A Commitment to Unity

The 212th General Assembly affirmed the fragile unity of our denomination by rejecting one of the Beaver-Butler overtures and by delaying for one more year consideration of the overtures dealing with sexuality and ordination. One can infer from their decisions the belief that Presbyterians are neither ready to divide the denomination nor to continue debating the issues surrounding sexuality and ordination.

This same General Assembly also sent to the presbyteries an amendment definitively banning same-sex holy union services. Have we become like the proverbial child, picking a scab, and wondering why the wound does not heal? Soon the interest groups will begin to plan strategies of support or opposition to this amendment. The strategies will include raising funds, developing arguments, producing literature and vilifying the respective opposition.

Ironically, during the moratorium there were small conversations beginning between individuals on both sides of the sexuality debate. Friendships were formed that bridged ideological differences. Some of us began to understand that truth is not an abstraction but is discovered and affirmed in relationships that bridge differences. These relationships will be tested in the coming year. As we throw our ideological rocks at one another, can we witness to something greater which binds us together: love?

Who understands the very public relationship between James Carville and Mary Matalin? Ideologically opposite, often political opponents, yet they are in love and married. One wonders if their dinner conversation is similar to a presbytery debate. Can Presbyterians learn their secret? If we don’t, we will splinter, and neither group will be justified or right.

We need to devote the same energy and resources to the unity of the church that we will devote to the debates and arguments over the issues that divide us.

This fall the “Coalition” and the “Covenant Network” will hold their meetings and plan their strategies for the support or defeat of this amendment. Is it outrageous to suggest to all interest groups who are campaigning on behalf of this or other divisive issues to tithe 10 percent of the funds that they raise and designate them for healing the wounds and working toward a visible unity in spite of our differences?

The General Assembly’s rejection of the one Beaver-Butler overture indicates that we are committed to staying together. We have committed a great deal of resources and energy to divide. Can we commit the same to unity?


Brent J. Eelman is pastor, Northwoods church, Houston.