It is a new day in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)! Today, commissioners to the 223rd General Assembly (2018) approved two historic overtures. One affirms and celebrates the gifts of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in the church. Another affirms the rights and dignity of people of transgender, non-binary and people of varying gender identities.
The Covenant Network of Presbyterians, together with More Light Presbyterians and other partners, worked for the passage of these overtures, as well as another upholding a historic definition of religious liberty. The network promoted the proposals in presbyteries, then organized presentations in the Assembly Social Justice Issues Committee by overture advocates, including Covenant Network executive director Brian Ellison, board co-moderator Marci Auld Glass, and friends from around the country. Following those presentations, the committee approved the items with no opposing speeches and few dissenting votes. The Assembly included the items in its consent agenda—truly a sign of the power and impact of the stories of LGBTQIA+ people in the church these last few years.
“A lot of hard work—and the leading of the Spirit—brought us to this great triumph for all God’s people,” Ellison said. “Now, the real work begins. Our words must be matched by actions. That is the ministry the Covenant Network will attend to the moment the gavel falls on this Assembly.”
Affirming People of Diverse Gender Identities
Item 11-12 says: “Standing in the conviction that all people are created in the image of God and that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is good news for all people, the 223rd General Assembly (2018) affirms its commitment to the full welcome, acceptance, and inclusion of transgender people, people who identify as gender non-binary, and people of all gender identities within the full life of the church and the world. The assembly affirms the full dignity and the full humanity of transgender people, their full inclusion in all human rights, and their giftedness for service. The assembly affirms the church’s obligation to stand for the right of people of all gender identities to live free from discrimination, violence, and every form of injustice.”
It goes on to call for General Assembly leaders to bear witness to these affirmations on matters of military inclusion, access to public accommodations, including gender-neutral restrooms, and Title IX protections. It also encourages congregations to expand their welcome to transgender and gender non-binary people. The complete text can be found here: https://www.pc-biz.org/#/search/3000312
Celebrating Gifts and Service of LGBTQIA+ in the Church
Item 11-13 says: “Celebrating the expansive embrace of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the breadth of our mission to serve a world in need, the 223rd General Assembly (2018) affirms the gifts of LGBTQIA+ people for ministry and celebrates their service in the church and in the world.”
The resolution laments the suffering of LGBTQIA+ people who were hurt by the church’s policies in the past, and gives thanks for the persistence of those who worked for change. It notes the ministries of those serving in many capacities in the church today with excellence, and it calls for greater openness, stronger social witness and intentional effort in ecumenical and mission co-worker relationships to advocate for justice and equality for all people. The complete text can be found here: https://www.pc-biz.org/#/search/3000313
“So many faithful people waited for so long to see ordination and marriage come to pass,” Ellison said. “Today’s news is in some ways even bigger: The church acknowledges that real justice is found not in polity decisions but in affirmations of the lives of people. Thanks be to God for this commitment to a new day. May we all work together to live into it in our congregations, our presbyteries and our communities.”
LGBTQIA+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual and others of diverse sexual identities. For more information, email Brian Ellison at [email protected].
To support the work of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians in helping the church live into the actions approved today, please visit covnetpres.org/donate.