Quashing Dialogue: The Sound of One Hand Clapping
Of course I was disappointed and saddened that our community here in Pittsburgh voted No on Amendment 08-B, the proposal to revise the ordination requirements in a way that will open ordained office to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender faithful in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). That outcome is not what grieves and perplexes me. It is the repeated votes to limit the discussion, to prevent any meaningful dialogue among us that brings me close to despair for our church.
Throughout the thirty years of disagreement in the PCUSA on the place of GLBT people in our midst, those of us who support inclusion of the GLBT faithful, myself included, have made an effort to reach out and talk with those whose faithful conclusions on this are different from ours. At a personal level, I have sought to understand our disagreements and to test my conclusions by what I hear. And when I respond to what I have heard from colleagues so they can hear where we are coming from, persuasion has not been my purpose. I do pray St. Francis’ prayer every morning: “O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be understood as to understand.”
Our community needs to foster conversation and understanding. Dialogue is one of the essentials of the Reformed Christian tradition. John Calvin said, “No one person knows the mind of God.” We have to talk together to discern God’s will for us. The Presbyterian Church emerged from the bloody centuries of Christian violence in Europe with a polity that balanced the majority and the minority through continued talking together. We abandon one of the distinguishing characteristics of our branch of the Christian family when we quash debate.
So what is the sound of one hand clapping? It is the sound of a dialogue in which one side refuses to speak.
Around the country, some who oppose even discussing marriage or ordination of GLBT people have already left the PCUSA for more conservative Presbyterian denominations. Many conservatives here in Pittsburgh have chosen to stay and “to fight” for what you believe to be right. Good, because it takes both wings for the bird to fly.
So no matter if we agree or disagree, if you are here reading these words and even more, if you would respond, then you are one of those who are helping the PCUSA to fly. And for that, I thank you.