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on Mar 3, 2014
I see you had no trouble finding two individuals out of 158 that were opposed to the move to comment, but chose not to include the comments of any of the over 2000 that were in concurrence.
I asked several members for comment; none were willing to.
NotSurprised is absolutely right in his or her observation. This decision was overwhelming on behalf of the membership, and it is a very, very eclectic congregation. MPPC handled every aspect of the voting with great care, and was scrupulous to ensure that the process was transparent, fair, well managed, and carefully detailed.
It is time to move forward in unity, supporting the church, the congregation, and the ministry. I am very confident that any perceived or real social injustice which may arise in the future will be handled promptly, and with compassion. Menlo Pres is a critical part of the social fabric of the area, and every single one of us benefits from having it grow in grace and participation.
This is a disappointing outcome for a huge and influential congregation. As a nation, I believe we are finally on the cusp of destigmatizing gay partnerships and marriages. It is sad to see how many well-meaning Christians are resolutely clinging to the wrong side of this national debate.
The ultimate commandment, the one that Christians are to take above all others, is this:
"And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these."
Menlo Pres does amazing work in the community. I know many lovely, thoughtful people who attend this church. I am willing to believe that gay ordination and marriage are but a small part of the reason for leaving the PCUSA denomination and I can sympathize with the challenges inherent in religious bureaucracy.
That said, if MPPC leadership continues to be evasive and silent on the issue of gay ordination and marriage, that silence will speak volumes. Denying each person, as they are formed by God, to participate equally in a religious community based on their sexual orientation is NOT loving one's neighbor as one's self. It is not, frankly, what Jesus would do, and since this is, after all, the basis of our faith, I look for better from my fellow Christians.
I will say, too, to the small group who had the courage to vote against this on principle: there are other great options in the community. Trinity Menlo Park (an Episcopal community that welcomes members of many diverse faith backgrounds) is right down the street, with a growing youth program and a passionate, inspirational leadership team. A little further afield, St. Mark's, First Pres, and First United Methodist Church in Palo Alto all have progressive theology and active congregations.
I hope you all find church homes that more fully align with your own principles and understanding of our faith.
It's obvious that the Menlo church is tipping toward the older generation (with its oftentimes disapproval of gay clergy and gay marriage) rather than the younger generation. This means that over time, the church will die out as its parishioners die out. I grew up in the Presbyterian church and am ashamed that a church in a seemingly progressive community chose to take this step which seeks (I am assuming) to cast gay people as sinners. Who else but God created gay people as they are?
This always enigmatic congregation has amazed me that it would so overwhelmingly choose to align itself with the corridors of prejudice, against scientific and medical evidence and inclusiveness, as practiced by none other than Jesus Christ himself. This mega church, filled with money and self-induced power, now has become one with the danger of religious fundamentalism and Biblical literalism. It is hard to believe that so many in an area of education and knowledge should be, at its heart, theolgically so ignorant. It is as if all the study of Biblical interpretation over the years has been for naught. This literalism destroys the meaning of sacred scripture. It throw out the true meaning of the power and beauty of myth, genre and the "sitz in leben", situation in life of the many many contributors to this body of literature. How tragic and, yes, again, in one of the most educated areas in the world, how amazing. This is not to say that remaining members should go down the street to the ultra liberal and theologcially shaky and member weakened Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. it is to say that prayerful and thoughtful consideration must be taken into account before new affilitations, perhaps based on, emotion and anger are taken.
I am very disappointed but not surprised.
Many long-time friends who are deeply involved spiritually & socially in MPPC have offspring within the LGBT spectrum. This change may alter future intra-family dynamics.
Can they please move this church to Nebraska....don't want it now in our area now....very sad and disgusting
As a longtime member of MPPC, I can say even though our leaders for the last several decades have been clear about what we teach regarding sexual integrity (that God ordained sexual unity to be in the context of marriage between a man and a woman (which is "out of step" on heterosexual relationships as much as gay ones)), that wasn't the driving force for separation from the PCUSA.
Some may insist to view it through that single lens, but anyone that worships at our congregation knows that just isn't true. For some it may be a bigger issue than for others, but we all know that all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
If MPPC insisted that no one who was a sinner could attend, the church would be empty. I know many who struggle with issues of anger, greed, unforgiveness, fidelity, and addictions to all sorts of things (alcohol, porn, etc...). To single out any one form of falling short for special treatment is inconsistent with the teaching at MPPC. We all have issues that remind us why we need a Savior. And we know we aren't any different (or better)than the community around us. We just have discovered Jesus is the answer, and we want to introduce Him to others as best as we can.
While I wish it could be said that it was the "blue hairs" that voted for the move, my observation from sitting in the main sanctuary is that the crowd was very diverse in age and stage to the extent I'd offer that it wasn't the blue hairs, but the younger generation endorsing the move. Bless 'em, they probably figure they have this whole "gay-issue" thing figured out until one of their kids who's been raised in the church comes out. Then all hell will break loose.
As for other parishioners not commenting--that's also part of the pc-evangelical way of doing things. To speak up is considered a form of sowing the seeds of discontent and not the Biblical way. It makes your leaders look bad and is considered a poor witness to the outside world. Rumor has it they are going to open a satellite in Orange County. You reap what you sow.
Yikes! I though Menlo Park was evolving not devolving!
