Fifth Ave. Presbyterian Church, NYCThis May the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) passed and ratified an amendment to its Book of Order, which now permits "the ordination of non-celibate unmarried persons, including gays and lesbians." The decision has created tumult within the denomination itself and with other branches of the Church, most notably by the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico, which overwhelmingly decided to end its relationship with its U.S. cousin.

But, the PCUSA is also receiving some support from some worthy advocates, including this letter from Anglican Archbishop Emeritus and Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu:

Dear Brother in Christ,

I am writing you with the request that you share these thoughts with my brothers and sisters in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.):  

It is incumbent upon all of God’s children to speak out against injustice. It is sometimes equally important to speak in solidarity when justice has been done. For that reason I am writing to affirm my belief that in making room in your constitution for gay and lesbian Christians to be ordained as church leaders, you have accomplished an act of justice.

I realize that among your ecumenical partners, some voices are claiming that you have done the wrong thing, and I know that you rightly value your relationship with Christians in other parts of the world. Sadly, it is not always popular to do justice, but it is always right. People will say that the ones you are now willing to ordain are sinners. I have come to believe, through the reality shared with me by my scientist and medical friends, and confirmed to me by many who are gay, that being gay is not a choice. Like skin color or left-handedness, sexual orientation is just another feature of our diversity as a human family. How wonderful that God has made us with so much diversity, yet all in God’s image! Salvation means being called out of our narrow bonds into a broad place of welcome to all.

You are undoubtedly aware that in some countries the church has been complicit in the legal persecution of lesbians and gays. Individuals are being arrested and jailed simply because they are different in one respect from the majority. By making it possible for those in same-gender relationships to be ordained as pastors, preachers, elders, and deacons, you are being a witness to your ecumenical partners that you believe in the wideness of God’s merciful love. 

For freedom Christ has set us free. In Christ we are not bound by old, narrow prejudice, but free to embrace the full humanity of our brothers and sisters in all our glorious differences. May God bless you as you live into this reality, and may you know that there are many Christians in the world who continue to stand by your side.

God bless you.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu (Cape Town, South Africa)

About the image: Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City (photo: Chris Hall/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


Share Your Reflection

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Reflections

How completely and utterly fantastic.

However worthy the issue, how can you can consider Archbishop Tutu as a "worthy advocate"?

Archbishop Tutu is the man whom attorney Alan Dershowitz referred to as a "racist and a bigot" during the controversial Durban II conference in April 2009.  Dershowitz had good reason for his sharp assessment.

Len, I can't possibly respond to this without wondering if you take in the sum of this man's work in some of the most important struggles for equality in the 20th century. And then, on top it all, be at the head of an inquiry that doesn't seek revenge but truth and reconciliation. No man or clergyman is perfect, but his outreach to others on issues such as this I hold in high regard.

As a senior citizen of these United States, I have to say that I have much conflict about the ordination of gays and lesbians. I deplore the ways that gays and lesbians have been treated in our country. However, it is with much conflict that I respectfully disagree. Archbishop Tutu is a wonderful man, but it is a stretch to go from acceptance to ordination.

Blessings on the Presbyterians for affirming that LGBT pastors serve admirably in the pulpit. Prayers for the Methodists to follow suit, so that many who serve in darkness may come into the light.

I really like Arch Bishop Tutu's definition of salvation. Growing up I was always taught that we were saved from something like sin or hell which eventually brought me to a crisis of faith; a crisis that probably could have been avoided if I had been taught this definition instead.

I think it is interesting to see how odd the argument for and against LGBT ordination is. Looking at the quote from the Book of Order, it says "non-celibate unmarried persons" can be ordained, which I would think would include single, sexually active heterosexuals. The interpretation of the Bible I grew up with (and now reject) would say that this is just as much sin as homosexuality but it seems that nobody is saying anything about it. I think that it is indicative that the debate is really whether we are willing to accept those who are different or not. It is the difference that makes us uncomfortable, not the "sin".

This is a civil rights issue. If you don't believe me, please watch 'Milk' the movie. Please, fellow Presbyterians, get on the right side of God's love for ALL--regardless of race, doctrine or sexual preference.

with great respect for arch Bishop tutu i say he has been a favourite in so many national and international issue that has to do with people and right but for this issue i think he has gone to the extreme and a balance from the scriptural point of view especial Romans chapter 1 and 2 will be great.