Thursday, July 15, 2010

A post-GA reflection

Editor's note: this note is posted anonymously upon request. We pray for the day that it could be posted with full attribution.

For my witness at GA, I coined the term guerilla worship. I love
leading worship, whether it's a whole service or just a brief moment
of God-ness, and I wanted to bring that into every corner of the

Most of the ideas I had didn't really feel appropriate most of the
week, but then Friday came around and the mood shifted. The
ordination amendment had passed, and the marriage discussion had been
abruptly and decisively cut off the night before when everyone decided
they were too tired. Suddenly it felt necessary for me to stand
outside the plenary hall with a sign offering FREE PRAYERS.

I hadn't known what to expect, exactly. People began to smile, and I
smiled back, and a few people approached me to thank me for my witness
and my presence. Every now and then, someone would stop and say, "I
need your prayers right now." I asked what they needed to pray for,
and sometimes just speaking their needs and hopes aloud seemed to lift
a huge burden from their shoulders.

And then I would hold their hands, or lay my hands on their shoulders
or head, and we would pray. I did not know any of the people I prayed
with, but it didn't matter. I asked God's Spirit to be on them, and I
felt God with and around us as we connected for this brief moment.
After one nice prayer, the gentleman lifted his head and said, "You're
serious, aren't you!" Yes, I was, and I am.

Once I had prayed for a few people, I felt something change in the way
I looked at the commissioners streaming past me into the hall. I
looked at each of them with pastoral, loving eyes, ready to speak
prayers for each person, holding those prayers in my heart. I felt
like I was praying, in those moments, for the entire PC(USA).

And now I am beginning another round of essays for my ordination
committee, with no idea what to expect as I discern the best way to
come out to them. I don't know how much longer I'll be waiting until
I can find a call to a church. I am trying not to be anxious about
that not knowing, which of course is easier said than done.

I don't know how long it will be until I can find a church that wants
to pay me to work with them, but until then I will be standing
outside, offering prayers for free.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A during-GA post that we missed posting then . . .

Editor's note: due to the vagaries of the internet (I swear, it wasn't there to post last time I checked on Saturday!) and the craziness of the last couple of days of GA, this didn't go up when it should have. We apologize for that and bring it forward now.

Meeting with the YAADs

The other night, a handful of Welcome Revolutionaries and Lisa and I went to talk to the Young Adult Advisory Delegates (YAADs). There are approximately one bazillion of them. We joined them for energizers and worship and afterward they had to sit through 4 presentations by different advocacy groups, all hoping to woo the YAADs to advise the commissioners in their favor. Apparently it was designed to be a liberal/conservative night, and they sandwiched us right between Mr. Pro-Life and Mr. Traditional Definition of Marriage and Ordination, and the 4th was from Presbyterian Voices for Justice.

Worship was really interesting; a couple of "energizers," which are campy song things with actions to go along with them. Then some announcements, and some hymns which were pretty. No sermon, but some reflection time. They had to get in groups of 4 or 5 (very roughly; there were groups of 2 and groups of 12) and come up with lists of their favorite things at GA. They were hugely in favor of the moderator, and our flash mobs, and one group announced that their favorite part was the rainbow stoles "because no matter how you feel about what they represent, a lot of effort went into them being knitted and crocheted by people across the country, and they're awesome" (or something very close to that). It felt good to be recognized especially since I don't think they knew we'd be there.

Mr. Pro-Life had his presentation first. It was kindof unremarkable, something about how his mother "chose life" 35 years ago, and how life begins in the womb, traditional stuff. Nothing inflammatory, just a boring speech that everyone's heard before.

Then we went. Lisa very briefly told why we were at General Assembly (to invite the Church to be as inclusive as we know God wants it) and we went into a Top 10 ways to know when you've run into a TAMFS person, including "you got a cookie," "you ran headfirst into someone frozen in place," "you felt welcome," "you had 'All You Need Is Love' stuck in your head all day," and others. They laughed. I unfortunately got stuck with the number one reason, but I hadn't planned something that good, so it ended up being a kindof lame "you felt welcome" but they enjoyed the rest of the list. Then we proposed that they laugh, so we asked what the funniest thing they thought could happen at GA would be. My favorite answer was "free puppies!" One person suggested that it would be hilarious if they did an energizer during Plenary. The best part? They taught the commissioners an energizer the next morning in Plenary. So clearly, we made an impression.

Mr. Traditional was clearly nervous, and reading from a script about his work. He started with Puff the Magic Dragon and how it was mistakenly interpreted as a drug song, and Peter Paul and Mary denounced that, and then switched it to a command that we properly perform exegesis on the Bible, and don't put our own interpretation on it, and God never meant for gays to marry, and we should stick to the traditional definitions. It was a confusing segue, but we can all agree that proper exegesis is hugely important. I guess he missed the part where Jesus was against traditional interpretations of the Law, but whatever. (Afterward, he took a cookie, and said hi, and was really nice to us). The YAADs weren't very impressed by his speech. They listened politely, but no one got all fired up or anything.

