Saturday, June 24, 2006

A Saturday Post?!?

Followers of this blog know that I post Monday through Friday. This week, however, will be different. It has been an interesting week (an understatement). Ups. Downs. Questions. Hope. There is only one way to end this week and begin the new week—worship.

“Ascribe to the LORD, O mighty ones,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.”

-Psalm 29:1-2 (NIV)

At Evergreen we have opportunities for people to worship on Saturday night and Sunday morning. Saturday night worshipers can end the week worshipping our LORD. Saturday night is the worship service that uses a contemporary worship “style.” People come to church following a day of work, youth sporting events, working in the yard, shopping, fishing, or just kicking back for a day of rest. We sing, and then sing some more. We sit at the feet of Yahweh: to listen, to pray, to conform our lives to his will.

Tonight we will sing a new song—At the Foot of the Cross, by Kathryn Scott (Copyright 2003 Vertical Worship Songs).

Verse One:

At the foot of the cross where grace and suff’ring meet,

You have shown me Your love through the judgment You’ve received.


And You’ve won my heart. Yes, You’ve won my heart.

Chorus: Now I can trade these ashes in for beauty and wear forgiveness like a crown.

Coming to kiss the feet of mercy, I lay ev’ry burden down at the foot of the cross.

Verse Two:

At the foot of the cross where I am made complete,

You have given me life through the death You bore for me.

What a great way to end the week. Worship tonight will be GREAT!

Sunday morning is our worship service that uses a blended “style.” Worship will begin with When Morning Gilds the Sky: “When morning gilds the skies, my heart awakening cries: ‘may Jesus Christ be praised.’” (words from Katholisches Gesangbuch, 1744; music by Joseph Barnby, 1899) What a great way to start the new week! Worship Sunday morning will be GREAT!

Take time this weekend to worship. If your church does not have a Saturday night worship service, visit one that does! End this PCUSA-straining week in worship. Go to worship on Sunday morning as well—start the new week off right. This weekend, let us worship the King!

Friday, June 23, 2006

My Journey Continues and My Criticism of PCUSA Leadership

Yesterday the water got “muddier,” if there is such a word.

Presbyweb (a must read for every Presbyterian pastor) linked to an article in “The Outlook,” by Edward Koster, a viewpoint by Winfield (Casey) Jones and a letter from Christian Dominic Boyd. Koster argues that the amendments that were added to the PUP report makes it “less likely” that non-celibate GLBT persons will be ordained. Boyd (Ohio Valley’s State Clerk) says that same point with even stronger language. Jones agrees with Koster but wonders if the ACC would agree and whether an unbiased Permanent Judicial Commission would agree. The water just went from “mirky” to “muddy!”

Last night our Session had its monthly meeting. We have been studying the Book of Acts, two chapters at each meeting. We are looking to see what God was doing in the early church and how God could do those very things in and through our ministry. Last night we looked at chapters 15 and 16. Chapter 15 is about disagreements in the early church! The first disagreement was theological in nature and centered on circumcision. Paul and Barnabas took on the believers that were teaching that the Gentile believers had to be circumcised. It took a Council in Jerusalem to decide the issue—but the issue was not put to rest (sound familiar with the PCUSA?). The second disagreement concerned John Mark—this was not a theological disagreement! This caused “such a sharp disagreement that they parted company.” Barnabas took John Mark and headed to Cyprus while Paul and Silas when through Syria and Cilicia. Barnabas is NEVER mentioned in the Book of Acts again. This is one of the first church splits in the New Testament and it wasn’t even over something as serious as the PUP report! They went their separate directions to carry on the ministry of THE CHURCH. They quit fighting by SEPARATING! The water just went from “muddy” to “muddier.”

The lack of leadership is worse than no leadership or poor leadership. The PCUSA is experiencing a lack of leadership. Our Stated Clerk, Clifton Kirkpatrick is our constitutional leader. He is to interpret the constitution to the church—Permanent Judicial Commissions will be the final interpretive voice on a case-by-case basis. Our Stated Clerk MUST speak quickly and clearly on the PUP report as approved by the General Assembly. He MUST try to clear up the water. NOW! We need his interpretation immediately. If he fails to speak clearly he is not a leader and should resign immediately! The PCUSA needs strong leadership—now!

