Tuesday, June 10, 2008

General Assembly Top 10 Issues.

Did you know that the Stated Clerk of the PCUSA copies David Letterman? Each night Letterman goes through his top ten list--at times the list is funny, other times it is dumb. other times it is just plain stupid. Before each meeting of the Presbyterian Church’s General Assembly meeting the Stated Clerk offers his/her top ten list—the top ten issues coming before the Assembly. The PCUSA web site offers the list—in no particular order. Look at it here.

Did you know that The Belhar Confession is one of the most important issues coming before the Assembly? What??? You must be joking!! Has the Stated Clerk lost his mind? Praise God that our Stated Clerk isn’t running for another term of office.

For the unenlightened (of which I was one), The Belhar Confession was written in the 1980s in South Africa as a response to Apartheid. It is now being pushed to combat racial separatism in any setting.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am against racial separatism. If we adopt this then I hope we “enforce” it equally. I am confident that this will be one more weapon in the arsenal to degrade Israel while building up the Palestinians. But before we do that, let’s remember scripture and take the plank from our own eye before we begin to operate on someone else’s eye.

A friend of mine lives in an Alaskan Yup’ik village. He has been married to a Yup’ik Eskimo woman for around thirty years. They have lived in the village for their entire married life, except when the wife went to college to get her teaching degree. They speak Yup’ik in their home. They live a subsistence lifestyle. My friend has learned and adopted their culture. He is one of the two best hunters and trappers in the village. Yet, he is, and always be, a second class citizen in his village. The village IS NOT a “reservation” (Study the Alaskan Native Claims Settlement Act to understand those particular issues). He will never be allowed to have a say in the community government. The PCUSA should speak out about against this injustice if it adopts The Belhar Confession.

Here in Washington, a new Native American casino is about to open. Several members of that tribe (they have been on the council) have been removed from the tribe in a power play dispute. These ostracized people are losing out on mega-dollars, as well as their health care. They are having to “document” that their dead relatives really were a part of the tribe (up until now their family membership has never been in doubt). The PCUSA should speak out about against this injustice if it adopts The Belhar Confession.

I know a young native boy (who isn’t so young any more). The young man is Tlingit and born in Sitka, Alaska. His mother (a full blood Tlingit) is from a family that has been active in the Presbyterian Church in Sitka for generations. This lady was unable to care for her baby and put her baby up for adoption. A couple (the wife is Caucasian and the husband is Native American—not of the Tlingit tribe) that I know adopted the child. The birth mother (and family) of this child have refused to “register” him as a Tlingit—this means that the child (now a young man) is not recognized by the tribe or the U.S. government as a Tlingit and he misses out on all of the benefits that go with that recognition (membership in the Native Corporation, financial assistance, health benefits, etc.). The PCUSA should speak out about against this injustice if it adopts The Belhar Confession—especially, since the birth family is Presbyterian!

The Belhar Confession looks good on paper. The Belhar Confession speaks part of the gospel message. We should be involved in speaking out about racial injustice. However, The Confession of 1967 does just that!! Check out The Confession of 1967 here and look at section 9.44a:

“God has created the peoples of the earth to be one universal family. In his reconciling love, God overcomes the barriers between sisters and brothers and breaks down every form of discrimination based on racial or ethnic difference, real or imaginary. The church is called to bring all peoples to receive and uphold one another as persons is all relationships of life: in employment, housing, education, leisure, marriage, family, church, and the exercise of political rights. Therefore, the church labors for the abolition of all racial discrimination and ministers to those injured by it. Congregations, individuals, or groups of Christians who exclude, dominate, or patronize others, however subtly, resist the Spirit of God and bring contempt on the faith which they profess.”

The PCUSA is facing huge issues! The Belhar Confession is not one of them!


At 4:31 PM , Blogger ZZMike said...

You startled me for a minute. Our pastor is also Pastor Lance - Lance Allen of 1st Presbyterian Church of Santa Ana (CA).

I came to your site by way of the Belhar Confession, which was given us during a short after-church Bible study. From what little I've read so far, I share your skepticsm. I notice also that this is the third GA they've been trying to get this through. "Keep at it till the polity gets it right."

Your telling about the guy in Alaska reminded me of a recent book, about a guy who is perhaps one of the last frontiersmen. I forget the book title. The guy left the midWest early on, and moved to Alaska, where he spends the rest of his life, living at the mercy of the elements. He married an Alaskan woman, and they have two teen-age daughters. I don't know if he's part of Alaskan village life - he's an absolute loner (simply because that's the way he chooses to live).

In the same vein is the old story about the New England town, where somebody comes in at an early age, back in the 1800s, settles in, becomes a pillar of the community, raises a fimly there, then dies at an old age. At the eulogy, townspeople said, "It's almost as if he were one of us".

Belhar was written in 1980 - a response to Apartheid. Apartheid is gone now (Carter notwithstanding) and lives on only in places like Mugabe's Zimbabwe and perhaps Saudi Arabia.

That the WCC endorses it is another reason to distrust it. Are we going out of our way to assume guilt for long-past sins?

One part of the Recommendation reads:

Yet statements about our "common" Scotch-Irish heritage are repeatedly made in governing bodies, ... , as if no other ethnic heritages were represented at the table."

I'm no more willing to deny my heritage than the Hispanic his, or the African-American his, or ...


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