About Mark J Davis

Mark is an ordained elder in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, from West Tennessee Presbytery. He is recently retired, and anticipates using a much greater share of his time working for peace, justice, and inclusiveness in the Church and in the world in which it ministers.

Statement on Ending Conversion “Therapy”

A grassroots call to support the wellness of LGBTQ+ individuals by ending efforts to change their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Sign Statement! Sexual orientation and gender identity or expression change efforts (SOGIECE) including conversion “therapy” (sometimes referred to as “reparative therapy,” “reintegrative therapy,” “therapy for those experiencing same-sex attraction [SSA],”) refers to a range of dangerous and discredited practices that aim to change, deny, or suppress one’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Rather than cherishing the sacred gift of an LGBTQ+ individual as a person created in God's image, such practices force them into a fabricated existence, depriving them of the blessing of an authentic life. Regardless of the labels used to identify conversion “therapy” practices (CTP), they are neither legitimate therapy nor productive exercises in dealing with young people and/or those in the process of recognizing their sexual or gender identity. These interventions have been discredited by countless medical professionals and organizations and exposed as “dangerous”, “harmful”, and “lacking efficacy”.  Because of the higher rates of suicide within this demographic, at least 20 U.S. states and hundreds of municipalities have already banned conversion “therapy” by licensed mental health practitioners for minors completely, while 5 U.S. states and 1 U.S. territory have instituted partial bans. Globally, at least 14 countries have some form of a national ban on conversion “therapy” practices, and many other states, cities, and provinces have introduced legislation to protect their citizens from such abuse. As Christians, we recognize that any practice such as conversion “therapy”—involving as it does the exercise of mental and/or physical abuse, shaming, and manipulation of another—is sinful, and specifically at odds with the teachings of Christ. Study after study has shown that young people who are exposed to such practices are significantly more likely to suffer

By |2023-09-08T11:35:19-05:00February 4th, 2023|Comments Off on Statement on Ending Conversion “Therapy”

In Christ, We Stand Against Exclusion & Oppression

Statement from a grassroots body of concerned Cumberland Presbyterians who take seriously our Call to love and minister in partnership with our siblings in Christ without regard for race, gender identity, or sexual orientation toward the realization of the Kingdom of God: In anticipation of our 191st General Assembly held in June 2022, many Cumberland Presbyterians were aware that Commissioners to that Assembly would be considering at least two exclusionary memorials, the submission of which represented the culmination of an extended campaign by a group of self-styled “traditionalists”, ultimately, to force adoption of their own legalistic, self-righteous, and hypocritical interpretation of scripture—that God could not possibly call members of the LGBTQ+ community to Christian service and ministry—as the will of our entire denomination. Regardless of one’s stance on the issues the memorials raised, there is little doubt that if fully implemented (or carried out), they would bring untold bitterness and division to the denomination.  While fomenting such bitterness and division may have been one of the goals of the memorials, reason and concerns for our unity prevailed within the Committee assigned the task of making recommendations on them. After thoughtful consideration and prayer, the Committee recommended denial in both cases.  Unfortunately, the body chose to reject the wisdom of the Committee and instead to slander the LGBTQ+ community and sanction the inevitable turmoil and pain that surely the memorials’ authors knew would result. It was an action that not only puts our denomination squarely on the wrong side of history, but also leaves us teetering tragically outside the foundations of our own faith.  At issue in this debate was the simple question, “will we divide the church by refusing to recognize and accept members of the LGBTQ+ community whom God calls and has already planted into the full faith, fellowship,

By |2023-01-02T20:50:30-06:00October 30th, 2022|Comments Off on In Christ, We Stand Against Exclusion & Oppression

Resolution to Not Divide West Tennessee Presbytery

West Tennessee Presbytery met Saturday, March 5, 2022 in Memphis, Tennessee. Presbytery approved petitioning the Synod of Great Rivers to divide West Tennessee Presbytery along “orthodox” and “progressive” theological lines. As Welcoming Cumberland Presbyterians envisions a reconciled church, we grieve this proposed division and ask each reader to join in prayer for the unity of the whole church and for the people of West Tennessee presbytery including all our vulnerable and marginalized LGBTQ+ folks. Presbytery also added a (constitutionally questionable) standing rule allowing congregations to leave the presbytery and retain their property if they disagree with the body over issues of “conscience.” Presbytery rescinded previously elected delegates to the Synod of Great Rivers and elected a new slate in order to eliminate opposition to the proposal. Presbytery received the following memorial calling for unity despite theological differences. The memorial failed to pass. Resolution to Not to Divide the Presbytery Resolution to the March 5, 2022, meeting of West Tennessee Presbytery We live in a time of great division. Reports in news media, as well as experiences in many of our lives, speak of hostility prompted by differing political and religious views. No doubt aggravated by pressures accompanying a world wide pandemic, many people are angry. Those who work in professions that serve the public (such as servers in restaurants, flight attendants, and even nurses and doctors) relate stories of angry and sometimes even physically hostile patrons. Unfortunately Cumberland Presbyterians of West Tennessee Presbytery are not immune to such division. In fact, if there is one reality about our presbytery with which most of us agree it is that we are divided. But not about the centrality of our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Rather we are divided about how we are to live out that faith,

