An open letter to the Covenant Network, et. al. (Editor’s note: This is the group in the PCUSA that supports LGBT issues.)
The camel called the PCSUA is getting smaller and the load is getting heavier. Now is not the time to push or add to any more that load.
At seminary, I started out a liberal, but I wasn’t as liberal as I thought. Those of us who thought we were basically OK and otherwise just going about minding our own business were quickly and regularly badgered as to our many insensitivities toward women, gays and people from other cultures.
I may have been a Christian and Presbyterian, but unfortunately, I was also tall, white and male. Constant reminders of a privileged status (one I did not personally experience) were regularly held before me as support why I could not have a legitimate non-progressive opinion. I was white and male, and therefore a benefactor and contributor to an oppressive system that I empowered by simply breathing and attending classes.
That also made me a target for correction by others. There were always those who were more liberal than me or more completely progressive than me, and they felt perfectly justified in picking specks out of my eyes whenever they pleased.
I admit, I had plenty of specks to pick at – still do – but I have been working them out of my eyes and system for the past 25 years in the ordained ministry. Yet, somehow it’s never quite enough. There always seems to be someone – or some new group of someones – who have moved the sensitivity bar up another notch or two while I was busy talking about Jesus.
Here’s the thing: While I don’t think my speck-picking correctors are any better or worse Christians than I am, I don’t feel particularly responsible for mythical systems that neither I, nor my parents, nor my grandparents had anything to with. And yet, I’ve taken my lashes out of dutiful respect for the church and in the belief that unity must prevail. We are better together than apart, I keep telling myself.
But at what point does sensitivity work the other way? At what point do the progressively-sensitive ones acknowledge the feelings of conservatives and evangelical Presbyterians? At what point will the Covenant Network and all of the similarly-minded, church-based, gay-advocacy groups take a step back because their forcefulness has pushed down their conservative sisters and brothers?
Does there come a time when conservatives get to point out the speck in the collective progressive eye (We’ll not mention that from our point of view it looks like quite a plank) or is the reality that your brand of sensitivity is necessarily unilateral; progressivism or nil. It seems as though you are perfectly happy to be an inflexible coup on the path to becoming a tyranny of speck-picking progressivism.
Sensitivity has to work both ways if we are to remain united. Pushing gay ordination and gay marriage over the top will deeply offend the conscientious, Biblical worldview of too many of your brothers and sisters. If it happens, the PCUSA will lose more people and funding than can be accounted for by any previous movement. You might not care, but you certainly ought to.
It may be clearly within your power to strangle the whole PCUSA into legislative submission, but at what point does your collective conscience twinge at having overplayed your role? Is it possible for you not to do so? Do you who constantly cry out for mercy on behalf of others not have mercy to give to those you’ve pushed?
To the Covenant Network, et. al., I request kindly on behalf of your less-liberal remaining Presbyterian sisters and brothers: cease and desist, lay off a bit, coast a little – just enough for your present activism to be absorbed by the straights. Let the 2012 GA go unmolested.
Stay your hand.
Don’t strike the killing blow.
This camel needs a breather. It is smaller and weaker than it was in its youth and its back is heavily burdened. Please help keep the final straw off of it.
There now: we’ve asked politely. Show us how sensitivity works both ways.
Noel Anderson is the Executive Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Bakersfield, Calif. This commentary first appeared on The Presbyterian Layman and is used with permission.