Overture 11-12 Affirming and Celebrating the Full Dignity and Humanity of
People of All Gender Identities
Overture Advocate Statement
Rev. Holly Clark-Porter
Hers. His. Theirs. These are the singular, plural pronouns to whom the Kindom of God belongs. It belongs to him, who grew up wearing skirts. To her who recently learned how to build cabinets after getting a manicure. To them who have a child with blonde, curly hair. These are the folx we’re here to lift up today, people who have asked the Church to do what she or perhaps they are supposed to do, to lead the people towards God’s Word, a Word that in Galations allows us to become neither slave nor free, neither Greek nor Jew, neither male nor female. Now, that’s actually Biblical.
I know, I know, I’m messing with your grammar. But can you imagine the way people felt when Paul said, you’re no longer Jews? And, those people over there, are no longer Greeks? And, they aren’t going to assimilate to your culture. Instead together y’all—all y’all will become a new culture? Well, God’s Word is knocking yet again asking us to find a new way of being together, dismantling what we once knew and instead forming and forging new ways together.
My name is Holly Clark-Porter and I’m a lesbian pastor serving in the burbs of Wilmington, DE. We’ve come here to ask that you move overture 11-12 forward so that our denomination can be bold in our proclamation that all gender identities not only belong in our Church but enrich the Church as well. Yes, we have passed polity around LGBTQ plus people, and I’m grateful. But, this overture will give our church the opportunity to not just say all our siblings are allowed; but that he, she, they are wanted, indeed needed as this denomination preaches, teaches, prays, and learns.
My wife and I moved from Texas to Delaware and it was a huge change. We relished in our open and affirming presbytery, the presbytery who brings you this overture. In our new surroundings, we were no longer simply allowed but wanted and needed. But, even our rainbow presbytery, even I, need to do some work on understanding and celebrating trans lives in the church. For instance, my presbytery sent me, a lesbian, to talk about transgender identity. To many in my presbytery, I’m same same but different. But in reality, there are so many experiences and pain and joy that I’ll never truly grasp about my trans siblings, and that is why it is so important to have this specific overture.
We want to be specific to this group because if we just put all of us together, we’re as guilty as the Galatians in ignoring the part where our baptism demands that we wade in the water sifting through and discovering the gifts and treasures of the ever-changing river.
A couple weeks ago at a presbytery meeting, a guy told me he was “okay with me and all” but why did we have to start talking about this other stuff. He then lamented that the church just doesn’t look like the church he once knew. To which I said, probably too quickly, “then you’re not paying attention.” I wish I had been a bit gentler and said, the church looks so different because we have been too busy worrying about finances and membership and church stuff that we haven’t seen who else is walking beside us, but they’ve been here the whole time, serving, ushering, making pancake suppers. That same presbytery meeting, we were told a story about a woman in our one of our churches. The church knew her as long-time member, Brad. And, one day Brad came to church in a dress and wore the name Sally. She told the pastor that this was the first time she went in public like this. That this church was where she felt comfortable. That this church welcomed, sang hymns, and preached sermons telling her this was THE place to be herself. We need more stories like Sally’s—and this overture will bring that opportunity.
We have the chance to be leaders in the world, to be the first place people come with their whole selves. I can’t think of a single organization in my state that specifically rallies around, celebrates, or apologizes to trans people—can you imagine what it would look like if the Church was one of the strongest voices saying, yes, we’re paying attention, now.
In seminary, I had all A’s, well except for Hebrew. I was highly involved in my school. And The Rev. KC Ptomey, one of the greatest preachers of our time, whistled at the end of my senior sermon. So, when I came before my COM seeking candidacy, I was excited and confident. But, I was the first out queer person to go before my presbytery after 10-A. I was asked many inappropriate questions. I was berated. I was belittled. And, the liberal folks in the room sat silently. When I came back into the room after I was sent away for 45 minutes no one clapped, no one smiled. But a soft voice said, well you passed. When they gloomily circled and prayed around me, it was about an issue and not about my call. I was never even mentioned.
I went back to my wife and my friends and cried and cried. What should have been celebratory, was one of the worst days of my life.
My story is not a trans story, but it is a story of what happens when we neglect our role as the Church, when we neglect that chance to be missional even amongst ourselves. The folks in the room who I thought would stand up for me, the people who changed their facebook pictures to rainbows, the people who wanted an invite to my wedding, sure they supported me personally but when it came down to it, they didn’t have the language or the courage to be in baptism with me, to wade the waters with me.
This overture can stop moments like I had. And, for those who have already had those moments, it can help seek healing. This overture can give us the courage and the language to pay attention.
The people in New Castle Presbytery know the story I just told you and I often tell them that they are my prayer and my room of applause. That their support and joy and love of me has somehow bent time, and that now, when I recall that moment, I find them there with me, holding me as I endure being an issue instead of person. Let us, with this overture, be the applause, the apology, the prayer to and with Remington and Sally, with Carla Flores-Pavon and the unnamed, with him, her, and them.
Let the Church, with this overture be the applause as we affirm all gender identities, acknowledging the treasurers they bring to the Church. Let us, be the prayer for our transgender siblings as we stand with them against the violence and discrimination they suffer. You, we, don’t have to know how to use they—we can learn that. You, we don’t have to know exactly how you feel about this “issue”, we can keep talking about that. But with this overture, you, we will know how to hold the people, how to bend time and stand with Paul and the Galatians and with the future Church as we affirm that in our baptism we are neither male nor female but the people of God. Amen.