If you read what's in the Presbyterian Layman in the comments section, you'll see that the reasons for leaving the PCUSA have to do with wanting local control and objections to the amount of money demanded of MPPC:
Some of us were really on the fence regarding how to vote. In the area of the sanctuary in which I was sitting, we spoke about what was the deciding factor in our vote. Everyone sitting around me said they were voting 'yes', and the tipping point really was the price tag. People felt it was just greed motivating the Presbytery. You should all know that a much lower, reasonable price tag was negotiated before our first date was scheduled for a vote last fall. The Presbytery abruptly canceled the date to vote, and insisted on going back into negotiations so that they would get money from a separate non-profit, the Church of the Pioneers Foundation (COPF). The price tag then skyrocketed. The COPF is a completely separate non-profit, not under the control of MPPC or the Presbytery. If this went to court, I don't see how any judge could rule that the COPF would be in any way under the trust clause of the PCUSA. MPPC has been very gracious all along, and chose not to litigate this, but instead to cave in to the financial demands. The COPF doesn't have to give one dime to the Presbytery, but decided to donate millions so that MPPC could have a chance to vote.
This is what it took to even be able to have a vote. Almost $9 million. The price tag actually pushed many people over the edge to vote yes. MPPC wants self-determination. Dismissal will give that to us.
The question the 'it's only about property' people are deflecting is why go to Eco over other choices.
The Presbyterian Layman is well known for it's very conservative viewpoints, so I would hardly call it a reliable source for an objective comment on this subject. I also think that most people would look at the amount of property that MPPC now owns and say that $9 million is well below the market rate.
As a long time member of the Presbyterian church I am sorry to see this happening to our denomination, but I do feel that we've spent so much time and energy trying to convince our less tolerant brothers and sisters that it is now time to move on. There are so many issues in the world that need our attention. Go in peace.
So money won out over integrity and love.
"I also think that most people would look at the amount of property that MPPC now owns and say that $9 million is well below the market rate."
MPPC bought these properties originally. This isn't something PCUSA bought and is being forced to sell to MPPC for pennies on the dollar. MPPC bought these properties years ago, but when they joined PCUSA years ago, MPPC was required to put the properties in trust so that PCUSA was in control of them for the benefit of MPPC. MPPC has always been the owner. They are basically being forced to pay a sum of money to PCUSA to have their own properties back.
If you bought a house for $500,000 and put it into a trust to hold while you made mortgage payments on it, but then years later the property was worth $2Million, and were forced to pay the trustee $750,000 to get it out of the trust would you be making money?
It's interesting that the church tried to ensure fairness in the voting process. Yet when the decision was made, many (including some above) who disagree with the outcome are doing the same thing they are criticizing the majority of the congregation of doing.
Civility used to be that two people could disagree with each other while still respecting the other's opinion. However, it now it seems if someone disagrees, they are labeled as wrong, not evolved, not loving, judgmental, and so on.
I started the singles adult ministries at this church in the 1970s. how many of your readers could relate to this is anyone's guess. this is a good church but it has changed over the years. best wishes and it's good that you would report on something like this
Please note that under the PCUSA dismissal rules, MPPC could not be dismissed to become an independent church all on its own. Had that been an option, I think that's the option that MPPC would have taken - to become completely independent. But it isn't an option, so MPPC had to choose another Presbyterian denomination prior to having the right to have a vote about dismissal. Our pastors and elders spent a lot of time examining other Presbyterian denominations prior to selecting ECO. Information about ECO was provided to MPPC's members, and had the congregation felt that another Presbyterian denomination was a better fit, the congregation could have let our elders and staff know. Owning our own property so we'd never again be in the situation we were in with PCUSA's trust clause is a priority. Being allowed to plant satellite churches was another priority. In town hall meetings, our elders and staff told us the reasons for making this move. PCUSA members from the SF Presbytery were on hand to present their views and help answer questions at all of the town hall meetings.
This is not about homosexuality. Of course, the real haters and ignorant people out there will focus on that issue, when they have no idea what this was really about or why the church decided to vote overwhelmingly in favor of dismissal. The membership - including scores of contemporary young adults - chose to do this for a host of reasons that have nothing to do with the subject of homosexuality. Frankly, if you are not a member, it's none of your business anyway.
How could "CCB" forget the church that was founded by Jesus himself? There are 3 Catholic Churches in Menlo Park 1 of which is just a block west of MPPC - all are welcome!
This is so shocking that I think I'm reading the wrong information. Seriously? Are you kidding me? When we are surrounded by gay/lesbian/questioning youth who are taking their lives when they are part of a religious community that rejects them. "if they aren't heterosexual they must remain celibate" are you kidding me? Wow. I agree with so many people above I thought our part of the world (even my very religious friends) we loving towards all. This is kind of staggering. The $9million price tag I also see as cheap given the real estate--I'd love to get a big chunk of downtown Menlo Park for that amount. However, it seems to me that they are really trying to insulate themselves and protect themselves from "gays". So sad mostly for the youth and adults in the congregation struggling with self hatred. [Portion deleted.] Such a sad state of affairs. [Portion deleted.]
If it's truly not about homosexuality--which is entirely possible--it would be good to see MPPC lead in a more positive direction vis-a-vis the gay community.
If I were a gay teenager, I wouldn't feel great about the message that either heterosexual marriage or lifetime celibacy are the only two appropriate options for a practicing Christian. And yet this is the position, as far as I can tell, of both ECO and MPPC leadership. And the "love the sinner, hate the sin" message doesn't do much to heal the psychic damage.
Even if you agree with the other 95% of what Ortberg et. al. are preaching, how can this last bit not be a dealbreaker? Is it just that you, yourself, aren't gay or the parent of a gay child?
I'm truly perplexed by the number of people in this church who seem to be able to overlook this.
Does this mean that the Jay Walking on Sundays will decrease ?
Answer not a fool according to his folly lest you be like him. The church does not have to answer to popular thought or it would be as changeable and unreliable as the tide of human emotion and behavior; now governed primarily by that part of our nature that wants to declare there is no sin. Every person will eventually become a law unto themselves. As it is written...All we like sheep have gone astray, every one to his own way.
For anyone reading this thread who is not a Christian, you might be getting a pretty skewed idea of what it means to follow Christ:
From@tragic: "In their jargon, how can they expect to be blessed when they wish to seperate their lilly-white souls from people, whoi by no chose of their own, are gay!"
