The minister's primary duty -- and the session's -- is to feed and protect the flock over which God, through the actions of the church, has placed them. One of the sad aspects of the church's wars in recent years has been the spectacle of the people of God in the pew being drawn willy-nilly into battles that they really don't need to be a part of.
After only one month of preaching, my senior elder took me aside and said, "Charles, we think we are going to like you a lot, but your sermons are going right over our heads.You should remember that the Lord said, 'Feed my sheep' not my giraffe."I almost responded that I knew about sheep, but I had received no instructions about grubs.
Living for 15 months in Egypt introduced us to a different world -- Arabic and Islamic; ancient yet modern; a third world, and an industrial nation unable to give up its old ways; a gracious hospitable people who want you to like their country.
We Presbyterians are searching frantically to preserve the unity of our denomination, anything to keep the church from splitting. Let's try this way, that way, a third way. There must be some way we can find! But maybe what we need is to give up our ways and concentrate on what God in Christ has done.
If the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is at a crossroads in its life -- a time when many aspects of our life together need to be subjected to careful scrutiny to determine their usefulness to the church -- then certainly a re-examination of the meeting of the General Assembly itself is in order.
Several strains of thought have converged recently for me and shaped these paragraphs. The Outlook editorial of Jan. 15 by Robert Bullock and William Stacy Johnson brought thoughtful assessment of Amendment O as well as a challenging reminder of work to be done by all the church in the days after the presbyteries have voted.
The Guest Viewpoint by Jerry Andrews and reply by Robert Bullock and me offers a poignant example of Christian friends engaging each other -- reluctantly -- in disagreement. What are we to make theologically of this fact: that disagreement seems to be a permanent mode of the church's existence?
The theology, constitution and policy of our church, in concert with the church universal and ecumenical, teaches that sexual expression belongs only within the covenant of marriage. The polity of the church is to conform to the profession of the church, as our Preliminary Principles say: "We are persuaded that there is an inseparable connection between faith and practice, truth and duty."
I have experienced an epiphany, or at least a reawakening of personal hope for our Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). In a day when it seems that our beloved church is being torn asunder by irreconcilable issues, such as the Amendment O debate, little did I realize that a request from my session would lead me to a rediscovery of hope for the church.
It is too bad that with so many challenges facing the church today we have to be conducting a dispute with our good friend Jerry Andrews over Amendment O. This diversion of valuable energy is just one more reason we are against the amendment.