I am a minister in the PC(USA).
This week, my denomination was in the news. The issue the media highlighted was that in states where it is legal, Presbyterian Church (USA) ministers may, if they feel so called, conduct weddings for members of the same gender seeking to be married.
What is probably lesser known among non-Presbyterians is that ministers cannot simply say, “Okay, come to our church, and I’ll marry you.” Any worship service, and a wedding is a worship service, has to be approved by a church session. So, no weddings are conducted in any Presbyterian congregation without the elected leaders of that congregation also agreeing to the service. I make this point to say that nothing we do, either nationally or locally, is the action of an individual. Rather, a community of people considers together what God is calling them to do (or not do).
My journey through the church has been winding and diverse. I have been a member of the Southern church Presbyterian and the Baptist church, I visited a smorgasbord of churches in college, and then I joined the PC(USA) . I have served in the multi-denominational (and interfaith) military chapel, and I’ve made friends with many folks from all sorts of religious traditions. I know many of them do not agree with the actions of our General Assembly this week. Fair enough.
But all I can says is, I am still Presbyterian. I am not outraged at my denomination. And, Lord willing, I will be in the Presbyterian Church (USA) when the Lord calls me home. I believe in our system of governance, in which clergy and lay people come together as equals, consider the major issues of our society and our world, and take a stand. The votes don’t always go the way I would personally vote, but I have a core conviction that God speaks to us and through us together.
Protestant churches can continue to divide and subdivide and point fingers at one another. But I truly don’t think that is what Christ calls us to do. We need to find ways to reverse this process and work together.
If the USAF chaplaincy has taught me anything, it’s that people of faith, who sometimes hold different convictions, can do great good together when they focus on their commonalities rather than on their differences.
Pray for us. We will pray for you. And I give God thanks for the place that I have been called to serve.