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Thank You Tara Spuhler McCabe, Our Vice-Moderator

Thank You Tara Spuhler McCabe, Our Vice-Moderator July 4, 2012

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.


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248 responses to “Thank You Tara Spuhler McCabe, Our Vice-Moderator”

  1. Thank you Tara for your graciousness. I am sad at the poison that is infesting some here. I sincerely hope that your voice will be heard as the elected commissioner you are now called to be from the floor of this assembly.

  2. I was at NYAPC as a guest on your last Sunday. I could tell in the comments of the members your commitment to your calling and that church. I am sadden to hear that you have stepped down but also commend the reason why. May God Bless you.

  3. Tara, I have some glimmer of understanding of what it must be like to be called to a task and then to see it, through no fault of your own, have divisive effects on the church you love. I respect and honor the decision you have made. What you did, you did with grace and integrity. You have given an example of unity in a broken situation, a broken church — that you would put aside your work in order that the work of the larger church might get done. May God bless and keep you. My prayers go with you as you heal and move forward.

  4. Rev. McCabe, you are so courageous. I rejoice that you are a part of the Presbyterian body and hope that your voice will continue to be heard despite this situation. May God bless you and your continuing ministry.

  5. Tara, my sister, on Tuesday morning, I preached this:

    “Perhaps,
    just
    perhaps,
    Mark
    is
    saying
    that
    Jesus
    is
    not
    interested
    in
    parsing
    out
    who
    these
    heavy
    lifters
    ARE.
    Jesus
    is
    too
    busy
    noticing
    what
    these
    heavy
    lifters
    DO.

    They
    act
    with
    loyalty
    to
    the
    paralyzed
    one,
    the
    one
    whom
    they
    will
    not
    leave
    outside.

    They commit
    themselves
    to
    getting
    that
    paralyzed
    one
    to
    Jesus
    by
    any
    means
    necessary,
    even
    if
    it
    means
    tearing
    the
    roof
    apart.

    They
    trust
    that
    if
    they
    get
    their
    charge
    to
    Jesus,
    everything
    will
    be
    different.

    They
    live
    as
    though
    they
    could
    hear
    James
    declare
    to
    his
    congregation:
    I
    by
    my
    works
    will
    show
    you my
    faith.”

    On Wednesday afternoon, in a move of grace and power, you did some remarkably heavy lifting to bring a church that has never deserved it to Jesus Christ once again. On Wednesday, you demonstrated by your act of self-sacrifice, what it is to be a Teaching Elder and a faithful disciple — to your own hurt and to the sadness of me and so many others in this church. Tara, there are not enough words to thank you for your bravery to marry two of God’s children. There are not enough words to thank you for your willingness to serve your people. There are not enough words to thank you for your heavy lifting of this dear, paralyzed body. You will always be my Vice Moderator.

  6. Rev. McCabe,

    My heart breaks that some in this denomination we share and care for so deeply treated you with such a lack of love. Thank you for your honesty, your grace, your willingness to serve with integrity, and your commitment to the well-being and wholeness of the Church.

    May the peace of God be with you.

  7. I’m just learning about this and cannot yet find words to get through my anger, disappointment, and disbelief that the kind of manipulative mistreatment of our polity was again the cause of so much dissension. I am extremely saddened that the PC(USA) has once again fallen short of grace. Tara, thank you for your inspirational faith and service. I continue to hold the church in prayer in the hope of reconciliation with Jesus’ higher ideals of love and fellowship.

  8. Tara- as one who has had the privilege of walking beside you through your teen years, your trials and triumphs of college, McCormick and through an examination process that is designed for folks who think and learn in one way, I am not surprised you have faced this challenge with such grace and integrity. I would be lying if I said we have always agreed or we always will agree, but what I can say we have always shared is the deep conviction that all of God’s “likeness bearers” deserve to be treated decently and in the spirit of love and mutual respect for the Holy we bear in these earthen vessels. Your past has taught you that these things too shall pass (but not after a great wounding and a scar that shall fade slowly.) Abide in the love that so many have for you and the love of Christ that you demonstrate in your daily walk and have demonstrated in the midst of hate. I speak myself and for Renee Lord who has joined the Church Triumphant (and if there is such a thing as cheering and broadly from heaven) is doing so saying “God bless her, hang in there girl!” And as Eugene Peterson has translated so beautifully, 10″You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
    11-12″Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

  9. Thank you Tara for you dedication to the church. I am conflicted and disappointed that my brothers and sisters cannot come up with a way to disagree with theology that is not rooted in hate and condemnation. You are in my prayers and may God bless you and all that you touch.

