I conclude with this….please do not confuse Presbyterian with any group…it is a denomination and has many branches …some anchored in Gods word…some not.
These words ended a post on Facebook Saturday from the pastor of Slate Mountain Presbyterian Church, one of the area’s famous “rock churches” and a house of worship where my grandparents — Walter and Zella McPeak — were founding members.
The words on Facebook came at the end of an announcement that the church was seeking to leave the Presbyterian Church (USA) because the Presbytery has granted pastors permission to marry gay couples in states that allow such marriage and is seeking to change the words of the church constitution to define marriage as a union “between two persons” rather than just “between a man and a woman.”
On Friday, I wrote and congratulated the Presbyterian Church (USA) for their actions and noted that the action would cause some churches, including Floyd County congregations, to leave the Presbytery.
I was going to leave the matter alone after that but the post on Facebook Saturday made it clear that Slate Mountain’s position on the issue is one of self-declared superiority that openly questions the Christianity of anyone — myself included — who believes that gay people should be welcomed into the church with open arms.
Part of my childhood was spent at Slate Mountain when my mother and I returned to Floyd County after the death of my father in 1949. We returned to the county again after five years in Farmville and alternated between Slate and Buffalo Mountain Churches. My grandparents, mother and step-father are interred in the Buffalo Mountain Presbyterian Church cemetery.
When Amy and I moved here in 2004, I attended services at Slate while alternating with other churches in Floyd, Montgomery and Roanoke Counties, often with my wife, who is a Christian of another faith. I was raised to believe that Christianity is an inclusive religion that welcomes different beliefs and points of view.
The congregation of Slate reached out with love and support when I lay close to death in 2012 from a motorcycle crash. The pastor, Jeff Dalton, was at my bedside immediately. I spoke to the congregation and thanked them more than once. I also spoke to other church congregations that reached out during that difficult time.
Saturday’s statement, however, makes it clear that I am no longer welcome at the church of my ancestors and must practice my belief in God in a place where inclusion, not exclusion, is encouraged and love, not condemnation, is practiced — not just preached.
The statement talked of believing in love and acceptance and of being composed of “born again Christians” but also said:
PCUSA has looked away from the very scriptures that God has given us as a way to live and to even voided the scripture of the definition of marriage.
From some points of religious view, including mine, PCUSA decided, by an overwhelming majority of its General Assembly, to re-examine its interpretation of what is written by mortals in a book that is — based on different interpretations by many different religious groups — used as the basis for different religions in the world today. By its own words, Slate Mountain has chosen to declare superiority in such religious interpretation, declare that its interpretation is the only “true word of God” and dismiss anyone who disagrees as not “anchored in God’s word.”
I am sorry but I can no longer feel welcome at a church that expresses such feelings of supreme superiority in a complex world of varying faiths and religions.
My grandmother — who was the most God-fearing and caring woman I have every known — would be shocked and ashamed at the position taken by the church that was her life. When a member of our family revealed his homosexuality, she made it a point to include him in Thanksgiving dinners and often told him that “God approves and loves you for who you are and how you choose to live your life.”
She was a strongly-religious and God-fearing woman I ever knew, one who read the Bible from cover-to-cover yearly and could quote extensive verses of Scripture from memory. When it comes to an understanding of that book, I trusted her judgment and interpretations.
It saddens me to leave the church of my family and youth but the tone of the message posted on Facebook Saturday makes it clear that Christians like myself will not be missed and my absence will not be mourned. I thought Christianity was above such things. I’m sorry I was wrong.