More Light Presbyterian News

Working for the Full Participation of LGBTQ people in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and In Society.
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As a national organization, time spent face-to-face is precious to the Staff and Board of More Light. In September, we gathered for a board meeting, where we spent time in fellowship and talked about ways we feel led to live into God’s abundance in the coming year. At the meeting, we said goodbye to Annanda Barclay and Will McGarvey, two board members whose terms have, sadly, come to an end. Annanda and Will have led More Light through some substantial changes in the organization and the denomination, and we are eternally grateful for their service.  

The board was also pleased to elect Rev. Amy Kim Kyremes-Parks to join Rev. Kyle Walker as co-moderators of the board.

Additionally, the board voted to welcome three new members to the National Board of Directors. The class of 2020 brings a breadth and depth of experience in the PC(USA) and each incoming member will undoubtedly contribute a great deal to the work of More Light. We are delighted to welcome them into the More Light Family!! You can learn more about our National Board of Directors here!
Dr. Mati Moros

Matilde Moros, PhD, is a theological social ethicist working in the field of gender, sexuality and women’s studies. The ethics of resistance and subversion of hegemonic world-views and narratives of power lead her teaching and learning toward a counter-narrative “testimonio” method of decolonial, transnational feminist ethics. Feminist social ethics must respond to sexual and gender violence and the multiple intersections of which race and its various social constructions has led to the exclusion from centers of power of many peoples including Latin American and Latinx communities. Dr. Moros’ research on the communal and historical effects of organized resistance to gendered and sexual violence has led her to an approach to liberation ethics in which recovery of resistance methods has become the primary focus.  Dr. Matilde Moros is Assistant Professor of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), in Richmond, Virginia.

I have been part of several movements within the PC(USA), and have worked within the denomination to bring forth change.  My latest service was as co-moderator of the Special Committee on the Confession of Belhar, which is now in our Book of Confessions.  Personally, More Light Presbyterians has impacted my theology starting with the work around AIDS awareness, and I have seen changes to our PC(USA) polity come about in large part due to the work of MLP.  I now work in Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies academically.  My association as a parent of a non-binary teen, plus my spouse’s work at a LGBTQIA+ youth support organization in Richmond, ​all lead me to eagerly do this work with MLP. ​ I find it highly exciting and promising that MLP is shifting gears to new and robust methods of engagement.  I am very honored and pleased to be on the board!  – Dr. Matilde Moros

Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow

Bruce is a pastor, author, consultant, and coach. A 3rd Generation Chinese/Filipino, armchair sociologist, and technology enthusiast Bruce speaks and teaches on faith, race, parenting, and technology in a variety contexts from seminaries to conferences to congregations to pre-schools. While he speaks to both religious and secular audiences, he committed to living and expressing a Christian faith that is beautifully complex, unimaginably just and excruciatingly gracious.

Bruce has been a Presbyterian pastor for over 20 years and served as the founding pastor of Mission Bay Community Church in San Francisco from 2000-2012, a church of young, multicultural and progressive Presbyterians. In 2008 he was the youngest person ever elected as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), the highest elected office of the 1.8 million member denomination.

I was thrilled to say yes to the invitation to become a member of the because MLP embodies the complexities of what it means to be a just, inclusive, loving, and passionate people of faith. It is clear that a fresh spirit is moving through MLP’s work and ministry — and I am excited to become a part of what is next.
– Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow

Rev. Floretta L. Watkins

The Reverend Floretta L . Watkins graduated from Mercer University in Macon, GA, where she earned a BA in Communications. In 1993, she graduated from Johnson C. Smith Seminary of the Interdenominational Theological Seminary with an emphasis in Homiletics and Christian Education. After Seminary she was ordained as Minister of Word and Sacrament and immediately began her vocational service to the church as Presbytery Staff of Campus Ministry at South Carolina State University and Claflin College.  It was there that Reverend Watkins developed her approach to ministry  as a “down to earth” minister serving with imagination, energy and humor.

After serving the campuses in Orangeburg SC, she received a call to serve Pleasant Ridge of Lancaster SC and Hermon Presbyterian Church in Rock Hill, SC. Reverend Watkins was chosen to lead Hermon because of her dynamic preaching abilities as well as her abilities to understand generational characteristics and their impact on the church.

In 1997, Rev Watkins was commissioned to the rank of 1st Lieutenant in the United States Air Force National Guard as the first African American female Chaplain.  She served as support to airmen and soldiers in the various situations including the floods of North Carolina in Kingston NC as well as deployment to Elmendorf, AFB in Alaska as well as  Osan, South Korea.  In June 2017 she retired from the 145th Air National Guard.

In 2002 Reverend Watkins began her service at well known Seigle Avenue Presbyterian Church.  Known for its interracial make-up, Reverend Watkins opened the doors for more inclusion and acceptance of all of God’s children. With a strong emphasis on leadership development,  Reverend Watkins concentrates her efforts on  a decentralized ministry style so that she can pour her energy into  equipping lay leadership for ministry.

