This afternoon, soon after the General Assembly convened, came a surprising and moving moment. The Assembly's newly-elected vice-moderator, the Rev. Tara Spuhler McCabe, announced her resignation.
Tara has been the focus of controversy even before her running mate, the Rev. Neal Presa, was elected as moderator. This is because, in connection with her work as a pastor in the Washington, D.C. area, Tara presided at a marriage ceremony for two women (a ceremony that is legal in the District of Columbia). The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) does not permit its ministers to preside at marriage ceremonies for two people of the same sex.
Yesterday, Tara was voted in as vice-moderator. What would ordinarily have been an utterly routine vote became hotly contested, as the Assembly wrangled over whether or not General Assembly rules ought to be suspended to allow debate over her nomination. After the necessary two-thirds majority was not achieved, only 60% of commissioners voted to approve her as vice-moderator.
The result was that Tara took office under a cloud.
It was noted by some that, had it been a call to pastoral ministry for which she were being considered, the moderator of the congregational meeting would likely have declared the call invalid, because a split vote does not bode well for future success of that person's ministry. (It's hard to say if this is a valid parallel, because the two positions are not the same.)
This afternoon, after a brief but emotional speech in which she made reference to a number of hostile, uncivil communications she has received in the past day or so, Tara resigned. There was an audible reaction amongst those in the hall at this unexpected news.
Shortly after, the Moderator announced that the Rev. Tom Trinidad of Colorado Springs is his new choice as vice-moderator. The Assembly will vote to confirm his nomination this evening.
I believe I'm not alone in feeling embarrassed on account of those of my fellow Presbyterians who treated Tara so shabbily. It's a deplorable mirroring of the secular political world, in which certain partisans in debate lose perspective, engaging in destructive ad hominem attacks.
This, however, is the church of Jesus Christ, not the secular political arena. Surely we can and must do better.
I have to commend Tara for graciously stepping aside when she didn't have to, for the sake of the peace and unity of the church.
Here's a link to a Presbyterian News Service article about Tara's election: