.... the Presbytery ... will be debating an "overture" to the larger 
church  suggesting that the ability to ordain people who are homosexual  
be restored to local ordaining bodies (presbyteries and congregations)  
without restrictions from on high.  Below is what I intend to say at the  
I speak in favor of the overture.  I see it as a breath of fresh air.
After years of agonizing yet paralyzing debate at the national level
about the issue of ordaining homosexuals to be ministers, elders, and 
deacons, it would be a relief to turn our national attention to other 
pressing concerns and to let presbyteries and congregations decide whom 
to ordain--dealing with persons they know and love rather than with 
categories and stereotypes.  To know a person only in terms of his or her 
sexual orientation as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered is not
to know very much about a person; it is wrong to make this aspect into a
"master status" which overshadows everything else.  We need a sense of 
proportion and perspective.  Jesus accused the religious leaders of his day 
with lack of proportion: "You strain a gnat out of your soup but swallow
a camel whole.  You tithe mint and rue and cummin but neglect weightier 
matters of justice and mercy and faith."  So, I fear, it has been with us. 
Many have focused with "selective literalism" on a few verses of scripture
but missed the general drift.  Perhaps a joke will lend perspective.  
"There are seven scriptures that deal with homosexuality but 341 dealing 
with heterosexuality.  It's not that God does not love heterosexuals; it's
just that they require more supervision!"  Joys and problems involving 
sexuality abound in our society, but they cut across the distinctions we 
draw between heterosexuals and homosexuals, and they have no overarching 
relevance to ordination.  As a sociologist (and theologian and minister),
I am impressed with the way experience can change attitudes.  In an earlier 
phase of the civil rights struggle, a two-part study was done of attitudes 
toward having black clerks work in department stores.  Before any were 
hired, a great majority of customers surveyed opposed having black clerks;
after legislation outlawed discrimination and black clerks had served for
a few months, most customers said it was fine.  We know that our sister
denomination in the Reformed tradition, the United Church of Christ, has
ordained persons who are homosexual without problems.  Many of us know
closeted lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered persons performing 
effective ministries as ministers, elders, and deacons in our own church,
but this knowledge is not widespread.  Now there are a set of persons
who have a healthy openness about their sexual orientation who are waiting 
to be ordained.  I know some of them personally, and I have read the 
stories of many more.  They are an impressive lot.  They show great promise 
for ministry, and I, for one, do not think we should continue to deprive 
ourselves of the gifts they offer.  They are knocking at our church door.
Setting aside the constriction of "definitive guidance" (which then stated
clerk William P. Thompson advised but now regards as mistaken) and allowing 
the opening wedge of local initiative, let us welcome the stranger at the 
gate that all may freely serve.  In so doing, I believe, we will experience 
and extend the inclusive love of God.  I recommend the overture.