Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Yes, There Is A God!

By Joan M. Martin

Last night I gasped when I read the headlines of my denomination's web page. While pleased to see the lead article was about Presbyterians fighting modern day slavery, what made my heart stop was another headline, "Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) approves change in ordination standard"- something as an ordained lesbian, an African American lesbian, I thought might come someday, but was unprepared for yesterday to be the day! A familiar hymn came to mind with new words, "O day of liberation!"

I am nearly speechless, really. I can't stop welling up with tears right now when, just beneath the surface, there have been of years of thick-skinned advocacy tinged with unspoken disappointments, but hope nevertheless.

In 1978, two years after my ordination, the predecessor denomination to today's PCUSA, "prohibited the ordination of self-acknowledged practicing gay and lesbian persons." That meant me. A couple of years after that the church "grandfathered" those of us ordained prior to 1978 in the church's rendition of "don't ask, don't tell." That meant me, too. And for 31 years more, the church has been intransigent with glimmers of light coming only since 1991 with moments of progress often measured in inches and setbacks measured in yards! Yet the inches were a lifeline in the struggle.

So, last night I rejoiced. Last night I could shout, "Yes, there is a God!"

Okay, today it's back to work.

Today, I give thanks to God that I have had the unique privilege and relative “safety” of teaching and living at Episcopal Divinity School (EDS) for the past 17 years where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBTQ) people have been welcomed on faculty, staff, and in the student body since the mid-1970’s. Thank you, EDS.

Today is about organizing ecumenically for the petition drive, "An Endorsement Against Church Bigotry and the Injustice of United Methodist Book of Discipline, parag. 304. 3 which prohibits the ordination, certification as candidates, or appointments to serve in ministry of 'self-avowed practicing homosexuals," and support Black Methodists for Church Renewal in their radical refusal to separate the rights of African Americans from LGBTQ folks in church and society. Yes, there is a God!

Last night, my tears were tears of joy and release and celebration. Today, I am not mourning, but organizing to fight for the life of LGBTQ folks in Uganda where its parliament threatens to pass a Death Penalty Bill: Kill the Gays, and yes, sign another petition and write to my Massachusetts Congressional Delegation to demand withdraw of U.S. foreign aid to Uganda if this bill passes.

Last night, I shouted for joy! Today, it is time for me to ask Sojourners' Jim Wallace and his people, "Why and how is God's welcome of LGBTQ folks a problem of 'sides' for the Sojourner community?"

Last night I felt once again, my deep connection as a fourth generation Black Presbyterian woman fighting for equality in church and society. Today, I have to advocate my Presbytery that all who are qualified by the standards of the Church will be ordained. Today.

What goes around comes around because, yes, there is a God!

* This blog first appeared in the Rev. Dr. Joan M. Martin's blog, (

**The Rev. Dr. Joan M. Martin is William W. Rankin Associate Professor of Christian Social Ethics at the Episcopal Divinity School. She is a scholar activist and is the author of More Than Chains and Toil: A Christian Ethic of Enslaved Women (Westminster John Knox, 2000).

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