Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tell me again why I am Presbyterian?

I want to begin this entry by saying that I really did not become a Presbyterian by choice. I came to a specific church after being a bit of a vagabond, denominationally speaking. I grew up United Methodist, sampled all sorts of religions and Protestant denominations in college, and joined a United Church of Christ Church when I moved to the West Coast. When my daughters were very young (six months and two and a half years), I began to look for a place to call a "church home." It was totally circumstantial that I ended up at a Presbyterian church. Great children's ministry, a pastor just a few years older than I, and about 10 minutes from our house. Perfect combination.

A year and a half after I joined, I was asked to serve on a committee that was exploring different worship types and the possibility of adding a service at a different hour. After much protest, I did. Well, one might say that was the beginning of the slippery slope. So, I sat at a meeting or two and then began to ask questions. One of the meetings I asked, "So, do the Presbyterians and this church have something like the UCC's Open and Affirming?" A peer who was in seminary and also serving on the committee laughed and the rest of the committee looked at me as if I had fallen from another planet. My friend suggested we go out and get a cup of coffee. At that fated meeting, she described to me the history of the PCUSA's long and sordid history of ordination standards. My response was something like, "x$@%S!*, are you KIDDING me!?"

This was also the beginning of my own renewed sense of call (catapult) into ordained ministry. I have so often felt that I have no right to be ordained due to my own frailties and to this day, I pinch myself and wonder if the pastor police will come and find me and accus me of being an imposter. But mostly, it is because I grieve for my brothers and sisters in Christ who are so gifted, called and talented, and have been told that they are not welcome to share those gifts with the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Today I attended the beginnings of the trial that is alleging that the Rev. Dr. Janie Spahr violated her ordination vows and the "peace, unity and purity" of the church by performing legal, same-sex marriages. I recognize that we have been caught in this controversy for many years and that many much wiser, better theologians and pastors than I have argued the issues of inclusive ordination and same-sex marriage. However, I am passionately feel that Jesus really did not intend us to spend our time this way. The legal machinations, the tricks and tools of Roberts Rules of Order, the appellate process and so on and so on, almost make a mockery of "the church."

I really don't know what God intended by having me become a Presbyterian, but I do know there is a church I DON't want to be a part of, and it looks like this:

I don't want to be a part of a church that gives more credence to its rules than to Christ's compassion;

I don't want to be a part that excludes ANYONE from full, valued participation and leadership;

I don't want to be a part of a church that hides in fear;

I don't want to be a part of a church that operates out of scarcity rather than abundance;

I don't want any part of a church that has stopped thinking, acting or giving;

I don't want to be a part of a church that is more concerned with its orthodoxy than the heresies that insure that the church moves into the future;

and I do want to be a part of a church that stands up, speaks up, acts up for justice, peace, compassion and shalom for all of God's people in the name of Jesus Christ!

Thank you, Janie, for reminding us of that.


Deborah said...

Right On! Preach it!

Janice said...

Nicely said, Gail! BTW, you aren't the only pastor with frailties, you know. Are there any that do not have them? If they appear not to, then they are just better at covering them up, if you ask me! :) I appreciate your honesty in admitting them.