SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
By Jim Cory, General Presbyter
Last June our denomination approved the amendment 10-A to the Book of Order which eliminated the “fidelity and chastity” and “marriage is between a man and a woman” clauses in G-60106b. This in turn opened the door for the local option of churches and presbyteries to ordain people to be elders, deacons, or pastors who are homosexual or gay.
I’m a “centrist” and want our denomination to hold together and not split apart, so I voted against 10-A. I knew that approval of 10-A would upset a number of members and congregations and that they would consider leaving our denomination. Although I didn’t support 10-A, it is something that I can live with since it provides for local option. Each congregation and presbytery can decide who they will ordain. Our presbytery voted two to one against 10-A, so ordination of homosexuals or gays is highly unlikely to happen in this presbytery.
For sessions and congregations who may want to consider leaving the PC (U.S.A.) or affiliating with the Presbyterian Fellowship Group that has been formed, I would advise them to think long and hard before moving in this direction. I say this after experiencing the church breakups in the early seventies when the Presbyterian Church in America broke off from the Southern Presbyterian Church. Congregations and families were torn apart when forced to vote on staying or leaving the denomination. Church members who did not want to take sides on the issue also left their congregations because they didn’t want to be involved in this negative fight. In addition there were bitter and expensive legal battles over the church property. The result was smaller congregations on either side of the issue filled with anger and hurt.
If you have ever been in a congregation where the membership is forced to vote on the removal of their pastor, the same dynamics are at work. Members of the congregation are forced to take sides on the issue which in turn causes them to leave the congregation if their side is defeated. Those who don’t want to be involved leave the congregation as well resulting all in all in a major down sizing of the congregation.
It would seem to me that there will be fewer membership losses if congregations will not force their membership into a voting issue on staying or leaving the denomination or affiliating with the Presbyterian Fellowship Group. Let those who have strong feelings personally about the 10-A issue leave if they so desire, but don’t let them make it a congregational voting issue. I hope sessions will think about what I have said long and hard before doing anything that they may later regret.
Although I don’t know exactly where you are in this process, we are all facing critical decisions in our life together. I hope we can keep lines of communication open as we discern where God is leading us.