The Rev. Donna Marsh, Fellowship Community
In stressful times, everyone wishes for a silver bullet: one simple way out of a difficult mess, one thing to do to resolve interlocking problems. Every parent of a troubled teen searches desperately for one mentor or one school that will get the beloved child back on track. In troubled marriages, the couple often searches for one life change that will renew their relationship—a new city, they think, maybe a new baby (heavens, no) or a new job. As their pastors and friends, we know that there are no silver bullets in these situations, only much hard work to be done.
Yet we in the Church pine for silver bullets of our own. If only we could get our doctrine right, we would reclaim the voice of Gospel truth. If only we could make the world see a compelling witness for justice, people would flock to join our cause. If only we could find the right institutional framework, the Church would be liberated from its bureaucratic bondage and freed for missional enterprise. If only we could have the rightbi-partisan conversation the right way, unity would spring forth anew. If only everyone who walked in the doors of a church felt affirmed, surely they would embrace and follow Jesus Christ.
It’s not that simple. Consider just two pieces of anecdotal evidence. At a recent memorial service, I spoke with an elder from one of the Washington area’s most respected evangelical congregations. This church’s doctrine, and its internal and external moral stances are, by the standards of its peers, pure as the driven snow. They switched denominations long ago and thus have not been plagued by the PCUSA for decades. They also just trimmed 1,000 people from their rolls and are cutting major programs.
Lest any schadenfreude ensue, my presbytery is littered with the carcasses and dying remnants of congregations who have been standard bearers of progressive theology and politics for decades. They have marched and protested and lived out their values by quietly or not so quietly rendering their own authoritative interpretations of the Book of Order for years. And they are losing their voices, literally and figuratively.
Yet we serve a God who is fiercely alive, radically redemptive, powerfully present and rapidly building a vibrant global Church. Under present circumstances, I begrudge no one leaving the PCUSA to make a home in another part of that Church. The body of Christ is a big place.