Wednesday, December 07, 2005

More that I don't Understand

Help me understand this.

We have a pastor in our Presbytery who has made it known that if the vote doesn't go as he wishes at our next General Assembly, he will leave the denomination. I doubt this is just puffing on his part. He's a serious guy.

I can't imagine why he holds positions of authority in our Presbytery now. Why should he be participating as a leader if he doesn't have the loyalty to maintain a relationship with us? It's like dating someone rather than being married. I thought he made his commitment when he took his ordination vows. Are his decisions on our behalf made through the lens of a temporary relationship with us? Isn't this like when a pastor decides to leave a congregation and sloughs off what he doesn't care to do anymore because he's a lame duck?

I am dancing with the one who brought me. This old saying makes sense to me as I was educated by Presbyterians, nurtured through the Presbyterian Church and my ethnic background is Presbyterian.

I gave up on the Church as a perfect place years ago. I believe in what I understand to be God's vision of and for the church but since all human institutions are inherently sinful, I don't expect the church to be perfect. Rather, I understand my participation in the Body of Christ, the Church, as God's discipline for me. Not punishment, but discipline to seek, praise, worship, work and pray within the confines of the Church.

It gets on my nerves that we Presbyterians are so cantankerous. Wish I'd paid attention to the droll fights of the past in my Seminary textbooks. I'm not cantankerous so being a part of a denomination which fights over everything disturbs me. And, we are a wicked witness to the World with our ambushes, disagreements, territorial battles and general crabbiness with one another.

As a girl, I was part of Big City Church's Confirmation Class. The Rev. Mr. Soft Hands taught us.
This was long ago before confirmands were asked, "How do you feel about Jesus?" We were told about Jesus. I suppose Mr. Soft Hands should have looked us straight in the eye and announced,

"Young people, Presbyterians fight over most things. Our history from John Calvin who
had to flee Geneva more than once to save his life, began a chapter in acrimony which
Christians have seldom seen. We didn't invent church conflict but we've refined it. Be
prepared to watch your church schism, shake and scatter over all sorts of issues. Thank
goodness none of you young women wish to be pastors. It would be too rough for your
delicate feminine constitutions. Now, let's all turn to page 16 of our book...."

I love the Presbyterian Church because I first learned of Jesus from the Presbyies.
I like our form of government which should work to ease some of the conflict by being orderly but somehow every class of elders and often the preachers, don't know our Book of Order. I like our worship, which while not unique to us, is dignified and allows me to worship mind and spirit.
I like our ethos (despite the historical historonics) which values education, justice, and engagement with the larger world.

So, help me understand why this guy is still in charge of stuff when he plans to bolt if the vote doesn't turn out as he wishes?


St. Casserole


nightwoodkitty said...

I too was raised Presbyterian and it is my ethnic church but I cannot be one. They have slammed a door on me and I'm not willing to walk in to that pain of rejection. Is that lack of commitment on my part?

mibi52 said...

We Episcopalians have similar problems. I know that God is working through us all (even the cranky ones) in some mysterious way, but I'm too dense to understand it sometimes. We have Nigerian bishops saying the Church of England should leave the Anglican Communion, because it has betrayed the Biblical principles that guide us. Why? Because lambeth hasn't been unambiguous enough - read throwing Americans and Canadians out - in dealing with the issue of gay priests and bishops, and blessing gay unions. Meanwhile, people starve and are raped and killed. So much for the historical Via Media of our denomination. I hear you. I get confused, too.

St. Casserole said...

I'm sorry that your ethnic church rejected you. This is not right. You have to worship where you are welcome.
My comments are about a pastor who leads but doesn't commit.
Love to you, St. C

Quotidian Grace said...


I suspect this pastor accepted a position of leadership in the presbytery hoping to influence the others towards his way of thinking. By making these statements he is hoping to rally others of like mind.

Like you, I'm an "ethnic Presbyterian" and I can't ever remember a time when the church wasn't being constantly roiled by controversies. Result: we're an endangered species. No one wants to go to church and encounter more stress and conflict than they get in the everyday world.

If it were up to me, we'd throw out the entire Book of Order and start over. It's riddled with inconsistencies and downright contradictions. But that won't happen because we don't trust each other enough.

Thanks for your thoughts on why its important to stay. Sometimes I need to be reminded.

will smama said...

Well said, St. Casserole. Well said.

St. Casserole said...

Another reason I remain committed is that whether it is national church decisions or local ones which upset me, I can't make a difference if I am outside of the group.
And, until I master being a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ, I'm not going to concentrate on anything else.

Emily said...


Mibi spoke well for what's going on with the Episcopal Church--and I second QG--he's making a threat to get people to vote his way.

reverendmother said...

I'm with you 100%.

cheesehead said...

St. Cass, I'm right there beside ya!

This is not my ethnic church. I'm Presby by choice/grace of God.

That being said, I also believe that God is bigger than any denomination. If it is God's will for the PC(USA) to split, then who can stop it, but I think I'll go out kicking and screaming, OR I'll miss the ones who leave.

You are likely to read a lot about my Presbytery in the next few months, since we have a candidate for moderator, who has already made a name for herself in our cirlces for standing up for what she believes. (That's as many clues as I can drop in one sentence!)

Lorna said...


I dont get it either. sigh

Purechristianithink said...

Re: why he is in a position of leadership--In my presbytery, we are so hard up for people willing to chair committees, lead task forces, convene planning teams, etc. that we are extrememly vulnerable to someone with an agenda who presents him/herself as willing and able to do the work. Also to people who don't have an agenda, but aren't the the most well adjusted bulbs on the Christmas tree either. . .

St. Casserole said...

We have weak bulbs, broken bulbs and bulbs which are hard to adjust. I'm each of those from time to time.
All of us have agendas, too, we prefer our agendas over those of others.
I'm not sure that it's his agenda which bothers me as much as his see-saw approach to commitment.
I like constancy. Not passive constancy but a focused commitment to a goal.
I wish we could swap out the goofy presbyters with other presbyteries.
Oh rats! Maybe it's happened already and that's why we have all the lightbulbs we have...