The more I think about the recent doings at Presbyfest, the more I am struck by the observation that both the right and left wings of the PCUSA were dismayed by the passage of the PUP report, including the controversial recommendation #5, as amended, even while differing on the reasons for their frustration. Reading the websites of the affinity groups and the blogs reveals a lot of anxiety preceded that vote and is still roiling the Presbyterian pot a week later.
When recommendation #5 was amended in committee, there was consternation on both sides of the church because of the anticipation that a decisive action on the report and the ordination controversy would be forthcoming from the General Assembly. Most observers agreed that the original recommendation #5 did create a local option. Those who supported it as written were disappointed because the amendment may have closed a loophole that would allow a "scruple" to 6.0106b to be recognized by presbyteries wanting to ordain them. Those who opposed that recommendation were prepared to denounce it as schismatic--and then were stopped short by the confusion created by the amendment.
Bloggers Denis Hancock and Beau Weston interpreted the amendment and vote as an affirmation of the moderate, centrist point of view by this General Assembly. And maybe this is true, but I can't imagine that most centrists welcome a muddled decision either. Or was this vote just another step along the road to incremental change that will be taken further in 2008?
I think activists on both sides of the denomination were expecting a clear cut decision by the GA that would trigger planned responses. On the pro-gay ordination side, that would mean a flurry of well-publicized ordinations of non-celibate gays without fear of legal challenge. On the conservative side, that would mean a ratcheting up of moves such as attempting to orchestrate a recall of the GA for the purpose of voting again on the PUP report (bad idea-- likely to cause a big-time backlash), calling for the establishment of non-geographic presbyteries for evangelical churches to join, or organizing a widespread and coordinated withdrawal from the denomination of a large number of disaffected congregations.
Four years of time, effort and money went into the writing of the PUP report and its recommendations. People on both sides of the ordination issue are frustrated that the GA's actions were not decisive, but are still being debated, and worse--are likely to be litigated through a heirarchy of church courts which have not been willing to act consistently and decisively either.
The denomination reminds me of the frog in the kettle who doesn't realize that the heat is gradually increasing and expires because it didn't know when to get out of the pot. There's been a lot of blather about the need for "trust". President Reagan advised, "Trust, but verify." I say to those of us still in the pot, "Trust, but check your thermometer."