Statement to Mission Presbytery, March 1997

by Babs Geminden, Elder and (current) Clerk of Session, St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

Austin, Texas

[Moderator's Note: Babs Geminden is Clerk of Session and Interim Director of Children's Ministries at St. Andrew's, where I also serve as an elder. She is a graduate of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and her gifts are cherished by all who are witness to them. We are extraordinarily proud to have Babs in our midst and will stand with her regardless of the outcomes of G-6.0106b passed in 1997 and placed in the Book of Order at the end of the Syracuse Assembly. She preached the sermon at St. Andrew's service to dedicate our Covenant of Dissent in May 1997. V. Lewis]

As I speak to you today against this amendment [Amendment B - now G-6.0106b], I also come to speak of healing in the midst of much division and heated emotions. The healing I want to talk about is my own, but it can also be the healing story of many other people if this amendment is defeated. My healing took place during my thirty-five years in the Presbyterian Church. It began at Grace Presbyterian Church in Victoria, Texas. In 1980 I had moved back to Victoria still doing battle with God about my call to ministry - a battle that began at age sixteen in that same church. This time I was elected to the session and served on several committees in Presbytery. Ultimately I became involved in the Lay Leadership Institute and ended up answering God's call by enrolling in [Austin] Seminary.

God knew that I had to get to seminary in order to continue my spiritual journey, which was all about discovering what God had created me to be. While I was in seminary , it became clear to me that God had created me to be a lesbian - and not the heterosexual that I had lived my life as up until then. With this sure knowledge about myself, I found that it was the Presbyterian Church - not God - which then told me I was no longer welcome to use my gifts and talents in the PC(USA). There no longer was a place for me in this denomination. when the door to the Presbyterian Church slammed shut, the door to Metropolitan Community Church [in Austin, Texas] swung wide open - and I served as Minister of Education there. But it was not my church, because - no matter what I did - I was still Presbyterian in my heart.

This discomfort finally led me to Saint Andrew's Presbyterian Church [Austin], where I was greeted by "open minds, open hearts, and open hands" [St. Andrew's motto and part of its More Light statement]. It was there that the second part of my healing began. St. Andrew's welcomed me as an equal member of God's family, and I cannot describe in words how meaningful and healing that experience was for me. St. Andrew's takes very seriously God's call to serve and welcome all of God's children into full membership into its community of faith. At St. Andrew's there are no degrees of sin - we are all accepted as sinners, equal in God's sight and equally loved by God. And we strive to follow Christ's words when he said, "Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone."

No matter how this vote turns out here and in the church at large, I know that no human force can ever take St. Andrew's - my church - away from me. For St. Andrew's is deeply committed to the gospel message that we are all called to be more Christlike, not more alike. It is a church that welcomes, honors, and embraces diversity and clearly understands that God calls us all to do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God." [Micah 6:8]

I ask you to join us on this journey towards wholeness by defeating this amendment that we believe not only seeks to establish degrees of sin, but that would seek also to drive out rather than embrace all God's children.

Babs Geminden's Sermon at St. Andrew's, May 18, 1997

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