Presbyterian Church: Evangelicals suddenly on the wrong side in gay marriage debate |


5 thoughts on “Presbyterian Church: Evangelicals suddenly on the wrong side in gay marriage debate |

  1. So there may be a part of this story we are not hearing.

    The “vote to stay connected” is a bit of a misleading way to describe what is more likely to have happened. There is no such thing as a congregational vote like that in PCUSA polity. The vote would have been on the question of whether to disaffiliate, andm based on that Presbytery’s policy (outlined here: it would have required a 2/3 majority of the congregation voting for disaffiliation to make that a possibility. So when the article claims the congregational vote was to remain affiliated, it was actually simply that less than the required 2/3 majority voted to disaffiliate. The pastor in question then goes on to say the denomination somehow prevented the 2/3 vote from being attained by “latching on to a minority and give them property rights and rights to finances and say to the minority [sic] you have to hit the bricks.”

    If you are a presbytery, or a UMC cabinet, and you see a congregation with a pastor advocating strongly against the direction the highest denominational body has taken, and if in the process you also see the congregation that pastor leads create a vote to disaffiliate, and it fails to meet the majority required, what you are also likely seeing is a very split church. And since it’s leadership failed to deliver on the direction it was leading, and thus in effect caused the split, you’re also seeing leadership that is now discredited.

    If you are the pastor and session in this situation, do you really think you are in a position to fix the broken and divided fellowship that resulted because you and the session allowed the disaffiliation vote and the politicking necessary to get it to go your way (whichever way that may have been)?

    If you have the power to create an interim leadership structure that might lead to healing and a new way to go forward rather than hostility the vote and what led up to it created, would you not take it?

    This article is poor journalism. It takes the pastor’s word, only, in this case, and then reports only on stories generated by removed pastors elsewhere. It misrepresents or perhaps simply misunderstands the process of a “vote to stay affiliated” in PCUSA. And its author didn’t wait to get any input from the presbytery’s perspective, not even enough to recognize what the presbytery’s policies and processes are (there’s a link to them on the Presbytery’s home page) with regard to the dismissal of congregations or the corrective responsibility and discretion a Presbytery has when a church finds itself in a significant leadership crisis.

    I don’t claim to know what really happened, why the presbytery did what it did, or whether in this particular case that was the best thing to do. But I do know enough about the politics of these kinds of votes in PCUSA, particularly when they fail, to understand the notion that this was an “affirmative” vote of the congregation to stay affiliated is misleading at best. And I think I know enough about church politics to say if the pastor truly didn’t want there to be a vote for disaffiliation, it’s likely that wouldn’t have happened.

    1. It will be interesting to see what is said when the spokesperson comes back from Honduras. I’m sure that congregation had been troubled for a while, and I’m sure there are many layers to this — as there are in any story. As a former journalist, I’m aware of the challenge of not knowing or understanding the full process, but I’m not sympathetic to the idea that the paper should have held the story until the only person in the Presbytery who is allowed to speak to the media comes back from overseas. Sources need to be given an opportunity to contribute to a story, but should not expect to control the publication schedule of stories by not having anyone authorized to talk. What if the main spokesperson was in a car wreck? Would not one be allowed to speak? It is not taking one side’s word when the other side refuses to talk.

      1. John,

        The poor journalism here was the failure to read or ask any clarifying questions about the presbytery’s stated process for dealing with cases of possible disaffiliation. The link to the disaffiliation process document was on the presbytery’s website, prominently displayed, in fact, on the upper right at the top of the links in that column. If the reporter had read this, it would have been quite evident that the congregational vote was in fact NOT a vote to affiliate, but a vote on whether to disaffiliate. Then the journalist could have pushed back on the claim the pastor apparently made to the contrary and, perhaps, have presented a fuller version of the facts without needing to wait for the communication officer to get back from Honduras to speak to the personnel decisions taken by the presbytery, which is a different, though likely related, issue.

        In short, rather than seeking to tell the whole story, this journalist chose to tell just this pastor’s side of the story, and find other “facts” that seemed to corroborate it, even when actual facts were available which would have called some of the pastor’s story, as the pastor framed it, into serious question.

        1. Yes. And the follow up story might discuss some of that. But I assume the disaffiliation got more than 50%, so reference to a minority sounds fair. I understand that there is another side to the story, but the newspaper comes out every day. Some days you tell the side that is willing to talk. Tomorrow you tell the other side. Some days you get to cover all the bases in one story. That is best, but not always possible given the reality in which journalism gets done.

  2. Taylor Burton-Edwards’ excursus on this subject had me howling with laughter as he ably describes how “leadership” splits a church by pursuing its agenda at any cost and is thus “discredited.” Wow! He even lambasts journalism for “taking the pastor’s word, only” to shape its story. What an amazing, tear-blinding revelation of our own tormented ranks in the spell of a raging rebellion against tradition, with the complicity of pastors and episcopal leaders and UMC communications. Tendentious journalism vaunts itself against every other authority in the UMC today, posing as reasonableness and charity, but all the while feeding the flames.

Comments are closed.