Churches, like other organizations these days, have “retreats” and “planning meetings” and “visioning sessions.” Meetings where members get together and reflect on what seems to be going right and not right and where that seems to be headed, and in the case of the church, where God seems to be calling people. Our congregation has had those from time to time during the almost 27 years that I’ve been part of it. We may be small and rural, but we read the literature.
Once, in one of those, the topic of acceptance came up, specifically related to LGBT (fewer letters in those days) people. And in the group was one of us who’d been a member of another church in the county, different denomination, up until he got divorced and had to find another congregation to worship with on Sunday mornings. Who said to me, more or less, how much difference did that really make? And I said, well, if this church weren’t here, I’d probably have to find a church in Louisville, or maybe New Albany. Because the other churches in the county might as well have signs on the doors that say “we don’t want you.”
That seemed to surprise him. But I’m guessing, less than it would have before he got divorced.
This came back to me yesterday, because our pastor preached on the way the Presbyterians-like-us read scripture, which is to say, in such a way that we ordain women and LGBTQ+ folks and affirm marriage equality. [These are all things that have led some people to leave the denomination and try to take their church buildings with them, and call the PC(USA) types names, like “apostates” and “heretics.”] She made a number of specific points, well, as usual, but the upshot was, we try to read the Bible in accord with “the rule of love” – how do I read this in a way that makes me better at loving God and loving my neighbor?
But I suppose, as I think about this, this also amounts to asking “how do I read this in a way that makes me better at helping my neighbor to love God and their neighbor”? Because I’m not saying that I’m good at that; but I believe I’m better at it than I was 27 years ago when I met the people at this church, and they let me paint walls in the new church building and plant trees and come to Bible study and sing in the choir and teach Sunday school and bring food to pitch-ins and serve on Session and be their friend. Not to mention baptizing and confirming our daughter, and marrying us, and coming to the wedding.
And so, I thank God for the Corydon Presbyterian Church. And for the way they taught me to read the Bible.
Image: A window at the Corydon Presbyterian Church, based on John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Own work, public domain.