Okay so now that there has been ample conversation about Why I should leave my beloved Presbyterian Church (USA) denomination I figure it is time to articulate why I choose to stay Presbyterian.
My TOP 10 Reasons for remaining part of the PC(USA)
Because of what I believe // First and foremost, the Presbyterian Church (USA) has some beautifully conceived and crafted understanding’s of faith. As I reflect on what I believe, I often return to our “Brief Statement of Faith” that captures the core beliefs that we Presbyterians hold. Now of course we can argue the nuances and how those beliefs are lived out, but WOW, as I read it again today, I am proud of what my tradition brings to the table. Everything from our approach to Scripture to our commitment to the oppressed, the fullness with which we approach faith is humbling.
Because there is no “There” there // At my worst times, I often think about how good it would be if only . . . if only those moronic wackos left the church, we would all get along. Why do I think that? Am I high? What makes me think that if we all agreed about ordination standards or mission priorities, we wouldn’t become just as nasty about worship style, language, etc. Because I believe in original sin, I have every confidence that whenever we bring a group of people together we WILL find something to create division around. In the same manner, as I believe where two are three are gathered, there is Christ, if I can commit to being part of a community short of staying in an abusive atmosphere I can have peace in the midst of human chaos.
Because corporate submission and rugged individuality need one another // I have the rebellious individual thing down. I can whine and complain with the best of them regarding the sad state of affairs of the church, denominations notwithstanding. What I do not wholly like is to submit myself to the discernment of the community. My American Christianity comes out when, at every turn, I think I know better God’s will than a group of people faithfully coming together to discern the will of God. Now when it comes to issues of justice and righteous indignation, that is one thing, but come on . . . sometimes it feels like everything is a justice issue when we do not get our way. SOMETIMES . . . it is God speaking through a community in order to guide us. The PC(USA) straddles this tension at all times and this commitment to both corporate and individual discernment offer me challenges to listen for God and encouragement to step out in faith.
Because fluid tradition matters // I have never been one that thinks we should toss everything out simply because it is traditional. I have always felt like we just need to shift our understandings and enactment of tradition so we all can understand and experience them with some level of understanding and meaning. I also feel that in a day of disposable and outdated everything, there is a sense of stability that the church can offer. The denomination is not THE church, but our rich history and tradition give, for me, a sense of fullness and connection to journeys of the past.
Because others have been there for me // When it comes to particular issues, theological or political, that do not directly effect me, I am obligated to remember those who have stood, not just in solidarity, but have acted with great courage on my behalf. I do not speak of ME in particular, but for white folks who stood up for people of color, men who have stood for women, rich who stand with the poor and so on. Who am I to leave just because I disagree? Even more importantly, who am I when I stay?
Because like minds do not a growing faith make // As much as I would like to think I am done growing, being part of a mutual admiration society does nothing in the whole “challenging area.” The fastest way for us to live out our brokenness is to think we are not broken in the first place. When we begin to believe our own hype we will fall right back into patterns of oppression and exclusion without even knowing. I appreciate the fact that there are people who disagree with me constantly pushing and pushing back as i continually try to discover and rediscover my own faith.
Because the universe does not revolve around me // As much as I do appreciate the common bonds that are shared in my immediate church community and the freedom if gives me to pastor in this context, I know that as much as we are meeting the needs of an ignored demographic, we are not all that matters. Denominational affiliation, in general, and the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s connectional system in particular visually and institutionally hold me/us accountable to the “others” in our midst.
Because this is still a beloved family // While I do get angry and I feel like some folks have been first class jerks to one another and my friends, I do not yet feel like I am at the point where I am called to part ways with dignity. While I TOTALLY understand the experiences of those for whom this denomination is not longer safe, our family has told you, you are not welcome. For me however, I still feel like my presence within the family system – no matter how messed up it may be – put me in a place to create more positive change than from without.
Because my Sisters are welcome // Yes, we still exclude some folks and not every person may fully embrace female clergy, but in comparison to discussions still being had in other traditions, the ordination of women “question” is for the most part a non-issue. I am also encouraged by our stances on abortion, capitol punishment, investing, etc. [More on this stuff]
Because . . . // Sometimes, you just know . . . ya know?
So there you have it. On my “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” scale of discernment, at this point in my life, I think I’ll stay and work with this crazy, quirky, ornery and sometimes mean “family” of mine for now. After all, God does not promise us ease and absence of struggle, but peace amidst it all.