A friend from long ago has left the PCUSA for the EPC, along with his congregation.
I sent a note wishing him well, in the hope that he will find peace in the EPC and be able to serve the Christ he knows in a manner consistent with the how the Spirit has shaped his soul.
Needless to say, I'm saddened by his decision and sympathetic with all the emotions.
Perhaps like a divorce, there's the temptation on the part of the one leaving to eliminate ambiguity and doubt - to justify the leaving and ease the conscience by an over-simplification: that God is the cause of this and the leaving is right, and the one left behind had it coming.
And for the one left behind, the same process tempts: to vilify and damn.
All such efforts fail to grasp the complexity of a divorce - and both must eventually face their own frailties and faults. There are no innocents abroad; all alike are sinners, saved by grace.
But Paul and Barnabas are helpful - they reached an impasse beyond human management, and apparently even beyond that of God, and before they did further harm to one another, they decided to go their separate ways.
I've always been thankful that the Book of Acts records this tragic, and oh-so-human, event.
It happens! And continues to happen throughout history, in church and in marriage, and virtually every other form of human relationship - there is a tragic element in our souls. Our love for one another can never quite rise all that high, and we mostly thrive on like-loving-like.
Maybe that's the point of confession, but tragic or not, life goes on. Barnabas mostly disappears from the text; Paul proceeds to center-stage.
Was Paul right? Was Barnabas right?
Like most such questions, it's the wrong question to ask.
They had a deep and bitter disagreement about Mark. Barnabas wanted to forgive and include him; Paul couldn't forget Mark's desertion of them.
And so it goes.
I think it's time for us to admit our tragic character - that on the question of ordination for GLBT persons, we are unable to find a compromise: either we do, or we don't. There can be no half-way covenant on this one, or so it appears.
So, like Paul and Barnabas, we go our separate ways, before we do any more harm to one another, and who knows what life lies on the other side of the divide?
As much as my friend longs for the day when the debate is finished and he and his congregation can get on with the work of God as they see it, so I long for the day when I and the churches I've served can get on with our work, too - including the full acceptance and ordination of GLBT persons.
This issue has shaped most of my ministry (40 years this coming January) and has consumed enormous amounts of energy and money - all of which could have been spent more effectively on the ministries to which Jesus calls us.
I wish my friend well, and I'm sure he wishes the same for me.
It's time for us to get on with the work of Christ!
Until the next chapter, the next issue, the next whatever ... until Christ returns and brings the final healing for body and soul.