On the floor of General Assembly, I had two-one minute opportunities to speak related to same gender marriage. The first time I rose to speak to the concern many of us have for providing a way for pastors to perform weddings in states where same gender marriage is legal. The second time I was trying to stop a parliamentary maneuver which would have rolled all the marriage overtures into a consent agenda and which would have stopped conversation about same gender marriage altogether. Here are the texts of those speeches:
#1: I’m Debra Avery, a Teaching Elder from the presbytery of the Grand Canyon to urge you to vote no on the minority report as it won’t allow us to debate the merits of the 13-05 Authoritative Interpretation which provides relief for pastors. Today i am also standing with colleagues in six states, the District of Columbia and our military who minister in almost every way to same gender couples but who are NOT able to bless them when they seek to marry.All of us serve among LGBTQ persons both here and in our home presbyteries — people who preach, serve us communion, serve on our Sessions, among our Deacons, and who lead from our denominational offices. Yet we continue to withhold pastoral care in the form of the church’s blessing on their marriages because teaching elders are not permitted to marry them, though the state says it is legal.
In order to live fully into our ordination vows, pastors need permission to offer pastoral care in the form of officiating a marriage. And while I understand the need to study this as a denomination, I believe that while we study, we need to provide pastoral relief. Please vote no.
#2: I’m Debra Avery, jazzpastord on Twitter and teaching elder in Grand Canyon Presbytery. I speak against this motion. The committee did not bring us an omnibus motion yet here we are.
I recognize that some of us are afraid: Afraid that what we do here will cause a complete rupture of the denomination; or that it might cause us to be rejected by family members, colleagues, our congregations, or worst of all, by God.
Yet I stand firm in one of the foundations of our reformed faith: sola gratia—grace alone — because that reminds me in the midst of my fears that nothing can get in the way of God’s love in Jesus Christ. And that gives me hope —
- hope that even in the midst of uncertainty and fear we can give pastors relief in the states where same gender marriage is legal;
- hope that we can make a strong witness to the LGBTQ community and their friends and family that we want to journey with them in every moment of their lives;
- hope that we can support our colleagues as God’s spirit is moving and working in and through their ministry even as we continue to discern together.