Monday, September 04, 2006

The Joys of Blogging

While the Kirk’s controversy is in hiatus, and the feeling of crisis is suspended, I’ve had some time to reflect on this blog.

I started it as a communication tool for my congregation during the June General Assembly. It served very well in that capacity but I was surprised by the number of non-Kirk people who were reading it and making comments. I tried, at first, to answer every comment I could.

When the Kirk began to withdraw from the PCUSA the readership and comments grew. Now there were too many comments for me to respond to and, very interestingly, the commentators seemed pleased to be countering each other with their comments. It seemed to take on a life of its own.

For the most part, commentators were decent, making good points to my blogs and to each other. Then it began to degenerate. Points and counterpoints got personal. I managed all the comments rather loosely. The comments came to me by email first, where I could judge those that should be posted and those that should simply be thrown out.

Some of those posting said that I only put in comments that supported my side. Anyone briefly reading any one page of comments would see the falsehood in that. The only rules I used to eliminate a comment were 1) no profanity, 2) no personal attacks against anyone but me, and 3) it had to make some sort of sense. You wouldn’t believe how many posts did not pass muster for one, or even all, of the above reasons.

I got some criticism for allowing “anonymous” people to post. If you look carefully, some of the anonymous posters signed their names at the end of their posts. Others were satisfied to remain in the dark, some with good reason.

There were people who posted with malice. The content of the posts didn’t qualify for elimination but, I’ve I’d had a rule concerning intent, they’d never have seen the light of day.

It was inevitable that I, and people at the Kirk, would begin to speculate about the people posting. “Jodie” was a favorite among many. Her first post said that she had no agenda in her responses, but that soon changed. It was clear that she was much opposed to the Kirk’s theology and actions. Others joined her in highly disapproving posts, often encouraging each other, sometimes getting a rise out of Kirk members who posted responses.

Other posts sounded like they came from denominational officials. I think that some did. I got an email from a former member of Hollywood Presbyterian church who, somehow, had the ability to track where some of my posts were originating. I followed this up and found that a great number of posts came out of the Louisville offices, and one even came from the Presbyterian Benefits office in Philadelphia.

If you look at the world map below my profile sidebar, you can see where the posts generally come from. If you click on the map, a larger one will appear. You’ll notice that I still have friends in the UK who are keeping up on news from me. Brazil has a large dot because of Jason Gardner and his family, who are our missionaries there (he posted comments non-anonymously). There are hits from Tanzania (Kathy Colby and Valerie Vaughan, our missionaries there), and from Nairobi, where we have mission contacts. I have no idea who is accessing this blog from China, Australia, New Zealand, Crete, Istanbul, Sri Lanka, South Vietnam, Indonesia, Mexico, or Europe. Costa Rica lights up because of our many contacts there through Kirk missions.

I’ve enjoyed writing the blog, even though some of what I’ve written was done in the toughest and fatiguing days in my career. I know that the readership, which was holding at 2,500 a day, will fall off precipitously (I looked at my graph of “hits” and it looks a lot like a graph of the membership decline in the PCUSA). The blog will now go back to my original intent—reaching the membership of the Kirk with current and accurate information about the denomination and our church.

I’m working on a review of the “best of comments” that I’ll publish in the near future.

Keep praying—keep the faith.
Tom

7 comments:

person in the pew said...

Hi Tom,

I'm a member of another "tall-steeple" conservative Presbyterian church, so I've enjoyed reading your blog and watching the story unfold. I'm not sure how things are going to play out at my church, but as we are in the SF Presbytery I'm sure things are going to get real interesting, considering the two overtures that have just been made.

I wish you and your church well.

Jodie said...

Dear Tom,

It is now the second time you mention my “agenda” and “my stake”. After the first time you did I thought I had addressed it under “The Slow Decline”, post number 24. I guess maybe you were too fed up with me by then to read it too closely.

