Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Myth of the Middle

With less than 1% of the US population being Presbyterian and a dwindling amount of those folks being active members in terms of church attendance, it would seem that our middle is looking more and more like the rest of us - thin and thinning.

The dominant strategy, as I have observed it, during my 12 years in the PC(USA)- as it applies to welcoming LGBT/Q folk into the full work and worship of the church - has been largely based on changing the hearts and minds of the "middle" of the church, that group of believers who are not sure they want to see change -- but are sure that whatever change occurs should happen slowly and in an orderly, consitutional way. Churches, individuals, and groups who call for faster change or even more strident "enforcement" of the constitution - frequently have found themselves further marginalized by this "middle group," in a variety of ways.

The primary goal of the "middle church" and its most visible leadership is to keep the church together at all costs - even if that means creating or sustaining situations that make it intolerable, unhealthy, unsafe, and spiritually violent for the marginalized to stay. I am absolutely sure that this is far from their intentions -- however, it is frequently the end result of their actions. PUP, for example, supported to a large degree by the middle majority at the last GA, has done more to drive a wedge between groups working for change than any action short of adding G-6.0106b to the Book of Order.

Speaking of the Book of Order, I actually think the Book of Order is en eloquent, generally faithfully inspired and loving document. One example has to do with G-3.0400, where the church is called to risk and to trust in its mission:

The church is called to undertake this mission even at the risk of losing its life, trusting God alone as the author and giver of life, sharing the gospel and doing those deeds in the world that point beyond themsleves to the new reality of Christ.

There is diagreement. What is the new reality of Christ? What do the Scriptures and the words we use, pointers at best to more than we could ever know, what do they mean? As my seminary professior, The Rev. Dr. Barbara Austin-Lucas once said, "When you read the Bible, it reads you." I believe that, so I cannot tell you what is in your heart. I can tell you that I don't believe that the new reality of Christ is:

  • Violence as the price of order
  • Marginalization as a device of unity
  • Domination as a method of instruction
  • Rejection of consecrated love between same-sex couples
  • Patience that takes no risk
  • Exclusion of God's creation based on human judgments

No, the myth of the middle is that it is actually a place of fear, not a place of action. Like the human body that immediately sends the blood to its middle vital organs when threatened, so too are the current methods and designs of efforts like PUP more a warming blanket for the fears of those who are least affected by their own actions or inactions -- than real and immediate movement for those living under the debris of years of ineffective and unconscionable practices.

Next, how did we get to this place of faith trumped by fear?

More to come...