Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Presbyterian Church (USA) Opens the Way for Gay Ordination

Googling around this morning, I stumbled across what I might not otherwise have known for some time to come: the Presbyterian Church (USA) has approved the ordination of gays and lesbians as ministers, following in the steps of several other mainline Protestant denominations.

Or to be more precise (since the mainstream media are not known for fastidiousness in their accuracy) as of yesterday a majority of the 173 presbyteries in the US have voted to approve an amendment to the Presbyterian Book of Order. Previously candidates for ordination were required to practice fidelity in marriage or chastity in singleness, which of course allowed for the ordination of a gay or lesbian who was single and chaste. Under the new change, it will be left up to each presbytery to decide for itself whom it will vote to ordain to the ministry. Straight or gay, chaste or sexually active or partnered or whatever.

As a lifelong active Presbyterian, I observe with some bemusement that, in the little rural Presbyterian congregation seven miles down the road where I regularly worship, this action will no doubt pass unremarked and unnoticed. Most of the people would be mildly upset if they knew. Most of the people have a life to live.

On the wider denominational scene, a quick check of comments and discussions on the Internet reveals that, just as I would've predicted, many of the progressives are pridefully and triumphalistically crowing, and calling anyone on the other side a "hater"; while many of the traditionalists are engaging in angry, rigid barking and snarling.

This is a big change from the past few decades, in which the traditionalists have held the edge. For these past few decades, many of the traditionalists were pridefully and triumphalistically crowing, and calling anyone on the other side a "sinner"; while many of the progressives were engaging in angry, rigid barking and snarling.

In other words, the wrangle within the denomination has passed on to a new stage, the continuation of internecine strife by other means. The prideful triumphalistic crowing continues. (And of course it's okay to hurl epithets at your enemies when you're on the "correct side" of the issue.) The angry, rigid barking and snarling continues. All that has changed is which side is doing which.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

And meanwhile, we Presbyterians out here in flyover country-- nonrigid unangry traditionalists, most of us, but middling well able to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, regardless of where we may stand and regardless of who they may be-- we will continue along as we have been, no doubt unsatisfactory to the extremists of either faction, for we neither pridefully crow nor angrily bark. No, we're resigned, many of us, to a half-inarticulate notion that the Church is and always has been a corpus mixtum. We believe that the Bible is indeed the Word of God, and that there really is something to this "love God and love your neighbor" business no matter who you're dealing with, and that there's a lot to be said for righteousness but it's not up to us to immanentize the eschaton: wheat and tares, y'know, that kind of thing?

I mean, be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect, only stop trying to out-pharisee the Pharisees, on behalf of either the conservative faction or the liberal faction in the Church.

For 2000 years the Church did one thing. From now on, the Church in its Presbyterian instantiation will be doing the opposite thing. Only the prideful crowing and the angry barking will remain the same. And may God have mercy on our souls.

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