A PC(USA) amicable split – pre-requisites

October 30, 2008 by · 6 Comments
Filed under: Religion 

A number of people have started to conclude that the best solution for the current liberal/conservative divide in the PC(USA) is an amicable split.  We’re currently pursuing a non-amicable split, involving illegal congregational votes to leave, civil suits, and coercive tactics used by congregations, presbyteries, and even synods.  I’ve heard from lots on the web (mostly conservative) that a split is needed.  I’ve heard some in private from people who aren’t ready to put their stake in the ground (many progressive) that a split may be needed.

I would define an amicable split as one where the majority of the Church recognizes that what we’re doing isn’t working, the majority feels that the split is necessary, and an orderly (hey, we ARE Presbyterian) method of splitting up the assets and people is being used.

So what would be required in order to pursue that split?

  1. A group of leaders from the conservative side, and a group of leaders from the progressive side would have to stand together and say that the split is needed.  While some of those leaders could come from the organizations in the front lines of the current battle, I feel that the majority should be people who have been trying to preserve the denomination up unto this point.
  2. Those leaders would have to work together to put together a plan for how a split would work.  I tried to write one a while ago, and got lost in the minutiae.  I might post one soon in less detail.  At any rate, this core group of pro-split leaders (called “the core group” from hereon) would have to write it, propose it, and sell it to the rest of the denomination.  The plan would have to be detailed, include the differences in the Book of Order and Book of Confessions that each resulting denomination would have, and include a plan for splitting assets above the congregational level.
  3. The core group would have to write a series of enabling amendments to the Book of Order, and get a presbytery or several to overture the next GA.  Included in the proposal should be a scriptural justification for splitting.  This set of enabling amendments should also include an amendment prohibiting any changes to the Book of Order or Book of Confessions before the split is complete.
  4. The General Assembly would have to approve the plan and amendments.  This might include stopping some other processes already started (particularly the Book of Confessions changes).
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  6. The presbyteries would have to approve the amendments.
  7. The plan would start taking effect upon the approval of the presbyteries.  I have no doubt that the plan would include a coordinating committee made up of equal numbers of conservatives and progressives who would oversee the operation of the split.

So the big question is this – who would be in the Core Group?  Which leaders from each side are willing to step up and say “I’ve changed my mind – it’s time to stop fighting and find a way to split and work together.”?

I certainly don’t qualify (I’m not even an elder), and even so I’m not 100% sure that a split is necessary.  I believe that over time generational differences will result in the progressive side “winning” – in that their views will become the dominant views.  The only questions in my mind are:  Will the denomination and local churches survive the fight until then?  Is “winning” important enough to take up our energies while we wait for generational change?

I would note that a group (or individual? Only one contact name is listed) of conservatives have proposed a Two Synod Solution within the PC(USA) denomination.  I do not believe that this plan is complete or even a good idea, but it may provide a basis for thinking about how a split might take place.

What do you think?  Are you ready to say “We need to split?”  Are you opposed to a split?  Are you willing to be one of the leaders who steps up?