Like many others in my denomination, I have been following the FOP (Fellowship of Presbyterians) gathering being held right now in Minnesota. I have been following it almost exclusively through twitter and the hashtag #MN2011. It’s an interesting way to follow the conference because it is a mix of people there who are excited about the ideas being presented and discussed, some who wish they could be there, and a fair amount of people who are anything but supporters of FOP. As I am watching the comments fly back and forth (and writing some of my own), I see a familiar pattern of conversation that has typified this conversation for years.
Simply put, when progressive Christians and conservative Christians speak to one another they often impune each other’s faith and motivations.
For progressive Christians it often looks like this, “You must not love gay people because you think homosexuality is sinful.”
A better way to say this might be: “I affirm that you are earnestly trying to follow Jesus command to love all people. That’s not the issue. Where I think you have erred is that you have misinterpreted scripture regarding homosexuality.”
Likewise, for conservative Christians it can look like this, “Because you support GLBT ordination you must have a low regard for scripture and be willing to ignore God’s voice and instead follow society’s norms.”
The better way to say this could be: “I affirm that you take the Bible seriously and that you have the same desire to follow God that I do, but your interpretation of Scripture is flawed and, in my opinion, is leading you to some unBiblical conclusions.”
In both those cases the conversation shifted from denigrating people’s faith to questioning their judgment or reasoning. For me, I have no problem being in a conversation where people state that my judgment or reasoning may be wrong. I am wrong frequently and for someone to say I might be wrong isn’t threatening. But if you begin a conversation with me by stating that I don’t take the Bible seriously or that my faith is less than yours then you have made it hard for me to listen to you.
This is why, in my opinion, there is backlash against the FOP gathering. There are things being said by the leadership and the people attending that go beyond questioning people’s judgment or interpretation of scripture, and instead questions their faith in God, and commitment to taking Scripture seriously.
For example, there was a Presbyterian Outlook article that summarized some of the first day of the FOP gathering. A couple things caught my attention.
“We’re not mad,” Singleton said. “Our best solutions, we are convinced, will not be made in anger.” Repeatedly, he commended the PC(USA) leadership in Louisville for becoming involved in the conversation. Crosby said: “We are not calling anyone apostate.”
I was glad to hear that. As I said above, it’s hard for me to be in dialogue with you when you are questioning my commitment to God. But…
Any new entity would include a theological statement of essential tenets that would be evangelical, orthodox and morally sound. “By golly, we’re going to stand on Scripture and its authority,” and not be embarrassed to describe essential truths, Singleton said.
And now you’ve lost me. The implication is that the PC(USA), of which I am a part of and committed to, is not intedning to stand on Scripture and its authority, and is also embarrassed to describe essential truths. This questions my motives and my commitment to Scripture. You haven’t just said that I have erred in my judgment (which I am fine with), but that I wasn’t trying to stand on Scripture in the first place.
I, along with thousands of others, will be a voting commissioner when any proposals for new ways forward come for a Presbytery vote. If you would like me to support something that allows new ways of temporarily or permanently being in the PC(USA) together, then I will need to to know that my commitment to God won’t continually be questioned by my Presbyterian brothers and sisters.