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Greater NW Pride: Prayer, Patience, and Perseverance


Prayer, Patience, and Perseverance

In the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), the lead up to our amending our Constitution (Book of Order) in 2011 to welcoming and affirming LGBTQ people as out and ordained as Ministers of the Word and Sacraments, Ruling Elders, and Deacons, was dramatic, long in coming, and drawn out. Our process of amending the Book of Order begins with an amendment beginning from a church’s session, followed by its approval by a Presbytery Committee (Conference), followed by the vote of the Presbytery, in which it finally makes its way to a Committee within the General Assembly, and then the floor of the General Assembly for discussion and then a vote. If the vote is affirmative, then the motion goes out to the individual Presbyteries (Conferences), and is voted upon, until there is a majority of votes either “yes” or “no.” For decades, since the 1960s, we Presbyterians went through a long time of prayer, patience, and perseverance, as we worked and waited, and pushed forward with plans to be open and affirming and welcoming and reconciling. The final push and change came after, one year, the Constitution stipulated that an ordained person must practice “fidelity in marriage (man and woman), and chastity in celibacy,” or some-such language. The next General Assembly, that language was stricken from the Book of Order, replaced by something so simple and innocuous as being a “faithful disciple of Jesus Christ” and experiencing the call to ministry was all that was needed. Granted, there was also the proviso that LGBTQ people would probably not be able to serve in certain Presbyteries (like the UMC One Church Plan), but that, too, has softened up in the last few General Assemblies, so that our Book of Order looks more like the UMC Simple Plan.
Prayer, Patience, and Perseverance: this is how every mainline denomination has made it through this impasse re: welcoming and affirming the ministry of LGBTQ people. Granted, all of our denominations have experienced schism, with “graceful dissolutions”, in which congregations took property and other assets with them as they moved to more conservative denominations. 
In other words, what the UMC is going through is not unique. All the other denominations have gone through the same process, using similar language. The UMC is simply the latest denomination to go through this upheaval towards being welcoming, affirming, open, and reconciling denominations. 
So, my prayer for my UMC friends, and words of wisdom: practice prayers and centering in the love of God for all; practice the virtue of patience, knowing this is still going to take some time for people to process the new “thing” being born. And practice perseverance. As my friend Richard Rodriguez told me years ago, in the end, LGBTQ people are going to win, always, at the end of this struggle. Why? Because love is stronger than hate.
Prayer, patience, and Perseverance. 

Brett Webb-Mitchell
Rev. Dr. Brett Webb-Mitchell is an openly gay Presbyterian pastor in the Portland area serving as the part-time LGBTQ+ advocacy coordinator for The Oregon-Idaho Conference of the UMC. He can be reached at brett@umoi.org. Become a subscriber to the Greater NW Pride blog to get Greater NW Pride in your email box!