From @Carl: "I grew up in the Presbyterian church and am ashamed that a church in a seemingly progressive community chose to take this step which seeks (I am assuming) to cast gay people as sinners."
The first tenet of being a Christian is "I AM A SINNER." That means it's not "We're perfect, but you -- you're a sinner!" it's "I am the sinner. I fall short. I need a savior." Simple.
Those who think Christians are sitting in their churches congratulating themselves for being holy are seriously misunderstanding the foundations of Christian faith.
MPPC staff often refer to the church as "a hospital for sinners, not a hotel for saints." To cast it otherwise, especially if you haven't gone there, is to throw broad negative stereotypes into the discussion, hoping they'll stick.
I had to chuckle at the comment grumping that this church should now move to Nebraska. There are lots of tolerant people in Nebraska, and as this vote shows, there are lots of intolerant people in California, even in the Bay Area. It's also true that both minorities tend to keep quiet, apart from a few exceptions like one notorious homophobe on the Willows Neighborhood email list.
Hey, if it hadn't been for the liberal minority in the South, the mid-20th-century civil rights movement would have had a much harder time making LBJ's laws stick. And if it weren't for Christians like myself, the American "Christian" church would look a lot more like the churches in Africa, relative to gay marriage and gay ministers.
In reply to "Long Time MPPC Member", let me say I find your argument very convincing. I expect that the MPPC membership, while obviously less secular than the agnostics and atheists among us, largely reflects the values of the surrounding community. That community is quite accepting of gays in many walks of life, but is also very interested in money, real estate values, contracts, and organizational flexibility whether these attributes attach to government, non-profits, for-profit businesses or individual estates. This is not East Oakland, and Menlo Pres is not a storefront church.
Jennifer, we all surely miss the mark from time to time and so yes, in your terminology, we are all sinners.
(from the MPPC website: "As God’s people, we are therefore called to turn from any practice which Scripture describes as sin, including gossip, slander, idolization of wealth, arrogance, sexual immorality, conceit, and mistreatment of others; and to live in ways that honor God. We uphold the responsibility of church officers and leaders in particular to “lead a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4:1), including fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness.")
I'm curious: how many church officers and leaders, chaste or married though they might be, are truly free of arrogance, conceit, or mistreatment of others? How regularly is this litmus test brought to bear in decisions about ministers and lay leadership? In other words, if I'm an elder and I engage in a homosexual relationship, do I get to continue in this role, given that my sin is no better or worse than the arrogance or wealth idolization of my fellow elders? or am I unlikely to ever get that far to begin with?
I don't recognize this church and the MPPC I attended in the late 90's before moving away. Now that i'm back, I was planning to attend Sunday services. Based on this vote, that is no longer an option for me. I have no interest in being part of any organization that discriminates. I am a heterosexual white female.
SSS makes a great point, perhaps inadvertently. It's a CHURCH. In other words, it's entirely optional. No church is for everyone. If you don't like it, don't go. It's that simple.
As a 25-year member of MPPC and also a supporter of LGBT rights (I did vote to allow gay marriage), I cannot speak on behalf of the church but can only express my own experience. I listened to and read everything offered about this vote that the church offered and had no problem supporting the move to ECO. If I had heard any sense of hidden agenda or biggotry, I would not have voted for the change. There are definitely varying opinions on many many issues amongst the thousands of people at MPPC. That, to me, is part of the draw. I haven't met the haters that people are talking about. Maybe they are there? I guess if there are haters, I'm glad they are sitting in church listening to good sermons surrounded by good people.
One thing that is hard for me is the people who seem to want to tell us what we believe at our church instead of asking us what we believe. Not the Almanac article, but the comments. We all know how well it works to lump a bunch of people into a single group and then make generalized comments about them.
I began to question my affiliation with MPPC when some of the conversation and material in the adult classes began to reflect a tone of the 'culture wars' . I stopped attending when the current pastor came on board. The tone from the pulpit no longer reflected the grace Walt Gerber and his staff had long exemplified in word and deed. MPPC does many positive things in the community and they have every right to control their budgetary and property decisions in-house but if they were seeking autonomy they would have simply become an independent congregation. This is a governance and a political statement. I am now officially ashamed that I was ever a member. They can continue to pat themselves on the back for their Weekends of Compassion but the message this decision sends is much louder than their self-congratulatory banners and PR.
As part of PCUSA, it was against the rules to dismiss for independence. We were only allowed to dismiss to go to another parent organization. PCUSA would not allow MPPC to dismiss for independence. I believe that was stated at the town hall meetings where things were discussed openly.
Interesting Comments, I hear your point.
I have tried to base my understanding of this situation solely on printed material available on the ECO and MPPC websites. I have no doubt that the people in the congregation has a wide range of beliefs. My question is this: how can you reconcile your personal support of LGBT rights with the official policy of your church? Is the preaching and community so great that it trumps the underlying discrimination? That's what I'm curious about.
And I'm wondering this, as well: can this diverse, powerful community begin to lead the church in a new direction? What would happen if you started to speak out to MPPC leadership about your support of marriage equality? What if MPPC, even while joining this new denomination, scratched the policy that forbids partnered gay parishioners from joining the Session?
In your shoes, given your personal convictions and your love for this community, this is what I'd be tempted to do.
And, failing that, I would probably defect to a congregation that recognized all marriages, gay or straight. There are several within easy distance of MPPC.
With Reference to Long-time Member,
Thank you for your response. According to my understanding MPPC could have launched satellite churches in a number of ways, through the Church of the Pioneers Fund. And those churches could have been launched with a plan for their own governance. Doing so would have allowed the church to remain within PCUSA, which is, as this mess reveals, another bastion of power and greed. I believe it would have been better for the longtime sustainability of the church to simply fund growing churches- no governance strings attached. Mega-churches are withering and faith communities are blooming in a variety of ways that have nothing to do with centralized power of a congregation or denomination. People of faith who dislike the culture wars and the ugliness that is always associated with power are leaving mainline denominations in large numbers because of battles like this one. I am sad for the loss of the old days of grace, openness and service.