If you are a regular reader of this blog you know that I love to sail. One thing that sailors fear is the loss of the boat’s rudder. The loss of a rudder is SERIOUS. You have to be able to control the direction the boat is heading. A very skilled sailor can do this with balancing the sails in a certain way but it is difficult to do and seriously impacts the directions that the boat can go. Without a rudder the boat is at serious risk.

The PCUSA is a “ship” without a rudder. Yesterday I had a glimmer of hope for staying in the PCUSA. That glimmer will slowly begin to fade if the Stated Clerk doesn’t step up and do his job. If he “can’t stand the heat then he should get out of the kitchen.”

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Journey Through the Wilderness Took Forty Years

Thank you all so much for all of your letters of concern! Your thoughts and prayers are greatly appreciated!

I have no idea why God called it the “Holy Land.” Some parts are good for farming but lots of it is dry and unfertile. The land was been conquered and re-conquered over and over again. What made it the “Holy Land” is that it was the place that God had called his people to go to and possess.

The journey to that land did not take place over night. First, Abraham was called to leave his place of residence and travel to this yet unseen land. Then, during the time of Joseph the people left that land for the food and sustenance found in Egypt during the extreme famine. The next chapter in the journey for that land is found in the life and times of Moses. Even then, the journey to the land took forty years and many (almost every adult) would not step foot onto that “Holy Ground.”

I am not so naive as to believe that a particular church or denomination is the new “holy land.” Every church and denomination will have struggles and disagreements. There will be “well-meaning” individuals on all sides of those debates and disagreements. After all, fallible people are involved in churches! Including ME!!

There is a lot of prayer and fasting that will need to happen before any person or church decides to stay in the PCUSA or leave the PCUSA. To stay for unbiblical reasons is just as bad as leaving for the wrong reasons! I have spent a fair amount of time in prayer and Bible study but have yet to spend time with fasting, prayer and the study of God’s Word. This is something that will begin in the very near future. I am hopeful that our Session calls our church to a time of fasting, prayer and the study of God’s Word as we seek God’s will for the PCUSA, Evergreen and individuals and their families. At tonight’s Session meeting I will ask the Session to begin a time of fasting, prayer and the study of God’s Word.

My wife has been out of town on a project for the company she works for. She flew into SeaTac late last night. I did not tell her of the GA decision until we were headed home from the airport at about midnight (no sense in worrying her while she was out of town). Her first comment (jokingly) was, “Please don’t resign from the church until we sell our old house.” I love my wife! This morning she reminded me that two years ago I spoke of the PUP report and how it could have a HUGE impact on us and the church. She called it, “the line in the sand.”

Has the PCUSA crossed the line in the sand that separates a “biblical church” from an “apostate church?” That is the question that we are all faced with.

I have read many writings that say “nothing has changed” – we still have our constitution that tells us what the rules are. That is true. Those are rules that every pastor and elder has promised to uphold and enforce. Has that happened when the “rules” were to be enforced? No way! A Presbyterian pastor admits to officiating at a “marriage” of a gay couple and the Presbytery refuses to discipline the pastor. A Presbyterian church allows an atheist to become a member. An openly gay pastor admits to being gay and having a lover and the Judicial Commission refuses to discipline the pastor because no one has seen the pastor and the pastor’s lover have sex, so there is no real proof of breaking the rules (even thought the pastor openly said that they are sexually active. All of these events (and countless others) happened when there were to be NO EXCEPTIONS! It is now “open season” on exceptions. Some congregations and Presbyteries will seek to enforce the “rules” and others won’t. We are no longer “connectional,” we are “congregational.” I fear that we have ceased to be a Presbyterian church.

Serious decisions will need to be made by EVERY Presbyterian – and we will not all arrive at the same conclusions. Now is the time for EVERY Presbyterian to dedicate a serious length of time to prayer, fasting and the study of God’s Word. The journey will be long and difficult (I love to eat). I just hope that it doesn’t take forty years!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

What to Write?

I spent last night comparing the PCUSA to the Anglican (Episcopal in the USA) Church.

