Oct 18th, 2006 · Categories: PCUSA · 6 Comments

PCUSA: The great divide

I (and many others) believe that recent General Assemblies have been out of touch with a sizeable segment of PCUSA members (not to mention the Bible and orthodoxy). This story convinced me the gulf is wider – and the depth of smug self-satisfaction greater – than I in my most cynical moments ever conceived it could be:

Despite continuing roiling controversies in its wake, the 217th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was rated highly by the commissioners and advisory delegates that comprised it.

I’m accustomed to the Alice-in-Wonderland quality that often envelops pronouncements from Louisville, but commissioners and ADs? These folks come from the hinterlands like the rest of us. They aren’t supposed to be pickled in the worldly brine that has soaked 100 Witherspoon Street in recent years (or decades).

Slack-jawed with what little capacity for disbelief I retained, I was compelled to read on: Seventy-eight percent of them said that their sense of Presbyterian “family” was deepened by the Assembly. After patting themselves on the back for disenfranchising the presbyteries – and worse – they had a sense of “family”?

The positive evaluation by commissioners and advisory delegates stands in stark contrast to the ongoing debates within the church about several actions taken by the assembly, particularly the report of the Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity and Purity of the Church (PUP).

Thanks, Mr. Marter; I couldn’t have said it better. Was self-destruction the purpose of the “family” these people discovered? Is that why these people are so proud of what they accomplished? Did any of these seventy-eight percent give a damn about the anguish they caused?

Well, no; of course not. It wasn’t a big deal to them at all:

Commissioners and advisory delegates, however, rated the assembly’s consideration of the PUP report and ordination standards as only the fifth most important aspect of the assembly.

Only a pathetic twelve percent thought that deciding whether to divide the denomination and drive off more thousands of members was the most important thing they did. What did the greatest number think was most important? Worship and preaching, according to thirty-eight percent of them. And why not? They got to sit around and sing Kumbaya and be blissfully untouched by the suffering they were about to inflict.

And what did the OGA learn from all these happy campers? Not much of any substance, apparently. According to a spokesperson, the post-GA assessment of assembly planners “is that whatever we do has to be pastoral and listening in nature.” Oh, yes; the Stated Clerk’s cold-hearted vendetta against wounded congregations and compassionate presbyteries is quite “pastoral”.

Listening? To whom? To themselves? Some listening to members and presbyteries – not to mention the greater church in the Global South – would have been nice. There were certainly plenty of early warnings of the quagmire they were about to drag the PCUSA into. But they weren’t listening. Or maybe they just didn’t care. Or both. Probably both.

The spokesperson was further quoted, “if the feedback we got is that the assembly was a positive experience for so many, we should invite those key partners into the process of spreading a positive word.” Oh, now I get it. All those “key partners” will join the bureaucrats and talk down to us poor, benighted hicks out here in the sticks. We’ll do the listening, see the error of our ways and give thanks for this highly rated GA.

When pigs fly, as Flo would say.

Perhaps, in the alternate reality the bureaucrats and the GA seem to inhabit, pigs actually do fly. That would go a long way toward explaining this great divide.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 18th, 2006 at 1:16 am and is filed under PCUSA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

6 Responses to “PCUSA: The great divide”

  1. Quotidian Grace Says:

    October 18th, 2006 at 1:34 pm

    I had the same reaction when I read this. Who did Marter talk to before composing the release?

    Your post made me think that maybe orthopraxy (singing kum-ba-ya, “listening”, wearing affinity buttons, whatever) is replacing orthodoxy in Louisville.

  2. Grumpy Says:

    October 18th, 2006 at 2:37 pm

    Hi, qc;

    I think you are right. And thanks for the new word. Watch for it coming soon to a blog near you.


  3. ee jones Says:

    October 20th, 2006 at 9:58 am

    I believe that you overlooked one factor in your writings about this article. Our representatives in many Presbyterys are hand picked. A evangelical has little if no chance in representing his/her Presbytery. Nominating Committees are controlled by liberal, progressive folk and they make sure that representatives to GA are in their mindset. It’s all about control of infrastructure and liberals have it.

  4. Grumpy Says:

    October 20th, 2006 at 10:49 am

    Hi, ee;

    I agree with you completely. I think that’s a large reason for the divide. As I wrote in another post (PCUSA: The return of the Jedi, 9/16), liberals are much better at seizing the upper reaches of a hierarchy and then entrenching themselves by changing – or violating – the rules. I don’t think the wide-spread hand-picking you describe is faithful to either the intent or the letter of PCUSA polity. Ultimately, however, it’s inattentive members that allow it to happen.

    That inattention seems to be intrinsic in (fallen) human nature – at least in the wealthy West. It’s no suprise that a human enterprise like the PCUSA fails to reflect the true invisible church.

  5. Mark Smith Says:

    October 20th, 2006 at 4:17 pm

    Or maybe it’s that those who attended the General Assembly and worshipped and worked together with those with whom they disagree grew to understand that we are all part of God’s plan?

    It’s easy to take shots at someone from the comfort of your desk at home – it’s a lot harder to treat people as one-dimensional when they are sitting next to you.

  6. Grumpy Says:

    October 22nd, 2006 at 11:06 am

    No, I think it must have been easier to enjoy a great worship experience and get caught up in the TTF’s delusions of unity. It must have been much easier to ignore the warnings, ignore the violation of the BOO, and ignore the pain and discord about to be sown.

    It would have been much harder to stand up to the PUP juggernaut and cry out against its deceptions. It would have been much harder to honestly face the inevitable consequences. It would have been much harder to step back and see the PUP report and its AI for what they were. This GA proved that some ports are more dangerous than the storm we are trying to escape.

    For the participants, it appears to have been a really swell experience. For the PCUSA, it was a disaster.

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