Voices for Justice went last and the YAADs were certainly engaged in her speech. I heard later that they weren't in agreement with everything she said, but she was a lot more interesting than the men who spoke.

We were the only ones with a group, and we passed out cookies and frisbees afterward which they LOVED.

Anyway, the point is, we really engaged the YAADs. Even though some of them might have disagreed with our mission, they couldn't disagree that we were interesting and funny and happy, unlike Mr. Pro-Life and Mr. Traditional (both of whom were sortof sad) or Voices (who was kindof angry), and that our mission is one of hope for the Church, instead of condemning those who disagree. Especially after this day, it's important to remember that we are a mission of hope, and that we are engaging the younger generation, and that our day will come.

Mary Kathryn Dean

A post-GA post from Freddie Bell

So What's Next?

Our time at General Assembly has come to a close and we've returned to the places from which we came. Many of us find ourselves asking the question: What's Next? I've been asking myself this question in many avenues. What's next on my queer journey? What's next in my spiritual journey? What's next in my new home of Raleigh, NC? I am elated to share that today I began to find some answers. While at GA, some of our team members and I ventured on over to an Emergent Church BBQ at Lake Nakomis Presbyterian Church. While at said BBQ I had a very brief but promising interaction with a very energetic man who I can only assume has adult ADHD. Before he was distracted by someone's pair of shoes, he told me about a worship community in the Raleigh area called The Emmaus Way. Once I had the chance, I looked them up and made the easy decision to check them out. Luckily for me, they gather on Sunday evenings. So after catching up on sleep (I didn't get out of bed until after 3 pm today...) I joined them in a time of worship and conversation. The theme, so to speak, of our gathering was that of both consolation and desolation. This really spoke to me and met me where I am right now after our time at GA. We were asked to respond to the questions: What has been a time of consolation for you? and What has been a time of desolation? I shared with my small group some of the times where consolation and desolation both stood alone and coincided while at General Assembly. I saw the Grace of God multiple times each day with our team as we gathered for reflection and for worship. I saw so much love and hope for our church. But I also saw times of desolation. Times when that hope felt lost. Times when I felt sadness and anger and hurt. But it didn't take long for that Grace to reappear as we continued to share time together. As we gathered for worship on our last day, we affirmed one another and our spirits were once again caught on fire. As I witnessed the Spirit shine brightly through each of us, my hope was overwhelmingly restored. As I joined The Emmaus Way this evening, I continued to be in a place of consolation. We also spoke on being in a place where a season, or a journey, has ended and a new one has begun. We spoke on how, when a new journey commences, we don't see all that is ahead and that can be frightening. How wonderful to hear a message that spoke to exactly where I find myself. Many of the songs that we sang together this evening really rang true and spoke to me. I'll share some of the lyrics with you now, in hopes that they will speak to you as well.

From "Leaving Seattle" by The Basics:
While the road up ahead is all curved and I'm frightened
At the way that the future will be
And somehow I know that there's fire in the telling
But the ending is hidden from me
The sounds are a silence, my tears are a dryness
That spring from the wasteland of lows
While each passing mile says I'm closer to home
I know there's further to go

From "The Long Defeat" by Sarah Groves:
And I pray for a vision and a way I cannot see
It's too heavy to carry and impossible to leave

And this next one especially reminded me of our team and our time together. (Though, parts of it may or may not be kind of cheesy...)
"Laugh My Beloved" by Peter Himmelman:
Laugh my beloved, wipe the teardrops from your eyes
Laugh my beloved, the sun is on the rise
Sing my beloved, for God is always good
Sing my beloved, that this may be understood
May you always remember the place from which you came
May God bring you blessings to flow from your new name
Laugh me beloved, may you always stay secure
Laugh my beloved, may your heart be clean and pure
Sing my beloved, for the day is sweet and long
Sing my beloved and may your life be like a song
Dance my beloved out in the autumn air
Dance my beloved with the wind rushing through your hair
May you always remember the place you're eternally bound
May God bring you blessing, even greater than the ones we've found
Laugh my beloved, so sweet my newborn one
Laugh my beloved, the journey has begun

What a blessing for me to have quickly found a new place of worship. A place that welcomed me with open arms and joyful greetings. And a place that will be using visual art in worship next week! And a place that has asked me to work with them in that vein! Woo Hoo!

Friday, July 9, 2010

So what has happened?

