Posts tagged ‘TAMFS’

October 15, 2012

Out of Order

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

http://tamfs.org/2012/10/out-of-order/

July 4, 2012

Notes from Pittsburgh

Dear Friends –

Sad news…

The opening of the 220th General Assembly plenary sessions this afternoon began with the resignation of vice moderator of Tara McCabe-Spuhler. The mounting pressure against her because she had signed a marriage license for a lesbian couple in Washington, D.C. and the relentless threats and plans for parliamentary procedures to remove her prompted her resignation in favor of removing the distraction from the work of the Assembly. I would argue that the work of the Assembly was, is – in fact this “distraction.” The choice was not mine to make; only to observe and to hold in prayer Tara, this Assembly, its leadership and all of us.

How this will all work out is in the great and loving hands of the Spirit. Truly.

The nominee for vice moderator is Tom Trinidad from Presbytery of the Pueblo. His confirmation hearing will take place later this evening at the plenary session beginning at 7 PM.

Please, keep us in your prayers.
Ray

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July 4, 2012

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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June 24, 2012

Statement on Marriage for the 220th General Assembly

That All May Freely Serve

Statement on Marriage for the 220th General Assembly

Through the efforts of many and the strong voices of justice and love, the PC(USA) has led the way in the ordination of women, the welcoming of teaching elders in same gender marriages as installed pastors and other ordained positions, and the calling of candidates who are LGBT based on their preparedness and not on gender identity.

With many others, That All May Freely Serve believes we are now called to complete our circle of family, assuring that the covenant of love between same gender-loving couples be included. We believe that same gender marriages should be recognized as a permanent witness to the love and care God has given us to share.

That All May Freely Serve calls upon the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), convening on June 29, 2012 in Pittsburgh, PA, to provide teaching elders with immediate relief to extend pastoral care in officiating at same gender-loving couples’ marriages in states where such marriages are legal. Further, we call upon this Assembly to send to the presbyteries for approval changes to the Constitution of the PC(USA) removing restrictive language that defines marriage in terms which exclude same gender-loving couples.

Therefore:

That All May Freely Serve prays that the Assembly will pass an Authoritative Interpretation of W-4.9000 which will authorize teaching elders (ministers of Word and Sacrament) and ruling elders commissioned to pastoral service to officiate at marriages of same gender-loving couples in the context of Christian worship, also permitting Councils (Sessions) to allow the use of church property for such services.

And further:

That All May Freely Serve calls upon the Assembly to send to the presbyteries for ratification a change in the language of W-4.9000, so that teaching elders and ruling elders commissioned to pastoral service may exercise unencumbered pastoral care and discretion for same gender and different gender loving couples in officiating at such marriages.

That All May Freely Serve believes there can be no half-measures on this path of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. With others, we continue the work of opening the way for broad and inviting Spirit of God in the PC(USA), embracing all our sisters and brothers and celebrating in the wonder of God’s love in many ways, including through the covenant of marriage for same gender-loving couples.

June 16, 2012

Lisa Larges: Final Letter

Dear Friends of That All May Freely Serve,

“Changing minds by changing hearts” has been the shorthand way of describing the mission of That All May Freely Serve. This is what we’ve done together as we worked, for instance, for the change in the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church to allow for the ordination of all persons who are called to serve. This is what we’ve done as we’ve worked for marriage equality and the right of pastors to marry all couples seeking to make a covenant of love. We changed votes by changing minds. We changed minds by changing hearts.

For the sake of truth in advertising, we didn’t change any hearts at all, that’s God’s doing. We just tried to do our best to remain faithful to our assignment: to share our stories, even when doing so was risky; to come with open hearts, and a willingness to listen; to build relationships across lines of difference; to deepen the conversation; to remain patient when patience was generative; to challenge when doing so was healing; to seek the best in everyone; to remember, finally, that the Gospel message is that love always wins out over fear.

Hearts changed. Minds changed. Votes changed.

But what I want to tell you here, in the privilege I have of writing this one last letter to you as a part of my official work with TAMFS – what I want to tell you is how my own heart changed. This hasn’t so much been a job, or even a calling as it has been a journey of love.

