Leaving? No. Protesting? Yes.

landingFor the record, we (the Presbyterian Lay Committee) are not going anywhere. We are, in fact, going everywhere. More on that later. Here I will offer comment, comfort and some castigation over the actions of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

By now you know that the General Assembly did the mental and intellectual gymnastics necessary to issue an Authoritative Interpretation (AI) of the constitution that ignores the plain meaning of “one man and one woman” and now allows nearly half the ordained clergy in the PCUSA to perform same-sex marriages. Every state that allows gay marriage to be performed, PCUSA ministers may now do so, and Presbyterian church property can be used for the same. The GA went on to send an amendment to the presbyteries for ratification to formally redefine marriage as between “two people,” but the horse will be fully out of the barn by the time a majority of presbyteries vote. We will certainly fight to resist passage of the amendment, but the vote will not affect the AI as it is based on the current language anyway. So, the PCUSA has a new theological and institutional position: same-sex marriage.

The GA also took action to divest its corporate holdings of three American companies whose products Israel uses in what the PCUSA deems “non-peaceful pursuits.” The backlash from the Jewish community and Israel itself has been vociferous. Our interfaith relationships have been heavily damaged. These are theologically, politically and relationally troubled waters that the PCUSA has stirred up when the hope was peacemaking.

The Social Witness policy decisions of the GA are a veritable minefield: new advocacy for progressive reforms of the U.S. tax code, the U.S. financial and political systems, U.S. drone policy, gun control including regulation of all ammunition, a controversial U.N. program on food sovereignty … the list goes on and on. Certainly the GA did some good things, but there is no denying that these are strange days in the life of the church and growing ever more so.

The damage done by this assembly to our global relationships is yet to be seen, as are the responses of regular members hitting the door. An exodus is expected, and the GA voted to increase per capita by 5 cents in 2015 and again in 2016 to spread the costs over a smaller number of members. How many will leave is not known. The actions of this assembly will almost assuredly exacerbate the exodus of congregations, but the GA did nothing to smooth that path.

Please read the statement of response by the Board of Directors of the Presbyterian Lay Committee to the actions of the PCUSA and the PLC’s recommendation of how you might respond. The proposal to stop funding a corporation that has been unresponsive to efforts by its stakeholders is to give the PCUSA a taste of its own divestment medicine. The redirecting or positive investment of your dollars to ministries and missions that are aligned with classical definitions of Reformed faith are heartily encouraged. Divesting financially from corporations who purport to be an expression of the Church but do not conform to the Scriptures at the most basic of levels is a legitimate protest of that corporation’s actions. To fully divest would be to leave and some will be called to do just that.

Please know this, we will seek to inform and equip you wherever you land. So, see, we’re not going anywhere, we’re going everywhere.

Carmen Fowler LaBerge