In 1991, when I was in eighth grade, my church “split.” At least that is what people said happened.
But now looking back I now know, my church tore.
And my heart and my faith tore, more than a little, too.
Twenty-six years later, I am weepy just thinking about it — the tearing.
It was ugly. I’m not sure my eighth grade self could understand how ugly. Families divided. Vandalism. Leaders’ character under investigation. And when a vote to leave the PCUSA didn’t end the way a majority of congregants wanted, they left and started a new church.
But my family stayed.
Not out of conviction or theology. Not out of alignment with a large and powerful denomination.
But out of loyalty to a place that raised my sister and I. But out of an unwillingness to leave a building that was home. But out of pure love of Summer Splash, Vacation Bible School, Youth Group Ski Trips, and Lock-Ins. And because of relationships.
Even as an innocent eighth grader, there was cost. Bold young friends made seemingly unfair judgements about me, my family, and my faith. Eventually the pain and the accusation were one of the gaping fissures that drove me away from church, for years.
Maybe that’s why in this season of splitting, in this season of tearing, I feel so fragile navigating life.
I know what is on the line here. I see it all very clearly. The cost is great, too great. For me. For my Church.
I feel fragile because while some feel led to protect doctrine, and some feel led to fight for justice for the oppressed. I feel led to hold tensions, to stay bound to both sides, and to usher in my fellow outliers.
And the truth, at least as I see it, is that God is on both sides of these debates. He is for Martha and He is is for Mary. He is for the prodigal son and He is for his brother. He is for the woman at the well and He is for her accusers. He is for truth and He is for love.
“Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt.”
John 8:7 (Message)
And I believe it when He asks for us to love one another and to be a credible witness. Gosh, how we must be disappointing Him.
“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”
John 13:34 – 35 (Message)
And I believe He would prefer us to spend our time and energy acknowledging, defining and repenting of OUR SIN and our struggles. Versus being quite so worried about other peoples’ sin and struggles.
“Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
Luke 5:31 – 32 (NIV)
So when churches split — tear — as they sadly will continue to do, I am going to hold my stones and stand on the side of Love. Because I am certain I have a bunch of junk that is mine to deal with and that’s all I really have time for right now.