Important Disclaimer

Since I currently have several employers/supervisors/churches/etc., please know that none of the words on my blog represent them or their beliefs. This blog is my own creation.

It also does not represent my children's perspective, nor my mother's; they think I am funny, but misguided.
(Quick update: only my mother thinks I'm funny now.)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Response to the "Deathly Ill Church" Letter


A few days ago I heard some buzz on Twitter and Facebook about a letter from some pastors in my denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA). People said it had showed up in my inbox, so I didn't pay any attention to the buzz--if the letter was meant for me, I would have received it, surely. And then a facebook friend posted the letter with the question, "what do you think of this?"

Here is a link to the complete letter, as published in the Presbyterian Outlook: "Pastors call for denomination to be “radically transformed”  I encourage you to go read the letter. I'm not going to excerpt it, I am simply responding, because apparently it was written to the whole denomination. But go to the link and read it.

My first response was rather strong.  All 45 signers on this letter are men. This doesn't mean that the letter has no merit, but it does mean that my first words were, "Please see yourselves out, boys."

The letter began with the greeting, "Brothers and Sisters in Christ." By itself that seems fairly innocuous, but I have been to my share of presbytery meetings over the last 15 years in 3 different presbyteries. When somebody begins a statement "Brothers and Sisters in Christ" or "My Esteemed Colleagues" or "Beloved Brethren" or any number of other endearments, the next words are bound to be something controversial--an insult disguised as concern, judgment clothed in love, an attempt to sugarcoat hard words. I've learned not to trust that greeting. I try hard not to use it.

The letter details the decline of our denomination (which is true of most mainline Christian denominations) over the last 40 years. And then it says this: "Homosexual ordination has been the flashpoint of controversy for the last 35 years. Yet, that issue — with endless, contentious “yes” and “no” votes — masks deeper, more important divisions within the PC(USA)." 

It is easy to get caught up in this statement--I just backspaced over two paragraphs of my thoughts on this. But I believe the reference to homosexuality is a distraction--similar to the distraction of collecting only male signatures. It is a distraction intended to rile up those of us on the liberal edges of the denomination, thus further alienating the center and making the point for these pastors. The reference to meeting with the leadership of Covenant Network is also a distraction--this letter is not at all in keeping with the vision and mission of Covenant Network (and they have not yet responded).

Presbyterian polity smooths out the difference between large churches and small churches in our denomination. Every pastor has one vote. Every congregation gets one vote. Additional elder votes are granted to larger churches. Occasionally we add additional elder commissioners to balance between elders and ministers of the word and sacrament. This grants to small churches political power disproportionate to their size. It's how we do it in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and I imagine it is very frustrating for those who lead large churches. The writers of that letter are not just entirely men, they are also pastors of very large churches, commanding impressive budgets. A few statistics about the churches whose pastors signed this letter:

The smallest congregation has 190 members and an annual budget of $375,000. The next smallest has 591 members with an annual budget of $1,071,980. Of the 43 churches represented (not counting Presbyterians for Renewal), the average membership is 2309 members with an average annual budget of $3,765, 269. (All my statistics came from the pcusa's online membership stats published for the year 2009. These numbers are self-reported by the churches themselves.)

The tiny church I serve has 25 members. Our annual budget is $50,000. That is one-tenth of the annual deficit of the large PCUSA church next door in 2009. I work on a 1/3 time salary with no benefits. We worship, we visit the sick, we eat together, we care for our building. We do not have a color copier--or even a copier contract. I picked up our current black & white from Staples on sale for $179. It sporadically allows me to print 2-sided.

I say this to acknowledge that this letter indeed was not meant for me. The people I serve do not wish to attend a church with 2309 members. We'd be real happy with 50, and we're working on a process to get ourselves there.

I'm not everybody's cup of tea as a pastor--honestly, how many people go church shopping and think "Gee, I'd love it if the pastor was a divorced, queer woman?" But I am a pastor who serves a community. And more broadly I am connected with people who would not step foot in a church, but who sense in my own oddness that I might understand their life.

Would I love to serve a tall steeple church? Well sure. There's great work there, a healthy salary and housing assistance. There's medical insurance, for Pete's sake. I'd love a color copier and a Sunday school bigger than 3. I'd love the energy that comes from a room full of hundreds of people all buzzing for Christ. But that's not where I've been called.

