Trust at the Table

It was no surprise efforts were made to undo the gracious passage of Amendment 10-A at this summer’s 220th General Assembly of the PC(USA). On Monday, July 2 I testified to the Committee on Church Orders against these overtures. I add 90 seconds to join my voice to the dissonant chorus of other LGBTQ people, those who see us as broken, and ex-gays. This is what I said:

I am John Stanger, Inquirer in Mission Presbytery, and recent graduate of Austin Seminary. I am speaking against 07-2, 3, 6, and 10.

I remember learning about General Assembly as a young boy in my little rural Presbyterian church in South Texas. Since then, I’ve always dreamed of coming to be a part of it. But I never imagined it like this. I never imagined that I would be afraid of all of you. That I would walk around wondering if each person that looked at me thought I was bringing down the church simply because I am a gay man born into the PC(USA).

But today I also want to share a happier story about the church. At Austin Seminary, through the grace that community demonstrated to me, I was able to accept and love who God created me to be, and for the first time in my life, feel a sense of true salvation. But as I’ve grown closer to God and stronger in faith, I have struggle with the church. So, it’s impossible to convey to you in the next few seconds what it felt like to be brought to tears when I heard a year ago that I can now be ordained in the church that baptized me, made promises to me, educated me, loved me. A church that I feel called to serve. It was a moment of reconciliation beyond any other I’ve had. It has kept me in the church.

I have since entered the ordination process and am excited to possibly become a candidate this fall. Please do not undo the work of the last Assembly, but trust me and the CoPM of Mission Presbytery enough to allow us to continue getting to know one another and asking the difficult questions of any call.

I am simply asking to be allowed to stay at the table… and hopefully to stand behind it one day.  Thank you.

As I prepare to fly to Texas this week to sit and talk with my Committee on Preparation for Ministry to hopefully be moved to Candidacy, I am grateful to have had the experience of advocating for the inclusion of my friends and myself and am empowered knowing that efforts to keep us away from the table failed at this year’s assembly.

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