That all may freely serve

March 11, 2007

I went to a reception last night for That All May Freely Serve, the most progressive Presbyterian GLBT organization working for us in that denomination.

I grew up Presbyterian, and it was nice to run into old friends, make new ones, and hear about where they are in our collective work in the kingdom.

The Rev. Dr. Janie Spahr, pictured here, is the founder and Coodinating Minister of that organization, and has been through a lot with the Presbyterian church.  In 1992, she was stripped by the highest Presbyterian court in the Presbyterian ecclesial system of her ministerial credentials for declaring her authenticity.  She is currently awaiting trial for performing gay and lesbian weddings.

Janie gave a wonderful farewell speech last night; she is retiring in August.  It is clear that she has a clear sense of direction for the future.  She talked a lot about the emerging leadership in the seminaries today as well as the immediate leadership who will replace her right now.

It became clear to me in that discussion just how blessed and fortunate we are.  We may not be perfect, but we have come a long way.  There are one or two denominations ahead of us, but there are many, many behind us.  I met seminarians who have chosen to remain closeted or semi-closeted and put their vocational identity ahead of any other element of their identity.  We talked of one Presbyterian seminarian in Austin who did not chose the closet and will say goodbye to her beloved denomination tomorrow as she goes to work in the MCC, as her ordination was refused due to her orientation.  It is difficult to keep the movement towards justice alive when the established power hierarchy systematically purges the leadership from the table through refusal of ordination.

I also heard stories of joy.  I heard stories of the wonderers, looking for homes in the wilderness and finding places where they were not only welcomed but solicited as members.  Stories where GLBT people are recruited for leadership, not only “allowed” to sit on the bench in worship.  Stories where we are allowed to be visible and share our gifts as full members of the Body of Christ.

We’ve come a long way in the Episcopal church.  We can complain about our current situation, and we should– because we cannot go backward.  We cannot go back to the place where the closet and inauthenticity forces us to make choices about compartmentalizing our lives into segments, only some of which we can show in public.

But we also have a lot to celebrate.  We are far ahead of many other traditions.  We have a great tradition of liturgy, of celebrating “both/ands” instead of “either/ors” and moving forward into the future.

I believe that history is on our side.  I believe that you cannot put toothpaste back into the tube (a quote from Susan Russell+).  We won’t go backwards because we can’t go backwards.  We might have some “unfortunate glitches.”  But nobody and nothing can make us be untrue to our God.



One Response to “That all may freely serve”

  1. Susan Says:

    … a quote Susan Russell got from Gene Robinson! 🙂

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