A Personal Perspective on Scott Anderson’s Ordination

By the Rev. Nancy Enderle

Much has been said and written about the ordination of Scott Anderson this past weekend at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Madison, Wisconsin.  I’m adding my reflections and observations about the day and the process that led up to it.

I served on the Committee on Preparation for Ministry for John Knox Presbytery, where Scott went through the process of inquiry and candidacy. As Scott worked with the committee it became clear he was an exceptional candidate for ministry.  His manner of life and expression of call was spiritually mature and theologically sound.  He demonstrated a thorough knowledge of Scripture and participated in the preparation for ministry process with an open mind and heart. The final CPM vote to recommend Scott to the Presbytery as ready to receive a call was unanimous.  As the chair of the committee I’m biased, but I think our work was thorough and transparent.  We aimed to be consistent with the process we followed for all the candidates under care, but were mindful of the importance of the need for transparency and communicating our process with the broader Presbytery and the national office.

The ordination service Scott planned was inspirational.  From the gathering music to the closing benediction, the spirit in the sanctuary reflected the joy and blessing felt by the congregation. Dr. Mark Achtemeier delivered a powerful sermon that he has shared on the Covenant Network web site.  He emphasized the power of God’s word that has moved God’s family toward new visions of faithfulness in the past, and continues to lead us today.  Mark also addressed the important message of welcome to GLBT Presbyterians and the general public that Scott’s ordination sends: “I also believe God will use your ministry, Scott, as a life-giving spring of water for sustaining weary exiles who have been alienated from the church of Jesus Christ and are seeking a way back home.”

The moment of the laying on of hands nearly emptied out the sanctuary of its 325 worshipers.  It was a powerful witness of support and connection, which was followed by an extended period of applause and even a few shouts.

There was a particularly meaningful moment in the service when Scott was presented with his pulpit robe and hood by his long-time friend and former colleague in ministry the Reverend Jim Zazzera from California.  David Lohman, from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Minnesota, then returned the stole Scott had given to The Shower of Stoles Project.  According to Mr. Lohman, Scott’s stole was among the first added to the collection which now numbers over 1,000 stoles and other sacred items representing the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people of faith.  Scott’s is the first stole to be returned to someone who had donated it to the project.

It was joyful and poignant to see Scott vested in the robe and stole he wore in his previous call, and to see the five stoles that were displayed on the communion table with the names of the individuals who donated them to the project.  One of the stoles placed directly in front of me had the name of a dear friend who couldn’t attend the service due to a hospitalization.  The stole I was wearing was given to me by the partner of a close friend who died before he could see the day when the PC(USA) ordained an openly partnered gay man.

Both the charge to Scott and the congregation were focused on those things which are present in all ordinations:  an individual and a calling organization.  The charge to Scott was given by me, and focused on the blessings from God that support us in our service to Christ’s church.  Peg Chemberlin, President of the National Council of Churches, gave the charge to the Wisconsin Council of Churches (WCC) where Scott will continue to serve as Executive Director.  The Reverend Chemberlin reminded the WCC to share fully in the work of ecumenism and to keep the blessing of Christian fellowship present in their work.

Scott’s closing remarks focused on his gratitude to everyone who walked along side of him during this long journey, particularly his partner Ian.  It was uplifting to have his benediction rest upon us as we left.  And I, for one, will count this day among the richest in my ministry and life.

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