By Bruce Hahne, More Light Presbyterians (MLP)

Occasionally here at MLP, we receive what might be called “battle fatigue” letters or email messages, from folks who feel like calling it quits with the work of redeeming the PCUSA from its institutionalized anti-LGBT discrimination. Certainly if you’re starting to feel burned out, by all means we encourage you to take a break for a while – no single person is responsible for the work of eliminating anti-gay prejudice from the Presbyterian Church! However as one way to get some historical perspective on our own justice movement, we did a bit of investigation on past movements for equality and came up with a few months and years:

Anti-Slavery Movement in the United States

  • American Anti-Slavery Society founded in Philadelphia: December, 1833
  • 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ratified, banning slavery: December, 1865
  • Number of years in between: 32
  • History note from infoplease: “The abolitionists were at first widely denounced and abused. Mobs attacked them in the North; Southerners burned antislavery pamphlets and in some areas excluded them from the mails; and Congress imposed the gag rule to avoid considering their petitions.”

Women’s Rights Movement in the United States

  • Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention held: July 1848
  • 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ratified, eliminating sex discrimination in the right to vote: August 1920
  • Number of years in between: 72
  • History note from Nonviolence in America: In 1917, suffragettes organized a picketing and hunger strike in Washington DC. Many were imprisoned and force-fed while in jail. “I had a nervous time of it,” wrote prisoner Rose Winslow in letters smuggled from jail, “gasping a long time afterward, and my stomach rejecting during the process. I spent a bad, restless night, but otherwise I am all right… One feels so forsaken when one lies prone and people shove a pipe down one’s stomach.”

Racial Prejudice in the United States

  • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) founded: 1909
  • Passage of U.S. Civil Rights Act: 1964
  • Passage of U.S. Voting Rights Act: 1965
  • Number of years in between: 56
  • History note on the Nashville sit-ins from A Force More Powerful: “The real trouble began once the students were sitting at the counters. With the police nowhere to be seen, white toughs walked in and started swearing at the students, pulling them off the chairs, punching them and kicking those who went down… Others were spat on or had mustard and ketchup poured over their heads and shirts.”

Gay Christian Movement in the United States

  • Presbyterians for Gay Concerns (PGC), MLP’s predecessor organization, founded: 1974. Editors note: MCC started in 1968 and several of the other ‘pro-gay’ Christian groups also were founded in the early to mid 1970’s.
  • G-6.0106b and anti-gay Authoritative Interpretation removed from Presbyterian law: Not yet, but soon.
  • Number of years in between: only 31 so far
  • History note from Called Out: “While church union by theological orthodoxy is an historical goal of confessional traditions, Presbyterians have thus far failed to understand that historically, unity has only been achieved… when the church has loosened its insistence on broad theological conformity and allowed the consciences of local governing bodies, such as Sessions and Presbyteries, to guide the more controversial leadings of the Spirit.”

So when we compare the Presbyterian LGBT equality movement to a few others, it turns out that we’re still, historically speaking, a fairly young movement.

Copyright ©2005 by the author and More Light Presbyterians