Friday, May 12, 2006

Pastor Lance responds to the May 2006 Presbyterian Panel Survey.

I think that it is ridiculous to ask a Presbyterian Elder, Deacon or Minister of the Word and Sacrament if they believe that Jesus “is the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through him.” If their answer is “no,” then they are not a Presbyterian. Let me explain. Here is how it goes:
First, a person is a sinner and separated from God.
Second, a person is led by the Holy Spirit to the realization that they need Christ in their life.
Third, they give their life to God through Jesus Christ – they are now a Christian (I agree with Bill Hybels and prefer the phrase “Christ-follower”).
Fourth, join a Presbyterian church or another church.

If they are not a Christ-follower they cannot be a Presbyterian—PERIOD!!!

I liked that the survey had hard statements concerning the PCUSA and its ongoing battles. These issues have been dividing the PCUSA for decades. They need to be settled one way or another. To live in theological limbo is killing the national church.

The statement about non-geographic Presbyteries is inspired. It would be difficult to administer. However, it is thinking outside the box.

I am glad that the writers of the survey realize that there is no one list of essential tenets of the Reformed faith. It would be fabulous if the essentials of the Reformed faith, for the PCUSA, would be clearly written in The Book of Order.

We need to remember that the Presbyterian Church had its beginning in a church split or schism. We like to deny that fact. The Presbyterian Church is not the “body of Christ” – it is one part of the body of Christ (and a small part at that). The PCUSA has almost nothing to do with the Assemblies of God or Nazarene Churches—is the body of Christ divided? The PCUSA has little to do with Saddleback or Willow Creek—is the church divided? They are all a part of THE BODY OF CHRIST! If the PCUSA were to split we could say the same thing as long as the new denominations were “Christian!” I have read that Luther would have stayed in the Catholic church had he not been kicked out. I don’t believe that for a minute! He recognized that the Catholic Church of his era was corrupt and unscriptural. Calvin would never have put up with the Catholic Church. A split (the Reformation) was the best thing that could have happened. It may be time for a new Reformation in the PCUSA.

The results of the May 2006 Presbyterian Survey will be very interesting to look at. The results may show that our denomination is very similar to the Catholic church of Luther and Calvin’s era. Are we, indeed, corrupt and unscriptural? We may know in just a few weeks.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Presbyterian Panel – The Third Time is a Charm.

The May 2006 Presbyterian Panel Survey also included some questions to which the person surveyed was to respond “Strongly favor,” “Favor,” “Neutral or Not Sure,” “Oppose,” or “Strongly Oppose.” Here are the questions.

“In overtures to this year’s General Assembly meeting, some presbyteries have called for eliminating this section altogether. What is your opinion?” (Note: Just before this question is a quote of G 6.0106b – known as the “chastity and fidelity” section or “Amendment B.” The question was referring to this section of The Book of Order.)

“Some Presbyterians think it would reduce conflict in the church if ministers and congregations could choose their presbyteries without geographic limits. A congregation could switch presbyteries if two-thirds of those attending a congregational meeting wanted to switch, and if a majority of the new presbytery voted to accept the congregation. What is your opinion?”

“Some Presbyterians think that the church’s constitution should specify the essential tenets of the Reformed faith, rather than leaving it up to ordaining bodies to discern them on a case-by-case basis. What is your opinion on this idea?”

What do you think about these questions on the May 2006 Presbyterian Panel Survey?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Presbyterian Panel – Part 2

He are more of the “statements” in the May 2006 Presbyterian Panel Survey.

“The standards for ordination of church officers (ministers, elders, and deacons) set forth in the church’s constitutions – The Book of Confessions and The Book of Order—apply to the whole of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).”

“Ordaining and installing bodies—presbyteries in the case of ministers, sessions in the cases of elders and deacons—have the responsibility to apply constitutional standards when examining candidates for ordination.”

“When an ordination candidate disagrees with one of the church’s constitutional standard, ordination should still be allowed to proceed if the disagreement is not over an essential tenet of Reformed faith or polity.”

“Conflict in the church tears the body of Christ and should be ended.”

“If local ordaining bodies are allowed to decide what is essential and inessential, there will be chaos.”

“It is worth giving up some purity to get peace in the church.”

“The church would be better off if there were gracious separation of the opposing parties.”

“A church that is not clear about what it believes is not worth belonging to.”

What do you think about these statements from the May 2006 Presbyterian Panel Survey?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Presbyterian Panel – Part 1

God must have a sense of humor. My name was selected to be a part of the “Presbyterian Panel.” This group of anonymous Presbyterians is regularly “surveyed” on various topics. The May 2006 survey looks at issues facing the PCUSA and the upcoming General Assembly meeting. The survey has statements to which we are to respond with “Strongly Agree,” “Agree,” “Neutral or Not Sure,” “Disagree,” or “Strongly Disagree.”

Here are some of the statements we were to respond to...

“Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through him.”

“The Bible is: the true Word of God.”

“The Bible is: a light in a world of moral obscurity.”

“Individual freedom of conscience in the interpretation of the Bible is an absolute right for church officers (deacons, elder, and ministers).”

“Every member of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) should try to live in harmony with other members of the denomination and avoid actions that might divide the PC(USA).”

What do you think of the “statements” so far? How would you have responded? More will be posted tomorrow.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Week 5: “The handwriting on the wall.”

Had Hem ever decided to let go and move on? Had he ever entered the maze and discovered what could make his life better? Or was Hem still hemmed in because he would not change… Hem had to find his own way, beyond his comforts and past his fears. No one else could do it for him, or talk him into it. He some how had to see the advantage of changing himself. Haw knew he had left a trail for Hem and that he could find his way, if he could just read The Handwriting on the Wall. He went over and wrote down a summary of what he had learned on the largest wall of Cheese Station N… While Haw still had a great supply of Cheese, he often went out into the maze and explored new areas to stay in ouch with what was happening around him. He knew it was safer to be aware of his real choices than to isolate himself in his comfort zone.”

-Spencer Johnson, “Who Moved My Cheese?” – pages 73, 75

What had Haw written on the wall? His wisdom applies to all people (especially Christians and churches). The writing on the wall said:

  • Change happens – they keep moving the cheese.
  • Anticipate change – get ready for the cheese to move.
  • Monitor change – smell the cheese often so you know when it is getting old.
  • Adapt to change quickly – the quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you can enjoy new cheese.
  • Change – move with the cheese.
  • Enjoy change – savor the adventure and enjoy the taste of new cheese.
  • Be ready to change quickly and enjoy it again and again – they keep moving the cheese.

Every pastor, elder, deacon, member, pew sitter, denominational leader and presbytery leader needs to look closely at the “Handwriting on the Wall.” Seminary teaches us many good things. However, it DOES NOT TEACH US TO LEAD!

It is hard to follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit when we are so entrenched in past that we refuse to change. The disciples had to change—transforming from followers into leaders. The early church had to change and accept Gentiles who believed in Jesus. The Catholic Church refused to change so the Holy Spirit brought about the Reformation. Presbyterians are quick to say that we are “Reformed and always reforming.” What a crock!! The PCUSA and its churches would rather be like Hew (becoming bitter, while starving to death) than follow the Holy Spirit to the new cheese.

We all need to read the “Handwriting on the Wall.”