The presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church (USA) are voting for the next several months on an amendment to one part of the church’s constitution that will remove language requiring of ordained officers (Ministers, Elders, and Deacons) “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman” or “chastity in singleness.” The proposed amendment will replace that language with a statement of standards for ordained officers that says nothing *ahem* explicitly about sexuality:
The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation . . . shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation . . . Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.
Yorocko is glad to take part in a PresbyMEME advocating passage of this amendment. Organized by former General Assembly Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow, the MEME is challenging men and women who support the amendment to explain their reasons, answering a few simple questions:
- Name, City, State: Rocky Supinger, Claremont, California
- Twitter and Facebook profiles: Facebook, rsupinger; Twitter, yorocko.
- Presbytery and 10a voting date: San Gabriel Presbytery, March 8, 2011.
- Reason ONE that you are voting “yes” on 10a is… My friends and colleagues, who serve the church faithfully and intelligently and with their whole lives but who, counter to the momentum of the gospel of Jesus, are forced to shutter a central part of their identity behind a veil of religiosity that is based less on an understanding of God’s grace than it is on a misguided desire to witness to that grace by maintaining misinformed standards of sexual morality.
- Reason TWO that you are voting “yes” on 10a is… The language. The current language is less than two decades old and represents a novel attempt to codify standards for ordained officers in a way that the Presbyterian church had resisted throughout its history, and with strict reference to sexuality. The language of 10a, on the other hand, speaks broadly of candidates for ordination’s “calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for office,” not just standards of sexual behavior, and it places the responsibility of assessing those criteria squarely where Presbyterian polity wants it: on the shoulders of the ordaining body, not in the articles of the church’s constitution.
- Reason THREE that you are voting “yes” on 10a is… So that the Presbyterian Church (USA) can better participate in God’s incoming reign of release, freedom, vision, and peace. Since current ordination standards effectively bar gays and lesbians from consideration for office, and since gay men and women in North America continue to be targeted for harassment and exclusion, and since the message Jesus preached was one of a radical reconsideration of what constitutes “religious” behavior, one that was founded on the oft-repeated-in-Scripture announcement that the harassed and excluded were of God’s special concern, the church needs a better way to welcome all of those into ordained service those who know themselves to be despised by the world yet treasured by God.
- What are your greatest hopes for the 10a debate that will take place on the floor of your Presbytery? That a single mind may be changed in the direction of passing 10a, from the beginning of the debate to the end. My experience with these debates in the past is a frustrating collection of advocacy pushes and posturing that shows no evidence of the qualities of debate. The vote could be taken without the debate with an identical result. My hope this time is that some small opening will be created for us to hear one another, and to hear God speaking through one another.
- How would you respond to those that say that if we pass 10a individuals and congregations will leave the PC(USA)? The likelihood that people will be bothered by a church action is a poor reason to shy away from taking it. People and churches left when churches integrated on racial lines. They left when it ordained women. They’re leaving now, as we speak, simply because the presence of an honest conversation on the subject indicates to them infidelity and a lack of moral vision. While it’s crass to say of those who would leave over the passage of 10a “good riddance,” I’m persuaded that they’re likely to leave anyway, and I’m convinced that fear over membership loss is a terrible guide in moral decision making.
- What should the Presbyterian Church focus on after Amendment 10a passes? The same things it’s focusing on now: proclaiming the good news of the gospel, worshiping God, serving the poor and needy, promoting social welfare, and building community for those who have none. I suspect, however, that the church’s definition of marriage is the next thing that needs to be thoroughly considered in light of Scripture and our current context.
- How does your understanding of Scripture frame your position on 10a? It frames it on every side. It was abundantly clear in the last round of debating this subject that the people quoting the Bible in the debate were those advocating change. I don’t understand Scripture to be a rulebook handed down once-and-for-all from Heaven, but rather the Spirit-inspired witness of God’s people over multiple conditions and contexts to the ever-expanding reach of God’s welcome. In that light, 10a, while not an easy amendment to summarize, is a no-brainer.