By Viola Larson, Naming His Grace blog.
We get Letters! Well if you are an ordained member of Journey Presbyterian Church in Folsom, California you got a letter inviting you to a meeting. The invite came by way of what was the Sacramento Presbytery’s discernment team but is now the engagement team. This is a requirement of the new dismissal policy. According to the letter this will be a consultation “with the leadership of the church.” The letter states the consultation will be:
- To explore the possibility of reconciliation
- To discuss the practical consequences of dismissal of the congregation
- To discuss issues of disharmony and possible mitigation
- To discuss how members whom hold deeply held differing convictions can work with members of differing views
The letter also requests that we read an article which is attached to the new dismissal policy. The paper is Theology of Forbearance by James Calvin Davis(1). I have read it twice now and intend to read it again. The paper has some helpful points in it, but also is problematic. One problem is that it wanders back and forth between thoughts about people leaving a denomination for various reasons and people leaving the church universal. This is of course not the author’s intent but it happens unless the writer clearly defines the meaning of “the Church.”
In the paper the early Massachusetts Bay church is one example. A distinction is made between the church, which wanted to stay a part of the English Anglican Church while reforming it, and Roger Williams who thought they should leave because of the corruption in the Anglican Church. However the fact that the Anglican Church left the Roman Catholic Church over the desire for King Henry the VIII to divorce his wife is not mentioned in the paper.
And while the church was a leading example of a reformed congregation the officials of Massachusetts Bay not only exiled Roger Williams, they also hung one of the first Quakers to preach in the colony, a woman named Mary Dyer. This is not a good example of a group of people seeking renewal without splitting off from the mother denomination. Of course it was, after all, the 1700s.