Earlier this week 45 male pastors in the PC(USA) published a letter that called the church "deathly ill" and called for a radical transformation. In the end of this letter they provided a proposal for changes in the church.
I have spent the past two days in prayer and in discussion with many folks on this letter. There were a few things that I wish to comment on at this point, particularly the following comment,
"While everyone wearies of battles over ordination, these battles divert us from a host of issues that affect the way our congregations fail to attract either young believers or those outside the faith. "
My first thought was, OBVIOUSLY these guys were not listening to the young people they do have and the things we brought to the General Assembly. If they had been paying attention and truly cared what "young believers" are worried about they would have realized that the battle over ordination was something very important to us. Had they been in the room with us after the vote to not discuss marriage they would have seen many deeply hurt young people who just wanted to TALK about it.
You want to know why young believers are not coming to your congregations? Because you don't want to talk about homosexuality. Or if you do talk about homosexuality you talk about it as if it is an object. We as a church have been oppressive and hurtful to so many brothers and sisters over the years because we are so worried about this issue or that issue that we forget that we are talking about PEOPLE. You don't care about young people because you want them to be part of the church today and tomorrow, they are the "future of the church" and they should "wait their turn"...well I have news for you, the younger generation is standing at the door knocking, begging to be the church of today WITH you and if you don't let us in then you will loose us.
I am very thankful for my church, Presbytery, and Synod. I have been welcomed in to work alongside folks. I admit I am usually the youngest in the room by 20 if not 30 years, but I am serving alongside and not underneath others. This is what the church needs.
I've lost my number of points but I also want to say this, one of the things I treasure about the PC(USA) is that I got to experience the 219th GA. Not because the social aspect was so awesome, but because I got to sit next to, learn from, work with, worship with, and pray with people I did not agree with. By opening my heart and mind, I was able to learn from people who I would normally write off as crazy or just another close minded individual worried about nothing that matters in this world. But instead I sat beside them and had tough, meaningful, and heartfelt discussions that helped me to understand where they were coming from and where they were trying to go. I would be heartbroken if we lost the opportunity to have these conversations with each other. I do not believe we can effectively be the church of Jesus Christ if we are not willing to sit down and listen to and work with people we don't agree with.
Do I like the fact we seem to argue over "issues" as a church? No, but I do believe they are very important ongoing conversations. And I point to our Book of Confessions to remind us of a few things. 1) Jesus Christ is head of the church. 2) We are all in the same race. 3) We are called to love all of God's people. And 4) We are called to be Christ to ALL people in word, love, and deed.
From the Confession of 1967 (inclusive text)
"...the church applies itself to present tasks and strives for a better world. It does not identify limited progress with the kingdom of God on earth, nor does it despair in the face of disappointment and defeat. In steadfast hope, the church looks beyond all partial achievement to the final triumph of God."
"The reconciling work of Jesus was the supreme crisis in the life of humankind. His cross and resurrection become personal crisis and present hope for women and men when the gospel is proclaimed and believed. In this experience, the Spirit brings God’s forgiveness to all, moves people to respond in faith, repentance, and obedience, and initiates the new life in Christ."
"The risen Christ is the savior of all people. Those joined to him by faith are set right with God and commissioned to serve as God’s reconciling community. Christ is head of this community, the church, which began with the apostles and
continues through all generations."
From A Brief Statement of Faith
"In a broken and fearful world the Spirit gives us courage to pray without ceasing, to witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior, to unmask idolatries in Church and culture, to hear the voices of peoples long silenced, and to work with others for justice, freedom, and peace."
My initial thought after reading the letter was "see ya later guys" then it turned to "just take yourself somewhere else, don't drag congregations or the denomination in the mud on your way out" and now I'm wanting these guys to sit down and listen. For one day to be open enough to hear all kinds of voices from all across the spectrum in our beautiful church.
May the conversation continue, may we listen with new ears, a new heart, and an open mind. May we be willing to love our neighbors and be radical love in a radical world. No matter what comes of all of this we have to keep in mind that this is not my church, your church, or our church. This is the church of Jesus Christ, and thanks be to God for that.
"For the sake of my relatives and friends I will say peace be within you." -Psalm 122:8
P.S.-I don't believe the church is "deathly ill"...but that might be hammered out in a future blog. How can the Church of Jesus Christ ever be "deathly ill"....