Wednesday, June 21, 2006

What to Write?

I spent last night comparing the PCUSA to the Anglican (Episcopal in the USA) Church.

The Anglican Church world-wide is opposed to the ordination of GLBT persons and opposed the consecration of the Reverend Robertson, who is openly gay and living with his lover. Prior to his consecration many of the “conservative” individuals and congregations threatened leaving the Episcopal Church if he was consecrated as a bishop. A few churches left immediately. There could be additional turmoil if the Episcopal Church fails to "apologize" to the Anglican Church for consecrating the Reverend Robertson.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has now opened the door for the ordination of GLBT persons (or even persons who do not believe in the divinity of Christ!). Many of our sister denominations around the world are not supportive of such ordinations. Many individuals and congregations have threatened leaving the PCUSA if such ordinations occur. What will happen?

The past two weeks have been an emotional rollercoaster. June 11th the congregation “hijacked” the worship service to celebrate my ten-year anniversary at Evergreen (it was a total surprise). They wanted me to have the pleasure of just being a participant in worship. The focus of worship was on Jesus Christ. There was a guest speaker. A “Messianic” pastor (and good friend) was invited to give the benediction (sung in Hebrew and then spoken in English). The conclusion of the service had several members of the “search committee” stand up and speaks and the congregation gave my family some wonderful gifts (two days of sail on a boat at the cub where I sail—Windworks Sailing in Seattle.). There was a wonderful reception following the service. I turn 50 this year and could picture spending the rest of my ministry at Evergreen!

Today I sit here unsure of my future. I had reservations about being an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church way-back-when (prior to my ordination). I spent a lot of time seeking God’s leading through prayer and fasting. The same words kept coming back to me over and over – I was to be an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) until they allow gays to be ordained (I had never heard of GLBT at that time). I have never sensed that God has released me from his original instructions. God has called me to be a pastor in this area; that is very clear to me. Thus my dilemma. The church I serve is far from perfect but there are great things happening in the lives of the people who worship there. If I stay with the PCUSA I will be directly contradicting what God has told me to do (Some of you will be thinking, “How arrogant can he be!” My response is that if we have not had that type of conviction from God then we have not business being in pastoral ministry!). If I leave I will leave the church and people that I love. Be sure of this—I will be in pastoral ministry in this area and many from Evergreen will leave with me (The PCUSA moved—I didn’t!). Leaving will cause a HUGE financial burden on my family (two kids in college) and on the Evergreen family. I have never had to make a more difficult decision!


At 4:20 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Pastor Lance,
I am so sorry to read this, especially since your pain is almost palpable. It sounds like you serve people who appreciate your ministry and enjoy the way you are leading them. I wish we lived close enough to hang out together and talk over coffee or something. Continue the prayer and do what you must do, but I pray that you will find it "right" to stay.

At 4:37 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your feelings are understood. You need to go with God if you are sure that is where he is leading you. There are other presbyterian denominations that you could transfer your ordination to (or have it recognized by them)that are more conservative. For example, many of the sister denominations around the world that you refer to have congregations in the USA also.

Unless the Lord leads you otherwise, you can be calculating about leaving rather than impulsive. By calculating I mean pray, arrange what needs to be done for your kids so they don't resent the Lord's service, look at other denominations that you might transfer to, share as many of your denominational and theological concerns with your church members as is prudent, and other plans. The Bible says it's okay to plan.

My husband was a full time pastor and we went through much the same thing as you are considering. It takes guts. We left a denomination for theological reasons very similar to what you are dealing with. Another pastor left somewhere in the same time frame. We planned and were not hasty so we came out okay (but broke for a while). He was impusive and had a much harder time.

If you are strong and level headed and your marriage is strong, you will be okay. God will send people, including your family to confirm what he wants you to do, normally.

Most people recognize that we are getting closer to the end times. Scripture indicates it is harder to stand up for the Lord as the time draws nearer. I don't know what that means but this might be an example. Who has the courage to stand up for their beliefs and who caves because of fatigue or money issue?

Only you know what God wants. Ask for confirmation and pray a lot.

At 6:46 PM , Blogger Quotidian Grace said...

I'm also very sorry to read this. This is a difficult decision for a pastor to make. Do take some time to see how others are reacting and what happens because that could help make the decision easier. God bless you as you seek to find the path for you. I'd sure hate to see pastors like you leave the PCUSA.

At 9:54 PM , Anonymous tonyc said...

I'm with Quotidian Grace. Please, please take some time and prayer. At the very least, I urge you to wait to find out whether the language does what you think it will, or whether the majority of commissioners who think they voted to uphold the fidelity and chastity requirement are right. Yes, the "new" language (which dates to 1729) gives some room for individual conscience, but it also cites G 6-0108, which says there is a limit to that freedom, and the limit is anything specifically called out as a constitutional standard. Which seems to take us right back to fidelity and chastity, a listed standard that sessions and presbyteries are required to enforce.

Let's be in open and heartfelt dialogue.

At 2:01 PM , Anonymous Jon Thomasson said...

I wonder who Clifton Kirkpatrick reminds us of most: Apollos, who just needed correction (Acts 18:24-28), or Annas, who could not listen to truth and sought to eliminate those who spoke the truth (John 18:19-24)? For the first, Matthew 12:20 applies. For the second, 1 Corinthians 5:13 and 2 Corinthians 6:14 apply.

Some in the PC(USA) remind me the man in this story from the Lord in Matthew: "He said to another man, "Follow me." But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."

The fields are white with harvest and the workers are few. All of us (including me who has probably spent too much time on this dying denomination) need to re-focus on the Great Commission and not get distracted by those who have "a form of godliness but [deny] its power. Have nothing to do with them." (2 Timothy 3:5). Remember the old proverb: Those that Satan cannot keep from getting converted, he seeks to get diverted.

May the Lord lead you and your family to follow Him and Him alone (regardless of what I or others say). I am thankful for your prayerful example of godliness and courage.

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