I was sitting in a pew at St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church while the soon to be Reverend John Russell Stanger preached the gospel during our MLP National Conference opening worship service, and suddenly I saw it all so clearly: this conference, and those gathered there embodied the past, present, and future of More Light Presbyterians. Or to put it another way, those gathered and the conference itself represented the foundation, the current context, and the future for where MLP is going. Best of all, none of these dynamics felt in tension with one another, but were rather woven together to create one beautiful fabric.
I had the honor of experiencing the foundation of MLP through people I met who have journeyed with More Light since our beginning, when we were but a handful of congregations spread across the country. I experienced it throughout the conference as our spiritual dedication to discerning prophetic answers to complex questions confronting the church. I experienced it as a commitment to lifting up a diversity of voices within the movement: young, old, straight, gay, queer, and transgender, white, black, asian and latino.
I witnessed the present crisis facing our denomination and country in our conversations around how best to move forward on the freedom to marry for all loving and committed couples in the PC (USA). I saw it in our workshops on ending the criminalization of persons living with HIV, on how our churches can best serve aging LGBTQ seniors, and in our plenary on giving sanctuary for immigrants at the border in Arizona. We came together to discuss, plan, and share wisdom on how our churches can be places of healing for the stigma, bad policies, and structural inequalities facing our world.
Ultimately, I saw a vision for what MLP was becoming, rooted in what we have always been: a home for people deeply committed to transformation in our denomination and communities. Time and again, I was moved by how many of us came to the table, not seeking solutions but transformation. Our conference theme was “for you were once strangers yourselves” and we came together burning with the knowledge that because we were once strangers, we have a responsibility to draw the circle wide for others to be known.
In John Russell Stanger and Nicole Garcia’s sermons we learned that because we were once strangers, we are called put ourselves in other people’s shoes, even those who disagree with us. Yes, we were once the good Samaritan, but we have also been the robbers, thieves, Priests and Levites, but “thank God we’re like that” because it also means that “though we never get it entirely right, we are held in Divine love all the way through it.” We are invited to bring the knowledge of our goodness as LGBTQ people to the PC (USA) while also seeking to welcome our sisters and brothers who have not seen More Light and disagree with us. This journey is possible by acknowledging that on all matters, no one is entirely right and no one is entirely wrong, but everyone is held in love by God.
I believe it is this grounding that provides us with a glimpse of our future. Whether we are building an inclusive church, having sacred conversations on marriage, or discerning where the Spirit is leading us next, if we stay centered on the knowledge that we were once strangers ourselves and attuned to the responsibility it carries, I know we will continue to do God’s work in our denomination and beyond. Praise be to God for all whom I met who are seeking to live out this calling.
Yours on the journey,