Thank You Tara Spuhler McCabe, Our Vice-Moderator

Tara Spuhler McCabe during her installation as Vice-Moderator of the PCUSA.

For those of you interested in the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), this morning, my friend and colleague, Tara Spuhler McCabe, resigned from the office of Vice-Moderator.  The circumstances that lead to her decision are complex and real, but in all honesty, when I first heard of this, I was pretty angry that it had come to this. Soon I will reflect on the whole situation and implications for the church and our general assembly, but for now I wanted to provide a space for people to leave words of support and thanks for Tara during this time. If you know Tara, you know that she was open to the movement the Holy Spirit throughout her discernment and that she is confident that this is what God is calling her to do for the good of the body of Christ this week and into the future.

Tara will be looking at this post throughout the week, so please leave any words of encouragement, care and presence. Be warned that I am still feeling pretty Big Brother/Poppa Bear about the whole thing, so any attempt by any “camp” to leverage this post and her statement to pick a fight, name-call and/or ally the troops will be deleted with a mighty click of the [DELETE] button. There will be time to reflect more upon the deeper causes and implications of this time, but for now, in this post, the world DOES indeed revolve around Tara.

Below is the text from Tara’s statement that was delivered on July 4, 2012 at the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA. While I am sure there were those at the assembly who both grieved as well celebrated her decision, it was received with a deep sense of appreciation by all. The only thing that would have made it just a tad bit sweeter - though not at all helpful – is if she would have dropped the mic and walked away. Well done Tara. Thank you for your grace and presence during this moment in the life of the church.

July 4, 2012

Mr. Moderator, sisters and brothers in Christ:

In his letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul wrote:

1 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus….

It has been quite a journey over these last few days since being confirmed as your Vice Moderator. The amount of conversation in person and comments online indicate that my confirmation has obviously touched a nerve. And so I appreciate a moment to respond.

I am a pastor. That is who God has called me to be. As I reflect on what’s happening now, I think I am embodying the reality of a growing number of pastors who find ourselves caught. We are caught between being pastors – being with couples in those sacred moments when they make their vows to one another . . . and having a polity that restricts us from living out our pastoral calling – especially in states where it is legal for everyone to be married.

The tension over all of this is real, and clearly the energy and passion about this issue runs deep – and isn’t going away. I am surprised and saddened by the pervasive poisonous activity that has increased toward the overall tenor of our General Assembly and toward the Office of the Moderator. Individuals and groups with no personal relationship with me and have made no attempt to have one-on-one conversations with me or the Moderator are blogging and tweeting unhelpful and, frankly, divisive comments.

I am also saddened by the amount of energy and time that others have taken on, in the midst of their important work here, to defend what the majority has already decided, or to feel the need to protect me.

Because I have great appreciation and affection for this church and our process, I am deeply concerned that some within our community here plan to use parliamentary order, among other things, in a way that will serve as a stumbling block to us – keeping us from tending to the vital business that is before us as the General Assembly.

I do not want this situation to get in the way. And it is obvious that it is.

And so I am resigning as your Vice Moderator. It is my choice and my decision, and it comes from that same pastoral core that led me to be present for two women in their sacred moment in DC.

I am incredibly grateful to this Moderator who has already demonstrated the unity of Spirit in the bond of peace and who continues to affirm, support, and love me as a sister in Christ.

So, bottom line: I care too much about this church and about this assembly to let this situation continue. We have important work to do here, and so let us get to what it is God called us here to do.

May the peace of Christ be with us all.

Again, please do not try expend energy defending, attacking or instigated here. Tara is doing great, but it would be even better for her to know that people are there, friends, colleague and strangers who offer words of gratitude and encouragement. If your interest in the Presbyterians and our General Assembly is now piqued I live-tweet most of the plenaries via @brc_live and the hashtag to track is #ga220.

  • Kriss

    Tara, my love and admiration are with you as they have been for the last 6 years at NYAPC. Praying for your courage, commitment and love of Christ which you shared with us and want to share with the world. We are better for it, through Christ and you. Kriss Wagner.

