All this week I will be blogging on the Presbyterian General Assembly.
The General Assembly approved three out of four liberal measures on sex. They voted to amend the constitution to drop the "chastity and fidelity" requirement of church officers. They voted to replace the previous "authoritative interpretations" of the constitution that prohibited acknowledged, active homosexuals from being officers of the church. They voted to retranslate one of the confessions so that it no longer condemns "the homosexual perversion." Late last night they stopped short of redefining marriage away from "one man and one woman."
The coalition of conservative groups sent out a very disheartened message. A dozen congregations were dismissed to other denominations last year, mostly to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, and there were some harsh words about the EPC at the Assembly. One of the last things that happened at the end of last night's grueling session was a proposal to deal with pastoral kindness with congregations that want to leave the denomination. It passed overwhelmingly. "Good bye and good luck," seems to be the liberal strategy, which is matched by the conservative mood.
I say to conservatives: stay and compete. The vast majority of Presbyterians do themselves believe the essential tenets of the Reformed faith. Almost all the growing congregations in the PC(USA) are conservative. Conservatives are more likely to marry, have kids, and be optimistic about the future. There aren't really many liberals in the church. What we see in the Assembly year after year are majorities of commissioners who personally have a traditional faith, but also believe in tolerating deviants (in both directions from the center). The future is actually pretty bright for traditional Presbyterian faith. It is just the rules that are getting loosened, not so many of the people.
So stay and compete. How people vote with their feet matters the most in the end.