That day is somewhat closer now, since the PCUSA has just voted to permit the service of ministers who are neither straight nor single, nor pretending to be one or the other.
The debate of homosexuality, ferocious in many European and American churches, was perhaps especially so among the Presbyterians. During our seminary years, it had reached such a fevered pitch that the General Assembly actually shut down debate -- declared a moratorium -- in the hope that hackles would lower. Not so much, as it turned out.
The present decision will surely alienate some congregations and cost the church some members. It is unlikely that those already alienated by the status quo ante will come back in comparable numbers, and so the net impact, at least in the near term, is likely to be an accelerated loss of membership. And we expect that most voters knew that, which is a reminder that this decision (like those taken in the UCC, ELCA and PECUSA) is not a matter of cynical calculation, or an attempt to appease the fearsome Spirit of the Age with a stab at relevance. It is, on the contrary, a matter of principle, and a decision based upon the Gospel as those churches understand it.
That's important to remember, because the accusations will fly fast and furious for some time to come. In that line, and thinking of our last post, we couldn't help noticing the comment, in this Reuters report, by Duke sociologist Mark Chaves:
Chaves said his father, a voting member of his presbytery, was persuaded to vote for it due to the vitriol of opponents.
We hope, however vainly, that some of that vitriol will be kept in the bottle, now that the fait is all accompli. And in any case, we are happy for those of our friends and colleagues who have been doing, for all these years, what we all do, but who are now able to do it without hiding, lying or living in fear.