Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Those Who Walk Away

As anticipated, the Presbyterian Church USA yesterday set aside its absolutist ban on the ordination of gays, lesbians, and sexually active singles.  With now a majority of our Presbyteries supporting the inclusion of GLBT folk,  I'm relieved.  It's a good thing.

Gays and lesbians should, if they order their lives in ways that honor the Heart of the Gospel, be completely included in Christian fellowship.  They should be welcomed into churches.  If they feel God's calling, and the church tests and affirms that calling, they should be eligible for ordination to all church offices, including that of pastor.  Period.

I am greatly pleased by this, and think it's the right thing for the PCUSA.  And all Jesus folk, to be frank.

But I also know that there's going to be pushback.  As part of that pushback, folks on the conservative side of the spectrum are going to leave.   In the same spirit that a cohort of outspoken conservatives at the recent Presbytery meeting up and wandered off rather than share in the Lord's Table with those they viewed as sinful, there will be a split.

From the model of the early church, I also know this is not the only response when one party is convinced that  Torah law must be maintained.  Jewish and Gentile Christians stood, early on, on either side of just as yawning a chasm of the Law.  The Acts of the Apostles tells that story, of how some Christians felt that the whole of the law must be maintained, and how others...led by the Apostle Paul...taught the primacy of grace.

This was not a minor squabble.  Kosher laws and the mandate to circumcise are non-trivial parts of the Deuteronomic Code.  Or, as it might legitimately otherwise be called, the "unchanging and infallible Word of God, King James Edition."

Yet the ultimate spread of the Gospel was contingent on setting aside those laws in favor of the radically inclusive and transforming love we know in Christ.  If the Jerusalem Christians had succeeded, and Paul had failed to convince folks that inclusiveness and "local option" was key to the spread of the Good News, the Jesus Movement would have died.   What's happening now is a good thing.

As the split happens, though, there will be hurt feelings.  People will leave.  For those who remain, there will be the temptation to demonize and name call, to mutter, snark, or shout "Good Riddance!"  For some of the fiercer partisans in this argument, this is probably already happening.

But demonizing and cursing those who mistakenly stand on flawed principle does not reflect the complexity of those souls.  Neither, honestly, does it reflect the central mandate and teaching of Christ to remain gracious, even to those who have stood against you.

My hope, for those of us who have "won," is that we remember that.  The integrity of this new and hopeful day in our fellowship is contingent on the presence of that grace.