Can a Church Split Truly Be Gracious?

ndchurch

The directions are easy. Drive north; turn left just before you hit Canada. In recent months, I became accustomed to the two and a half hour drive from Fargo, N.D. to Bathgate, N.D. The Presbyterian church in Bathgate had asked to be dismissed from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). As chair of the task force to engage with the congregation concerning its possible disaffiliation, I made that drive north often. Out my window I saw the wheat, beans, and sugar beets planted in the fields rich with Red River valley soil. Then harvest came. As our meetings dragged into winter, one night my car’s temperature gauge measured minus 18 degrees Fahrenheit. Disaffiliation in North Dakota is not for the faint of heart.

Denominational rifts are everywhere. In 2012, a group of Presbyterians founded the Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians, calling itself a new Reformed body. Their website reports they now number 127 congregations and 213 pastors. Most of these come from the PCUSA. Beyond my denomination, there is a growing rift and talk of a possible schism in the United Methodist Church. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has lost approximately 600 congregations in the past few years. The Anglican Communion views the Episcopal Church of the United States with increasing suspicion.

Aware of this context, I approached the Bathgate church eager to convince them to stay in the fold. At first I thought a few frank conversations and my young adult energy would turn them around. They just needed to know the truth about the PCUSA, I figured. Even as I began every meeting with prayer about being open to the Holy Spirit’s movement in our midst, asking for signs as to what new thing God might be up to in Bathgate, I was pretty sure in a matter of months they would choose to stay put. Change is hard, after all, and on the prairie it comes slowly.

I don’t remember the 1983 establishment of the Presbyterian Church (USA), but I was there.I was only a few months old when my family traveled to Atlanta for what many called the “reunification” of the southern-based Presbyterian Church in the United States with the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

There’s a great family photo with my grandfather, great-uncle, father—all pastors—and me sleeping in my stroller in the foreground. Reunification brought my family’s pastors back into the same denomination. In the intervening years while I’ve flirted with Lutheranism and interned in the Church of Scotland, the PCUSA has always been my true home. It’s through the PCUSA that I received a seminary education and found my pastoral voice. It’s in the PCUSA that I learned the hymns of the church and fell in love with Reformed theology. It’s the elders and members of the PCUSA who taught me God’s grace in word and deed.

Because of this foundation, I was more than happy to champion the PCUSA in Bathgate. According to the 2010 census, the population of Bathgate is 43. No other churches line the town’s dirt roads, though one rather dilapidated bar still stands. It is the only business in town. Even so, Bathgate Presbyterian Church is a lively congregation. Its Sunday School is thriving. The large kitchen has all the modern conveniences. A few years back when the church building needed renovating, the members built a new one themselves. They did a great job. It’s a warm, inviting space for ministry.

In the past year, church leadership publication headlines have highlighted Menlo Park Presbyterian Church’s dismissal from the denomination and its $8.89 million payoff to the Presbytery of San Francisco. Such eye-popping settlements reflect the PCUSA trust clause concerning church property (and California property values). As our Book of Order puts it, all property is held in trust “for the use and benefit of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)”—even a newly built building in Bathgate, population 43.

As if theological disagreements are not fraught enough, PCUSA congregations seeking to leave the denomination must negotiate financial terms with the presbytery before they can leave. For some members already fed up with the PCUSA, these requirements feel like the presbytery is a captor demanding ransom. I have come to sympathize with this perspective—practically speaking, what would the presbytery do with a church building in Bathgate? A realtor declined even to offer an appraisal explaining no similar buildings had sold in the county in the previous three years. In rural North Dakota, there’s simply no market for abandoned buildings. We have plenty already.

After one of our more heated meetings with the congregation, our task force decided our next meeting should return to the basics. Together, task force and congregation, we engaged in a Bible study on Ephesians 4:1-6. We discussed the calling to which we were called. We considered together—not always agreeing—what it means that there is “one body and one Spirit” that we should maintain, bound together in peace. Even now, I don’t fully understand. Their pastor and elders have made the same vows I did, “to further the peace, unity, and purity of the church.” But, according to the good Presbyterians of Bathgate, their faith in the one God was leading them out of the denomination I love. Yet love also required that I take them at their word.

