May 10A

Dear Selam,

Tonight you experienced what I like to call “slacker parenting.” We had a quick meal, and I let you read at the table. How could I not, when I was glued to the computer?  I let you turn on the TV for a while. When that got dull, you joined me in singing and drumming. After  I cleaned up the mess in the kitchen, got you in and out of the shower, I  then let you watch more TV—and eat potato chips. You stared at me with eyes glowing round—“chips? On the sofa and more TV?”

“It’s a special day, Selam. We don’t do this usually, but today is special.”

Today, several Presbyteries of the PCUSA voted on amendment 10A.  Amendment 10A is another version of a bunch of  amendments that came before it—going back to 1978. These amendments seek to make it possible for LGBT persons to be ordained ministers, elders and deacons in the Presbyterian Church, USA.  I first engaged the issue as a Youth Delegate back in the 80s (yes, I’m that old), and have followed it ever since.  My home church was a more light church. When I was ordained an elder I served with renegade lesbians and gay men.  I guess back then I always thought justice was right around the corner.

It wasn’t.

While the Presbyterian system groaned onward, my own life took off in new directions.  As I began to pursue your adoption, I made a list of promises that I would make to you. I wrote them down.  I promised you swimming lessons, summer camp and Sunday School.  I promised that I would never let you be the only child of color in your class room.  I promised that I would say I love you every day, that I would learn to do your hair nicely (still working on that one).  And then I promised this: “I promise that I will not stop working until you are welcome on both sides of the communion table—no matter who you are, or who you love.”

Things shifted for me. This whole fight became less abstract. Because even without knowing the sound of your voice, I loved you.  I loved you in theory and in fact. I love you now.  I think you’re perfectamazingwonderfulspecialeverythinggoodandgraciousandgodcreated. I cannot imagine ANYTHING on this earth or beyond it that would make me love you any less. And if I feel that way, how could God feel any differently?  I don’t know who you’ll love when you’re grown. But I do know that however your life turns out, you are loved and blessed by God. If you feel called to the ministry, I want nothing external to stop you–not your gender, your race, your nationality, your handicapping condition, or your sexual orientation.

The fight raged on. And every time I heard a debate in Presbytery or read something on the internet, all I could do is think of you. You of the beautiful eyes, you of the wide-open heart, you of the inimitably beautiful soul.  When I heard comments about “hate the sin, love the sinner” and “cheap grace,” I grew angry. How dare someone cheapen God’s love? There is no such thing as a “lite” love.   I used to be dismissive of those who disagreed with me (not nice, I know). Now it felt personal.I felt so protective of you–little you who knows nothing of sexual orientation other than you have plans to marry a gay man 40 years your senior–but only because he agrees to wear a cape and has no known history of sand eating.

Then something happened. Things began to turn hopeful. Presbyteries started changing their minds.For the first time in decades, it started looking possible. I took you to our presbytery’s vote. (We got sort of kicked to the back of the room—remember.) Every day I checked up on progress. We needed 87 yesses. We inched closer and closer.

And then it came down to May 10. We needed one more vote. One more presbytery to vote in favor of inclusion. One of those possibilities was the Twin Cities Presbytery. The voted at night—6 p.m. our time. While the presbytery voted we sang. The two of us  sang “My heart.” It’s really called the “Canticle of the Turning.” It’s your favorite church song. We sang it at your baptism. You got out your Ethiopian drum and banged along, abandoning it at times for a few break dancing moves.

When they broke for dinner , you lost interest. I hit refresh roughly 10,000 times.  When I finally got the vote results, I burst back into singing that song.  You got up and twirled around, your hair pretties clickity clacking as you spun.

“Look mommy, I’m turning, just like the world.”





My soul cries out with a joyful shout

that the God of my heart is great,

And my spirit sings of the wondrous things

that you bring to the ones who wait.

You fixed your sight on your servant’s plight,

and my weakness you did not spurn,

So from east to west shall my name be blest.

Could the world be about to turn?

My heart shall sing of the day you bring.

Let the fires of your justice burn.

Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near,

and the world is about to turn!

2. Though I am small, my God, my all,

you work great things in me,

And your mercy will last from the depths of the past

to the end of the age to be.

Your very name puts the proud to shame,

and to those who would for you yearn,

You will show your might, put the strong to flight,

for the world is about to turn.

3. From the halls of power to the fortress tower,

not a stone will be left on stone.

Let the king beware for your justice tears

ev’ry tyrant from his throne.

The hungry poor shall weep no more,

for the food they can never earn;

There are tables spread, ev’ry mouth be fed,

for the world is about to turn.

4. Though the nations rage from age to age,

we remember who holds us fast:

God’s mercy must deliver us

from the conqueror’s crushing grasp.

This saving word that our forebears heard

is the promise which holds us bound,

Til the spear and rod can be crushed by God,

who is turning the world around.

Rory Cooney


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