On GLBT issues, this year's GA is going to be on the books as a very mixed bag. On the one hand, we got the change to B out of GA and into the Presbyteries; the vote was 53% to 47%, so it barely got through. On the other hand, the only thing to come out of GA on marriage and civil unions were a couple of papers to be sent to our congregations to study, ignoring the clear pleas by our ministers from states where same-sex marriage is legal to give them some sort of guidance to do pastoral care, as well as the pleas from the GLBT community to recognize that our relationships are frequently more committed than straight relationships (I'm looking at you, Limbaugh!). On the future hand, GA as a whole has yet to vote on whether same sex partners of clergy should be included in Board of Pensions considerations or not.

Points to ponder so far:

Why is it that we were able to get really encouraging votes in committee (2 to 1 in favor, people!), but barely squeaked by on the floor when it came to ordination and got totally shut down on marriage and civil unions?

How are we going to get ordination through our presbyteries?

I overheard that this is the first time marriage has come up as an issue at GA; if that is a true statement, why haven't we brought it up before?

Is there any effective way for us to block the manipulations of Robert's Rules of Order that the conservatives used to shut down the marriage and civil unions debate, that we'd be willing to do out of our ethical position?

And those are just a few for starters; there will be more as GA wraps up and all of us have time to process what has gone down. Let us pray for our denomination as we attempt to move haltingly towards full inclusion . . .

It would seem that the movie viewings were a failure.

The conversations team had planed two showings of the film “Fish Out of Water.” We had been handing out fliers all week and encouraging individuals to attend. We had previewed the film before the showing, discussed what conversations we could have. At one point, we considered skyping the director in. It should have had the making of a great showing! The film is superb and shot enough to hold the audience’s attention. And offered room for discussion on all the text.

Too bad no one showed up. 11:45 came and went that afternoon, and all who were in attendance were the TAMFS team. “Bummer,” I thought, “but at least we’ll have more of a turnout this evening.”

So we got there early to set up for the evening showing: corn was popped, projector up, and chairs arranged. And then 9:15 came around and apart from the members of our team—only two individuals walked into the room; a young man and woman—no GA nametags, or iconic rainbow stoles. Come to find out, they had no idea there was a conference going on, they didn’t know about the drama unfolding next door, they had not even received a flier. Instead, the young guy named Micah and his friend Amanda had merely walked by the church as some point and seen the sign on the door, redirecting viewers to the rear entrance of the church. Later, their movie viewing at the park was called off due to rain, so they decided to check out the film at this church. Throughout the film, the two seemed quite receptive. After the movie we broke into smaller groups to discuss the film and learned a bit more about our guest.

Micah informed us that the film was one of his few experiences with Christianity. He was not a very religious person and said that he had always viewed the church as the primary opposition to GLBTQ rights. The movie served as not only a new look into scripture, but also as a new look into himself as he shared with us that he had come out just three weeks before. Micah explained that he had been feeling as though he had to relearn how to interact with the world around him and that his struggle had led to a different form of relationship with those he knew. He was still unsure as to how to approach these issues and begin to accept his sexuality. As we listened to him speak we realized that the movie had provided not only an unexpected opportunity for evening entertainment, but a means to further explore his journey and the beginning of a support system within community.

As we exited the church he said that he was feeling a little overwhelmed by the curiousness of the situation. Not only had he happened upon the movie, but as he entered the church he had also seen signs reading, “Welcome”, and one banner preparing for Soul Force’s Pray-In that cited a passage from Micah. Imagine, as he entered a church with an assumption of barriers to his newly shared identity he was greeted by signs that called out to his name specifically. There could be little explanation other than the presence of the spirit bringing the possibility of a loving home through our work. What an incredible way to reach out to a man searching for a place at a table.

Matthew Dimick and Kate Trigger

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fun Fact: Welcome (R)evolution team member Charles Wei was a baker before he started seminary. He and some other members of our team have been working hard to bake cookies and share them and some hot coffee with the folks here at General Assembly as guerrilla acts of hospitality in the spirit of the church we envision. After GA is over and you no longer have smiling TAMFS members to give you a cookie and a high five, you can use his recipes to remember us and maybe bring some radical love and hospitality to someone who needs it in your hometown.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
½ cups butter
½ cups brown sugar
¼ cup + 2 tbsp granulated white sugar
1 eggs
1/2 tsp Vanilla
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
¼ cup ground milk chocolate
1¼ cups flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
1 cups rolled oats, ½ cup ground
In a large bowl with a mixer at high speed, cream together the butter, the brown
sugar and the white sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla and continue mixing at high speed
until combined. Add the chocolate chips and the ground chocolate and mix on low speed
until combined. Sift the flour, baking soda and baking powder into the wet ingredients.
Add the oats and mix on low speed until combined.
Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees. For large cookies, measure out ½ cup of cookie
dough per cookie, less for smaller cookies. Flatten the cookie dough onto a cookie sheet
evenly until ½ inch thick. Allow 3 inches in between cookies for spreading. Bake until
the edges of the cookies just begin to firm and brown, about 15 minutes. Baking time will
vary depending on ovens and cookie size. The cookies will be very soft when they come
out of the oven.
Allow the cookies to cool for at least 7 minutes before attempting to remove them
from the cookie sheet. Gently lift the cookies off the cookie sheet with a large metal
spatula and let cool for at least another 5 minutes before serving.
20 ¼ cup cookies

