Friday, February 23, 2007

As the Heretical Becomes Normative

“Even though I have the kind of questioning mind that seeks to integrate and synthesize disparate pieces of knowledge, I have no internal conflict with being a Christian by birth, a Baha’i by reason, a Taoist in spirit, and a pastor in faith and vocation. Because I am comfortable with Mystery I am certain that I am a child of God. I am clear about the ambiguities of life. And I rest in the knowledge that I will never, never, never understand it all.” (Kikanza Nuri Robins, 2006 Churchwide Gathering of Presbyterian Women)

It is time for us to weep for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Is God turning away from the PCUSA for its courting of heresy?

Kikanza Nuri Robins is slated to be the author of the new Horizons Bible Study on the gospel of Luke. A self-proclaimed Baha’i writing a Bible study for the women of the Presbyterian Church? A self-proclaimed Taoist writing a Bible study for the women of the Presbyterian Church? Oh how far the Presbyterian Church has fallen!

The PCUSA is at a crossroads in its history. Some churches have already left the denomination. Others are asking the question, “When has the denomination gone too far?” The General Assembly moderator has been meeting far and wide with various groups from the PCUSA. She has acknowledged the hurt and frustration with the national church. Yet, what happens? The Presbyterian Women (PW) are adding gasoline to the Presbyterian fire.

This story either shows the total lack of leadership at the national level of the PCUSA or that our leadership is so blinded by a particular theological desire that they are willing to sacrifice the PCUSA to the god of liberalism. Some may say that there is nothing the PCUSA can do since the PW is a totally separate entity. True, it is my understanding that they are a separate entity; however, that does not tie the hands of the PCUSA. The General Assembly Council (GAC) could begin the process of withdrawing all support and backing of PW. There is no reason why the denomination has to endorse PW and their studies. There is no reason why the denomination has to invite PW to participate in anything having to do with the denomination. The PCUSA could stop advertising EVERYTHING that PW does. If PW is so out of control then they do not deserve to be a part of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)!

What will happen at the national level of the PCUSA concerning PW? Absolutely nothing!! Our national staff will continue to cater to this renegade, unbiblical organization. Local churches (like mine- because I will be informing our session and congregation) will get even more frustrate with the PCUSA. Eventually there be a “straw that breaks the camel’s back” for the PCUSA. Will this be that straw? Or, will this be the straw that so weakens the PCUSA that the next one will cause irreparable damage? Our national leadership is playing a very dangerous game of “Russian Roulette” with the life and future of the denomination. When heresy becomes normative the PUCSA is finished.

PS—How can this woman be an ordained pastor?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

My Dad—My Denomination: I don’t want them to die!

The Presbyterian Church I serve is like most Presbyterian Churches—we have a high percentage of folks 75 and older. All of us are eventually going to die. Generally speaking, unless there is an illness or accident, older people are the ones die. Over the past few years I have officiated at a lot of memorial services. In the coming years there will be many more. These are for people that I know and love. I know I will see them in heaven; yet, they will be missed here on earth. My “spiritual side” believes that for them “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). My “earthly side” does not want them die.

I don’t want my dad to die. I know that everyone will eventually die. It is frustrating to know that his actions (or lack there of) could make is death come sooner rather than later. Yes, I know that any of us could die today. Only God knows the number of days we have on this chunk or rock that is traveling around the sun. Still, it is troubling when our actions (or inaction) hasten our death. Again, I don’t want my dad to die.

I don’t want my church/denomination to die. For some reason we have this belief that a “denomination” is “the church.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is only one very small grouping of supposedly like-minded followers of Jesus Christ. Denominations are human inventions. Being human inventions they will eventually die. Still, I don’t want to see the PCUSA die. It is frustrating to see that our actions (or lack there of) could make that death happen sooner rather than later. There are times when I think that General Assembly commissioners are trying to commit denominational suicide. If not suicide, they appear to be trying to hasten the death of the PCUSA. A GA commissioner must be totally out of touch with our churches to vote “yes” on any overture that would allow non-celibate single persons be ordain by the church. Such an amendment if ratified by the Presbyteries would kill the denomination. Members and churches would race for the exits. It would be denominational suicide. Each time GA meets it flirts with the death of the PCUSA. The PCUSA is already in the trauma ward. How much more can it take? I don’t want my church to die.

I live in western Washington. A local hot button issue is the Seattle Sonics. The team has not been profitable for a number of years. The Seattle City Council sees no social value in having the Sonics as a part of their city. A new ownership group is seeking to move the team to Renton (a suburb of Seattle). If the ownership group cannot get a new stadium deal they will move the team to Oklahoma City. Law makers in this state are seriously considering “calling the bluff” of the Sonics owners. Would the ownership group really move the team? Many law makers doubt it. The Seattle market is much larger than the Oklahoma City market. These politicians believe that the Sonics’ owners are bluffing.

I firmly believe that the leadership in the PCUSA and General Assembly commissioners believe that the evangelical/conservative individuals and churches are “bluffing” when it comes to leaving the denomination. They really do not believe that ordaining non-celibate single persons would kill the denomination. They do not realize that their actions (or inaction) will kill this denomination.

I don’t want to see this denomination die. Unfortunately, that may be exactly what God is going to do if the PCUSA continues on its current path.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

My Dad—My Denomination: Dealing with Delusion.

My dad loves to hunt and fish. Some of my fondest memories growing up are of hunting and fishing with him. There was the time when dad’s foot got stuck in the mud (he was wearing hip waders). Getting his foot free he tore the cartilage in his knee. There was no way that he was going to quit fishing so he spent the rest of the day sitting on a tree stump with a fishing line in the water. Then there was the time we were elk hunting in almost two feet of snow – it is a bummer to have to pack out an elk, after dark, almost a mile in two feet of snow. He couldn’t believe that I could carry more weight than him—he just kept putting more and more on the pack board. We had a blast!

Just before I came home from my dad’s house he asked me to come back in the summer so we could take his boat up to the lake and go fishing. It would be a great time. Here’s the problem—there is no way my dad could go fishing in that boat. His wife (Wanita) would never let him. He is not able to walk from the parking lot down to a dock. He can barely bend over to pick something up from on the floor. He could never climb down into the boat. Once in the boat he would not be able to move from one end of the boat to the other. His heart wants to go fishing in that boat but there is no way that his body can go fishing in that boat.

Mutual fund disclaimers say that past performance is no guarantee of future performance. For my dad, fond memories of the past do not guarantee being able to do those things today (or this summer). I call it “dealing with delusion.”

I come face to face with delusion six days each week. Every time I work out at the YMCA I am reminded that I cannot relive my past. I have been working really hard on my cardio and weight training for the past six weeks. The other day I got in the pool to swim a few laps – I am a wimp! It just about killed me to swim 200 yards freestyle. I use to be a lifeguard and could swim a half mile without even getting winded. Dealing with delusion!

I believe that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) needs to deal with delusion. Long-time Presbyterians can recall with fondness the good-old-days of their church and denomination--the pews were filled; the sounds of a pipe organ filled the sanctuary. The Presbyterian Church was a powerful political voice. We were of the “mainline.” That is the past!

Presbyterian membership is shrinking. We are now referred to as the “former mainline” churches or the “sideline” churches. Political powers don’t give a rip about what the Presbyterian Church thinks. Most congregations are getting older. There are financial struggles throughout the denomination. People in the pews don’t care about the national church. Our national governing body consistently makes decisions that upset the vast majority of congregants. It is time for us to deal with delusion in the PCUSA!

The Presbyterian Church is never going to be like it was in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Our theology must be biblical and Orthodox – that must not change, lest the PCUSA totally split apart. Yet, we need to envision a church for the 21st century (before the 21st century ends!).

Those who are delusional are clinging to the past. Will our churches and our denomination allow them to win the day?