I would like to write a few words this morning about the denomination in which I am ordained: the Presbyterian Church (USA). Like all mainline Protestant churches in this country, we have had no small share in controversy, conflict, and schism. The current hot-button issues are the ordination and marriage of non-celibate LGBT members in our churches. Partly because of these issues, but mostly because of the theological and exegetical differences that underlie their discussion, some members, pastors, and churches in the PC(USA) have felt led to separate from our denomination and align themselves with another one (i.e. the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) or the Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians (ECO)).
Those who know me or read this blog probably already know where I stand, but just in case there are any first-time visitors, here it is again:
- I am a theologically liberal Christian who wholeheartedly supports the full recognition of equality in ordination and marriage for LGBT Presbyterians.
- I wholeheartedly support the right of individual Christians and congregations to discern the will of God for themselves, even if that discernment leads them to leave the PC(USA).
As I’ve said before: It’s not my job to take anyone’s Bible (or Church) away from them; I simply desire the same right for myself. As such, I encourage the establishment of “Gracious Dismissal” policies in our presbyteries that will allow departing congregations to maintain control over their buildings and investment accounts. Such policies, I believe, will help us sow seeds of reconciliation for the future and preserve the integrity of the public witness of the Church by eschewing open conflict in a court of law. The Church is bigger than any one denomination. We would do well to remember this part of our ecumenical heritage.
That being said, I think that some of those who are leaving have, in their anger, overstated their case against the PC(USA) and misrepresented the denomination in their literature (some of which is distributed to churches whether they want it or not). They claim that the PC(USA) is being run by liberal heretics who care nothing for the authority of scripture, the historic faith of the church catholic, or the Reformed tradition. I believe this is patently untrue.
Why do I believe this? Because I am a liberal and I have just as many problems with current theological and political trends in our denomination as many of my evangelical brothers and sisters do. I wish there was a liberal agenda in play on the General Assembly level, but there isn’t much of one that I can see. Honestly, I think that’s probably a good thing. The Church is bigger than any one institution or theological viewpoint (including my own).
I don’t think I’m the kind of pastor who should be forming and shaping policy for the whole denomination. That task should be left to more conciliatory voices like that of our current Moderator: Rev. Dr. Neal Presa. His is a job that I don’t want. Liberals like me represent one prophetic wing of the Church, just as our evangelical colleagues represent another. I hope that both voices will continue to be heard in the PC(USA) by those who make policy.
The document linked below has been produced by our denomination to address some of the misrepresentations currently being propagated by some. I find it well worth reading. Submitted for your edification:
Reblogged from pcusa.org:
The Office of the General Assembly has had an increase in the number of inquiries about printed materials from outside of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), being distributed within congregations, that ascribe to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) beliefs and standards which are meant to show that the church is no longer worthy of support. Over the past years the list of these misrepresentations have varied little and most have been answered in detail in the religious press, study papers adopted by the church or by specific action of the General Assembly. Whenever possible, the Office of the General Assembly directs those who inquire about specific conclusions drawn by these papers to resources which give a broader understanding of the issues.
Typically the materials being circulated focus on four broad areas of concern, each of which speaks to the core of who we are as a denomination and a covenant community. In response to these recent inquiries, we remind the church about who the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is both historically and in our current ministry.