Monday, July 24, 2006

Will Love and Charity Abound?

A very good friend of mine was my “eyes and ears” for the end of the NWI convocation. He told me that NWI was asking executive/general Presbyters to not punish pastors that are looking at NWI and their future with the PCUSA. Will Presbyteries and their leadership be willing to show love and charity in the midst of very difficult circumstances? Will departing churches be willing to show love and charity as they move away from the PCUSA?

In Acts 15 we see that Paul and Barnabas had a sharp disagreement over the direction of their ministry. Barnabas wanted to take John Mark; Paul didn’t want to take him. The result was that Barnabas and John Mark sailed for Cyprus while Paul and Silas went through Syria and Cilicia. It was a difficult situation. It was a “church split.” The gospel went forward.

Does the PCUSA, and its Presbyteries for that matter, want local churches to stay in a denomination that local churches feel has moved away from scripture and God’s calling? What would be the purpose for wanting to keep these congregations? Is it to pad our numbers? Is it that we hope they will change their minds about the PCUSA?

The “progressive” side of the church always talks about how “loving and accepting” they are. Let’s see if they are willing to live that out in real life. Let’s see if they are willing to love a congregation that decides to leave the PCUSA, accept that congregation’s desire to depart with their property and then let that congregation go with the property? Wouldn’t that be the “loving” thing to do? Wouldn’t that be the “accepting” thing to do? Those outside the church would sit up and take notice if such a thing were to happen! The world would see a denomination that was willing to abide by the wishes of local congregations.

Will that happen? I think it will happen in some Presbyteries. In other Presbyteries there will be ugly battles over church property. It would be my hope that a local church would be willing to walk away from their property rather than try to fight the Presbytery for that property. That would send the same type of message to the world around us.

This is a time for love and charity to abound. The Stated Clerk of the PCUSA said that we should honor the decisions of ordaining bodies. Will he also say that we should honor the decisions of those same ordaining bodies as they seek to leave the PCUSA with their property? No piece of property is worth fighting over. It will be interesting to see which “side” is going to allow love and charity to abound.

11 Comments:

At 8:28 PM , Anonymous kairos said...

Spoken like someone who wants to keep something that they don't think is theirs.

Lance, my view really is that if churches want to leave, they should be able to. If someone thinks that their conscience is burdened by being in community with someone like me because they think that I'm wantonly promoting sin, then far be it from me to say that we have to be together, even though I think God wants us to be together. And I think I might even be sold on churches keeping the property, though I think that a cost of schism ought to be that churches find some way to compensate the PCUSA for the property--not necessarily the full value, but something. Those buildings were built by the donations and gifts of millions who believed in the mission of the PCUS and UPCUSA and the PCUSA; they are under the stewardship of the sessions that currently have a conviction that they ought to leave, but that earlier gift was not to their churches alone, but to the denomination too in which they were chartered and founded.

So I concur with you, actually. But I would also say that the tone of your post, to someone like me, is awfully snarky and not loving at all, even though I believe you are trying hard to be charitable.

I read so much in the posts of renewal groups and the NWI about pastors struggling in their souls over their relationship with the denomination; churches engaged in heavy spiritual discernment about what to do. Nowhere, really, is it seen that moderates and progressives do the same. This, I think, is a major source of our split--those in the NWI movement have convinced themselves that the denomination promotes sin, those outside see you as harboring a hubristic assumption that you alone read scripture rightly, love God authentically, follow Christ the right way, and are the only ones wrestling with how to follow God's Word. And I think that's sad, and ultimately, wrong.

Paul and Barnabas split, but they both believed the other was working on being faithful to the Gospel, even though they disagreed on what that meant. I'm not convinced that NWI believes that of their opponents.

On the final matter of the day, I think our church is better if we are all together trying to discern God's Will together. But relationship is a two way street, and if one party can't stay in relationship, then the graceful, faithful thing, the loving thing, is to wish you well. Which I do. Peace be with you on your journey.

 
At 8:34 AM , Anonymous Larry said...