CCB - you have great questions, and I am not entirely sure if you are really wanting my answer or not. But I will explain how I resolve those questions for myself at this stage. At some point it may change for me. First of all, yes, the leadership is very clear on my beliefs and my understanding of Scriptutre. They have provided some of the best, most open conversations I've had. Our Session (the elders) have varying perspectives on these and other issues. For me, my bottom line is the authority of the Bible and that I believe Jesus is God's son snd the Savior. I find that MPPC is the most uncompromising on those issues and their passion for justice and their commitment to learning truth than some of the other churches that I have visited. Again, my experience. And, for me, those are the central points that I need in a church. Along with unrelenting grace.Some of my friends have needed to find other churches because of one particular issue or another and I am totally fine with that.
I'm not sure which official policies of the church you are referring to. But i do respect MPPC' s commitment to saying this is our understanding of God''s word, so we can't compromise on it. In many areas. And, to be honest, I am curious to see what the future holds for our church regarding LGBT issues. They are also committed to teaching other communities, serving the poor in this area and other countries, and other tenants of our church. These too are important to me. Nobody in leadership from MPPC has ever told me how to vote or ever told me not to love my gay friends. My experience is just the opposite.
I know it's hard to believe, but I really do feel very supported in saying that my understanding of the Bible is different than others (along with many around me). I just personally love sticking around with a bunch of people committed to figuring it out.
If you would have to change churches because of that particular issue, I am honestly glad that those churches are there for you. We are not in competition.
This makes me sad for Christians and Christianity. If you are not practicing radical love of your neighbors, regardless of who they love (when love is between consenting adults), you are not following Jesus. Jesus despised hypocrisy. How many of you MPPC members who voted for this would be able tell their child or brother or sister that if they are gay, they must be celibate? When they commit suicide because they are not allowed to be who God made them, you will feel just fine, right? This decision is disgraceful. Thank God for the Episcopal Church and other churches that recognize that it is our place to love, not judge and cast stones. Christianity is about love--not excluding and condemning others.
There are many good reasons why the satellites were started as offshoots through MPPC rather than as stand alone churches funded by another mechanism. Those reasons have to do with volunteer support to start the churches, funding to start the churches, and staffing (I'm sure our MPPC staff could provide more reasons.)
With regards to starting the Open Door satellite churches, as well as the cafe service in downtown Menlo Park, they were all by and large started by people from a long time successful Sunday School class of married couples - people who had stepped up and volunteered for large church projects over and over and over - people who had served as volunteers for children, as donors, as ushers, deacons, elders, Sunday school teachers etc. We gave up a Sunday School class we all loved dearly to spread out and help start the satellite churches. MPPC members from the south bay started the Mountain View satellite and people to the north of Menlo Park started the San Mateo satellite, both of which have been very successful. Some stayed at the 'mother ship' in Menlo Park to start the offsite cafe service. The satellites were started in part because the 9:30 and 11 am services at the mother ship were standing room only. Our congregation also decided to donate funds to start the satellites and fund them until they could be financially self sustaining. The pastors at the satellites are considered staff at MPPC - something that would not have happened if the satellites were stand alones started by the COPF. The pastors therefore receive a level of support from the mother ship that they would not otherwise have.
How old were the voters? Who had the option to vote? Curiosity for statistic's sake.
In the face of so many harsh, abusive comments from non-members (or long ago members) about what they assume are the reasons for withdrawal from the denomination, it is refreshing to read the calm, reasoned, Christian responses of actual members who took part in the vote. As a non-member or attender of the church, I know which group I find most attractive and winsome. It is always surprising to me how some who proclaim and defend tolerance and inclusiveness are so intolerant and exclusive of those who might have different opinions.
How NOT surprising that so much of the langauge re. the MPPC is juridical. Laws, rules, settements. So much is so proprietary "go somewhere else." In other words, leave the Church of Jesus Christ This is OUR church. If you don't like it, get out. You are not wanted. Perhaps the gay issue is not the only issue but it is a major one because it directly affects the lives, the hearts, the dignity and well-being of, through out the world, millions ofyoung people who find themselves gay. This is the strongest of all the messages that have gone out from this sad organization. Sad, because of the damage and cruelty they participate in. Do these ignorant and ill informed not see themselves as participating in the horror of bullying that has taken the lives of so many young people? When next these pure souls read of another death of a struggling and broken young person, may they not say with Pontius Pilate, "I wash my hands." So go on your way, draw in more of your ilk, collect their money and toast yourselves over your Sundayo mmorning coffee that you have cleansed the world a little bit more. But God almighty in Jesus Christ, has not abdicated. The Lord is still in charge of his church, his people. And that same Lord is the one who showed humankind who God is in his life and death of forgiveness and healing. Hard to believe that in this day and in this place such cruelty and bigotry seems to have won the day. But that little victory is so ephemeral. Each will one day face the Lord and the only thing we will be asked is "Is my hurting world a better place because you were in it?" I heard these words from a fine local Epsicopalian priest at a funeral service. it turns out that this priest has also felt the pain of instituional cruelty. It woukld seem that from that cruelty he has learned compassion and a greatly deepened unterstand ing of who and what God is. At least I hope that is who God is.
"come to me all you who are sorrowful and broken hearted and I will give you rest." How could I ever find that in a community of people, so self-righteous and deluded as to splinter even more the Body of Christ? "He mixes with tax collectors and prostitues." Yes, he did. Yes, he was murdered because of this. And, yes, he was raised victorious over this. Meglomania exists in downtown Menlo Park. And to the shame of this communitiy the knowledge of this prejudice and false values will spread all over the country. But this is realtively unimportant. What is important are the lives which will be felt a little more diminshed in self-worth. "Where is God? He is here, hanging from the noose of ignorance." A paraphrase of the words of a great, contemporaty Jewish writer and thinker, E. Weisel.
