The Board of Directors of the Covenant Network, an organization that advocates for the full inclusion of the LGBTQ/Q people in the life and ministry of the Presbyterian Church (USA), has spoken out against the so-called “Apology Overture,” that will be debated during this summer’s 222nd General Assembly, saying that it doesn’t think the apology would “lead to healing.”
“We worry it will further alienate our brothers and sisters in Christ who are committed to remain in the PCUSA even as they disagree with recent changes to our polity on matters of sexuality,” the statement continues.
The Covenant Network is referring to General Assembly Business Item 11-05 (Formerly Overture 050) which asks the assembly to apologize to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ/Q) community because it says “there will be no chance for healing and reconciliation until the PCUSA admits its mistakes and makes a statement of apology.”
The overture cites as sin the PCUSA’s two-hundred and twenty year position of following clear Biblical teaching and aligning itself with more than 2,000 years of Christian tradition by failing to allow practicing LGBTQ/Q people to be ordained as church officers and not permitting same-sex marriages by PCUSA ministers or in PCUSA churches.
It asks that the PCUSA affirm, confess and apologize for “the teachings and actions that have created marginalization of our sisters and brothers, adding to the erroneous belief that people who identify as LGBTQ/Q should be considered unworthy to serve fully or be honored as family within and without the church.”
Barbara Wheeler, former president of Auburn Theological Seminary and Covenant Network board member has also spoken out against the overture, calling it a “breach of faith.”
That All May Freely Serve, another organization that advocates on behalf of the LGBTQ/Q people in the PCUSA is supporting the overture.
The Covenant Network’s statement reads:
Since 1997, the Covenant Network has worked toward a church as generous and just as God’s grace. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to work for access to ordination and marriage for all God’s children, and grateful the church has seen fit to extend that grace and justice these past few years.
We have also held up the unity of the church as a primary value in our ministry. We are grateful for the relationships we have forged with friends from all across the church—people who may reach different conclusions about some matters of faith and life, but with whom we worship the same Lord and love the same church.
At this year’s General Assembly, the Covenant Network will be supporting numerous efforts to affirm LGBTQ people and promote justice and inclusion in the church. We support an effort to strengthen the church’s witness for global human rights, especially those of LGBTQ people around the world. We support an overture that condemns so-called “reparative” therapy as the damaging and dangerous practice that it is. We are fully committed to defending the church’s new constitutional language describing marriage against an effort to repeal it. And we are opposed to overtures that would diminish the church’s ability to discern and implement a meaningful public witness.
But because of our commitment to unity, the Board of the Covenant Network is hopeful that Presbyterians will not support Overture 050 (now designated Item 11-05), which seeks to have the General Assembly issue an “apology” for past actions of individuals and presbyteries and names as erroneous actions that were—and in some cases still are—permissible under the Constitution of the church. We are grateful for voices that remind us to seek reconciliation and healing, but we do not feel this overture will lead to healing. We worry it will further alienate our brothers and sisters in Christ who are committed to remain in the PCUSA even as they disagree with recent changes to our polity on matters of sexuality. From the beginning of these debates, we have stood up for the value and freedom of presbyters and councils exercising their conscience in accordance with the scriptures. We hope one day that all will support ordination and marriage for all God’s children, but we remain committed to each person’s conscience being honored as we move forward together as God’s people.
We agree with the writers of Overture 050 that there is much healing to do. We remain committed to continue our long-standing work for the full inclusion of LGBTQ Presbyterians in the life of the church, allowing the whole church to benefit from their gifts for ministry. We remain committed to seek conversation and common purpose with people who disagree with us about these important matters. We know people on all sides of the issue have been hurt and we trust that God’s grace and faithfulness which has brought us this far will be the balm that heals us further.
Let us worship together, pray together and for each other, listen to each other, love one another, and seek the healing of the church and the flourishing of all of God’s children.
The Rev. Randy Bush and the Rev. Marci Auld Glass, Co-Moderators
The Rev. Brian Ellison, Executive Director