A Reconciliation of Loyalties

November 10, 2011

Dilemmas abound in the PCUSA, at all levels of the church’s life. The more conservative church member feels the tension of holding the historic, orthodox faith while participating in an organization perceived to be drifting away from that faith. Congregations feel themselves at theological odds with the emerging denomination and yet have closely identified with its historic roots. The representatives of the PCUSA (office-holders and Louisville staff, for instance) recognize, to some degree, the angst among members and yet believe in the institution and seek to preserve its corporate integrity for the good of all.

Every Presbyterian, to one degree or another, is facing a decision about identity and affiliation. Many individuals have left their PCUSA congregations in search of a more hospitable spiritual home. They exercised their freedom of conscience to do so, and even now the church’s leadership cannot prevent particular members from leaving, sad as that development is. Congregations desiring to remain intact are undergoing processes of discernment that would yield the least divisive and the most ministry-effective outcome. And yet, looking at the dismissal policies being implemented around the country, it is hard to see how some presbyteries are advocating for the preservation of mission and easy to see how they are advocating for the preservation of their institutions. At the heart of this preservation is the question of money and property. Sad to say, evidence points to the conclusion that it is all about the money.

Yesterday I left off with two questions that will take more than one post to unpack: What are Presbyterians to do in obedience to Jesus’ teaching? And, How are we to live into our Presbyterian commitments? Can the two be reconciled? Under what conditions could a person and a congregation satisfy both standards?

In order to sort out the inquiry that comes out of these questions, I am organizing my thoughts with the following grid:

Presbyterian Church


Reconciliation of Loyalties?









What would the PCUSA advise the individual to do in the present dilemma?

What is required of a person to be loyal to Presbyterian commitments?

What would Jesus have done if he were in my shoes?

What would Jesus advise me to do in the present dilemma?

To what degree are my Presbyterian loyalties consistent with my loyalty to Jesus Christ?

Where are the two loyalties in conflict?










What would the PCUSA advise congregations and councils to do in the present dilemma?

What is required of a congregation to be loyal to its Presbyterian commitments?

How did Jesus advise his disciples to relate to the religious powers?

What would Jesus advise congregations and councils to do in the present dilemma?

How is our church’s loyalty to the PCUSA consistent with our loyalty to Jesus Christ?

Where, in being loyal to the PCUSA, would our congregation betray Jesus Christ?

Tomorrow, I will tackle the middle column and reflect on the questions: What would Jesus do if he were in my (our) shoes? And, What would Jesus advise me (us) to do individually and corporately? We will simply examine the gospel data and see where they take us.






2 Responses to “A Reconciliation of Loyalties”

  1. David Stearns Says:

    Jesus was not afraid of associating with sinners, and in fact his ministry was directed at those who needed it most. So we shouldn’t worry about being “tainted” by the PCUSA label. Jesus would say that is not a valid reason to leave. But it’s also impossible to believe that Jesus would compromise his principles or be afraid to battle against existing institutions and beliefs if they were wrong. So while we may stay with the PCUSA we cannot give up fighting for truth. And we also must remember that, while Jesus did seem to show his temper occasionally (turning over the temple tables), that everything Jesus did was in love.

    Sounds like we have our jobs cut out for us. But who said it would be easy.

  2. Whit Says:

    David’s comment started me thinking. True enough that Jesus was not afraid to be associated with sinners. In His case there was no chance that He would be convinced to change His view of sin. Nor am I concerned about you, Mary, or myself, that we will fail to be “salt and light” wherever God places us.

    But what about the weaker sheep in the flock? What about those with less of what my wife calls my Polish farmer stubbornness or that I like to think of as strength of character? Or those with less familiarity with the Scriptures and therefore more easily confused by the Alice in Wonderland arguments of the Left? Might they not be led astray by remaining in a denomination that no longer upholds Biblical truth?

    That leaves me with a dilemma. Am I called to stay to protect the weaker sheep who remain from the wolves who would pick them off one by one? Or am I called to lead as many out as can be saved as quickly as possible? But my point is that in resolving the dilemmas you describe, our thoughts must always be for the weaker sheep.

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