My response to my "Brothers and Sisters in Christ," who wish to be well rid of me in this denomination, is that you are free to go--I'm not holding you back. But I do not have words for my sorrow at your clear contempt for who I am and my ministry.

Since we have not yet passed the nFOG, may I draw your attention to G-4.0000, Chapter IV of our Book of Order, "The Church and Its Unity"? I know I'm not the first to point to this chapter, so why belabor the point? And I know we could go back and forth citing the Book of Order and the Confessions and Scripture, and I know that we would remain entrenched in our positions, regardless of how many times we called each other Brother or Sister in Christ's name.

What I am wondering is this: why are you holding the rest of the church responsible for the declines in your own memberships? Because when I looked at the membership gains and losses for the same period of 2009, the 43 churches attached to this letter declined by an average of 52 members that year, or 2%. Some gained, others lost, but you too are seeing the decline. I do not blame you for the losses in my own tiny church. It is not the responsibility of the tall steeple, more conservative church in the next township, that my own church is not growing. We have real concerns within our own fellowship and township we are attending to. But I don't blame you. I celebrate that a person who does not find God at my tiny church can go next door and perhaps encounter Her there. I have even shared table with the pastors from next door, although I'll admit it was a bit uneasy.

It's not that I begrudge you leaving. It's not that I think I'm righteously entitled to stay. It is the contempt and disrespect with which you choose to fire your warning shot. Let me offer an example from Twitter*:

A few weeks ago one of my Twitter followers tweeted an announcement: "I have drastically cut back on my followers and people I follow. If you can see this tweet, consider yourself lucky." Sure enough, I checked, and I was one of the people he had unfollowed. I then watched a dozen people tweet their relief to this guy, "Wow, thanks for keeping me in the in crowd". "Whew! Glad I made the cut!" Etc.  I unfollowed him, although we've had several good conversations over the last two years. But what I remember is that he felt the need to broadcast his disrespect for me--it wasn't enough to quietly let go and unfollow.

It was just a Twitter connection. This is just a church denomination. Most of you I have never met, you don't pay my rent, I don't bring you soup when you're sick. But I wonder at your need to make others feel small. And I think that might be the start of a good and healthy conversation, my Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ.

*And mea culpa. For in writing of this Twitter example, I have made another feel small. Remembering to pick at the log in my own eye is so dang hard.

A final update for those of you following this little drama: my Tweep and I made up and shook hands. A happy ending after all.  And dang if he wasn't incredibly gracious about it too.

Other responses to the letter:

"Future of the Church" by Cynthia Bolbach, Landon Whitsitt and Gradye Parsons

"Presbyterian Big Shots" by John Shuck 

A response from Presbyterian Voices for Justice

"From the Voice of a Young (and proud) Presbyterian" by Krista @ Rooted in Faith 

"For Such a Time as These" by Sean Chow 

GA Junkie's Analysis by Stephen Salyards



54 comments:

  1. Well said. I'll definitely track-back on my blog. I'm from a tall steeple church who is growing a tiny bit, often (I'm sorry to say) at the expense of one of the signators. You are correct that there is MUCH more going on than LGBT. My personal experience is that it's more to do with property than anything else.

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  2. Oh my goodness! I'm stunned by your wisdom and want to share this. Very, very well put.

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  3. I read that letter from the Outlook, and I am surprised at how much the wording seemed to be in "Corporatese".

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  4. Are you ever a good and articulate writer! Our church is so lucky to have you with your brains and faith! !This is a very thoughtful and insightful response. I think you have it right, the big churches want to be rid of the small churches trying to work for justice in this very unjust world. We are thorns in their sides. Hope many people see your response. Sure wish I lived close enough to attend your church. M prayers are with you and your congregation! : )

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  5. " I do not have words for my sorrow at your clear contempt for who I am and my ministry." I thank you for putting to words what I feel in my heart whenever the discussion comes up for a vote, or a pjc makes a ruling effectively stating that I have no legitimate claim to full membership.

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  6. You are very articulate and I wish I could attend your church.

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  7. @Abby & @Anonymous, you are welcome to link back to anything I publish on my blogs :-)

    @Kahuna, large churches especially have a more corporate model. I don't condemn it--if I was trying to manage that many people and that much money, I'd be corporatized too. But there's no denying a spirit of joy and energy in large churches. I have many days when I envy them that.

