Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Letter, the General Assembly and Confusion

It is my contention that the recent General Assembly tried to please everyone and in the process frustrated the masses. The Assembly had to deal with at least three hot button issues: the PUP report, the Israel-Palestinian issue and the Trinity report (I would say that the rewrite of the chapter of the Book of Order and “open meetings” were also huge issues). The Assembly did not act decisively on any of these issues!

The PUP report was an attempt to give enough to both “sides” on the issue to keep them in the denomination. The result will not be peace and unity—definitely not purity. What will happen? The progressive/liberal side will keep pushing to remove all obstacles to the ordination of GLBT person. Few, if any, from this camp will leave the denomination because they have won a MAJOR victory. The PUP report was to appease the evangelical/biblical/conservative camp by keeping the ordination standards the way they have been. The evangelical/biblical/conservative camp is in confusion because of the amendment added to the PUP report on the floor of the Assembly. Most will stay in the denomination and try to fight. Some will leave. In trying to please everyone the Assembly created chaos and confusion.

The previous Assembly made news around the world in its decision on divestment and Israel. Presbyterians were angered. Jews felt betrayed. It was a quick decision and the ramifications were not thoroughly explored. There were numerous requests to overturn that decision. So what did the Assembly do? They tried to please everyone. East Coast news papers said that the PCUSA had thrown out the 2004 decision. The letter from the GA Stated Clerk and Moderator said exactly the opposite! Those who desire to “punish” Israel still have license to move forward. Those who want to “punish” the radical-militant arm of the Palestinian people DO NOT have license to do that. The PCUSA can give $$$ to “peaceful” endeavors in the area but there is no mandate to financially punish the militant Palestinians. Once again, in trying to please everyone the Assembly created chaos and confusion.

Now we move to the Trinity report. There are those under the PCUSA umbrella who do not like the biblical image of the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They desire to use other language for the Trinity. The report was, and is, UNBIBLICAL. The Assembly should have either sent it back to the committee to be re-written or they should have voted it down. So what does the Assembly do? They try to please everyone and in to doing cause confusion to the “average” Presbyterian. The difference between “receiving” a report and “accepting” a report is huge. It is confusing to the average person and most, if not all, non-Presbyterian-types. Why would the Assembly “receive” an unbiblical report? They did it to please the progressive/liberal camp of the denomination! That group now has license to use the language of the report in worship even though the report was not “approved.” The report was not “approved” to please the evangelical/biblical/conservative camp of the denomination. So where does the PCUSA stand on the Trinity? “Officially,” we still believe the biblical model BUT our churches are free to use the unbiblical model. Once again, in trying to please everyone the Assembly created chaos and confusion.

Some will say that the Assembly was “middle-of-the-road” and that the middle won. But did they? I don’t understand “the middle.” How can both biblical and unbiblical be ok? How can we have a prohibition on GLBT ordination and open the door to that ordination? How can we be for peace in the Middle East and yet not have any way to “punish financially” both sides? How can we have a biblical view of the Trinity yet give an opening for an unbiblical model to be used in worship? In trying to please everyone the Assembly created chaos and confusion.

Is it any wonder that the letter sent out to the churches was less than pleasing? The letter put a “positive spin” on these three issues but never informed the PCUSA as to what the true outcome of these decisions will be. I’m glad that I didn’t have the assignment of writing the letter. My letter would have been HONEST and told the denomination that we are in a time of confusion and crisis and need to be in serious prayer for the PCUSA.


At 4:29 PM , Anonymous will spotts said...

Your point is very correct. However, in the case of Israel and the Palestinian areas, the East Coast news reported the action correctly. Yes, a clearer statement would have been nice, but the action removed the extraordinary mandate to the MRTI singling out Israel. It affirmed only their customary processes. It renounced the 2004 unqualified condemnation of the security barrier -- objecting only to its route. The GA also overwhelmingly passed a resolution identifying suicide bombing and terrorism as crimes against humanity -- where the 2004 GA blamed the occupation for all evil acts. This is clearly a large departure from 2004 policy.

The letter from the Stated Clerk is a violation of the unambiguous instruction that he communicate recommendations 1 -5. He was left no latitude in the matter, so I'm really at a loss . . . I honestly don't see how any Presbyterian pastor can read that letter to his congregation when the source is in open defiance of the GA. Doesn't that amount to renunciation of jurisdiction on the part of the stated clerk?

At 9:47 AM , Blogger Pastor Lance said...

My guess is that the Stated Clerk was trying to minimize possible "fallout" concerning the PUP report.

Thanks for correcting me on the Israel-Palestinian area.

Pastor Lance


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