Sunday, February 23, 2014

Votes Nobody Wins

Here in Houston, the big religious news today was a vote at First Presbyterian Church--would they stay a member congregation of the PCUSA (Presbyterian Church USA) or leave, joining the far more conservative ECO (Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians)?

Famed steeple topples
Toppling steeple photo:
Library of Congress
The story got a fair amount of press over the past few weeks, not only because it is closely tied to the Presbyterian church's attitudes on gay clergy, but because this is one of the oldest and wealthiest congregations in town.

The decision to call for the vote was not taken lightly--if you look at this letter you can get some idea of the process.  Lots of work, lots of prayer.

A majority of the congregation voted to leave, but not a supermajority, so they will stay with the PCUSA.  The report says that a total of 1681 ballots were cast, and that the vote was 36 short, but does not mention what sort of supermajority was required.  

Sure, I could do a little research and find that out, but instead, let's look at that 1681.  The article says it is a 3100-person congregation.  So roughly 54% of members voted today.

Or put another way--46% of the congregation did not cast a vote in a pretty major decision.
Was it that they did not feel strongly one way or another?Are they not opening mail from their church?
Did they have something else they needed to do today, whether open-heart surgery or a big sale at DSW?
Or was there too much pain, too much anxiety, to even walk into church today?

The senior pastor, emeritus, staff, and governing board all advocated strongly for leaving the PCUSA.  Now, they are considering how to come back together in love.  It will start with a healing service Monday at noon.  That process will take far far longer.

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