    @Janet, Virginia, Karen, many thanks for your affirmation. You are welcome if you are ever in NJ. I am grateful for my internet community!

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  8. I found this blog and this post via Bruce Reyes-Chow's Facebook page. Thank you for your insight. I especially appreciate your comment about "you are free to go", which comes on the heels of a conversation I had with someone just this morning. I am the clerk at a very small church that is right now involved in some "uproar" and conflict. Basically it is a small group that seems rarely to come to worship, and rarely gets involved in things and yet feels entitled to say harsh and cruel things to session and to the pastor. In our efforts to be "Christian" and to "act as Christ to our brothers and sisters" I feel that we are being held hostage. At what point do we say -- politely, of course -- "here is the door, I wish you well"?

    The same in our denomination. I've heard that "we'll have a schism if we vote to get rid of G-6.0106b." And so we're are being held hostage by that threat. But too many good and faithful women and men are being denied ordination or are leaving the church. At what point can we simply vote yes to get rid of it, and say "here is the door, we wish you well"?

    My presbytery is voting on the amendments in April and I made sure to sign up as commissioner to that meeting, so I can vote -- yet again -- to get rid of G-6.0106b.

    I'm also a candidate who has passed final assessment and is looking for a call. To a chaplaincy I hope.

    The whole thing just makes me sad.

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  9. Thanks Katie! Well said! I'd be happy to attend a church whose pastor is a divorced, queer woman, especially if the pastor was you!

    This, too, shall pass.

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  10. @Lorraine Blessings on your call process! I bet we could trade stories galore about that process, eh?

    @John Back atcha, John. Appreciate your words and actions.

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  11. Thanks for this articulate response. I found the clericalism in that letter particularly troubling.

    I attend a theologically liberal congregation that has been growing steadily by 5% a year. But I suspect our success in numbers has to do more with our efforts to follow Christ faithfully than any stance we may take on a given issue.

    Christine Kooi
    Baton Rouge, La

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  12. Katie, I'm a pastor of a small More Light congregation. There's so much I could say, but I'll just say this: If you need a shoulder or a listening ear or a prayer or help with double-sided photocopies. Let me know. I feel blessed to know you are here and love you for the way you said what you did.
    @jazzpastord
    Debra Avery, Palo Cristi Presbyterian Church, Paradise Valley, AZ

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  13. YOU GO GIRL! Well said. But hey, do you really have three in your Sunday School? I'm jealous. We do not have a Sunday School and average about 20 in worship. Therefore, even though I am male and straight(not by choice, I was not invited to sign on to this letter. Maybe it has something to do with my progressive posture rather than my not being one of those tall steeple people.

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  14. It is my observation, over too many years of observation that churches that leave are lead by their pastor - not by the consensus of the congregation - and that HE (never she) looks forward to being a big fish in a smaller pond.

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  15. I, too, got here through Bruce Reyes-Chow's Facebook post. And I join the others in saying that if I lived in NJ, I'd come visit. And I also heartily agree with abbiewaters that this is likely more about property than ordaining LGBT persons.

    I was particularly struck by the sentence "But I wonder at your need to make others feel small." It has never really occurred to me before, but when you put it that way, I realize that I recognize these guys from my childhood. Because making others feel small to make yourself feel big is a classic tactic of a schoolyard bully. Well, I didn't like being bullied as a child, and I don't like it now.

    I attend a middling-sized Presbyterian Church in a presbytery of mostly similar sized or smaller churches. There is one large church in the Presbytery whose conduct I have resented for a long time (they withhold their per capita payments to punish the rest of us for being too liberal), and now I have a way to articulate my resentment--I have felt bullied by them.

    I realize this doesn't really help the cause, but thank you for the insight.

    Kathy Randall

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  16. Thanks, Katie.
    I invite you to my "Faith Matters" blog at http://billtammeus.typepad.com, where I've often expressed thoughts in harmony with yours.

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  17. I feel superfluous in commenting because so many (including you) have spoken far more eloquently than me. But I venture anyway to say your name and your ministry is added to my prayers. I remember for a long time feeling dismay at John's reaction to the presence of religious leaders at his baptism party. But I've come to the conclusion that name calling is a perfectly loving response to tyranny in any form.

