We are told that a sign of burnout is when a person can only see one solution to every problem. The PC(USA) is experiencing burn-out. There are only two solutions in our future: continue fighting or split. Too much energy is being spent on the battles. Churches are stagnating and dwindling as the battles rage on and on.
We now have a called meeting of the 214th General Assembly (2002) on the horizon, which may be a kairos moment. Is there a solution other than fighting and splitting?
I think there is. Let’s dissolve the denomination. At the called GA the commissioners could refuse to deal with discipline issues and compliance with the Constitution, and pass a resolution to dissolve the denomination. In effect, doing so will accomplish what church consultants are telling us will happen within the first part of this century anyway. Instead of prolonging the death throes of the church, let’s euthanize it.
The present struggle is indicative not just of burnout, but of an aging institution, built on a model that was modernist, managerial/bureaucratic and imperialistic. We live in a new age we characterize as postmodern that denies central authority over truth or life and rejects imperialism on the basis of honoring the boundaries and traditions of others.
So let us give up our attempts to save the terminally ill and move on.
Dissolution will fulfill at least two ideas we have honored in our tradition: justice and liberty. It is just not to dominate others socially, economically, politically or theologically. Our struggles have been, in large part, over whose theology will dominate and control the denomination. This domination whether of the left, the right or the middle, denies liberty of conscience as affirmed in the Constitution.
By dissolution we give witness to our faith that the church is the body of Christ. In life and in death we belong to Jesus Christ, neither he nor the church to us. By dissolving we free the Holy Spirit to work in the churches as they discern without constraint how to associate and with whom to associate.
The most daunting part of this proposal is what to do with all our capital and financial assets. Sell the buildings and give the proceeds to the poor, or use them to pay severance to GA, synod and presbytery staff. Give the property that may be owned by the various judicatories of camps and conference centers to the boards of those entities to be continued in service to the church universal. Ask the Board of Pensions, the PC(USA) Foundation, and other entities for advice in dealing with many other matters. We have the answers. Do we have the faith to see them?
Posted March 8, 2003
Parrish Jones is a member-at-large of Peaks Presbytery and lives in Washington, D.C.
Send your comment on this report to The Outlook. Please give your hometown.