Oatmeal Raisin
½ cups butter
½ cups brown sugar
¼ cup + 2 tbsp granulated white sugar
1 eggs
1/2 tsp Vanilla
½ cup raisins
1 cups + 2 tbsp flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
1 ½ cups rolled oats

20 ¼ cup cookies

½ cups butter, softened
½ cups vegetable shortening
1½ cups sugar
¼ tsp salt
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2½ cups flour
½ tsp cinnamon
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
In a large bowl with a mixer on high speed, cream together butter, vegetable
shortening and sugar. Add eggs & vanilla and mix just until combined. Sift together
flour, cinnamon, cream of tartar and baking soda and add to the butter mixture. Mix on
low speed until ingredients are combined, making sure to scrape down the sides. Do not
Pre-heat oven to 300°. Measure dough into 2 tbsp size balls and place on cookie
sheet 4 inches apart. Sprinkle with a combination of cinnamon & sugar and bake for
approximately 16 minutes. Baking times will vary based on individual ovens.
bake 300 degrees

½ cup cookies 20 mins
2 tbsp cookies 16 minutes

20 ¼ cup cookies

I Am Not Welcome To Lead At This Table

I'm going to be honest here. I cried a whole bunch on Monday night. We had invited our friends and allies here at General Assembly to worship with us in a service of broken communion to remind us all of the ways in which the Presbyterian Church (USA) continues to deny its gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender members the opportunity to serve the church authentically and openly and to highlight the importance of the work we're doing at General Assembly and throughout the year.

The service was led entirely by members of our team like me who are called to ordained ministry but are not able to serve openly because of our genders or sexualities. After each of us completed our portion of the service, we would announce, "Because of my gender or sexuality, I am not welcome to lead at this table," and leave the sanctuary. After each person left, the congregation responded in unison, "We feel your absence." Jeannine Oakes shared her moving testimony before the committee on church orders and ministry, Lisa Larges spoke about her statement of departure, and Alex McNeill provided a witness for the group.

After we sang "Amazing Grace," came my part in the service, and my tears. After announcing that I, too, was not welcome, I invited all others in the congregation who were not welcome to leave with me and join us for a vigil in the park across the street. Five or six of us left together. Shortly afterwards, the remainder of the congregation joined us and we celebrated Holy Communion. Standing in a circle of solidarity with my friends and allies painfully aware of the struggle in which we are all engaged, my tears dried and I was filled with a real sense of joy. I think it had something to do with the song we were singing: Over My Head.

As we sang, "Over my head, I hear music in the air, there must be a God somewhere," I was no less aware of, in James Taylor's words, the task that lies before us and the road that lies ahead. Added, though, was an awareness of the great gift that we have been given by God in the opportunity to live and work in such a beautiful community striving to transform the church through the power of love. And so I danced and I laughed and I clapped and I sang and I prayed and I continue to wait for the day in which I am welcome to lead at the table, but I did all of that with dry eyes.

Daniel Williams

Fish Out of Water

We'll be showing Fish Out of Water tonight at 9:15 at Wesley Church. This innovative film uses clever animation and interviews with theologians and biblical scholars to dissect the passages in Scripture used against LGBT folks. Watch the trailer below and we'll see you tonight for the film, a brief discussion, and, of course, free popcorn!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Good news, Everyone!

The Committee here at GA on Church Orders and Ministry have passed out of committee an overture to remove B, the section used as a club against GLBT candidates, and replaced it with appropriate language emphasizing that rigorous examination of candidates is appropriate and in order. Let us pray that General Assembly concurs with the committee and that the presbyteries do, too!
-Matt Voytek

Let's Move This Mountain Together

Welcome (R)evolution Team Member Jeannine Oakes testified before the Church Orders and Ministry Committee of the General Assembly yesterday in favor of open ordination standards. Here is the text of her testimony:

For several years I resisted my call to ordained ministry in this church because of the ordination standards in our constitution. I even thought about leaving the church to seek ordination in a more welcoming denomination.

But it was while I was interning with a UCC congregation that I realized that the Presbyterian Church is my home. I strongly believe that in order to fulfill my call I do not need to leave the church that I love and I am not alone in this struggle.