    I sincerely pray that the riches you articulate are not ignored.

    Thank you for your thoughtful and moving response!

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  18. Beautifully written Katie. I think you speak for so many Presbyterians. Thank you for words. Thank you for being you. Blessings on your ministry.

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  19. Thanks for this - read it after Marci Glass tweeted the link. Hang in there - with both hands- and celebrate the work you are called to do in response to God's call.

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  20. I also noticed that the signatories were all ministers; no "lay" people - not even any elders. Put that together with the call for strict subscription (something Presbyterians have rejected since 1729), and I get the distinct impression that these brothers are not interested in moving toward the future, but rather in turning the clock back to pre-1729 times.
    Arnold Rots

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  21. Katie,

    I hope we get to meet someday. Thoughtful and well researched response to the letter.

    I am currently at a Presbytery meeting and I am in a conversation with one of our arch-conservatives about how we can address this in our presbytery. A public way to demonstrate to the presbytery that it is possible to fellowship and work in mission together despite vast disagreement. We want to hold forth an alternative to the "separate and unequal" doctrine of the conservative tall-steeple types.

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  22. I have served churches from one end of the country to the other. I did 41 years of ministry. Now retired, I do pulpit supply in a 22 member church. it once had 125 members---but the mines closed, and the businesses faded away. But the little church still has community and faith and witness.
    Who are these guys that wrote the letter? I have never heard of any of them. Where did they go to seminary? My suspicion is most are Fuller grads, or did not go to Presbyterian seminaries.
    The letter is disturbing in its pride and bigotry.

    Art Seaman, HR
    Kittanning, PA

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  23. Will it help if I say that some of my favorite people are Fuller grads? My first seminary class was an extension course through Fuller taught by Prof. Telford Work. He conducted a magnificent seminar on Medieval and Reformed Theology. I learned more in that class than any other systematic theology or church history class I took at Princeton.

    I was listening to Brené Brown this morning, speaking on the power of vulnerability. These words stick with me: "When we work from a place that says 'I'm enough', then we stop screaming and start listening."

    This seems to me key. I'm not really sure at all how to even start a conversation with a pastor who commands a $5million budget and has 3,000 members. I think probably at least half our problem is we have few reasons to ever speak face to face with each other. Except when we're in conflict.

    I won't front--this letter and its related movements cause me pain. But many people who love me remind me often that I need to nuance my thinking.

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  24. Thanks for the insights. Excellent thought as usual. You are a blessing to me and the church. Give them heaven tomorrow.

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  25. Once again you hit it out of the park. Thank you so much for this.

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  26. Well said. Reading the original letter, I perceive a framework for a denomination different from the one I have been a part of (on and off) for the past 52 years. Not sure I want someone taking the good name of the PC(USA). Maybe these pastors can come up with another name for their new denomination.

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  27. I wonder what letter you read. The Pastors' Letter I read begins with some honest humility:
    "We humbly share responsibility for the failure of our common life, and are no better as pastors nor more righteous than anyone on other sides of tough issues." I find that tone missing in your blog and most of the responses.

    I expect F&C will be overturned this year. That, plus a very large number of other differences, will lead us to go our separate ways. I wish you well. Let's do so with respect and civility. Moses did not bring down a separate tablet inscribed, "The PCUSA will last forever and rule over all God's Presbyterians."

    A healthy respect for those who disagree with you would be an emotionally healthy thing.

    Tome Walters
    Elder
    1st Presbyterian Church
    Seguin, Texas

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  28. I find myself in the peculiar position of being aligned with Katie, but agreeing with Tome.


    For me, the lack of a single female name among the signatories is appalling and goes a long way toward delegitimizing any movement within our denomination. I still find myself in shock that this well-connected and savvy group of guys would have gone public without first rustling up a few like-minded women.

    Having said that, I agree with Tome that I read in the pastors' letter a good deal more gentleness and appetite for reconciliation than I do in Katie's response, and I am baffled at the strength of Katie's reaction to the words, “Brothers and Sisters in Christ.” (How ought a group of Christians begin a letter which carries a difficult message?)

