Friday, September 02, 2011

Minneapolis: The Tone

I returned from the Fellowship of Presbyterians gathering in Minneapolis about a week ago. Almost 2000 participants from 840 congregations came together to worship, and wrestle with the way forward in a badly divided denomination.  I'll be posting some reflections over the next few days. If you're not a Presbyterian please be patient.  I'll return to chasing after our non-denominational God soon.

The tone of the conference was set by one simple statement from the front: "We're not mad." In truth many participants were.  But rancor over the PCUSA's doctrinal divisions over sexual practice was minimal.  There was little effort to place blame. Instead there was a suprisingly practical, clear-eyed affirmation that for many a bridge had been crossed and there could be no return to Presbyterian life as it was.

I'm thankful for the tone. Many of us left our anger over the malaise and confusion of our denomination behind a while ago.  There is instead a sadness mixed with commitment that we will not do the future as the denomination has done past.  The attitude was summarized in the phrase "join where we can, differentiate where we must." 

Because there was little room given to blaming and bickering there was much room given to problem solving.  And because tentative solutions were proposed to our national divisions, there was perhaps one of the most valuable outcomes of all: hope.  Many of us left with the optimism that a way forward can be found.  Not one way forward.  Not one plan that will serve all churches struggling with deep discontent over their denominational identity. But a menu of approaches that will allow congregations to operate with something other than despair or incautious plans for departure.  More on the menu in the days ahead.

Whatever else comes of the conference in the days ahead, it was for many a source of water in a dry time.

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