Southern New England Presbytery has championed LGBT people in the PC(USA) but it has often been a contentious undertaking. This is the Presbytery of the Osborne case in the late 90s, and actions on the floor of presbytery have often been harsh and divisive. There are two More Light Churches and several welcoming and affirming churches in the presbytery and our friends in Presbyterian Promise have done very good work there over the years.
Two weeks ago, Margaret Fox, a Yale Divinity School and Yale Law School student under care of First Presbyterian Church, New Haven, a More Light Church, was unanimously approved for candidate status, after publicly coming out as a lesbian on the floor of presbytery. We give thanks to God for the movement the of spirit in this new day, and are grateful to Margaret for sharing her reflections on that day with the MLP family.
From Margaret Fox
On Saturday, November 17, I became the first openly gay candidate for ordination in the Presbytery of Southern New England. While I’m thrilled to become a candidate, I’m aware it’s only one step in a much longer process. But something about it felt remarkable, and I think that had to do not so much with what I said but about how I was received: with warmth and welcome and what felt like love.
A lot of people and a lot of organizations have worked hard for years to open up ordination standards to LGBT candidates. And thanks to their efforts, the passage of 10A made it possible for me to come out on the floor of Presbytery, to be open and honest about who I am.
I was able to tell the story of how I first became attracted to religion. My senior year of college, I fell head over heels in love with the stained glass windows of French Gothic cathedrals. These brightly colored panels told the stories of scripture in comic book form, and I became obsessed with the iconography and the allegory that would help me to decode them. In the thirteenth century, these windows were Bibles for the poor, and for me, they served as an introduction to the stories of scripture.
I hadn’t been raised in a religious family, and so I got to read the Bible for the first time as a young adult. And what I found so compelling about it, what really drew me in, was the humanness of the human characters it described. The previous year I had come out of the closet, and it had been quite a struggle for me to come to terms with the fact that being gay was something I needed to accept rather than try to deny. I read about fugitive Jonah, reluctant Moses, impatient Job. I saw something recognizable in the characters of scripture who were really struggling with the way that God had made them or with what God was asking them to do.
I told this story on the floor of Presbytery, with honesty about the ways in which my sexuality was connected to my faith. And then I stopped talking about how I came out as gay and started talking about how I came out as Christian. The story I told was a story of being received and welcomed into a particular congregation—First Presbyterian Church in New Haven—and of finding there a community where I could grow in the faith. It was a story of encountering other Christians—worshiping in New Haven, studying at Yale, and even playing Presbyterian kickball in Louisville, Kentucky. I told a story of coming to belong to a Christian community that embraced me as I was and didn’t make a big deal about who I happen to like.
I came to faith and am beginning the process of ordination as an out gay adult, and I think the remarkable thing about my story is not that I’ve overcome opposition to get here, but that I haven’t encountered opposition at all. I haven’t been rejected or shunned based on my orientation. I recognize that it hasn’t been this way for many others in the PC(USA), and it continues to be a hard road in many Presbyteries. But it felt amazing to experience Christian welcome in this way. It gives me great hope for the future of our church.