Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Thinking Unpopular Thoughts – Per Capita – Day 2

Per capita is the “tax” that each church pays for every active member on the church rolls. Each higher governing body sets the per capita that it is to receive to cover its administrative costs. Some governing bodies (such as mine) use a different method of determining it’s per capita. It is my contention that for the coming year our local churches should withhold the General Assembly per capita and give it to Presbyterian missions. Yesterday I looked at two reasons for withholding GA per capita: per capita is optional and the Trinity report. Today I will look at some additional reason to withhold GA per capita.

The Peace, Unity and Purity Report: The most recent General Assembly passed the now infamous Peace, Unity and Purity (PUP) report and threw the Presbyterian Church in turmoil. This action allows ordaining bodies to determine what “essentials” of the Reformed faith are really essential. We now have no national standard that is universally applied for the ordained offices of Minister of the Word and Sacrament (pastor), Elder and Deacon. Some will argue that ordaining bodies have always been able to apply the national standards as they see fit. Wrong! The General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission (GAPJC) ruled in the 2000 Londondarry decision that,

“governing bodies must “comply with the express corporate judgment of the Church in an explicit constitutional provision”; failure to do so “exceeds the constitutional bounds of freedom of conscience” (citing G-6.0108b; 12.1065-66).

“There are no constitutional grounds for a governing body to fail to comply with an express provision of the Constitution, however inartfully stated. Assertions of inconsistently, confusion or ambiguity may justify the right to protest. They do not create a right to disregard any part of the constitution.”

[Quoted from the PowerPoint presentation by Dr. Robert Gagnon at the New Wineskins Association of Churches meeting.]

Additionally, the intent of the General Assembly was to approve the PUP report as it was delivered to the Assembly. An amendment was added to the report on the floor of the Assembly. The Assembly was told by the constitutional advisory board that the amendment would not change the implementation of the report in any way. The intent was to allow ordaining bodies to set aside portions of the church’s standards, on a case by case basis. The PUP report was approved with 57% voting yes. That means at 57% of the voting delegates believed that they were allowing ordaining bodies the ability to set aside constitutional requirements on a case by case basis.

No one knows what the approval of the PUP report actually means – until a case makes it to the GAPJC. That could be years! Some ordaining bodies will begin ordaining persons who are not in compliance with G-6.0106b. They could also begin ordaining persons who disagree with other essential tenants of the PCUSA. Will pastors, elders and deacons be ordained who do not believe that Jesus is the only way to God? Will pastors, elders and deacons be ordained who refuse to ordain women? Will pastors, elders and deacons be ordained who deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead? No one knows because our “rules” are now unclear.

The Presbyterian Church has always viewed itself as a “connectional” church. The General Assembly has shattered the connectional component of the PCUSA. Connectional implies that we are connected by something. The PUP report means that we are no longer connected by the constitution or theology. The only things that seem to connect the PCUSA are the pension fund and church property. If these are the main things that connect us then we are in serious trouble.

The General Assembly, with its approval of the PUP report, has serious damaged the PCUSA and local churches.

The actions (or lack there of) of the GA Stated Clerk concerning the PUP report: Immediately following the meeting of the General Assembly, the Stated Clerk pronounced that “nothing has changed” within the PCUSA. If “nothing has changed,” why has the Stated Clerk failed to explicitly state that G-6.0106b must be obeyed? If “nothing has changed,” why hasn’t the Stated Clerk taken the lead to restore calm to the denomination? The answer: something has changed!

Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11 by David Ray Griffin: One of the “official” publishing houses of the PCUSA published this fabulous scholarly work (joke, joke!). Griffin contends that President Bush, our government and military planned and carried out the attacks on the Twin Towers. Imagine, the “official” publishing house of the PCUSA has published and marketed this book. Some will argue that Westminster/John Knox Publishing is separate from the PCUSA. To a point that is true—they are a separate corporation. However, their board of directors is appointed by the PCUSA! Their actions impact the PCUSA! Their board of directors has said that this book should have been published! No agency of the PCUSA (as far as I can tell) has condemned the publishing of this book. Why is the “official” publishing house publishing such a book? This has seriously damaged the PCUSA and our local congregations – we are the laughing stock of the church world!


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