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“We have come a long way. We have so much to celebrate. And we have a long way to go.” That was the theme expressed repeatedly at the joint celebration of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians and More Light Presbyterians June 15, the night before the start of the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

It was the first time the two groups had ever held a joint event. The mission of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians is to further the inclusion of LGBTQ persons in ways that are as “just and generous as the grace of God.” More Light Presbyterians also work for the full participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people of faith in all aspects of the PC(USA).

The Friday evening gatherings traditionally have been the time to brief commissioners and delegates on upcoming business of the Assembly. “It used to have the feeling of kind of hunkering down at the start of GA, as we focused on trying to achieve inclusion. Sometimes there were hundreds of items,” said Brian Ellison, executive director of the Covenant Network.

This year the two groups are focusing primarily on only four issues before the Assembly, said Alex Patchin McNeill, More Light executive director.

The groups are endorsing overtures that would reclaim the historic definition of religious liberty, affirm and celebrate people of all gender identities, and develop a “U.S. accompanying letter” to offer context for the Confession of Belhar.

All the moderatorial candidates were introduced. Each one related ways that the pain of people on the margins of society have affected their personal lives and public ministry.