Why the Evangelical Church Needs the Liberal Church

The Presbyterian Church (USA)—like many Christian denominations—has been starkly divided over the role of gays and lesbians in the church. It feels to many, as author Richard Mouw puts it, that the church is getting ready for "divorce court." Should the church split or stay together? The authors of these two articles—both Presbyterian, one liberal and one conservative—differ on many things, but they are in accord about whether unity—or schism—is the best way forward.

There is so little room for genuine give-and-take in our Presbyterian discussions these days, while at the same time so much hangs on how our conversations go. The issues that we are discussing are not simply topics about which we happen to disagree. They are matters that are vitally connected to the question of whether we can stay together as a denomination. In that sense, our present Presbyterian debates do not feel like friendly arguments over the breakfast table, or even the more heated kinds of exchanges that might take place in the presence of a marriage counselor. Rather, it often feels like we are already getting ready for the divorce court, under pressure to measure every word that we say with an eye toward the briefs that our lawyers will be presenting as we move toward a final settlement.

I hope with all my heart that we can avoid the divorce court. I want us to stay together. I do not have a clear sense of what it would take to avoid what many of our fellow Presbyterians apparently are convinced is an inevitable separation. I do sense, however, a strong need to keep talking.

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Sojourners Magazine February 2004
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