After so many years of hard fight and struggle, it was an honor to be part of the Presbyterian Church’s new day – a day when we are not fighting about sexuality.
That day was Saturday, May 3rd, 2014. Heartland Presbytery voted to approve my wife for ordination and approved me for transfer of membership. What made that day so amazing was not that Karen and I were approved. What made this day so amazing is that we were treated like everyone else. There were no questions about our sexuality. No one wondered about our marriage and its legality in the church. And no one insinuated that because we were married we might not abide by the Book of Order.
Saturday was the church at its best!
They asked about where in the presbytery we would use our gifts for ministry. One pastor even asked a joking question about whether Karen liked Kansas City BBQ or not. And most importantly Karen and I told our stories.
It was also on Saturday that I learned how many people and how many conversations happened to make Saturday the day God intended it to be. Our pastor took the time to prep us in case questions about our sexuality came up. The Committee on Ministry talked amongst themselves about making sure Karen and I were prepared. Rev. Heidi Peterson, Rev. Brian Ellison and Rev. Jeff Clayton worked with Karen and me to strategize so that we would be prepared. Plus there were countless conversations that I don’t even know about.
Some of those conversations, I learned, happened decades before as I heard the story of Merrill Proudfoot – an ordained PC(USA) pastor in Heartland Presbytery who was gay and served the church for over 40 years. It was a gift upon his death that allowed for Dr. Michael Adee to merge Presbyterians for Lesbian and Gay Concerns with another organization to create More Light Presbyterians.
And I heard the story of Martha Juillerat, an ordained PC (USA) pastor who in 1994 asked Heartland Presbytery to set aside her ordination. Prior to this meeting she asked for stoles to represent all the LGBT people who could not serve as pastors, or were only able to serve because they were closeted. She asked for a dozen and received over 80. This was the beginning of the Shower of Stoles.
I believe Rev. Heidi Peterson expresses it so well when she says, “There are a lot people in the larger conversation who have faded into the background, some still living, many dead, who are quietly smiling and to whom I wish I could say, “Thank you for Saturday.” I agree Heidi, there are so many that I do not know – that all I can say is – Thank you!
It is clear Heartland Presbytery was ready to ordain an out and open lesbian. Heartland Presbytery was ready to admit into membership their first openly out, gay clergy couple to membership. And Heartland Presbytery was ready to make it the most welcoming, smile-filled day it could be.
For this – praise be to God!!
Rev. Sally S. Wright serves on the MLP Editorial Board. She is ordained in Presbyterian Church (USA) to the validated ministry of chaplaincy. She received her Masters of Divinity from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in 2012 and currently serves as a hospice chaplain in Kansas City, MO. Sally has worked with another non-profit for the past two years and is excited to begin working with More Light as well. She and her wife have recently celebrated their first year of legal marriage and have a Yorkshire Terrier named Tilly.
Her posts can be found here.
Sally writes, “After so many years of hard fight and struggle, it was an honor to be part of the Presbyterian Church’s new day – a day when we are not fighting about sexuality.” I am not sure what she means when she writes and say, “we are not fighting about sexuality.” The statistics tell us that the majority of Presbyterian members who sit in our pews still believe that homosexuality is not of the Lord and that same-sex marriage is wrong. Having been to 17 GAs I suspect there will be many in Detroit who will not affirm homosexual expression.