It is hard to overstate Pam Byers' impact on the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the nation, and the world. Pam Byers made history and brought our church into closer alignment with God's loving grace for all people.
As the founding Executive Director of The Covenant Network (where she served from 1997 to 2011), Pam Byers opened up a space and held that space open until the rest of us could walk through into a better future for all God's children. Pam Byers understood clearly, early on, that our church could and indeed must support full equality for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). Holding open a space is extremely difficult work. It requires vision to know that the cause is just and tenacity to survive the slings and arrows inevitably directed at the prophets.
For the better part of two decades, Pam held that door open and asked others to see the possibilities for a more just church on the other side. She was a key figure in encouraging me to run for Moderator. A former publishing executive, she provided critical edits that improved the manuscript for Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality. And she helped organize several nationwide book tours for me, even setting up the folding chairs and selling books in the back whenever I was in the Bay Area. She also reached out to current leaders like Rev. Dr. Mark Achtemeier and thousands of others to encourage them to work for LGBT equality in the church.
Even though she was one of the most important political figures in the church, there was nothing political about Pam. She believed that through faith and prayer and lots and lots of conversations, the church would eventually follow the leadings of the Holy Spirit and move forward to support LGBT equality. And she was correct.
Thanks to Pam's tireless efforts, today, people who are LGBT can be ordained in the church. Following the actions of the 221st General Assembly (where Pam was once again an instrumental leader), now same sex couples who have received a marriage license from a civil jurisdiction may be officially married in the church. With God's grace, soon, the church will further affirm that welcome for same sex marriage by updating the Directory for Worship. This is the result of the faithful efforts of thousands of people. But Pam was the architect, the "drum major for justice" who helped to show the way.
Pam you will be dearly missed. But God called a good one home. And while you were on this earth you did God's work. Thank you Pam, for your extraordinary, amazing, life giving service to the church.
A memorial service will be held at Old First Presbyterian Church in San Francisco at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, November 8, 2014.