One thing about GA is as certain as death and taxes – everyone is going to walk away frustrated, hurt and/or angry about something. The reality is that when a diverse body gathers to discuss such a wide range of complex topics in a limited amount of time, there are going to be a lot of decisions made (or kicked down the road). And there are a lot of people who are experts (in truth or in their own minds) about each of those topics that would have made better and/or different decisions that the assembly does.
Knowing that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow those decisions made against your own hopes, beliefs, desires or interpretation of scripture.
There are a lot of votes I wish had gone differently at the personal level. And there were many times I wondered how friends of mine were dealing with the tenor of conversations and outcomes of votes that touched them much more directly than me. But when I kept seeing vote after vote showing a very evenly (some would say sharply) divided body, I began to wonder if there might be something beyond our human stubbornness at play.
What if that what looked like paralysis was actually a work of the Holy Spirit? What if the will of God really is for us to see exactly how many people live between the poles of our polarized discussions? Because I would stake my life on the fact that not every person who voted to wait on redefining marriage is an age-ist, homophobic, Biblical literalist who reads and believes every word that the conservative interest groups publish and acts solely out of fear.
In fact, I suspect that a number of those sisters and brothers in Christ did so with a heavy heart because they long for the day that all might be treated with the same love and compassion, but heard in their heart of hearts a still small voice saying, “not yet.”
Nor is every person who voted for the AI on marriage an atheistic, Bible-hating heretic who is Reformed in name only. I suspect a great deal of support came from people still wrestling with how to express a faithful support of LGBTQ children of God but heard “yes” to helping faithul pastors serve well where marriage equality is a reality.
Even as I type, I am burdened by the reality that “not yet” is a painful phrase for people I know and love. They have been crying out, “How long oh Lord” through many cycles of church polity. I do not offer this observation blithely or without concern. But I am equally burdened by the reality that several congregations within an hour’s drive are being ripped apart by conversations that stay at the poles of “stay or go” and “orthodox or heretical”.
I don’t have any idea how we change the current climate of distrust and broken relationships. But I wonder if God spoke a “not yet” into our lives together so that dust from the changes made 2 years ago might continue to settle. So that congregations in the middle of a discernment process might have time to determine whether staying or leaving is your call for their witness to the world.
Honestly, if I were basing my future on logic, I would be in a near-panic about my chances of finding a call to a church that would dive into Presbyterian witness in the 21st century. But I have more faith than logic, and hope that is built on Jesus’ unfailing faithfulness. I cling to the promise that as I live in the power of God as expressed in the resurrection of Christ, I will be guided to the work that God has prepared for me.
And until God calls me away from this wackadoodle denomination that I have come to love and call my home, I can do no more than serve, pray, listen, carry hope, offer faith and love my neighbors. Even the ones that make me cranky.