In the late 90's, an on-line satire site, The Presbyterian Gayman, spoofing the very real Presbyterian Layman, offered solace and humor to those of us discouraged by the right turn in our denomination. Unless you are informed about Presbyterian politics and what was going on at that time, most of it will slip by you. It's kind of like reading the book of Revelation 2000 years after the fact. The creators remained anonymous and I still do not know who they are. My hunch is that they were seminary students at the time. In 2004, after the General Assembly in Richmond, it resurrected for a brief period only to go silent once again. The resurrected PG wasn't quite as good as the original, but hey, I'm not complaining.
So what happened to the creators of PG? Two speculations:
The cynical view: They graduated from seminary and with their M. Div.'s in hand and optimism in their shiny pupils were called to a little country church in Indiana. They became brave enough one Sunday to speak about sexual ethics, social justice, or the historical-critical approach to the Bible, and were politely yet firmly informed that that kind of sermon was not in the spirit of Jesus. Discouraged, they decided to join the mainstream, forget their passions, buy a mini-van, preach sermons that the (supposedly) big pledgers like to hear, and climb up the ladder to higher and higher steeples.
The hopeful view: They graduated from seminary and with their M. Div.'s in hand and optimism in their shiny pupils were called to a little country church in Indiana. They became brave enough one Sunday to speak about sexual ethics, social justice, or the historical-critical approach to the Bible, and were politely yet firmly informed that that kind of sermon was not in the spirit of Jesus. Discouraged, but not despairing, they kept at it. They made mistakes, angered some folks, got their butts kicked, licked their wounds, found their voice, and are still out there, somewhere, raising consciousness and speaking for justice.
Now, my little sermonette to seminary students. You who now call yourself progressive or emergent or whatever, if you decide to enter the church, you will likely get your butt kicked. That will result in part because of inexperience and stupidity. It will also result because the church needs reform and you know it and you know that to be honest and authentic you need to address it. Good for you. Keep at it. Don't complain (it's unbecoming). Learn from your mistakes and don't be afraid to make them. Don't assume that people in the church and in the church alumni association don't want to hear about issues of justice, biblical criticism, and radical theology. You are their voice as well.
While you are in seminary read the books you are not supposed to read, write radical papers for your professors (they need to keep their fires lit, too), be willing to look into the void, and challenge all dogma (especially your own). Finally, put your views out there. Create a blog or a website in the spirit of The Presbyterian Gayman, or some other forum. I suggest you do this anonymously as you are not yet ordained. Don't tell me you don't have the time to do this because you have to conjugate your Hebrew. I know better. Doing so will be good for your soul, it will help you articulate your passions, and it will inspire the rest of us. Your honesty will keep the fire burning for us old farts already in the ministry who walk the line between cynicism and hope.
Most importantly, be lighthearted. Laugh at yourself while you laugh at others. Here is some advice from the character Dr. Robbins to his patients in the Tom Robbins novel, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues:
"So you think that you're a failure, do you? Well, you probably are. What's wrong with that? In the first place, if you've any sense at all you must have learned by now that we pay just as dearly for our triumphs as we do for our defeats. Go ahead and fail. But fail with wit, fail with grace, fail with style. A mediocre failure is as insufferable as a mediocre success. Embrace failure! Seek it out. Learn to love it. That may be the only way any of us will ever be free." p. 173To life,