Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Dry Dock – Part 3

Two parts of the sailboat that are inspected by the marine surveyor are the keel and the rudder. Too often boat owners take these two items for granted—that is until there is a problem with either of them. Yesterday we looked at the keel. Today we are going to look at the rudder.

The rudder is part of the boat that actually directs the water flowing past it in such a way as to turn the sailboat. Water has to be flowing past the rudder in order for the rudder to do what it is designed to do. This concept is difficult for beginning boaters to comprehend. I have witnessed many beginning boaters trying to turn their boat while their boat is at an almost standstill.

Losing a rudder while underway is VERY VERY BAD! A very skilled sailor can steer the boat by balancing the sails in particular ways. The “average” sailor would have a difficult time maneuvering a boat with just the sails.

If Jesus is the “keel” of the good ship PCUSA then the Bible and the PCUSA constitution make up the keel. To be “Presbyterian” we need both the Bible and the constitution. The Bible is God’s Word to Christians and the church and the constitution reinforces scripture and spells out how we are to be governed as a denomination.

The PCUSA has rudder problems when we move away from scripture. Our denomination has a rich history of being biblically based and honoring scripture. No two Christians are going to agree on how to interpret every little verse of scripture. However, we need to have agreement on those things that define the Christian faith. Unfortunately, the PCUSA has cast its net so wide that there are many (especially pastors, specialized clergy and denominational staff) who do not hold the beliefs of biblical, orthodox Christianity.

The PCUSA has rudder problems when major changes happen in the constitution. A major change can happen when a single word in the constitution changes (such as changing “shall” to “should”). The PCUSA is always one General Assembly vote away from rudder problems! The flaw in our “constitutional rudder” is that it is too easy to change the constitution. I believe that much of the tension in the denomination can be eliminated by requiring a 60% yes vote by a General Assembly to change the Book of Order and 60% of the presbyteries ratifying that vote. We need to make it VERY difficult to change the constitution. By doing this, we will force the General Assembly to do more than work on amendments to the constitution. The General Assembly meeting could be so much more than it is.

The PCUSA has rudder problems. The problems can be fixed! Ignoring those problems will cause rudder failure—that would most like be catastrophic!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Dry Dock – Part 2

Two parts of the sailboat that are inspected by the marine surveyor are the keel and the rudder. Too often boat owners take these two items for granted—that is until there is a problem with either of them. Today we are going to look at the keel.

The keel is made of heavy materials to provide ballast to stabilize the boat (Wikipedia). A sailboat has a fairly high center of gravity. Above the waterline there is the upper part of the hull, the deck, the mast, all of the standing rigging (the cables that keep the mast upright and the running rigging ( the lines – put a “rope” on a boat and it is called a “line”—used to control the sails. All of this “stuff” makes the sailboat top-heavy. The keel is attached to the bottom of the boat and provides the ballast to keep the boat upright. The keel (or centerboard) also makes it possible for the sailboat to sail “up wind.” “No keel” = “You have to go where the wind and current take you.” Almost every sailboat that loses its keel while underway will capsize! For performance reasons (I will not go into the physics), some racing sailboats have keels that a not fixed. As the boat heels (tips to one side) the keel moves to give the boat the best possible weight distribution. These “moveable” keels are great—except a large percentage of them fail. That failure causes a catastrophic loss of the sailboat.

For the PCUSA (and every Christian church) Jesus is our keel. He is the one who provides our stability. Christ is the one who keeps the Christian and the church upright. Christ is the one who enables us to go against the winds of the culture. Our keel – Jesus Christ – can be taken for granted until it isn’t there.

A “denominational surveyor” would find that the rank-and-file of the PCUSA have a biblical, orthodox belief of Jesus. This belief is what allows the local church to survive troubled waters. The challenge for the PCUSA is that pastors, specialized clergy and denominational officials have significantly different views on Jesus than do “average” Presbyterians. To be sure, there are many pastors, specialized clergy and denominational officials that have an orthodox, biblical view of Jesus. Our problem is that we have moved to accommodate beliefs on Jesus that would have been considered “heretical” throughout all of the history of the church! In sailing terms we have a “swing” keel. Our “swing” keel has failed and is causing catastrophic damage to the good ship PCUSA.

In the PCUSA we appear to have a common language and belief system—the problem is that our “words” do not have the same meaning. This is especially true of our beliefs concerning Jesus. You and I have no idea what a person means when they say that they “believe in Jesus.” The PCUSA will not survive unless there is a fixed belief concerning Jesus—who he was and is, his birth, life, death, resurrection, divinity, etc.

Our keel needs to be fixed! Immediately!