This year’s General Assembly will see several important items of business that affect the wholeness and well-being of LGBTQ people in the Church and in society. At each Assembly, the Covenant Network seeks to discern how our efforts can best support justice and grace in the decisions of the church’s highest council. This year, the Covenant Network has played a part in supporting those who have proposed some of these overtures and will work hard for their passage, serving as a resource as they come forward:
- Safety from Violence and Discrimination Around the World: We have all seen the news of the systemic violence LGBTQ people face in many countries around the world, often at the hands of governments. Item 11-04, an overture from the Synod of the Covenant, expresses the Assembly’s commitment to end violence, discrimination, criminalization and punishment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. It empowers Presbyterian agencies to devote existing resources and efforts to these issues, in our own nation and in other countries, for the sake of justice and peace around the world.
- Condemning ‘Reparative’ or ‘Conversion’ Therapy to ‘Fix’ LGBT People: In 1999, the General Assembly considered the controversial subject of therapy designed to change a person’s sexual orientation and resolved that churches should neither encourage it nor discourage those who believed it would help them. Today, it is even more widely agreed that such therapy is harmful and dangerous, and some states have outlawed it for minors. Overture 082 from the Synod of the Covenant would categorically condemn the practice, empower church agencies to oppose its use, and encourage congregations to equip themselves with accurate information in order to support families with LGBTQ members.
Meanwhile, the Covenant Network is opposing efforts that would take the church backwards in its journey toward being a more united and inclusive church—reflecting the fullness of God’s grace as a place that welcomes and affirms all people and provides them a safe space to use their gifts, affirm their covenant commitments and live out their faith.
- Preserving Changes to Marriage Language: In 2014-15, 121 of the 171 presbyteries approved changing the description of marriage in the Book of Order to permit (but not require) teaching elders to officiate, and congregations to host, marriages without regard to the gender of the participants. Item 14-01 is an overture from Kiskiminetas Presbytery that seeks to turn back the clock, returning the PCUSA to exclusively allowing opposite-gender couples to marry, even as the church—and the nation—have already begun celebrating God’s love as reflected in same-sex marriages in every state.
- Seeking Healing for the Whole Church: The Covenant Network deplores the real and painful injustice of the church’s former policies on ordination and marriage (and so worked diligently for 18 years to change them). We are profoundly grateful they are no longer in effect. We are also convinced that asking people who believed they were acting faithfully to apologize would not be healing, nor would it elicit an authentic apology. Item 11-05 is an overture in which the Assembly would apologize for the wrongs done by enforcing the church’s policies in effect as recently as last July. A more divided church is not a stronger church for LGBTQ people or anyone else. We will be strongly urging commissioners to find an alternative to the language as proposed—for the sake of the peace, unity and purity of the church and the wholeness of all our members, including the LGBTQ ones. (For more on this, click here.)
There are a number of other issues of deep concern coming to this Assembly, including proposed changes that would have real and damaging impact on the General Assembly’s polity structure and on its ability to make and implement social witness policy. Stay tuned for more about those.
If you will be in Portland, join us for our events—the Voodoo Doughnuts Commissioners’ Convocation at 7:30 Friday evening, and the Covenant Network Luncheon on Monday. More information, including a link leading to the ticket purchase site, can be found here.
Looking for a good way to contribute at GA? National Organizer Tricia Dykers Koenig is eager to hear from you, so email her to get connected.