A few suggestions for the participants that, if followed, could squelch their fun.
First, exercise careful judgment. The apostles tell us that judgment must “begin with the household of God” (I Peter 4:17) and that we are to exercise judgment on those inside the church (I Cor. 5:12). But how shall we judge? It is tempting to measure others via one single litmus test. The test of choice these days is the vote on amendment 10-A. Those who voted no are saints; those who votes yes are infidels. Not so fast. Genuine, Trinitarian, Christ-believing Christians differ on how the church best extends grace to and with gays and lesbians. All of us are far too complicated to be measured by a single litmus test.
What’s more, if the participants judge the “others” to be guilty of the Corinthian heresy of self-indulgent hedonism they risk being guilty of the Galatian heresy of self-righteous legalism – bringing joy to Hades. If, instead, the participants extend to all their Presbyterian sisters and brothers the same kind of grace Jesus has extended them, the demons will panic.
Second, separate speculation from facts. To their credit the founders of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church did set a good example in at least one critical way. When they left us to form the EPC, they didn’t go out of fear of something they thought might happen. They left only when they were required to participate in the ordination of persons they believed biblically unqualified for office. Only when they truly were “kenyonized” (an allusion to Walter Wynn Kenyon, who was denied ordination in 1974 because he said he could not participate in ordaining a certain class of candidates – in his case, women) did they separate and found the EPC.
Many now speculate that they will be kenyonized on the present matter: forced to participate in the ordination of LGBTQ persons, and for that matter, required to perform same-sex weddings. If that were to happen, I’d be the first to agree that such coercion would be grounds for ecclesiastical divorce. But at present it’s only speculation. When our weaving of worst-case scenarios morphs into believing them to be foregone conclusions, we act precipitously and irresponsibly. And the devils rejoice.
Third, don’t confuse institutionalism with unity. It’s true that denominations have no standing in Scripture. Many exist due to unnecessary fights through the centuries; most arose out of the Tower-of-Babel factor: migrating peoples worshiping with those who spoke the same language (e.g., German Lutheran immigrants meeting across the street from Dutch Reformed). But Scripture clearly teaches that familial relationships are to be the mark of the body of Christ. It commands us to value, sustain and promote the koinonia of the Spirit among us, protecting the tenuous ties that bind us, and healing ties broken. Splitting the PC(USA) may well threaten the institution; who gives a rip? But such a split will sever filial relationships in this part of the family of God; and as all divorcees know, amputations multiply (some unintended victims at risk among us: the invaluable mission initiatives and faithful mission co-workers serving worldwide).
Fourth, remember that the “how” is as important as the “what.” The Bible says a lot about believing the right way. It says much more about behaving the right way. If the Minneapolis pilgrims will restrain their rage and guard their tongues, the devils will tremble.
Finally, don’t play God. Ultimately, judgment will be carried out by the Judge of the universe. This is not the time nor place, and neither are we the ones to be dividing the weeds from the wheat.
Will the devils rejoice or weep over this gathering of Presbyterians? It’s up to 2,000 Presbyterians to determine. May our better angels prevail, so the angels in heaven can throw a party.