Thursday, April 23, 2009

Why the Church is maybe Dead/Dying

I'm been reflecting on the gathering and vote of the Presbytery of San Francisco, the faith community in which I directly serve as pastor in the PC(USA), last night in terms of the proposed amendments to the constitution of the church. Amendment 08-B was defeated by 177 to 167 votes (with 4 abstentions). The amendment proposed to change the language in terms of ordination for pastors, elders and deacons, saying that they are submitted to Jesus as the head of the church, instead of the current/previous reading of to the authority of the scriptures. Some said that this would open the door to LBGT folks being pastors. Some said this would throw the importance of the Bible out the door. Some said that it was time to recognize that we're of the Will & Grace generation that witnessed Ellen coming out. Some said it's about equal rights. For me in the end I think the proposed amendment was about re-tweaking our foundational commitments as leaders from a book (sacred as it is) to a relationship with the One who is the head of the church.

I am sad, feeling my heart broken by the falsification of polarizing language that sets this dialog in the framework of a debate and conflict in which there necessarily has to be fear, anger, winners and losers. I'm for ordination of all people seeking to serve and follow Christ. I don't think it's just about pastors. It's in fact more about elders and deacons: all those in the church to be participants in leadership, passion and creativity; not just called to fill a pew, drink coffee, or second a motion. I was sad last night. I also was amazed in our experience of communion after the vote, thriving in the worship experience that framed the discussion, engaged by the discussion online with tweeters, facebookers and those near me in the room. The church is alive. When we refuse to let it be, it dies.
Emily Saliers, one of the Indigo Girls, says best what I feel in a song (a secret song) entitled The Philosophy of Loss at the end of track "Faye Tucker" on the album Come on Now Social [free sound tidbit online HERE - track 14]

Welcome to why the church has died
In the heart of the exiled in the kingdom of hate
Who owns the land & keeps the commands
And marries itself to the state
Modern scribes write in Jesus Christ

Everyone is free

And the doors open wide to all straight men & women
But they are not open to me

[all the lyrics]


Sarah said...


Deep Thoughts from Deep Run said...

Amen Monte.
I was thankful for how it was handled out here; our conversation being in the midst of the meeting with communion celebrated but I was still sad at the end (although it passed in my Presbytery). It's hard to be happy or pleased when there is isolation, division and the amount of talking at each other our time included.
Christ as the focus, Christ as the center calls all to serve, commissions all and we continue to talk past each other and waste our time taking our eyes off Christ and not getting about his work. Frustrating and heart breaking. Glad God is bigger and God's vision and heart are bigger than ours.

Matt said...

Amen. Thousands of LGTB teenagers have committed suicide and we give those contemplating it little hope.