In the world, more than a decade after the collapse of the Iron Curtain and the seeming curtailment of the possibility of sudden nuclear annihilation, we are waking up to the fact that massive devastation can be wrought by fewer and fewer persons, using smaller and more concealable weapons. There is no longer any possibility for some kind of “Maginot line,” which can protect us from all enemies. All of us are vulnerable all of the time, maybe less so than others in the world, but extremely vulnerable none the less.
In the nation, despite the political unity secured by the dastardly attack on America on Sept. 11, political differences are beginning to emerge again and we are reminded of the very delicate balance between existing forces on which our continued stability as a nation depends.
In the church and among the churches closest to us in terms of heritage and general character, there seems to be only an endless cycle of conflict revolving around the authority and interpretation of Scripture, the role of confessions (in our case) in setting the theological direction for the church’s ordained leadership and the differing, genuinely deeply held convictions regarding human sexuality that threaten to destroy our denomination.
Part of what is surely needed in the case of the church is a resolve by the great majority of Presbyterians to confront the culture of violence which is overcoming us, and to seek another way of resolving our conflicts. No, we’re not literally killing one another. Yes, God works through the discord and the controversies within God’s church, but taking the long view of the history of the church, violent words and violent ways, though occasionally necessary, are usually indicative of other, more base motives among the contenders for influence in our common life.
It is possible to contend vigorously for the faith once for all delivered to the saints, without stooping to character assassination, to unworthy methods, to propaganda and bombast in the public square of the church.
We must address the culture of violence currently prevailing in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). We must put an end to it, for Christ’s sake. That does not mean we will stay together forever, but through our heated discussions, the honest airing of our differences, the showing of respect for our opponents, the taking of our votes in the governing bodies of the church, we can exhibit the more excellent way described by the Apostle in the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians – the way of love.
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