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Joy Moves Us Forward

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white…a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. Matthew 17:1-9

Living in America, we have been conditioned to fear a lot of things. In many places we have been taught that we should even fear God, or at the very least to fear God’s wrath against our sins or a sin of a community or people. Growing up in the mountains of North Carolina, the hellfire and brimstone God was very real for many of my peers. To counteract this kind of God, my church rarely talked about fearing God at all. Instead, God was spoken of as all-loving, all-forgiving, all-welcoming. I got very comfortable with this kind of God and forgot about another kind of fear of God, which the disciples remind us about today. The fear the disciples demonstrate comes from the times God shows up completely unexpectedly and overturns our assumptions to show us just how much bigger God’s plan really is. Read more

More Light in West Virginia

By Ethel Hornbeck, Director of Spiritual Formation

More Light Presbyterians is happy to welcome Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church, our first welcoming and affirming More Light Church in West Virginia. Rev. Randall Tremba serves as pastor. Read more

If a GA Marriage Amendment Goes South

Southerners are evenly divided about the freedom to marry, a new study from the Public Religion Research Institute reveals, with 48% in favor of same-gender marriage and 48% who oppose (Compare: Northeast – 60%, West – 58%, Midwest – 51%). As we look towards the 221st General Assembly, the South will be a key region if the GA sends a marriage amendment to the presbyteries for ratification. (A simple majority of the presbyteries nationwide is needed to ratify an amendment to the Book of Order.) Read more

Sucker Punched

“Jesus Christ can set you free from the sin of homosexuality.”

My sophomore year of college, I came home one day to find a long email with that assertion from a former classmate of mine. Later I learned that he had also sent messages to and even traveled to visit others in our college worshiping community. He urged them to condemn the pro-LGBTQ organizing I and others were doing on our campus and chastised them for allowing me to persist in my evil ways while worshiping alongside me.

I felt like I had been punched in the gut. Read more

Uses of Anger

“I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment…So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:21-37

For those of us who believe deeply in our hearts that God created LGBTQ people and that God has a place for us in the church, the past thirty years have been cause for some deep and righteous anger. There have been the big, obvious places like church trials for ministers who have officiated same-gender weddings, removing ordination credentials for ministers who come out while serving the church. There have been countless times people who would have been incredible gifts to the church have been denied and dismissed on account of their sexuality or gender identity. And then there are the more subtle occasions for anger: working with people in power in our denomination who refuse to discuss LGBTQ people, who still aren’t convinced we are fit to serve the church, the invasive questions that get asked as we move through the ordination process. Read more

Can A Lesbian + A Conservative = A Holy Conversation?

“I love Sally and her wife,” a colleague in ministry once said in a small group we were in, “but I don’t believe in homosexuality.” At first I responded with nothing. I felt all the air had been sucked out of the room. My other colleagues all looked to me hoping I would say something. But I couldn’t. There were no words.

Eventually, I responded, “How can you claim you love me and ignore a large part of my personhood?” “How is sexuality a part of your personhood?” the conversation continued. Read more

Crocheting in the Belly of the Whale

Thanks to a fine sermon I heard last Sunday, all week I’ve been commiserating with Jonah. The belly of the whale is the perfect metaphor for how I’ve been feeling—as though I’ve been called do something, to say something, but my brain is refusing to cooperate.

Here’s me as Jonah: white, heterosexual female—writer, Presbyterian elder, member of a “big-tent” church that welcomes LGBTQ people but isn’t yet comfortable addressing what full inclusion means. Read more

I Won the Lottery

I won the lottery. This is why I’m throwing away the winning ticket!

I’m not sure when it was. It didn’t happen all at once. There was a gradual awakening that as a Heterosexual-Male-WASP (White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant), I had won the All-American Lottery. America, it turns out is a great place for Hetero-Male-WASPS. Read more

Are We Salty?

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to God in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-20

It can be easy to blame others for why we might have lost our taste or dimmed our light. I graduated from seminary when the Presbyterian Church still had amendment G.6-0106b in the Book of Order, blocking most openly LGBTQ people from ordination. I desperately wanted to live into my calling to ordained ministry but felt like the PC(USA) was holding me back. So I hit pause on my journey to ordained ministry, got a job at a non-profit and started going through the motions of what I thought I should do while I couldn’t be ordained: sit in the darkness and wait. Two years later, I was pretty miserable in my job and felt further from God than I had in a long time. I cried to God in my isolation but wasn’t ready to hear what I might need to do to take that bushel basket off of my head. I had gotten so enmeshed in my routine and my life that I forgot to look around me and see where I might be that critical dash of salt which brings the whole meal together. Read more

Transgender Teenager Makes History in Maine

“Our daughter just wanted to go to school, be with her girlfriends, get a good education and be accepted by her peers.” Wayne Maines wrote this in a Huffington Post op-ed in 2012 after Superior Court Justice William Anderson ruled that the Orono school system did not violate the Maine Human Rights Act when it prohibited Nicole from using the restroom that matches her gender identity. “She was made an outcast, separated from her peers. She was bullied and harassed simply because she is transgender. No parents want that for their child.” Read more