Yesterday was the day of a called Committee on Ministry in Memphis. The one piece of business on the agenda was to interview a candidate being called to be an associate at one of the larger churches. She is a recent graduate of Princeton Seminary, but probably in her early fifties, having had a career in counseling, teaching and spiritual direction. COM always asks questions in Bible, theology, worship and sacraments, polity and pastoral care. Her answers to each of them were the best I've heard since I've been part of the committee. What a pleasure to welcome someone into the presbytery with her convictions, her experience and her commitment to serve! I especially was pleased to her answer to the question I asked on pastoral care with older adults in the church.
As usual, a few more pieces of business had found their way onto the agenda, but they were quickly handled--all except one. A minister member of the committee pastors a church whose Session has recently voted to leave the denomination. He had asked to say a few words, both about the decision and in response to one member's e-mail stating her objection to his serving on the committee until his transfer takes place. After his initial statement, we had opportunity to respond or ask questions. I have great respect for this pastor and said so. He probably has the most theological mind of any committee member and has the abiblity to get to the heart of any matter. I listened with great sadness as he told how/why the Session has come to their decision, as he almost tearfully spoke of his position and as he told us of the young woman associate, recently ordained who has decided not to transfer her membership to another denomination. I left the meeting with a heavy heart.
Some are willing to pay the price to act on their convictions. Others remain silent and hope the disagreements will just go away. Still others keep praying, fighting from within for the purity of the church. We are among the latter, but still sad.