The Rev. Faith Jongewaard, Associate Pastor of the San Pedro Presbyterian Church in San Antonio, has an interesting alternative take on the struggle within th Presbyterian Church (USA) at Presbyterian Online. Entitled “Living the Hosea life: an open letter to my Presbyterian friends,” she urges her fellow PCUSAers to consider the situation in which the Old Testament prophet found himself and its application their circumstances:
All his friends would have understood if he had left her. She was unfaithful, wandering, adulterous–plain and simple, she was a whore. The children, who all bore his name, didn’t all look very much like him. He was always having to go after her, always having to hunt her down in bars and strip joints and other men’s houses. He was always having to bail her out of some mess or another—and, that wasn’t cheap or easy. So, everyone would have understood if he had left her. Some would have even applauded. Some would have said, “Well, it’s about time! She’s been playing him for a fool for way too long!”
But, he didn’t leave her. He couldn’t leave her. It wasn’t that he didn’t get frustrated with her—angry, furious, raging mad. But, he couldn’t leave her. He had made a promise—not just to her, but also to God. And, truth be told, it was often only the promise to God that kept him going. He was, he said, being faithful to God, not to her. And that mattered to him more than anything—more than her unfaithfulness, more than the shame he felt about her lifestyle, more than the fantasies (and the advice of well-meaning friends) that he might really have a much better life without her or with another.
I love that story of Hosea and his relationship to his unfaithful wife Gomer—really, of course, the story of God and God’s relationship to God’s unfaithful people. I can’t help but think it has something to say to us in the PC(USA)—perhaps, especially, to those who might be considering leaving because we seem to have become an unfaithful church.
I, too, have been very concerned in recent years about the direction we may be going. I, too, have grieved over events that seemed to denigrate our Lord Jesus, question his atoning gift for us, re-name God to fit our own ideas. I, too, have been frustrated by what often seems an anything-goes approach to Scripture and a selective disregard for the clear meaning of our Constitution and the application of its discipline. I, too, am appalled at the vast amount of time and money—not to mention, words–we have wasted fighting with each other instead of moving into the world with the Good News of the saving work of Jesus Christ for all people everywhere.
But, I will not leave this denomination—and that is not become [sic] I am somehow more righteous or faithful than those who might be thinking of leaving.
I think she has a real point, which is why I have nothing but admiration for those who remain in PCUSA and other mainline churches fighting the good fight. I believe that I was called out of that situation specifically to begin a new work for Him in a setting that wouldn’t have been possible without moving to the EPC. But for those whose call is to remain, I pray only the Lord’s blessings on their efforts. The real question that we need to ask ourselves isn’t, “can I take any more of this?” but, “where does the Lord want me?” Even if the initial impulse is to ask the first question, it’s the second that really matters.