When we’re engaged in the work of trying to change an institution like the Presbyterian Church, it can be easy to get mired down in an awareness of the many and sometimes tragic flaws of that institution: the mean-spiritedness, the indifference, the judgmentalism, the willful ignorance, the resistance to change of any sort, the failure to heed the prophets in our midst, the turning away from the Gospel message. All of that can be summed up in a word, and that word is fear.

But, what I’ve learned in these last ten years, and what I try to remember is how fleeting and inconsequential all of that is, compared to the slow, steady, and enduring power of love.

I have been mentored in love by those whose lives seem to glow with the Holy Spirit, “Saints on earth and saints above” alike. I have been sustained by love – by those who have opened their homes as we’ve traveled, by those who have quietly taken on the minutia of the behind the scenes tasks that are

necessary to build an organization, by those who have gone on the road with us and shared their own journey of faith with strangers, by those who have served on boards and committees, and so much else.

Time and again, thousands of people across this country have drawn from that deep well of generosity and given their time, their financial support, their talents, and their willingness to commit to believing in a better day, even when that day was slow in coming.

All of that is love, pure and simple. To each one of you who has given so generously from your heart, I am so deeply grateful. It’s love, in the end that changes us. I know, because it has changed me.

I am so grateful that Ray Bagnuolo will be our new Evangelist of love and hope as That All May Freely Serve begins a new chapter. Ray lives from the very center of his heart, and that’s how we knew it was right to call him to take on this ministry. Soon Ray will be telling you more about his plans and dreams, but for now, I want to say how glad I am that he has felt called to serve in this way.

You can watch our celebration service, marking this new day in the life of That All May Freely Serve by visiting us at www.tamfs.org. You can also read there more about Ray and about his dreams for the journey ahead.

It’s been an honor and a privilege to have worked with That All May Freely Serve for these last ten years. Thank you for sharing this journey of love with me. May you know all the blessings of love, the strength of hope, and the abundance of joy in all the days ahead.

With love and so much gratitude,
Lisa Larges

May 24, 2012

Call for Letters and Motions in Support of Janie, Redwoods, and us all!

Dear Friends,

We need YOU to do something.

On Tuesday, May 15th at the Presbytery of the Redwoods meeting a remarkable thing happened. The Presbytery of the Redwoods voted 74-18 to oppose the imposition of a rebuke against The Rev. Dr. Janie Spahr for conducting same-gender marriages. The presbytery stood in solidarity with the pastors and the LGBT community they serve. As far as we know, never before has a presbytery opposed imposing a directive of the GAPJC, the highest court in the PC(USA). In effect, they said to Janie, “You are our pastor. We called you to serve the LGBT community. You have done this and more and now it is time for us to say Enough! We’ll take the heat from here. You have pastoring to do!”

Even more, this courageous Presbytery of the Redwoods took a stand as a governing body alongside the LGBT community, its families, friends, and allies. The Presbytery of the Redwoods stood with us.

Take a minute to take that in… It really is something.

Now, here’s what we would like you to do.

First: please write a letter or card or send an email to Robert Conover, Stated Clerk of Redwoods Presbytery, thanking him and the presbytery for their willingness to let the motion opposing the rebuke go forward and for the vote to stand with our pastors and community. Let them know how important this is to you. If you can, be personal. And, if you would, forward this request to everyone you think might be willing to send a note. Here’s his information:

The Rev. Robert E. Conover, Stated Clerk
Presbytery of the Redwoods
1226A Salvador Avenue
Napa, CA 94558-1817
robertconover@gmail.com

Second: if you are able, please propose a similar motion within your Councils/Sessions and Presbyteries, asking them to pass their own motion opposing the imposition of this rebuke. The motion that was used by Presbytery of the Redwoods can be found here. You can find more information about the ruling and appeals on Janie’s site, as well as on the More Light Presbyterians and Covenant Network websites (or by simply searching the web).

This is an exciting time! We have been working toward these rapidly changing conditions in the church for decades, and it is clear that the Spirit is truly on the move. Folks who are LGBT are being called to serve in churches and in seminaries. Two of the four recently ordained Teaching Elders (Ministers of Word and Sacrament) were ordained through the Presbytery of the Redwoods. And now again, they have affirmed that God’s love and justice must extend to marriage equality. We need to keep on saying thank you, wherever justice and love are so affirmed. So please… Let your voice be heard loud and clear!

