The world is evolving. New things, new knowledge and experience, new shit, as the Big Lebowski put it, comes to light every day. Ask Galileo if things remain to be discovered. Ask the historic Church how they like confronting new realities that have come to light.
People, particularly ‘religious types’, are averse to change. Quite happy to perceive life as it has been. Being in an in-group only strengthens the human resolve to maintain tradition and refuse change, especially when the group has enjoyed some amount of dominance. Movement requires effort. Movement expends energy. Ideologically and religiously speaking, mass movement rarely happens unless a crisis looms or devastation ensues. Thankfully we do indeed have an obvious Presbymergency.
The lack of changeability is all very ironic when it comes to critiquing the Reformed Church – a prophetic movement founded upon a shift from the status quo. Presbyterian USA folk like to think they are Reformed and Always Reforming, yet through the years there has been little reform, despite splits with the PCA, EPC, etc. Certainly there has been pockets of movement in the Church theologically and socially – and more movement is always required! We religious tend to resist change by citing that God never changes, and somehow that equates we should never change. We are not God and our theology and way of being are not infallible but subject to our murky vision and finite position as particular human beings – even together.
To compound the PCUSA dilemma, people do not tend to shift when it seems they are at the top of the heap. Many of the established rank in the denomination, remember the church at a stronger position numerically and financially. People tend to hang on to what they have known and over time grow sentimental. Often it seems, people that experience decline perceive that things are simply going to seed all around them, and so resolve to hang on all more to what they know.
The Church is not to simply shift by the whims of society. The Church is to shift as it speaks and acts prophetically. If a church/denomination does exercise the prophetic function it will always be on the move. If not, the church will certainly devolve into a social club, as Martin Luther King Jr. warned, and in time flake up and blow away, leaving the work of the Church to the prophetic.
The Emerging voice in the PCUSA is important for the Traditional PCUSA to hear and listen to as new things continually come to light. May the Emerging voice allow for the tent of the PCUSA to be extended, not so that there is agreement on all issues, but an awareness that we do not know all that we think we do – and together, with tolerance, we can reflect a broad range of opinion, and live in the dissonance of humility.