by: Ange Concepcion
On October 8th in Madison, WI, Rev. Scott Anderson made history as the first openly gay Presbyterian minister following two decades since leaving the ministry after being outed by some of his congregation members.
In an interview with CNN, when asked why he believes the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) has demonstrated support for his ordination, Rev. Anderson stated:
“Our church is recognizing that there are a variety of viewpoints on scripture. There’s no longer a right viewpoint and a wrong viewpoint, but several faithful viewpoints… We’re honoring a diversity of viewpoints,” adding “Our church is a big tent and always had diverse views. This move symbolically expresses that to the wider culture.”
Back in May 2011, PCUSA’s governing body voted to change the church’s constitution regarding ordination of ministers from mandating fidelity in marriage between a man and woman or remain single and chaste to simply examining a candidates “calling, gifts, preparation and suitability for the responsibilities of the office.” Seems like a reasonable amendment – assess a candidate’s skills, abilities, and competency independent of whom they are attracted to. (List of presbyteries that voted for and against are found here).
Let’s give these folks an AMEN and perhaps a round at their local watering hole.
However, within weeks of Rev. Anderson’s ordination, members of the Fremont Presbytyrian Church of Sacramento voted 427-164 to leave PCUSA to join the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. The vote was under consideration for months by Fremont Presbyterian Church following PCUSA’s allowing ordination of gay ministers. Members that voiced concerns ranged from not enough consideration or research was done on Evangelical Presbyterian and leaving PCUSA is contradictory to the church’s supposed inclusiveness for all.
Rev. Donald Baird of Fremont Presbyterian had this to say: “Let me make it clear that Fremont didn’t leave the PCUSA, they left us.”
And let me make it clear that this pastor’s church touts the phrase “A place for you” on their homepage. It’s more likely “A place for you (only if you’re not gay!)”
Regardless what some congregation members in Fremont voted, either for or against, it’s apparent that both sides are hurt. Those voting to leave PCUSA are leaving a community they’ve known and “feel betrayed,” especially Fremont members that know nothing about Evangelical Presbyterian Church. And certainly for those voting against seceding may likely struggle with the limitations their church has placed on inclusiveness, and entertain the idea of moving to another church that most aligns with their values, while also leaving any close friends they have made.
I’m not saying I agree with those that voted to seceded — because I definitely don’t. The vote signifies a few not so new or surprising ideas: alienating allys and gay (perhaps closeted) members, damaging relationships within the church, and misinterpreting scriptures that further cause pain, loneliness, confusion, and lowered-self esteem for LGBTQ folks.
Ange Concepcion is a Chicago native and is currently a college student affairs specialist. Ange studied Physics at Loyola University Chicago and went on to receive her master’s in Higher Education Administration from Northwestern University. Her thesis summary regarding LGB Christian college student identity expression and reconciliation was featured in the 2011 National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) GLBT Knowledge Community Research Briefs. In addition to playing Weezer covers, Ange enjoys facilitating guided meditations, swimming, New England clam chowder, playing word games (Bananagrams/Words with Friends), and cooking/pestering her wonderful husband.