A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Culture War Costs

Here's a post at Shuck and Jive about how the right assumes everyone who has left the Presbyterian Church USA did it in protest against the presence of liberals and gay people in that denomination.

I'm certain that can be the case for some, but I suppose such folks could never consider the idea the opposite occurs as well. I grew up in the PCUSA (and whatever the northern church was pre-1983) but a number of events led me to leave the denomination:

Local fundies who took over the campus ministry at my undergrad school. The renewal groups that targeted Celebrate (a college student gathering), just like they did Re-Imagining (a women's gathering). This gave an idea of what folks were willing to do for political points.

And then there was the case of Paul Capetz, which indicated to me, along with the various church trials against GLBT supportive pastors, that good people were not safe in the denomination. And there really are a lot of good people in the PCUSA.

So I left and found myself in the Disciples of Christ (and in some manner the UCC), which while not always better on these issues, doesn't seem to have big "renewal" groups, nor does it have the polity that can allow a small select group to go after folks.

Is the right's doctrinal purity and stopping gay cooties more important than those of us who have left the denomination over their actions? Hmm. It does speak of a particular blindness where one can't imagine the other. Statements from church fights suggests as much.

On a side note: the fundamentalist take over of my undergrad campus ministry was really the last time I was a member of the PCUSA. The later examples are reasons why I shy away from the PCUSA despite the great people I know in that denomination.

In some ways, in college, I was a good candidate for someone dropping out of Christianity and the church all together. But some friends pointed me to a progressive ministry where my questions were welcomed as opposed to deeming me a heretic.

That campus ministry is, in large measure, why I am in the church today. It's why I'm committed to seeing a progressive Christian presence on college campuses today. If the mainline has a future it's to be found here. But that's for a another story and post.


At 8:29 AM , Blogger andrew said...

Hi Dwight,

I understand what you're saying. I left the ELCA because of similar issues that caused you to leave the PCUSA (I ended up in the PCUSA because of my local congregation's progressive stances). Whenever I read about conservative people leaving the ELCA because of the church's progressive activities, I wonder why they don't recognize the progressives who have left because of their unhappiness with recent events/decisions in the churchwide organization.

Anyway, I certainly understand where you're coming from. Thanks for posting.

At 11:07 AM , Blogger Alan said...

"I wonder why they don't recognize the progressives who have left because of their unhappiness with recent events/decisions in the churchwide organization."

Because they don't care, perhaps?

At 11:38 AM , Blogger andrew said...

Yeah, and I think it's sad that there's all this hand-wringing about scaring off people with traditional/conservative religious views, but no one really seems to mind if progressives leave...

At 4:07 PM , Blogger John Shuck said...

Hey Dwight,

Good analysis. I think you are right regarding the polity of the more 'connectional' denominations that allows the rabid fundies to shut down progress.

I didn't know you went to UM. FPC in Missoula is a fundie disaster.

At 5:38 PM , Blogger Dwight said...

Ironically it was an ELCA campus ministry that let me stay in the faith. But polity does concern me in both denominations. There's some great churches in all the mainline denominations, depending on the community, etc.

Indeed. Which is why their complaints are to take seriously.

I think one of the many final straws was when the local UCC congregation had become O&A, the pastor of Missoula's FPC sent a letter thanking this congregation for that move because they had gotten so many new members fleeing the UCC. Of course what wasn't noted is that the UCC congregation started growing by leaps and bounds after that move.

I'm trying to remember when you were in Montana? I grew up in the 80s in Miles City's Presbyterian Church (David Bales was there much of my time there) and unlike most mainline freshman the first thing I did when I was in Missoula was check out the Presbyterian Church.

Within a few years they had dumped our campus minister and tried to make it a campus crusade for christ clone with a new director from "Youth for Christ". Now it looks like they just fund some other's church's fundie ministry instead of bothering to do their own.

But the ELCA and at that time the Wesley Foundation were there for me, introduced me to Marcus Borg actually *heh*. A lot of their practices and ideas I ended up using in our campus ministry in southern Illinois (which is PCUSA supported) to great affect.

At 6:22 PM , Blogger Jos76 said...

I was always a closeted member of Christians groups when I was in college because there were no progressive or liberal groups, they were all fundamentalist-based. Since college, I habe joined the UCC and my partner and I are both respeceted members.

At 10:23 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Dwight;

As far as I know, the Christian ministries on my campus were either accepting, or practiced "don't ask, don't tell". They tended to frown on casual sex, period, regardless of whether it was hetero or homosexual. It is a shame that it's turning into a political stump issue though. Our ministry focused on charities, missionary work, retreats and bible study, in short, spiritual issues that would bring you closer to God, which is what it's supposed to be about

At 10:38 PM , Blogger John Shuck said...


I grew up in Whitehall, graduated High school in Butte in 1980 and went to Montana State in Bozeman for two years. I didn't become a Presbyterian until I married in 1983 and my wife and I moved out of state. Came back in 2001-2005 and pastored First Pres. Billings.

Sherwood McKay is pastor at First Pres. Miles City now. Good guy.

My daughter attended UM and just graduated. She was freaked out by FPC in Missoula and attend the UCC church. She also attended the Lutheran campus ministry. Small world!


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