I don’t know any of the people in this picture. I probably wouldn’t be comfortable asking them anything more than how to get back to my hotel. I certainly wouldn’t let their opinions or beliefs creates the basis for any significant decisions in my life.
And yet that is exactly what I’m seeing happen in the Presbyterian Church this summer. Every two years, the United Presbyterian Church U.S.A. (PCUSA) holds a General Assembly, which is basically like a big congressional representative meeting of all the Presbyteries, and Presbyteries send representatives that supposedly speak for all the churches. One major difference is these people aren’t elected – they volunteer. They have the time and the desire to take a week in the summer to discuss church policy and theology.
This year, one of the “recommendations” was to change the wording in the Presbyterian Book of Order to allow same-sex marriages. This recommendation will then be voted on, and perhaps 2 years from now the Book of Order will be changed; perhaps it won’t. Right now it’s sort of like a proposition that must be voted upon by the people of the PCUSA. Nothing has changed other than a group of people that most people don’t know made a recommendation in Detroit this June.
Here’s what amazes me most about this scenario: some people have already left their churches over this recommendation. I just don’t understand that. Their personal beliefs haven’t changed. The people they go to church with haven’t changed. If they trusted this body of people to walk with them on their Faith Journey up to this point, why leave now? Why not stay, be heard, influence the outcome?
Jesus challenges us to love our enemies as our brothers, and as the Pastor of the church I attend pointed out yesterday, in Revelation Chapter 21 it names cowardice as the first character trait followed by unbelieving that earns a “second Death” in Hell. In a list that includes degenerates, murderers, sex peddlers, idolaters, and liars, it is the cowards – or as The Message represents it “the feckless and faithless” – that are mentioned in Revelation first.
Regardless of how Presbyterians may feel about this issue, running away seems to be the last thing to do right now. Once a decision is made on whether to accept the change or not then it’s time to take action. But now is the time to listen and learn from the Holy Spirit and your brothers and sisters in Christ. Don’t let strangers influence your personal eternity.