Presbyterian Church in America

Open Wide Our Doors: Bringing Hope to The Presbyterian Church (USA)

by Alex Patchin McNeill

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. (Revelation 3:20)

I know you know this feeling—the feeling of banging fists on a door when no one will open it. In the Presbyterian Church (USA) we lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) folks were, for years, outside knocking. I was comfortable with that identity.

If we couldn’t be in full community within our denomination, at least we could find community on the margins.

And then suddenly the world began to change. The PC(USA) passed Amendment 10A—the first step to allowing gay and lesbian clergy in our denomination. We gave thanks to God and worked for ratification one presbytery at a time until, in July of 2011, lesbian and gay clergy were officially accepted in our denomination.

I remember having a strangely disorienting feeling when the news broke. The question had suddenly shifted from “What will you do since you can’t get ordained” to “What will you do when you get ordained.” It was mind-boggling to know I could actually be a minister; we could actually work within the church that we loved so much.

Quite without realizing it, my whole posture shifted. I wasn’t pounding on the door anymore; instead, the door had swung open.

Now, at the 221st General Assembly, we have hope that the commissioners will open the door even wider.

This week, the commissioners will decide whether to allow all clergy to bless the marriages of same-sex couples, and they’ll consider taking the first big step toward updating our denomination’s constitution so that the sacred covenants entered into by Presbyterians who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) will be considered marriages and blessed by the church.

For people of faith, marriage is a public witness to our love for our spouses and our love for God. This public witness is vital to the life of every congregation. I was reminded of the importance of a public witness last weekend, when I marched in the Washington, DC, Pride Parade with the More Light DC area chapter, called “Open Doors.”

Our group of about 30 people from at least five MLP congregations wore rainbow colored shirts bearing the More Light logo and a slogan proclaiming: “It’s all about love.” But the award for the most fabulous outfit belonged to MLP board member Rev. Robin White who wore her black clergy collar and shirt under rainbow suspenders, with shorts and converse shoes with rainbow laces.

As we waited for the parade to begin, Rev. Robin told me it was the first time she had worn her clergy collar in a Pride Parade.

Together, we wondered how the crowd would react to our little rainbow band of faithful Presbyterians. As the parade marshals ushered us forward to begin the parade route, I felt my shoulders hunch and my posture contract as I braced myself to face whatever kind of crowd might greet us walking through  the streets of DC.

I knew all too well the legacy of hurt that the wider Christian church has wrought on the lives of so many who gather at our Pride Parades. Would we be accepted in our own hometown?

I was standing next to Rev. Robin in her amazing accentuated clergy garb when the first part of the crowds saw her. As our group rounded the corner into the parade, the crowds caught a glimpse of Robin, a clear sign of a clergy member who was openly lesbian and a representation of a Church who loved and accepted all God’s creation. The crowds went wild.

Hands reached over the parade partitions to shake, high-five, and hug Rev. Robin in her rainbow attire.

Some people cried, others screamed “thank you!,” and more people clapped and cheered as the Spirit overtook our group and created church in the streets as the folks gathered for the parade recognized that as we passed they too were named, claimed, and welcomed by God in this space.

I stood tall. And as we walked the parade route I realized that we have a new posture in the world. We have taken our stand at the door for decades, and now we are called to take a stand for hope. We are called to be hope evangelists, those who bring hope to ones who thought they were lost by God and could not be found.

We are called to bring hope to a denomination so tormented by division that it wonders if it can even stand. We are called to bring hope to congregations that are ready to try something new. We are called to bring the good news to all people that God’s love is wider than we can ever imagine.

We aren’t naming something that is foretold, we are ushering in a welcome that is already here.

In this time, at this General Assembly, in the years ahead we are called to reclaim a posture of evangelism as we continue to spread the gospel of inclusion as we welcome one person, one community, one denomination at a time.

This week, one denomination will vote on our lives. These votes are not just about Presbyterians: America is at the tipping point of making same-sex marriage legal coast-to-coast. This could be a moment of spiritual transformation for the denomination and the whole country.

The door is unlocked and opening. Let’s walk through it together and build a church, and a world, that reflects God’s heart.

Follow More Light Presbyterians for updates this week from #GA221.

Photo via Felicity Thompson

Editor’s Update: On June 19th, with a vote of 429 to 175, the Presbyterian Church (USA) approved the language about marriage to change from a “man and a woman” to “two persons” in the PC(USA) constitution.


Comments (1)

Lonnie Walker

I’m so happy that the
I’m so happy that the Presbyterian church has reached this decision. I was raised as a Baptist and later left the church because of the homophobia I experienced. It means so much to be accepted and acknowledged by the church and this decision was my deciding factor on returning to church.Come Sunday morning I plan on being back in church with a renewed faith…God bless 🙂

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