It was as if the congregation was asking for a divorce. They blamed the separation on a wide range of factors and feelings, but ultimately the facts were clear: the congregation was no longer in love with the PCUSA. Whatever embers of mutual love once burned were now long extinguished. The congregation did not believe we could live together in a partnership that pleased God. While I had hoped my task force would serve as a sort marriage counselor, we eventually realized our function was more akin to attorney. It was over. Love is an odd thing; the congregation needed to leave in order to love us as sisters and brothers in Christ. As our policies put it, we sought “a gracious separation.”

Why? When I mentioned to friends that I was setting off for another meeting up north, this was always their question. “Why do they want to leave?” I never found a fully satisfactory answer. Such rifts rarely make sense. Yes, there was the fact that the PCUSA now allows for the ordination of pastors and elders regardless of their sexual orientation. There’s what the congregation perceived as the PCUSA’s alignment with a progressive political agenda. There were questions of whether all PCUSA pastors believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. One member even complained that the PCUSA’s new hymnal does not include the song “In Christ Alone” (I bit my tongue deciding not to mention that I served on the committee that made that decision).

Our last meeting in Bathgate proved the most poignant. After months of deliberation and financial negotiation, the congregation was finally prepared to take a vote on whether to leave and pay a negotiated settlement totaling over $20,000. The Session called a congregational meeting to be held after worship. To my surprise, they invited me to preach.

I have preached in various contexts over the years—at conferences with over 1,000 people present, at a church not far from Bathgate when four souls showed up, on the seashore in Scotland, and around a campfire in Florida—but never had I preached for a congregation on the day they would vote to leave my denomination.

As I wrestled with my feelings of confusion and inadequacy, the Spirit focused us on the gospel. The lectionary passage for the day was Matthew 4:1-11, Jesus’ testing in the wilderness. Emboldened by a commentary from David Lose, I avoided the obvious theme of temptation, and considered identity instead. While in some very real ways, with an affirmative vote the members of the congregation would soon vote to change their denominational identity, I explained that they were powerless to change their ultimate identity. I preached to myself, as much for them:

Despite the weighty choice of the vote to come, a simple truth remains: there is no way to vote your way out of God’s love. No string of denominational acronyms can ever put you beyond the power of God’s grace. Jesus first voted for you and God’s partnership with you can never be undone.

A few minutes later, the vote was nearly unanimous to leave the PCUSA for the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. In a few weeks, the presbytery concurred and once the PCUSA seal is taken down from the front of the building and the checks clear, Bathgate Presbyterian Church is no longer a congregation of the PCUSA.

It’s unlikely I’ll have reason to make the drive from Fargo to Bathgate anytime soon. This fact pains me for I believe the denomination is better off with diverse congregations, liberal and conservative, urban and rural, small and large. It pains me because the relationship between Bathgate Presbyterians and the predecessor denominations that formed the PCUSA in 1983 go back many generations. It pains me because it’s hard to act like we are “one in Christ” when we split apart.

And yet, when I drove away from that congregational meeting (stomach full of casseroles and coffee) my heart was light. I cannot pretend to understand how, but after the vote, the congregation members felt free. They expressed an eagerness for ministry and a renewed joy in the gospel. As I shook their hands in parting, fully committed to my continued service in the PCUSA, I sensed the Spirit at work in Bathgate. Denominational acronyms be damned.

acopela1@cord.edu'

Rev. Adam J. Copeland teaches at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota where he is Faculty Director for Faith and Leadership.

  • Jim Reed

    I think Christianity has long been dealing with these issues, and not totally understanding what is going on. We were a different Christian world 50 years ago, and then around the 80s you had the moral majority, and Christianity sold their soul to the party of the rich. This was a political divide that couldn’t quite be acknowledged for the sake of keeping Christianity whole, and as a result, Christianity proper didn’t deal with the increasing problems being caused by the conservative brethren. You can hold off dealing with it for some decades, but the problems will keep growing until some day you have to face it. This may be the time. There is no unity. There is only individual decisions that often become group decisions. The conservative church is led by people who are rewarded for being more conservative, and they lead that direction. Progressive Christians have to be either influenced by this turn of events and more and more accepting of it, or they have to turn the other direction and make a break. This creates a divide that can only grow because as the conservatives bleed off a few who can no longer follow the conservatve values, the conservative side skews a little more conservative, and association with the more conservative group makes them more and more sure of the rightness of the direction they are going. That makes it more obvious to the others how important it is to leave them behind, and run in the opposite direction. After the peacemakers pray over the situation, it can be hard for some to see clearly what is happening, but the split will just continue to grow. I guess that will be your problem. Good luck.

