Presbyterian parents on Amendment 14-F

Debbie and Mike RegeleDebbie and Mike Regele prepared these remarks for the debate on the Marriage Amendment 14-F at the Presbytery of Los Ranchos.

Debbie is a ruling elder from Laguna Presbyterian Church.  Mike, a teaching elder, is president and CEO of DecisionInsite, LLC, which specializes in strategic planning and integrated demographics modeling, and the author of several books, including Science, Scripture, and Same-Sex Love.

 

Mike:

I realize that by standing here to endorse passage of 14-F I am now identified with the “Affirming” side of this ongoing debate about human sexuality and its proper expression — though that may not be much of a surprise to many who know me. In fact I have many dear friends on the “Traditionalist” side of this conversation, many with whom I have had extended conversations. Most of my traditionalist friends and I have agreed to not let this issue block our fellowship together nor our ability to live and serve within the PCUSA.

The question I want to address in a few brief comments is why I am on the affirming side.

I have spent most of my life as a Christian man within the moderate evangelical tradition. In my early years of ministry I was a pastor of a large singles group in Newport Beach. One cannot be the pastor of a singles group without learning that some of your flock are LGBT persons. I spent many hours counseling these folks. I helped one young man come out to his parents. And sadly, one young man that I spent a great deal of time with could not reconcile his conservative faith and his sexual orientation. He jumped off of a building. It was the first funeral I ever did. When I looked at him in his casket I felt confused and a failure. That was over 30 years ago. I left the singles ministry and so did not give much more thought to the issue.

Five years ago one of my daughters came out as a lesbian. Now my wife and I had to think about it. We knew from the beginning that we would stand with our daughter. We would not abandon her. But what kind of life was she going to be able to live? I had so many questions that ranged from psychology, to biology, to biblical theology. In the end, after months of study — and incidentally writing a book about my findings — I drew several conclusions.

  1. In most cases sexual orientation is an innate trait formed in our mother’s womb. Most people do not “choose” their orientation. They are born with an orientation.
  2. Life is given to us as a gift from God. We are part of God’s good creation. God has allowed creation the freedom to unfold and it does so with wonderful diversity — including sexual attraction and orientation — in humans and other animal species.
  3. The kinds of behaviors referred to in our Bibles are not about what we are talking about here — namely, committed life-long intimate relationships.
  4. So while it is a challenge to our traditions and the cultural upbringing of many of us, there is nothing fundamentally immoral about two people wanting to covenant to spend their life together.
  5. Is there a moral issue?  Yes, of course there is. But it is the same moral issue that pertains to all expressions of human sexuality. God has called us to live lives that promote the flourishing of the other. The moral issue which I believe the church should speak to, whether it be between two straight or two gay persons, is whether we are forming relationships that promote covenant love.

So I would ask you to support 14-F. I am not asking you to agree with me. But I am asking you to respect that these are matters that many of us have spent a great deal of time considering. We do not take this lightly. If we support 14-F we create space for us to continue to live together as one body yet with the freedom for each pastor and each church to follow their consciences on this issue.

Debbie:

The pivotal point that caused me to change my thinking on the gay issue and same-sex marriage… 

I stand before you to say, I support this Amendment, affirming same-sex marriage. This would not have been my position most of my life — but I want to share with you the reason why.

Mike and I have been married for nearly 39 years and have been blessed with five children — 3 boys and twin daughters with a 10 year span between our oldest son and youngest girls. They are all grown adults now ranging 37-27 in age, with one married and three adorable grandsons. We have a great relationship with all of them.

As a parent, one thing you want for your children as they grow in their lives, is that they feel loved, accepted, and hopeful for their life — that they have talents and abilities which they discover and use, building a future which is positive and promising. And that they find a partner to share their life with, someone who loves them and whom they love, where they find companionship and a sense of belonging. The thought of them being “alone” always causes me great sadness.

Five years ago one of our daughters confided in us that she is a lesbian. My “world turned upside down.” All of a sudden the issues of homosexuality that had been “abstract” were immediately personal. What did this mean for her, for us as her parents, for us as a family? What did this mean for her in finding a partner, a soul mate, a spouse? Our Christian faith is very important to us, to our values. Amidst the tears of telling us she was gay, she said, “I have wanted to have the kind of relationship that the two of you have.” How cool that she recognized that her mom and dad had a wonderful relationship together! Something that was good!!  And we wanted that for her too!!  But for her, it would not be with a man.

I knew the judgment and condemnation that would await her by much of our culture and within the Christian community. Our faith and church was a main focal point of our own family life. This was a huge issue. Marriage was between a man and a woman. The only choice for the gay person in a Christian context would be to remain celibate. This would have been the view of the church we attended and in which we raised our kids.

How could I insist on that with her? A scenario went ripping through my mind. If I held onto this position on marriage, I would be sentencing her to a place where she would never be able to fall in love, to be loved, to feel the support and companionship she had witnessed in her home between her mom and dad, grandparents, and family friends. I tried to imagine how I would tell her, “I’m sorry dear daughter, this kind of relationship is not in the cards for you.”

How would I look her in the face and in all love say, “It is okay and wonderful for your three brothers and your twin sister to fall in love and find someone who loves them in return, to get married, to have a family and build a life with the one they love. But for you, dear daughter who is gay, you must remain single, alone, and never fall in love or be loved”?

HOW could I say that???? Is that REALLY what God would want or say to her? How would I say, “but it is also really important that you remain connected with the family and be a part of all of our lives, to get together for birthdays and holidays and vacations”?  How would we really be able to gather as family with that kind of dichotomy in relationship with our children?

With that question looming and that possible scenario, I just decided, NO — I cannot go there. God’s mercy and love is bigger than all of this — I will embrace my daughter just the way she is. He made us to be in relationship with one another, not to divide and separate. This is the God I know — who loves and accepts just the way we are.

This is my story — but it is only one of many families’ in our presbytery who face this issue in a personal way. So I speak for them too — please prayerfully consider supporting this amendment.

Thank you.

 

Comments

  1. Tom Eggebeen says

    So very well said … and a simple, if not profound, reminder that theology is done from “below” as much as it is done from “above.” Hats off to these parents who, when confronted with their daughter, took up the challenge to examine their faith, their values and make some changes. How frightening change can seem at the time, but afterward, the light shines and the air is fresh and clean. How fortunate are the children of this family. I can only pray, that despite the negative vote of the Presbytery, bridges of understanding and welcome will be built in more and more churches there. And may more of its TEs and REs engage in “theology from below” even as they give ear to “theology from above.” Because it’s people for whom Christ died, that they might have life (not dogma) and find love in one another, as was intended from the very beginning of time. God bless these parents, their children and grandchildren, and those with whom they serve in the life and work of the PCUSA. To the glory of God and for the wellbeing of the world.

  2. This is wonderfully and compassionately stated. Blessings on the whole family and may God give us ears to hear.

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