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Reflection from Pastor Jim Mead Regarding Trial Controversy

Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Considerable attention in our presbytery and throughout the denomination has been focused on the trial of one of our pastors which was to take place on Wednesday, November 15, concerning a same-sex marriage ceremony. As you may know, the case was dismissed because our permanent judicial commission deemed that the charges were filed past a deadline.

This is a disappointing and frustrating outcome, because it is never helpful to the body of Christ when matters of substance are left unaddressed due to procedural matters. Our system of church discipline is intended to help us to deal with charges brought against a pastor in a manner that is reliably fair both to those who brought charges and especially to the person against whom they were brought, and to do so in a reasonable amount of time. On the one hand, our system worked well—it is the responsibility of the Permanent Judicial Commission (PJC) to decide whether things have been done in accordance with our constitution. In this case, the PJC decided that the charges were not filed in a timely manner, despite the hard work and best intentions of the fine people on the Investigative Committee. On the other hand, important issues about the behavior of one of our pastors could not be addressed because a deadline was not met. That is not the way our system is supposed to work and it is hurtful to the body of Christ—in Pittsburgh Presbytery and throughout the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

The Presbyterian Church does not decide matters as significant as marriage via quotes in the media from those who urge their various convictions—which is all we have in this case. We are meant to decide them decently and in order, and in faithful interpretation of God’s word and our constitution. It is hard to imagine that this outcome is satisfying to anyone.

Jim Mead, Pastor to Presbytery