  • http://takefiveanytime.blogspot.com Tom Eggebeen

    Up close and personal, it’s always hard when a group takes a look at a set of values held dear by some and says, “Don’t think so. We’ll go somewhere else.” But it’s happened ever since Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways. For reasons that remain quite beyond my grasp, it’s always been easy for Christians, though they would be the first to deny the ease, to walk away from one another.

    For a good many years now, the larger loyalty essential to community and family has been under attack by what I call “purity” voices … settling for theological purity over the peace of the church, or at least making theological purity a condition for peace, which is like me saying to my wife, “I will love you if and when you completely agree with me, because I happen to be right.”

    Much of this is rooted in the conversion theology of America which has always run counter to covenant theology and has always been more popular (read populist). In covenant theology, the glory is God’s, and God’s alone; in conversion theology, a good chunk of the glory belongs to the believer who was smart enough to make a decision for Christ.

    And location cannot be discounted – this is North Dakota – http://history.nd.gov/ndhistory/politicrealign.html

    In a changing world where the settled “truths” of the imagined 1950s are quickly disappearing, the EPC offers a refuge for the weary, a bulwark against the tide of change – they, and perhaps their children, will be able to secure a level of peace for awhile. The kind of peace, I think, offered by the world of religion, not Jesus.

    Gracious dismissal? Well, it’s done. And like a lot of things, the quicker the better. The realignment is needed sometimes, like plate tectonics and fault lines – an earthquakes relieves the stress for a while, and everyone hopes for the damage to be minimal.

  • John Stuart

    Yes, Tom, I’ve been at the other end of a gracious dismissal policy on the ‘Happy to Be a Presbyterian’ page. You just have to disagree and you end up being cut out entirely, without even a courteous communication. So much for the diversification in the church that Adam opines. God bless.

  • robdroste

    I appreciate your thoughtful approach to this painful event. At the same time, I wish you had provided a deeper analysis of what the issues really were. “We just fell out if love” doesn’t seem to capture it. You touch on the GLBTQ issue, but I think too lightly, and when they talk about the “progressive agenda” they’re using code language that I hope was probed deeply during the conversations. In my 10+ years of parish work, typically this kind of conflict emanated from one strong personality that created a clique to get their way. It would be sad to allow that to pull a whole congregation out of the denomination.

    Having said all that, I’m reminded of what they sometimes say in AA meetings: “All you need to start a new meeting is a resentment and a coffee pot.”

  • Harry Underwood

    I wonder if the whole conceit of a “serious congregational split” is due to the tendency of Abrahamic religion to vary widely in their interpretation of a physical object called a book.

    What if the physicality of a book or other thick volume of guiding documents is reflected in the assumption of a body of believers that their interpretation must be as solid and unchanging as the book?

  • Jim Reed

    Those religions rely on guidance from God, but the nature of religion is God doesn’t get involved. They have to fake it, but that always ends up being of limited value.

  • Jim Reed

    The deeper you probe on these issues, the deeper the split grows. That is the lesson of the last couple decades in this nation. The progressive agenda has been to try to ignore the conservative problem, but they did that for too long, and now bridging the divide is probably impossible. They need to face the fact that Christianity is now two totally separate religions with two very different Gods. Ignoring this just means all the progressive denominations will continue to be lost.

  • robdroste

    You make an interesting point – “two totally separate religions with two very different Gods.” I’m not sure I’m ready to go that far, but I would agree that progressive denominations have expended (wasted?) a tremendous amount of time, money and energy on trying to accommodate other perspectives where accommodation was basically impossible. We would do well to examine why such reconciliation couldn’t happen. I believe it points to a fundamental disagreement about the nature of our mission, because widely divergent groups can work together if they can at least agree on the overarching mission.

  • Jim Reed

    Why would you want to work together? And what do you mean by overarching mission? Is that to convert more of the world to Christianity? Would that even be a good idea?

  • robdroste

    Rather than ask me questions, which seems aggressive to me, why not start with giving me your position on each of them and let me respond?