Never have I been in the presence of more qualified, passionate, and talented candidates for ministry than when I gather with gay candidates to minister to one another.

We have not left.

We are still here.

We are active in the mission and ministry of this church

This church still speaks to us.

Yesterday in worship we confessed: “You give yourself freely to us but we have held ourselves back from you and from others.” Friends, it’s time to stop holding Presbyterians back from their call in the church. The same Spirit that has called so many gay Presbyterians to ministry is calling us to live into full inclusion.

Yesterday in worship Bruce Reyes Chow urged us to consider the mountains we are making to tremble. Friends today, let’s move this mountain together.

Fun event a friend of TAMFS is doing!

Liberating The Artists in your Community (and yourself)

What if art was not about the product? What if it wasn't about being perfect or talented? What if it was about the process? What if art-making was a deeply nurturing spiritual practice that
invited you to participate in creation and reflection? Or a way of worshiping with your whole self, your head and heart, your hands and body?

Join us for a workshop and become the artist for the afternoon.

Join us for a moment of peace and reflection in the midst of a busy week. Liturgical Artist Shawna Bowman (and friend of the Welcome (R)evolution), painter in the GA opening worship, will lead us in a Spiritual Art Practice and share tips and information about creating art in and for worship. No experience in art is necessary and supplies will be provided!

Wednesday, July 7th from 4-6pm
In the Westminster Presbyterian Church courtyard

I Asked a Woman for a Cigarette

I asked a woman for a cigarette. It was just before the Fourth of July fireworks
and I was expecting our interaction to end right after she granted my request.
Aside from getting the cigarette I requested, the exact opposite happened.

This woman asked me when I realized that I was gay. I told her I had pretty
much always known. She told me that she herself had numerous lesbian sexual
experiences in her life and even had a long-term relationship with a woman
whom she deeply loved.

At this point in the conversation I was thinking I was speaking with an ally. I
couldn’t have been more wrong. She told me that one morning she woke up
and looked at her girlfriend and thought to herself “what am I doing?” She left
her girlfriend and ended up marrying the man who is now her husband. She had
three children whom she loves deeply. Had she not come to this realization,
she told me of how she would not have been blessed with her own biological
children. “God gave you the parts to make children… why don’t you want to use
them for that?” was the question she followed with. I could have used tons of
scientific terms, but I chose to just hear her out. I did, though, tell her that I had
been a sperm donor for a lesbian couple and that that would have been a way
for me to have a biological child. I didn’t get much of a response to that, but the
conversation just continued. She wondered why I wouldn’t consider changing
my sexual orientation. Basically, I find it hard to defend myself to someone who
claims to have “changed” their sexual orientation.

I took quite a bit away from this conversation, but the biggest thing I feel is that
God was telling me to stop smoking.

The Church Is In Good Hands

This morning, I stood in line to testify in the committee that will be voting on the ordination standards that currently exclude queer people from ministry in our church.

Broadening our ordination standards is hugely important to me. When I started seminary, I had no plans to fight this battle. I came close to leaving for the UCC, but each time I met Presbyterians, or went to a Presbyterian service, or as I learned about Presbyterian polity, I realized that this is my church, and I am a Presbo through and through.

As I stood in line, I heard some affirming and powerful testimonies, and I heard others that were filled with (self-)hatred and ignorance. I did my best not to listen to the painful stuff, as I was getting ready to speak, and instead I thought of my favorite place on earth -- the chapel at Union Seminary. I remembered feeling affirmed in my call to ministry, supported by my community, and I remembered some of my brilliant colleagues, who are also excluded from ordination.

I kept these friends on my heart as I stepped up to testify. I told the committee that I know some people are worried about the future of the church, but I could assure them that the church is in good hands. I know what passionate, talented, and Spirit-filled hands will lead our church into its future. But, I told them, so many of them -- of us -- are queer. Almost none of us look exactly like what we're used to. The church is in great hands, as long as we can trust God enough to ordain the leaders that God calls.

Kate LeFranc

Monday, July 5, 2010

Flash Mob time correction

The time to meet is 12:50 PM, not 1:50 PM. Hope to see you there!

I Stilt By Faith and Not By Sight

Here's something you may not know about stilts: When you're on them, you can't stop moving your feet. Not even for a couple seconds, or else you'll topple right over and getting back up will be a chore. Freddie and I spent the morning on 18" stilts having conversations with people and inviting them to our worship service tonight. And the number one question we were asked went along the lines of, "Why are you walking in place?" It came in just ahead of, "Is that as hard as it looks?" (The answer, by the way, is no, it's pretty easy once you get used to it. Here's a picture of me on my first day. My feet are a little more steady on the stilts today than they were on Friday!)

