Wednesday, February 21, 2007

My Dad—My Denomination: I don’t want them to die!

The Presbyterian Church I serve is like most Presbyterian Churches—we have a high percentage of folks 75 and older. All of us are eventually going to die. Generally speaking, unless there is an illness or accident, older people are the ones die. Over the past few years I have officiated at a lot of memorial services. In the coming years there will be many more. These are for people that I know and love. I know I will see them in heaven; yet, they will be missed here on earth. My “spiritual side” believes that for them “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). My “earthly side” does not want them die.

I don’t want my dad to die. I know that everyone will eventually die. It is frustrating to know that his actions (or lack there of) could make is death come sooner rather than later. Yes, I know that any of us could die today. Only God knows the number of days we have on this chunk or rock that is traveling around the sun. Still, it is troubling when our actions (or inaction) hasten our death. Again, I don’t want my dad to die.

I don’t want my church/denomination to die. For some reason we have this belief that a “denomination” is “the church.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is only one very small grouping of supposedly like-minded followers of Jesus Christ. Denominations are human inventions. Being human inventions they will eventually die. Still, I don’t want to see the PCUSA die. It is frustrating to see that our actions (or lack there of) could make that death happen sooner rather than later. There are times when I think that General Assembly commissioners are trying to commit denominational suicide. If not suicide, they appear to be trying to hasten the death of the PCUSA. A GA commissioner must be totally out of touch with our churches to vote “yes” on any overture that would allow non-celibate single persons be ordain by the church. Such an amendment if ratified by the Presbyteries would kill the denomination. Members and churches would race for the exits. It would be denominational suicide. Each time GA meets it flirts with the death of the PCUSA. The PCUSA is already in the trauma ward. How much more can it take? I don’t want my church to die.

I live in western Washington. A local hot button issue is the Seattle Sonics. The team has not been profitable for a number of years. The Seattle City Council sees no social value in having the Sonics as a part of their city. A new ownership group is seeking to move the team to Renton (a suburb of Seattle). If the ownership group cannot get a new stadium deal they will move the team to Oklahoma City. Law makers in this state are seriously considering “calling the bluff” of the Sonics owners. Would the ownership group really move the team? Many law makers doubt it. The Seattle market is much larger than the Oklahoma City market. These politicians believe that the Sonics’ owners are bluffing.

I firmly believe that the leadership in the PCUSA and General Assembly commissioners believe that the evangelical/conservative individuals and churches are “bluffing” when it comes to leaving the denomination. They really do not believe that ordaining non-celibate single persons would kill the denomination. They do not realize that their actions (or inaction) will kill this denomination.

I don’t want to see this denomination die. Unfortunately, that may be exactly what God is going to do if the PCUSA continues on its current path.


At 5:29 PM , Blogger Presbyterian Gal said...

I can relate to your feelings about your dad. Mine passed last October.

I can relate to your comments about PCUSA if they vote to ordain non-celibate singles. It is definitely a deal breaker with the 10 Commandments. Given that, I also say that equal emphasis must be placed on holding to account those ordained who are disobedient with regard to sexual fidelity. In my personal experience, it's an issue over which all are encouraged to look the other way. And it's just as destructive.

At 7:21 PM , Anonymous will spotts said...

Presbyterian Gal is certainly right about this. Discipline is supposed to be one of the marks of the true church.

As for the death of the PC(USA) - I do not know whether our leadership believe this or not. I suspect there is an idea (that I know some persons hold) that those who leave will be relatively few in number - and then the church will be purged of the "troublemakers" ("conservative/ evangelical Christians).

I suspect there is a desire to provoke this reaction - because it will leave more compliant and/or like-minded people in the denomination.

I think this calculus, while correct in church politics terms, overlooks something very important: I wonder after the purge is complete and those in leadership positions are empowered to follow their ideas without restraint what exactly the PC(USA) will have to offer the world, or indeed its own members. Nothing will distinguish it from any other secular organization except a level of "church speak" that will strike the hearer as unnecessary and false. While many of the goals of such a purged organization would sound good, the God presented in the Bible would be entirely extraneous - an appendix to the denomination. I believe that would lead to a slow (several years or decades) disintegration - mostly as a result of purposelessness and boredom.


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