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.

Get to Know the Candidates for Moderator of the 220th General Assembly of the PC(USA)

Moderator Candidates Left to Right: Robert Austell, Randy Branson, Susan Krummel, Neal Presa

RESPONSE LINKS: Robert and HopeNeal and TaraSusan and JamesRandy and Shamaine

UPDATE: Janet Edwards, the fifth candidate for Moderator, recently made the decision to remove her name from the slate in order to care for her husband, Alvise. Read Janet’s Blog Post, Stepping Down from Standing for Moderator of the 220th General Assembly and please hold Janet, Alvise and their community in prayer.

Last week, I gave a little peek into the world of Presbyterian Church (USA) Land and the election of the Moderator of the 220th General Assembly of the PC(USA). To learn about the candidates, the best source is the official  2012 Moderatorial Candidates’ Handbook that has biographical information and responses to questions.  Another good source of information are responses to questions given to the candidates by various organizations and entities. This year I jumped into the fray and, in all fairness, as a former Moderator, it would have been hard for them to say no . . . so a great big thank you to the candidates for indulging me.

I posed the follow questions and gave them a 1,500 character limit for each response.

  1. Knowing that being Moderator/Vice-Moderator will require a great deal of time and energy from you and your community, why give in this way to the Presbyterian Church (USA)?
  2. If someone were to ask you, “Why should I bother going to church?” how would you respond?
  3. Choose one item of business or issue that will be coming up at General Assembly and share your perspective.
  4. What are a few things that most people would never guess about you: interests, adventures or . . .?
  5. WILD CARD: Answer any question you want, one that someone has yet to ask or choose from some that have been asked here: http://bit.ly/KwiN07.

Below you will find some basic info for each team of candidates, including some of their social media platforms and links to their responses. Enjoy!

Robert Austell (Moderator) and Hope Italiano Lee (Vice-Moderator)

Randy Branson (Moderator) and Shamaine Chambers King (Vice-Moderator)

Susan Krummel (Moderator) and James Sanghyun Lee (Vice-Moderator)

Neal Presa (Moderator) and Tara Spuhler McCabe (Vice-Moderator)

Again, I would like to give a word of personal thanks to all of the candidates for taking the time to respond to my questions and for the overall willingness to answer a call to offer their names for service to and with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Thank you.


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