We started the morning hoping to hand out flyers inviting folks to our worship service, and we certainly did that and hope to have a great group of folks tonight, but we spent a good amount of time just wandering the exhibit hall, chatting with old friends and making new ones. When it came up, we'd explain to why we were here at GA and what our group does to promote justice and inclusion for our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender brothers and sisters, but, most importantly, we were living our vision of the church: engaged in conversation, focused on hospitality, not taking itself too seriously, and (perhaps most of all) imbued with a hearty dose of laughter and a sense of fun.

If you saw me today on stilts, please come say hi while I'm on the ground and we continue our conversation. If we didn't get a chance to chat today, keep an eye out - we'll be back!

Daniel Williams

Join Welcome (R)evolution tonight for worship!

9:15 pm
Wesley Church
101 Grant Ave (Right next to the Convention Center)

All are welcome!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Always wanted to be a part of a Flash Mob?

Always wanted to make the world just a little bit better, and just a bit more welcoming for LGBT folks?

Always wondered what it would be like to make a Presbyterian smile?

We thought so.

During the week of July 3-10, That All May Freely Serve, an organization working for fairness and equality in the Presbyterian Church will be initiating several Flash Mob events.

Join us at 12:50 pm every day this week, at the Wesley Church, 101 Grant Ave. next to the Convention Center in Minneapolis, to go over the plan and see who all wants to participate. Here's the breakdown of the week's Flash Mobs:

Monday: Freezing in place
Tuesday: High Fives!
Wednesday: Whistling/Humming
Thursday: Marriage Proposals
Friday: Word Scramble

For more info, email

Saturday, July 3, 2010

So. There was a plan to liveblog the Moderator's election (and plenary in general), but GA is remarkably unfriendly to social media, cutting off all internet access that isn't PC Biz in the hall. However, you can follow along as we tweet the ongoing discussion at !

Flash Mob Meeting Today

The Welcome (R)evolution will be flash mobbing throughout the week at
GA. Join us at 2:00 at Wesley Church for an informational meeting and
schedule. And keep your eye on this blog for details.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Breaking Bread, Breaking Chains

It was 9:45, probably close to hour twelve and a half of our work together for General Assembly...and it's only day TWO! We were blearly eyed and sweating from sitting in a stuffy, hot room trying to sort out details for the week's events. The last thing many of us probably wanted to do was worship. I know that sounds strange, but we were on a streak of busy days. Sometimes it seems appealing to open up our theology a bit wider, say that we don't need to "formally worship" to actually worship God, and then go on our merry way to something that seems more enjoyable. Come on, you've all thought that at least once in your life!

But worship we did. Centered around a spirit of fears and hopes, the worship team walked us through the emotions that fill us before the Assembly begins: "What are your fears for this week? What do you bring with you to the Table?" (And we'd love to head your answers to these questions in the comments!) As an ally, I am painfully aware of my privilege: married, ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) serving in a progressive, affirming congregation. At one point in our planning I stepped back and asked the group if they really thought I was the right person to preside over communion. Wouldn't they want someone lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer to serve at the Table? Wouldn't that embody our message more than me?! Could I really offer the message of an open Table when I, in fact, embody much of the privilege that so many people in the church do not have access to?

Power and privilege are not easy to bear. And so with the guidance of the worship team I approached the Table, I offered these words to our group: "Here, in God's Creation, there are no boundaries. God knows not of ordination standards, polity, ordination exams and yes, even the Book of Order. It's hard to believe, I know! This night we are all invited into the story of that Jesus' fateful evening..." We all joined in the story of Jesus' last meal with his disciples as the bread was broken and the cup poured out. We used our own words, stories, and memories to share in the narrative of God's story among us. To say that we are welcoming moves beyond the human made boundaries that we create. It is to say that we are uniquely called to be a part of the full body of the Church, one that calls and ordains each one of us to service in Creation. It says that we are not only welcome to the Table, but active participants in the life-giving meal that has been prepared for us.

by Larissa Kwong Abazia

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Devotional from team member Brandon Ward

Three more days! When Cindy asked me to write the devotion for today I realized that June 28th is three days before July 1st. We will all finally meet to begin our fun, exciting, and exhausting work at General Assembly in three more days. This brought me to think of all the important “threes” in the Bible. Most importantly, of course, the Triune God comes to mind right away. Our belief and prayers to God, our faith in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit working with us as we struggle toward an inclusive Church are the most significant “three” we will have guiding us and our work.

Threes exist all over the Bible: Noah’s three sons, Job’s three daughters, three day journeys, three month visits, Jesus’ three temptations by Satan (which appears in three of the four Gospels), Peter’s three denials of Jesus, and Jesus’ resurrection on the third day. Yes, three is a very significant Biblical number; yet with all the three’s I’ve listed, there is one set of “three” that really speaks toward why I am going to General Assembly.

