All forgotten, except by me, and now by you.
A PreNote: All my life I have been subject to “party” jokes which pivot off an emphasis on the first syllable of my surname. Perhaps the most learned is “Good night, Good Night! Partee-ing is such sweet sorrow.”
The truth is that I do not like parties at all unless I can find a wall to put my back against and watch the happy extroverts engage in small talk. In my defence I have very little small talk. All my talk is big talk. At least that is what I tell myself. However, on this occasion I delivered this small talk of which I am inordinately proud. A short speech is much harder to write than a long speech. Moreover, I am congenitally inclined to put up with things as they are rather than choosing to be responsible for change..
This was the situation. Then and now there are some good people who do not believe that all the leadership positions in the Christian church should be open to women. Inevitably some of them could be your friends. At that time our family was worshipping with a congregation, (called Ecks Presbyterian Church in this reflection) of about 500 members which contained a lot of people with this view although church rules insisted otherwise. Curiously, this congregation had elected women elders (including my wife), but their role was, as we experienced, severely curtailed. One year the congregation’s nominating committee proposed eight new elders ALL MEN, duly elected at the congregational meeting, and now requiring a vote of approval by Pittsburgh Presbytery having been approved by the Presbytery’s Oversight Committee. Contrary to my nature, I made the following small talk.
Mr Moderator: Fellow Presbyters: I am Charles Partee
The majority vote at Ecks Presbyterian Church and the Oversight Committee are weighty items to consider. However, this matter is now before Pittsburgh Presbytery for action, and I am compelled to stand in opposition.
My family and I have attended Ecks Presbyterian for five years. There are many positive things to commend in the life of this congregation (one need look no farther than the moderator’s chair), and I speak within the context of real appreciation and gratitude to its ministers, officers, and members.
Among the negative aspects–in my judgment–are the deliberate rejection of Presbyterian polity by some; a decided hostility toward the too-long delayed role of women in positions of leadership by some; and a consequent refusal to be guided by Presbyterian law by some–albeit couched in smooth words of support.
There can be no doubt that this fine congregation numbers among its large membership many remarkably gifted women more than qualified to serve as elders each year. I find it impossible to accept that eight men, some of them new Presbyterians, were found qualified to fill eight ordained positions and not one women–many of them life-long Presbyteians–could not be located.
I offer four (4) observations
One (1): I have never seen a Presbyterian elder, who happens to be a woman, serve communion to the ministers….I wonder why?
Two (2): I have seen the few Presbyterian elders, who happen to be women, serving communion, Sunday after Sunday, in the side aisles where I am told they do not so offend those congregants who reject their ordination.
Three (3): I am told that no Presbyterian, who happens to be a woman, has ever served this congregation as a trustee…I wonder why?
Four (4): I am told that no Presbyterian elder, who happens to be a woman, has ever been invited to serve on the immensely powerful policy committee of the session. I wonder why…?
It may be true that the exclusion of women to be elders this year was not intentional. They say it is so and they are honorable men. All honorable men, but the result is the same as if it were deliberate, and I submit the result for that congregation is unacceptable.
However, this is not, in my judgment, the real issue before us. The real question is whether this congregation will be allowed–even encouraged–to violate both the broad spirit and clear letter of the constitution of the church by appealing to its narrowest and most exceptional provision Unless you vote for the waiver of the rules that govern us–Ecks Presbyterian Church is in non-compliance.
That is for you to decide now.
I believe that it is essential to the life and witness of this great congregation as a Presbyterian Church for Pittsburgh Presbytery to deny the recommendation of the Oversight Committee.
As Presbyters, you have the unquestionable right to vote “N0.”
This Presbyter has the unquestioned duty to vote “No.”
A PostNote: I had asked several sympathetic friends to speak in favor of my motion to deny. They were wonderfully eloquent. I think neither of the pastors were attending the Presbytery meeting and the two (male) elders attending were founded dumb. Precisely, dumb founded. The coda for me was in the discussion when a brasher Presbyter asked if any woman from the Ecks congregation was present. My dear wife (one of the second class elders) had come to quietly observe the proceedings. She shyly raised her hand and was called to the podium for examination! As she walked bravely to the front of the presbytery meeting, it was obvious that she did not want to be where she was. Nevertheless, she looked the presbytery (mostly men) straight in the eye and declared in a clear voice her conviction that women were discriminated against at Ecks Church. I was never so proud of her. The motion to deny was carried.