Something worth rejoicing over
I'll admit that my tendency is to put a positive spin on most situations of conflict. I know that frustrates some of my friends. They wish I were less pollyanaish, more willing to say "This is wrong!" I hear that. Honestly. And I wrestle with it too. But I also hear the words of the Apostle Paul, spoken to a church that had conflict, at least between two of its members, urging, "If there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Philippians 4:8).
So, let me say first that I understand that my description of the church as "hurting" this morning because of the action of the General Assembly on the Peace Unity and Purity Report would be an understatement for many. All day I've been talking with friends and leaders and reading blogs. Many in the church are genuinely shaken. One friend, from seminary days, came to lunch literally shaking with anger. We hadn't seen each other in at least eight years. His first words to me, after a terse hello was, "My congregation is gone." Others are saying that "everything has changed," "we've reached a point of no return," "the church is beyond reform." I'm hearing profound despair and anger, and it's not just from a few disaffected few.
But with that acknowledgement I want to offer something worthy of praise. This evening at 10:15 p.m. after an already very long day, the General Assembly approved a statement by a large majority - 77% - opposing late term abortions and, the Presbyterian News Service Article puts it, "affirms the lives of unborn babies."
This is a sea change within the public statements of the PC(USA) on abortion! There was debate, of course, but it was clear that the commissioners were moving away from the more ambiguous and more pro-choice stance of the church in previous years. One commissioner, in fact, rose and said, with a halting voice. "I'm pro-choice. But I lost a late term baby. And after seeing that little body, I can't condone any abortion after viability." This is the clearest, strongest pro-life statement the Presbyterian Church has made in recent years, and, and it was only strengthened by other actions the Assembly took on pro-life related overtures, including one that asked "that policies of the church concerning problem pregnancies and abortion be more clearly communicated to the public and to our church members."
For me, at least, these actions, which came so late in the day, when commissioners may have been tempted to rubber stamp recommendations instead of considering them carefully and prayerfully as they did, demonstrates that ears and eyes and hearts are not closed to what God wants to do in our midst. God hasn't given up on the PC(USA) yet. So, to paraphrase Philippians 4:9, let us "keep on doing the things that we have learned and received and heard and seen" from the Lord, "and the God of peace will be with us."