Vows

Today we continue a series of letters to the General Synod of 2016 from LGBTQ+ people and allies affected by the votes this year. The author of today’s letter is the Rev. Jonathan Vanderbeck, M.S.W. (he/him/his) is believed to be the first openly-gay, person-of-color ordained in the Reformed Church in America, ordained to the office of Minister of Word and Sacrament on Pentecost Sunday, 2016. Rev. Vanderbeck serves the First Reformed Church in Schenectady, New York as Community Minister, focusing on outreach to local college students and working with those with mental health needs. He is passionate about good coffee, Korean food, and the radical inclusion of LGBTQ people in full life and ministry of the church.

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To the delegates of General Synod 2016:

I write this letter to you in order to clear my conscience. Had I not gotten these words out, I could not say with integrity that I had done all that I could to stand in solidarity with my LGBTQ friends and family.

You see, when I took my vows to become a Minister of Word and Sacrament, I made a promise. A promise to pledge my life to preach and teach GOOD NEWS.

To free the enslaved.

To relieve the oppressed,

And to comfort the afflicted.

What I heard at General Synod 2016 was not good news for my LGBTQ sisters, siblings, and brothers.

No. What I heard was hurtful, denigrating news. News that the Reformed Church in America was to continue its dehumanizing, bigoted march towards pushing out all LGBTQ people in its midst.

There was no call to free the enslaved – instead, LGBTQ people were threatened with being bound by discriminatory and bigoted practices that make it even harder to simply exist; being told that there was no room for those whose love does not reflect heteronormative standards of morality.

There was no call to relieve the oppressed – instead, LGBTQ people suffered in silent agony as we were referred to as a “cancer” from the floor; rather than the beloved children of God that we are.

And there was no call to comfort the afflicted – instead, rather than acknowledging how homophobia and the like that the church is complicit in lends to hate crimes like the Pulse Nightclub shooting, delegates passed blame to “radical Islamists” and refused to change policies that would eliminate such teachings in our churches.

You, delegates of General Synod, have broken your vows.

So let this letter be your notice. I will do everything within the power of my queer being to live into my vows. I WILL work to fight for LGBTQ people in the Reformed Church in America and beyond, to let them know they are BELOVED. That WE are BELOVED.

You see, this is MY church. I was baptized into it on June 9, 1991 – as one who God knew and loved… and was gay. I will fight for all those beloved LGBTQ people to whom this church also belongs. We are here. I will not abandon my LGBTQ sisters, siblings and brothers. And I will not break my vows.

Until there is room for all,

The Rev. Jonathan Vanderbeck

Ordained Pentecost Sunday, 2016.

15 Comments Add yours

  1. JVELL says:

    I did not once hear LGBTQ people called a “cancer” at General Synod 2016. I would like to know who exactly said that and when so I can find it in the video archives.

    1. capitaleats says:

      I think it’s kinder not to publicly name the speaker, but those who were there will know that was just one of many offensive things he said and did during General Synod. The reference to cancer was during Monday’s discussions.

      1. JVELL says:

        What time on Monday or even which session? I want to hear this for myself.

      2. capitaleats says:

        Rev. Brian Randazzo, Classis of Orange, speaking during the Monday afternoon (starting at 3:20 pm) session. During the livestream, it begins at time stamp – 1:21:48.
        ———————————
        Rev. Randazzo (1:21:48): “this is not artificial. The Bible says this is sin! Am I right or am I wrong? It says clearly, black and white, this is sin!

        President Veermeer (1:21:55): “Please address the chair”

        Rev. Randazzo: “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’ll keep my eyes focused this way. Let me put on my glasses. This is sin! And, and, it’s not artificial, so why are we saying it doesn’t exist? (1:22:06) It’s in the Bible, and that’s what a majority, I believe, of us believe. Now yes, we don’t hate each other, and we’re not saying we’re not saved, no body is saying that. And that’s why this motion talks about maybe two camps, (1:22:20) that work side by side but, but, are different. (1:22:24) ***you can’t work together when you have this CANCER between us. And there’s, uh, a CANCER between us, and it’s called sin. And that’s what we feel the Bible is saying on this issue and and I’m sorry, the Bible says what it is, and that’s why we have a problem. That’s the issue…**** [Rev. Randazzo ran out of time].

      3. David Vandervelde says:

        I have searched for the reference in the Monday livestream and have not been able to find it. Again, could you point to the reference–what time or timestamp–was this made? The only references to “cancer” that I could find were on Wednesday, just past the 1:31 mark of the livestream (both times it seems that the referant of the “cancer” was those who oppose SSM, although its hard to exactly tell). Here they are:

        Ruth Hawley-Lowry, Holland Classis – “It feels like this motion, as lovely as it is, puts a band-aid on cancer, so I am going to vote against it.”

