Shortly after the 221st General Assembly of the PCUSA made its decisions on marriage, the Presbyterian Lay Committee issued a statement which included the following:
The Presbyterian Lay Committee mourns these actions and calls on all Presbyterians to resist and protest them. You should tell your pastor and the members of your session that you disapprove of these actions. You should refuse to fund the General Assembly, your synod, your presbytery and even your local church if those bodies have not explicitly and publicly repudiated these unbiblical actions.
I am in favor of communication with your pastor, session, presbytery and synod. I think that’s a great idea. Let’s talk about the tough issues; our diversity is our strength. Withholding giving, however, is, in my opinion, not only ineffective, but unfaithful. It is a bullying tactic that is manipulative and not in keeping with our understanding of community, the work of the Holy Spirit, and faithful church membership.
I remember members of my own congregation holding back their tithes and offerings when they didn’t like the decisions of the session. The introduction of contemporary worship, a new hymnal, the Sunday morning schedule, or the leadership of a particular pastor are not reasons to boycott the offering plate. And while the issues at stake today around the ordination of LGBTQI folk and marriage between two people regardless of gender are deeper theologically than the presence of a video screen in the sanctuary, it is still ecclesiastically blasphemous to use money to leverage a particular outcome in the church. A council’s decision is meant to be the discernment of the Spirit and should not be “swayed” by members using their tithes and offerings as lobbying tactics.
Commissioners who attended the 221st assembly in Detroit have attested to the prevalence of the Holy Spirit in the work of the General Assembly both in committees and in plenary. They spoke of the prayer, the grace, the respect, the listening, the attentiveness to the Word that was the foundation of their work and the “air” of the room.
I understand there are people among us who believe this discernment was contrary to their understanding of scripture and God’s will. I am saddened, but understand, that some will decide they can no longer stay part of our denomination or local church. I had a discussion with one elder a few days ago about the call away from the PCUSA … I won’t argue with you on that. I get it. And I will help you find a community to which are called, as well. But I am disgusted by those who remain part of the church, who judge that the decisions of our church are outside the realm of God, and in the meantime refuse to support the mission and ministry of the church.
I see this tactic being used on both sides of the theological divide. It must stop. If you have a problem with the way we are being Church together, then there are appropriate ways to speak, to overture other possibilities, to bring remedial and/or disciplinary complaints if inappropriate behavior warrants it. But if we faithfully disagree, then we either live faithfully in that tension, or we follow the call on our hearts and lives to join a community of believers with more similar understandings. This is true for the local congregation as well as the larger denomination. We are called as leaders in the church to support the work of the church. If we cannot, then we need to leave our positions of leadership and find the community to which we’re called to participate fully.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
If you care about your church, then, even if you disagree with the decisions of the session, presbytery, synod or general assembly … that’s where your treasure must be, with the church. Give fully, participate fully, love fully … and trust that God’s will WILL be made known in God’s time … if you cannot trust that, then join a faith community in which you can fully trust God to be made known through the Spirit.
Just my two cents 😉