Denominations Defining Marriage (PCUSA, July 2012)

This afternoon the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) debated whether or not to redefine marriage, changing the language in our Book of Order from “between a man and a woman” to “between two people.” I tuned in to the live streaming and was riveted. I logged on to Twitter, and for four hours watched, listened, and read people’s comments, questions, prayers, snarky thoughts, replies, and anguish. Following parliamentary procedure impeccably, the GA first considered two minority reports before the majority report. Because both minority reports (more conservative) were narrowly voted down, I thought perhaps the majority report (the redefinition stated above) would narrowly pass.

I was breathless at my kitchen table, waiting. In the end, it was defeated 52% to 48%. Tears streamed down my face. I had hoped for justice and inclusion. I had hoped for relief for those who are LGBTQ, or who feel they don’t have a full voice because of their sexual selves.

I am a straight woman, happily married. I fit the acceptable parameters. But that doesn’t mean I need to reinforce the status quo. I believe that God created people with great variety and diversity. We must live faithfully as the people God created us to be.

I also believe it’s just a matter of time before marriage is redefined in many venues, including the church. But I understand disappointment with today. Time is a precious commodity. Change is not smooth, or easy, or painless.

All afternoon I was flashing back to the similar journey that is my past, some 20 to 30 years, a past not too distant, but one I have put behind me. I grew up in the Christian Reformed Church. When I was at the denomination’s institution, Calvin College (graduated in 1979), there was much discussion about whether women could be ordained to serve as deacons, elders or ministers. Votes were taken by the ruling bodies, with varying margins but always the same result: the men in charge said No. It was excruciating to me, watching (without benefit of live feeds or Twitter!) even though I had not yet dared to imagine that I was called into ministry. I was simply supporting “other” women in a theoretical way. Eventually the pain of rejection caused me to leave the CRC denomination. I found my way to the PCUSA and into seminary and into ordained ministry.

That journey has been complex. I think differently than I used to about many things: how to read/interpret the Bible, who is God, what is the church, what Jesus said. What is salvation? All that is too much for this one blogpost. But a real journey of faith should always be too long for an easy paragraph! Change and growth are continual, even in faith. Especially in faith.

Trying to find my place in the Body of Christ is the hardest thing I have ever done. In many ways it has defined my life, and my faith. Sometimes that makes me sad. Sometimes mad. Sometimes jubilant. Today is a day for many emotions. What are you feeling after the big meeting and vote?

Grammar-Geeky Footnote: Next time we try to redefine marriage, shouldn’t we say “two persons” rather than “two people”?


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