  10. Tara,

    Your integrity is an inspiration to all. Your witness and incarnation to the God of Grace is the story of this GA. Continued Blessings

    Rev. Paul Rodkey

  11. Dear, Dear Rev. McCabe. I have enough wisdom to know that I do not have the foggiest Idea what God is doing among us. Not really. You have offered yourself in service and somehow that service is now relegated to your decision to resign. Whether you remained in office or resigned, you would serve the greater movement of God in this church and world. This is not just a matter of your choice. It is a far broader and deeper reality that we are involved in together and your decision has simply floated to the top. It is painful no doubt personally. But more certain to me is that this church and society are being again called to task for sacrificing the best and brightest among us. Thank you for your service, both in your election, in your suffering abuse, and in your resignation. I am confident the worst for the church is yet to come.

  12. As an LGBT Christian living in connection with the PC(USA), I’ve been struggling to figure out how to respond to this. I hope this is appropriate. If it’s not, Mr. Moderator, please remove it.

    I’m frustrated. I’m hurt. I’m offended. I’m shocked. I’m angry.

    And, in some weird, maybe twisted way, I’m relieved.

    I’ve lived the experience of being told I’m unwelcome. I’ve been told by the church that I am unacceptable. I’ve had elders and deacons refuse to shake my hand as if I were a modern day leper. I’ve lived life in fear of conservative reprisal. I have experienced the denigration of my call as a beloved, gifted and important child of God by people who do not even know me. I have stood in the room as Elders and Deacons condemned my very being and called me an abomination. I have chosen to, in some way, stick along with the church, even in the middle of all of that.
    Tonight, in some weird, twisted, unfortunate way, Tara can stand in solidarity with me and my community in a way that very few heterosexual Presbyterians can. In what has to have been an especially intense week, she has has to have experienced much of the same. And the leadership of the church has watched it happen. The real face of this bitter division – and, more importantly – the real life impact that it has on real life people – is on display for all to see.
    I have heard it said that “coming out” as an ally of the LGBT community can be just as painful and costly as coming out as an actual member of the LGBT community. Today, we have an illustration.
    Someone please give Tara a hug and make sure she knows that she is a beloved, gifted, and important child of God. Someone put a rainbow around her neck and make sure she knows how much fun it can be to throw some glitter in the air. And tell her that if she’s ever in Texas, I’d love to buy her some darn good shoes – because God knows that retail therapy is good for the soul.

  13. So now you want to discriminate against Tom, because he’s male? He’s also of ethnic descent, or did you not realize that? He’s also very progressive theologically, or does that not matter to you? Why must you insist that Neal automatically rule out 50% of his possible choices due to gender? Sounds like maybe, just maybe, he’s not the one showing poor judgment.

  14. Jim speaks to many of the same thoughts going through my mind. I pray for all to discern God’s call as you are doing, recognizing that none of us know God’s will perfectly and that we each are only striving. Christ strove for peace and love and I pray that you feel his peace and love through those who wish you well.

  15. That sounds a bit hypocritical, don’t you think? I mean, people on both sides of this issue believe and claim they know the mind of God. Please don’t be so judgmental.

  16. Tara, I so wish I could be with you right now to give you a hug. Please know that when you read this, consider it a big virtual one, and know that I am holding you and the entire family in my prayers, but that my special prayer for you is that you are able to feel God’s grace during this time.

  17. Rev. McCabe,
    Prayers for you and especially for the GA. You are an exemplary pastor in our denomination – one of the cloud of witnesses of Hebrews 12:1. Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

  18. Rev. McCabe, Having just 3 days ago shaken your hand and looked into your eyes, I saw a very kind and warm heart. Due to this “toxicity”, I certainly respect your decision to step down. I pray for the day when the toxicity is no more and you can, once again, serve the Greater Church. We shall all pray for that day. Craig Barth, Ruling Elder & Commissioner

  19. Rev. Spuhler McCabe, I don’t know you, but please know that I am one of the many, many who are praying for you. Disagreements should never become personal, especially in the church. And for you to become a target — essentially because you serve as a symbol — amputates your humanity and hurts us all. Even though I know nothing of the blogosphere and knew none of the things that were being written about you, I knew as soon as you started to speak that you were about to resign. It is a terrible witness when Christians start feeding each other to the lions. May you feel the depth of prayers and support from all over the church and may God hasten to heal your wounds.

  20. Rev. McCabe,

    I was thrilled when you were elected and devastated when you felt you had to resign. We promised to support and encourage you and we have failed to do so. Please forgive us.

