“For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew
I believe the PC(USA) is being misrepresented and unfairly characterized by the leadership at Trinity. And I am deeply concerned these same misrepresentations are what led Trinity’s Strategic Futures Task Force to recommend dismissal from the PC(USA) to the session.
With very few exceptions Trinity’s leadership has only told the congregation what they believe is wrong with the denomination, not what is right.
I do not believe the misrepresentations have been intentional, but I know they reflect a mindset, which from the beginning of Trinity’s process of discernment, was convinced the PC(USA) was “deathly ill”.
Southern California, and The Presbytery of Los Ranchos in particular, happens to be one of several pockets around the country where the fervor for dismissal has taken root. Standing inside this pocket you would think the entire denomination is unraveling. I think Trinity would be surprised how little their concerns are actually even an issue with thousands and thousands and thousands of other PC(USA) congregations around the country who are faithfully going about their work of being the Church.
Soon after Trinity’s Strategic Futures Task Force and other leadership began discussing discernment with the congregation earlier this year, a group of members at Trinity realized the perspective being presented was one sided and did not fully or fairly represent the denomination. There was, and still is, no formal organization to the group, just a loosely gathered collection of members (most of whom are long-term members of Trinity, many have served on session), known as the Trinity Fairness Group, who wanted a more balanced perspective shared with the congregation.
As Trinity’s leadership became aware of Fairness Group concerns, discussion opportunities were added. Several of the most tangible outcomes of the group’s efforts have been
- Presbytery Pastor Steve Yamaguchi’s presentation about the PC(USA)
No audio or video of the presentation was made available on Trinity’s website. The video was made available by the presbytery and can be seen here in four parts (videos #1-#4) under the heading “Los Ranchos Presbytery, The Case for the Presbytery“
- The Stay or Go presentation made by Jerry Tankersley and Gary Watkins
No audio or video of the presentation was made available on Trinity’s website. A copy of Jerry’s presentation to Trinity is posted on Jerry’s blog.
- The Trinity Fairness Group’s letter to the congregation
The session did not agree to mail the letter to congregation, choosing instead to make it available in the narthex and church office during the first two weeks of December, with their own cover letter.
To my knowledge, no announcement about the letter was ever made to the congregation. The letter is not available on Trinity’s website.
The Fairness Group’s thesis, however, is that all discussion and education should have taken place before conducting the straw poll.
Even still, 20% of the congregation indicated they were either uncertain (5%) or did not want (15%) the session to engage the presbytery in a process that could lead to the dismissal of the congregation (with property) to another Reformed Presbyterian denomination. Based on this outcome the Trinity Fairness Group asked for representation on both the Strategic Futures Task Force and the Joint Discernment Team (composed of members of Trinity and presbytery representative). Both requests were denied.
In all fairness it was late in the game to be adding a new member to the Strategic Futures Task Force, but in fact more diversity should have been accounted for from the beginning. On the other hand, the work of the Joint Discernment Team had not yet begun, and adding one voice (out of five) to represent the 20% does not seem unreasonable or out of line.
It is unclear what opportunities those of us who are concerned with the discernment process and decision to request dismissal will have to share our voice with the Joint Discernment Team. The Fairness Group has submitted a letter to the team. Beyond that, all we know for sure is there will be at least one congregational meeting with the team. Congregational meetings however are no place for true dialog and discussion.
And so we do what we can, and we blog…
Trinity, let’s stay PC(USA)