Letter: To Colleagues in Ministry in favor of Amendment 14-F

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Friends in ministry:

I’m sure you’re aware that at tomorrow’s meeting of Heartland Presbytery, we’ll be voting on a number of proposed amendments to the Book of Order, including the amendment to the Directory for Worship that started here, in Heartland. That amendment, 14-F, if ratified by a majority of the presbyteries, would replace sections of W-4.9000 on Marriage.

It is true that the General Assembly this summer issued an Authoritative Interpretation (AI) on a conflict in our constitution: where the current W-4.9000 was in tension with other provisions on pastoral care and membership, and created an untenable situation for pastors who reside in states where civil marriage is open to LGBT couples, where those couples seek to have the church and its Ministers of Word and Sacrament celebrate their Christian Marriages.

For me, the AI was welcome news. It is more so, now that Kansas City is newly a place where these loving couples can now lawfully marry, and, because of the AI, I am able to minister to any one who comes to me with such a request. And it is welcome news to the church I serve, the Kirk, where our session has expressed a desire to be consistent in our inclusive theology, to not treat LGBT couples any differently than others who come to us.

But the AI, as welcome as it was, was not sufficient. Even with the General Assembly declaring a way beyond the constitutional conflict, the language still remains. Not only that, the existing language of W-4.9000 is no longer factually accurate (in that, in 33 states and counting, marriage is no longer a “civil contract between a man and a woman.”), nor is it truly consistent with what I believe is the heart of the reformed tradition: God’s inclusive love at the center of a covenant of grace that marks a married life, as blessed within the faith community.

(See, for more information, this helpful summary from the Covenant Network on what 14-F would and would not do, with links to additional resources)

For these reasons, I am personally interested in the possibilities that open up if 14-F is ratified. Its language is much stronger. It maintains space for those who disagree, with explicit protections for those who faithfully understand human sexuality differently than I do. It also brings with it the possibility to be clear to the world that LGBT couples, or LGBT children of our congregants, may find the PCUSA to be a place of blessing and hope for them, too.

And to that end, I want to encourage you* to attend the meeting tomorrow and to prayerfully consider supporting the amendment, as you seek to discern the mind of Christ for the church. For those of you in church settings, it is also important that, in so far as possible, your ruling elder commissioners are able to join the meeting for these deliberations and votes as well.

I’ve not taken to this sort of communication before, but I am particularly committed to this. I seek a church where those who see us will see God’s love and welcome at the forefront of what we do, in how we seek to be Christ’s hands and feet to the world. Regardless of how you yourself end up in your discernment, thank you for considering my encouragement, and know that I am grateful to call you all colleagues and friends.

Peace to you in Christ,
The Rev. Chad Andrew Herring

 

*you, in this instance, refers to members of Heartland Presbytery, my fellow minister colleagues in this particular council of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Photo: Couple married in Jackson County, Missouri, on November 14, 2014, by the Rev. Chase Peeples (UCC). Photo shared on the ShowMeMarriage facebook page here.

 

Sermon: All Together–Today and Tomorrow, The Body of Christ

2014 11 16 All Together – Today & Tomorrow, The Body of Christ from John Knox Kirk on Vimeo.

A sermon preached at John Knox Kirk of Kansas City, Missouri, on November 16, 2014.

Genesis 1:27-31
and 1 Corinthians 12:4-27
(Click above link for the Scripture texts upon which this sermon is based)

Editorial note: I’m working on correcting spacing issues. Thank you for your patience in the meantime.

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Sometimes the stories I come across make me pause for a minute.

Take, for instance, this story from Tony Campolo I read this week:

Tony tells about the time when his son, Bart, was nine years old,
and Tony took Bart to Disneyland in California.

Nowadays, there’s a huge general admission…” Tony explains…
“But back in the old days
you bought tickets for the rides you wanted to enjoy.

At the end of the day, as we were leaving,
little Bart turned to me and said,

“I want one more ride on Space Mountain!”
I told him we were out of tickets, you see,
and out of time too…
Bart responded, “But, but, Jesus wants me to go!”
Intrigued by his theological claim to be able to read the mind of God,
I asked where he got such an idea.
He responded, “From you!
Sunday, when you were preaching, you said that whenever we cry,
Jesus cries.
You said that He feels everything we feel.
Well, if that’s true,
then when I’m having a really happy time on the roller coaster,
He’s really enjoying Himself too!

So I KNOW He wants me to have one more ride on space mountain…!”

///
I know you might get a chuckle out of that, but it is a big CAUTION sign to me,
reading that this week,
particularly as my kids start getting older, wiser,
more nuanced with their arguments with their mommy and their daddy.
I’ll have to be more careful in what I say.
Compolo, however, seems to think that this is good theology:

“I am convinced…” he says, pondering this a little bit….
“…that God so empathizes with us
that our emotions are experienced by Him.
One of the reasons God sent His Son into the world was because,
in feeling the pain and sorrow of our lives so acutely,
[God] wanted us to be relieved of them,
so that [God] could be relieved of them…
No wonder Jesus said, “I have come that my Joy might be in you,
and that your Joy might be full…”

“And by the way,” he concludes,
“Bart did get another ride on Space Mountain…”[i]

///
I marvel at the God who is at the heart of our faith:
this gift giving
love seeking
heart opening God.

This God who challenges and nurtures and creates and heals.
That God. The God of rollercoasters and of incarnation.

Sure, this is Pledge Dedication Sunday, or Community Celebration Day
if you want another way to think about it,
the day we wrap up our specific focus on Stewardship
and begin to get our heads around Thanksgiving
and even Advent.
But if there’s anything that I hope you’ve heard during this stewardship season
its that stewardship isn’t a season specific thing.

Stewardship isn’t about money. Not Really.
Financial gifts are important, sure, essential even,
if we’re going to have a place to call church and some funds to work with
But Stewardship isn’t ABOUT that.

This isn’t a NPR pitch week where we’re seeking matching grants.
The church isn’t a good cause that seeks a few dollars of support
and then invites you to go on your merry way.

Stewardship is all about our relationship with God.
That God: the gift giving, love seeking, heart opening God.

The God who loves you. You.
The God who created you with the image of God inside of you,
who filled you with the very breath of God, the ruach of God
and set you free to care for all things God created.

Lest we get hung up with the reading from Genesis
with its language of dominion over and subdue
just a few short words later,
God clarifies that: the earth creature is to till the creation
to keep it, to tend and to care.

And it is from THAT language, keeping and tending all that God has created
the world God has blessed us with
that we get our idea of stewardship.

Stewardship: all about our relationship with God.
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