The PCUSA is in the midst of turmoil across the country. We have brother and sister Presbyterians who find that our theological center has shifted too far for them to remain in the denominational family. At a meeting, yesterday, one pastor talked about the attractiveness and, perhaps, faithfulness of moving to a denomination where the essential or central beliefs of the church are well-defined. ”It fits us; it fits me” I understand that longing. It’s why I’m Presbyterian.
For me, the woman who was born asking “how come?”, I “fit” in a denomination which has it’s center in Christ, but which values many different interpretations as we read scripture, engage a changing culture, build our relationship with Jesus Christ, and give witness to the resurrection in real and life-changing ways. I don’t think it’s a secret that I usually approach scripture from position which is more progressive, less traditional, more metaphorical, less factual, more narrative and wholistic, less legalistic and literal. It’s not only the way I approach scripture, but the way I approach life … God has gifted me with the ability to see new possibilities and the big picture, to be creative and imaginative, to get deeper and broader and wider in understanding and interpreting what’s going on in life and culture. But there’s a shadow side to that, of course … I need to be around people who are more attuned to detail, who are grounded in a heritage and history which can illuminate where we are by where we’ve been, who are good at “conserving” the values and ethics and understandings of God and Christ and Church. I need to be around people who are gifted differently than me, in order to be better … more faithful. I need my more conservative sisters and brothers in the church to keep me grounded. And, I’m convinced, they also need me. It’s this challenge of each other that keeps us growing spiritually, intellectually, faithfully, and compassionately. And that is what leads us to be reformed and always reforming.
The strength of the Presbyterian Church, I believe, is that while our center is clearly in Christ, we are also convinced that faithful followers of Christ can differ — sometimes in very substantial ways. It pains me to think of some of our sister congregations leaving the PCUSA … not because of property issues, endowments, membership or institutional stress on presbyteries … but because I feel we’re losing a piece of what makes us strong … a piece of what keeps us faithful. We’re losing the strength of our diversity in Christ. We’re losing the gifts of those who are of a different “mindedness” than me … who can challenge me … who can hold me accountable … who can complement me.
As Christians we should constantly seek the “like-mindedness” of Christ … and the best way to do that is to be in relationship with people of all minds as we strive to know Christ better together. My pastor friend who is “discerning” whether to stay or go, agrees … that’s why it’s important to go with graciousness and respect and to stay in relationship … it’s just a different level of relationship … as sister denominations instead of sister congregations. I understand that … but I don’t have to like it.