The Presbyterian Layman is a newspaper that sees itself as a watchdog for our denomination. I have been attacked on their pages numerous times, as have many of my progressive Presbyterian friends across our nation. In this month’s issue of the Layman, there is an article listing 14 churches that “wink and nod at open violations of covenant life.” The church where I serve, St. Andrew’s, happens to be first on their list, but also included are Faith Presbyterian here in Austin, and Madison Square in San Antonio.
Our collective “crime” is to identify with the 8 points of progressive Christianity (linked below). Our own church has reworded the points for our own situation:
- We are Presbyterian, yet our first allegiance is to Christ’s gospel of universal love.
- We are Christ centered, yet we respect and learn from all religions of love.
- We affirm the ancient symbols of our faith, yet we strive to speak a new language that includes all people and affirms the scientific discoveries of our day.
- We hope to teach children the stories of the Bible without sectarian dogma.
- We strive to be a close, nurturing community, yet we welcome all people into our midst.
- We wish to live in inner peace, yet hear God’s call to work for peace and for universal human rights.
- We take faith seriously, yet believe the journey should be fun. We celebrate life in many artistic forms.
To be attacked for trying to live by such beautiful principles is strange, but it makes me very grateful to all the voices of Progressive faith across our land. The grievances listed by the Layman are quite revealing:
McKinley Presbyterian in Champaign Il. is singled out for saying, “We invite gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people to participate fully in the life of our church alongside straight allies.”
Mount Auburn Presbyterian in Cincinnati, which was already leading the way into progressive theology while many of the rest of us were just getting started, is included on the rap sheet for holding a “high regard freedom of conscience, openness of discourse, mutual forbearance, inclusiveness of human diversity, and continuous reformation.”
Madison Square Presbyterian in San Antonio is linked to such sinister organizations as the ACLU and Soulforce. Soulforce is an organization that attempts to bring the methods of Gandhi into the struggle for GLBT rights..
St. Luke Presbyterian in Wayzata, Mn. is singled out for saying, ” Dogmas, doctrines, purity codes, or catechisms are not what we’re about.”
Western Presbyterian in Washington DC is criticized for pointing out that, “while Presbyterians used to limit ordination to men, oppose the scientific theory of evolution, and believe in predestination, we no longer do so. We try to rectify our past failures to understand God’s Word and to stay open to God’s new revelations in the present.” It is also pointed out that the church says, “All persons are invited to participate fully in ministry, regardless of age, disability, economic or social circumstance, gender, marital status, race or sexual orientation.”
The Layman article reminded me how proud I am of all those progressive Christians who are willing to weather attacks by other self appointed watchdogs and continue loving all kinds of people, accepting all kinds of verified scientific discoveries, and respecting every other compassionate path, theistic or not.
The complete Layman article is included here:
The official 8 points of progressive theology is included here: