Stay Together

We shared the joy and privilege of serving as co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Presbyterian Union, from 1969 to 1983. Like many of your regular readers we rejoiced in the breakdown of barriers which had stood for 122 years, and the creation of a newly reconciled church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

We both remember older veterans of previous efforts at reunion who spoke to us with tears in their eyes, tears of surprise and joy that our church had finally broken down the dividing walls of mistrust and misunderstanding between us after more than a century of separation.

All of us speak too casually about dividing the church again in days like these, but we speak too carelessly about the body of Christ. The body of Christ is God’s gift to all of us, and it is not appropriate for us to play our competitive games of division. We have some who speak seriously about dividing up the church, as if that is a bright, new idea. How long will it take us to learn that this is not new? It is as old as the well-worn path that hundreds of people before us have tried, in seeking to establish groups on their own. Do not tear at the tissue of the body of Christ; it causes deep pain and takes a long time to heal!

We need a new sensitivity to the doctrine which marks the whole Reformed movement — a mature understanding of the sovereignty of God. This is the doctrine of the church which holds us together with the whole ecumenical church around the world, the doctrine which gives us the privilege of sharing with Jews, and with people of Islamic faith. “The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein” (Psalm 24:l).

We are grateful for the actions of this year’s General Assembly, which acted well within our tradition; its work deserves the best effort of our presbyteries to support it. For the thoughtful, considerate, faithful, prayerful and, thanks to Jack Rogers, confessional tone, we give thanks. We reaffirm the rightness and the necessity of our reunion. We are all in this predicament together and we dare not, if we are to be at all faithful to the prompting of the Spirit, act as though we can go it alone in any of our separate groups or factions. We owe it to the grace of God who brought us together after all those years of separation — we owe it to God to stay together, to debate and to love together, to be in mission together, to give reality to our dreams of the new humanity in Christ to which all of us are called.

Robert Lamar was moderator of the 186th General Assembly (1974) of the UPCUSA and J. Randolph Taylor was moderator of the 195th General Assembly (1983) of the PC(USA).