PITTSBURGH, Friday, June 29 — The Covenant Network of Presbyterians hosted a convocation dinner for General Assembly commissioners on Friday, June 29, summarizing the advocacy group’s hopes for the 220thGeneral Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). After brief greetings from each of the four candidates for moderator of the assembly, Nancy Enderle, the Covenant Network’s interim executive director, spoke of the network’s commitment to continue working for its two longstanding goals: full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons in the life of the church, and for church unity.
“Change takes time,” Enderle said, recounting how frequently she had been asked, “Isn’t your work done?” following the votes of the 2010 GA. Enderle emphasized working toward unity by “helping culture change as we live into this new day.
Laurie Kraus, a pastor from Florida representing the network’s Board of Directors, then shared the group’s hopes for this assembly, meeting in Pittsburgh June 30-July 7. After describing the overarching intentions of “joyful collaboration, generous hospitality and respectful community,” Kraus identified the network’s first priority as building support for the changes in ordination standards the PC(USA) approved a year ago – a constitutional amendment which lifted the requirement that those being ordained practice fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman or chastity if they are single. Presbyteries have sent several overtures to this assembly seeking to overturn that change in policy.
At the same time, Kraus stated that the network respects those who disagree with the new policy. Accordingly, their second goal will be to support authoritative interpretations of the constitution to allow candidates for ordination to conscientiously disagree with the new rule. Kraus said she hoped that might relieve anxiety for those for whom these changes create discomfort and uncertainty.
Third, she stressed that the network hopes to resolve pastoral crises by urging the assembly to support authoritative interpretations that would allow Presbyterian pastors to conduct same-gender marriages in jurisdictions where such weddings are legal. “No pastors should be under risk of action against them” for performing such marriages, Kraus said.
Fourth, she expressed appreciation for the Board of Pensions’ announcement of its intent to provide medical and retirement benefits for same-gender partners of those enrolled in the plans, beginning in January 2013. The network will resist efforts to weaken that provision.
Finally, Kraus emphasized the goal of solidifying union in the church’s communion, recognizing it as God’s gift to Christ’s body. Kraus stressed collective responsibility of Presbyterians to live into this calling — not just as many are gathered in Pittsburgh, but as they leave and live into the decisions the assembly will make this week.