The world economic system is in a very different place than it was a year ago. The bubble burst. We have seen massive real estate foreclosures. The stock market has been in a melt down. Businesses have gone under and millions have lost their jobs. Banks have needed to be rescued, along with the major automobile manufacturers. Government has stimulated the economy. Downsizes have occured at national and local levels. Anxiety and fear have threatened to paralyze many citizens.
There have been various explanations of why this has occured. Was it leadership failure? Was it greed? Was it government spending? The list of possible explanations have expanded. I do not know the answer. I’m not sure that anyone does. What seems to be true is that this is one of the most serious downturns the world economy has seen since the 1930’s. Nevertheless, every century has seen the ups and downs of economic fluctuation. Always we have recovered. That is my hope this time.
How do we cope? Coping begins with acceptance. This is what is! Out of acceptance comes collective efforts to address problems. Soon solutions emerge. They may not be satisfying for everyone, but they represent the best thinking of leaders in a time and place. Pulling together; praying together; giving together; serving together; dreaming together; determining together; and trusting together in the power of God to sustain us and to empower us are at the heart of coming through a time of testing.
Last November 2008 there was a national election. Political leadership changed. We elected our first African American President. Many rejoiced; others grieved. All of us should be praying that the new administration succeed in restoring not just the economy, but also demonstrate integrity in pulling our fragmented, diverse population together.
Last summer 2008 we had a General Assembly in San Jose. A number of proposals were passed and sent to the 173 presbyteries for majority confirmation. The most publicized was the amendment to remove G.6.0106b from the Book of Order and to replace it with another paragraph. As of last week, a majority of the voting presbyteries had rejected the amendment. Many are disappointed. Others are happy that we have maintained our ordinations standards. Most are deeply frustrated and angry that the G.A. has repeatedly caused the presbyteries to vote on this issue with the same results. Well, this is the way democracy works. It is always messy. Somehow in the give and take of the years the truth has a way of prevailing and orthodoxy established and reaffirmed. Spiritual maturity accepts and participates in an ever changing church and world that seeks to preserve the truth of the scriptures as they are illumined by the Holy Spirit in each time and place.
As Presbyterians we do not live in a perfect church. We have a pluralism of truths vying for acceptance. The church is reformed and always being reformed by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. It took the early church nearly 500 years to hammer out the doctrine of the Trinity. Who knows how long our debates will be when it comes to human sexual identity and behavior. I believe that God intends human sexual behavior to occur within the covenant marriage between a man and a woman. I believe this on the basis of biblical revelation and truth. But I am not willing to separate from sisters and brothers who interpret the scriptures differently than me. Somehow we must find the grace to keep loving this church for which Jesus died, even though it be so very conflicted and storm tossed. I plead with you to pray for the Church of Jesus Christ in all of its contradictions and controversies. God is yet sovereign and Jesus Christ is Lord.
I will continue to address this theme in weeks to come.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Jerry Tankersley