    Thank you for your graciousness. Thank you for your ministry. May you continue to bless many more people in your pastoral pursuits.

  21. Tara,
    I had a hard time standing to applaud as you stepped down, but I finally stood to applaud your grace, witness, and integrity. Still, this is a great loss for the denomination that will be grieved for some time. I pray for God’s peace to be with you during this time.
    Peace,
    Stephanie

  22. Tara
    ~

    I just came across this forum with the news of your
    resignation, the reasons for it, etc, I think your statement was gracious and
    courageous, as of course are you. I’ve read every comment posted here and I
    agree with all of ‘em. In the early days of my ministry as a Presbyterian
    pastor, back in the mid-‘60s (I am a creakin’ 73 years old), the essence of the
    “What to do about ‘them’”, i.e., LBGTs, whether or not to allow gay and lesbian
    marriages, ordaining (or not) “them”, etc. was in full sway. After eight years
    of active pastoring in three different church settings, I left the ministry and
    went in another career direction that included working with incest victims,
    survivors, parents, judges, police. I spent some six years training therapists
    in Europe. In other words, I kept my focus on the broad spectrum of sexual
    abuse and gender issues.

    I left the ministry and the church for some 35
    years or so, during which time I gave no thought to, and had no interest in,
    the church. When I reconnected with my high school girlfriend 11 years ago, I
    had to re-examine my relationship to God, Christ and the Church, as my now-wife
    of 10 years is a United Methodist minister. I decided to go with it, and was a
    “pastor’s wife” for three years. In these 10 years I and my wife have
    experienced pain and disappointing times within the church. Thus, I am, at
    best, ambivalent about my involvement in communities of faith.

    Also, while living in Germany, I and my then-wife
    adopted a two-week-old baby in China. She now is 20 years old – and came out as
    a lesbian three years ago. Whether her decision is based on her having been
    sexually abused at age 15 by a housekeeper, or was born a lesbian – I don’t
    care. I love her and always will be supportive of her.

    Tara, this is my long-winded way of saying I fully
    support your decision to resign, as well as admiring your courage in the
    circumstances that ultimately resulted in you decision. As I said above, I
    fully agree with all the heart-felt comments to you that are expressed in this
    post. My sadness is deep at your having been brought to this point of having to
    make such a decision and all that it implies.

    And, I feel anger for much the same reason. The
    church (United Methodist and Presbyterian) has been debating, tinkering, voting,
    angrifying all these decades with very little to show for it. “If not now,
    when?” rings as loud now as it ever has as the church remains one of the
    bastions of (often hostile) resistance to being a truly all-welcoming community
    of believers. Given the tenor of contemporary socio-political, um, discussion,
    about legalizing gay or lesbian marriages, and about the church enabling them
    to pastor, preach, serve communion, baptize and conduct wedding services, well,
    the prospects appear bleak, indeed.

    The saving grace is that there are people such as
    yourself and those who have expressed their compassion and support. Therein
    lies our hope.

  23. I feel so much shame for those who cannot live out the Greatest Commandment. Perhaps our denomination would be better off without them?

  24. I only met Tara at the Riverside Conversations and I was impressed. I am so saddened by these events. On the other hand, when I came to GA I was not sure about my vote regarding same sex marriage. The mistreatment of Sara has steeled my resolve on this issue. It has become clear in my mind!

  25. My prayers are with you Tara. What courage! With pastors like you, I have great hope for the church.

  26. Tara, thank you for the sacrificial love you have shown the church. May we all know the abundant grace of God that you demonstrated today. And may Christ have mercy on the PCUSA.

  27. I can’t add anything that hasn’t already been said here. What a very sad day for our denomination. You are both courageous and wise – and we, as a church, should be deeply saddened and ashamed. If we cannot be living examples of what the Gospel mandates us to be – then who can?

  28. I was pleased that you were elected. I was pleased that the Moderator continued his support of you as Vice Moderator. As a commissioned lay pastor serving a church in New York where it is legal for all to marry, I was pleased when I learned of your courage to do what was legal, right, and pastoral for your parishioners. There have been times when my heart has been broken because of the disparity between our polity and what our state law allows.