  • Sharon Jones

    As an Ordinary Presbyterian Woman, my heart grieves for the Church As We Are, and longs for the Church We Could Be Somehow, we have conveyed to our children the message that God loves each of us equally. Yet they become adults and see the lack of love, acceptance, and grace within the PCUSA. I have no words to offer them that suggests church membership is a wholesome affiliation, or a representation of God’s Love. I wonder if this is feeding the trends for Americans to claim they are “spiritual, but not religious.” I thank you, Tara, for your ministry, your faithfulness to the church, and the grace to be who God made you to be. Sharon Jones

  • Jessica Sparling

    Tall one,
    I’ve gotten the great pleasure of having you as a dear friend for 20 years and the beautiful opportunity to have you officiate my wedding 6 years ago. In all the time I have known you, you have always acted out of compassion and care for others. I am proud and honored you have always been true your faith, yourself, and what is right. This is a step towards some change, and you have been a part of forging that change. There is no better accomplishment in life than that. I remember back in college when I was frustrated trying to find a church I really liked and you said, “Maybe you are going into this all wrong. Maybe you show up asking, what can this church do for me rather than what can I do for this church?” That completely resonated with me at the time and I apply that to so many other aspects of my life. I use it all the time working with clients in the counseling setting too for all manners of issues they are frustrated with. You faced this situation and said, “what can I do?” And you did it. I’m sorry it wasn’t easy though. Great job my friend.

  • http://twitter.com/RHAYES417 RON HAYES

    Rev. Tara Spuhler McCabe, Your resignation at the GA 220 was a shock to me, having heard nothing of the negative responses you received after your election as our Vice-Moderator the night before. As a first-time commissioner, I was saddened during your presentation as I guessed you were about to resign, and to realize the disappointment many people would have upon your stepping down. My prayers will be with you that you will continue your ministry and service for our church and for Jesus’ mission of love. We all need to learn more about respectfully disagreeing, about the various ministries that we need in our church, and about loving each other unconditionally. Peace and love to you in your grace and courage.

  • http://twitter.com/RHAYES417 RON HAYES

    I agree with Kay.

  • http://www.facebook.com/revdave Dave Weidlich

    Thanks for asking. According to Tara’s own words (above – way up), she prefers someone contact her directly. Though she complained of poisonous blogs and tweets, she said elsewhere she does not read blogs and posts. So, in posting your comments here, you’re writing to everyone but Tara.
    Just sayin’ – it is disingenuous to complain about people posting comments and criticism online and then do it yourself.

  • http://www.facebook.com/grayson.vancamp Grayson Van Camp

    I believe God had the last word at GA when, in our last service of worship, it was Tara who was scheduled (predestined?) to lead us in the Prayer of Confession. She did it, as all who know her would expect, beautifully and prayerfully. Let those who have ears truly hear. Let us pray: “Everlasting God, where we have forgotten that YOU are the Creator of the ends of the earth, we ask your forgiveness. Where, in our weariness, we have acted in ways unworthy of disciples of Jesus Christ, we ask your forgiveness. Where we have failed to seek your understanding or sought power at the expense of the powerless, we ask your forgiveness. Where we have stumbled in our efforts or misplaced our hope, we ask your forgiveness. By your grace and with your pardon, renew our strength, so that we might walk and run and even fly, as we seek to carry your message and gift of renewal.” May God have mercy on us all.

  • Sara Speer Palmer

    It takes the Spirit’s grace to resign. In the 40 years I have spent in ministry, this has surely been the saddest assembly for all our church. For Tara Spuhler McCabe, thank you for exhibiting grace in the midst of such conflict. For all moderators and vice-moderators – past, present, and future- may the Spirit lift you once more in Christ’s peace.

  • http://twitter.com/jedwards06 Jonathon Edwards

    now everyone else should resign their membership in the PCUSA for the same reason

  • John McConnell

    Tara, Congratulations! You may be interested in what’s going on in my church: http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2012/07/05/episcopalians-decide-liturgy-for-blessing-same-sex-unions/19B4bDA4jObSmHLUgM0m9O/story.html
    John McConnell (Sally Molenkamp’s brother in Boston)

  • Frank

    Thank you Tara! Throughout you have exhibited the heart of a pastor and have embodied the love of Jesus through your witness to the gospel. I am sad that the church was unable to witness what you and Neal were hoping to embody through your Moderator/Vice Moderator leadership. I am even sadder that people who name themselves as Christians resorted to mean-spirited, unholy ways of communicating with you.

    Know that we are proud of your leadership at McCormick!

    Peace and grace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus,

    Frank Yamada
    President of McCormick Theological Seminary

  • Frank

    Are ou really a reverend? If so I would think ou would know about Levitical law and wouldn’t embarrass yourself by posting about shellfish and such.