The Anglican Church world-wide is opposed to the ordination of GLBT persons and opposed the consecration of the Reverend Robertson, who is openly gay and living with his lover. Prior to his consecration many of the “conservative” individuals and congregations threatened leaving the Episcopal Church if he was consecrated as a bishop. A few churches left immediately. There could be additional turmoil if the Episcopal Church fails to "apologize" to the Anglican Church for consecrating the Reverend Robertson.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has now opened the door for the ordination of GLBT persons (or even persons who do not believe in the divinity of Christ!). Many of our sister denominations around the world are not supportive of such ordinations. Many individuals and congregations have threatened leaving the PCUSA if such ordinations occur. What will happen?

The past two weeks have been an emotional rollercoaster. June 11th the congregation “hijacked” the worship service to celebrate my ten-year anniversary at Evergreen (it was a total surprise). They wanted me to have the pleasure of just being a participant in worship. The focus of worship was on Jesus Christ. There was a guest speaker. A “Messianic” pastor (and good friend) was invited to give the benediction (sung in Hebrew and then spoken in English). The conclusion of the service had several members of the “search committee” stand up and speaks and the congregation gave my family some wonderful gifts (two days of sail on a boat at the cub where I sail—Windworks Sailing in Seattle.). There was a wonderful reception following the service. I turn 50 this year and could picture spending the rest of my ministry at Evergreen!

Today I sit here unsure of my future. I had reservations about being an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church way-back-when (prior to my ordination). I spent a lot of time seeking God’s leading through prayer and fasting. The same words kept coming back to me over and over – I was to be an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) until they allow gays to be ordained (I had never heard of GLBT at that time). I have never sensed that God has released me from his original instructions. God has called me to be a pastor in this area; that is very clear to me. Thus my dilemma. The church I serve is far from perfect but there are great things happening in the lives of the people who worship there. If I stay with the PCUSA I will be directly contradicting what God has told me to do (Some of you will be thinking, “How arrogant can he be!” My response is that if we have not had that type of conviction from God then we have not business being in pastoral ministry!). If I leave I will leave the church and people that I love. Be sure of this—I will be in pastoral ministry in this area and many from Evergreen will leave with me (The PCUSA moved—I didn’t!). Leaving will cause a HUGE financial burden on my family (two kids in college) and on the Evergreen family. I have never had to make a more difficult decision!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

What Now?

There are defining moments in every person’s life. Some remember where they were when JFK and Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated. Others remember where they were when the Berlin Wall was torn down. Others remember landing on the shores of Normandy. I will always remember where I was at 2:17 pm Pacific Time on June 20th. I was sitting in my office watching the General Assembly meeting on the web. I watched the debates on parts 5 – 7 of the PUP report, the attempt to refer the report back to committee and the final vote on the PUP report. I sat in my office knowing that the PCUSA would be forever changed.

Some people will celebrate today as the day social justice triumphed. Others will say that it was the day that the Bible was placed on the bookshelf to be replace by societal pressures.

What will happen in the PCUSA? No one knows for sure. What will happen in my Presbytery? Again, no one knows for sure. What will happen in my church? It could have a SERIOUS impact on Evergreen Presbyterian Church. Several members have indicated that they would leave the church if the PUP report passed. I realize that people come and go from churches all the time. Will this time be any different?

One day we will stand before Jesus and have to give account of what we did on this earth. As leaders (teachers) we will be judged more strictly than those who merely attend church (James 3:1). What will Jesus have to say about today and how we respond to it? If the PCUSA did the right thing – praise God. If the PCUSA did the wrong thing – heaven help us.

PUP Report Passes

At 2:17 p.m. Pacific Time the final part of the PUP report passed.

Following the vote there was an extended time of prayer.

Will comment later.

GA Online

Cyberspace has helped this meeting of the General Assembly come to life. As I write this addition to the blog I am listening (and watching) the meeting. John Detterick was honored as he retires from his position. John gave a very heartfelt, yet short speech. There was a committee report. Next a video and then the Nominating Committee report. Imagine, little-old-me, sitting in my favorite coffee shop watching the GA meeting! Presbyterians from around the country can now “connect” directly Assembly. We can become “first-hand” witnesses to the “goings on” of the church—we can watch the church in action.

Bloggers are helping highlight the workings of the Assembly. I follow numerous bloggers who are “reporting” on the Assembly. Their insight is helpful.

