Presbyterian Church (USA) Responds to Global Crisis for LGBT People

This is a story of compassion turning into action. Rev. Janet Edwards, a Presbyterian minister in Pittsburgh, PA has advocated for the human dignity and equality of LGBT people and their families in her church and local community for more than three decades. Upon becoming aware of the challenges faced by LGBT people around the world, particularly the criminalization of homosexuality and the rising violence and persecution of LGBT persons, her concern and advocacy moved beyond the borders of her city and country.

Rev. Edwards was selected by Pittsburgh Presbytery to serve as a Commissioner to the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in June, 2014. She knew she had a unique opportunity to bring a Commissioner’s Resolution for consideration by this assembly in Detroit. She wanted this General Assembly to learn about the global crisis for LGBT people and their families and to call the Presbyterian Church (USA) to faithful, compassionate action. So, she called Bear Ride, a Presbyterian minister and me to work with her on this resolution.

In a historic first for the Presbyterian Church (USA) after three decades of dialogue on ordination and marriage equality for LGBT people, Rev. Edwards’ resolution was unanimously approved by committee and therefore adopted by the assembly. The resolution said:

Given the global crisis for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons and their families in eighty-one countries where homosexuality is illegal and the impact of persecution that threatens their lives, health, and safety, the 221st General Assembly (2014) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) does the following:

1. Encourages each Presbyterian to hold in prayer our LGBT sisters and brothers in the countries where they are vulnerable around the world.

2. Encourages the Presbyterian Mission Agency to create educational resources about the critical global LGBT situation and forward those resources to synods and presbyteries for study and action.

3. Encourages Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations to consider preparations to provide sanctuary, safety, and support for LGBT refugees and asylum seekers.

Upon adoption by the 221st General Assembly, the Presbyterian Mission Agency enlisted a writing team that included Presbyterians working in Africa and Latin America, within the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations in New York City, and LGBT faith leaders. Inspired by the three actions from Rev. Edwards’ resolution, the team began its work. The educational resource, “The Global Crisis for People Who Are LGBT And Their Families: A Presbyterian Church (USA) Response”¬†was published last month.

You can find and download the resource here. We encourage you to read it and share it with your local faith community and network.

We are grateful for Rev. Edwards’ compassion and vision that has resulted in the publication of this historic educational resource. While it has been published by the Presbyterian Church (USA), we believe it is relevant and has value across faith traditions, countries and cultures. The message of recognizing our LGBT brothers and sisters as part of God’s good creation and to respect their human dignity is one that has no borders.