A Pastoral Letter from That All May Freely Serve

Below is a letter to all the churches who support the work of That All May Freely Serve and their independent affiliate organizations. First Presbyterian Church of New Haven is a founding member of one of their affiliates, Presbyterian Promise. Presbyterian Promise was organized to work for the full inclusion of our LGBTQI friends in Christ. For many years, the First Presbyterian Church Session sent overtures to the Presbytery for their vote. These overtures focused first on removing the ban on ordination for LGBTQ people. In 2010, that ban was removed. Since that time the Session has sent overtures to address the issue of marriage equality. This year was no exception, and the two overtures we sent on – first to the Presbytery and then to the General Assembly, passed. We include this letter as a pastoral response to the decisions of the 221st General Assembly. If you would like more information about the work of Presbyterian Promise, please talk with Jane Hindenlang or Dick Hansbany.

Dear Friends in Christ,

The decisions of the 221st General Assembly in favor of marriage equality are welcome relief following decades of conflict in our church. That All May Freely Serve believes that these outcomes of allowing pastors to legally perform weddings and for presbyteries to consider amending W-4.9000 will bring us closer together than was possible just one week ago. The impact of the commissioners’ votes powerfully addresses the violence tied to the exclusion of our family members who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning (LGBTQ/Q) with a clear answer that the church has chosen a new way. We rejoice in this prophetic response that establishes a loving witness for all and advances us in the elimination of discrimination in our denomination. As Paul says, “Love is not boastful or rude,” and we see these events as a call to come together.

As members of the PC(USA), our LGBTQ/Q community has been greatly impacted by the deliberations and decisions of previous General Assemblies — decisions that have wounded our congregations, families and friends, while pushing many others away. Yet, on this long journey, we have always striven to honor the full humanity and dignity of those who oppose us, and we are especially alert to doing so now. We bring our Christian love, healing and hope to our future together. The ministry of That All May Freely Serve is dedicated to such healing, as we advocate for justice and love for all in the PC(USA), making sure that no one is ever alone in this struggle and carrying the message of the Good News wherever we go.

The 221st General Assembly’s decisions fill us with gratitude, joy and hope for the conversations and healing that can now occur throughout the church. We readily join with all of good will on this Emmaus path. We embrace the road of reconciliation of our many families in the Body of Christ, and we pray without ceasing for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in this new dawn of hospitality and justice for all.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Peace be with you!