Presbyterian Church (USA) Votes to Allow Same-Sex Marriage


Almost two years ago, I wrote a blog post during the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) with the title, “Presbyterian Church (USA) Votes NO on Marriage Equality.That is no longer the case.

Yesterday, during the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), 61% of voting commissioners voiced their support to allow ministers to officiate at same-sex weddings, in states where same-sex marriage is legal. Later, over 70% voted in support of changing the definition of marriage in our constitution from “a man and a woman” to “two people.” Starting on Sunday, June 22nd, any PC(USA) minister who wishes to take advantage of this Authoritative Interpretation, can officiate a same-sex wedding in states where same-sex marriage is legal. And once half of the 172 presbyteries vote in favor of changing the definition of marriage, that could also go into affect with the year.

Two years ago, I was angry. I wasn’t at GA, but was following the live stream, and people were saying some truly horrific things (things that caused me to get so upset that I dropped an F-bomb in one of my tweets). You can read that post here.

I will say that there was a remarkably different tone in the Assembly Hall yesterday as I watched the live stream. Sure, there was some not-so-good exegesis occurring, there were people calling for a Task Force (a Task Force? really?? What do people think the PUP report was…other than something that was finished and completed 8 years ago), and there was a fear in the room that all of our ecumenical and mission partners around the world might pull their support from the PC(USA).

Before the first vote, I was wondering if we’d be at about 65%/35% in favor of same-sex marriage based on some of the earlier voting. And that was just about the split that continued through the rest of the overtures and topics related to marriage and civil unions.

I’m thrilled to be a part of a church now where pastors can offer pastoral care to all of their parishioners, where pastors can marry same-sex couples without the fear of being taken to church court or defrocked, and where we can fully honor our LGBT brothers and sisters and let them know that we support marriage equality for all.

Obviously we all have people in our lives who don’t see this as good news. There are some who are deeply troubled by the decisions made at GA yesterday. I have family members who are not supportive of same-sex marriage and I’m sure there are folks in the church I serve that are not supportive of these decisions. And so there is some work of reconciliation to do – some work of figuring out how to live together well now that we are in a new era for the Presbyterian Church (USA) denomination. There will be conversations that churches will be having in the next few months to talk about what this means for individual congregations, and how those who disagree on this issue can continue to be together in community and work together to bring about God’s kingdom. And I’m sure we will figure that out. The leaders of the PC(USA) have also issued a pastoral letter to those who may disagree with these decisions; you can read that here.

But I’m sure that some individual congregations will pack up, say “Enough is enough!” and head off to the EPC, ECO or other groups. And that’s okay. That may be what they need to continue to serve God in their contexts.

Some of our worldwide mission partners will cut ties with the PC(USA), claiming theological superiority and purity. And that’s okay.

Some will call the good work done yesterday an “abomination” and will urge pastors, churches and individual church members to “divest” (how ironic) from the PC(USA) until these changes are reversed. And that’s sad.

But I can accept all of the above, because I believe we did truly make a decision in line with the inclusive grace and love of Christ yesterday.

And we did, perhaps, make the PC(USA) seem just a little bit more relevant to a generation that is not present in our churches right now, an entire generation that has told us, in more ways that we can count, that the church’s attitude toward LGBT folk and about marriage equality has certainly hurt us and is what is primarily driving their peers away from the church.

If you’d like to read more about the recent decision, you can check out some of these articles:

And if you’re Presbyterian, or you just want to show your support for the decisions that were made yesterday, you can download the rainbow PC(USA) seal that I made last night in both a gradient version here (my favorite) or in a solid color version here.

Update: I was called by the Associate for Communications in the Office of the General Assembly, and was asked to take down the rainbow version of the seal that I had made and included in this blog post. While I was told that it wasn’t the case, I still think that it wouldn’t have been as much of an issue if The Layman hadn’t posted this article about the seal. At any rate – I can’t be responsible for other versions of the rainbow seal that are out there in the public, but I have taken down my version from this post.


Using Bible Blackout for Ministry and Engaging Scripture


Yesterday I wrote about creating a Bible Blackout, being inspired by the work of Austin Kleon and his Newspaper Blackouts. And I’m always looking for new activities to do at youth group and new ways to get youth interacting with scripture, so it seemed like a pretty good idea.

And the youth loved it.

Or maybe it was the Sharpie fumes…I’m not sure – but either way – it’s worth doing sometime with your youth, or with any age group in the church. Here’s how I went about creating Bible Blackouts with the youth. [Read more...]

Bible Blackout


You can view this image as a pin on Pinterest here.

Last week I read a book by Austin Kleon, an artist and writer, called Show Your Work. I’ve been reading a lot about sketchnoting, doodling and art recently, and I’ve heard Austin’s name mentioned quite a few times by other artists. One of the things Austin is known for is his Newspaper Blackout art and poetry. If you haven’t seen his stuff, take a look at his site, because it’s very cool. So cool, that in the spirit of another book by Austin, Steal Like an Artist, I decided to steal his idea, but make it my own.

And so, I grabbed a Sharpie and my Bible.

Then I decided it might be better to make a photocopy of a page from my Bible, rather than taking a Sharpie to the actual Bible. And then I thought that naturally, I’d turn to Leviticus for inspiration. Here is the initial text:

Tell your brother Aaron that he cannot come whenever he wants into the holy area inside the inner curtain, to the front of the cover that is on the chest, or else he will die, because I am present in the cloud above the cover. No, but Aaron must enter the holy area as follows: with a bull from the herd as a purification offering and a ram as an entirely burned offering. Aaron must dress in a holy linen tunic and wear linen undergarments on his body. He must tie a linen sash around himself and wrap a linen turban around his head. These are holy clothes—Aaron will first bathe his body in water and then put them on. He will take from the Israelite community two male goats for a purification offering and one ram for an entirely burned offering.

The above image, which I call “Leviticus 16:3″ is the first Bible Blackout I did. I just spent some time reading through the text, being aware of which words were jumping out at me for whatever reason…and then I drew a box around those words. When I was done, I blacked out all of the other words from the text. When I was done, I had come up with: “I am present in holy water.

Then I scanned the image, played around with it a little bit in Photoshop, and came up with something that I think is a pretty cool piece of art. Now, one question that I’ve gotten asked already on Facebook relates to copyright law. And let me be the first to say that I know next to nothing about copyright law, but found Austin’s NY Times piece, “Copyright Rules and the Art they Inspire” pretty interesting. Apparently if you black out at least 75% or more of the original text, then it could be argued that your new work is “transformative.”

But really…can you imagine a Bible publishing company suing a pastor? 

Well, I suppose I could…

As I’m getting into drawing and art, I’m finding this to be a very fun way to produce some very cool art, but also a really interesting way to engage scripture, and as a pastor, I’m always looking for ways that I can get people to do that. So, I’d encourage you to try it and share a link to your photo in the comments below.

Find your favorite passage of scripture, or a random one from Leviticus, and sit down with it and see what stands out to you. You just might be surprised what you end up with.