Last week 1900 Presbyterians gathered in Minneapolis upset over the recent decision to change the wording in our Book of Order which makes it more permissible for gays and lesbians to be elected as leaders (Pastors, Elders and Deacons) for our congregations. Here is my response to the article that appeared today in the Presbyterian Outlook.
To be honest, I have done my best not to respond. I deleted the first email that came a couple of weeks ago because I didn’t want to get into the middle of what felt to me was a lose/lose discussion. But the article about the gathering in Minneapolis appeared in my inbox this morning and I found myself right back to where I was a week or so ago. To tell you the truth, I don’t get it. I was at the General Assembly which voted to add G.6 to the Book of Order. That decision/debate/vote had all of the politics and all of the prayer of any major GA decision. All week at that GA there were rumors swirling around about congregations who already had letters printed and in envelopes ready to be mailed recommending leaving the denomination if the vote did not go their way. And, just before the vote a long time friend came up to me with tears of anger in his eyes to tell me that his congregation would leave the denomination if the vote to include G.6 failed, and that my vote was forcing them into that situation. But not once at that GA or at any time since has anyone from the “other side” ever asked me or expressed any concern to me about our congregation and how we were doing and what we were going to do because the vote did not go “our way.” It was, as if, “to the victors go the spoils.”
Now the landscape has shifted. It is not the cataclysmic shift that some have portrayed it as. The original vote to include G.6 was (if I remember correctly) 52% to 48%, and in the years since the denomination has continued to be split down the middle on this issue. Now the center has shifted in a different direction. Maybe the middle has grown weary as the Outlook suggested. Maybe they have studied the Bible and changed their minds. Maybe they have decided that all of the money and all of the energy of a denomination which they care about should be focused in a different direction. phe reality is Probably some combination of all three. But here we are again, right where we were before. Only this time the vote didn’t go the way some would have liked and the discussion is, once again, back to “how do we leave.” It feels a bit insulting to me to say this is about the Bible. Does that mean that those who disagree with me think that I do not read the Bible or study the Bible or take the Bible seriously? Do they think I have not grappled with texts? Do they think that because I, and others who are far more scholarly than I am, arrive at a different understanding that we do not take our faith seriously? That we do not do our best to keep our eyes on Jesus? That is the part I don’t get. Do I have to think like you (or you think like me) to carry out mission and ministry of the Church today?
I have to admit I feel a bit like did when I was 10 years old and we were at the baseball field in the small town in which I grew up with only one bat and one ball between us, and when the call did not go the way that the owner of the bat and ball wanted he took his bat and ball and went home and nobody got the chance to enjoy an afternoon of baseball.