We ask that you copy us on your emails at tamfs12@gmail.com. If you send a letter, please let us know that, too. If possible scan it into an email or send a copy to:

That All May Freely Serve
Rev. Ray Bagnuolo
Jan Hus Presbyterian Church and Neighborhood House
351 E. 74th Street
New York, NY 10021-3701

We hope to reach 500 hundred emails and letters/cards within the next 30 days. So, please keep us up-to-date. If you need any help or want to talk about other ideas you may have – drop us an email or give us a call.

Peace,
That All May Freely Serve

PS: Thought you would also like to know:

Yesterday, The Presbytery of Hudson River in New York approved the action of the yoked churches in Highland and Marlboro (Ulster County) to call Laurie McNeill to be their installed minister. Laurie and her partner spouse Lisa are thrilled to be called to serve in these congregations!

We have only just begun…

May 16, 2012

From the Executive Presbyter of Redwoods Presbytery

Dear Members of the Presbytery,Image

Yesterday at our stated meeting, the presbytery voted by a 74/18 majority to express its opposition to the imposition of the rebuke to the ruling by the Presbytery Permanent Judicial Commission, and upheld by the Synod PJC and General Assembly PJC, that the Rev. Dr. Jane Adams Spahr had acted contrary to the Constitution of the PC(USA) when she conducted same gender marriage ceremonies. The entirety of the motion which was approved is attached. There may be a variety of interpretations of the presbytery’s action by members of the presbytery. You may also hear a variety of interpretations by the news media.

The motion was very thoughtfully crafted and carefully worded to express the presbytery’s opposition. In other words, the vote of the presbytery was effectively a collective dissent by an overwhelming majority of members present. While ordinarily expressed by an individual, the opportunity to dissent is provided for in the Constitution of the PC(USA) and is an important means by which a member may express herself or himself. The opportunity to dissent is a value held by the PC(USA) and it is certainly a value held by the Presbytery of the Redwoods. While the action of the presbytery yesterday does not undo the judicial decision, it does express the presbytery’s collective opposition to the imposition of the rebuke. The position of the presbytery by yesterday’s vote is clear. The decisions of the Presbytery, Synod, and General Assembly PJCs are also clear. Does this create some ambiguity? Possibly, but it is hardly the first time people of faith have been confronted by ambiguity, and I have every confidence that we will remain firmly grounded as we find our way through it.

The presbytery recognizes that not everyone at the meeting, nor in the presbytery, agrees with the motion that was approved. The opportunity was given and encouraged for any who wanted to dissent from the approved motion to do so, and we expressed our willingness to assist in the dissent or protest process. While none availed themselves of this opportunity, we always seek to display such openness to hearing opposing points of view. This is the way we learn and grow.

Same gender marriage is at the forefront of society, national politics, and the church. The Presbytery of the Redwoods has displayed repeatedly, and did so again yesterday, a way of being and behaving in the midst of challenging issues that is an example for both the church and the world: openness, grace and respect, even in the midst of profound disagreement and pain. I trust this to be the way of Christ for the life of the world.

With my blessing and peace,
Robert E. Conover

May 16, 2012

Ray Bagnuolo: Courage in The Redwoods

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Presbytery of the Redwoods took a stand on Tuesday morning. They really took a stand. Rather than accepting the ruling of the GAPJC and its rebuke of The Rev. Dr. Janie Adams Spahr for marrying same gender loving couples during the time in California when such weddings were legal — rather than sitting quietly while one of their own was censured — they opposed the rebuke.

Yes. They opposed the rebuke; by a vote of 74 to 18, the Presbytery stood with Janie. They stood with the minister who has been a part of the presbytery for more than 38 years. They stood with one another and with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community and by their action said what the courts did not say: The church is wrong; we support our minister and really mean it when we say that all are welcome here. We accept responsibility for the actions of our minister; we stand with her. If you have any questions about this, see us. Leave her alone. She and our other pastors have work to do.

