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.