Admitted: haven't read all the comments, but the term "sexual integrity" caught my eye. What an ironic phrase to describe sexual repression.
I haven't been an MPPC member for years. They moved too much towards self-righteous for me. It may be IN Menlo Park but it is no longer OF Menlo Park. Self-justifying narrow-minded folk from all over this side of the Bay Area flock there to be told how good they are in their greediness. Now they're happy to congratulate themselves on finding a large similar herd to be bigots with.
A more truly Christian congregation would raise money for good works, not high-end real estate. Or recognizing that their geographic center is no longer Menlo Park, let go of the real estate and expand their mission in more affordable towns.
I grieve for the strong moral core of the olden MPPC....before Christianity became a political cause. The meek shall inherit the earth.... Love thy neighbor (but stay out of their bedrooms).
As a former Presbyterian from the southern states, I've seen this type of behavior before during the earlier civil rights eras of the 50's, 60's and on. Many ministers preached that God's plan was for the races to be separate. Our very intelligent and caring minister was voted out once he dared to question that belief system.
As for me, after years of hateful, often times unspoken, words directed at me on the basis of my sexuality, I would imagine the congregation entering the sanctuary to find my body hanging from the ceiling. The effort to fit into a rigid template which did not include my reality was simply too overwhelming at times.
I hope these words reach some of you so that you might understand the pain you are inflicting on your children and other family members.
What I find the most sad is that people who are not part of the church have assigned the issue of "homosexuality" as the reason for dismissal and then upon that assignment they have started casting stones at the church. This is all based on an assumption that people who were NOT EVEN THERE have made in regards to the recent vote. People who WERE there have stated multiple times that it was not about that, but you have already made up your minds based on something you read on the ECO website. Seems a little hypocritical to me. I know that there are gay members of the church and they are all welcomed and loved and wanted as part of the congregation.
MPPC offers membership classes which introduce people to the staff, the elders and deacons, the tenets of the church, the programs within the church (such as the children's program), and mission and volunteer opportunities. When I took the class, it was called 'Seekers and Joiners.' Membership classes are typically offered a couple of times per year. After completing the class, members are welcomed at a church service. To join the church, taking the membership class is required.
Church staff and volunteers spent a lot of time this past year verifying MPPC's membership rolls, because a vote required a quorum (50%) of the members to be in attendance. We ended up with 64% of the membership present. Then, for under the terms of the dismissal, at least 75% had to vote 'yes'. We had 93% in favor of dismissal.
A few years ago I, mainly from curiosity re. the phenomena of the little Menlo Park Presbyterian Church becoming a "mega church," visited a Sunday morning service. The message seemed to be mainly self agrandisement and program, program, program. There was simply no sense of the transcendent God in its worship. Now, that is their business and choice.
At the conclusion of the service I stood at the rear to observe the inter personal relationships of the people and their leader. The man was clearly focused on the "person over his shoulder"...."move 'em in, move "em on."
An older, nice looking lady came to this man and said how lonely she was feeling and distraught since the recent death of her husband. She asked if she could set a time to see this man. Again, looking right past her he said "Call the office and we will hook you up with group for this." The lady walked away. I walked away. I recalled the woman in the scripture who said "If only I could touch the hem of his garment." I don't recall the Lord telling her to get in touch with one of his disciples and they would hook her up."
This was what I found and have heard from others. Who knows what happened to that little lady. Surely, the "balm of Gilead" was not poured upon her."
To be perfectly honest, I also attened the little Episcopal Church on Ravenswood Avenue. The experience was the same. There were not many people but nobody had time for a visitor,neither religious leaders nor people.
And the church asks "why are we falling apart as an institution."
I sat in the pews and voted. My vote had NOTHING to do with homosexuality. It had EVERYTHING to do with being a locally controlled church wanting autonomy to pursue God's truth and do God's work in our local community.
It is so sad to read the unkind and untrue comments about this amazing and loving church. The comments here are nothing more than people casting stones -- accusing the church of raising money not for good works, but for real estate, accusing the church of bigotry. Nothing could be further from the truth. The worst part is that many of these commenters claim to be Christians, yet so readily and easily pass judgment on something they know little about.
So so sad.
I voted yes because I didn't like what I had read about PCUSA. PCUSA did a survey of its pastors in 2011. One of the questions was "Only followers of Jesus Christ can be saved.". Only 40% said they agreed with that statement. I feel that this is one of the reasons our elders decided it was time to leave PCUSA. There was no mention of gay clergy or gay members from the town hall meeting I attended last fall. I can't speak for anyone else, but I can tell you this was my primary reason for wanting to leave PCUSA.
I read visitors statement above. I know why they said this. In such a large church you have to find a small group or class to get involved. It's just how the church works and it has been that way for a very long time. I don't know about the other locations. Maybe they are smaller.
To those of you MPPC members who feel unfairly put upon because in your mind, your vote had nothing to do with with gay inclusiveness, I would ask you to consider your position from a slightly different perspective.
Imagine that the issue was racial inclusiveness and that a vote was taken to move from a racially inclusive organization which happened to not to meet all of your liturgical needs to another which happened to closely align with your desired organizational needs but they also happened to endorse a policy that opposed the mixing of races. And you voted to move to that new organization. To you, the decision to move had "nothing to do" with a racial policy. Racial policy wasn't even on your radar screen. Racial inclusiveness just wasn't something that was relevant or important to you. That's not what the vote was about.
But of course you say, you would never vote like that. Because to do so would make you a bigot.