In this unprecedented action, something has shifted in this church. Something has been put into motion that is hard to know at this point, but will surely have an impact in our efforts to continue the work of a building a fully welcoming church for all in the PC(USA).

By this action, The Presbytery of the Redwoods has invited other councils and presbyteries to do the same. They have invited churches and governing bodies to pass their own statements of support for this presbytery; statements that affirm full pastoral care and inclusion of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender community in the work and worship of this church under the care of its ministers. Statements that say enough with scapegoating our LGBT community; enough of the inherent violence in these trials and rebukes. It’s time for this to change. Enough. It’s time to get back to who we really are as loving Christians, loving one another — in word and action.

Thank you to all in The Presbytery of the Redwoods for stepping up in this most important of ways.

May 3, 2012

Janie Spahr Update: Redwoods Presbytery Meeting

The Stated Meeting of The Presbytery of the Redwoods will be held on Tuesday, May 15, 2012, at 10:00 a.m. The Permanent Judicial Commission’s report on the Rev. Dr. Jane Adams (Janie) Spahr’s GAPJC decision is scheduled for 11:15 a.m.

Summary of the Decision:

Same-sex marriages were sanctioned by the State of California from June 20, 2008, through November 4, 2008. During that time period Spahr performed wedding ceremonies for approximately sixteen same-sex couples.

In 2010, a prosecuting committee of the Presbytery brought charges against Spahr for officiating at these ceremonies and a three day trial was held before the PPJC in August of 2010. At the conclusion of the trial the PPJC found her guilty of three of the four charges, issued a Rebuke, and enjoined her “to avoid such offenses in the future.” The three charges read in salient part as follows:

  1. Committing the offense of representing that a same-sex ceremony was a marriage by performing a ceremony in which two women were married under the laws of the State of California and thereafter signing their Certificate of Marriage as the person solemnizing the marriage;
  2. Persisting in a pattern or practice of disobedience concerning an authoritative interpretation of the Book of Order, in that under the laws of the State of California, she represented that no fewer than fifteen such additional ceremonies she performed were marriages of persons of the same sex;
  3. Acting in violation of the authoritative interpretation of the Book of Order by failing to be governed by the polity of the PC(USA) in violation of her ordination vows.

The Legal Defense Team is asking the Presbytery to not rebuke Janie; in fact, to refuse to impose the censure.

There is a possibility Janie, the couples, and supporters will be given an opportunity to speak during the presbytery meeting.

Make plans to attend!

First Presbyterian Church of San Anselmo
72 Kensington Road
San Anselmo, CA 94960
 
Follow Rev. Jane Spahr Trial Updates on Facebook.
May 1, 2012

Lisa Larges: Real Party in Interest

Time, as they say, is a river—not pausing, never waiting, and carrying us on. It’s time—or perhaps time’s emissary, timing—which has led me to decide not to pursue ordination to my current call, even as the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission upheld the Presbytery of San Francisco’s vote to approve my ordination to my work with That All May Freely Serve.

It’s been more than four years since the San Francisco Presbytery certified me as ready for a call, more than two and a half years since their vote to approve my ordination, and there have been six trials before the Synod and General Assembly Judicial Commissions since 2008. It’s been a full ten years since I first started working with TAMFS and began talking with the Presbytery’s Committee on Preparation for Ministry seeking to be ordained to this call.

Time goes on, even as we wait. Especially in the last two years, as we’ve waited for the judicial process to work itself out, circumstances in my own life have changed.

When I first became a candidate for ministry, I was fresh out of college and on my way to seminary at the age of 22. A few years later, I graduated from San Francisco Theological Seminary, and then, somehow, lots of wonderful years in the Bay Area—26 in fact—slid by. Just in the past few years, I’ve been feeling that primal tug to be near my family. My parents, now in their 80s, are doing great, but at some point you begin to realize just how precious time is.

I kept putting off a move back to Minnesota as the judicial process wound its meandering way up and down the judicatory levels. But, by the fall of 2011, a confluence of circumstances made the time for moving right, and I came home to be near my wonderful mom and dad, my totally awesome sister and her likewise awesome family. We kept our official TAMFS office in the Bay Area, and I carried on my work from my new Minnesota digs.