You wrote: "The “progressive” side of the church always talks about how “loving and accepting” they are. Let’s see if they are willing to live that out in real life. Let’s see if they are willing to love a congregation that decides to leave the PCUSA, accept that congregation’s desire to depart with their property and then let that congregation go with the property?"


I am not willing to concede the war to the progressives. Let us not forget that five years ago the conservatives defeated the progressives 73% to 27% on the vote to keep fidelity and chastity in the Book of Order.

If anything the conservatives are stonger today. The conservative southern churches have lost much fewer members in the last five years than have the progressive northern churches.

The conservatives can't seem to get their heads together. Each conservative group has their pet hobby horses. The conservatives willingly let the progressives create wedges that keep the conservatives from organizing. Until the conservatives ignore the progressive's actions and devote their energy entirely to organizing, we will remain the underdogs.

Instead of asking the progressives for mercy, the conservatives should be organizing for the purpose of giving mercy to the progressives by saying we will allow you to leave the PCUSA with your church property and our blessings.

 
At 8:39 AM , Blogger Classical Presbyterian said...

Kairos's opening line was quite rude to you. Thankfully, the rest of his comment was less so.

Oc course our property is not OURS. It is what the Lord has entrusted us with, as caretakers and stewards. The same goes for our family and children, we are parents and spouses for the Lord, not ourselves.

So, is the property that God has entrusted to us to be used for things that are not of God?

Kairos believes that mutually contradictory ideas can both be right, yet a trip over to his blog indicates otherwise.

I will be interested to see your response to his comment, Lance!

 
At 9:53 AM , Anonymous kairos said...

Kairos's opening line was quite rude to you. Thankfully, the rest of his comment was less so.

I'm sorry you thought my opening line was rude. It was not intended to be so.

Oc course our property is not OURS. It is what the Lord has entrusted us with, as caretakers and stewards. The same goes for our family and children, we are parents and spouses for the Lord, not ourselves.

I concur, theologically, when it comes to ownership of anything. WE are but stewards. Under that logic, these churches have no real claim on the churches either. Further, as a legal and practical matter, the property is not owned by the local churches. It is held in trust for the Presbytery and the whole denomination, from which these churches want to cede.

So, some want the churches when they split, and are challenging the "loving" spirit of others in the church to let them depart with it. As a rhetorical point, that's an interesting challenge, but as I tried to point out, the case can be made that, indeed, it is far more complicated. When built, during their history, heretofore donations came in and were intended to support these churches as local expressions of a larger denomination. Where is the "love" in respecting those desires and that history?

So, is the property that God has entrusted to us to be used for things that are not of God?

Kairos believes that mutually contradictory ideas can both be right, yet a trip over to his blog indicates otherwise.


I'm not at all sure what "mutually contradictory ideas" you are talking about here. You assume that I'd agree with your position about the PCUSA's work not being of God. I don't hold that view. YMMV. But the contradiction isn't one that I hold together, unless you are speaking about something else.

I'm not advocating a big stink about the property; I am arguing that some recognition on the part of those wanting to leave be given to the commitments made by those who founded and built their churches.

 
At 9:59 AM , Blogger person in the pew said...

kairos wrote "Those buildings were built by the donations and gifts of millions who believed in the mission of the PCUS and UPCUSA and the PCUSA". I don't think that's really true, actually. I think many are like me...we went to the big, "seeker friendly" Presbyterian church down the street, and when we gave, we gave for our local church. We gave to support the local ministry, the church programs, etc... I'll bet the majority of people in the pews (I'm going to start a new acronym PITP to represent this little heard from, but oh so important, group) have little or no idea what is going on at their local Presbytery or at the national level. I know I certainly didn't until recently. The people gave the money by and large for the local church, and the local church should be able to depart with property intact if the congregation feels called to do so.

 
At 10:23 AM , Blogger Pastor Lance said...