I confess that I too have wondered why the particular case of the Kirk got my attention. I offer three possibilities. One, I am suffering from an obsessive compulsive disorder and in need of a psychiatrist. Two, an evil spirit has got hold of me with the purpose of tormenting you. Three, the Holy Spirit has drafted me to send someone a message.

The odds are two to one against me…

I do not have a public persona, and to share my thoughts and feelings in such a public arena gives me pause. I would have preferred to have had these conversations face to face. But maybe this is as it should be.

I am not so sure I am opposed to the Kirk’s theology. I'd love to hear why you say that.

As far as your actions were concerned (matters of order and wisdom), well, what you have done may well prove to be a watershed event. There is no right way the PCUSA can respond to you or even to not respond to you. I think that in the future people will look back on this and say “yep, that’s what did it. Not the Layman, not the GA, but Tom Grey and the Kirk on the Hills." You don’t seem like such a tough guy, but to the Davids go the honors I guess. Great pyrotechnics!

I think that if you had stayed in the PCUSA you would have made a huge positive difference to the denomination just by existing and by doing what the HS put in your heart to do, what you do best. (That is probably why your friends at Presbytery kept you from getting fired long ago.) But maybe that is what you did. Maybe the HS has decided it is time to close the books on the PCUSA. If he has, well then, who are we to argue. But I would at least show her the respect that is due to an elderly woman who in her day raised sons and grandsons and was a pillar of society. (Not your pet cat. That was not your best post.)

What you have done with this blog is an amazing experiment in global networking. It blows me away. The maps of where posts came from are not completely accurate but they illustrate the point very well. You show a big hit in NE Brazil. Jason is in the Southern part of Brazil (que saudades minha gente). Either he is traveling, or someone else up there is even more interested. In any case it proves that we live in a global village, and with so great a cloud of witnesses, we should be ever mindfull of our decorum and of staying close to what the Holy Spirit guides us to do and say. We are on a multicultural multilingual multi-ethnic stage, playing a role we are woefully unprepared for. The overconfident assumption that we are right only makes us look more stupid when we are proven wrong. And maybe that is my sensitivity and what I bring to the table. Our only purpose in life as followers of Jesus is to be witnesses to the good news that God’s kingdom has drawn near. We cannot afford to let our egos get in the way.

In Christ I hope,

Jodie

Classical Presbyterian said...

Tom:

Fascinating stuff! Thanks for being so clear and open about all of this.

The idea that the Louisville Elites are now blogging anonymously might be disturbing for the rest of us 'ordinary Presbyterians' if they had not proven so mean and incoherent in their comments! We should pity these folks.

Blogging is returning the power to where it should have been all along in our (no longer your) denomination: to the people in the pews who pay the bills and pray the mission.

Keep blogging, all for the glory of God!

Cole Thomas Westwood said...

Pastor Tom,

Stay the course brother! May God continue to richly bless you and your congregation as you strive to stay salty in a deeply decayed culture.

Cole Westwood, Pastor
Covenant Community Church, Redford, Michigan

Anonymous said...

Jodie-

"I am not so sure I am opposed to the Kirk’s theology. I'd love to hear why you say that."

Pastor Tom, for reasons of professionalism I'm sure, is unable to respond to you in a way that will CLEARLY delineate why he says that. Why is that? Because I think you need someone to be blunt.

I have no such encumberances. You'll probably ignore me, but here goes:

Actually, it is clear that you are opposed to the Kirk's theology, as evidenced one VERY CLEAR fact: you disagree with the Kirk leaving the PCUSA.

Those who disagree with any church leaving the PCUSA, the Episcopal Church, or any other denomination are disagreeing with their theology, and whatever their theology is happens to be is in violation of the First Commandment.

Why?

Because you value "unity", "polity", the PCUSA, or something else OVER God. (I put "unity" and "polity" in quotes, because both do not actually exist in this debate. The PCUSA only defines "unity" as "everyone agrees with us", and "polity" as "everyone bows down at our feet, while agreeing with everything we say and do, and giving us everything we want". It is the same in the Episcopal Church).

