a certain suspicion. Sometimes we did so under the terms of the old and reliable bargain: “We won’t ask as long as you won’t tell,” – ordination with a wink and a nod.

The passage of Amendment 10-A makes the process a little more straightforward, if you’ll pardon the expression. Now LGBT folks can choose to disclose information about their personal lives without fear (or, in truth, with perhaps only somewhat less fear) of penalty, and congregations and presbyteries can choose to consider their calling without risking running afoul of constitutional language.

The removal of discriminatory language? That’s new. Ordaining LGBT people? That’s not new at all.

So before it gets lost in the hubbub, let’s just pause and say thank you. To each of those who have been serving the Presbyterian Church as an ordained officer, thank you for the service you have given to our church, and for doing so at great personal risk, under difficult, sometimes nearly impossible circumstances, and at a cost no one can begin to total. Our church will never fully know just how much it has been strengthened and blessed by the service of LGBT folks who could not say who they were. I hope someday we will be able to say thank you more formally. It will be good for our souls to do so as a body.

Along with saying thank you, as someone who has been kicking around this movement for awhile, I also want to take a point of personal privilege to ask forgiveness of those who have served without being publicly identified as LGBT, for the ways in which the broader LGBT movement has minimalized your contributions or disparaged your choices. To be able to be publicly identified as an LGBT person in the days of G.6-0106b was a privilege derived from circumstance, inclination and opportunity, but many of us wore it like a badge of honor. At a certain time in our history, we fell victim to the old trap of turning on one another rather than joining our strengths to confront institutional prejudice. We were all very dogmatic and tiresome. I think the next generation of LGBT folks – the young queers – have a much greater capacity for honoring each other’s choices and particular path. But for the sake of repairing old rifts or taking care of old business, I simply want to acknowledge that we haven’t necessarily always treated each other well—and for that, I at least, am sorry.

Now, I would love to hear back from you. If you have been serving our church as an LGBT person, not publicly identified as such, I’d love to know your reflections at this time in the life of our church. Tell us what your experience has been like – its challenges and blessings. Our church needs to know those stories. Share your thoughts on your own discernment process as you serve the church after passage of 10-A: how will that change effect your ministry and call? You can comment here, or send comments to be posted anonymously to

May the hope of this new time and the blessings of a new day be all of ours.

May 16, 2011

That All May Freely Serve at DUPC

from Downtown United Presbyterian Church

Bulletin cover from Downtown United Presbyterian Church

Our board member and local friends in Rochester shared a wonderful work- and worship-filled weekend together. We will be sharing parts of yesterday morning’s service of worship. We hope that they are as meaningful to you as they are to us. The Spirit is definitely present!

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!