Thursday, July 10, 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? (Part 4)

The recent General Assembly of the PCUSA made some troubling decisions. Today I will move on to the horrible move by the Assembly.

Error #3.

The General Assembly tried to do an “end run” around the recent General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission (GAPJC) Bush decision by adopting a new Authoritative Interpretation on G-6.0108. A little history is needed to understand what the Assembly did or didn’t do.

Since 1978 Definitive Guidance the PCUSA has held that “homosexuality is a sin” and is not God’s “wish for humanity.” Assemblies in 1980 and 1993 affirmed this stance on homosexuality. G-6.0106b was added to the constitution through the amendment process to help clarify the issue. In 2006 the General Assembly tried to change the Authoritative Interpretation but adopting the Peace, Unity and Purity (PUP) report. That report gave Presbyteries the right to determine whether a candidate was qualified to be ordained as a Minster of the Word and Sacrament. A person could “scruple” something that they did not agree with within the PCUSA—including G-0106b (the section on fidelity and chastity). This action caused wide-spread anger in the denomination. The action was viewed as doing away with Amendment b without the action going out to the Presbyteries for their approval. The issued ended up going through the church courts. The GAPJC Bush decision ruled that Amendment b COULD NOT be scrupled because it is a requirement that is in the constitution.

The 218th General Assembly (2008) affirms the authoritative interpretation of G-6.0108 approved by the 217th General Assembly (2006). Further, the 218th General Assembly (2008), pursuant to G-13.0112, interprets the requirements of G-6.0108 [to] apply equally to all ordination standards of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Section G-6.0108 requires examining bodies to give prayerful and careful consideration, on an individual, case-by-case basis, to any departure from an ordination standard in matters of belief or practice that a candidate may declare during examination. However, the examining body is not required to accept a departure from standards, and cannot excuse a candidate’s inability to perform the constitutional functions unique to his or her office (such as administration of the sacraments).”

-218th General Assembly

Problem #1: This decision is a slap in the face of Permanent Judicial Commission. The commission had recently ruled that requirements that are specifically in the constitution CANNOT be waved. Period. End of story. The moderator or the stated clerk should have ruled that this was out of order. The church courts had just ruled on the issue.

Problem #2: This decision ushers in a time of confusion for the denomination. Those in favor of LGBT ordination are saying that Presbyteries and Session can now set aside, on and individual basis, any area where a candidate for ordination departs from the constitutional requirement for ordination. The church courts have already ruled that such actions are illegal. Once again the denomination will be in a state of confusion until a case works its way through the church courts (it will take about two years for this to happen).

Problem #3: This decision will have a cost to time and money for our denomination and Presbyteries. Lawyers will be hired. People will travel to attend court. This is a needless expenditure of limited resources.

Problem #4: This decision does not overturn the Bush decision. Yet, churches, Sessions and Presbyteries will act is though it does.

Several months ago my step-mother was admitted to the hospital. She was one sick lady. The doctors found that she had pneumonia, a MRSA infection in her lungs and a MRSA infection in her blood. She could have survived any one of these health issues. The combination of these three health problems was more than her body could handle and my step-mother died after almost two months in intensive care.

The new authoritative interpretation adopted by this past General Assembly will not kill the church—by itself. What it did was to give an already troubled denomination one more extremely divisive and unnecessary issue to deal with.


At 7:14 PM , Blogger Reformed Catholic said...

What's interesting is Ed Koster's take on this. Now Ed has said publicly that he is for ordaining gays (not sure if he is for practicing gays) but he sees a problem with the way this was done at the GA:


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