  • Jim Reed

    I guess it gets back to what is Christianity? My answer would have to be I see two different Christianities, conservative and progressive. Conservative Christianity believes all the beliefs, the Bible is true, evolution is not because it goes against the Bible, and Jesus is coming any time now to rapture believers and fight non-believers. Conservative Christians became far more dangerous when they linked up with the fiscal conservatives (Republicans) because the Republicans tell them what they want to hear, and Christians reward them with the votes to win elections, and Republicans use that power to make themselves more rich.

    Progressive Christians are the opposite, although they seem to have a hard time understanding just what that means. The beliefs become optional. Adam and Eve is a story and not actual people, evolution might be true, heaven and hell might not actually exist. If you push the point, even the stories about Jesus might be metaphor and allegory, and the miracles didn’t necessarily happen. So what is the basic truth of Christianity? Maybe there is none, and everyone is responsible for their own relationship to the religion. This is a slow process. You can’t just make the leap to having no beliefs, so progressive Christianity has to find a winding path that may take generations to get there.

    Given that, evangelism becomes a problem. You certainly don’t want the conservatives to recruit more people because that way is insanity. Progressive evangelism is needed to keep the church going and growing, but what is it recruiting for? Why is progressive Christianity better than something like secular humanism? Is it just humanism with an option of believing you will go to heaven with your loved ones? I think progressive Christianity is lost, and with no possiblility of finding themselves, because there is nothing to find, other than to find a gentle way to end the religion.

    Conservative Christianity will continue to bleed off people, and skew more insane in the process, and hopefully eventually grow too small to do any more political damage to the nation.

    Hopefully this answers my questions.

  • robdroste

    Thanks for taking time to answer these. Very interesting. I’ve been reading recently about three different kinds of Christianity, each of which has profound mission implications. They are Christianity as Orthodox/Conservative/Lawbringers (Type A), Christianity as Seekers of the Truth/Liberal (Type B) and Christianity as Path to Liberation and Wholeness/Liberation (Type C). I think most of the denominations you’d call conservative would be A and progressive B and/or C.

    I agree with you that the alliance between conservative/right-wing politicians and Type A denominations/megachurches is an unholy one at best. It’s terrifying, and utterly out of touch with the spirit of Jesus’ life and teachings. I believe that these kinds of churches will decline in the next decades.

    I’d also agree that many/most of the progressive/Type B denominations are weak, uninteresting, boring, irrelevant and unable to find a kind of robust confidence (probably just in their nature) to offer anything that is, in itself, superior to secular humanism. In fact, in my preaching, I’ve often said, “if you just want to do good stuff, join the Sierra Club. They do it better than we do and they don’t ask you to love your enemies.”

    However, I’m not quite yet willing to write off the possibilities of a healthy 21st Christianity, and I am drawn to the Type C approach. It values humanity while recognizing the reality of human brokenness, values a personal experience of transformation through a relationship with Jesus Christ while emphasizing the importance of actively confronting corrupt systems that perpetuate suffering.

    In other words, I’d call myself a progressive evangelical. I don’t hold that Jesus is the only route to salvation (understood as a process of liberation and growth to wholeness and healing), but I do hold that putting our trust in him can offer such a change in ways that are beyond our limited, and likely universally corrupted, reason to achieve. I have experienced those myself, and have found wholeness and, I believe, some clarity, in sharing those experiences with others inside and outside the church.

    As for mission, I believe the church exists to continue to witness courageously and creatively to that reality, the reality of justice, beyond the distorted one that pervades our media and culture, and to provide a way, through a variety of practices, to reinforce an entirely different reality which we would call the Reign of God.

  • phatkhat

    What an interesting concept – two religions with two gods, yet both calling themselves the same thing. But, yes, it DOES seem to be two totally different gods they worship, and two totally different religions. One is authoritarian and legalistic, bound and determined to dominate the world. The other is, well, more “Christian” in the sense of Jesus’ commands to take care of the needy and do good works.

  • Jim Reed

    People of diverse opinion can get together on RD and discuss it. That kind of discussion seems rare. Another question would be how intense are religious beliefs. I think I see a negative correlation between strongly held religious beliefs and rational thinking on any given topic.

  • robdroste

    That’s certainly true in some cases. But then I think about people like Thomas Merton, Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, etc. and realize that some folks’ rationality is enhanced by their faith (or so I think they would have said).

