Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Why the Distrust—An Answer to our General Assembly Moderator.

A few more dahlia pics before getting to the blog…

The Rev. Reyes Chow posted the following comment on my blog:
“Thanks for sharing your thoughts and journey. Surprisingly what caught my eye on your post was this "policy" of your Presbytery that prevented you for sharing earlier. Can you share? Is there a "no-blogging" policy or is it more of a "don't air in-house stuff" kind of understanding? Or something else? Thanks.”

First, I would like to thank the moderator for reading my blog. It is good to know that “someone” in the denomination is concerned with what is happening in the PCUSA. Second, here is my response…

It has been said that “trust is something that is earned.” Over the years I have talked with several couples where one of the partners was unfaithful. Trust had been broken. The offending person wanted their spouse to “trust” them. Trust was hard to come by. In my opinion, trust doesn’t just “happen.”

There is distrust at every level of the PCUSA.

I served on the General Council (GC) of our Presbytery—filling an unexpired term and then a full term. While on GC, there were some members of the GC who were uncomfortable with worship at our Presbytery meetings. One day I show up for a GC meeting and find that a policy for worship at Presbytery meetings had been written. Who wrote in? To this day I can only speculate. After much discussion the policy was adopted (it was not unanimous) and was to be present at the next Presbytery meeting for approval. At the next Presbytery meeting the policy was indeed presented for approval by the Presbytery. Boy, did the you-know-what hit the fan. The Presbytery was so displeased with the proposed worship policy that they sent it back on the GC to have the policy redone. I was shocked at the next GC meeting. One powerful person on GC said that they didn’t care what the Presbytery said and that since it is the General Council’s policy we can do what ever we want. That thinking carried the day and the policy was adopted by the GC.


Just yesterday I was in a meeting of some pastors and elders. There were a couple of members of the current GC at the meeting. They were asked, “Who wrote the current policy paper?” (Discerning God’s Leading) Neither member of council knew who wrote the paper!!! A substitute policy paper was to be presented at last week’s Presbytery meeting—coming from the session of one of our churches in the Presbytery. The day before the meeting a “comparison” document was emailed to the Presbytery delegates. The church that wrote the new document that was to be presented inquired as to who wrote the comparison document. Presbytery staff refused to tell them!


Distrust at the national level is so rampant that it does not need to be restated. However, since the moderator brought up the issue I will mention one instance that involved the moderator and this past General Assembly.

A marriage between two gay men was conducted at a “dinner” at this past General Assembly meeting. This dinner is hosted at each Assembly meeting by one of the groups that is laboring to change denomination’s policy concerning the ordination of practicing, unrepentant gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons. The pastor that performed the marriage said that she could get into trouble for doing the wedding but that she would do it any way. I have questions our Presbytery staff and delegates as to whether anything was said on the floor of the Assembly about the “wedding.” They unanimously said that not one word was said at the Assembly! How is this for trust! Our highest governing body is meeting and a pastor (and an affinity group) openly break denominational policy and not one thing is done about it (or said about it) by the moderator, stated clerk or any other person in authority at the Assembly.

Trust? Mr. Moderator, how can I “trust” you when you do not even try to enforce the rules of the denomination while you are running our national meeting?

Other Presbyteries have tried to deal “pastorally” with congregations and pastors that are seeking to leave the denomination and have ended up in the church courts for their actions.


Mr. Moderator, can you see why I have “trust issues” with my Presbytery and General Assembly?


At 12:32 PM , Blogger Debbie said...

Trust can be established when two parties are sure that they share the same goals and allegiances. But that's not possible across the board in the PC(USA). Unfortunately, in the PC(USA) it is not certain that everyone will agree to abide by the constitution. It is not certain that everyone understands the phrase "the authority of Scripture" in the same way. It is not even certain that everyone has the same understanding of Christology. How then can we be asked to trust each other without question? Instead, because of these fundamental differences, too often when we are asked to trust another party, it feels more like we are being asked to give up our principles in favor of the other party's principles.

At 1:01 PM , Blogger Nav said...

I will ask our moderator, who has said in response to a post I had on his blog about 6 weeks ago, "Have you read the 'Louisville Papers' yet and asked a representative from the orthodox group to explain all the ways it offends and would lead to great distrust?"

I have read many comments from folks who work in the field on consultation who have stated how the level of trust in the PCUSA is about as bad as they have ever seen.

How bad is it? I don't trust youth programs sponsored by my presbytery, Synod, or denomination enough to send my youth to a program they sponsor. Yet I fully trust sending youth to programs sponsored through PFR, Youth With A Mission, Campus Crusade, and many other para church groups.

At 1:08 PM , Blogger Viola said...

Thanks for writing this. In our Presbytery which I feel is falling apart-- the question of trust often comes up--and someone when addressing an issue will say we need to trust each other. Sometimes it feels like there is a demand for trust rather than an earning of trust. What happened in our Presbytery this last Saturday was anything but trust worthy.

Not only did the Evangelicals lose a dear pastor and friend when the Council on Ministry failed to renew his contract, but the Presbytery lost one of its most effective members and the Pastor's church lost a pastor they had been begging the council to hire permanently.

On top of that we were required to vote on a damaging resolution that was not placed on the docket until three days before the meeting, while the motion to remove the pastor was not even on the docket and should have been new business. See A Painful Day at Sacramento’s Presbytery Meeting; I tried to do a link but it wouldn't work.

I think that what Debbie has written is so. Disagreements on essential theology cannot be compromised on; and they are the basis of our problem

At 1:14 PM , Blogger Viola said...

A painful Day at Sacramento's Presbytery

At 1:49 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

And I thought our presbytery was dysfunctional! Whoa!

At 4:36 PM , Blogger Dr. J said...

In his excellent book, "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team," Patrick Lencioni (sp?) defines trust as the assumption that your motives are good and that you want what is best for all of us. My experiences with those of a "progressive" bent tell me that I cannot make those assumptions. "Inclusive" only includes those with whom they agree; rules only seem to apply to those on the opposite side of the aisle. I could go on, but the point is made.
A colleague of mine once reminded me that where there is no trust, there is no ministry. I am very cautious in situations where I do not know the players, because I have had my trust violated a time or two too many--and don't throw that verse at me about forgiving seventy times seven--forgiveness does not equal trust, nor should it.

At 7:42 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

tj says

I consider mistrust to be such a well established fact in the PCUSA that it warrants no discussion. Do we have another moderator who just doesn't "get it?"

At 7:23 AM , Blogger Nav said...

Just read the link Viola gave. Very, very sad.

Mr. Moderator, let me be more direct. After you study the Louisville Papers and hear the complaints against it, you need to call for them to be recalled by the GA office that sent them out and encourage all presbyteries to disregard them. Do this as an outgrowth of the recent GA's action to work for gracious separation. Let presbyteries know that if they take a church to court (in church courts or civil courts) you, as Moderator, will submit a brief calling for working toward gracious separation without court interference. Promote the various processes that some presbyteries have put forward as the way forward instead of what the Louisville Papers have called for. Use your bully pulpit in this way and a bit of trust will be planted and who knows what may come of it.


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