Well, those of us that bemoan this decision substitute the issue of race with sexual orientation in our minds. We believe you when you say that wasn't what drove the decision in your mind. But nonetheless we don't find it just or compassionate.
Fellow MPPC members... we cannot control the ignorant statements of folks on this blog who wish to weaken our faith. We must (and do) accept and love them nonetheless, and pray that God will release them from the chains of negativity and ill will. And whether they like it or not, we shall remain unified in Christ as we serve our community according to God's will. Rejoice!
When visiting Cleveland, Ohio this summer for the 2014 International Gay Games, please join us for worship and friendship at The Old Stone Church (First Presbyterian of Cleveland) on Public Square. www.OldStoneChurch.org
This is one of the many reasons I'm an atheist. I'm exceedingly disappointed to see that so many of my fellow residents are closet bigots. I say "closet" since none of the 2,000 would be interviewed and defend their vote.
Morality shouldn't and doesn't come from a badly written book, full of contradictory statements, written by ignorant, misogynistic desert nomads 2,000 years ago. It comes from KNOWING the difference between right and wrong, something everyone but sociopaths can inherently do.
Religiously condoned bigotry is still bigotry. Every person who voted for this should be ashamed. Treat others as you would be treated. How hard is that?
BlueAtheist I respect that you don't believe in God or divine love, but please don't think that this vote reflects Christian values. It does not. It was about money and condemning gays. Jesus was about loving others--not condemning others (in this case to a life of celibacy if they happen to be gay). As a Christian, I am shocked that other Christians participate in churches that teach self-loathing (if you are gay) rather than self-love and acceptance (what God wants for all of us). I will pray for them and their gay friends and family members. We are one--and if you forget that, you become smug and self-righteous, which I believe distances you from the love of God and the message of Jesus Christ. Jesus wanted us to love our neighbors and even enemies--not to throw stones if they are not "normal" heterosexuals.
This is such an interesting thread, and I felt I had to comment, even though, as was suggested above, it's none of my business, as I am not a member of this particular body. Scripture is clear about several things. First, God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He does not "evolve" the way cultures do. And as Jesus pointed out, we are to be fed by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God, which for us, is the canonized scripture.
What's clear, is that we are to love the sinner, as we love ourselves, but you can't deny that a tennant of salvation, and forgivness in general, is repentance. Repentance for *all* sin. Also pointed out in previous posts, "gay" is not a special sin; no better or worse than any of the others called out in the Word. Remember though, that when Jesus healed, he consistently followed it up with the message to "go and sin no more". This is not a concept that the "pro homosexual" advocates choose to deal with.
I have heard nothing that says that even the majority of those thousands who voted for dismissal, that says that they don't love "gays". I have only heard that they *may* have an objection (and it has been suggested it's not about that at all, but again, I'm not a member) to openly (meaning non-repentant) homosexuals being in *leadership* positions. The scripture admonish us to flee "even the appearance of immorality". How can that equate with putting those clearly in rebellion to what scripture says, in a postion to say "follow me", which is the definition of leadership, isn't it? Most churches will also ask a hetero leader to step down, if he/she is determined to be involed in an extra-marrital affair.
It really is a question of idolatry. We either conform our will to what we determine, from dilligent study of scripture, to be God's will, or we grab some gold, and begin to fashion a god of our own conception. I applaud those in the congregation who chose to stand up for who they conceived God to be, knowing that it would draw the venomous ridcule we read in so many of the posts above. I pray for all, on both sides of this unfortunate division, and ask that God show mercy on all of us.
Thank you so much, Truth Seeker. I appreciate your understanding of this from a scriptural perspective. It is very condescending when people say "It's about money and hating gays". Just because someone thinks that something another person has done is wrong that doesn't mean you hate them. That is hurtful to read those words. It's also hurtful (to me) to say it's about money because it feels very negative as if that's not a valid reason to change. I feel very strongly that when people donate money to the church, it is the church's obligation to look out for the investments of the church. It's like they gave it to the church to be used for the purpose of the church so to not be wise about the church's assets make the church leaders not good advocates for the members who have donated those funds. It would have been irresponsible for the church leaders to disregard the financial sacrifice that members have made.
I think about the verse in the Bible that says for us to remove the log from our own eye before removing the speck from someone else's eye. It's not my role to judge another human being, so this was not part of my decision. The church leaders would have the same opinion about homosexuality whether they be with PCUSA or ECO. Their opinion would not change.
That about sums it up "Truth" Seeker: "'gay' is not a special sin; no better or worse than any of the others called out in the Word." You and it seems most MPPC members view homosexuality as a sin--but you would invite gay people to your church to be healed of their homosexual "affliction." God made gay people in his image, too. It is simply not a sin to be who God made you. You and your church are teaching God's gay children to hate themselves--pray away who they were born to be? Nice of you to welcome them to pray away their "sin" with the rest of the deviants at your church. Wow. And Long Time Member--what would Jesus have done with 9 million dollars? The job of your leaders should be to ask themselves how best to serve Jesus with those funds. Mother Theresa understood. But MPPC is clearly a booming business and protection of assets is a fine business goal. Don't do this in the name of Jesus though--he didn't care too much for investments and assets. Keeping your whole community in my prayers this Sunday--may you be honest with yourselves and truly love your neighbors as Jesus commanded. May your gay parishioners and your gay family members know that God loves them exactly as he made them, period. May you at least question whether you have the right to label someone a sinner because he was born gay. There are also transgender folks--are they automatically sinners because they have to elect a sexual orientation? This is not evolving culture, it is anatomy and physiology. However we are born and hardwired by God to love, God loves us. Love between two consenting, committed adults is love and should be celebrated--it is never wrong. Condemning someone to a life of celibacy, self-loathing, self-denial and isolation is wrong. Please see the log in your own eye.
