The American definitions of family and marriage continue to evolve, and that’s also true within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, human rights advocate Michael Adee, said Sunday at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Overland Park.
News services reported earlier this year, he said, that single Americans made up more than half of the country’s adult population for the first time since the government began compiling such figures in 1976.
“When we are thinking about marriage and family, it doesn’t have to be all about the ‘Noah’s ark syndrome,’ in that it has to be only two by two,” Adee said. “I want all kinds of families to be represented within the Presbyterian Church, including families of one.”
Adee’s appearance, part of a Grace Covenant adult education series, occurred as developments regarding same-sex marriage have accelerated across Kansas and Missouri. Same-sex marriages began being conducted in Missouri, including Jackson County, last week. Meanwhile, a federal appeals court last Friday appeared to clear the way for same-sex marriages to begin in Kansas. However, the state attorney general said he would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to preserve the state’s gay marriage ban.
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The same issue is being debated within the Presbyterian Church, Adee said.
He detailed how the church’s general assembly this summer approved a measure that would allow individual pastors the option to conduct same-sex marriages within those states in which it has been declared legal.
This amendment is being considered by presbyteries, or regional church bodies, across the country. The Heartland Presbytery, representing churches across the greater Kansas City region on both sides of the state line, is scheduled to vote Nov. 22 on the measure.
“We are in the middle of an amazing conversation within the Presbyterian Church,” Adee said. As challenging as the dialogue might be for some church members, he urged them to think about what the question represents to individual church pastors.
“For them it is a matter of conscience, but it is also a matter of pastoral care,” he said.
Adee, a director for the Horizons Foundation, a San Francisco nonprofit organization that coordinates philanthropy for the LGBT community, previously had served as executive director of More Light Presbyterians, an organization that supports full participation of LGBT community members in the Presbyterian Church (USA).
He described how he grew up the adopted son of a former college football player who had trouble articulating anything about sexuality, he said.
“He was part of a generation that was silent,” he said.
His mother, meanwhile, was known for walking into a room with a game playing on the television and announcing that she was going to be rooting for the team that was losing.
“She wanted to root for the underdog,” Adee said. “I look back now and wonder if that point me in the direction of thinking about justice and responsibility.”
Adee’s appearance was one of several events scheduled for Sunday at Grace Covenant. The church screened a film titled “God Loves Uganda,” which examines the wave of anti-gay laws that has been spreading across Africa and the Middle East.
“We are a congregation that celebrates social justice,” said the Rev. Jonas Hayes, Grace Covenant senior pastor. “Welcoming anyone who is marginalized or oppressed aligns with our core value of justice and inclusion.
“We want to be a place that welcomes all people.”