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.

I See Presbyterians

Like many Presbyterians who rode down the escalators at the Pittsburgh airport, when I arrived last night, I was greeted by the, the familiar – and oh so stylish – sight of those Committee On Local Arrangements (COLA) PC(USA) seal-emblazoned aprons. Like the smell of fresh cookies or sizzling bacon wafting from the kitchen, it was a warm reminder what was to come. Yep, it’s General Assembly time - the 220th – for the Presbyterian Church (USA), my denominational family.

In a nutshell, the PC(USA) gathers together every two years to discern the mind of Christ and the will of God together at the national level of our church. Made up of commissioners from across the country, advisory delegates from around the world and thousands of others who love attending this “family reunion,” GA is time when we worship together, pray together and struggle through the difficult calling of being community in the world today, complete with all of the complexity, dysfunction and beauty that families tend to embody. Here is a reporter’s tongue-in-cheek guide to the 220th General Assembly from Jim Nedelka that will give you a little taste of the family fun.

This year, as we descend upon downtown Pittsburgh, we will be taking on many issues. From “hot buttons” ones such as the definition of marriage and our divestment from the Caterpillar corporation, to less-buzz-worthy, but just as important issues as restructuring our special offerings and approving the formation of non-geographic presbyteries, this year should, once again, be jam-packed.

There are a variety of groups who will be reporting on General Assembly from a variety of perspectives but I would commend a few for you to track, not because I endorse them all, but because you’ll get a broad view of what’s going on at GA: GA Junkie, The Presbyterian Outlook, The Presbyterian Layman, More Light Presbyterians, Presbyterian for RenewalCovenant Network of Presbyterians and others. For official news be sure to follow the Presbyterian News Service and you will want to bookmark the official General Assembly Home Page for all information about business items, schedules, live-streaming, etc.

If you are attending General Assembly and have one of them fancy, schmancy smart phones, be sure to download the Guidebook App, search for “General Assembly” and begin tracking your schedule of activities. Pretty sweet app.

Social media will again play a big role in how people connect and communicate with one another about and at General Assembly. Not only do I predict that more than one of us will become Mayor of our assigned plenary seat on FoursquareGeek Alert Level Red – but the Twitter hashtag, #GA220, will be quite active throughout the week.

I will be live-tweeting from @brc_live and posting pictures on my FB Photo Album and if you are on Twitter you may want to follow my Twitter list of those at GA , the List of Candidates for Moderator and Vice-Moderator and @presbyterian for official news. If you or your organization needs to be added, please let me know via @breyeschow and I’ll be sure to add you.

Please keep in prayer the many GA staff and volunteers who keep things running smoothly, the Commissioners and Advisory Delegates who will be debating and voting and the many observers who simply soaking it all in. I would also lift up special prayers from the out-going Moderator and Vice-Moderator, Cindy Bolback and Landon Whitsitt as well as the current candidates, one of whom will be elected tonight.

On a personal note, as a former moderator, my time is pretty cush. I’ll help out with some things during the election, sit in the former moderators section on the plenary floor and generally try to stay out of the way. Like many, I’ll be exploring the amazing exhibition hall so please stop me and say hi, stop at the SparkHouse Animate booth to see a new study that I am part of and, if you are free, you are invited to join me for my Book Release Party on July 3rd at August Henry’s City Saloon.

Let me end by saying that, despite what many say about our General Assemblies when decision are made with which they do not agree, I am a firm believer that GA brings people together from across the church and helps us to remain connected in a culture that would rather have us retreat into our own individual bubbles and clusters. While there is much that can be improved, at every General Assembly there are moments when the Holy Spirit sweeps over the body and we get a glimpse of God’s grace and hope for the world and for us. For these grand moments as well as the random hallway conversations, I am grateful for and excited about what is in store for the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

See you around the hall.


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