We have a bumper sticker on our car: “Keep Vermont Civil.” The sticker is a bit tattered, since it goes back to the controversy about “civil unions”—the Vermont law passed in 2000 establishing various legal equivalencies to marital rights for gay and lesbian couples.
I’m uncomfortably aware that this room contains two very different groups of Presbyterians—both of which have ministered to me. One is made up of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. The church has developed the bad habit of talking about this group as if it is a problem for the denomination. Let me address you directly: You have not been a problem for me.
A half century after the Nuremberg trials, the United Nations set up war crimes tribunals, in 1993 for Yugoslavia and in 1994 for Rwanda. Five years ago diplomats agreed to create a permanent International Criminal Court, inaugurated this year, for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.
I have spent a number of years engaged in Jewish-Christian dialogue. More recently, I have been involved in extensive exchanges with Muslim scholars. I regularly visit Utah for off-the-record discussions with Mormon leaders about deep disagreements between Mormons and evangelicals. I approach all these conversations with great enthusiasm.
My installation as pastor at a Manhattan congregation began with a festive outdoor procession weaving through public housing projects and then looping around to the parking lot near the pricey apartments and condos on the other side of the street. We wanted the procession to declare our commitment to both sides of the street.