Monday, April 09, 2007

Presbyterian Outlook: Ecclesiastical divorce

Ecclesiastical divorce:
"... You know how divorce happens. The aggrieved party looks back over recent history, shudders over the hurtful things the spouse has done, and remembers all the unrequited steps he or she took to try to bring reconciliation. The aggrieved party transitions from trying to save the marriage to building a compelling case to justify ending it.

In the process, the accused party reacts and does things that are really, really stupid, reinforcing the anger of the aggrieved. Soon each party can’t stand the sight of the other.

I’ve been participant in or immediate observer of a dozen congregational splits and denominational separations. Every one of them has followed that divorcing pattern.

We can do better.

Given the desire of some congregations to separate from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) these days, let us consider a few possible modi operandi.

The most critical thing we can do is to believe in one another’s intentions. ..."

Good point here. A lot more can be accomplished if people assume that their fellow Christians love the Church as much as they do.

It seems that the debate has been framed by both sides as an Armageddon-like conflict with good arrayed against evil -- if not in those words, it is implied by the respective sides' rhetoric and actions. Jack Haberer points out that it doesn't have to be that way. I hope that we all can take some time to handle these disputes -- and they are not trivial -- with more of a Christian outlook and mutual forbearance.

Who knows? If we begin the process in a pastoral way, instead of going immediately to adversarial actions, we might achieve some form of reconciliation. And if it is not possible, then we can at least part with each side asking God's blessing for their counterparts on the other side.

2 comments:

Quotidian Grace said...

Wouldn't it be nice if it came to pass that way?

Denis Hancock said...

I was actually thinking of the efforts your presbytery had made toward that end -- i.e. making it possible for churches to express discomfort without having an administrative commission slapped on them. Such commissions should be the last resort; not the first reflex.

How is that working out?