A Younglings White Paper
Get the word out. Teach all these things. And don’t let anyone put you down because you’re young. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. Stay at your post reading Scripture, giving counsel, teaching. And that special gift of ministry you were given when the leaders of the church laid hands on you and prayed—keep that dusted off and in use.
– 1 Timothy 4:11-14
These are interesting times to be a Teaching Elder (new terminology for a Pastor) in the PCUSA. It seems like the unending time of drawing the line in the sand is being drawn again. There are rumblings and conversations that the time of renewal groups such as Covenant Network and Presbyterians for Renewal is over. The words non-grographical presbyteries are being thrown around. It is not like this is new to most folks that have been in the “conversations” for many years. This is simply a different chapter or an ever evolving landscape that will not go away. The conversation topic might eventually change but what will remain is a continued fracture in our unity. A continued division in our Presbytery meetings marked with ignoring each other and not embracing with the fullness of God.
During the course of the past few weeks I have mentioned this to my colleagues, that this disturbs me. Actually it more than disturbs me, in words that I cannot actually describe besides that it breaks my heart. That those in a common ministry can simply ignore one another because we disagree with with a vast minority of our beliefs. We throw out words as heretical, deviating from the Word of God, homophobic, exclusionary, and words that are even worse. Whether people really realize this or not, a split in our denomination is upon us. There may be some that are trying to preserve our current denomination, but there is too much pain. The words that fill blogs, newsletters, and denominational news are discouraging.
Going back to mentioning this to my colleagues in ministry, I get the brush off. Apparently, I have not been in this long enough to “really” feel the pain of what’s going on. If I had invested more years then I can become polarized also. Granted I have only been a Minister of Word and Sacrament for seven months, but what about the seven years as a Commissioned Lay Pastor? Or the seven years of ministry before that? Or the three years on Presbytery Council? Or the six years on the Presbyter’s Nominating Committee? Or being a conservative-type person in a progressive leaning seminary for four years? While the date and signatures on my ordination certificate is still drying, I do feel that many of us “newbies” have much to contribute.
I have learned that when God truly calls you to something, ones heart gets broken. There is a core group of “younglings”. We come from different theological spectrums, church experiences, seminaries, and geographical parts of the United States; but yet we embrace each other for who we are. In overwhelming situations within Presbytery meetings the gloves do not come off, but the respect and the spirit of God blow within our relationships. In fact we pray for each other when they get up to present a dissenting opinion, praying that the other has the courage and strength to speak our convictions. This is a microcosm of what the church should be. We could be dissenting in thoughts and ideas, but allowing for conversation and relationships to exist within it.
At the beginning I stated that I was too young to truly understand or have an viewpoint in line with everyone else. That I would get to their point in time. Us, younglings are suppose to set a different course. One without the baggage that others have. An opportunity to do and act differently. It is my prayer that we begin to set a new course, a new path, a new way of doing relationships, a new reality. But this remains an uphill battle and requires younglings and others to chart this and move away from the way it has always been done. This denomination will be entrusted to us in the future and what do you want it to look like? Fragmented or united?
We set the example in many things by word, demeanor, love, faith, and integrity. It starts now.