    I wish you God’s blessing in all that you do.
    Rachel Roberts
    Chaumont, NY

  29. Dear Tara –
    I am holding you in the light. Know that your integrity is a breath of fresh Sophia!
    As I wrote elsewhere, I am so proud of you, gracious woman. Will you be my pastor?
    Much affection,
    Margee

  30. Courage…check!
    Grace…check!
    Wisdom…check!
    Prayer…check!
    Thank you for all that you stand for…for who you are in God’s eyes.
    I honor your decision and am deeply…deeply saddened by the actions of my denomination.
    Liked this so much I had to borrow it from another poster. God Bless my friend!
    Jessica Lesko
    houndshvn@yahoo.com
    FBCE

  31. My thoughts and prayers go out to you during this difficult time. I am saddened that our denomination has lost a great leader with a pastoral heart at a time when it is most needed. I stand with you in your convictions to be with same sex partners at the time of marriages and look forward to a day when to do so will be surrounded by joy not suspicion. Stay strong and know you are being surrounded by many sisters and brothers in faith!!!

  32. Dear, dear Tara, I rejoiced upon your election and installation, not simply because I have the privilege of knowing you, and not because of your decision to stand with two women at their sacred moment (though I rejoice in that act that I perceive to be deeply faithful), but mostly because of the witness your partnership with Neal represented for the church. We CAN hold on to one another despite real and profound differences. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ really does make a difference in human relationships. I deeply respect, but also deeply regret, your decision to step down. You truly have the heart of a pastor. You have evident love for Christ and Christ’s church. Blessings as you continue to navigate these choppy waters. Much, much, much love to you, Sarah Sanderson-Doughty

  33. My sister,
    Continue to speak even if your voice shakes….and know there are so many of us praying and supporting your pastoral heart. God called you…never forget it. We surely won’t.
    Namaste,
    Rev. Kate Shaner/ UCC

  34. Rev. Tara Spuhler McCabe you are indeed an instrument of God. Your goodness and God’s light shine all around you. Thank you for being a blessing and for your courage. I pray that the PC(USA) will soon unbind the hand of its pastor so that we may serve all of God’s children as we are called to serve. My heart is broken each time I am told by members of the congregation I serve “we are not going to ask you to do our wedding but we would like you to come with us and pray.” or “we got married legally because we didn’t want to ask you, we knew you might not say no and we didn’t want you to have to fight the battle, would you do a blessing of the rings for us?” “we got married by the clerk, we’ll have a celebration with God, our family and our church family in the fall.” My heart further broke and hurts today. May our tears soon stop. Many prayers and many blessing to you and many thanks for your willingness to answer God’s call to serve. Peace, Light and Love always, Rev Laurena M Wickham Will.

  35. Tara, we do not know each other personally, but I am a sister Minister of Word and Sacrament in the PCUSA. I thank you for your service to our denomination, and for your amazing grace and compassion in response to the hostility you faced. Your election was a source of hope to all of us who, like you, struggle to stand beside ALL members of our congregation offering ministry and pastoral presence. You will be in my prayers, as will our denomination, in which I am deeply disappointed tonight…

  36. Class all the way around. What grace and what an excellent example for us when we need to handle smaller issues that we face daily. If we all thought more about the larger group and bigger picture instead of ourselves, we could do so much of God’s unattended work. I am so sorry that we have lost your skills and spirit, but can tell that you will do powerful work as God had clearly chosen you for great and brave things.

  37. Rev. McCabe, I do not know you but today I felt your heart sing out with hurt instead of joy. I cried. What has happened was hurtful but hopefully through this terrible time there will be lessons learned. I hope you will work through the pain and return to ministry knowing that as a child of God thousands are praying for you. God is standing beside you lending a shoulder to cry on and a gentle hand to wipe the tears and will send the Holy Spirit to hug you, hold you, and sustain you. Waves of Blessings, Prayers and Love,
    Clancy

  38. I am saddened by your pastoral ned to resign. The prayers of the Arctic North Slope are joined with mine for you. Blessings, Rev. Dr. Duke Morrow, Utqiagvik Presbyterian Church, Barrow, AK

  39. She’s a remarkable person/pastor, no doubt. Yet I am sad and disturbed. Sad for our PCUSA (the church of my ordination for 42 years) and disturbed that she had to be sacrificed upon some altar of purity. For me, it’s a dark day.

  40. Dear Rev. McCabe,
    I don’t know you, but I both grieve your departure and celebrate your devotion to and love of the church.
    Joe Martinoni

  41. Tara, I don’t know you, but you are in my prayers. Thank you for your pastoral love, for your love of pcusa, and for your ability to lead with love.

  42. As a straight person, I want to be part of a church that welcomes my gay son and gay sister and opens to them all the sacraments that are available to me. I believe deeply that God want nothing less for all his children. So I thank you for your leadership and courage and wish you well in the future.