The other night, I spent some time catching up with my favorite Presby blogs, magazines, etc. Some I actually enjoy. Some are more about hearing from a wider variety of voices than I would hear in my own circles. Just a couple of days ago the Fellowship PC(USA) released a letter tracing the work they’ve done over the past few months and mapping out what they see as a new way through denominational turmoil. Here are some thoughts as I continue to process this letter and the general tenor of conversation about it and around the PresbyWebs these days.
1. As I have read/viewed the various pieces releases by the Fellowship – from the “leaked” version of the white paper to the clarifications and new ideas – there seem to be a couple of different voices. Most prominent are the strident, forceful voice and the avuncular professorial voice. This particular letter matched up more with the first piece, including an air of authority and “this is the way it’s going to be.”
2. When I visited the Fellowship website a few weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised to find this post from Paul Detterman of Presbyterians for Renewal. It was actually quite engaging and gave me hope that this group was actually open to thinking about new ways to be church together. I just don’t know how to reconcile the picture painted there with the one in the new letter. Detterman seemed to be calling for more “what if” sorts of thinking and exploring all the options. With the invitation to the August event and some of the FAQ responses, I thought the discernment process would continue into the fall, when more voices would be able to speak into a way forward. This latest declares a decisive goal of creating a new body within the old one. I guess the only discernment left is how to make that happen.
3. There are times I look at the language being used on sites that cater primarily to the conservative crowd and wonder if folks realize just how Harry Potter it all sounds. Those people who are welcoming and affirming… they are like mudbloods (somewhere between real Christians and those LGBTQ types- would that make them muggles?). Of course, that is just JK Rowling’s way of lifting up the pervasive xenophobia, and us-versus-them dichotomies that are revealed all too naturally in society
4. The other thing I’ve noticed on those sites is a tendency to paint the population of the church into two distinct groups. Those who are orthodox (agree with all their assertions) and those who are fully engaged in removing any boundaries around Presbyterian/Reformed beliefs. Here’s where that rubs me the wrong way- My support for the freedom to consider ordaining a practicing LGBTQ member as church officer or minister DOES NOT mean that I believe congregations should be required to do so. Nor do I place the Qoran on the same level as the Bible within the Christian canon, nor that I have tossed away the divinity of Christ. Far from it. I actually ascribe to fairly traditional doctrine and polity, though not as far to the conservative side in some areas.
I suspect that there are many more like me- sitting somewhere in the 75-80% agreement slot, baffled by accusations of heretical beliefs… Especially those never having sat through sermons teaching contrary to the espoused tenets of faith.
5. As one who is not ready to join in with the Fellowship, but who lives and is under care of a presbytery where many leaders have signed on in support of the Layman, PFR and/or the Fellowship, I wonder where their separation leaves me. Where is their commitment to my preparation, to which they agreed when I was approved as a candidate? If my home church chooses to be part of this organization, where does that leave me and my family?
There is much more I need to process, and there is more for them to make public, but for now… That’s what I’ve got.