    Katie, it might be a viable plan for folks in your position to simply hunker down and wait for enough conservatives to leak off the right edge of the PC(USA) to change our ordination standards and position on marriage—but (as you likely know) it causes a lot of pain in the meantime.

    I believe that these men are looking for a better way. I don’t think they have found it, but I will not mock or ridicule them for looking.
    Faithfully,
    Sam

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  29. Tome, I expect those who disagree with me to be displeased with my tone. Neither the deathly ill church letter nor my response emerge from a vacuum. For 25 years I have listened to people in this denomination speak to my face and that of others that same gender love is disgusting, sinful, hideous and against nature. The conversation has turned more respectful in recent years (for the most part) but the undertone remains.

    I have been part of two churches that seriously considered leaving the PCUSA who ultimately chose not to because of the property clause. What both churches realized is that our understanding of church and sacred and holy is indeed bound up with physical creation and that the place was important to us. This, ironically, is part of what made us a good fit with the PCUSA, despite other differences that caused friction. In all honesty, I have spent a very long time in the PCUSA keeping my head down. That I am speaking my pain and sorrow here on my blog does not signal a lack of humility (although I admit I could use the practice). Rather, the fact that I am speaking out offers respect to the denomination and all those who share it with me--even the folks who disagree with me vehemently.

    Sam, the fact that this group did not "rustle up" like-minded women says either they don't have any handy or they didn't think it was important. Either way, the lack of attention to race, gender, class, and priesthood of all believers is of concern to me, although like I said I believe it's a distraction from larger issues of power.

    I have been "hunkered down" for a very long time in this church. I'm somewhat baffled that you would ask me to be silent. Change does not happen waiting for those in power to die off or leave. Change happens because we care enough to push from the underside and require that our unjust pain be recognized, acknowledged and addressed.

    I am not mocking or ridiculing with this blogpost. I am not sure why you do not think I was writing earnestly and in all seriousness.

    These 43 churches represent $162 million in annual budgets and approximately 90,000 members. And yet still, I have a voice, and so I share with you my thoughts. Out loud. Not muffled under a rock where I am hunkered down.

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  30. There are a lot of people who have been silent who are beginning to speak up. It makes me really happy to see, because a lot of us are hoarse from screaming ;-) I think we can disagree and criticize with respect, which is what I think this conversation needs. We are too afraid of speaking our minds in this church, and it's what's lead us to this point. Imagine if, 30 years ago, we had had the conversation openly and honestly in a different way, instead of letting our private idiosyncrasies fester until they erupt like this?

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  31. I think "tone" can be an important issue in the right context, but it is certainly not the most important issue. Justice and righteousness, when sounded by Jesus or the prophets, was never offered in a "tone" acceptable to those in power who abused justice and righteousness. When one's opponents make an issue of "tone", it is frequently done to shame or belittle or dis-empower. It is a tool used by the powerful against the less powerful. "Tone" is an important issue for Gandhi to teach disciples of non-violence or for MLK Jr to teach approaches to civil disobedience. But watch out when "tone" is trotted out by your critics! Keep up the good work and good words, Katie!

    Mark D

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  32. Katie, A great deal of change will happen in the PCUSA this year. Some of it you will like: repeal of F&C. Some you won't: the departure of
    a significant number of churches and individuals. We have not begun the conversation in my church, established in the 1850's, but I expect we will.

    The pastoral letter points out the PCUSA has been stuck in a disagreement that has gone no where. Two very different views. Irreconciable.
    You may not have recognized it, but the pastoral letter is actually an attempt to find a "third way," one that leaves us all in some sort of Fellowship together. (Ala Bill Clinton and Tony Blair trying to move political stalemates beyond either/or.) I hope they succeed, but I expect it will end in separation. The left can keep the PCUSA name.
    If the pastors succeed, they'll manage to begin something new. This letter and this group are "game changers"--90,000 memmbers and $162 million dollars, you say. Many, many more will follow.

    Ten years from now, I expect the the PCUSA will be down to one million members, very liberal, mostly east coast-west coast and some college towns. 75% focused on political and social issues. The problem with that "business model" is that liberals as a whole trend to the secular. Not a prescription for long term viability, given you're actually competing for members with other political and social cause organizations, not church goers. They'll largely be in evangelical churches.

