Occasionally a reader will ask why I continue to write about the PCUSA. After all, I’m no longer a part of that denomination. Some of my church members ask the same question and I’ve had some not-so-subtle “requests” for the same from denominational people (second hand).
The reason I continue to write is because there are so few who are speaking out about the denomination’s treatment of dissenting congregations and pastors. There could be many reasons for this, uppermost the fear of reprisal. As I’ve said before, I don’t have to fear that because I am no longer under the authority of the PCUSA. I am disappointed, though, in the lack of response by remaining pastors in the PCUSA.
I hear talk about renewed missions and a missional focus for the church. There is talk about simplifying governance with a more compact Book of Order. Such good things are overdue for the denomination, yet the current situation cries out for clarity and leadership and, dare I say it, reform. How can a denomination move in a positive direction when it is at war with its own members who feel so vulnerable?
Don’t any of you out there believe that what is happening is unfair, unpresbyterian, and unchristian? Do you think that it is right to selectively live to the utter letter of the law, suspending grace while, at the same time flouting other parts of the law?
I’m going to make a comparison that is odious, but pertinent. Most Americans have a shared opinion that moderate Muslims are not speaking out sufficiently against Muslim terrorists. But few speak. It seems obvious, even necessary, to us that they should speak out. Their silence on this one thing undoes anything else they might say.
While what is happening in the PCUSA falls far short of terrorism, it shows the same fundamentalist, monofocal dedication to a cause that does nothing but create fear and destruction.
All the PCUSA has to do—and this is well within its power, constitutionally, ethically, and morally—is say “stop” to the presbyteries and officials who are aggressively going after churches they think might disassociate or ask for dismissal. It can actually allow congregations to be dismissed—without a ransom payment for property they have sacrificially acquired, built, and maintained. It could even assure pastors and sessions that they could speak freely without fear of punishment.
One would think that, in a time when there is such theological division within mainline denominations, dissent and disaffiliation would be expected. Those responsible for it should approach others apologetically. Instead, it seems that those who have led the PCUSA toward a completely different theological foundation are hell-bent on punishing anyone who might disagree.
I know that many in my former presbytery believe that, if the Kirk had just entered into dialog with them, we would have reached a mutually satisfactory conclusion. I'd like to believe that, but the atmosphere set up by leaders in Louisville established and continues an attitude of reasonable suspicion. If every sign points to a potentially deadly encounter, it is wise to seek another route. Even the route we have taken is fraught with pain and danger--it just seems to be less so than the constitutionally-established route, given the present climate in the PCUSA.
Although I’m a “tall steeple” pastor, I am an unknown, except for what has been published through my blog and the Layman or the contacts that I have personally made in the PCUSA over the last decades. What I say is obviously supported or undermined (according to your point of view) by my own church’s disaffiliation. Others need to speak.
Leaders like Clifton Kirkpatrick, certain well-known pastors, or a group of such nationally-known leaders could make a tremendous difference. Even the gathering of tall-steeple pastors (to which I once belonged) would carry a lot of influential weight should they speak out unequivocally against the PCUSA’s attitude and actions toward dissenting congregations and pastors.
Keep praying--keep the faith,