Cycles

I go through cycles of doubt about a lot of things. Some are so familiar, like well-worn paths, that they are almost predictable. I see my old rutted footsteps leading me onward. One of them seems to be growing in intensity.

I’m honesty wondering if there is a place for me in the Presbyterian Church. Not in a Presbyterian Church – I’ve found a home in one for almost all of my life from birth to now – but in the Presbyterian Church. It honestly seems like it is going to tear itself apart over homosexual ordination. And while I have, obviously if you read below, strong feelings on that matter, that isn’t the definitive fight that some people seem to think it is. The defining fight isn’t even secularism versus faith, or liberalism versus fundamentalism, or ecumenism versus orthodoxy. The defining fight is will we be able to get over ourselves and do something good in the world.

I can narrow this down further, I guess, because I can define myself by the principles I hold to. So, do I join a peace church, because the PCUSA isn’t one? Do I join an open and affirming church, because the PCUSA isn’t one of those either? Do I join a church committed to social justice issues on a national level? Because it seems like we’d rather stab each other over the PUP report.

Or do I stay, knowing that it’ll involve plenty of struggle along the way?

2 thoughts on “Cycles

  1. Doug,Yep.We’re told “Do the work God calls you to,” and “do the work you love,” except then, “That work is in a very problematic institution!”How to navigate this reality is a tough choice and different for everybody. I’ve known quite a few people who have changed denominations because of the PCUSA’s closed-ness. For me personally, I stay because the particular people in the Presbyterian Church are very important to me, including all the people who raised me in the church, and all the people who taught me by word and example that it’s OK to be gay and Christian. If I changed denominations I would no longer be working in partnership with the same people. That’s significant emotionally (for obvious reasons)–and practically speaking, also, my work would be made much more difficult because I’d have to forge all-new relationships in order to do, well, anything.I will share only two pieces of very general advice, take them for what they’re worth. 🙂1. The grass isn’t always greener. For example, it is much harder to find a job in the UCC, partly because of denominational structure and partly because a lot of people have landed there after jumping ship from some other denomination. Every institution has its shortcomings–it’s more a question of which shortcomings you want to deal with. If you do change to another denomination, you’ll probably need a way to say to them that God is really leading you to them–not just that you’re fed up with the Presbyterians and want to go somewhere, anywhere, else.2. Think about the day-to-day content of what your job will entail. For example, although the interminable fight over “sexuality” (or whatever the fight is really about) occupies a lot of space in public rhetoric, it does not occupy most of a pastor’s day-to-day activities. (That’s true even for me, and I work for a More Light church and serve on More Light’s board.) It might however be different for a presbytery exec or someone working in Louisville. Wherever you spend the majority of the hours of your work will determine how your experience of ministry is overall. And the people with whom you do that work, and the issues <>they<> must wrestle with, make up a big part of that. It takes time to get a sense of this, and internship is a good time to start. 🙂

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