    Respectfully,
    Tome Walters

    The property clause won't be the glue to keep it all together. In my state, Texas, for example, property rights are strong. My church, as part of southern Presbyterianism, owned its property for 120 years before joining the PCUSA. It took no action to transfer ownership to the PCUSA after the 7-year period. Should we elect to depart, and it gets ugly, we'll likely win in a Texas court under the neutral principles of law the Supreme Court laid out. If we lose, the church will close.

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  33. Katie,

    I did a very poor job of communicating in my comment if you read it as asking you to be silent. On the contrary I celebrate both your voice and the fact that you have the strength and courage (and I suppose the freedom) to exercise it. My comment about “hunkering down” was meant in exactly the opposite spirit that it came across. For that I apologize.

    What I mean, Katie, is that your response does not seem to engage the pastors’ letter in good faith (nor, for that matter, have many of the other responses I have read). And I believe the letter, flawed as it is, is offered in good faith. I believe that we on the left will indeed “win” the current, particular battles regarding sexuality, and I believe that Tome is at least partly right about the probable cost of that victory. I hope that Tome is right that these guys are looking for a “third way” and the only way for it to happen is for brilliant, passionate, justice-minded folks to meet them there and engage. (Know anyone like that?) This response doesn’t feel like engagement—it feels like dismissal.

    I agree with you again that the lack of female signees is absolutely appalling and I strongly suspect that the reason is not that they don’t know any conservative female pastors, but rather (as you suggest) they didn’t think it was important. (Although I honestly don’t know which would worse.)

    Faithfully,
    Sam

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  34. Tome, I wish we were competing with social cause agencies in any meaningful way. And I think that probably goes straight back to the core of our disagreements. What saddens and angers me is the lack of acknowledgment that smaller churches and women and liberals are part of how those larger churches came to be who they are. We are intricately connected in the PCUSA.

    Sam, a movement that wants to honestly engage "brilliant, passionate, justice-minded folks" will start by inviting those folks in on the ground floor. This group didn't even start with women. And if they didn't think that was important, I think that's quite possibly worse than just not knowing any like minded women pastors. I just backspaced over another 2 paragraphs about race and gender and class. Which are distractions to the larger concern of how we deal with power in the PCUSA. I did not read that letter as an invitation to come work with them. I read it as another slap to those of us who are apparently holding them back from doing Christ's work. But I also read it as a threat to remove themselves from PCUSA oversight and allow congregations to fund missions and prorams or not as they wish. There is a reason those of us in the PCUSA appreciate checks and balances on power.

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  35. Katie,
    You are absolutely AWESOME. I love you and your writings!! Keep the faith!!
    Love,
    Janet

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  36. Janet! Miss you muchly, you and yours. I will be out this summer for a bit and will try to connect :-)

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  37. Katie, as a lesbian, do you really want to stay in communion with pastors and congregations who believe unrepentant homosexual activity to be sinful?
    Rev. Chris Mooney

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  38. @Tome:
    The one thing absent from the "business plan" you mention for either the liberal church or the evangelical church is the reality that God raises the dead to new life, God takes Jews and Gentiles and breaks down dividing walls between them, God does new things which confounds human wisdom. I think you have it all worked out, Tome. And in the short term, you may be correct. But I prefer to trust God with the long term because she has all the time in the world.
    @Katie:
    There is much to be said for nuanced responses. There is also the need for direct and pointed conversation which speaks one’s truth with passion, especially as it is directed to the powerful on behalf of the less powerful.
    Mark D

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  39. I love you. That is all. I hate that church becomes a numbers game. What I've learned while serving my tiny churches that seem sometimes to be forgotten by our own Presbytery (I have no idea when the last COM three-year review was. Not in my tenure and I've been here over 3 years.) is that it doesn't matter how many but how well we enact our faith to the betterment of those around us. Whether there are 4 million or 4 in the PC(USA) doesn't concern me. God's will does. Living out Christ's Radical Love matters to me; not how many people sit in my pew or if they can pay (Though its nice). Part of my vows were to uphold our Church Constitution. People focus so much on the stupid stuff rather than the fact it says that the Church must be engaged in the mission of Jesus' love even at the risk of her own death. I don't see anything about safety or numbers in our historical tenets. And its prophetic voices like yours that enrich us and remind us of the course we've signed on to.