  • the_enemy_hates_clarity

    The differences between orthodox christian belief and progressive christian belief are myriad. Here are some of them:
    1. Orthodoxy is a theology of divine redemption. Progressives believe in a theology of divine acceptance.
    2. Orthodox: Jesus is the only way to salvation. Progressive: Jesus is one of the ways to salvation.
    3. Orthodox-man is basically sinful. Progressive-man is basically good.
    4. Orthodox-Core biblical claims are absolute; social and political movements are debatable. Progressives are ambiguous about core biblical claims but express confidence in social and political movements.
    5 Orthodox-Abortion is always wrong. Progressives-abortion is sometimes a moral choice.
    6. Orthodox-tolerance, diversity and acceptance are means to an end. Progressive-tolerance, diversity and acceptance are ends in and of themselves.

    In Christ,

    The enemy hates clarity

  • Jim Reed

    There may be no salvation, other than to make things work here and save the earth.

  • the_enemy_hates_clarity

    But a church cannot teach both. If you believe that there is salvation through Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ only, how do you belong to the same church as someone who believes there is no salvation? What do you teach? I am not a Presbyterian, but if the PCUSA teaches there is no salvation or that salvation is available some way other than through Jesus, and the Bathgate church teaches that salvation is only through Jesus, I see why they wanted to leave. Someone is dreadfully wrong, and if Bathgate is right, that error will have eternal consequences.

    In Christ,

    The enemy hates clarity

  • Jim Reed

    I think things are starting to change. There is a new book out on the historicity of Jesus showing none of the books of the New Testament are actually about a human Jesus of Nazareth. They are either about a heavenly Christ, or a collection of myths written for political and ecclesiastical reasons. I am sure it will take a while, but that is where we will end up because you can’t fight the actual history with apologetics.

  • the_enemy_hates_clarity

    Good conversation, although I hope we are not talking past each other. A couple of points:

    1. On the issue of unity between orthodox “christians” and liberal “christians,” I hope you would agree that those who believe in a fully human/fully divine Jesus who died as atonement for your sins and mine cannot coexist with those who believe either in a heavenly Christ (one of the first heresies from an orthodox christian standpoint), or who believe the Bible is “a collection of myths written for political and ecclesiastical reasons.” That would mean someone is sacrificing intellectual integrity.

    2. As to a “new book out on the historicity of Jesus showing none of the books of the New Testament are actually about a human Jesus of Nazareth,”; well, as noted above, that is an heresy that has been around for centuries. It is not a choice of history or apologetics. “Jesus Christ died on the cross” is a historical statement. “Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins” is a theological statement. Logically, both can be true. A great, short and clear book on orthodox Christian apologetics is Can we Trust the Gospels? by Mark Roberts.

    3. You sound like an intellectually honest person. My prayer is that you will meet the risen Christ. It is wonderful, and well worth it.

    Good night!

    In Christ,

    The enemy hates clarity

  • dogged

    Since the swinging 60s, the church of my Baptism, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American or ELCA (and its predecessor body the LCA) marketed itself as a prophetic sounding board for the left-wing policies of the Democrat Party. Nuclear disarmaments & freezes, women’s “reproductive health” issues, redistribution of wealth, racial & ethnic quotas—-You name it and they were out there painting a pious veneer onto some very thorny secular movements. Jesus morphed into some sort of barefoot Marxist hawking “social justice”. But the membership of Liberal Protestant bodies is in a dramatic nosedive. Bad karma?

  • http://www.swordcrossrocket.com swordcrossrocket

    it probably will fade, just like the rest of the books that seek to debunk Jesus. It’s a cottage industry that tends to come and go without much impact.

  • pennyjane

    the reason we split is the same reason we always split…bigotry. we split over racism (bigotry), we split over misogyny (bigotry) and now we are splitting over homophobia (bigotry.)
    with the same breath you declare another person unworthy you declare yourself worthy. what possible use have the worthy for Jesus?
    all this academic talk is interesting and theologically provocative, but the reason for the split is far simpler than theology. there is no need to ascribe a deep theology to what can be explained by simple bigotry.

  • Jim Reed

    I meant Christianity will fade. It already has quite a bit. It is not like it was, total confidence that Christianity is true. Now that even believers can question heaven or hell, or if Jesus is the only way to salvation, we are on the path.

  • Jim Reed

    It was not the final answer, just a stepping stone along the way. That provides a gradual path where religion can back down from a dogmatic past.

