For publishing four profiles of LGBT members of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, the Record was accused of bias and undue influence by some readers. At least one cancelled their subscription. For publishing a monthly column dedicated to the Renewal Fellowship, the Record has been accused of bias and undue influence by some readers. Subscriptions have been dropped for that reason.
Shooting the messenger is an old tradition, and that is part of our job description. Critiques of the Record are merely a metaphor for the heightened, some might say extremist, divides within the PCC today.
In his blog Encrusted Words (on the Record’s website) Rev. Dr. Roland De Vries asks, “Can We Talk.” In the essay he hones in on the point where traditionalists and progressives differ on the issue of human sexuality: For those in favour of full LGBT inclusion in the life of the church, he writes, “it is inconceivable to think of any kind of disjunction between identity and behavior. If a person is gay (if that is a key feature of his or her essential identity—that is who they are) then a denial of the opportunity or actuality of intimate relationships is seen as a refusal of their person—a denial of their essential identity.”
For those who espouse a more traditional interpretation of scripture, “sexual orientation is not understood in essentialist terms—it is seen as an element of a person’s life, but not as a defining or essential aspect of the person’s being and identity. In fact, ‘traditionalists’ are inclined to believe that the essentialist account of sexual orientation (in terms of gay and lesbian identity) is a particular feature of modern culture—it reflects a socially constructed account of human life that our culture has begun to embrace and live in a deep way.”
Each side has rich scriptural study to bolster their position; some of which has been shared in the Record over the past year. Passionate scholarship has been hurled back and forth and there are few seeming points of agreement because, as De Vries points out, it is a matter of how personhood is defined by the two sides. Each believes themselves to be inclusive on their terms; but it is the terms that differ.
If the Record has any influence on the PCC—and it is hard to believe we do given our current financial bind and our request for help to continue—it is to name and bridge the solitudes.
All are welcome to the table, all are welcome to worship. An important role the Presbyterian Record can play is to give honour to the different voices in our denomination. This is the publication for the whole church. And it might include people with whom we disagree. That’s just how church is. Let us get to know each other and be church. Fighting is easy; listening is hard.