We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Irony of It All

Later this month, the newly formed evangelical-leaning Fellowship of Presbyterians is meeting in Orlando to decide how those who cannot accept the changes in the standards of ordination in PC(USA) are going to respond.  Those changes, of course, have removed the stated requirement that only candidates who are in a traditional ("straight") marriage or are celibate can be ordained in the Presbyterian Church.  It is expected that quite a few Fellowship Presbyterian clergy and churches will leave PC(USA) entirely and form in its place a "new Reformed body."

Why another denomination?  Why not join with one of the other conservative, evangelical Presbyterian bodies of which there are several?  As best as I can tell, one important reason is that the Fellowship includes significant numbers of ruling elders and teaching elders (clergy) who happen to be women.  Those other denominations mostly restrict if not forbid the ordination of women.  In fact, some of them left the Presbyterian Church over the issue of women's rights in the church.  So, Fellowship Presbyterians find that they have to set up their own denomination.  Is that not ironic?

It is ironic that ordained Presbyterian women are leaving our denomination over the question of its standards for ordination, not willing themselves to open ordination to those whose sexual orientation is not their own.  Less than two full generations ago, Presbyterians fought a protracted battle over the ordination of women, and many of those who opposed that change and lost left the denomination, which is what some ordained Fellowship women are doing now .  Women Presbyterians at that time faced the same situation that homosexual Presbyterians face today.  Women Presbyterians today have assumed a nearly full place in the life of our churches because of those who led the fight to make ours an inclusive church that does not practice discrimination against large classes of people whose condition is of no threat to anyone.

The irony?  Women who have been ordained in the PC(USA) are today able to walk away from the denomination because of its changed standards for ordination without regard for what earlier generations of Presbyterian women and men did for them.  That is as it should be.  They should not feel any obligation or debt to a denomination, which after all denied women full participation in our churches for many generations and only relatively recently righted an ancient wrong.  Still, it is a tribute to the denomination we have become that women can today become teaching and ruling elders and then leave it because they cannot accept homosexual ruling and teaching elders.