I’m grateful to report that Religion Dispatches published an essay of mine! In the piece, “Can a Church Split Truly Be Gracious?” I describe and reflect upon my experience leading a commission (officially a “Presbytery Engagement Team”) to investigate a church seeking to leave my presbytery, the Presbytery of Northern Plains.
The process was fraught, troubling, and yet also somehow life-giving. The intro is below. Please to to the Religion Dispatches site for the full piece.
The directions are easy. Drive north; turn left just before you hit Canada. In recent months, I became accustomed to the two and a half hour drive from Fargo, N.D. to Bathgate, N.D. The Presbyterian church in Bathgate had asked to be dismissed from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). As chair of the task force to engage with the congregation concerning its possible disaffiliation, I made that drive north often. Out my window I saw the wheat, beans, and sugar beets planted in the fields rich with Red River valley soil. Then harvest came. As our meetings dragged into winter, one night my car’s temperature gauge measured minus 18 degrees Fahrenheit. Disaffiliation in North Dakota is not for the faint of heart.
…I approached the Bathgate church eager to convince them to stay in the fold. At first I thought a few frank conversations and my young adult energy would turn them around… [read the full piece here]