To Rev. Grayde Parsons, Stated Clerk, Presbyterian Church (USA)

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)

Biblical Marriage

In the Layman, Dr. JV Foster, president of the Bethesda Christian Institute, San Antonio, Texas, is quoted (or paraphrased) in an op ed against the ordination of gay clergy in the Presbyterian church.  His opposition is on the principal that “it is clear from the Bible that God intended marriage to be a sacred institution involving one man and one woman.”

I love the confidence of people who know what God wants, but I’m trying to figure out what part of the Bible makes it clear that a loving monogamous union between a man and a woman (presumably with consent of both the man and the woman) is what is meant by the term “marriage.”

By “Biblical marriage” do people mean:

A marriage in which unmarried women were the property of their fathers to be sold either to a prospective groom or as a slave? (Exodus 20 & 21)

Maybe they mean a marriage between a man and multiple wives (but not a marriage between a woman and multiple husbands). Lamech, Esau, Jacob, Asur, Jehoram, Joash, Ahab, Jeholachin, Belshazzar, Elkanah, and Rehaboam all had multiple wives. Abijah had 14. David and Gideon had many. Herod the great had 73 and Solomon had 700, plus hundreds of concubines.

Maybe they mean that if a bride is discovered not to be a virgin on her wedding night that she should be stoned to death? (Deuteronomy 22:13-21)

Or perhaps “Biblical marriage” is a forced marriage between a woman and her rapist. (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)

Or maybe they mean that a woman who is widowed should be required to marry her former brother-in-law. (Deuteronomy 25:5-10)

Maybe a “Biblical marriage” is one that permits a man (but not a woman) to keep numerous concubines? (Genesis 21:10 )

Is “Biblical marriage” one in which the women of a town at war are forced to marry men of the army that attacked them? (Numbers 31:1-18)

Or perhaps it is a marriage of a female slave to a male slave as dictated by their owner? (Exodus 21:4)

Perhaps they are taking as a model Jacob, who fathered the 12 tribes of Israel with two wives and two female slaves.

If, by the word “marriage” they have something else in mind, haven’t they already “redefined” marriage since the word was used in Biblical times?

I am not against that.

The biggest Presbyterian Church in Orlando and one of the largest in the country could soon become a very different place. The church’s national affiliation has agreed to allow gays into the ministry, and WFTV found out the Orlando church wants to cut ties with the denomination…

On Tuesday, a decision was made and the head of the Presbyterian Church of Orlando said it’s a decision they will fight. The church could be on the cusp of a crusade.

"We are in the process right now of considering a wide variety of options, one of which is dismissal from this denomination," said Dr. David Swanson of the First Presbyterian Church of Orlando.The church’s national affiliation, PCUSA, voted to allow gays into the ministry. Now, the church will ask their affiliation to break away and join another national Presbyterian group that would prevent gays in the ministry.

"It’s not that we as a church are being anti-gay, it’s that we’re trying to lift up the way in which God wants us to live," said Dr. Swanson.