This Sunday is More Light Sunday in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. So what is “more light”? “Following the risen Christ, and seeking to make the Church a true community of hospitality, the mission of More Light Presbyterians is to work for the full participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of faith in the life, ministry and witness of the Presbyterian Church (USA).” But as it’s been the case in other mainline Protestant denominations, there are wide-ranging beliefs within the faith. As one article reads: “Will the religious conflicts about homosexuality be settled by compromise or schism?”
I was, for nearly 20 years, a United Methodist, another denomination having the same internal struggle. The Methodists’ Book of Discipline reads: “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.” Yet there are undoubtedly gay UM clergy. Indeed, on the season finale of the (fictional) Brothers & Sisters on May 20, the senator’s brother turns out to be a gay UM minister.
I don’t have a problem with gay clergy, or gay members of session or other boards. What I guess is bugging me is the fact that the denominations have rules of prohibition, yet it is well-known, by me, e.g., that the rules are ignored in some parts of the country. I guess I’d be more comfortable if the written rules of the denominations could be changed to become more inclusive, but based on the divisive nature of the issue, I can’t imagine that happening any time soon.
I’ve been fascinated by the fact that my former church, indeed m, my former pastor, has been fighting with the city of Albany over rock concerts in the church basement. Now, the pastor has been suspended by the church hierarchy. While the newspaper says that the suspension is unrelated to the court dispute, a reasonable person could reasonably infer from the story that the suspension really IS about the court case. That inference would be wrong. I’ve talked to some members of the church; I’m positive that the suspension and the court case are unrelated. But since the church hierarchy can’t talk about the situation, based on privacy concerns for the minister, I can’t really fault the paper for not getting it quite right.