What does it look like to be a faithful presence on this corner around issues related to gender, sexuality, marriage, and leadership in the church? In October 2014, our congregation set out to explore this question, seeking to discover the deeper truth of God's grace as it expands our heart for others, as well as the deeper grace of God's truth calling us to follow his will and ways.
As a follow-up to the 2016 "On Gender, Sexuality, Marriage, and Leadership: A Letter from the Session of First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley," the Session approved the clarifications below in their August 21, 2018 Session meeting. Phrases within quotations are excerpts from the 2016 Session letter (Click here to read the letter).
- Can First Pres pastors officiate same-sex weddings?
- Can the First Pres Berkeley campus be used for same-sex weddings?
- If "...one's sexual orientation and faithful living out of that orientation—whether in singleness or marriage—does not preclude consideration for ordination," does that also extend to the action of ordination?
- What is the context and usage of: "...people in our community who experience same-sex attraction, as well as those who identify as LGBT."?
Answer: These phrases were meant to be expansive (not restrictive) and were not intended to distinguish between categories of people with different sexual orientations, attributes, or perspectives, but rather to describe a very broad range of persons who have traditionally been stigmatized for those orientations, attributes, or perspectives.
- "We welcome as members all people who proclaim Christ as Savior and Lord, regardless of sexual orientation—whether single or married. The sacraments of baptism and communion, as signs of grace and marks of belonging, are similarly open to all professing believers..." Does this mean same-sex married couples are recognized and eligible to become members, be baptized, and take communion?
If you have further questions, please contact a pastor:
Rev. Tom Elson, Missions Pastor Temporary Supply at firstname.lastname@example.org
*Rev. Delianne Koops, Caring Pastor Temporary Supply at email@example.com
Rev. Steve Schibsted, Interim Senior Pastor at firstname.lastname@example.org
*Rev. Mark Stryker, Associate Pastor for Christian Formation at email@example.com
*Denotes Pastor was on the Session that issued the 2016 letter
“On Gender, Sexuality, Marriage, and Leadership: A Letter from the Session of First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley” was presented at the Annual Congregational Meeting on March 6, 2016. Click here to read this letter that addresses the Session’s current unity and vision for life together at First Pres under the Lordship of Jesus Christ concerning these matters.
Following the March 6 meeting, the Session contacted many ministry groups to hear feedback, concerns, and questions, and offer further insight as needed. Four separate Town Hall Meetings were held on April 10 and April 17 with Senior Pastor Ian Noyes and Session members to continue discussion and answer questions.
Click here to read the supplemental “Further Context for Session’s Letter on Gender, Sexuality, Marriage and Leadership.”
Session will be available to the congregation on Sundays during Middle Hour on the Pathway beginning April 24 through May 22, 2016. Additionally, the Pastors and Session are working on other ways to continue to address biblical and theological approaches to GSML issues. There is potential for future classes and activities that reinforce our commitment to the authority of scripture and our church’s approach to interpreting scripture in community.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to reach Session with your comments and questions.
Our efforts were part of a process in which we sought to faithfully engage our congregation in the larger conversation about gender, sexuality, marriage, and leadership. Following the public process that began in October 2014 through June 2015, Elders on Session worked to discern and articulate, with a goal to communicate a response in the first quarter of 2016. During this time, we have appreciated your continued prayers for this important and complex undertaking.
- LEARN—Public Process: October 2014 through June 2015–COMPLETED
- October 19, A Vision of We
- November 2, Reformed Tradition
- February 8, Generous Empathy
- April 26, Open Wide Your Hearts
- June 14, Stories of Faith and Life
- October 19, A Vision of We
- DISCERN & ARTICULATE—Session Process–COMPLETED
Review the "Learn" phrase and other materials, identify any gaps, further engage particular individuals and groups in our congregation, do additional research or work if needed.
- Scope and Plan
Clarify the goals and develop the general framework for format, content and process to complete.
Collaboratively draft, review and finalize what we want to communicate about our vision and practice. Prepare for distribution as appropriate.
- AFFIRM—Re-engage Public Process—IN PROCESS
Create plan to share Session’s work with the congregation. Schedule announcements, presentations, gatherings, etc.
- Ongoing Witness
Give thanks to God and launch our vision and practices in a worship service of commitment.
Click here for a list of resources that can help clarify different perspectives and the underlying rationales behind them. We encourage you to read at least one resource that aligns with your current perspective, and one that might challenge some of your assumptions.