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  40. How sad. One wonders how small one must be and feel to act so small. Maybe the victim could love their enemies, pray for those who persecute them? Or did a boy say that who left long ago?

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  41. Thank you for this post. Most eloquent. (I agree that the criticism of "tone" is a smokescreen. Don't hunker down and be silent. We've done enough of that.)

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  42. What Quincy said. And you go, Katie! Don't worry about feeding the bears!

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  43. Quick clarification for Chris: I do not and never have identified as a lesbian, either here on the blog or anywhere else. Queer encompasses a broad range of sexual (and sometimes gender) identities and I do not choose to share in further detail.

    And the answer to your question is that I do indeed wish to remain in communion with the members of this denomination, some of whom understand same gender love to be sinful. Of course, I consider some unrepentant heterosexual activity to be sinful as well.

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  44. What I see missing, is a reliance on Gods word for guidance anywhere in the letter or responses. Without that guide, this discussion becomes just another political discourse and remains divisive. People will flee confusion, and have done so. In response to this issue, please consider:
    Proverbs 3:5
    Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
    and
    1 Tim 5:17,
    Prov 4:5,
    and 1 Corinthians 1:18-20

    Seek Him and let us all... lean not on our our understanding.
    ~Chris

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  45. Whew! I've stumbled across your blog at a time when there is a huge discussion going on as a result of the "pastoral letter." In my own church (Church of Scotland - also Presbyterian) there has been a 2yr moratorium on discussing the ordination of gay clergy. This followed the induction of a gay man in a civil partnership to a church in Aberdeen, where he was wanted and welcomed, although other members of Presbytery tried to subvert his appointment.

    We are discussing this whole matter at our General Assembly in May this year and I can only hope that we listen and really care about one another in such a way as to enable some progress to be made. Over the years the church in Scotland has been subject to far too much schism, and it would weaken us, fatally I fear.

    Thank you for being so open in your post and in answering the comments, I hope to visit your blog over the weeks to see what happens.

    As an aside - the number of Anonymous comments is somehow disturbing. Are people really that frightened?

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  46. To Freda:

    Some of us signed on as Anonymous because we weren't quite sure how to sign on any other way (it is a technology-thing, not a fear-thing in those cases). I sign my Anonymous posts with Mark D and am happy to disclose who I am. But others may be more at risk because they are subject to powers that may do harm to their careers or their personal lives. Until I have walked in their shoes and shouldered their responsibilities, I would not second-guess their choice for anonymity.

    Mark D

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  47. Thank you for this. I belong to a very small Presbyterian Church where I am blessed to be an elder. In the past 5 years, we have grown from an average attendance of 10 all the way up to 20 on Sunday morning. I understand and agree completely with your assessment of life in a small Church. We disagree in our Church over amendment 10A but we have agreed to disagree and not let it tear us apart.

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  48. Thank you for your posting, Katie. I have served small churches, medium churches, and large churches as an interim. Small church is particularly challenging, but I found it also connected me to people in powerful ways. Your congregation is blessed to have you. Many blessings to you and your ministry from a former Jersey girl who is praying for the day when G-60106.b will be eliminated from the B of O and those who agree to disagree will have an equal playing field.

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  49. "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will."
    — Frederick Douglass

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  50. I very much appreciate the comments, honesty, and compassion you shared in your blog. I referenced your blog in a blog I wrote about this issue at: http://chainlink-chainoflakesncd.blogspot.com/

    Keep up the good work!

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  51. Mainline Protestantism is shrinking away faster than a pizza in front of Michael Moore; you're NPR or "Mother Jones" at prayer. Barely 5% of those 18-30 belong to any Mainline Protestant church; why should anyone take what any of you say seriously-except for your money and lots of valuable property?
    You've been preaching "Celebrate our Diversity!" for over 30 years and you're still barely 5% non-white,non-middle/upper middle class. Either you're lying or you have unbelievably ineffective programs; you managed to get many more than 5% non-heterosexual clergy without any programs at all. Any ideas on why you managed to attract sexual minorities but not linguistic or ethnic ones?

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  52. Katie,
    Great to hear from you. I agree that the church is so often short sighted about "talking welcome" "Studying welcome" and then miss out on "making welcome." Plus there is a bit of rationalization of what is already going on here. Sigh. Glad to have found you.

    Katy Stenta

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