Monday, July 23, 2012

What is the Church?

Back in May 2011, I was interviewed for my new job. At the interview, I heard that the Presbyterian Church (USA) which is my Church finally had the last presbytery voted to remove the moral clause from the Book of Church Order. At first I felt hurt and offended. The argument was that each presbytery had the responsibility to determine for itself the moral character of its own members. It was a backdoor opening for homosexual ministers to be legally included on roles of presbyteries, and everyone knew exactly what it meant. Now nearly a year after the vote there have been a steady stream of local churches leaving the denomination...including the one that nurtured me over my high school years. It has been a sad and disappointing process. It has left me trying to understand once again what the Church is and what it is not. And it has driven me back to my roots as a Presbyterian and a Calvinist.

Over the past year, part of me debated the idea of leaving the denomination as others have done. But every time I gave real consideration, I kept hearing the voice of my father. Back in the late 1970's and early 1980's my father served as Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Southern Mississippi. It was the battle ground, and a very bloody battle ground for the Southern Presbyterians as they debated reunion with the Northern Presbyterians. Many churches in the southern part of the state left the denomination to help create the Presbyterian Church in America and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church denominations. My father was knee deep in the fight as congregations and families were ripped apart. And several times over those years I accompanied him on his trips to visit these warring churches.

I remember one time driving home after a church meeting, there were tears in his eyes, and he said to me. "We never leave the body of Christ...we might get kicked out but we never leave Him." As we talked about this on our drive home, he shared his very strong belief that the Church was always a remnant. Going back to Israel and the prophets, God always kept his chosen few, faithfully plowing, and always doing His work. He also expressed the idea that we are called to work for reunion and reconciliation; the moment we decided to divide ourselves from our roots, we were creating division inside of our own very being.

As I have reflected on this and other conversations that I had with my father. I am convinced that I have no choice but to remain a minister of the Presbyterian Church (USA). I may disagree with stands the Church may take, but it is Christ's Body and it is my "mother." I will not walk away and I will keep faith. In the next couple of weeks, I'm going to reflect a little more on this subject, not because anyone really wants to hear what I have to say, but because I have something to say...and I have to say it.

To my beloved little Presbyterian church that left the denomination...you will always be in my heart, but I without a doubt believe you have simply made a wrong turn... I pray one day you will be able to return again home to your family.