Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Letter to the PCUSA's Committee on Civil Unions and Christian Marriage

The Rev. John Shuck of Elizabethton, TN, wrote this letter to the PCUSA Committee on Civil Unions and Christian Marriage, which I found on-line on

A response to the PCUSA’s marriage committee

In response to your article requesting folks who wrote an email to the committee on civil unions and marriage to send y'all one too, here ya go!

Dear Members of the Special Committee on Civil Unions and Christian Marriage:
I have been a minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for 17 years. During my ministry I have officiated at ceremonies for over 100 couples including gay and lesbian couples. I don't know if I am supposed to call these ceremonies between the same-gender couples marriages or not. They should be marriages in the eyes of the state in which they were performed and in the eyes of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) They certainly were as holy and sacred as any other marriage at which I have had the honor of being an officiant. These couples need the legal protections that marriage offers.

The marriages for gay and lesbian couples are an important part of my ministry of pastoral care. It is an important part of my current congregation's ministry. To be blunt: It is time for the rest of the church to catch up. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has an opportunity to atone for its sins. It is a sinful organization that discriminates against its LGBT sisters and brothers – its own children.

I have put up with bullies my whole life from the playground to the boardroom. In the playground, gay and lesbian kids (or those perceived as such) are bullied with words (fag, dyke, queer) and too often with fists. In the boardroom clergy who advocate for equality are bullied with threats of reduced pledges, threats to leave the church, threats of church court cases. Sometimes these threats even materialize. The purpose of all of these threats and bullying is to keep gays and lesbians in the closet and to keep allies silent. It is discrimination and it is as ugly now as it has ever been.

The only way to stop bullying is to stand up to it. You as a committee have a chance to do that right now. The church has been bullied for the last 35 years by a right wing intent on controlling the lives of others and spewing hatred by hiding behind a few select verses in the Bible. I don't know if you have any idea how much pain, how many suicides, how many families have been torn apart by ignorance and fear that comes straight from the pulpit. Here is a common story from my neighborhood.

Frankly, I don't expect much from your committee. You likely will come up with some lame report that tries to pacify the right wing out of a desire for unity. In the meantime, a church that can't stand up to bullies will continue to allow its own children to be rejected and forced to live as second-class citizens.

Just in case there is a chance that you will do the right thing, here is what you need to do:

Propose that the 2010 General Assembly:

  1. Allow clergy in the six states (and in any future state) that have legalized same-gender marriage to sign marriage licenses and solemnize these marriages in the church.
  2. Affirm that clergy may consecrate marriages (in the eyes of the church) for same-gender couples even in those states that have yet to legalize same-gender marriage.
  3. Change the definition of marriage from one man and one woman to two people in all relevant documents.
  4. Modify the Directory for Worship to create marriage rites suitable for same-gender couples.
  5. Advocate for marriage equality throughout the United States.

I doubt you will be able to pull all of that off although you should try.

The following is the bare minimum. To the moderates and liberals on this committee, you must not give in on this. At the very least, you must allow freedom of conscience for clergy and for sessions regarding pastoral care to LGBT people. This includes freedom of conscience regarding all rites and observances regarding marriage.

Good luck.

Rev. John Shuck, minister
First Presbyterian Church, Elizabethton, Tenn.

Click here for more.

Bravo to Rev. Shuck.




manxxman said...

He's right.......the church is too scared to move on this.

Brett Webb-Mitchell said...

His letter moved me greatly.