As many young clergy women begin to navigate the sometimes rough waters of the local congregation, we also realize that even rougher waters can be found in the politics and polity of our national denominations. How should a YCW handle these issues? Some of us feel strongly that we should keep our opinions private; some of us choose to affiliate with affinity groups which advocate a particular viewpoint. Not only does it seem that everyone has an opinion, it seems that everyone has an opinion on how to express that opinion.
Mihee Kim-Kort, a PCUSA pastor serving in Pennsylvania, writing back at the end of April, provides some wisdom on how young clergy women might come to understand and appreciate this process of discernment:
“The presbytery voted this past week on the all-too-familiar Amendment B – [From PCUSA – It would replace the commonly-called “fidelity and chastity” clause with new language: “Those who are called to ordained service in the church, by their assent to the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003), pledge themselves to live lives obedient to Jesus Christ the Head of the Church, striving to follow where he leads through the witness of the Scriptures, and to understand the Scriptures through the instruction of the Confessions. In so doing, they declare their fidelity to the standards of the Church. Each governing body charged with examination for ordination and/or installation (G-14.0240 and G-14.0450) establishes the candidate’s sincere efforts to adhere to these standards.”]
Though it was already set to be defeated at this point, it was still interesting and meaningful to hear the dialogue about it within this presbytery since last time; I was in a different presbytery with different voices.
I think what strikes me the most about this issue is talking about fidelity and faithfulness…this amendment always gets reduced to the question of homosexuality and the ordination of gays and lesbians, which becomes politically divisive in a blink of the eye. but I always feel convicted when I read the amendment, which I agree with and voted for [probably no surprise there, and now I await all your arguments with not a lot of enthusiasm], that it’s about the faithfulness of heterosexuals, too, us straight people, maybe more so, since we’re the ones in power…what does it mean for us to articulate a faithfulness to Jesus Christ first and foremost, and message and purpose of the scriptures as rooted in God’s love, and the encouragement and inspiration of the confessions? How do we embody it, live it out, and witness to it?
I think it will pass next time. It was a relatively close vote this time, specifically in our presbytery, but it there were more affirmatives. I appreciated the conversation with one of our elders who seemed really interested in bringing the conversation back to our church, or at least curious about our church’s views. And I’m always blown away by the people who stand and express support of it; it’s always the least-expected, older, graying, retired male pastors. There is an irresistible wisdom that comes with age, especially when it is quietly and humbly expressed from these folks.
Finally, it struck me that I do grow weary of this debate and long for a time when the church will focus time, energy, dialogue, and work on the more pressing needs plaguing this world in terms of poverty, war, and oppression. Maybe we’ll be the church again soon…”
Fidelia’s Sisters editors wonder how other YCW have worked through difficult decisions in their denominations? How have chosen to share or not share your views with parishioners and colleagues? What have you learned from others that have aided you in working through these complex issues?