Friday, August 11, 2006

Double Standard—A Legal Loophole?

Toby Brown’s blog was eye opening. Most of the strings holding me to the PCUSA were severed this week. Theology, Christology and biblical faithfulness have always been the areas I use to determine whether the PCUSA (or any church or denomination for that matter) is still a church of Jesus Christ and not just some “spiritual club.” I have always thought that the denominational leadership was out of touch with the people in the pews. I have always thought that the people in our leadership were good people—we just disagree on some foundational points of our faith. This week I found out that at least some of them are two-face hypocrites.

I don’t expect our leadership to be perfect, we all sin. I do expect them to be up front and honest. When they make mistakes they need to admit it. There is silence from Louisville.

Advisory Opinion #18 says: “This means that ordaining bodies should be given the “benefit of the doubt” [quotations in original document] in making individual judgments regarding fitness for office…,” and, “We remind the church that it is the duty of both individual Christians and Christian societies to exercise mutual forbearance toward each another (G-1.0305). We pray that all ordaining bodies will exercise restraint and Christian charity.” We are to trust ordaining bodies (sessions and presbyteries) in making decisions on ordaining gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender persons. We are to trust ordaining bodies as they decide that believing in the bodily resurrection of Jesus is not an essential part of the Reformed faith. We are to trust ordaining bodies with deciding whether to ordain women and minorities. We are to show restraint in filing charges against presbyteries in matters dealing with ordination. We are to show mutual forbearance with each other in matters of ordination.

Now comes the internal documents that show that these ideas of “trust” and “forbearance” applies to you and me when we disagree with a decision by an ordaining body (session or presbytery), but do not apply to denominational leaders when our sessions make decisions that they don’t like. This shows the greed of our leadership. They want us to accept decisions that aren’t biblical but they don’t want to accept session decisions that might hurt their pocketbook.

As churches leave the PUCSA (and they will leave), I hope that good lawyers present Advisory Opinion #18 in court on behalf of the churches that seek to leave with their property. I hope they call Clifton Kirkpatrick to the stand and have him read those sections I have quoted. I hope that they ask him how he can ask us to “trust” ordaining bodies in one area and then not trust them in another area. I hope that Advisory Opinion #18 becomes the main ammunition of departing congregations as they struggle to keep their property.


At 1:00 PM , Anonymous tonyc said...

Advisory Opinion 18 upholds exactly the approach cited in yesterday's material about the NCAA. It says there are national standards that have to be followed, regardless of personal and regional concerns. It also cites 0106b as part of those national standards. That should be clear.

At 8:30 AM , Blogger Pastor Lance said...

I understand what you are saying but you missed my point. The Advisory Opinion urges us to "trust" sessions and presbyteries in how they apply the standards. It is suggesting that we are not to litigate when we think an ordaining body ordains a sexually active GLBT. It is not forbidding the litigation--it is discouraging it. If they want us to "trust" the ordaining bodies in ordination then they should "trust" the ordaining bodies that vote to leave the PCUSA and take the property. You can read some of my previous posts on the property issue. This post was about trust. They next Advisory Opinion (#19) was about how GA is going to punish the presbyteries that let churches leave with their property. How's that for trust?

At 7:52 PM , Blogger Presbyterian Gal said...

Paul is really clear about how we are to deal and, yes, even judge our fellow Christians in following Jesus in the day to day events of our church. His instructions are based on Jesus' instructions. I've had a recent personal experience in this process and have had to look to scriture for how to proceed. First we confront the sinner. If we have no satisfaction there, we meet with 2 or 3 leaders of the congregation. If that doesn't work, we go to all the church leaders. And if that doesn't work, we are to leave. And not even eat with them.

I believe this applies to what's happening today in PCUSA. We confront the GA and let them know their decisions are not acceptable and do not follow Jesus' instructions to us. Etc. Although it is really difficult when they offer to spring for a fancy lunch. In my circumstance, I still had to say NO.

I believe it's more than what hurts the pocketbook, I believe it's also what's going to put more bodies in the pews so that numbers and money can add up. "Look we're really GOOD Christians because OUR church is growing!!" Even if that means adopting apostate practices to make this happen.

The message of the day appears to be "Win at all costs" and this is NOT Jesus' message. Though it no longer seems to apply with Louisville.

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