  • Jim Reed

    Apologetics is a study in its true because its true. If you take it too seriously, it will mess up your thinking.

  • robdroste

    I think that bigotry is part of the problem, but that the situation is more complicated than that. But even if the problem were, as you say, “simple bigotry,” what do we do about it? None of us is free of it; we just have our own personal versions that we think are OK. We could make it really simple if we said to the other, “you’re just a bigot. That’s the problem here. Go ahead and leave. We’re sort of sad to see you go, but we’re really better off without you and your bigotry.” Certainly simple enough.

    But what I’m interested in is how we move forward from here. Now that the door to splitting up over multiple issues (war/peace, civil rights, the environment, women’s equality, LBGTQ equality, etc.) has been kicked wide open, is it healthier to just go ahead and continue splitting over disagreements than “stay together for the sake of the children”? It might be. But are we really ready to stop trying? Where will it end?

    It seems to me that over the years, personal differences of opinion in an individual congregation have only been overcome (and yes, sometimes, just shoved under the rug) by a general agreement on a compelling purpose. That’s what’s been lost. And with it, fights over differences easily move to center stage. Once that happens, it’s tremendously difficult to find it again.

  • pennyjane

    well, as i said, i don’t think the problem goes beyond bigotry. trying to find another reason is just a diversion. treating the symptoms might help keep the patient alive for awhile but while you’re doing that you have to keep the underlying pathology in mind or the symptoms will keep adding up until such treatment is overwhelmed and the patient dies anyway.
    if i knew how to treat bigotry i’d quickly become Jesus’ favorite child for i don’t think there is anything we couldn’t do if we could send bigotry to the trash heap of history; nothing at all! when bigotry is eliminated God’s Kingdom on Earth will be realized, for bigotry is the devil manifested.
    for myself, i will not be diverted. i will call out bigotry where i see it and stand fast against it, i will not aqueous, i will not incorporate it in the name of togetherness. a church at peace with bigotry is not a church i want anything to do with.
    i see pc-usa as a reforming church, reforming, not reformed. for those who are already where they want to go….go in peace.

  • Jim Reed

    Maybe what you see as “God’s Kingdom on Earth” is actually another form of bigotry. The problem probably starts with the religions. Maybe it would be better to forget them all and start over. We can do better, and we don’t need God. If God wants to be involved in what we do, then fine, but it has to be up to Him to get involved, and not left to humans to use the concept of God to influence other humans.

  • pennyjane

    well….maybe that’s good enough for you, jim, and certainly good enough for right wingers to adjudicate anti-bigotry as bigotry….tortured logic….but people who believe in God don’t have the option to “start over, and we don’t need God.” atheists and agnostics can make such assessments, believers actually believe. if you think believers will ever accept that we should just toss our beliefs aside because YOU don’t think like us….well, that’s just fantasy, not rational discussion.

  • Jim Reed

    That is the direction we are headed over time. If religion worked the results would have been different.

  • pennyjane

    maybe you’re right…..but i’ll just keep plodding away in the direction of trying to make things better until armageddon overtakes me.

  • Jim Reed

    The world needs more Christians to take that approach. I think some of them would actually like to make things worse so the end might come sooner.

  • Jim Caraher

    Your view that a “denomination is better off with diverse congregations, liberal and conservative….” is probably valid but only up to a point. Past a certain tipping point, diversity results in so much bickering among each other that no one can accomplish any mission. Unfortunately the PC(USA) passed that tipping point many years ago. Thankfully for all Presbyterians, many like the good folks at Bathgate are deciding to stop contending with other Presbyterians and devoting all their time and energy to the great commission.

  • Bill

    But wasn’t it “divine acceptance” that led Jesus to have a conversation with a Samaritan woman?

  • Moderate

    And this is why I refuse to be identified as either. I am and will always profess to be a radical moderate.

  • Moderate

    First of all if you believe there is actually clarity in scripture you’ve not been reading very carefully. MANY denominations have a diversity of opinions. This is a good thing, the problem that is plaguing the PCUSA, the UCC and others is that one side is forcing the denomination to back a set position. I am an American Baptist and whereas our Pastors and members are even more diverse we’ve avoided much of the split by deciding to let everyone and each congregation decide for themselves. If you only talk and associate with those that you agree with you’re not going to learn very much and that goes for both sides.