Over my ministry I've been called a conservative, a Communist, a secularist, an evangelical, a liberal, a Congregationalist and now lately a centrist. I'm getting calls from people saying, "You represent the center. Do something." A person cozies up to me at a meeting and asks, "What are those of us in the center going to do when the denomination splits?" I am hearing a plea that the ill-defined, nebulous center will miraculously rise up to hold our denomination together.
I am writing in response to the recent article, "Women's Ministries program area review to go beyond survey responses." Having served as Associate Director of Women's Ministries Program Area [WMPA] for the past three years, and having until May 15, 2000, before my term is officially ended, it is time for me to speak out and resist the continuing abusive words and violent actions directed toward my colleagues in women's ministries, and ultimately, directed toward all women.
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.
Long time pal Phil is retiring. I write, inviting him to join me in forming a senior step ball team. We were champs in seminary -- in the game where the batter throws a tennis ball against the Alexander Hall steps at Princeton and the fielders have to catch it before it bounces.
A professor friend at Union-PSCE some time ago sent me a tape recording of one of his classes. The visitor for the day was a Methodist bishop whose assignment was director of worldwide evangelism for the United Methodist Church. He described in detail his experience in his first parish in a small church in a poor neighborhood in Sydney, Australia:
Actions by recent General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) are beginning to force many of our members to consider a choice between God and our denomination. We are not alone. Other denominations are doing the same. If denominations continue to force their members to choose between their deeply committed personal religious beliefs and their denominational affiliation, the denominations will lose.
There is an increasingly urgent voice in the church, calling for our governance to be more enabling and less regulatory. Chapter 14 of the Form of Government, which deals with ordination, certification and commissioning, is the most severe focal point for this frustration, and is a major source of the disconnect between congregations and the denomination.
Today there are a number of conflicting accounts as to the status of Christianity in China. One persistent version begins with the assumption that an atheistic Communist government will not tolerate the presence of a true Christian church. Consequently, Christianity in China must be sharply divided between an "apostate church" -- represented by the China Christian Council which is supported by the atheistic government -- and the "true underground church," which is subject to continuous persecution and harassment.