When Should a Church Schism?

I took a lot of heat from my Methodist friends last week for suggesting that young clergy forsake the denomination and go do something new. Let me be clear: I don’t expect one single Methodist clergyperson or seminarian to jump ship because I blogged about it. Puhleeze, people.

I will reiterate something: It is virtually impossible to see the dysfunction of a system when you’re inside it. Ask anyone who’s married to an alcoholic; ask a prison guard; ask Michel Foucault. Sometimes Often it takes an outsider to speak truth into a system. Also, dear Methodists, to appease your anger, here’s a picture of me washing Methodist feet:

That being said the Presbyterians are facing challenges of their own. The closest church to my house is Christ Presbyterian, a large PC(USA) congregation, the pastor of which has been at the forefront of the Fellowship of Presbyterians, a group of primarily large, conservative, white, suburban churches. The Fellowship is launching a new denomination, the Evangelical Covenant Order.

Our weekly suburban paper, the Edina Sun, covered the first meeting about the potential switch at Christ Presbyterian:

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Why Mainline Christians Don’t Care about Rob Bell

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Rob Bell is leaving Mars Hill Bible Church, which he founded, in Grandville, Michigan. He’s moving his family to California and developing a television show for ABC.  Knowing Rob as I do (I don’t), I’m guessing he’s also working on a movie script, a tour, and probably a time machine.  He’s a person of unique aptitudes.  Thinking that he would stay indefinitely in a parish church situation is akin to thinking that Steve Jobs should have been the manager of an Apple Store.

Zach, a mutual friend of Rob and me (see, I’m only one degree of separation from Rob Bell!), has written a provocative post in the face of criticism that Bell’s departure has received from conservative Christian leaders like Mark Driscoll and Rick Warren.  Zach writes,

In a nutshell, more conservative folks seem to be more skeptical when a successful, well-known pastor decided to leave their churches behind.

Then he continues,

Nowhere have I seen any prominent liberal voice object to Bell moving on. (If so please point me to it)

Well, I’ve got an answer for Zach:

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Preaching from an iPad

Social Phonics Coach, Adam Walker Cleaveland, is quoted in a story by Sam Hodges in the UM Reporter.  The piece is on ebook readers and their use by clergy, both in the pulpit, and as a substitute for traditional print books.

The first few times the Rev. Adam Walker Cleaveland preached from his tablet computer, he carried along a printed text, just in case of computer failure.

Not anymore.

“I’ve done it enough now that I’m solely relying on the iPad,” said Mr. Cleaveland, minister for youth and young adults at Asbury United Methodist Church in Livermore, Calif. “If something happened, I would need to rely on the Holy Spirit a little more to get me through it, which wouldn’t be a bad thing.”

Presbyterians Try a Gay Man

Years ago, I was sitting on an airplane, reading the USA Today that had been dropped at my hotel room door that morning.  In a little snippet, I read that a lesbian pastor had been called before a grand jury of the United Methodist Church.  What shocked me was not that there was a lesbian pastor in the UMC.  What shocked me was that the UMC had a grand jury.

Yesterday, just a few miles from my house, the Presbyterians (USA) did something similar.  It’s convoluted, so try to bear with me.  It seems that a Presbyterian clergyman, Erwin Barron, was put on trial at a church in Bloomington, Minnesota.

Erwin Barron (photo by Jeff Wheeler, StarTribune)

Barron does not live in Minnesota.  He was a pastor at a church in Minneapolis in the 1990s.  At the time, it seems from the article in the StarTribune, “he was coming to terms with both his sexuality and his future.”  That line, I think, implies that he was not actively gay at the time.

But he left Minnesota, attended graduate school, and married a man in the days before Proposition 8 passed.  Now he’s a college professor.

But, because of the byzantine Presbyterian rules, he’s still accountable to the Presbytery of the Twin Cities, and it was they who put him on trial.  From the Strib:

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