Here’s my confession: I’ve been sitting on this post for a while. I’ve been wanting to reflect a bit more on the recent developments of the Fellowship of Presbyterians, their announcement last month about the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians (Evangelical COPs…that’s cute), and how all of this will affect our denomination. I’ve read a few good posts that I wanted to make sure I linked to:
- Lipstick on A Pig: the ECO and Its Plan to Split the PCUSA, by Timothy Simpson
- Will the PC(USA) Split in 2012, by John Vest
- Embracing the Pathos of Our Situation, by John Vest
And like I said, I’ve been sitting on this post for a while. I figured I’d spend some time going through these documents, writing out a thorough, detailed analysis for you all….but I just haven’t had any energy to get into the Fellowship stuff more, or dive into the theology or polity documents of the ECO. I’m just not interested.
And then I saw this tweet from friend Shawn Coons:
— Shawn Coons (@shawncoons) January 26, 2012
Shawn linked to a “letter of reconciliation” that 24 Presbyterian leaders signed shortly after The Fellowship of Presbyterians announced the new ECO denomination that would be formed. In the letter, signed by some folks who I know and consider friends, they ask for the General Assembly leaders to be “bridge builders,” say that there are more signs of unity from within our denomination and ask that those who are planning to leave slow down, and come back to the table for more conversations and reconciliation.
But I think Shawn asks a good question: at what point do we make the unity of the Presbyterian Church (USA) an idol? At what point does saving our denomination became a golden calf for us? At what point does the unity of the church take our focus and energy and efforts from actually living out the gospel in other, perhaps more meaningful and impacting, ways?
I’m not entirely sure about the answer – but I’d say we’re getting close. Now, I know I vowed to further for the peace, unity and purity of the church in my ordination vows – and those are still pretty fresh in my mind. But I do think that even that good work could get in the way of being the church in the world today, of continuing to be a witness of Christ’s inclusive love for all, of working on creating spaces where all feel welcome, and moving forward as a denomination that can serve God’s people with energy, intelligence, imagination and love and not have to have the same, old conversations, over and over again, concerning ordination of LGBT candidates for ministry.
Because, let’s be honest. Can we do that? That’s what it’s about. I don’t care how many times someone from The Fellowship of Presbyterians or ECO says “it’s not about gay ordination” – it IS about gay ordination. Why have we seen such a fast and furious following of The Fellowship? Why have they just in the past 6 months been able to gain as much traction as they have? You’re telling me that it’s not connected to our denomination finally removing barriers from those who are called by God to serve God’s people?
I don’t buy it.
Sure, I think it’s about a lot of other stuff: a desire to create new churches, to be more missional, to try to cut down on some of the bureaucracy of our denomination…and maybe more too. But I don’t buy the line that it’s not first and foremost because we now allow for the possibility of being gay and being ordained as a Teaching Elder (don’t get me started on that new title!) in the Presbyterian Church (USA).
So, sorry – no detailed analysis here. No big vision for the future. Except that if you’re unhappy with where we are as a denomination, it’s okay for you to leave. We can still be brothers and sisters in Christ, working for God’s kingdom, but I’m okay if you want to join a new denomination. I’m not going to try to fight to keep you here. And I’m certainly not going to sign a letter asking that we sit down at the same old table and rehash the same old theological arguments, while you quote small passages from Leviticus and Romans to me. I’d prefer that you actually just be honest about what you want, and not try to stay and remain in the PC(USA) and become an affiliated member of a “new reformed body” – which is really a new denomination anyway…
Schism happens. And it might not always be the worst thing. You clearly don’t agree with our polity to allow LGBT candidates to be ordained. And that’s fine – join a different denomination that’s not having those conversations yet (oh…if we could get a glimpse into the world 50-100 years in the future, when people will think we were all ridiculous for having these conversations at all!), and then we can all get on with loving and serving God and others in this world.