From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Church Leaders React to Call For "Sabbatical"
PCUSA NEWS <firstname.lastname@example.org>
12 Jun 1998 20:10:19
Reply-To: wfn-news list <email@example.com>
Church Leaders React to Call For
"Sabbatical" on Ordination Standards
by Julian Shipp
LOUISVILLE, Ky.-Reactions from church leaders vary widely regarding the
recent call for a denomination-wide sabbatical on issues of human sexuality
and ordination by six church leaders, including the stated clerk of the
The "Call to Sabbatical" was issued May 19 by leaders of the
Presbyterian Coalition and the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, who were
invited by General Assembly stated clerk the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick to
find a word to speak on the issue of sexuality and ordination (see the May
29, 1998, edition of "NEWS BRIEFS," issue No. 9816).
The statement was signed by the stated clerk and by the Rev. John
Buchanan, co-moderator, Covenant Network of Presbyterians; the Rev. John
Galloway of Wayne, Pa., pastor of Wayne Presbyterian Church; the Rev. Jack
Haberer, moderator of the Presbyterian Coalition; the Rev. Roberta
Hestenes, moderator, Human Sexuality Committee, 208th General Assembly
(1996); and the Rev. Laird Stuart, moderator, "Book of Order" Committee,
209th General Assembly (1997).
The 1996 General Assembly approved Amendment B - the commonly called
"fidelity and chastity" amendment - which became G-6.0106b when the
presbyteries voted to ratify it last year. The 1997 General Assembly
approved Amendment A - the commonly called "fidelity and integrity"
amendment - which was soundly defeated by the presbyteries as a proposed
revision of G-6.0106b.
The only action submitted to this year's Assembly related to the
content of G-6.0106b - from Milwaukee Presbytery - calls for its deletion
from the "Book of Order."
"This movement is not going on sabbatical," commented Laurene
Lafontaine, co-moderator of Presbyterians for Lesbian and Gay Concerns
(PLGC). "There is simply too much at stake in the lives of gay, lesbian,
bisexual and transgender Presbyterians and their families for us to even
think about backing off from this long-term struggle for justice."
Scott Anderson, also co-moderator of PLGC, pointed out that the process
used for developing the "Call to Sabbatical" did not include any
representatives from the individuals or groups most impacted by the
statement. "It feels very patronizing to us that heterosexual leaders are
meeting to decide what's best for gay and lesbian Presbyterians," Anderson
said. "The `Call to Sabbatical' will make many of our people feel
disempowered, driving more faithful Presbyterians to leave the
But others, such as the Rev. Joe Rightmyer, executive director of
Presbyterians for Renewal, essentially concur with the "Call to
"Basically we are in agreement that the idea of a sabbatical,
especially for this year's Assembly, in regard to any further overtures
having to do with ordination or dealing with any changes or alterations to
the substance of Amendment B, is a good idea," Rightmyer said.
"Our understanding of the sabbatical does not preclude responsibility
under our constitution that blatant violations of our constitution must be
addressed for the sake of the unity of the church as well as the
sabbatical," Rightmyer said. "And the two are not mutually exclusive."
Rightmyer said he believes the sabbatical is needed because "the entire
denomination is weary of the kind of effort and cost that's required from
dealing with such constitutional changes." He said the PC(USA) has voted
twice now on the ordination issue and "the majority believe the matter has
"We need to practice good Presbyterian polity and let the majority rule
and test the results for a period of time," Rightmyer said.
Dick Lundy, co-moderator of the More Light Churches Network (MLCN),
said that the "Call to Sabbatical" is rooted in fear and a basic distrust
of the Presbyterian form of government.
"Our foremothers and forefathers designed a system of church
government that allows people who disagree with the policies of the
Presbyterian Church to petition our legislative bodies and courts for
redress. Why can't we trust this process to work?" Lundy said, pledging
PLGC and MLCN will continue to bring overtures to the General Assembly
calling for a change in church policy "until the church changes its mind."
The Rev. Parker T. Williamson, executive director of the Presbyterian
Lay Committee, agreed to comment with the understanding that his remarks
represented his personal beliefs only, and not necessarily those of the Lay
Committee. "While I have the highest respect for my two colleagues and
friends, Jack Haberer and Roberta Hestenes, I do not believe that the `Call
to Sabbatical' is a helpful statement for the Presbyterian Church
(U.S.A.)," Williamson said.
Williamson said he believes the statement is open to a variety of
interpretations, complicated by the fact that it now appears the
signatories themselves differ significantly in what they mean by it.
"I do not believe that an ambiguous statement, capable of multiple
interpretations, gives this denomination any clear guidance as to how it
should proceed," Williamson said. "The church has clearly spoken in its
constitutional document, and as Presbyterians we are obliged to uphold and
obey the constitution. Suggestions that the implementation or enforcement
of sections of the constitution is negotiable are not helpful to the
Eugene TeSelle, president of the Witherspoon Society Executive
Committee, expressed "deep regret" over the statement.
"Although the words of this `Call' are beautifully crafted, they serve
to endorse and perpetuate an unjust church system which excludes
Presbyterian gays and lesbians from official leadership roles," TeSelle
said. "These issues will not go away. It may well be that governing bodies
and judicial commissions will find new ways to resolve our current
disputes, and we do not want to stifle that process. Those issuing this
`Call' want peace, as do we. But we would all do well to remember another
call made familiar during the civil rights era: "If you want peace, work
This note sent by PCUSA NEWS
to the wfn-news list <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Send unsubscribe requests to email@example.com
Browse month . . .
Browse month (sort by Source) . . .
Advanced Search & Browse . . .