What were we thinking?
Special to The Layman, June 23, 2011
The viewpoint of one local pastor
What is going through the mind of many Presbyterians after the removal of the denomination-wide fidelity and chastity standard? Answers to that question abounded last week at a meeting in my local presbytery.
The first answer came in the people present. News of the meeting spread by word of mouth. Initially, a handful of conservative pastors who meet together regularly were invited, but word quickly spread so that about one-fifth of the presbytery’s active congregations were represented. Some had a single elder or pastor present while others brought the whole session. And folks came from four different neighboring presbyteries, just to hear about “options” and see what other Presbyterians were talking about. Several of those who came from afar were gathering information for similar meetings being held in their own presbyteries in the next few weeks.
The second answer came in the content of the program. One local pastor shared his own journey, calling and process of discernment with his session and congregation. Another pastor was on the advisory board of the Fellowship PCUSA and told the group about plans for an August meeting in Minneapolis, where nearly 1,000 are already signed up to come have similar conversations. We also heard that 10A and nFOG were not the only concern, with the Board of Pension action on mandatory participation in same-gender pension coverage and the potential redefinition of marriage on the horizon at the 2012 General Assembly.
The third answer came in Q&A time. It quickly became apparent that there were a wide range of perspectives in the room. There were pastors, elders and laypeople there. Some were angry or broken-hearted, ready to break with the PCUSA as quickly as possible, whether their congregation joined them or not. Many described a compromise of conscience, being associated by Presbyterian connectionalism with a denomination now seen to have crossed a line of Biblical and moral error. Many were looking for direction, not ready or able to break completely, but needing something to be done to relieve their burdened conscience, whether it be some kind of local statement of faith or practice, or cutting of funds to the denomination. Some others were from churches where pastors had voted for Amendment 10A, out of step with the congregational conscience.
Many are waiting to see what comes of the Fellowship PCUSA. Some are moving forward with leaving. Almost everyone in the room feels compelled to do something sooner rather than later and it seems likely that there will be another local gathering immediately after the August Fellowship meeting.
In addition to surveying a number of options, we discussed the possibility of acting faithfully or unfaithfully whether one ultimately leaves, stays or does something in-between. I can’t speak for others present, but I do hope that our actions in the days to come will honor Christ.
The author of this guest commentary is anonymous, as is the city, presbytery and participants involved.