Response to the “Deathly Ill” Letter (#1)

For the past few months I’ve been meaning to respond to a letter that’s been circulating in the Presbyterian Church (USA), nicknamed the “deathly ill” letter (from a phrase it its first paragraph). This will probably be the first of two or three posts.

For background, I’d suggest you read the letter itself, here:  http://www.fellowship-pcusa.org/wp-content/uploads/A-Letter-to-the-PCUSA-February-2011-final3.pdf

I’ll address this post as though to the letter’s authors.

What you mean and might as well say

You say, “We are determined to get past rancorous, draining internal disputes that paralyze our common life and ministry.” But clearly you don’t just want to end the fighting. You want to win the fight. If you just wanted to end the fighting, you’d let us gays and lesbians be ordained already.

And I assure you, we want to move beyond these “rancorous, draining internal disputes” at least as much as you do. We, like you, want to “step faithfully, boldly, and joyfully into the work for which God has called us” — if only you would let us.

On Dividing the Church

I believe that Christ is the one true Head of the Church. I find this deeply reassuring, but if I’m honest I’ll admit that I find it also just a little bit annoying. Because, frankly, deep down I kind of wish I were the head of the church. Perhaps you feel the same way sometimes?

One challenge that comes with Christ’s headship is that, as the Head of the Church, he gets to decide who’s in the church. I don’t have a say in the matter.

He is the vine; we are the branches. Our membership depends only on our connection to the vine, not on our relationship to the other branches. But if we are connected to the vine, then we are also connected to the other branches, whether we like it or not.

This is a problem, because it means I’m engrafted into a plant where some of the other branches disagree with me; some think I don’t belong; some, frankly, want me dead! What kind of f-ed up system is that?!

Even more troubling is Paul’s statement that every part of the body needs every other part – the eyes need the elbow, the spleen needs the vertebrae, the capillaries need the ears.

And those of you who wish I would just go away: you need me. And even more troublingly, I (apparently) need you.

I have no idea what that means, and part of me really hates it. But it’s true. And we both need to deal with it.

So, would we be better off going our separate ways? Well it certainly would be easier; you’re right about that! But better? No. I don’t think so.

And anyway, we don’t get to decide; we’re not the head. We’re just different parts of one body. And like it or not, we’re stuck with each other.

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