I was disappointed to receive a statement from the faculty of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Our denomination is getting ready for its national meeting where one of the hot issues will be same gender marriage. The faculty of APTS has unanimously voted to urge “mutual forbearance” from both sides, which sounds nice, but “mutual forbearance” means something very different for the two sides. For those who have been denied equal rights, the concern is that they not press too quickly to be treated fairly. For those who would deny equal rights to GLBT persons, the primary concern is that they not leave the denomination. It isn’t hard to tell who really counts.
I would understand such a statement if there really were two extremist groups battling one another, but one side is simply asking for the same rights the other already has. Can that really be classified as a lack of forbearance? What GLBT Presbyterian has ever tried to deny marriage to heterosexual Presbyterians? What GLBT Presbyterian has fought against heterosexual ordination? If only one side is attacking the other, and APTS pretends both sides are equally at fault, has it not in fact sided with the attacker?
If the faculty of Austin Presbyterian Seminary believe those denied justice should wait patiently, then what are they to be waiting patiently for? Are they to be waiting patiently for all their oppressors to die before the Presbyterian Church will show them the dignity they deserve today? Are they to be waiting patiently for a time when it will be economically and culturally costless for the Presbyterian Church to do the right thing? Are they to be waiting patiently for future church leaders to emerge who will have the courage we lack?
APTS is my Alma mater, I owe them much, but this letter is a source of great shame. I wish instead of pretending to be evenhanded they would come out with a gay bashing statement, because that is what their letter really amounts to. To tell the oppressor and oppressed to show mutual forbearance, is to pretend the oppression isn’t even there.