Rev. Watkins is currently a Doctoral Candidate for a Doctorate of Education in  Organizational Leadership.  Her work will be around Clergy women and role congruity: The lived experiences of Female Clergy in the PCUSA. Reverend Watkins continues to serve the church with heart and soul.  She has served on the Presbytery Council and served and chair of the Mission and Justice Committee of Council. She also proudly served as the first African American Clergy woman  Moderator of the Presbytery of Charlotte in 2013.  Reverend Watkins was nominated to serve on the Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns for the class of 2018.

“When I was asked to you join MLP I was thrilled. Why? Because of the time and work and efforts given by people who were courageous enough to keep inclusion on the radar of our denomination.  At the time of my ordination, it was unconstitutional. Because of MLP I can be who I am fully.  For this reason, I offer my gifts to MLP and our denomination as we seek to know and be fully known.” – Rev. Floretta L. Watkins


More Light stands in solidarity with the faithful witness of the counter-protesters who peacefully assembled against the largest white nationalist march in decades in Charlottesville, VA this weekend. We are grateful to many in our More Light community who preached, prayed, showed up to vigils, and declared that love is stronger than hate.

Clergy protesting at at the march in Charlottesville, Virginia on Aug. 12, 2017. (Photo by Jill Harms)

Though the weekend is behind us, the impact of the racist violence in Charlottesville and in our country is far from over. We believe that we must confront racism and white supremacy when it shows up as a public event, but also within our own systems and institutions.

While the events in Charlottesville were devastating, they are not isolated incidents. As Christians we are called upon, especially those of us who are white, to acknowledge the ways in which white supremacy infiltrates every facet of our lives, and to work to dismantle the structures of white supremacy in our own lives, in the Church, and in our world. We must lift up our voices and resist. Silence and denial are part of the ways the system of oppression stays in place.

Many of us are wondering what to do in the wake of the events this weekend. We believe there has never been a better time to act. Here at More Light, we have been working with Jessica Vazquez Torres at Crossroads Anti-Racism Organizing and Training to examine our own policies and programs for ways they reflect our commitment to racial justice and equity. In the next few months our board will be making recommendations for tangible ways MLP can further our mission to reflect God’s abundance through our resistance to white supremacy.

Here are some additional ways to get involved.

Get connected with a national group at the forefront of organizing around racial justice. Here’s two organizations we follow:

Bring a conversation about racial justice to your congregation. The following are some great places to start:

  • The Reverend Denise Anderson and the Reverend Jan Edmiston, Co‐Moderators of the 222nd General Assembly (2016) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), have invited the church to read and discuss the book, Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race, by Debby Irving. They have created a companion study guide for congregations published through the PCUSA.
  • Last fall, More Light hosted our first Teach-In series on Racial Justice, to help equip our congregations for critical conversations and action around racial equity. We’ve posted the powerpoint slides and videos from that series which can be useful for personal enrichment or congregational conversations found here.
  • Share the statement from the PCUSA on the events in Charlottesville. This could be read aloud in worship or as part of your Sunday School class.

As white people, it is very important to do some internal work as we are engaging externally in our congregations or communities around racial justice. Here are a few great resources for those of us who are white:

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to go next in times like these. Often God’s faithfulness comes in a call to go to the places we are afraid to go. More Light’s hope is that we are able to trust in God to instill in us the courage to be the people God has called us to be.

Yours in the journey,

The More Light Presbyterians Team


Those of us at More Light know that today is an especially difficult day for our transgender siblings. With the announcement today attacking 7,000 – 15,000 transgender military members who are suddenly eliminated from military service by the president combined with legislation such as bathroom bills at the state level (currently Texas is considering such a bill), it should be noted that this is not a general and chaotic attempt to appeal to a political base. These are intentional steps to undermine the safety and well being of our transgender siblings.

To that end, we encourage our communities to surround our transgender friends with love and support. An attack on any of us, is an attack on all of us. We encourage you to speak out to your state and national lawmakers to oppose these attempts to create widespread animus toward our siblings.

It is not always possible or advisable for those affected by policy to stand up for themselves. It may place someone in harm’s way to do so. Rev. Laura Walters modeled what accompaniment of her transgender neighbors in her words:

“I am a pastor. In that role I have had the privilege of working with and counseling many youth and adults including transgender people. I’ve spoken with young folks as they are beginning this journey. I can tell you transitioning is a struggle I can’t imagine. It is a journey that requires so much bravery, strength, and fortitude. It is a journey full of obstacles and pain and sometimes cruelty. It is a journey I don’t think I would be capable of making. We, as people of faith, need to be helping these courageous folks not adding to their pain and suffering as this bill does. And we certainly don’t need to be telling them what bathroom they can or cannot use.”

