Pondering, pondering, pondering ... I do that a lot in the early morning hours, and it was earlier than usual this morning because of the storm, that came like a freight train, roaring winds and pounding rain.
So, here I am ... the storm has settled down into a steady rain ... and I'm still pondering ... encourage by the latest Presbyterians Today Magazine and a few stories about renewal, recovery and hope.
Looking back over my years of ministry, I think the #PCUSA spent a lot of time apologizing to the world (nothing entirely wrong with that), but much of it, I fear, was driven by the evangelical onslaught constantly throwing into our face "our many failures" ...
Membership loss, a sign of apostasy.
Preaching that doesn't save souls.
Confusion about Scripture.
Uncertainty about Jesus Christ.
Failure to support international mission.
Disregarding Scripture, first with women, and then homosexuality.
A left-wing social gospel prompted more by Marx than Mark.
A general abandonment of all things godly.
We can learn from our critics, and there are things here to ponder.
But this I know, we were knocked for a loop, and we felt bad. We felt bad about our losses, our confusion and our many sins. We hung our heads and moped around. We read books about "evangelical success" and wondered where we all went wrong.
The evangelicals were relentless in their criticism, and with each decade, some found one more reason to leave the PCUSA, to affiliate with a more conservative group or to start a new denomination. And we hung our heads and moped around, wondering what was wrong with us.
These days, though, I think we're pretty much done hanging our heads and moping around. For a lot of reasons, we've taken a deep breath and are finding ourselves again ... and learning that we can't be all things to all people. We can't ordain women and not ordain women. We can't ordain gays and lesbians and not ordain them. We can't be interfaith and reject other faiths. We can't welcome the latest in biblical scholarship and reject biblical scholarship. We can't read Genesis 1 and 2 literally and metaphorically. All of these are mutual polar opposites. After the last 50 years, we're learning that our "sins" weren't so sinful after all, and as much as some would love to see the "uneasy coalition" of interests and purpose remain intact, the settling out of the PCUSA is healthy and good.
There comes a time when some have to go this way and others that way.
It's all right.
In the PCUSA air I breath these days, heads are held higher and hearts beat with fresh hope. Yes, we have our issues, and that'll always be the case. But fresh winds are blowing, the sky is clearing, and the storms have passed.
It's a new day for the PCUSA ... and I affirm these essentials:
At our best, we are a tradition that:
Affirms and welcomes biblical scholarship ...
Resists fear and despondency ...
Affirms and welcomes everyone ...
Supports marriage equality and civil rights ...
Rejects the harsh rules and values of consumer capitalism ...
Affirms the role of government in the welfare of the people ...
Stands in solidarity with other faiths and celebrates the goodness of Jesus the Christ ...
Sings hymns, psalms and praise choruses ...
Welcomes missional, emergent, traditional and progressive insights ...
Works all around the world with faith, hope and love ... not afraid of the world, finding more friends than enemies, never threatened by other traditions and philosophies, eager to learn from all and eager to share what God has kindly given to us.
There's more to the story, I know ... and we'll discover more of ourselves as God shapes us for the remaining 21st Century ... learning by the love of Christ, to walk with heads held high enough to see the Christ lifted up, and to walk gladly in this world of ours, humbly because our sins are many and there's still so much more to learn, and gratefully, because God's grace is greater still.
The storm has passed, at least for now, and the rains are gentle. God's peace to the PCUSA, and in all things, "let our light shine before others, so they may see our good works and give glory to our Father in heaven."