[Photo by bubbo.etsy.com]
Okay before anyone starts some intervention – or maybe celebration – I am not really going to leave the PC(USA) and I will following this post up with a Top 10 Reasons Bruce Will Stay Presbyterian post, but after a meeting on Tuesday night of our Presbytery the proposition of jumping off this wayward ship seems pretty tempting.
Now before I really start my totally biased rant/reflection about last night – it’s a blog, so if you want balanced, homey ain’t playin’ that today – let me try and give a little background. I am fully aware that this will seems incredible stupid, out of touch, irrelevant, backwards, etc. to many of you. For others, sadly you will be able to relate oh too well. Lastly, this really is not meant to be a pro or anti denominational rant, but more of a frustration with my “family” who has raised me, but are just being dorks.
BACKGROUND // Like many denominations the Presbyterian Church (USA) has for years been embroiled in tension around major theological/Biblical issues: mostly around sexual orientation – Will GLBT folks be granted the the right of ordination? – and the Lordship of Christ – Is Christ THE Way or A Way?. Most of this has to do with Biblical Interpretation and “Essentials” of our flavor of Christian Reformed faith. With faithfulness and wisdom, a few years back we launched what was called the Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity, and Purity of the Church (PUP) who was charged with developing some thinking and strategies for our denomination to deal with these pressing questions.
The Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity, and Purity of the Church was created by the 213th General Assembly (2001) “to lead the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in spiritual discernment of our Christian identity in and for the 21st century…”
What came out of their report of course, pleased no one completely. Good, I think. But the next steps were for the Presbyteries – local grouping of churches – to take the the PUP Report recommendations and see how they fit for each context. On Tuesday at the meeting of our presbytery, and after months of discernment, our own task force came to us with their recommendations about how we care for folks who want to be ordained ministers and for those who are already ordained but are coming into our area. Not very clear, but in short the committee came back with recommendations that allowed for some ambiguity and subjectivity to how each person is handled.
BRAVO! SWEET! GREAT! Finally, we get that not everything can be controlled, legislated and made to be nice and neat. And then it started . . . and what seemed like 10, but was really about three hours later, my list of why I am getting the heck out of dodge was getting longer.
Here are just four reasons why I think we are headed on a fast, painful, destructive, sad, mean and irrelevant track to nowheresville . . .
REASON ONE :: We think ambiguity can and should be conquered and controlled.
We knew this was going poorly when the biggest debate was to take out any mention of the phrase, “When appropriate . . .” because it left too much ambiguity, subjectivity, etc. when working with new and/or transferring members. Well darn tootin’. Why do we think that we can or should legislate any and all creativity and movement of the Spirit out of our process? Will it make us a closer community? Will it help to do away with conflict and disagreement? Will it guarantee “ideal” pastors? I think NOT. By doing this we retreated back to the falsehood that we can avoid and conquer any sense of ambiguity and not-knowing, when the rest of world has moved on. Anyone heard of a postmodern shift?!?!? Not us, we are retreating back into the perceived safety and calm of modernity when we should be sitting in the heart of the chaos living out the peace of heart, mind and spirit that we have in Christ. Makes me want to scream!
REASON TWO :: We are mean and uncaring jerks.
Part a) After the votes were clearly going one way, during one of the votes which were being hand-counted an elder from some church – and yes, I would call him out if I could have seen his nametag, but he knows who he is – says out loud so everyone could hear, “There is no need to count, we know who is winning.” You
ass. . . I mean, you mean guy! I didn’t realize there we were keeping friggin’ score about issues that effect people’s lives. Next time we should bring in our electronic scoreboard and we can keep track of time outs and penalty minutes. As long as we still see “discernment” as winning and losing we are going nowhere.
Part b) After all of the hullabaloo about how much we want to be clear and fair with upcoming ministers, the next item on the docket was to examine two folks who were taking the next step in the ordination process. Of course the body who had just debated for hours over this process would welcome these two folks with excitement. Well unless showing support for folks means packing up your bags and walking out the door because “you won” is the new way to show support, then we are AWESOME! If it rude, inconsiderate and arrogant, well then, I guess we suck. I could NOT believe the mass exodus of folks just as these two folks were being presented to the group. What does THAT say about what we REALLY hold as important. It says, we care more about winning a battle and controlling an outcome than about the people and the process of discernment. Sad, just sad.
REASON THREE :: We are old and ain’t gettin’ any younger.
At 38, still one of the youngsters: perceived and in reality. Again, sad, just sad.
REASON FOUR :: We are driven by fear.
Fear of the unknown;
Fear of the way others experience God;
Fear that we may not be able to control the next thing;
Fear that we will lose power, however sad and pathetic that power may be;
Fear that if we risk, our faith may be shaken;
Fear that if we change our minds, we have shown weakness;
Fear of actually getting to know “them” as people, created and called by God;
Okay, done ranting and to tell you the truth, it feels pretty good. I am sure some of you are sharing your head and thinking, “Oh you silly silly silly little Presbyterians.” while others are thinking, “Bruce, why again are you staying in this wacky denomination” and still others, “In the midst of all this, we still must trust God.” – I am trying stay with the last group and trust that in the midst of this all, though I may not understand, God’s will is present and moving us towards amazing and transformational things.