  • Katie Boardman

    Thank you, Rev. McCabe for showing us what grace looks like. While we grieve the actions of church folk among us, we are very grateful to you for taking a loving stance. I look forward to seeing what the Spirit has in store for your ministry among us. The PCUSA needs you and your gifts.

  • Watching from a Distance

    How, then, Mr. Weidlich- do folks who are not at GA and deeply care for the PCUSA, Rev. McCabe and the presence of Christ among us communicate our appreciation for a truly self-less action out of love for Christ and the church?

    I humbly suggest that your comment to Rev. Chow is a cheap-shot, especially when the health of the church is so deeply threatened.

    Tools used to promote good- do good. Tools used to promote division and derision- do just that. Its not the medium- its the message and intent. Always has been, whatever the medium.

    Your recommendation would be???

  • John F. Payne

    Tara, I am saddened with the entire situation. I support you in your decision even though I am very angry (with tears in my eyes). My family (Bryan and Sara Payne) knew you at NY Ave. PC in DC. I remember the first time we went together to the church and saw you there. They made that church their home while in the area.

    Our denomination has been torn apart for years on these issues. My entire Ministry (1977 – present) has had ‘sex’ as the shadow hanging over us. When i think of the 25,000 children dying daily from malnutrition, I cry….and wonder what God’s judgement might be on all of us….dealing with sex instead of feeding and helping the poor.

    I wish you God’s blessing and much success as you continue your Ministry. As for me and a number of others, we elected retirement and moving into the community to do our Ministry….rather than to continue with our beloved PCUSA.

    May God’s force be with you.

    Dr. John F. Payne

  • Rev. Fran Hayes

    Dear Tara. I’ve been following GA from home this year, and I was encouraged by the way Neal and you were going to model leading together, respectful of your differences as well as your shared faith and convictions. So I was dismayed to hear of the events that led to your stepping down as Vice-Moderator.

    We don’t know each other. But I am grateful for your witness and service, for your grace and wisdom and courage, and for how you reached out in love to minister to the women who asked for your care.

    I pray that you will know how many people’s lives you have touched through all this, and I pray for you as you continue to serve Christ and Christ’s Church.

    Rev. Fran Hayes

  • Marcy

    God called, and you answered with courage and compassion. And I praise God for using you to show us how faith leads us to serve–I will not forget your example!

  • Kay Meek

    Our dear Tara,

    Kelsay and I are so touched to the heart by your amazing grace. :You know we pray for the day when Presbyterian leaders look beyond polity and show the courage to care for all God’s children as you do.

    We love and care for you.

  • Ellen Acton

    Dear Tara, as a sister colleague (albeit retired), my heart goes out to you. I have been torn for years about the marriage issue, as I have longed for my daughter to find a loving partner. Now she is engaged, but her state law does not allow her to be married. If it did, and she asked me to officiate, what would be my response to her? “No, my church won’t allow it?” How can that be the response of a loving mother? Stand strong sister! My prayers are with you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/phil.witherspoon.9 Phil Witherspoon

    Thank you for your service to the church and for this beautiful statement. I suspect that it will echo through our church for years to come and will shine a light on the path we are called to follow.

  • http://twitter.com/Rev_Gene Gene Anderson

    Tara, I have never met you, but I know that if you are a friend of Bruce then you are a friend of mine. You are a brave and credible person, working God’s will in your life and in the lives of others. God bless you, keep the faith, and know my prayers, as well as the prayers of so many others remain with you. You are clothed and covered by God’s love and amazing Shalom. Be blessed!

  • Ellen Dozier

    Thank you Tara for your courage, integrity and pastoral heart. May Christ’s peace surround you.

  • Rev. Clare Watson Chance

    I assume this means you do not eat shellfish, that you cover your head before entering the church, and that you force people who have skin diseases to live outside the city limits. I, too, love and try to follow God’s Word; but I have no illusion that the people who recorded the books of the Bible were writing about committed, monogamous and loving homosexual relationships

  • Rev. Clare Watson Chance

    I am a United Methodist woman pastor, and I stand in solidarity with you as a sister in Christ and as a human being who loves and respects my LGBT brothers and sisters. I am so sad for the pain you have had to endure, but I am awed by the dignity with which you have borne the heavy weight of this cross. May God bless you with comfort and guidance.
    Rev. Clare Watson Chance, Broadway United Methodist Church

  • Tamara Puffer

    Wonderful comment. Thank-you and I agree.

