Covenant Network Goals for the 220th General Assembly

Remarks by National Organizer Tricia Dykers Koenig
to the Covenant Network Luncheon
Monday, July 2, 2012

Two years ago, I was privileged to address the Covenant Network Luncheon to talk about our hopes for the 219th General Assembly.  I seem to recall mentioning in Minneapolis that we hoped that Assembly would send an amendment to the presbyteries to rid the PCUSA of G-6.0106b.

Today, what a privilege to be addressed by the Rev. Scott Anderson.

What a privilege to witness the Rev. Brian Ellison introduce his partner, Troy.  That Brian is free now to do that in the PCUSA is what we’ve been working for.

Scott’s was the first post-B LGBT ordination of a teaching elder, but the PCUSA is being blessed by the gifts of more and more others in whom we rejoice.  Our primary goal for this GA:  no turning back!

No turning back on ordination standards!  Every presbytery and every session now has the authority to make ordination and installation decisions according to its own discernment – no more imposing of one interpretation of Scripture on everyone, in violation of conscience.

And let’s be clear that this cuts both ways.  We also want to emphasize to our sisters and brothers who do not share our understanding of God’s Word that the PCUSA is big enough for all of us.  We urge advisory delegates and commissioners to  support Items 07-17, 07-18, and 07-24, which propose a statement by the 220th GA to remind the church that our current ordination standard allows but does not require LGBT ordination, and commits the GA to relate respectfully as we continue to seek the mind of Christ on the issues that divide us.  We also commend to you 07-09 and 07-13, to address the fears some have expressed that, having accomplished permission for LGBT ordination, those who disagree will be forced out.  We yearn for a church in which we appreciate our differences as gift and challenge, where we welcome one another for the glory of God even when we don’t see eye-to-eye, where we stick together in mission and ministry because Jesus welcomes us all and bids us to proclaim that welcome not only in word but by the example of how we love one another – how we love one another in the PCUSA is a witness to the world.

No turning back on ordination!  And, no turning back on the commitment of the church to care for the  families of all its servants through the corporate nature of the Benefits Plan of the Board of Pensions.  We are profoundly grateful for the decision of the Board, in response to the urging of the 219th GA, to treat its LGBT members equally with all other members of the Plan, practicing what we as a church long have preached about fairness and equity for all.

The Board is also concerned about the urgent pastoral crisis facing LGBT-welcoming ministers and congregations in states with marriage equality – who because of current authoritative interpretation of the Directory for Worship are faced with violating their ordination vows no matter what they do.  If they fulfill their vow to “pray for and seek to serve”  LGBT couples seeking to be married in their faith community “with energy, intelligence, imagination and love,” they can be accused of breaking their vow to “abide by [the church’s] discipline.”  Again, we do not want to impose our view on those who do not share it – no minister has ever been required to marry a couple against his or her best judgment; but we do urge support for an authoritative interpretation to uphold pastoral and session discretion in deciding whom to marry, protecting pastors from prosecution if they choose to say yes to same-gender couples who desire to celebrate their covenant of marriage in the presence of the people of God, with Christ invited to the wedding.

We are the Covenant Network of Presbyterians – we care about every item of business before you, because every item of business matters when it comes to the health and vitality of the church.  And the health of the church is what the Covenant Network of Presbyterians has always been about.  We care about every item of business.  But I suppose you need to get back to attending to that, so I will stop now.  Commissioners and advisory delegates, may God bless you with wisdom and courage as you discern the will of Christ for the PCUSA this week.

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