I have been less than thrilled with “Les,” the computerized information system of the Assembly. I applaud the effort to use technology to assist the Assembly. I know that there are always “glitches” with a new system. However, what I have witnessed of Les would not be acceptable in the business world. Did we go on the cheap for Les? Were the delegates trained on how to use Les? Let’s do better next time!

We are only just beginning to tap the cyberspace potential for the Presbyterian
Church. Here are some suggestions:

  • Bloggers (including myself) should cover the meetings of our own Presbyteries. This would include the committees we are on.
  • E-mail all reports coming to a Presbytery meeting to the delegates several days prior to the meeting. Delegates could come to the meeting informed and ready to ask questions or vote. There would be no need to have all of the reports read to us at the meeting.
  • Broadcast Presbytery meetings via the net.
  • Have a group of pastors work together on a sermon series and then preach the series at our respective churches at the same time. We could use wikis to facilitate this effort. Each pastor could have the primary responsibility for a given message. This pooling of experience and talent would help us preach “better” sermons.
  • Mission teams can transmit updates to their local churches with up-to-the-minute updates on how the mission project is going.

What are your ideas on the subject? Would any of you like to work on a “shared” sermon series with me?

Monday, June 19, 2006

Peace, Unity and Purity – Don’t Wait!

Two more years?!? No way!!!!!!!!

There appears to be move to postpone the vote on the Peach, Unity and Purity Task Force report for two years. Those in favor of the postponement want the Presbyteries to have that time to look very closely at the report and how it would impact the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Please, please, please don’t put off the vote. We have been waiting for too many years for the Task Force to report. Their final report has been public for almost nine months. Commentators on all sides of the debate have written volumes on the report. It is time to vote so that the PCUSA can begin to move forward.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

General Assembly Thoughts – Sunday Night

What to write about as committees get ready to report? I looked at the docket for the Assembly and something struck me. Other than worship, almost everything that goes on at General Assembly is “adversarial.” Debate this overture. Vote on that resolution. No wonder our denomination is so divided!

I have an answer! We (I) need a delegate to make a “commissioners resolution” (if that is what it is called) to the effect that the constitution of the PCUSA can only be changed every TEN YEARS. It needs to have the resolution passed this year so that neither “side” can try to stack the commissioner deck to ram their agenda through before the ten-year moratorium begins.

Follow with my thinking here. We will only fight and argue at a General Assembly once every ten years!

I would propose that the Assemblies in those non-amending years be centered on a theme. The theme for the next Assembly should be “worship.” First, there would be worship! The large gatherings of the Assembly could experience many different “styles” of worship. Workshops could be offered for choir directors, worship committees, worship teams, composers, musicians, light and sound technicians, etc. There would still be delegates but churches would also be excited to send their own folks to glean ideas for worship in local congregations. Imagine an Assembly centered on worship—rather that amending the constitution!

I propose that the second gathering of the Assembly should be on “mission.” Missionaries could come in from the field to share what they were doing. There could be workshops to help congregations partner together to do joint mission. There could be seminars on starting neighborhood health clinics or food banks. There could be seminars on how to reach out to inner-city youth or adults, people who are of the postmodern culture or even single moms. There could be a push to recruit people to go on the mission field. Imagine an Assembly centered on mission—rather than amending the constitution!

The third gathering could be on “social and justice issues.” We could learn about starting local HIV/AIDS ministries. There could be seminars on current social issues facing our country and the world. We could discover how local congregations could partner together to work for social change. We could look at ways for our churches to use alternative energy sources. Imagine an Assembly centered on social and justice issues—rather than on amending the constitution.

Themes for future Assembly gatherings could be Christian education and discipling, evangelism, stewardship, technology…

Worship would be central at EVERY Assembly!

One benefit from this change in what goes on at General Assembly is that MORE people would connect with the meetings of the General Assembly! I could foresee taking our entire worship committee for the gathering on worship and our mission committee on the year focusing on mission. Instead of one elder and pastor delegate from our presbytery there could be DOZENS of people going to learn more about various types of ministry. Wouldn’t that be great!

It is time for our Church to think outside of the box. We have been running the meetings of the General Assembly the same way since God invented dirt. What has it brought us? Fighting! Division! Membership loss! Financial struggles! Now is the time to change!

One brave, visionary commissioner needs to stand up and change the future of the PCUSA!