Recently an article appeared in the Roanoke, Virginia, newspaper by author Timothy Buchanan. It was entitled “Death by Dishonor,” and began as follows:
“The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is now dead. After a long, tedious struggle to remain faithful to the scriptures and great Christian reformers like John Knox, the leadership of the PC(USA) denomination (the liberal branch of Presbyterian Churches) has thrown in the towel. A PC(USA) church near you will soon be conducting the same-sex ‘marriages.’ The moral high-ground in this conflict has surrendered to Satan.”
Pastor Catherine Taylor of the Blacksburg (Virginia) Presbyterian Church submitted a response to the paper. She said, “The piece by Timothy Buchanan … appeared at a fitting time, in Holy Week, when the Church the world over remembers the seeming triumph of embittered religionists. Buchanan gleefully announced the death of the PC(USA) much as priests and pundits in Jesus’ day proclaimed that he was in league with Satan, twisting his words to assure a verdict of death.”
She went on to say that Buchanan’s death sentence was not original. “The claim was hurled at Presbyterians who fought to abolish slavery before the Civil War, at churches who stood in favor of the ordination of women in the middle of the last century, and at those who pressed for integration in the era of Civil Rights. Each time a formal step was taken by the national church—always after years of study and debate—someone on the losing side declared the church was dead. Yet here the PC(USA) stands, continuing in ministry at home and around the world.”
Thank you Catherine. As Moderator of the 221st General Assembly (2014) of the PC(USA), I have traveled to 10 countries and 20 states in the past eight months. I have met with Presbyterians the world over who are committed to our denomination, and to its health. I have met with some of the thousands of people who joined our denomination in 2013, and they are overwhelmingly young adults with families who finally see a church that is willing to BE the church, not just be judgmental. These new members in a time when the secularization of religion the world over is a dominant issue are not indicative of a dying church. Neither is the spirit that I feel and see among our 1.7 million communicants.
Our denomination is undergoing radical change, as is our society. Some of these are disappointing, even heartbreaking to many Presbyterians. Other changes are being embraced and celebrated. Indeed we are losing members too. Nonetheless, for everyone who leaves because of being unhappy with our “family” I grieve. We need each other to help us all understand better who we are and to understand the truth. As I say across the church almost every time I speak, we need to believe 1 Corinthians 13, where it says that we all “see in a mirror dimly.” None of us has been shown the full truth. All of us are on the path to learning more, with a belief that one day we will indeed “see face to face” and the truth will be revealed.
May our focus after Easter be on the gift of our risen Lord, and not on our personal representations, or misrepresentations of God’s word. The fact that Jesus is our Savior is what matters. And no matter where we are on the field of “liberal or conservative” that message deserves our “Hallelujahs!”