To Informed, who says "The membership - including scores of contemporary young adults - chose to do this for a host of reasons that have nothing to do with the subject of homosexuality:
While it might be true that, for you, the question of sexual orientation is not the driving force behind separating from PCUSA, it is very much the defining principle of ECO. If "a passion for justice", and standing up for equal rights is something that matters to you, and I would argue that it should, you might want to take a closer look at the wagon you've hitched your cart to. In this video Dana Allin (Synod Executive of ECO), explains very clearly why ordination of "homosexuals" and acceptance of gay marriage are the reason for ECO's departure from PCUSA.
Where you say "Frankly, if you are not a member, it's none of your business anyway", I would argue that the church, and MPPC in particular, are a powerful influence in our local & global community, and that they are very interested in spreading their word and "teachings" to people outside of the fold. If those teachings include the idea that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, and that "those engaging in sexual activity outside the covenant of marriage" are not entitled to ordination - positions of leadership within the community, then it is discrimination masquerading as "the authority of scripture".
I came across this Declaration of Causes of Texas’s secession from the Union in the prelude to the American Civil War, and I wonder, would you be as willing to overlook racial discrimination if ECO embraced it in the name of God? Sometimes evolution and change are a good thing.
"That in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; "
Just wanted to help "We are One" with his or her obvious confusion. You write as someone who is completely ignorant of the Scriptures. And that's okay, as you have that freedom. But you have misunderstood the message of scripture. Homosexuality, *is* clearly spelled out in the Bible as sin. In fact it is referred to as "an abomination to God". So, it is not the members of the congregation that are making that claim. They are merely standing firm on what scripture says. Scripture also makes it clear that the "natural" way of man is *not* the condition that God wants any of us to be in. We are called by the Word to become more like Christ, who was without sin. The word doesn't say "Be who you are", but rather, "die to self, daily". We are all called to purify ourselves, and to walk a Godly walk, "fleeing even the appearance of immorality". I'm sorry, but if you are truly trying to be a disciple of Christ you strive to obey His commandments, and to pick up your cross and follow him. For the majority of the mainstream of Christian believers, the introduction of openly gay folks into church leadership, is essentially idolatry, as it represents man deciding what he thinks God should be like, rather than worshiping the one that has revealed Himself in Holy Scripture.
Again, the Word is clear "all have fallen short of the mark, lest any man should boast", so no one but Christ has the authority to judge another. But that judgment is referring to the final judgment for eternity. It doesn't suggest that we don't make judgment calls on a daily basis. Jesus said "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him..." How could it be possible for one to do that, if we are not supposed to judge sin?
I also would have to disagree with your assertion that this is an issue of "anatomy and physiology". I would contend that sexuality is behavior, not a condition the way race or gender is. Clearly is it possible to live a life free of sexual behavior. It's not one that I would choose, but the need to control sexual urges is something that all people face. Hetero folks shouldn't act on every impulse either. But as a society, it is a slippery slope to start down, to identify sexual leanings as "essential behavior". There are just too many destructive sexual behaviors that could be "protected" under that same logic, in my opinion. NAMBLA comes to mind.
I also thought your use of the word "deviant" was curious. I think that's a term used in statistical analysis, if I'm not mistaken. By the most generous estimates I've ever heard, a maximum of maybe 10% of the population may be gay. Statistically speaking, which side of this discussion is deviant did you say?
I do wish I could ease your discomfort with this topic, but God doesn't ever promise that living a righteous life will be easy, He only promises it will be worth it. And I know one thing for certain, God loves you, every bit as much as anyone else on the planet. He only waits for you to change from insisting "my will be done", into praying "Thy will be done". May the truth set you free. God bless.
To those in the MPPC congregation who are convinced that same sex marriage is just a minor issue in the decision to depart from PCUSA, be aware that your leaders are deeply divided around that subject, and are taking you with them to their side of the argument, whether you agree with them on that issue or not.
This is a link to a panel discussion in which Dana Allin, Synod Exec of ECO, expresses his views on same sex marriage -(it is not the link I posted above):
The question they address: "Homosexuality: Same Sex Marriage and Ordination Standards. Question #1: Is sexual immorality a primary or secondary issue in your mind? How does one who believes homosexuality is sexual immorality justify not fleeing from a denomination that embraces it?"
His response begins:
"Well, as one who left . . . maybe or maybe not, I'm the right .....but I understand there are people who will believe that sexuality, like I do, sexuality outside the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman is not uh.., is not acceptable, and is sinful, and yet feel the call to stay...."
To me, it is such an important question. In our political, religious, family and social circles we are wrestling with it. Imagine how it must feel to young people who have grown up in this church, when their very important friends and family tell them that they are sinners and an "abomination to God" because of who they love. Many young people have taken their lives over this question.
Be a heretic for just a moment and imagine that scripture is not the absolute and knowable truth - the word of God, but words written by people a very long time ago who had opinions and were influenced by their culture as we are today. Many parts are beautiful & intelligent words to live by. Some parts no longer. At least give it a good hard look and try to understand why people outside of your religious community believe it is a decision that impacts our society way beyond the borders of your church. And think about the way it impacts those within your church - people you have grown up with, who might be gay. To allow someone to stand next to you in church is not the same thing as respecting who they are and how they live.
Truthseeker, it must be nice to live in a world in which God's word is so unambiguously revealed. As one who knows God's word only through a glass unclear, I would suggest that there is considerable theological debate about the interpretation of those verses which touch on homosexual behavior. To infer otherwise is to entirely dismiss entire Christian denominations who reject your thesis as though they have expended no prayerful effort to understand or adhere to what The Bible has to say on the subject.
It is true that Leviticus does reject male homosexuality as an abomination (while both the Old Testament and New Testament remain completely silent on female homosexuality).
Similarly, Leviticus says in 18:26, that violating any of the statutes of The Law is abomination.
