(By the Rev. Janet Edwards, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Written in response to the lament published by the Post-Gazette on 9/9/17 by Holly Lott, “A Presbyterian’s lament: Our church is forsaking core values with ‘reform’ that deforms.“).
When I was ordained in September 1977 to the office of Minister of Word and Sacrament in what is now the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), there were 92,792 members among 194 churches in Allegheny County. Now there are 137 churches with 28,518 members.
When Holly Lott and her congregation leave — as she wrote in this space last week (“ ‘Reform’ That Deforms, Sept. 9 Weekend Perspectives”) — there will be fewer. This so terribly grieves me.
I will be left — I, definitely a progressive Christian who embraces God’s covenant with us reflected in same-sex marriage, God’s respect for a woman’s discernment to become a mother or not, and Jesus’ wisdom in the greatness of a child (Luke 9:48). So, yes, the PCUSA will become more progressive by her going. And this grieves me, too.
What I trust worries us all is the fact that not just the PCUSA and the church in America are dividing this way. We all see how society is splitting into camps with different news sources and even claims about what’s real. It’s clear to me that the difference between Ms. Lott and me reflects this tension across our country.
I agree completely with Ms. Lott that the PCUSA “exists to bring good news of Jesus Christ to all his children.” I expect she would be surprised to know that I do not think the church is meant to be progressive or, I would add, conservative. The Presbyterian Church of my ancestors was founded in order to hold differing views like mine and Ms. Lott’s together. When we fail to live out Jesus’ desire “that they may be one” (John 17:11), it saddens me and, more importantly, wounds Christ.
The Reformed Church came to be in response to the violence of the Christian conflicts in Europe 600 years ago. Our core values reflect a way to live together with disagreement, in church or in society, rather than bashing one another over them. This way is simple on the surface but, obviously, difficult for people to practice.
Reflecting God’s love for all, here is the foundation — let’s say our core value — for harmony in the PCUSA and anywhere, really: “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.”
What this means is, we agree that Jesus is our Lord and Savior — declaring this is the only requirement for membership in a PCUSA church. This is an essential upon which we need to agree. When Presbyterians like Ms. Lott judge my confession of faith in Christ to be unworthy of fellowship, it grieves me.
I do question how conservative Christians live out their faith; I do not judge the sincerity of their confession. How we live out our lives in Christ and how we interpret Scripture (and we all do) are non-essentials. We are free to follow the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that gives us different gifts and different perspectives. Conservatives bring a rootedness in tradition that is valuable to the church. Progressives like me bring an ear to God’s still small voice that calls us to the unknown. This is also valuable to the church.
Poor tired old Janet laments the destruction she accuses conservative Christians who have left the Presbyterian Church caused over this last generation by dropping out of her “church of the new age”. Yet it is she and her ilk who have really caused that decline. She wants her cake and eat it too. Yet “conservative Christians” just can’t stomach that rotten cake any more. She name calls us so many hateful names and considers us stubborn sheep who won’t follow her and her professional shepherds. Yet it is she and her “progressives” that have wandered outside the flock. Just look at a Book of Order and the Westminster Confession when she began her career that she would like to bury in a garbage pit and ask “who has wandered from the way”!
Thank you, Don. Some of us remember well the role that Ms Edwards played for many years in the so-called “More Light Presbyterians,” her breaking of her own ordination vows when she presided over homosexual “marriages” (when these were still clearly forbidden by the Book of Order), and the inconvenient truth that when she decided to put herself up as a candidate for moderator of the General Assembly a few years back those who knew her best in her own presbytery, and by an overwhelming majority, refused to endorse her. Ms Edwards and those like her have effectively driven out of the PCUSA many conservatives and moderates who truly wanted to remain, but could no longer endure the verbal abuse heaped upon them by Ms Edwards and her friends. Her article cited here confirms what many of us have known for quite some time, that “charity” is not a virtue that is actually practiced by the Presbyterian alt-left.