We are grateful for voices, such as Rev. Laura’s, that stand up and advocated for their transgender neighbors. (Laura is pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Lake Travis and an active leader in the More Light movement in Mission Presbytery. You can read more about Rev. Walters’ accompaniment of the transgender community what is happening in the Texas legislature in this linked article from Salon magazine.)

It is important we continue to build a strong network to fight hate filled, bullying executive orders and legislation. We are in hard times, but we do not go alone. We will go together with all God’s children.


I am the Reverend Laura Walters, pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Lake Travis, an ordained minister of the Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church. I am here today to speak AGAINST SB6. As a person of faith, I am called to speak out against any actions that promote hate, discrimination, division, and violence. This bill is yet another example of the violence and discrimination acted out against transgender people. I would hope that in 2017 this would not be the case, but it is.

I am a pastor. In that role I have had the privilege of working with and counseling many youth and adults including transgender people. I’ve spoken with young folks as they are beginning this journey. I can tell you transitioning is a struggle I can’t imagine. It is a journey that requires so much bravery, strength, and fortitude. It is a journey full of obstacles and pain and sometimes cruelty. It is a journey I don’t think I would be capable of making. We, as people of faith, need to be helping these courageous folks not adding to their pain and suffering as this bill does. And we certainly don’t need to be telling them what bathroom they can or cannot use.

Look, transitioning may be something we, you and I, never fully understand. How could we, if we have never walked in those shoes? But we don’t have to understand to do the right thing. I do know this, in my experience as a faith leader in Austin, transgender people are NOT the problem. And let’s be honest, this bill is NOT about women’s safety. It is about discrimination. Trust me, as a woman of faith, as the mother of 2 daughters, I would love to speak to you about violence against women. But the truth is that is not what today is about.

We must have the human decency to help transgender people find their place in this world. We must give them the human dignity to choose their own bathroom. As a Christian minister, my faith tells me, that is the least we can do. Thank you.

The Reverend Laura Walters – Pastor, Presbyterian Church of Lake Travis

 


I am thrilled to introduce Jess Cook (they, them, theirs) as More Light’s new Program and Communications Manager! Jess will serve as third full-time staff member alongside Joey Lopez and me. Some of you may know Jess from the LGBTQ youth workshop they led at the 2015 More Light National Conference. However, if you haven’t met Jess yet, let me help you get to know them!

When I posted the job description for the Program and Communications Manager, I acknowledged that I was looking for a unicorn: someone who had the design and communications chops to take our media work to the next level, experience in program management, and the theological or congregational experience to work alongside our More Light Churches and members. Jess is that unicorn.

Jess is currently a candidate for ordination in the PC(USA), has an MDiv from Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, VA, and a Masters of Fine Arts in photography from the University of North Texas including graphic design experience. For the past four years, Jess has worked as the Youth Programs Director at Side-by-Side, an LGBTQ+ youth center in Richmond, VA. While at Side by Side, Jess grew the youth programs over 300%. Jess was part of building their existing youth programs, including a support group for trans youth and the first LGBTQ+ youth for Middle Schoolers on the east coast, and helped start a new group specifically for LGBTQ+ youth of color. In addition, Jess started a meals program at Side by Side and coordinated the messaging for the organization’s re-brand in 2016. If you want to see Jess talk about their work at Side by Side and how it translates to the work we do at MLP, check out their TEDX talk about what faith communities can learn from queer kids in capes.

Here’s what Jess had to say about joining the team at More Light:

When I first connected with Side by Side in 2011, I was beginning my third year of seminary. I came in with ideas of building bridges with faith communities in an attempt to make them safer for LGBTQ+ youth. Instead, I was drawn into the space itself and the kind of magic that happens when young people are truly seen and affirmed in who they are. I continue to be moved by the transformation I see in youth every day. More Light feels like the opportunity to do what I thought I would do those years ago. My time at Side by Side will allow me to stay rooted in the lived experiences of the people I’ve met as I communicate with congregational leaders about how to truly create space for LGBTQ+ people in their congregations. This job fits perfectly within both my formal education and my work experience, and also my sense of call to better equip faith community leaders on how to support a rich and diverse LGBTQ+ community. I cannot wait to join the team and be part of the work and witness of MLP.

We are in an exciting time of growth here at MLP. More congregations than ever are joining More Light in a commitment to sharing God’s abundant love in a witness of welcome. People of faith have been taking to the streets and halls of their legislators to push back against discrimination, and faith communities are asking the important questions about how to live into LGBTQ inclusion. Jess’ gifts will strengthen and expand the work we are able to do together. Please join me in welcoming and celebrating a new chapter for More Light!

Hooray!

Alex Patchin McNeill
Executive Director


 

Presbyterian Fun Fact

There are about 75 million Reformed/Presbyterian Christians worldwide and about 2.5 million belong to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

 

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