These passages are part of the Jewish Holiness Code which also:
prohibits sexual intercourse when a woman has her period,
prohibits eating rare meat
bans wearing clothes that are made from a blend of textiles
prohibits cross-breeding livestock
bans sowing a field with mixed seed
prohibits eating pigs, rabbits, or some forms of seafood
requires Saturday to be reserved as the Sabbath
I think I'm being both reasoned and reasonable when I say that many biblical scholars consider Old Testament Law abrogated by Christ's crucifixion.
With respect to New Testament theology, Paul's letter to the Corinthians is the primary verse used by reject (again) male homosexuality. To save time, I'll just copy from Dignity Canada's website:
"I Cor 6:9 Paul lists a many activities that will prevent people from inheriting the Kingdom of God. One has been variously translated as effeminate, homosexuals, or sexual perverts. The original Greek text reads malakoi arsenokoitai. The first word means soft; the meaning of the second word has been lost. It was once used to refer to a male temple prostitute (as in the verses from the Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament described above). The early Church interpreted the phrase as referring to people of soft morals; i.e. unethical. From the time of Martin Luther, it was interpreted as referring to masturbation . More recently, it has been translated as referring to homosexuals . Each Translator seem to take whatever activity that their society particularly disapproves of and use it in this verse."
Those who are rigid followers of the most literal translation of the New Testament will hopefully be as consistent in their thinking about the sin of divorce as their perspective on homosexuality. Christ himself admonished in Mathew 5:32 "but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the cause of unchastity makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery."
A final thought, if one is going to take homosexuality as a sin which prevents an active leadership role in the church, should not the same position respect Christ's words themselves by applying the same principle to that sin?
Oops, I'm sorry, I posted the wrong link in my second entry. Here are the two links:
Dana Allin on Ordination Standards & Same Sex Marriage:
Dana Allin on leaving PCUSA:
One of the above comments was this "PCUSA did a survey of its pastors in 2011. One of the questions was "Only followers of Jesus Christ can be saved.". Only 40% said they agreed with that statement." It was actually 41% but you get the idea. Homosexuality is the discussion in the MP community because that's what people want it to be about.
I was shocked when I read about the survey results and that's when I realized PCUSA did not fit with the MPPC I had always known.
This is why I felt the need to dismiss from this group.
I'm getting tired of people making judgements about why we "REALLY" voted the way we did. Others may not agree with something about ECO but that doesn't give them the right to arbitrarily decide for the entire congregation why they voted the way they did. It's getting old now.
To Long Time Member,
I can only speak for myself, not for the others who have expressed disappointment. My comments are not about why you chose, they are about what you chose. I can't presume to know your reasons. I see these facts: MPPC chose overwhelmingly to align themselves with ECO. ECO believes, among other things, that being gay is an abomination and a sin, and that people who are gay should not be ordained or married. They believe homosexuality is immoral. You may wish to bury that in the back pages as "something about ECO" that others disagree with, but it's not just a little something. It's a belief that has caused a lot of good people a great deal of pain.
You may or may not agree with ECO on this tenent, but if you've decided to overlook it because ECO offers other things that are important to you, you might run into trouble. Read the Essential Tenets and Confessional Standards and pay attention to the part that says "They are not lightly drawn up or subscribed to, nor may they be ignored or dismissed".
It shouldn't surprise you that MPPC is being held to a high moral standard - you are a church. And as Evangelical Christians you do not operate in a vacuum, it's your mission to spread your word and persuade as many people as possible to live by the word of God as you see it. Your literature says "We seek to be a movement, not just a denomination" That means other people will be affected by what you do. That means they have a right to express an opinion about it.
It's really scary to me when people commit to something without fully understanding the implications of their decision. If you agree with ECO about same sex marriage, then be honest and own it. If you don't, then stand up. It's not a benign position. It's a position that polarizes people and causes suffering for people who have done no harm to others. That is not something to be taken lightly.
So what you're asking is that members pick this issue as the one deciding issue. If I had voted to stay with PCUSA then I would be supporting the idea that you DON'T have to be a follower of Jesus Christ to be saved, because PCUSA supports that. That is what I care MORE about. That is what matters to Christians. Whether or not something is a sin is not up to me to decide, but I cannot support an organization that says there are other ways you can be saved. What happened to "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father but through me"
Long Time Member: So are you saying that the ministers and members of the Presbyterian congregations that have stayed with PCUSA are not Christians? I'm sure they would beg to differ.
That's not what I said. This is about what means more to me as an issue. You and others are publicly saying what should be the primary issue. I can't judge another person's heart.
I'm just wondering, when you had your town hall meetings and discussed the move to ECO amongst yourselves and with your church elders, did anyone bring up the topic of same sex marriage and ask where ECO stood on that? Was it part of the conversation, and how did people feel about it?
There were several different town hall meetings. Members were notified for each meeting. I believe it was discussed briefly in the meeting I went to. Others said it was a larger part of the conversation. I was mostly shocked, like I said, over the fact that PCUSA pastors didn't all or even mostly, agree with the statement "Only followers of Jesus Christ can be saved."
Honestly I don't care if people are gay or not. I have friends who are gay and it doesn't mean anything to me one way or the other. It doesn't even phase me. I guess that's why it wasn't an issue for me. If they had said "gay people can't be members" or "gay people must be shunned" or something like that, I would have been angry about it. The only reason I even know where the pastor stands on it is because one of the pastors said what he felt. They didn't ask the members how they felt. Changing denominations doesn't change what the pastors believe.
I think I'm all talked out on this subject. I hope others chime in on the discussion.
Many of you that voted with the majority may feel that they voted as such based on other "more significant" issues, and not based on the acceptance of gay lifestyle. Although I believe this may be true with many, this may also be just a justification; it's for you to judge. However, realize that in the South, many believe, still to this day, that the Civil War had little to do with slavery, just as your vote has little to do with homophobia...
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