Arlo Duba’s forsaking of smugness
I hope that the courageous statement
on LGBT equality in the church by Rev. Dr. Arlo Duba in the January 24,
2011 issue of The Presbyterian Outlook is widely read and pondered
upon. It has certainly provoked much reflection on my part.
For me, and perhaps for you as well, one of the many remarkable
moments in Dr. Duba’s testimony is his admission near the beginning:
“I was so smug that I never explored God’s Word on the matter any further.”
And in the interview with Dr. Duba about the ad, he reflects more on this:
“I just never questioned that the church might have gotten it wrong.”
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) lives and dies by majority rule.
Because we share the conviction that, “no one person knows the mind of
God,” we know that decisions are best made by groups and getting things
done requires majority rule. So, motions are made, debate ensues, the
vote is taken, and the majority wins while the minority accepts the vote
and works to revisit the matter another day.
At the same time, The Book of Order warns us, “Councils may err
(G-1.0307).” Smugness – in the sense that Dr. Duba is using the word –
gets to the heart of majority and minority life in the church. When
there is smugness on the part of the majority, it disrespects the
crucial on-going participation of the minority.
If Dr. Duba’s admission isn’t a wake up call for us all to look for
ways to better respect the participation of the minority, I don’t know
what is. It is time for us to confess our smugness with Arlo Duba and to
pledge to stop with him.
As I see it, one instance of smugness in the church that continues to
haunt the PCUSA came just before I was ordained. The GAPJC decision in
the Kenyon Case, or Maxwell v Pittsburgh Presbytery, ruled that equality
between men and women is an essential of Reformed faith and polity
based on the creation of male and female in Genesis 1:27. The GAPJC
asserted this as majority rule and required all officers of the church
to join in ordaining women regardless of the minority view that read
Scripture in a different way.
That smug dismissal of the dissenting minority has planted a
suspicion deep in the hearts of those standing against LGBT equality.
Many fear that when the day comes where pro-LGBT people are the
majority, the smugness in the Kenyon case may translate to a smugness
with regard to LGBT ordination. In other words, just as the minority was
required to ordain women in the 1970’s, so these colleagues fear they
will be required to ordain LGBT people, against their freedom of
We all need to examine our own hearts to find the smugness that lurks
there and to turn it over to God. We each need to require this
forswearing of smugness of ourselves and then reach out the hand of
fellowship in Christ to everyone else in the church. And if we meet some
who remain smug in their beliefs and morality, then we need to hold
them to us in love even more firmly until they wake to this particular
sin and to their need for us in the life of the church, just as we need
This spiritual commitment to forswear smugness will help to restore
the comity between majority and minority and breathe Spirit-filled life
back into the PCUSA.
For myself, I am following Arlo’s lead and forsaking smugness. I hope you join us.
Originally posted at A Time to Embrace.