Pomomusings Calls the Presbyterian Question

The long-expected divorce in the Presbyterian Church (USA) seems to be imminent, with a group of the fifty biggest, wealthiest, whitest, and most conservative churches in that denomination attempting to start something new.  This “Fellowship” will be a strange Venn Diagram for a denomination — in a video posted this week, one member of that Fellowship explained that this group would be in relationship with churches within the PC(USA) and from other denominational groupings as well.

It’s no surprise that more progressive elements within the PC(USA) are skeptical.  Adam Walker-Cleaveland, for one, talks about the 300 pound gorilla in the room: that these churches should probably just leave the denomination, but they would then likely lose their buildings and property (although I seem to recall that the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of a local church and against the Episcopal Church denomination in a similar case).

Adam thinks these churches are trying to have their cake and eat it to, and he challenges them to just leave:

If you think the PC(USA) is deathly ill…leave. But don’t try and concoct an anti-connectional scheme that will let you break away and create a “differentiated sub-set within the whole” yet still remain within the denomination and keep your vast properties and millions. If your beliefs and convictions lead you to surmise that breaking away from the PC(USA) is what your community needs to do – then so be it. Each presbytery is working through how it’s going to deal with the property and financial issues of such decisions; work with your presbytery, accept your fate and move forward.

via The Presbyterian Fellowship: Let us Break Away but Keep Our Property & Millions… – Pomomusings.

  • Charles

    Having been a member of one of these tall steeples for several years, this comes as no surprise. We left about 4 years ago over their very narrow, very conservative theology and are so pleased we did. I agree with Walker-Cleveland, if you are in such heavy disagreement with PC(USA) – leave. Oh, but then the multi-million dollar property and some of the old money folk might not follow… and you would have to start anew , and by poor, and small.

    I’m afraid they’re being “left behind.” Sad, really.

  • Sean Rice

    Wouldn’t it just be kind of divisive and mean-spirited if they up and left the denomination? It would be like saying, “screw you, you’ve changed and we disagree and we want nothing to do with you.” If these congregations are really as big and wealthy as you’re saying, they could just go and buy their own building – so I don’t think this has very much to do with wanting to protect their assets. I think we should be more generous with our conservative brothers and share with them on their journey, rather than insisting that they pack up their bags and “get out of the house,” so to speak. I bet you wish Campus Crusade would have been that generous towards you, right?

  • http://www.disciplenext.com Chad Davis

    It seems to me, having watched the video, that this is not a move for division. Is there anything really wrong with this? I didn’t hear one word about leaving the PC(USA). Having read the comments on Pomomusings, I see a lot of negative reactions, but I don’t see why. Is division the only solution for the church in America? What does teh word diversity mean in this context? Should these churches be disallowed organization and mutual identification in order to remain within their denomination?

    So suppose a group of churches within your denomination embraced emergent church values and practices, and say chose to emulate Solomon’s Porch and trade pews for couches. If they chose to organize in some way, within the polity of your denomination, would they be a treat? Would they have no ethical choice but to leave?

    I, for one, am never leaving my denomination. The Disciples of Christ is my Theological mother. I love my thelogical mother and have a permanent familial bond with her, but that doesn’t mean that I have to dress like she expects, or like my siblings dress.

    Diversity, a mainline church value, is what is at issue here. Tolerance doesn’t mean homogeneity. Diversity is at heart, being different. So if the, as Tony describes, “biggest, wealthiest, whitest, and most conservative churches ” choose to identify themselves, within, but not against the PC(USA) what is the threat? I think the threat is that people are afraid that these churches have a hidden agenda, and will ultimately leave the PC(USA). Some, who do not share their “theological accents”, would be happier if they just left.

    This is sad.

  • Kathy

    As an ordained Presbyterian minister who has always struggled with the system, I am deeply saddened by this ongoing effort to draw lines in the sand which isn’t about good theology in my opinion and is not about good Presbyterian connectionalism, either. If we want diversity and tolerance, then we just need to do that and be that. Identifying “us” over against “them” or “us” within “them” is not good theology and is not connectional no matter what it tries to sell.

  • Jonathan Case

    I suspect that this business about a ‘differentiated sub-set within the whole’ eventually will meet a fate similar to the LCMC – ELCA relationship. Nothing of any substance really resolved. ‘And they’ll know we are Christians by our….’ something or other.

  • Charles

    This family dispute has been brewing for years. It’s really over gay ordination. PC(USA) polity allows it, the tall steeple group thinks it’s an abomination. The church we were members of has been positioning for departure for a decade. The PC(USA) has tried for unity – the dissenting group won’t have it.

    By the way, we are now members of a Disciples congregation and love it. The Disciples tradition and history is beautiful.

  • http://www.disciplenext.com Chad Davis

    Thanks Charles. That makes sense. I appreciate the back-story.


  • Bill

    Wasn’t it Bono that said: If you rid the room of argument, you lose the people you need the most.

  • Nixon is Lord

    Spending money and time to “destroy Progressive Christianity” is like sending anonymous bad letters of recomendation to a crack addict applying for a prestige job-seriously unnecessary. Progressive Christianity has done an excellent job at navel gazing since the Johnson administration and is more than capable of doing away with itself.