At its meeting here Nov. 3-5, the Covenant Network of Presbyterians focused on reconciling voices, visions and vocations.
That focus is also needed in the larger Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), said Elder Cynthia (Cindy) Bolbach, moderator of the 219th General Assembly.
Bolbach was part of a panel at the annual meeting of the network, which is a national group “working for a church that is simultaneously faithful, just, and whole,” according to its website. The network long lobbied to broaden ordination standards to include openly homosexual leaders.
Reconciliation is a long process that requires the contributions of all, Bolbach said.
“I think we are at the beginning of that process,” she said.
One of her roles as moderator is to bring people together from across the spectrum, Bolbach said, noting a gathering of members of the Covenant Network and Presbyterians for Renewal — a group that opposes the change in ordination standards — in Minneapolis. The fact that the groups met at all is a success because they got to know each other.
According to the Rev. Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the Office of the General Assembly, the state of the PC(USA) is a mess.
“And I find that tremendously encouraging,” he said. “Because stuff is so messed up, God may finally get God’s chance to do what God wants with our church.”
Conflict and splits are part of Reformed history around the world. But reconciliation is also part of our history, and we have to own both parts, he said.
After the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopal Church opened their ordination standards to include homosexuals, both faced upheaval and divides. Now it’s the PC(USA)’s turn, Parsons said.
“This is where we are. The goal is to be faithful during this space and try to find our way through it,” he said.
Reconciliation takes a long time, but it’s always the goal. The PC(USA) might finally have its chance to break out of the niche it has been in since World War II and be open to all God’s people, Parsons said. Quoting a Carly Simon song, Parsons said, “There’s more room in a broken heart.”
And that’s where the PC(USA) is now. We’ll get to see the world God is transforming and be a part of it.
“If we really do believe there’s one church of Jesus Christ … people can’t really break from us,” he said, comparing the situation to distant cousins — although you might not celebrate Thanksgiving together, they’re still your cousins.
“I am encouraged that there’s enough courage and enough loving to live in this chapter,” Parsons said.