        Donna Field, corresponding delegate Regional Synod of New York Women – “It merely, as somebody has already stated, has put a band-aid on a raging cancer”

  2. Another Minister says:

    So also included in the vows we take is this: “I accept the Scriptures as the only rule of faith and life.” Oh, and “I promise to walk in the Spirit of Christ”…I’ve seen your Twitter feed Jonathan–a lot of vitriol and offensive language.

    1. Chelsea says:

      And a fierce passion for justice and a deep, abiding love of God despite the hate he has received in God’s name. Jonathan has faith I aspire to have.

    2. Thank you for your reminder. I will continue to boldly and honestly express and share the stories of other faithfully LGBTQ individuals in the church.
      Let us also remember that the Spirit of Christ included boldly disrupting systems of oppression, literally flipping tables within the temple, calling the religious leaders and teachers of the law things that would have been considered “offensive” back in that day… there is anger and indignation in Jesus’ ministry that we should not be quick to overlook. Rather than see LGBTQ people as angry, perhaps we should be asking WHY LGBTQ people are so angry and hurt… and wonder if our actions have contributed to that pain.
      Grace and peace,
      Jonathan.

  3. David Vandervelde says:

    I have searched for the reference in the Monday livestream and have not been able to find it. Again, could you point to the reference–what time or timestamp–was this made? The only references to “cancer” that I could find were on Wednesday, just past the 1:31 mark of the livestream (both times it seems that the referant of the “cancer” was those who oppose SSM, although its hard to exactly tell). Here they are:

    Ruth Hawley-Lowry, Holland Classis – “It feels like this motion, as lovely as it is, puts a band-aid on cancer, so I am going to vote against it.”

    Donna Field, corresponding delegate Regional Synod of New York Women – “It merely, as somebody has already stated, has put a band-aid on a raging cancer”

    1. Please see the above comment, as well as my response to you on another post. Thanks.

  4. The cancer comment was not about lgbtq people being cancer but sin being a cancer between two groups. Sometimes if ones looks for ill to be said you find it even if it’s not intended.

    1. Annette – I posted this in a different place, but I will share it here as well.

      Rev Randazzo: “…you can’t work together when you have this CANCER between us. And there’s, uh, a CANCER between us, and it’s called sin. And that’s what we feel the Bible is saying on **THIS ISSUE** [referring to homosexuality] and and I’m sorry, the Bible says what it [homosexuality] is, and that’s why we have a problem.” [Note, that other comments throughout the week made it ABUNDANTLY clear that this was the context from which Rev. Randazzo was speaking]
      —–
      As an LGBTQ person, Rev. Randazzo equated part of who I am; a person made in the image of God, to that of a “cancer”. While some may disagree that my queer identity is not, in fact, part of who I am, I will argue that what I have experienced, as a person who is gay and experiences same-sex attraction, IS who I am – it is how I experience life, how I experience my Creator, and how I experience the world around me. It is through those experiences (and others) that I have come to know a God of justice, of love, of righteousness, and of mercy. While Rev. Randazzo (and you) may not think that I was being referred to as cancer, the fact remains that as an LGBTQ person who embodies the very thing that was called cancer – a horrific disease that a close relative of mine just passed away from – it is utterly disgusting to me that a Minister of the gospel would call for my extraction and destruction, as we would for cancer.
      —-

      Finally, as a gay person, I would appreciate it if people did not tell me how to feel about clearly offensive statements. The context of the debate was about LGBTQ people and the reference was apparent. Thanks.

      Grace and Peace,
      Rev. Jonathan Vanderbeck

  5. capitaleats says:

    I find myself wondering if it is standard practice for some of you, when someone tells you that they’re hurting, to imply that they are stretching the truth, make them prove that the hurtful statement was said (thank God we have the livestream!), and then when they prove it to you and continue to say it was hurtful, tell them they are wrong to feel hurt by it. Or is that just something you do in response to the LGBTQ community? Please think about what you’re doing here: jumping to the defense of someone who was obviously angry and dismissive not only of the “sin” but also of the associated “sinners,” and who during GS perpetuated multiple acts of verbal and physical violence. Why? So you can prove that we have no reason to be hurt. I’ll say it again; so many of you keep saying you genuinely love LGBTQ people, but love says, “I’m sorry you are hurt, how can I help?” not, “Oh, stop being hurt by that.”

    1. I don’t normally promote my own things – but read this thread on Twitter; I have a discussion on why you CANNOT “love the sinner, hate the sin”. It resonates with what Stacey is saying here.

      https://twitter.com/revjonathan16/status/744690384404643840

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