Friday, February 28, 2014

Equality In Mind

This month's newsletter will be out soon.  Here is my letter to the congregation:

Dear Friends,

Holston Presbytery selected me to be a commissioner to the 221st General Assembly in Detroit this summer.   I was selected in 2012 to attend but Zach passed away on the first day.  Since I wasn’t able to participate then I was selected again this time.  

I am looking forward to being a commissioner.    There are many resolutions before the General Assembly.    Many have to do with social justice and eco-justice concerns (gun violence, fossil fuel usage, Israel-Palestine) and one of the controversial items will be marriage. 

I have ordered some resources for study regarding many of these issues.  I would be thrilled if you would learn with me on these items in our adult forum, Thursday morning study group, or perhaps on the occasional Sunday evening gathering.  I will let you know when we have scheduled such an opportunity.

As you know, I officiated at the wedding for my daughter, Katy, and her wife Amber in New York City over the Thanksgiving weekend.  I did so as a Presbyterian minister.  I officiated at the ceremony and signed the license.   I am proud to announce that in the eyes of New York (if not Tennessee) that they are a married couple, Katy and Amber Shuck.    Amber decided to take Katy’s last name.  

In the eyes of the PC(USA), was it within my powers as a minister to do that?    Now that 17 states allow for same-gender marriage, this is a big question for ministers and for congregations.     One of the overtures will ask the General Assembly to pass an “Authoritative Interpretation” of the constitution that would make it clear that ministers are allowed to officiate at same-gender weddings and that sessions may authorize church property to be used for such celebrations in those states in which same-gender marriage is legal.   

Another resolution will ask the General Assembly to change all references in the Book of Order regarding weddings and marriage from “a man and woman” or a “husband and wife” to “two people.” If the General Assembly were to approve that overture it would then need to go back to each presbytery for a vote.  If a majority of presbyteries would approve, then the Book of Order would be changed. 

Our congregation is a More Light Congregation.  We have firmly committed to equality for LGBT people in the church and society.   We hold holy unions on site.  I officiate at several per year and have done so for some time.     I think there is more we can do to be active in promoting equality in our community and in our state.    I along with you affirm that this is the civil rights issue of our era.   One easy and fun thing to do is to knit rainbow scarves for commissioners to the upcoming General Assembly.   There is information in this White Spire on how you can be involved in that.   

We are in the process of forming a More Light Sub-Committee of our Outreach Team.  This team will help with education and advocacy in our congregation and in the larger community.  If you are interested, do contact Rev. Don Steele or me.

With Equality in Mind,


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