1 Corinthians 13

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

We all know this passage well. Being in a string quartet and having performed at many wedding ceremonies, I have this passage nearly memorized word for word. Yet, it means so much to me that I think about it often. Faith and hope drive our work at GA toward an end we pray to achieve – acceptance and inclusion. Yet for me, love, as Paul said, is the greatest motivator. I want to love openly and happily and not be judged or excluded for loving. It seems so contradictory that loving someone, be it of the same sex or opposite, would keep a person from being allowed to do the work of God. How can love be a bad thing? My faith in Jesus led me to the Presbyterian Church which led me to TAMFS and the work we’re doing. I hope not only that LGBTQ people can be ordained, but that those who are ordained in the Presbyterian Church can perform wedding ceremonies of LGBTQ people as well. I hope to one day stand in my Church with the man I love and have my pastor perform the ceremony. This is why I’m going to GA - because I have faith in Jesus and the work we’re doing, I hope to achieve our goal, and we should all be free to love. See you all in three more days!

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Devotional from Matthew Dimick

There is something about the ABC salvation mentality that lead me to believe as a child that faith in God meant simply believing he existed. In some way or another, it's a mentality that i've carried with me to this day. Sort of this idea that faith in God didn't mean he had to be active or do much in particular--just be.

But God isn't inert, inactive, or disinterested. He is living, working, breathing life, and shaping the world. We don't place our faith in simply his existence, we place our faith in His active work.

1 Samuel 17 include the narrative of David and Goliath. The scene takes place in a valley with the Israelite army camped on one side and the Philistines on the other. The story is familiar: Goliath challenges the army, only the young David accepts, he slays the giant and victory ensues. But it's more than a children's story--it's a story about faith. Yes, the Israelites "believed" in a God, but only David, an errand boy, had the faith that God would prevail.

Here is where i meet this scripture: as an activist, as a social work student who aspires to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and as a member of a socially conservative church and family, sometimes i am burdened. I look back and i see all the failings, and the mistakes. I know the pain of the loss of marriage equality in CA, and i was there in Portland, Maine when activist, students, and all of us who went door to door--having those conversations--discovered we had lost equality. I look ahead and see how impending the challenge to equality and peace are. I know that the HIV infection and death rates are still increasing and far from plateauing. Do i fight because it's a fight that just needs to be fought? Or do i believe there is hope?

Not content to remain an errand boy as the battle wages on, as the enemy taunts--young and perhaps naive, i enter the battle.I know it will take miraculous work to get us though this. So i pick up my faith, in an active loving God, and i move forward, trusting He will prevail in all things.

This I commend to you as well.

-Matthew Dimick

A Devotion from team member Jeannine Oakes

I anticipate that the next few weeks will be a little like Advent and Lent for me. That may sound weird but hear me out. This is a period of waiting, longing, hoping for our time to meet one another and seek some radical change in the church we all love so dearly. As such, it feels a little like Advent to me and during Advent I like to add something to my daily routine. So I would encourage you all to add some spiritual practice, as brief as it may be over the next 2 weeks. I personally will spend 10 minutes in prayer every morning at 7am CST specifically for our TAMFS GA team and that our work at GA will be memorable and transformative. You are welcome to join me. I also plan on giving something up, thus making this journey a little like Lent, as a way of reminding myself of what is lacking in the church namely a love that transcends the binaries of gender and sexuality, a love that is so inclusive and welcoming that JC would smile down upon us. So I will be giving up desserts. By giving up sweet things these next two weeks I will be reminding myself of how sweet it will be to finally meet with you all in person to do God’s work for our beloved church. Blessings to you all as you prepare in your own ways for GA.

Jeannine Oakes

A Devotional from team member Kate Trigger

I suppose I should begin this devotional by making a confession. My name is Kate and I am a GA Junkie. My parents began dragging me to General Assembly at a very young age when they decided that was the appropriate thing for Louisville seminarians to do. I don't think they realized the addiction that they would instill into their child, perhaps they would advise some sort of rehabilitation program now, but alas here I am, arriving in Minneapolis on Wednesday. General Assembly for a child is not necessarily a bucket of fun. Sure, I was able to teach adults the macarena at the Witherspoon dance and find free pens throughout the exhibit hall, but all in all the dealings of committees and plenary sessions were not terribly appealing to a kid. Yet, here I stand as an adult returning once more. I have often been asked why I continue to come back well after my attendance was deemed necessary by my parents. As I walked through the halls of the San Jose Convention Center two years ago I kept coming back to that same question. By then I had found myself passionate about several of the issues coming to the assembly and was feeling frustrated by what seemed to be the constant tabling of overtures that I wanted to see passed NOW! I asked myself why I kept coming back to this place to fight these battles, why not take up with my home church or school, or why not even a secular national group? It was one thing that I witnessed in San Jose that provided my answer and led me to be writing to you all.

