BOSSIER CITY, LOUISIANA
It is one small letter but it is causing big problems for one congregation in the northwest Louisiana town of Bossier City. The issue has divided both the congregation and the elders of Westminster Presbyterian Church so deeply that the almost half of the church's membership including 3 elders and the associate pastor recently split to form a new congregation in town.
The controversy, which has been growing for almost 5 years now, all centers around the pronunciation of the Hebrew letter 'waw' or 'vav.' Many in the realms of scholarship insist that the letter is to be pronounced 'vav,' making a 'v' sound when it appears in Hebrew words. Others, though, insist that the letter is to be pronounced 'waw,' making a 'w' sound. So then, depending on what stance one takes one could say, for example, "Bar-mitsvah" or "Bar-mitswah."
"We had hoped it wouldn't come to this." Said the church's pastor, Michael French. "But we've got to be firm in what we stand for. The letter is pronounced 'waw' with a 'w' and that's all there is to it. We're not going to budge on this issue."
"I must agree with our pastor." said 80-year-old Mildred Wilson, a life-long member of the congregation. "There's already one 'v' in the Hebrew alphabet, why in the world would you need another? If you want a 'v' just don't put a dagesh lene in 'Beth' and you'll have a 'v' sound. But don't go messing with 'waw.'"
Still others argue against the 'w' pronunciation.
"It's stupid." Said 6th-grader Kenny Nelson. "What are you supposed to do about the conjunctive then? I mean, come on, do you really expect me to say 'w'ahavta eth Yahweh Eloheka b'kal-l'vavka, wuvkal-nafsh'ka, wuvkal-m'odheka' when I'm saying my Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)? That's weird. All the other kids would laugh at me for saying 'w'!"
The final split in the congregation occurred this past Sunday when those who support the 'v' pronunciation wrote a letter to the pastor, remaining elders and the congregation expressing their desire to withdraw and form a new congregation.
"We are deeply saddened that this matter has come to this point, but we must stand firm and we must be unwaivering in what what we believe is right and true." The letter stated. "Therefore we feel it is in the best interests of all involved if our relations with Westminster Presbyterian Church are severed immediately that we may seek to believe and practice what we believe to be true regarding the Hebrew letter 'vav.' We hope that a level of fraternal fellowship may be maintained between our two congregations in the future but with the clear understanding that we will not be persuaded to change our convictions on this matter."
"It's grieving." Said French. "But we're going to keep pressing on fighting for the truth. I do hope that we can indeed maintain some kind of relationship with these folks who left, but it's going to be hard as long as they maintain this position. I guess one day in heaven this issue will be settled at last."