(By Daryl Nerl, The Morning Call). The highest elected leader of the mainline Presbyterian denomination in the United States urged worshipers on Sunday to seek reconciliation in a schism that has fractured the First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem, PA.
“Have two people go out to a home and sit and have a discussion,” the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson told church members during a question-and-answer session that followed a worship service he led.
“You have been in a relationship with these folks for years, and you are still in relationships with many of them,” he continued. “Remind them of the times that you have all been together and what it’s meant in the life of this church to be a part of the fold.”
In June, the majority of the 2,600-member congregation voted to leave the mainline denomination to join the more conservative denomination called ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians. That decision was contested by the Lehigh Presbytery and the national organization Nelson leads, setting off a legal battle for control of the church building and the 31.5-acre campus.
Nelson, the stated clerk for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), led the worship service for Presbyterians for Unity, the portion of the congregation that wishes to remain with the mainline denomination.
He told them that memories of shared history, stories and longstanding friendships might enable the congregation to heal its rift.
“Help them to understand that you need them, not simply for the growing and the development of the church, but in the continuation of a community of people that have been in and out of each other’s homes and each other’s lives, who bear secrets and hold stories of each other and have been on trips together and worked together,” Nelson said.
Contacted afterward, the Rev. Marnie Crumpler, senior pastor at First Presbyterian, had a different view of reconciliation.
“I think there are longtime friendships between people in both groups and, so as far reconciling friendships, I think that’s important,” Crumpler said. “But I think if reconciling means coming back together as one church, I think we’re already an ECO church, and we’ve already made a decision to be an ECO church.”
before joining hands in a Kumbayah moment, the members should also be encouraged to first read up on the stands the GA took this on so many issues – remembering the good times just to keep everyone in the dark and in the pcusa is just wrong
Maybe the church should reconcile by the minority joining the majority and everybody
go to the ECO. Wouldn’t that be healing the rift?
I have many friends remaining in the PCUSA and not a one can give a biblical reason why they remain. The PCUSA is spiritually dead by its own hand.
What Rev Nelson and the cloistered Louisville mafia refuse to acknowledge is that repeated G. A.s have walked away from the congregations and been captured by the worldly culture in defiance of Scripture, the historic Confessions and the Book of Order. The reality is congregations are dismissing the apostasy of repeated unacceptable G.A. decisions by the shrinking minority that show up every other year.