In the months that followed my move, it has become clear to me through lots of prayer and reflection that my own call with That All May Freely Serve is coming to a natural end. The passage of Amendment 10-A opened up a whole new realm of possibilities for TAMFS and our movement to continue to strengthen our welcoming church. TAMFS is discerning a new way forward that will be more streamlined and grassroots driven. I’m incredibly excited about these changes, proud of the discernment process that our board has committed to, and humbled by the mysterious workings of the wily Spirit. I don’t know what it is yet that I am being called to, only that this call is ending, and I’ve come to this decision while the case against San Francisco Presbytery has proceeded back up to the General Assembly PJC.

Even as the PJC has now ruled to let stand the presbytery’s vote to approve my ordination, being ordained to this call now would require meeting with the COM of the San Francisco Presbytery, approval at a stated meeting of the presbytery of a commission and date, and planning a service back in the Bay Area—adding at least several more months on to the process. This additional time, my recent move, and my sense of God’s call away from TAMFS has led me not to go forward for ordination at this time but to seek a new call.

Just to be clear, this is my own personal decision. The TAMFS board has been incredibly gracious and loving, willing to move mountains so that I might be ordained to this ministry and also deeply respectful of my decision. What’s more, I can’t begin to say how deeply moving and humbling it has been to hear from so many kind friends of how much they are hoping that I should be ordained. The blessings of community that have surrounded me in this process have been simply unfathomable. I can only thank you all for your prayers and to appeal to you for your continued patience!

The PJC’s decision affirms once again the principle that such decisions as ordination are best lodged with the council with the most knowledge and direct oversight of the person being considered. We can trust one another to do this, even as we know we do not always decide perfectly. Since we adopted a new constitution and opened up the process to fully consider the calls of qualified gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members, our church has been blessed to see four extraordinarily gifted and faithful Presbyterians ordained as Teaching Elders. By God’s providence we are now blessed by the ministries of the Rev. Scott Anderson, the Rev. Scott Clark, the Rev. Paul Mowry, and the Rev. Katie Ricks. I hope that the PJC’s decision will give presbyteries that much more confidence to fairly consider each candidate who comes before them.

San Francisco is a divided presbytery, full of what we might politely call “big personalities” of every theological stripe, and yet I’ve only been treated with great respect and graciousness, even by those who voted not to approve my ordination. They’ve also hung in there through a long judicial process. I am very thankful for this, and also thankful for the counsel that has represented the presbytery through lo these many hearings.

My friend and mentor Janie Spahr has counseled many LGBT folks like me struggling with the questions of whether to stay in the church, whether to pursue a call in our church, or come out to their congregation. The question she will ask is, “Are you willing to be curriculum for the church?”

All of the ups-and-downs and ins-and-outs of this long judicial process have been part of what it means to be curriculum for the church. We have to learn together, and we don’t seem to learn well in the abstract. And I can’t say that it’s been anything but a privilege to do this work. At the same time, even as I understand in a deep way that the whole of this journey, and the good work of being “curriculum” has been a part of my sense of calling, this judicial process has also been personally painful. The many delays, and the waiting, have exacted a cost. There’s a kind of spiritual pain here that I’m still figuring out. Suffice it to say that our judicial process, as necessary as it may be, is hard on everyone, from the commissioners to the legal counsels on both sides, to the individuals whose lives are directly affected.

But we believe in a God who is the redeemer of time, and we strive for that equanimity of thanksgiving that Paul speaks of and practiced in his own life. “Gratitude in good times,” Calvin said, “patience in adversity, and [most of all] a wonderful security respecting the future.”

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Real Party in Interest (legal definition)

A real party in interest is the person or entity whose rights are involved and stands to gain from a lawsuit or petition even though the plaintiff who filed suit is someone else, often called a “nominal” plaintiff. It is the person who will be entitled to benefits of a court action if successful; one who is actually and substantially interested in the subject matter, as opposed to one who has only a nominal, formal, or technical interest in or connection with it. It may be broadly defined as someone who may be adversely affected by the relief sought or the person or entity entitled to the benefits if the action is successful.