Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Presbyterian Lay Committee

As the reader may or may not know, I'm a Presbyterian pastor and have been in the ministry for 38 years. During that time, I've been in a lot of different places, geographically, emotionally and spiritually.

I'd like to believe that as I now write, I do so from the perspective of experience and thought.

Well, who knows, but for now, here goes.

I just finished reading the latest edition of the The Laymen, a poisoned-pen publication of the worst kind, twisting facts, omitting vital detail, telling only one side of a complicated story, and telling it in the glorious tradition of all yellow journalism.

They have the money to publish a slick paper and mail it to millions of Presbyterians who are not likely to read with a critical eye, but a gentle heart, all too easily swayed by malicious suggestions and slanted reporting.

That Christians should behave this way is unconscionable. That they should then vilify anyone who raises a question against them, claiming the high moral ground for themselves in all matters of faith and life, is beyond all moral, theological and human boundaries.

Shame on the Presbyterian Lay Committee ... their specious arguments have taken a toll. Doesn't the one rotten apple spoil the whole barrel? Sling enough mud and constantly cast aspersions and, sooner or later, the mud sticks and the doubts take root.

Have they harmed the Presbyterian Church?

Of course they have, and proud of it they are.

But in such harm are the seeds of grace.

God's goodness prevails in the worst of times.

Good and wonderful things are happening throughout the Presbyterian Church. We've taken our hits in recent years, and we've needed to get our act together on a number of fronts, but we are, and we have been, a brave denomination, tackling tough issues and holding before our world the gospel of Jesus Christ, intelligently and compassionately.

As a denomination, we have learned that no one has to be wrong in order for us to be right. We've learned to be one denomination among many, and one faith among others.

In my 38 years of ministry, I've seen and heard it all. I've watched the Lay Committee slouch toward their appointed goal - to split the church, to form a new group and be little kings in a little kingdom.

Are they interested in the gospel? World mission? Evangelism? That's what they say, but their cantankerous, proud, arrogant rantings point in another direction.

I gratefully receive their embittered diatribes. They bear witness against themselves, and in time, the sheer weight of their own self-righteousness will bring down the house of cards.

The sun is already setting on their fiefdom - they've had their day and are likely to spend the remainder of their days fighting with one another over pin heads and angels.

My denomination, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is good and faithful, not perfect. Yet God remains present in our midst and the Spirit bears witness to Jesus through us. The winds of change are blowing gently - new leadership is emerging, new congregations are being planted, conservative and liberal groups are converging in a movement called Emergent, we're learning how to talk to one another, we're recovering our sense of the sacred text, doing good theology and looking to God for life and hope.

I'm proud to be a Presbyterian, and I'm more than happy to tell the Presbyterian Lay Committee how wrong they are and how twisted they've become. Lord have mercy upon them.