Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A newspaper article and letter about David Thompson: should we laugh or cry?

When reading the article in the Sacramento Bee, The Conversation: Can a mix of faiths meld under one roof and the letter to the editor “Ex-pastor’s account isn’t complete,” one doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. The Article is about David Thompson who was the pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in downtown Sacramento.

Thompson is the only person who testified to the Ecumenical committee at the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) that the Evangelical Presbyterian Church had stolen churches and millions of dollars from Sacramento Presbytery. Needless to say my husband and I were the only ones from Sacramento at that meeting who heard him. We were appalled.

The Committee designated to explore that possibility found that it was not true.

The Bee article is about a new spiritual outlet Thompson has started since renouncing jurisdiction and leaving our denomination. The article begins with a question, “Would blending different religious faiths into a new form of worship appeal to you?” The author and Associate editor, Foon Rhee, writes”

“The Rev. David Thompson gathered a half dozen kids for "children's time" during the Sunday service. Though it was the season of Advent, he didn't talk about Joseph and Mary, or the baby Jesus.

Instead, he told the true-life story of how a Jewish girl in Poland was saved from Nazi death camps by a Catholic woman who smuggled the girl into her home on Christmas Eve – and how they had a tearful reunion in America years later.

‘It's a lovely story,’ Thompson told the children. "The most important thing you will do in life is love. You have to learn how to love people different than you.’”

The story is lovely, but incorrect; knowing and loving God, enjoying him forever as the catechism puts it, is the most important they will ever do. That means that while loving people different from yourself or the same as yourself you will not compromise your relationship with Jesus Christ.

The article goes on to explain what kind of services the new spiritual organization provides:

Besides the regular weekly interdenominational Christian services, the fourth Sunday of each month features another faith tradition. A Muslim imam has spoken; so have a Buddhist representative, a Sikh and an American Indian. Next month, the service will focus on Middle East peace.

The Sunday gathering is called an "ecumenical forum," not a worship service. There are no church members, but "friends."

"The Experience is not just another church," it declares about itself. It "provides a gathering place to understand and explore the spiritual wisdom of all religions, and to consider the beliefs of agnostics and atheists.

… As we begin to understand the important contributions of our diversity, we establish the groundwork to trust and cooperate effectively in addressing our personal and global challenges in this 21st century."

Thompson is of course now free to follow the direction he was already heading. He believes only in faith, not in the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Any kind of faith is acceptable to him, except perhaps that faith which sees Jesus Christ as the only way.

But once again, as is usual in most newspaper articles it is explained that Thompson was forced to resign because he advocated for the ordination of practicing homosexuals. That he had in fact ordained two elders who were homosexuals. As the article states, “One of them was Darrick Lawson, an openly gay pastor's son whose ordination as a deacon at Westminster by Thompson helped lead to his demise.”

But that isn’t the reason that Thompson was asked to leave. And this is where the letter comes in, and the feeling about not knowing whether to laugh or cry.

The letter begins:

As the gay son of a Presbyterian minister, my parents, my partner and I are proud members of Westminster Presbyterian Church. I am concerned that the message from David Thompson continues to be that he was forced out at Westminster because of his support for gay rights. That is not the truth.
He continues:
Darrick Lawson was not the first gay man elected to church office, nor the last. My partner was recently ordained as a deacon.
This is a picture of our denomination. We are a needy Church whose members need once again to lift up Jesus, his sacrifice, his redemption, his transformation. These poor broken people, and we all are, need their lives changed by the love of Jesus Christ. For all of us it is hard to lay down our lives and give them over to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, but that is his calling to those who belong to him.

"But you beloved, building yourselves up in the most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh. (Jude 20-23)


Fr. Chris Larimer said...

This drives me to neither laugh nor cry, but to pray and repent. I've been released from the anger now that I'm not in formal relations with such. The burden is felt more to pray for their conversion.

Viola Larson said...

Perhaps tears in prayer Chris?