Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Has the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) “jumped the shark?” Or, to put it another way, Was this past General Assembly the Assembly of Heresy?

Those who are familiar with popular culture will be familiar with the phrase “jump the shark.”’s first definition of “jump the shark” says, “Origin of this phrase comes from a Happy Days episode where the Fonz jumped a shark on waterskis. Thus was labeled the lowest point of the show.” The second definition says, “The precise moment when you know a program, band, actor, politician, or other public figure has taken a turn for the worse, gone downhill, become irreversibly bad, is unredeemable, etc.; the moment you realize decay has set in.”

The phrase “jumping the shark” has been applied in many areas. Krispy Kreme donuts had a good thing going. Their stock had shot up through the roof. Their stores were few and far between. People would drive hundreds of miles to stand in line for Krispy Kreme donuts. Several years ago a group from our church to the only Krispy Kreme donuts store in Washington State. Going to Krispy Kreme was an “event.” The night we visited Krispy Kreme there were several groups of high school students in their prom dresses, tuxes and limousines at Krispy Kreme. Krispy Kreme had a good thing going with not-for-profit organizations. These organization would order dozens and dozens of donuts to sell out along side the highways and byways of Washington State. Most people’s first experience of a Krispy Kreme donut was of a cold donut that was cooked at 3:00 a.m.! Krispy Kreme jumped the shark when it opened so many stores. There are currently two Krispy Kreme stores within fifteen minutes of my house. The Krispy Kreme stores sit virtually empty. The stock value plummeted.

The Anglican Church jumped the shark when the Episcopal Church in the United States consecrated a non-celibate gay bishop. This one event has caused irreparable damage to the Anglican Communion. Conservative Anglicans just wrapped up the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON). Archbishop Peter Akinola, Primate of Nigeria, said there must be “unavoidable realignment in the communion to rescue the communion from where we are.” He went on to say, "A sizeable part of the Communion are in error and not a few are apostate; is the Communion correctable from within or must it be from without?" A major shift in the Anglican Communion is taking place.

Was this past General Assembly meeting the “jump the shark” event in the life of the PCUSA? Was this the Assembly meeting that will forever change the denomination?

What is heresy? The Oxford English Dictionary defines heresy as a “theological or religious opinion or doctrine maintained in opposition, or held to be contrary, to the Roman Catholic or Orthodox doctrine of the Christian Church, or, by extension, to that of any church, creed, or religious system, considered as orthodox.” Several actions by this past General Assembly are very troubling. Do any of these actions rise to the point of being called “heresy?”

The Internet is ablaze with postings on this past General Assembly. The folks at “higher headquarters” (a.k.a. – Louisville) are in full damage control mode. Yesterday I received a call from our General Presbyter – the first one in twelve years. The GP is concerned about how pastors and churches are going to respond to the actions of the Assembly. The you-know-what has hit the fan.

The Book of Order says that “all synods and councils may err…” (G-1.0307) Christ’s followers are human—forgiven, but still human. General Assemblies have erred in the past and will undoubtedly err in the future. One safe guard against such error is that changes to the constitution have to be ratified by a majority of the presbyteries. Such a balance of power helps to prevent the Assemblies from error. One very troubling aspect of this past Assembly is the way in which it bypassed the requirement to send things to the presbyteries to be ratified.

Enough of the preamble—on to the analysis.

Error #1.

The recent General Assembly dealt with issues regarding the interfaith relationship between Presbyterians and Muslims. It is important that we build appropriate relationships with those who are outside of the Christian faith. Those relationships would include being respectful of the other religion while holding fast to the belief that salvation is found in Christ alone. I would expect that any Muslim that truly believes the doctrines of his/her faith would hold fast to the teaching of Muhammad and the Koran. It is possible to build a trusting relationship with those of a different religion without compromising the tenants of our faith.

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) adopted a report that says, “though we hold differing understandings of how God has been revealed to humankind, the PC(USA) affirms that, as children of this loving God, we share the commandments of love for God and neighbor, the requirement to care for the poor." and, "Practices might include participation in sacred and holy observances in each other’s traditions." and, “encourage congregations of these faiths to celebrate religious holidays together, setting aside days of worship during which there can be congregational suppers, and dialogue groups.”

To be fair to the Assembly, the most heretical sentence was removed from the report by the committee. However, the troubles with the report are of historic proportions.

Before I comment further, please take the time to read the following biblical texts:

I will comment further tomorrow after you have had an opportunity to read the listed biblical texts.


At 6:34 AM , Blogger Reformed Catholic said...

What I find interesting was that this week I found the latest edition of the Presbyterian Outlook in my mailbox.

In that edition there is an ad from the PCUSA Office of Theology and Worship asking people for a submission on What is heresy ?.

Some of the examples listed would sound very familiar.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home