By Peter Johnson, Juicy Ecumenism.
Schism, like everything else in the Presbyterian Church, appears to be “decently ordered.” Like the neat, clean Excel spreadsheet rows that delineate the membership decline of America’s largest Presbyterian denomination (PCUSA), the process of leaving the PCUSA is laid out for churches and groups who decide they can no longer exist under the its authority. And I’m not just saying that tongue-in-cheek: In an interview not too long ago, Dr. Laura Smit, a professor at Calvin College and Presbyterian minister, made the case that schism is actually a form of obedience to PCUSA polity.
And if that’s not enough, here is what you might read—as the member of a PCUSA congregation—when your church is going through the process of changing denominations:
The Exploratory Task Force gave their final report to Session last month. Their recommendation was to leave PCUSA and enroll the church in [insert your favorite flavor of new Presbyterianism here]. On motion, and after much discussion, the Session accepted the Task Force recommendations and agreed to move forward with the discernment process as defined by Presbytery. The Listening/Discernment Team from Presbytery presented their proposed Listening/Discernment Process plan which the Session agreed to implement. This will result in a number of congregational informational meetings and discussions culminating in a congregational vote, which will decide on the options of staying with the PCUSA or joining another Presbyterian denomination.
See what I mean by decently ordered?
Of course, like divorce, reading about the legal requirements of separation is always much more sterile and tidy than the truth about the situation for those living through it. I know this because the excerpt above was lifted from this month’s newsletter from my own church here in Grand Rapids, Michigan.