Saturday, February 10, 2007

Trouble at Home

I have been an enthusiastic reader of blogs all over the blogosphere in which the troubles of the Episcopal Church in the US are being described, lamented over, raged about and yes, even thoughtfully discussed. Imagine the hairs standing up on the back of my neck when I read the following on Presbyterian News Service this week:

Stated clerk, GAC chief urges churches not to defect from PC(USA)

Editor’s note: General Assembly Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick and General Assembly Council Executive Director Linda Valentine recently sent the following letter to every congregation in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). — Evan Silverstein

The full text of the Kirkpatrick and Valentine letter dated Jan. 29:

We are writing to you in advance of news you may read in the coming days. We have heard that a few Presbyterian congregations may soon announce their intention to leave the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

We are deeply saddened by this news for several reasons. First, any church’s departure is difficult and painful for the congregations involved and the wider church. Fractures within the body of Christ diminish our witness of God’s grace and mercy to the world—unfortunate in these already divisive times. And, the PC(USA) will miss the gifts and perspectives of these brothers and sisters in Christ.

Among the reasons of those wishing to leave are perceptions of particular actions of the 217th General Assembly last summer. These perceptions include concerns that our ordination standards have changed and that the PC(USA) no longer believes in the Trinity. Neither of these is true.

It is our deep conviction that we are better together than we are apart:

* We are better followers of Jesus when we stick together, mutually encouraging one another in the work of discipleship.
* We are better together and more effective in confronting the enormous problems in the world—dire situations like Darfur, HIV/AIDS in Africa, and ongoing human tragedies in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
* We are better together because the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) as one expression of the whole body of Christ needs all of its parts in order to function well (1 Cor. 12).
* We are better together because our resources of time, talents, and treasure have a larger and farther reach.
* We are better together because our discernment and deliberations on tough topics need our many perspectives to reach the most faithful decisions.

Our confidence in the strength of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and its people is unwavering. More than 11,000 PC(USA) congregations are, day in and day out, engaged in remarkable ministries that include proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, breaking the bread and sharing the cup, challenging injustice, and exhibiting the kingdom of God to the world. As the apostle Paul wrote, “I am confident … that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).

In over three hundred years of American Presbyterian history, we have never agreed 100 percent on any issue of the day. But, in the end, we are better together in Christ’s unity.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.


Ever since last summer's adoption of the report of the task force on Peace, Unity and Purity, there have been rumblings in the right-wing Presby press (which I try not to read, as it elevates my blood pressure) that this was it, schism was inevitable. But until now, the powers that be in Louisville have appeared to take a quietly optimistic stance. Until now.

More later...


Iris said...

In my Presbytery we have been living with all of this for quite some time, as one of our congregations disaffiliated a few months ago. Now we are involved in a very long and costly court battle over property. I pondered on my blog awhile back if we might come to a point where the most faithful response is to split amicably. I agree with Kirkpatrick that we are better together than apart, but I am weary of fighting. And talking about sex.

steve said...

How dreadful! It's always sad when ideological differences come to feel more important to some than all of the things which can unite a faith tradition.