Posted tagged ‘Presbyterian’

An Open Letter…

February 24, 2016

… to the person who reported me to the General Presbyter.

TL;DR version: I apologize for offending you. Let’s talk.

Recently, someone reported to the General Presbyter of the presbytery in which I am currently located how I had posted something offensive on social media. Tons of emotions swirled in my head as I had the meeting with the GP. Anger, frustration, sorrow, and confusion were rampant in my brain and heart. I am not being censured and I am not in trouble in any form or fashion, but I am still very upset about this instance.

And after almost a day of thinking, I am upset with myself most of all. You see, I have spent significant time cultivating my online communities. I have spent lots of time on Twitter and Facebook developing friendships and camaraderie spanning multiple communities and parts of my life. I have developed relationships intended to help the people I interact with and myself grow. Both of my major online communities (Facebook and Twitter) have been developed in a very intentional way.

And I know sometimes I post things people are not going to like. I know I am going to post things with which many will not agree. But, in a way, this is part of my effort. I want to have discussions regarding various topics. I want my communities to interact with me in ways which will cause growth. I do not want to alienate people or separate myself from my intentional, developed communities.

This report came to the GP about my post(s). I do not know which post(s) it was about. From the conversation, I gather it might have been political. But it might not have been. I might not ever know. I certainly do not know who reported the post(s).

But whoever that person is, I want to say something to you: I am sorry. I am sorry you did not feel comfortable approaching me. I feel as though this is my fault. I feel as if I did not fully include you in my intentional community. I feel as though I posted something making you feel as if you could not talk to me about it. If that is the case, please know I had no intention of doing such a thing. You are part of my community and I want you to be comfortable in this place. I want you to know I am open to conversation about any topic or subject I post. And you do not have to confront me in public. You may always send me a Personal/Direct Message on whatever platform I posted the material. I would be happy to talk on the phone or via e-mail. We could Skype or Facetime. I am open to any form of communication about anything I post, as long as it follows Matthew 18.

Social media can be tough to navigate. I understand. It is a platform that seems indirect and distant. But please know a lot of people use these platforms to develop and foster very real relationships. If you are a part of one of my communities, I very much care about you. Even if I do not “like”every status or “favorite” every tweet, I still see you in spaces that I have intentionally created. I want to grow. I want you to grow with me. Let us make these places ones of real community and fellowship.

Again, I am sorry I let you down. I hold all of this on my own shoulders. Let’s talk about what I did to make you uncomfortable.

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I Do Not Want You To Leave

March 25, 2015

This past Saturday, March 21st, 2015, the Presbytery of New Covenant voted on amendments to the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.’s Book of Order. Included in that vote was amendment 14-F. In case you are not familiar with this amendment, it is an amendment to the Book of Order that would redefine marriage. Instead of saying that marriage in the PC (USA) is only between a man and a woman, it changes that to “… a unique commitment between two persons, traditionally a man and a woman, to love and support each other for the rest of their lives.” In order to pass this amendment, as recommended by the 221st General Assembly, a simple majority of the presbyteries (regional governing bodies) have to approve of the amendment. The Tuesday before the Presbytery of New Covenant met, the 86th presbytery approved 14-F, which put the PC (USA) over the line of the simple majority of 171 presbyteries. This means that, in June, the PC (USA) will officially recognize same-sex marriages and allow them to be performed in approving congregations/buildings (in states where it is legal, of course). On Saturday, when the Presbytery of New Covenant voted, the tally came out to 128-114, in favor of 14-F. Whether or not the votes were affected by the fact that the PC (USA) had already garnered enough votes is something to look into another time. Here, I want to address the people that spoke out against 14-F in the Presbytery of New Covenant as well as other places across the nation in our denomination.

I do not want you to leave. I want you to stay with us. I want you to be part of our collective church and faith journey. I value your faith journeys and each of you individually as a person. We are not our denomination without you.

I was born in 1982 and baptized into the PC (USA) that same year. As long as I can remember, there have been disagreements in our denomination. Even on a local, congregational level, I can remember members of my home church disagreeing on issues. And despite those differences, the members of my home church stayed. Even if they “lost.” They still came to worship. They still stayed for fellowship events. They remained friends with the members who “won.”

The people who did not get their way stayed because this is not about “winning” or “losing.” This is about being a church. This is about being members of the Body of Christ. I do not want you to go because I know that 98% of what we believe as Christians is the same thing. And, as Mike Cole, General Presbyter of the Presbytery of New Covenant, said on Saturday, that should not keep us from working together for Christ.

Our polity is set up in a very distinct way. Our national denomination is intended to make sure everyone’s voice is heard. This amendment does that very same thing. In the last paragraph of the proposed, soon to be adopted, amendment, the language reads, “Nothing herein shall compel a teaching elder to perform nor compel a session to authorize the use of church property for a marriage service that the teaching elder or the session believes is contrary to the teaching elder’s or the session’s discernment of the Holy Spirit and their understanding of the Word of God.” This amendment has passed and will be included in the Book of Order. But that does not mean that any congregation that disagrees with same-sex marriage will have to participate in same-sex marriages. This amendment was written with that in mind. We, as a national denomination, do not intend to force anyone out. Even though this amendment allows for other congregations to do something you disagree with, you will never be forced to do something you do not want to do.

And, if you disagree with this amendment and its purpose, then I encourage you to draft one with which you do agree. I am not saying that you will succeed, but you will encourage more dialogue. And that dialogue is how we grow. Why do you think the center of Reformed worship is the Word Proclaimed? So we can have dialogue around the Word.

I know that this is a painful time for you. Something is happening within the church that you do not agree with and do not wish to see happen. For many of you, the PC (USA) is the denomination in which, like me, you grew up. This change is painful because it is separating you from the denomination which you care so much about. And that sucks. But there is something you must know: The people who want an amendment like 14-F have been in pain much longer than you. This has been an effort that has been happening for over 40 years now. And all along the way, there was opportunity for them to leave. For years, they were dismissed. They were told their beliefs are not valid. They were told they were not welcome. They were told that their humanity was less than ours. And every time, they came back to worship. They came back to fellowship. They came back to friendship. They came back to The Table. And I am asking you, because they stayed, to stay.

The way churches move can be painful. Not everyone agrees with the way a church or denomination moves. I guarantee you that there will be amendments in the future that will be painful to me. There will be changes to the Book of Order which will make me question the way the church is headed. But I will not leave. I have not left before now, which I was certainly tempted to do, and I will not leave in the future.

If you go, we lose our collective voice. I have a friend who was fond of saying, “I don’t want a church where everyone thinks the same thing. That sh– would be boring!” And it would be boring. And there would be no conversation, forcing the church to grow. We would forget the humanity of the other side’s argument. We would forget what it is like to think about the other side before we spoke.

If you stay, we continue our “Big Tent” theology. A theology where everyone is welcome. A theology where we can be inclusive of all people who associate with Presbyterian. If you go, our tent becomes smaller. It becomes narrower. That is the opposite of the goals of the people who propose amendments such as 14-F.

I do not want you to leave.