This column also ran on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum.
On April 4, 2009 the Presbytery of San José voted 84-81 in favor of “Amendment 08-B,” a bit of ecclesiastical legislation that, if adopted by a majority of the 174 Presbyteries, or regional governing bodies, in the Presbyterian Church (USA), will lift the absolute and universal ban on the ordination of Gays and Lesbians in the largest Presbyterian body in the United States. I was one of sixteen presbyters chosen to speak on the amendment. Each of us had two minutes to speak our minds. Here’s what I said:
It seems to me that the Book of Order’s current focus on homosexuality puts Presbyterians in danger of adhering to a faith that is too hard on some of us and too easy on most of us.
It is too hard on some of us because asking people to choose between the divine, life-giving gifts of Christian vocation and human intimacy is to require them to make an unhealthy choice. Our reformed tradition affirms that humans are created both to serve God and to live in intimate partnerships. To ask a person to choose one over the other is to ask that person to reject a part of his or her created nature. That’s too hard.
At the same time, an unhealthy focus on homosexuality makes faith too easy for most of us, because something like ninety percent of us are straight. All we have to do to be eligible for ordination is what we were planning on doing anyway and we leave unaddressed the much harder requirement that we live lives that are marked by compassion, forgiveness, grace, and love.
As we talk about ordination, we Presbyterians like to obsess about homosexuality, but we never ask harder questions, like should we ordain a person who remains unconcerned for the plight of the poor; we’ll never ask a candidate for ordination if she supported our government’s use of torture at Guantanamo, or if he is committed to caring for the health of God’s creation. Instead, we talk about homosexuality. Most of us are being too easy on ourselves.
We have our disagreements around what the Bible says, but we can agree that millions of children around the world are hungry, that AIDS, cholera, and tuberculosis kill thousands of people every day. Within our own Presbytery we face increased homelessness and growing poverty. We have an influx of refugees, some of whom are orphans, coming in from war-torn countries. We have a lot of work to do on very difficult issues. We need all the help we can get, and I’m not sure how those of us who are straight can, with a good conscience, practice a faith so easy that we’re worrying about sexual orientation when we affirm the call of God in the lives of our sisters and brothers.