  • Tamara Puffer

    Tara, You have a pastor’s heart. I was so excited when I realized that disagreed with the moderator on this issue and yet you both were going to serve. Now I’m really sad and disappointed that you felt you had to resign. It does show that you care for the peace and unity our church and were willing to sacrafice yourself.

  • Sharon

    My dear Tara–I tried posting this once, but don’t see it, so here I go again and if the earlier one appears then twice I have been able to say how very proud I am of you and how very much I love you! I have always admired your heart of justice. You are gift to me.

  • Gus Webb

    Remarkable strength and grace. Keep on the path and keep your focus. Bless you!

  • Paul Osborne

    Tara, we are proud of you and your stand. We have always known you as a trustworthy and noble person. What a shame this had to happen. You are in our prayers. We will let our children (who love you) know about this and they will be in prayer too

  • Kathy Trevino

    In thanks to Prophet Tara, from a parent and Teaching Elder (HR)

    Dim is our vision heav’nly,

    Weak is our passion’s cry

    Too many blistered warriors,

    Let courage mutely die.

    Church limping, now imploding?

    Cords breaking in the fray;

    God weeping at the violence

    Stirs prophet on her way.

    She’s called to seek real justice.

    Harsh spittle on her pours;

    Grace-Arrow is her answer,

    Peace sought amidst the roars.

    God’s Plan beyond this moment,

    Hopes far beyond this day,

    While laying gracious pavestones

    For Church along the Way.

    So, though the fray continues,

    And fears do freely roam,

    When all are fully welcomed

    Christ’s church will be at Home.

    Not yet the realized vision,

    But closer toward the goal,

    Each humbly kneeling, grateful:

    All children of God’s Soul.

    Praise then to God, Creator!

    Praise to the Christ our Way!

    Praise Spirit still reforming!

    Praise Holy One this day!

  • Frank

    When you step outside Gods Word there are always consequences. Why is anyone surprised?

    She may be a great person who has done some great things but she choose her own path and pays the price for it. Sounds perfectly reasonable.

    Is his post too true to be kept or will it be deleted?

  • Francis

    Sis Tara – obviously a LOT has happened since you and I spoke on the phone pre-GA. While in the Nat’l Parks, I have kept little eye (re. not much) on the Assembly. I knew Neal was elected, and that you were confirmed as VM. I read a couple of the statements made by each of you when the “issue” kept being enflamed.
    I’m angry that you needed to resign; but understand. However, I am hopeful that God is in the midst of it all, and your resignation and the statement above will only strengthen the cause of justice in the big picture.
    We’ll talk down the road, until then, know that I love you and support you and am privileged to be your brother.

  • Rebecca J. Tollefson

    Dear Rev. McCabe, I do not know you; but my heart goes out to you. I pray for healing for you. Your statement is incredible, and you have demonstrated love beyond. You have set an example and I hope that those who have been nasty to you will realize their error. I will continue to hold you in my prayers. I received nastiness from the church after attending Re-Imagining as a GA staff person. I’m proud of being an original. May you be surrounded by loving people, by a spirit of understanding and a spirit of compassion. Sincerely, Rev. Rebecca Tollefson

  • VSHertzberg

    Dear Rev. McCabe: I would never have felt the connection to this chain of events were it not for my daughter’s move to DC a year ago, her subsequent choice of NYAPC as her place of worship, and my own delightful conversations with you on the two times I have been able to visit her and worship there, as well as the discovery of a few ATL friends in common. I am so heartened when I see someone like you live through the courage of your convictions. I pray that through this action we of the PCUSA can find the fortitude to continue on our journey through this issue and reach the place in 2012 where the apostle Paul called the Phillippians to be some 2 millennia ago. Blessings upon you.

  • Amy Kim

    Deep love, admiration and pride from this fellow sister in SLC, Utah. Thank you is inadequate. You are being held by a cloud of witnesses and the Spirit who has clearly engulfed your heart!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kay.lawrence.104 Kay Lawrence

    Bruce: thanks for all you do and especially for reaching out to Tara – I don’t know her but I admire her strength and courage as a life long Presbyterian I have seen the church change many times – sometimes moving forward and sometimes not – but this is as shameful as it gets. I believe “liberals” are alive and well and that Christ is the head of the Church not hate and divisiveness. Love you, love your work – Kay

  • http://www.facebook.com/leah.hrachovec Leah Hrachovec

    Dear Tara,
    We’ve not met before, but I am a PC(USA) pastor in the plains of Oklahoma, and I appreciate your daily struggle to be the pastor God calls you to be, and the inestimable challenge you have faced in the past few days. You have inspired me, and I take courage in your witness. We trust the Holy Spirit is at work, Amen. -Leah

  • http://www.facebook.com/ginna.irby Ginna Irby

    Thank you, Tara, for your profound witness and to your commitment to the church, to the Gospel, and to standing with all people in their times of joy and their times of need. It breaks my heart to know that embodying that reality and living out your call means you have been subject to bullying and hate. Know that so many of us love you, are inspired by your witness, and are grateful for all that you continue to give to the church.

