On behalf of the More Light Board of Directors, we are delighted to share some exciting news. At our most recent board meeting, we voted to make the full-time staff positions of More Light Presbyterians eligible for ordination as validated ministries. We joyfully anticipate marking 2019 as the year we will ordain staff positions at MLP. As the board cast its unanimous vote, we sat in awe of the decades of work for LGBTQIA+ ordination in the PC(USA) that brought us to this day when our staff’s ministry can be recognized by the denomination we serve.
From our earliest founding, More Light churches recognized the injustice in barring people who were called to ministry in the Presbyterian Church. Their witness of extending church leadership to LGBTQIA+ people despite the denomination’s stance on ordination was done in the spirit of prophetic love. Through the many struggles the More Light community has endured over the last 40 years, it is the joy of true fellowship that has given us strength – joy borne of struggle and resistance to the voices and structures that would limit who is seen as worthy of being a leader in the church, undergirded by a willingness to live into being the Body of Christ in the world. It is in this spirit of Joy that we welcome the third week of Advent. This week we focus on joy as we move closer to the birth of Jesus on Christmas.
The push for systemic change to the space LGBTQIA+ people occupy in the life and ministry of the church has been at the heart of our work for the entirety of our history. Even since ordination standards changed in 2011, the place of LGBTQIA+ people in the leadership of the denomination has been a focus point of our journey. Throughout our history we have shown new ways for the church to be a place of welcome, vulnerability, trust, love, and prophetic witness that rejects assumptions of who is fit for ministry and who is not. As we have seen shifts in societal and denominational views of LGBTQIA+ people, More Light’s role has shifted as well. As those shifts have taken a more inclusive stance, our energy has been focused on equipping the church and individuals and to live into that inclusivity. We have, in short, become a ministry in the church we have called home for 40 years.
We have seen huge advances in the societal and denomination’s stance towards LGBTQIA+ people. Just this summer, the 223rd General Assembly celebrated:
“that over the years, LGBTQIA+ people have faithfully, lovingly, and courageously served in every kind of service to which Christian disciples are called – notwithstanding the church’s efforts to exclude them from particular types of service.
They have served as ministers of word and sacrament, proclaiming the inclusive good news of God’s love for all people in Jesus Christ, embodying Christ’s expansive welcome at the table, and reminding the church again and again what it means to live with integrity into our baptismal identity as beloved children of God.
They have served as ruling elders, leading congregations with wisdom; they have served as deacons, loving and caring for the church and its people. And, beyond ordination to particular service, they have served the church in worship, ministry, and mission, with countless acts of tender mercy.”
Despite these huge advances, the the Presbyterian Church, USA has yet to ordain someone as a Minister of Word and Sacrament who has gone through the ordination process openly as trans or non-binary. We at More Light lament that while trans and non-binary Presbyterians have been called to ministry, the church has yet to ordain a trans or non-binary candidate for ministry in the full celebration of their identity. We give deep thanks for Rev. Erin Swenson, former More Light Co-Moderator, who retained her ordination as she transitioned in the mid 1990s and paved a path for those who have been able to come out as trans or non-binary and live authentically as who they are within their ministry. We celebrate Alex and Jess as they represent some of the first openly trans and non-binary people to be ordained, and we celebrate all those who have come out and named their truths within their calls to ministry. We see this point in history as the crest of a wave, and look forward with hope and expectation to the many more trans and non-binary people who will share their gifts for ministry with this Church.
Here is where we are and our next steps towards ordaining these staff positions:
- Jess’ Presbytery Committee On Ministry (COM) has approved the Program and Communications Manager Position to be validated as a ministry. In January Jess will go before the COM and then go before Presbytery in February. If the way be clear, Jess will be ordained to their position in Spring of 2019!
- Alex is finishing his extended unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) in May. He is working with his Presbytery to be Certified Ready to Receive a Call in the spring, and will work towards going before his COM and then Presbytery in the summer of 2019. If the way be clear, Alex will be ordained to his position in the Fall of 2019!
We will keep you updated as the ordination processes for these positions unfolds, so you can celebrate with us the progress this represents for More Light and for the church. We believe the world is hungry for faithful church leadership that presents a new way of being, and we need church leadership that reflects the myriad of identities represented in the Body. Both Jess and Alex are acutely aware of the shoulders on which they stand. This day in our denomination and in our organization would not be possible without the saints who came before, who were forced to choose between their call to ministry and being out about their identity. With deep gratitude for all of the More Light congregations and individuals who continue to build a church that reflects God’s deart, we joyfully step into all that awaits in 2019!
If you would like to contribute to the work of More Light and help us continue this ministry into the next 40 years, please do so by donating to our Shine More Light Campaign!