By |2023-04-07T16:54:44-05:00March 30th, 2022|Comments Off on Resolution to Not Divide West Tennessee Presbytery

On Respecting the Blessing of Conscience

When I was an adolescent, I pictured my conscience as being God’s way of speaking to me—reminding me, when faced with a choice of two paths to take, that there was generally a right path and a wrong path, and helping me to choose the right one. Or if I chose the wrong path—as I sometimes did, despite the urging of my conscience—that the guilt I subsequently felt was the result of having tuned my conscience out; or to my child-like way of thinking—of having disobeyed, and thus disappointed God. Like most children, the choices with which I found myself faced were pretty much binary in nature—left or right, black or white, truth or falsehood, love or hate. Because I was reared in a caring community of faith—the Cumberland Presbyterian Church—my conscience was lovingly nurtured into a mature process for discerning the will of God in even complex choices through the encouragement of my Sunday School teachers, Youth Group Leaders, Pastors, and spiritual mentors. I was taught to study the foundations of my faith, encouraged to question them freely in my efforts to understand, to compare scripture with scripture, to pray and be open for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to employ critical thinking in using the intellect with which I’d been blessed, and ultimately, to think for myself—hand in hand with the Lord of our conscience. In 1991, the 161st General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church issued a Statement on the Sanctity of Persons as a means of coming to grips with the vast array of passionately-held opinions on abortion that were threatening to rip both the church and our society apart. In the end, that body proclaimed that “since Cumberland Presbyterians affirm a variety of views on abortion, it is not appropriate for the General Assembly

By |2022-06-22T16:45:51-05:00June 28th, 2021|Comments Off on On Respecting the Blessing of Conscience

Welcome is the essence of Cumberland Presbyterianism

I’ve been thinking a lot about fear recently. I suspect I haven’t been alone. In the last couple of years especially, we’ve had ample reasons not only to think about and observe its insidious and repressive power to subvert what is right and good, but for too many of us, to actually *experience* it as a part of daily life. Prominent elected officials at every level of government have become adept at weaponizing fear, conjuring imaginary threats to our health, safety, and privileged status from people—“others”—who simply wish to live *without* fear, and to be treated with the same respect and dignity that each of us cherish—and often take for granted. Their actions have divided us as a society perhaps more than ever—certainly more so than many of us can remember. Fear of people who don’t look, speak, worship, or love as we do (“we”, as in white, English-speaking, Christian, heterosexuals more often than not) has led to policies—both real and proposed—that seek to intentionally dehumanize and exclude “others” as a societal norm. From the perspective of a people who have traditionally (and constitutionally) opened their arms to the oppressed, hurting, and marginalized of the world, to characterize this trend as a tragedy would surely be an understatement of incredible proportion. The truly tragic thing, however, is that we have also seen the ravages of fear-mongering make their way into the institutional church. Fear of other faiths, fear that we are somehow being deprived of our right to pray and worship in our own faith as we feel led, and again, fear of siblings in the family of God who do not look, act, interpret scripture, or experience their sexuality in the same way we do seems to be driving us inexorably toward such decidedly un-Christian activities as wall-building and

By |2021-06-21T14:15:05-05:00June 21st, 2021|Comments Off on Welcome is the essence of Cumberland Presbyterianism

Open Letter for Freedom of Conscience on Human Sexuality

To: The Unified Committee on Theology and Social Concerns From: A grassroots body of concerned Cumberland Presbyterians advocating for the freedom of conscience bequeathed to all of us by our founders, specifically concerning a denominational position on human sexuality Pursuant to the granting of its request (from the 189th General Assembly) for more time to consider the issues surrounding the development of a denominational statement on human sexuality, the Unified Committee of Theology and Social Concerns has solicited input from Cumberland Presbyterians as they consider the task before them. It is no secret that passionate debate on this topic has consumed a significant amount time at meetings of Presbyteries, meetings of Sessions, and in private and public conversation among faithful Cumberland Presbyterians. A concern we wish to highlight with this communication is that in much of the debate, a critical detail concerning an essential element of Cumberland Presbyterianism—a detail that arguably has defined who we are to countless Christians who have come to faith precisely because of the freedom we encourage to be open to new understandings of scripture and growth through the influence of the Holy Spirit—has been neglected. As a reminder, on 4 February 1810, almost 210 years ago, Reverends Samuel McAdow, Finis Ewing, and Samuel King drafted a document organizing a new presbytery within the Presbyterian denomination to which they belonged after that body had failed to address grievances for which they had previously sought relief. Among other precipitating disagreements they had with their denomination was one over the doctrine of predestination, which they viewed as a form of fatalism. In their document establishing Cumberland Presbytery, our founders laid out certain conditions that those who wished to become members of the new body would have to meet. Significantly, one doctrinal condition was that “all candidates for the

By |2022-06-22T16:47:17-05:00June 21st, 2021|Comments Off on Open Letter for Freedom of Conscience on Human Sexuality
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