Last year, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA appointed a Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage. The committee was given two years to study how the theology and practice of marriage have developed in the Reformed tradition and the place of covenanted same-gender partnerships in the Christian community.

This adult education course tries to do something similar over an eight-week period for St. Andrew Presbyterian in Iowa City. Throughout this discussion, we hope to hear from class participants’ personal experiences and questions concerning sexuality and the Presbyterian faith.

For questions or comments, contact Jeff Charis-Carlson at

Monday, September 21, 2009

Letter from Ann Reppun

Ann Reppun
San Rafael, Calif.
Aug 16, 2009

Dear Session and Pastor,

My name is Ann Reppun and I was a member of St Andrew 1990-1996. Our daughter Emma, now 17, was baptized by Pastor Mark Martin. Associate Pastor Blake Richter concelebrated our wedding (my wife is Michelle Fouts) at the UCC church in Iowa City in 1996.When we moved, our membership was transferred to our local Presbyterian Church. I am currently the moderator of the Deacons board and I have been a Sunday school teacher for the last eight years. My wife has served as financial chair and clerk on Session. My wife and I were “re-married” to fulfill California State law last September by our Presbyterian Pastor. Over all these years I have received the Messenger and attend St. Andrew yearly when we are back visiting. I am including this personal history because I want you to know that it is possible to embrace gay members and have them fully involved in the life of the church.

We were in Iowa City last week and spent time with Michelle Wikner and Michelle Norman and their daughters. When asked, Michelle and Michelle said it has been a “long and hard summer.” They said they have cried daily since the Session had denied them the right to be married in church. “How could we have let ourselves be fooled into thinking that they would let us be married at our church?”

After reading your Special Report on Marriage Request there were two points I want to put before you for consideration:

First, my wife and I, like Wikner and Norman, grew up in the church. We were loved, nurtured and taught about God’s love for all His children. As teens we were in youth group. We were mentored through confirmation and encouraged to know the “Lord God as our personal Savior.” Each of us accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior. We came into young adulthood feeling like valued members of our church families. In college we reached sexual maturity. We realized that, as the American Medical Association defines it, we were part of a group with a “normal variation of human sexuality.” We realized we were gay.

Straight adults will never know how difficult this self realization is. Nor have they experienced the pain, the searing agony of lying awake at night as you try to make sense of this realization. In my coming out process, I struggled for months with the question “Why would God do this to me? Why would He make me this way?”

Most straight folks don’t spend time contemplating what it is like to come out first to yourself, then to your family and your church. The rejection is often fierce and with the church long lasting. In the spring you are a beloved member of your church. Six months later, after the news is shared, you are not. How is it that you are a child of God before sexual maturity and afterwards, you may be tolerated, but you may not serve on Session and we will not marry you.

You can love the Lord your God with all you heart and soul, — but you will never be allowed into the full communion of the church — because you are a part of the 10 percent of humankind who God made with this variation of human sexuality. Who would choose to be gay?

It is so unfair it makes me weep.

My second question is: When you rejected Wikner and Norman’s request for a traditional marriage ceremony, did you think about St Andrew’s witness to the Gay Community? There are youth growing up at St Andrew right now who will end up having to go through the coming out process in the future. What is your witness and message to them? If it is your son or daughter who wants to be married in the church they grew up in, will your answer be the same?

Here is the most important question: Is it important to you that they remain Christians when they hit sexual maturity and realize they are gay? Do you have any idea at all what it is like for Norman and Wikner to be out Christians in the gay community? The gay community is largely made up of children of God who grew up in the church. They were rejected, scorned and cast out by their churches when they hit sexual maturity. Can you imagine the flack Norman and Wikner get for raising their children in the church … the same church that has dished out so much rejection and pain.

As Norman and Wikner witness to their gay friends about their life in the church, they are scoffed at. Their friends question their trust in “the church” and their love for God. It reminds me of the original apostles out there doing Jesus’ work; they were scoffed at too. But Michelle and Michelle persist, reassuring their friends that “God loves everybody.” And “Jesus died for all people’s sins.”

It’s like you said in your report, “Their love of Christ and this church is obvious.” Who among the Session at St Andrew will now step up and fill Norman and Wikner’s place as evangelists to the Gay Community? Is it only straight harlots and straight beggars that Jesus welcomed into a full life in the church or did Jesus also intend that gay people should be welcome to participate in the full life of Christ’s church?

For 19 years I have sat in the pews at St Andrew. What I know to be true is that at St Andrew, if you are gay, you can sit in the pew but don’t expect to be on session. Joan Benson was asked to be on Session. When she said “Yes, but you know I’m gay.” the St. Andrew member said “Oh, gee sorry. I guess you can’t be on Session.” Can you even imagine the reinforced feeling of lasting rejection that a Christian feels after such an exchange? At St. Andrew, if you are gay, you can sit in the pew but don’t expect to have the bonds of marriage recognized. After all, God made us straight and you gay. It might be Christ’s church but because you are gay, you are just out of luck.

I started this letter with my personal history because I want you to know that it is possible to have gay people fully involved in the life of the church as my wife and I are. Human injustice can only be changed by brave people willing to stand up and say just that. “They are all children of God and we love them and treat them all the same.” Although the General Assembly is currently “investigating” a potential change in its wording to “between two people” Presbyterian churches all around are choosing to embrace the new wording. They are embracing justice for all of God’s children.

There are numerous youth at St. Andrew. This is only the first of many requests that St. Andrew will face. We hope with this difficult and emotional decision made, you will indeed find a reason to have an ongoing scripture-based, open-minded, respectful and loving dialog.

At this moment it is sad and it is illogical to think any of us will feel like valued members until we are valued equally before and after the age of sexual maturity.

Your sister in Christ,
Ann Reppun

1 comment:

  1. I am so sorry the church you have belonged to and I grew up is so narrow minded. I find their position on gay marriage to be hurtful. Hiding behind the "chruch rules" is cowardly. God's unconditional love and acceptance should trump any rule that stands to be unfair. Your comments are made with such grace.


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