  • Nanc Prout

    Thank you for your standing on the side of equality and justice. I just joined a More Light congregation this week with high hopes of acceptance and dignity for everyone who comes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/scooterrev38 Liz Lindsey

    Tara, grace and peace surround you. My heart goes out to you and holds you in prayer for making such a difficult decision. Continue your work as Pastor to ALL and I pray that you will one day you become not just Vice-Moderator but Moderator of out GA- Blessings, Rev Liz Lindsey.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kchamis Karen Cronenberger Chamis

    As a fellow PCUSA clergywoman, know that you remain in my thoughts and prayers. As a mother of an LGBT child, know that your integrity, courage and passion are nothing short of inspirational. I give thanks to God for you.

  • Alice

    Dear Tara, Thank you for being so humble, so wise and so gracious. I’m was so excited to hear that you were elected Vice Moderator and the sign of the positive direction of the PCUSA. I’m so disheartened to hear about all of the horrible responses you received. Thank you for your continued work and inspiration.
    Blessings, Alice Tewell (now in Ithaca, was in DC/ VA)

  • http://www.facebook.com/betty.berghaus Betty Berghaus

    Thank you, Tara, for your courage and leadership. Maybe at some time in the near future, the PC(USA) will, as a whole body, be as courageous and faithful in following the gospel message. I am in the midst of studying the BOOK OF ORDER for Officer Training, and came across this quote at the beginning of the chapter on the higher councils of the church. It is the 1st sentence, the one that tries to sum up what will then be explained by the rest of the chapter. It says: “The mutual interconnection of the church through its councils is a sign of the unity of the church.” G-3.0101 My prayer is that we can figure out how to live out this ideal as a denomination, to live truly in unity, in the midst of very divisive and divided times. You have shown great humility and a desire for the health of the whole body. Let’s hope and pray that the whole body can heal and stay together as one body. God bless. In Christ, Rev. Betty Berghaus, Durham, NC

  • Rev. Christine Vogel

    Tara: I do not know you personally, but as part of the McCormick family,the PCUSA and the larger Christian community, I feel we are related. I grieve that some of the commissioners of the 220th GA could not accept that you and Neal offered us a model of what St. Francis suggested: Preach the gospel at all times; and sometimes use words. I was so encouraged by your election and by seeing two persons of different theological convictions supporting one another and working together over these next two years. We are the poorer as an Assembly (and as a church) for the backlash that led you to resign. My prayers and those of so many others are with you for your grace, courage and pastoral integrity.

  • http://twitter.com/scottpcusa scottpcusa

    Rev. McCabe…Tara…I can’t say anything more than has already been said. You are an inspiration to the hope of the church and to fully realizing God’s hope for creation. Salaam…Shalom…Peace, sister! :-) Thank you for your courage and love.

  • http://profiles.google.com/djmoonw David Moon-Wainwright

    Tara, some of us did try to speak, to share our concerns, to grieve. But it was not to be. Not the best moment for an Assembly. I believe you were/are the one who can lead us with an authentic voice as we move to consider the possibility of same gender marriage. I am, well, I will not use that language here. I’m upset.
    Peace, Shalom, Salam, May the Lord bless you and keep. May God’s face continue to smile upon you and the warmth of grace wash over you. May the fullness, presence, love and joy of God be with in utter wholeness and peace.

  • Nolan Huizenga

    Tara, you embody grace. I am so sorry about the ways you’ve been attacked and misrepresented. Know that I am one of MANY of your PC(USA) colleagues who so appreciates your witness to the love of Jesus Chrst.

  • http://www.facebook.com/johnmtitus John Titus

    Tara – I was saddened to hear the news that you were stepping down as vice moderator. Your witness to the Church Universal and the World will continue. I will keep you and the Presbyterian Church (USA) in my prayers during this time. Keep the faith. Shalom & Keep Spreading the Word.


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