Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Church Conflict

Our presbytery is caught up in the glamour and newness of departing our bounds.

This is made possible by the recent G.A.’s vote on the Peace, Unity and Purity Task Force report. Within our bounds, we’ve meowed and rustled papers about the National Church for years. When the PCA formed in 1973, many of our churches jumped ship. As late as 1981, when I was received as a pastor, a vote to depart the denomination occurred within three months of my reception. I was not the cause, although perhaps my faulty gender as a woman added to the upset. The decison was made before I appeared, happy and eager to serve.

What people on either side of the debate over the future of the denomination over look bothers me terribly. People get hurt when churches conflict. People get hurt when pastors spend time in the pulpit, in classrooms and over hospital beds discussing leaving the denomination. People get hurt when the focus of their church turns away from worship and mission. Before you suggest that one side or the other has turned away from worship/mission and that this is the very reason for conflict, recall that if you are part of the conflict, you are hurting someone.

Every congregation has fragile members. Some are coping with new diagnosis of catastrophic disease and want more than anything for a "normal" worship experience. Others are drowning in conflict in their homes or businesses or neighborhoods. Where can they go to find a place of peace and reassurance that faithful adults are working for understanding? Can’t find this in a conflicted church.

Our country is at war. Our church is at war. People die from more than enemy fire in war. People become wounded from church troubles.

That’s a fact, Jack.

Today, I laid down my hope for our committee who builds presbytery groups. The moderator told me weeks ago that it made sense to get people from the big churches because if we didn’t, we wouldn’t get donations for the work of presbytery. Didn’t I understand this, he wondered?
I responded that our purpose is to include all congregations, large or small, wealthy or struggling to the work of presbytery. Part of our mission is to represent all of our churches in our processes.

I was told that I need to be realistic.

Today, when the committee met, I didn’t go. I've been faithful for years and years, seldom missing a meeting.

I’m no better than any coward hiding in a bunker afraid of being wounded or who stops attending worship because the conflict hurts emotionally. I laid down my hope in a faithful presbytery this morning and I’ve been depressed all day long.

In the coming days, I’ll lose more because I see both sides of the issue. I listen and hear the fear behind the anger, the worry over losing power, the relief from boredom which building a new denomination will bring.

I feel sick.


cheesehead said...

Oh sweetie it hurts me to see you being so hard on yourself. People get wounded. Maybe today you got a flesh wound, and had to sit one skirmish out. It's okay. The war ain't over. There'll be another day to work for peace, unity, and purity. (((St C)))

Songbird said...

Well, I just love you.
As a small church pastor who has been invited to all different kinds of church involvement at local and state levels, I am flabbergasted by the point of view you heard. It's the attitude the disciples had when they tried to send the children away.
Thank you for reminding us of the cost of conflict.

Andy the Cat said...

You humans make me laugh!
After all, none are worthy even to call themselves "disciples" and here you are "protecting" the church. It is by God's good grace in Jesus Christ that you are saved.

I don't want to hear about any conflict in the church until the Gospel of John is mastered as a way of life.

I'm a Reformed cat and I see it this way.

Andy the C.

reverendmother said...

Andy is one wise feline.

St. C, blessed are the peacemakers, and you surely are one. Peacemakers certainly need the blessing of Christ because it's tough, heartbreaking work.

Reformed Catholic said...

Considering that one of the reports that I've read lately said that over 50% of the churches in the PCUSA have congregations of less than 100, the 'moderator' should rethink his suggestion. FWIW .. the guy sounds very passive-agressive ... and condescending !!

Anonymous said...

I'm sick right along with you, St. C. My Presbytery is dealing with the fall-out of the largest church in our Presbytery leaving the denomination. It's just a mess and so heartbreaking for everyone. Let's imagine together and pray for a church shaped by the gospel rather than politics.

Anonymous said...

Encouraging note to Mrs. C:

The book title, Been Down So Long It All Looks Up To Me, really says it.

1. Some battles of words just cannot be won because they are fought by the extremes and not the great middle ground.

2. Some battles have to be left to God and not man ( or Southern Saints).

3. You don't have to choose sides if you believe both sides are acting badly.

4. In the end, is it not about your relationship to God...not your relationship to a denomination or a position.

5. Remember that most people are trying to do the right thing, however wrongheaded.

6. You always try to ferret out your emotions, what you should do, what you did not do (and feel guilty about) and always , always, always end up at the right place. So, please, give yourself a break.

Mr. C (off to earn your kibbles and bits)

Quotidian Grace said...

I'm so sorry to read this, Cassie.

It's a tough,tough time to try to be a faithful presbyterian. Sometimes we need to step back from the conflict, regroup and look for a new perspective before re-entering the fray.

You're so right: It is about the congregations, stupid.

St. Inuksuk said...

I echo QG! I have been so wearied by my denomination! And I serve a small church, who just want to be faithful disciples serving the Lord in their community and in the world. We were in the top five churches in our presbytery in the largest amount given to Hurricane Katrina PDA and not in the top 5 in regards to membership! There is a power, mighty witness and love that can transform lives in our small churches!
Allow God's Spirit to heal your wounded spirit and aching heart in the time that you need.

Lorna said...

hugs ((((Cassie)))) - I like that from QG (grin)
praying that God will bind up your wounds, and hug you even tighter than we can.

BTW - when I read your blog all the " and ' look like Euros €€€€ ... which would be nice if I could grab them and use them (on books or something ) ... I use firefox but am wondering if anyone else has the problem of money all over the place (there are a few TM (trademarks) too)

Sue said...

Hugs and much love to you St. C.

I'm sorry that you are in this tough place, but do take the wise counsel already spoken here and go easy on yourself.

Songbird said...

An attempt has been made to discover the source of the Euros, but since nothing appears to be amiss in the html, we may only hope they will eventually disappear. (It's not a Firefox problem, by the way.)
St. Casserole's Faithful Technical Supporter

St. Casserole said...

Thank you for your kind comments.

My faithful technical advisor, Songbird, helps me out even before I contact her! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Oh, St. Casserole. I wish I knew what to say here. For the moment, I'll settle for wishing you well (and wishing you strength!) as you struggle with things like this.