As I returned to the Convention Center in San Jose on one particularly sunny day I was greeted by a group of picketers. I had heard that they were coming and had been somewhat skeptical, as if these people would travel all this way just to hold a sign in front of us. Yet there they were with signs of hate and curses, enforcing a view of a God that not only disowns, but damns some of his/her own people. It was in my state of anger and confusion that I saw gather a group of people wearing rainbow stoles, people from TAMFS as well as other associations. Instead of fighting back, instead of making even a playful and somewhat taunting snarky remark, they surrounded the protesters and knelt in prayer. Each one connected to the person next to them, bowing their heads in front of people who would be happy to tell them they are hell-bound. It is then when I realized why I return. General Assembly has become a family reunion. We all gather, some family members closer than others, some distant relatives you've only heard of. Usually you meet one or two people that it turns out you should have met by now since you seem to know all the same people or go all the same places. Sure, there are some family members who don't agree with your views. Maybe there's a crazy aunt that you just can't seem to come to any sort of agreement with. But ultimately, we are all part of the same family. We will see it as we hold hands and bow our heads in prayer and as worshipers gather and committees break free. YAADs running around laughing despite voting differently in committee.

I share all this to hopefully quell some fears. We may be faced with what seems like unchristian behavior but it is important to remember as those in the prayer circle last assembly did, that we are all children of God bound together and chosen to be adopted into an infinite family. And with families comes love. (After all that is what we are fighting for isn't it? The right for all forms of love to be recognized!)

With the following scripture I wish you all a peaceful time until we see one another and a calm heart with which to approach the assembly. For those of you who are both new and old alike, this is your family too and I cannot wait to take all of our places at the table and hopefully remind the rest of God's children that this table is larger than we realize, large enough to fit each and every one of us and fill us all with love for one another and Christ.

1 John 4: 18-21:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears punishment has not been perfected in love. We love because God loved us first. If anyone says “I love God” and yet hates their fellow Christian, they are a liar, because the one who does not love their fellow Christian whom they have seen cannot love God whom they have not seen. And the commandment we have from God is this: that the one who loves God should love their fellow Christian too.

Meet Lisa Larges, TAMFS Organizer and Team Leader

So, hello, I’m Lisa, and I work here. Not here on this blog, but for That All May Freely Serve, the organization that thought it just might be fun to bring together a group of people and turn them loose at the 219th General Assembly, to practice hilarious feats of hospitality, and occasional provocations to laughter, and a totally earnest love for the church and for God’s people, just to see what could happen.

But, let’s refocus on me, for a minute. We thought we would use some of this blog real estate to introduce our team members, so, I agreed to try.

Me? I’m a lifelong Presbyterian, and a candidate for Ministry. I’ve been a candidate for Ministry since 1986, but that’s a whole ‘nother story!

I’m a member of Noe Valley Ministry, a lovely, eclectic, faith-seeking, justice-loving Presbyterian Church in San Francisco. Come visit!

More about me

Likes: San Francisco fog, the perfect 20 minute nap, history, old game shows, and people singing together.

Dislikes: funny movies that aren’t (they just infuriate me!) Cheerios – another long story, and not much else, really!

And, here’s the most important thing: I grew up in Minnesota, and I’m so excited that General Assembly is going to be in my home town.

Here’s the thing about Minnesota, from an insider’s point of view: people in Minnesota are really nice – in line at the grocery store, on the phone, stuck in traffic, at coffee hour – even if you wake one up suddenly in the middle of the night, a Minnesotan will be nice! “Minnesota Nice” it’s called. First they made it in to a joke – in that kind of self-deprecating way we have, then they started marketing it. You can get “Minnesota Nice” on T Shirts, and oven mitts, and coffee mugs and other stuff like that. Please don’t buy me any, ok? Thanks!

And here’s the thing about “Minnesota Nice.” I’ll admit it, I used to make fun of it; used to think it was artificial, and superficial, and co-dependent, and frankly annoying, which, sometimes it is. But, now that I’m an old lady, and now that it seems like the rest of the world is bent on being un-nice, I really appreciate some Minnesota Nice!

What I appreciate more than nice is “kind.” Kind is nice, but without the superficiality. You can have an open disagreement with someone, but still show deep generosity, caring, openness, and courtesy toward one another. So, if we can match “Minnesota Nice” with “Presbyterian Kindness,” I think it will be just about the best General Assembly ever!

But that’s just my opinion.

Have a nice day!

Hey, and thanks for reading!

~ Lisa Larges ~

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Welcome Revolution welcomes you to the table!

Stay tuned to this channel for more information coming soon . . .