As former Moderators, we do not agree with each other on every issue facing our beloved Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); nor do we agree with every action taken by any particular General Assembly. We do agree, however, that the form of representative democracy embraced by our Constitution is a time-tested and faithful way for commissioners to discern the will of God and then to vote according to their consciences.
We consequently take strong exception to the characterization of this year’s 213th General assembly as “apostate” which some have made. These 558 ministers and elders, elected by their presbyteries, joined in study, debate, affirmations of faith, prayer and worship; they sought the Spirit’s guidance in their deliberations. They provided an example of the Presbyterian process of mutual respect, listening and discernment that we hope presbyteries will emulate in the months ahead.
In our travels as Moderator, we often met with those who disagreed vigorously with stands taken by General Assemblies or who disagreed with us personally. We always welcomed such conversations as representing the heart of what it means to be Presbyterian. And we remember with thanks that, whenever we were introduced, gathered Presbyterians — regardless of their views — would stand as a sign of respect for the office of Moderator and of the General Assembly that elected us.
We are therefore saddened that some in our church have assailed Jack Rogers, the Moderator of the 213th General Assembly, with comments that have questioned his theological commitments and his very faithfulness as a minister of the church. Presbyterians must be able to disagree, without doubting each other’s faith or motives. We urge the church to extend to him the same respect the church extended to us during our year as Moderator.
We call all Presbyterians to a new level of civility in the months ahead as we face what will surely be a difficult vote on our ordination standards. We hope that such civility will greet not only our Moderator but all Presbyterians as we engage in discourse and debate. May we together assume in all debates before the church that we — all of us — are committed to Christ and are seeking to be faithful to the church we love. And may we hold that church, its leaders and all our colleagues in our prayers.
Supported as we were during our term in office, we trust now that the triune God who created, redeemed and sustained us will do the same for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), that it may be the body of Christ and light to the world.
We join you in continuing prayers for those who have suffered the loss of loved ones in the horrible terrorism of Sept. 11, for the President of the United States and his advisors as they make difficult decisions, for women and men in our military, and for our entire nation and world during this painful time. We call our church to recommit ourselves to be instruments of God’s peace and “the provisional demonstration of what God intends for all humanity” (Book of Order, G-3.0200).
Thelma Adair, John F. Anderson, Dorothy Bernard, Robert W. Bohl,
Pat Brown, John M. Buchanan, Marj Carpenter, James H. Costen Sr.,
John M. Fife, Freda Gardner, Kenneth C. Hall, Silas G. Kessler,
Robert Lamar, William Lytle, Clinton Marsh, Sara B. Moseley,
Harriet Nelson, Douglas Oldenburg, Syngman Rhee, Howard Rice,
Isabel Rogers, Jule C. Spach, David L. Stitt, Randolph J. Taylor,
William P. Thompson, Herbert D. Valentine, Benjamin Weir,
William H. Wilson and Albert C. Winn.
[29 of the 33 living former Moderators of the General Assembly.]