Kairos,
Thanks for your comments. I think that there is enough “blame” to go around to all of the groups/sides in the PCUSA. The ’06 GA approved the PUP report. The recommendations of the report included a provision that G 6.0106B stay in the Book of Order. Within fifteen minutes the Assembly was being asked to remove “B” from the constitution. That should speak volumes to the denomination! The progressive side of the denomination will keep fighting to ordain practicing, non-repentant LGBT persons and the conservative/evangelical side will keep fighting for that not to happen. Both sides firmly believe that they are Biblical. Both sides believe that they are “right.” This fight has hamstrung the PCUSA for thirty years. It is time for the fighting to stop!

My thoughts on “love” and “charity” were shaped by the above paragraph. This is a time for love and charity to abound in all corners of the PCUSA. Those thinking about “leaving” the PCUSA should take the high road. I think that exiting congregations should voluntarily continue to support the Presbytery for at least three years (with less support each year). This will help each Presbytery to have a time of transition without immediate catastrophic financial constraints. Each exiting congregation should recognize that faithful Presbyterians can follow different denominational paths. If a Presbytery is willing to negotiate a sale price for a property, let the negotiations begin. However, if the Presbytery lets a church leave with its property due to the high debt on the property then they will be bound to let other churches leave with their property (federal courts have ruled this way). On the other hand, a local church should be willing to walk away from the property. Period! The church is not a building. No piece of property or building is worth damaging the reputation of the Church and Christ Jesus.

It will speak volumes to the “world” if love and charity abound in the PCUSA at this difficult time in its history.

 
At 10:31 AM , Anonymous kairos said...

It will speak volumes to the “world” if love and charity abound in the PCUSA at this difficult time in its history.

Nicely put, Lance. Thanks for the further thoughts.

 
At 10:33 AM , Anonymous Mark Smith said...

Pastor Lance:
The recommendations of the report included a provision that G 6.0106B stay in the Book of Order. Within fifteen minutes the Assembly was being asked to remove “B” from the constitution. That should speak volumes to the denomination!

Yes, because the committee HAD to answer the overtures in some fashion. If you noticed, the vote to NOT touch G-6.0106b was very strongly in favor of supporting the other vote.

That happens sometimes in voting bodies - that separate committees have to handle contradictory legislation. When the system works properly, we don't actually PASS contradictory legislation.

Yes, some progressives did want G-6.0106b to be removed even though the PUP report passed. And they lost.

Please stop generalizing the opinions of some progressives over ALL progressives. That's a debating no-no.

 
At 10:53 AM , Anonymous Larry said...

Whomever owns the property it portends to be the center battle.

Putting aside the $6.5 billion pension plan as that is already vested (owned) by current and retired workers, the balance of the property is billions.

It includes:
1. 11,000 church properties likely worth on average $500,000 or $5.5 billion.
2. Cash, securities, and endowments held by the 11,000 churches exceeds $3.5 billion.
3. Presbytery, camp, and conference center property and endowments would have $2 billion or more worth.
4. The Presbyterian Foundation has $1.5 billion.

Collectively, the PCUSA has a net worth of $12 billion, excluding the pension plan.

I do not see that many churches willing to walk away from such assets without a fight.

 
At 12:21 PM , Blogger Pastor Lance said...

Mark,
Thanks for your comments. I was not a GA. Our Presbytery had a post Assembly informational meeting. I simply state what both of our delegate reported. Thanks for setting me and the record straight.

 
At 12:30 PM , Blogger Pastor Lance said...

Mark,
I forgot to say that I am seriously considering going to all of the various groups' meetings. I realize how important it is to have first-hand information. Unfortunately, the meetings that happen back to back are not a good week for me to be away from my family. It may be a sacrifice that the family is willing to make.

My postings on the MWI (now MWAC) gathering tried to accurately portray what was going on "up front" and "behind the scenes." Reading all of the various bloggers from the event will give a well rounded picture of what actually happened. Not everyone can attend every national gathering (like me and GA). I strive to be accurate as to "official" stuff that happened and give my commentary as well. I appreciate it when people "set me straight."

Lance

 

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home