Magazine article The Christian Century

Mouw Hopes for Compromise, Connections in PCUSA Future

Magazine article The Christian Century

Mouw Hopes for Compromise, Connections in PCUSA Future

Article excerpt

Richard J. Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary and current president of the Association of Theological Schools, has written about the importance of public civility as well as dialogue between Christians of differing views. In August he spoke in Minneapolis to a gathering of the Fellowship of Presbyterians, a group in the Presbyterian Church (USA.) who believe that the denomination has abandoned scriptural standards by, among other actions, deciding to ordain gay and lesbian ministers. The CENTURY spoke to Mouw about the Fellowship and its future.

Was the major topic of conversation in Minneapolis the recent vote by most presbyteries to delete the constitutional requirement of "fidelity in marriage, chastity in singleness" for ordaining church officers?

No. I think there was an underlying conviction that the real issues were much deeper. The discussions were about our commitment to what for many of us is the historic faith and confessional integrity within the Presbyterian context--the authority of scripture, how we interpret scripture and the uniqueness of Christ.

A number of Fellowship of Presbyterians organizers emphasized the desire to be more focused on mission work. Isn't that still possible?

It's hard to do that when, at every meeting we go to, they are always fighting about some vote that's coming up. Many of us were very disturbed to learn that the Presbyterian Church in Mexico just broke relations with the PCUSA over the decision to ordain gay pastors.

What struck you as the most difficult dilemmas facing pastors?

A number of our [Fuller] graduates who are in positions of pastoral leadership are telling me that their people are very angry and want out. Those pastors are struggling with their own conscience: Will I continue to be a pastor to these people and go where they want to go, or is this a test of my leadership? Sadly, at the local level people are quietly leaving congregations because of their distress especially over the passage of the new ordination amendment.

Fellowship leaders planning to create a new Reformed denomination as a haven for conservative congregations have said that in recent years some discontented churches have been able--after negotiations with the PCUSA-to retain their property and transfer into another Presbyterian denomination. Aren't the financial considerations a major obstacle?

It's a big issue for both the PCUSA and for those who want to leave. …

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