Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Letter to the Presbyterian Layman


October 26, 2011

Editor, Layman,

Your newsletter has been a constant presence in my mail for many years, though I find most of what it offers offensive, dysfunctional and saturated with hubris.

With that said, blessings on the Fremont Church - they will continue on, as many have, with a slow drift into irrational fundamentalism, leaving behind the great Evangelical/Reformed Tradition. In place of faith, will be money, David Barton's/Rousas John Rushdoony's weird reconstructionist vision of America, private schools, creationism, anti-intellectualism, a diminished role for women, and an abiding James Dobson hatred of LGBTQ people (there is no such thing as hating the sin and loving the sinner - that's an example of pious muddled thinking that closes doors even as it prides itself on open doors).

I find it tragic that many Presbyterians have sold their Evangelical/Reformed soul for a mess of potage seasoned by Americanism, nationalistic illusions, a love of money and big buildings (even small conservative churches look to the big boys as if size mattered in the Kingdom of God), a world-denying version of "salvation," faith without exegesis, tradition without thought and a bitter dogmatism driven by the Westminster Catechism (a 17th Century example of mostly where not to go).

I've been following the Layman since 1973, when I was a pastor in Altoona, PA. I know well the contours of your soul, and it's a jumbled and sad landscape.

Though I've sometimes been sympathetic to your original theological intentions, I've watched the Layman drift all the more into bitterness and darkness of spirit, while claiming to have the greater share of light in the PCUSA and assigning itself the task of guarding and traveling the higher road of faith, feeding the demons of fear and anger, aiming for a new denomination all along.

And, frankly, as someone from the north, I'm no longer saddened by Southern Tier Churches leaving (formerly PCUS) - while the vision of reunion was worthy, and driven by some extraordinary leaders, too many of the Southern Churches brought very little to the health of the church, often requiring the Northern Church to walk on eggshells, cater to their theological sensibilities, parochial attitudes, the "spiritual nature of the church," and, yes, the remnants of racism which remain unresolved in the South, and, yes, in all parts of our country.

Meanwhile, the PCUSA will sharpen and expand the biblical vision of inclusivity and welcome. New congregations will be planted, folks brought to the Christ of the New Testament, and lives changed. Theologians like N.T. Wright are leading the way, along with Newbigin and his missional insights, and young-generation historians like John Fea and Darren Dochuk, not to mention Mark Noll. 

It will be a better day for the PCUSA when the dust settles, and perhaps you'll be happier, too, though the mindset of the Layman is always in need of an enemy, so it will be fascinating to watch who the next enemy will be. I doubt very much if you and gang will ever find happiness this side of heaven, and, frankly, if Matthew 25 has any bearing, it's likely that unhappiness will plague your house even then.

I realize that my note is headed for the trash bin, or, if published, will be edited and then heralded by the "righteous" as just another example of liberal insanity and progressive blindness.

Well, so be it, and baloney to you.

BTW, if you want to remove my name from your mailing list, go ahead.

But I bet you won't.

And as long as you send your nonsense to me, I'll send my comments to you.

Is that a deal?

Faithfully in Christ, and in always grateful for the Amazing Grace that saves, and looking for better days in the PCUSA, with windows and doors wide open to the gospel of faith, hope and love, because Christ is risen from the dead.

The Rev. Dr. Thomas P. Eggebeen, HR and Interim Pastor
Calvary Presbyterian Church
Hawthorne, CA

Kindness is always in season! And so is truth!

1 comment:

ckr said...

we need more christian pastors like you...i live in texas...10 blocks away from john hagee church...