There is an overture to the PCUSA General Assembly from the Presbytery of New York City that expresses our complicity and remorse as a denomination for the persecution and victimization over the years of Gay and Lesbian people. I believe it is an attempt to spark a process of reconciliation. I believe it is an honest and heartfelt initiative intended to do a good thing. I favor the principle of such a confession.
In its present form, however, it doesn’t do anything like that.
This is because, unfortunately, it has to accommodate itself to, and make its way through, our parliamentary process, which is emphatically not designed for reconciliation. Rather, our process, basically Robert’s Rules of Order (“RONR”), is more about artificially dividing a group into two adversarial parties and pressing towards an up or down decision by majority vote. This process turns such an overture against itself, rendering it not about reconciliation at all, but a tool of antagonism, hostility, and division. Using RONR to do reconciliation is like trying to cultivate flowers with a lawnmower.
Now, I have been on the progressive side of this set of issues my whole career. I always advocated and voted for inclusion and equality. But I have to oppose this initiative. In its present form it serves mainly to rub salt in the wounds of those who lost the 40 year ecclesiastical war over Gays in the church. Rather than express love for those LGBT people whom we victimized and ask them and God for forgiveness, due to the RONR format, this overture comes across as self-righteous posturing by a smug and victorious majority. It feels just plain mean. It is not an adequate answer to centuries of meanness against LGBT people.
We really do need to begin a process of truth and reconciliation. But we will need to do it by means of some better process than RONR. Using that process has left us crippled, polarized, and splitting apart already. Healing those who were abused will have to include healing all of us from a fundamentally and intentionally abusive parliamentary process. In short, we cannot use an inherently violent and antagonistic process to accomplish a reconciliatory task.