God’s Own Image

God so loved the world.
John 3:16

The evolution of the way sexual orientation is understood and viewed is surely one the most significant transformations in my life time. People my age cringe when recalling what used to be said and what we used to assume and believe about sexual orientation. It is almost difficult to believe today but I never knew a self acknowledging gay person until I was 26 and pastor of my first congregation. Even more astonishing it didn’t happen again for 20 more years. In both instances young men came to me, their pastor, to discuss what they, and most other people, considered a problem. Both hoped I could help them change.

In the intervening years I came to understand that sexual orientation in not a choice and certainly not a problem requiring change. As I had the privilege of knowing and enjoying the friendship of many gay and lesbian Presbyterians, many of them faithful, generous members of congregations I was serving, my own views and beliefs changed. Increasingly, the end to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the church and society became a compelling priority for me in the same way and for the same reasons that racial justice seemed an obvious and clear priority for Christians and the Christian Church earlier.

In time it became fairly simple: God loves everything God made and called it all good: God’s own image is imprinted in every human being: Jesus instructed his followers to extend that holy love to all, particularly those whom society and religion marginalize: Jesus’ followers are to make a place at the table for everyone because that’s the way it already is in the Kingdom.

The issue in my church of the ordination of gay and lesbian Presbyterians has claimed a lot of my attention and energy in the past twenty years. I was Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) when the church’s Constitution was amended to exclude gay and lesbian Presbyterians from ordained leadership, and subsequently devoted much of my time and energy to changing what I thought at the time, and still think, was a terrible mistake that would surely displease the church’s Lord.

Thanks be to God, change has come in my life time. Change has come to my church, and after the Supreme Court decision last week to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act which defined marriage as between one man and one woman, and therefore not between persons of the same sex, change has come and is coming to American society. There is, of course, much more work to be done, particularly in states like Illinois where state legislators have not yet approved the right of all people to be treated equally under the law and to enjoy the right to marry and spend life with the person they love.

But, at the end of this momentous week, coming at the end of Gay Pride Month, it is time for gratitude. Gratitude that some of us have lived through and personally experienced this remarkable evolution in our nation and in our church. In addition to gratitude, it is time to rededicate ourselves to finishing the goal of the full acceptance of all God’s children by society and the churches – all the churches. And it is time, particularly, to thank God for the courage and patience, the strength and relentless hopefulness, and the great love of our LGBT sisters and brothers.

Good and gracious God,
Forgive us for stubbornly refusing for so long to understand the depth and breadth of your profound and inclusive love for all people. Give us moral fortitude to keep the faith and fight the fight until all your children are welcome and free and loved, in the name of the One who shows us how to live and love.


  1. Judith Anne says:

    I enjoy and appreciate your blog. Some of our mentors worked so hard on the civil rights among races. Our challenge has been the rights among genders and sexual persuasions. This has been a great week for so many.

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