Going back to my days in Pittsburgh in the late 70’s and early 80’s having to endure more than one of her diatribes on the floor, its is heartening to see that over 80% of Presbyterians in Allegheny county took my counsel as well and just got out of the room. As to her heartbreak and pain on seeing more traditionalists-conservative folks leave her ever increasing liberal plantation, I recommend the new Costco they just built off Donaldson’s Crossroads in Peters Twp for tissues in bulk.
The Leftest/Progressive mindset in general assumes two preconditions to any discourse across any social, religious or cultural gap.
First they are by ether education or background morally, ethically and intellectually superior to those whom they address. Second is a sense of entitlement, and the moral imperative for others to fund, support, enable what they say we should. Rev. Edwards laments the membership loss in the Presbytery true, but far more the financial implications of such trends over time. I would counsel her that if she feels such a passion and calling in her various causes, then by all take out her checkbook and write many generous donations to the PCUSA, Planned Parenthood, SPLC, ACLU, PFLAG, Huffington, and anything else she desires. Also to get in her car, take the Parkway and get off downtown next to the US Steel Tower on Grant Street, find a homeless person, no find 2 or 3 and physically open your house to them, feed and cloth them. That’s what Jesus says to do. If she finds herself unwilling or unable to do such, she should keep her comments to herself and quit telling others how to think and feel.
And lets clear this up. its a baby, not a handbag, or a trip to the spa. and its not a “women’s discernment to become a mother”, its murder. You think many that, maybe some of the 40 million lost since Row, maybe, just maybe one or two or more would have wondered into the Community of Reconciliation, Bower Hill, East Liberty, Shadyside, Hot Metal Bridge, or any other Pittsburgh bastions of freedom and liberation. And maybe the Presbytery membership numbers would not look so bad. You never know.
Sadly, we are a divided society. When I go to church, I don’t want to be lectured to. I don’t want to be shamed (I do enough of that to myself all on my own) and I don’t need a lecture on all the hateful things that the world and politics is doing for not doing.
I want to hear how God loves me and that regardless of my sin that Jesus dies for me to live. I want to hear that the truth is that no one is so far from God’s love that they cannot be saved. I want to feel save in my personal beliefs and that my neighbor won’t persecute me for believes that differ from theirs. I want God’s word to be the final Word. Not another human.
Please, let’s get back to that in our sermons, our pastoral roles and missions. Not more division and disrespect of others who don’t hold our same views.
So – we can “declare Jesus as Lord” and then say and do whatever we want . . . OK . . . And all this time I thought there was a Sovereign God who’s Word as taught, preached and professed in the Presbyterian Church since it’s inception clearly went against such an “anything goes” response to His love. Oh vey.
Presume much? She calls all to charity in Christ and then mocks those she does not care to understand based off of a cookie cutter assumption that all Conservative Christians fit her presumed values she has assigned to this demographic. So in her mind, Conservative Christians must incorporate and share the ideals of Homophobes, Xenophobes, Misogynists, Climate deniers and Trump supporters. If we are not members of these groups then we have aligned ourselves with them to preserve our White Christian Privilege. Wow. What a horrible group we Conservative Christians have turned out to be! (he writes wishing there was a sarcasm font). I also did not miss, and am personally offended by, the implication that as a Conservative Christian I am grounded in tradition but cannot have my ear tuned into God’s still small voice calling us into the unknown. As if the two are mutually exclusive. God calls me to change every day. He asks me to move into areas of uncertainty which lie just past my comfort zone. He wants me to be a bold Ambassador of His Kingdom on Earth, sharing His Word and His resources entrusted to me so that others may benefit by His grace and mercy. He calls me to be more like His Son and less like the culture we live in which, by the way, embraces and champions all of those values she lifted up in her article. I truly believe that God is working on both sides of this divide. I also believe that He calls us to His table to be as one Body of Christ. But the cathartic diatribe laid out in this article is both offensive and divisive to me as a Christian. It didn’t help the wounds I experienced throughout my church’s exit from the PC(USA). In fact, it reopened them and reminded me why we left in the first place.
Ezekiel 34 comes to mind. In this case, Satan wearing the mask of a woman, as Donald Grey Barnhouse might have said.
What happened to don’t judge others until you’ve put yourself under the micro scope!
That “judge not” has been taken out of context. How about “God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day.” (Psalm 7:11)