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Two decades ago someone like me wasn’t allowed to serve in the U.S. military openly, so after eight years of service, I left. Back then someone like Derrick wasn’t allowed to openly serve as a deacon, elder, or minister in the Presbyterian Church USA, so he joined a congregation that fought against that ban. That congregation, the First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto, had a long history of working for peace and social justice. Along with fully accepting Derrick and me for who we were, the people there also introduced us to the power of nonviolent resistance against injustice in all its forms, and opened our eyes to the many ways we were called to make the world a better place. By truly embracing us as individuals AND as a couple, they also set us on a path to where we are today.

It is 2011 and gays and lesbians can serve in the military and in the Presbyterian Church USA. My prayer is that my GLBTQ sisters and brothers, and all of the allies who have tirelessly worked for inclusion, will celebrate these victories and then join the global quest for peace, justice, and equality.

About the Presbyterian Church’s Decision

Today is a day of great celebration for Presbyterians who have fought for decades to fully open the Church’s doors to all who feel called to serve, regardless of their sexual orientation. A year ago, the denomination’s General Assembly passed an amendment to the PCUSA’s Book of Order (similar to a constitution), removing language that had restricted ordination to celibate singles and married heterosexuals. The amendment then had to be ratified by a majority of presbyteries (regional governing bodies made up of “commissioners” from church’s within that region) across the country. On Tuesday of this week the amendment passed that tipping point when the Twin Cities Presbytery voted to affirm it.

Congregations can now decide whom they wish to call as deacons and elders, discerning their fitness for service based on each individual’s gifts and experience, and guided by the scriptures, historic confessions, and other guidelines established by the denomination. Presbyteries have final decisions on ministers being called to serve in a particular congregation.

Lest you think that the Presbyterian Church is departing from hundreds of years of tradition in this decision, it should be noted that it was only 14 years ago when the restrictive language against gays was added to that same Book of Order. Today the majority decided to reverse that injustice by removing that language and replacing it with:

Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life. The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation. Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.

Now What?

This Sunday all those who have been called to ordained service in our congregation will get to answer the PCUSA’s constitutional questions with their loved ones by their side. I’ll be next to my husband Derrick, smiling from ear to ear. This has been a long, hard struggle, yet throughout that struggle we were always totally accepted and embraced by our congregation and thousands of other Presbyterians who have been working to right this wrong. It is also Confirmation Sunday in our church, when a new generation of young people will be invited to join the church. This class, for the first time in decades, will be welcomed into a denomination that no longer automatically excludes people based on their sexual orientation.

Jesus was pretty clear about how he felt when someone tried to keep children from approaching him. A giant stop sign has now been removed from the doorways of Presbyterian churches across the country, as they’ve also been removed from other protestant denominations. Now GLBTQ people who feel called to enter those doors can do so. And what a wonderful world it would be if all of us could do as Jesus told us, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the widows and orphans, and like Jesus, had the courage to speak truth to power. As a Jew I’m also guided by the 1st century prophet Micah who summed up the entire Torah with three simple rules: Do Justice, Love Kindness and Walk Humbly with God.

So my friends, here’s the deal. We’re here, we’re queer, and we’ve got a lot of work to do. Let’s get to it!

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