Through your constant, vociferous, and denial filled arguments, you and others have made it clear that Christ and His Kingdom are not your priority. Playing "nice" and "staying together", and the wrongs committed against the leadership of the denomination are what you are most worried about. THAT does not constitute agreement with the Kirk's theology.

Jodie said...

Dear Anonymous,

A wanted you to know that I did not ignore you. Can I assume you are a member of the Kirk? I appreciate your attempt to provide an answer for Pastor Tom. He really has his hands full. I’m OK with you being blunt, but I wonder if your answer is fair and based on anything I said.

You accuse me of a theology and priorities I don’t think I have professed, and identify my opposition to a vocabulary as opposition to a point of view. Leaving the PCUSA is not a theology; it is only a vocabulary by which a point of view has been articulated. There are other vocabularies. I also did not oppose the Kirk leaving the PCUSA, but rather I expressed concern over Pastor Tom and the Session >leading< the Kirk into leaving the PCUSA.

I do not think a good shepherd should ask his sheep to follow him on a raid into a lion’s den. Just because they are willing to follow does not make it smart. There is a reason Jesus equates his church to a flock of sheep.

One reason I raised the concern is because I feel it will feed the congregation of the Kirk a cup of poison I myself have drunk and know to be quite unpleasant. My guess is you are feeling the effects of that poison even now as we speak. It will be a while before it completely soaks in. You will come to know a part of the church that Tom knows well, but that most everyday church members do not. Getting to know it will challenge their faith to the breaking point. I have known people whose spiritual lives were permanently wrecked because of it. Even when cured and freed from the poison later on, it changes you, not necessarily for the better.

Only Jesus can heal this kind of poisoning; only by his stripes are we healed and made whole again. One day that sentence will really make sense to you. It is not a pretty thing, but it is magnificent.

I would say more about the healing process, but I don’t feel it is my place. The good news is that every person is unique, and Jesus tailors the cure to each person individually. Just know that it will come, and it will be wonderful when it does.

In the mean time, welcome to the hell of church politics.

In Christ I live,

Jodie

Bob Ruble said...

Tom,

While it should not have been a surprise to any Kirk of the Hills members, I was, nevertheless, dismayed this morning to learn that the Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery had taken action yesterday to establish an Administrative Commission with the power and authority to take certain premptory actions against the Kirk of the Hills.

The "Presbyterian Layman On-Line" had published the "confidential" plan of action developed by the PUCSA. The PCUSA is,obviously, following this plan.

Even though some PCUSA pastors and EOP officials have stated that "nothing has changed" in the Constitution of the PCUSA, it is obvious to many observers that the action taken by the 2006 General Assembly has, indeed, significantly and effectively changed the Constitution.

Bonnie (my wife) and I have been members of the Kirk of the Hills for more than 39 years. During that time, we have worked to help the Kirk to grow in Christian ministry and mission. Also, in these years, we along with many hundreds of other Kirk members have shared the money, which God has provided to us, to help develop the property of the Kirk with the objective of enlarging and improving the outreach and effectiveness of its ministry.

Our 3 children were confirmed at the Kirk and a grandson was baptized there. We definitely do not approve of what to us seems to be the imperious and persecutory action taken by the Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery.

When I was a nine-year old member of a Southern Baptist church, I was required to memorize the 23rd Psalm as well as a portion of the 24th Psalm. I think that two of these verses are especially applicable for us today.

Ps. 23:6 and Ps 24:1.

"Surely goodnes and love will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

" The earth is the Lord's and everything in it."

Whether or not the Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery and the PCUSA are successful in punishing the Kirk by acquiring title to its property, Bonnie and I, along with hundreds of other Kirk members who are brothers and sisters in Christ, will continue to worship the Lord.

We will not worship as members of the Presbyterian Church USA, but rather as members of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, if we are accepted there.

We plan to continue to "worship in spirit and in truth."

With the rate of dropout by members of the PCUSA (having a current membership of approximately 2.3 million), its long term survival is questionable. This is true whether or not the Kirk of the Hills congregation had disaffiliated.

Bob Ruble