Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A critical look at the 17th synod model.

A few more dahlia pics before getting to the blog. These dahlias are from my 2008 garden. The dahlias in the order they appear are: Kasasagi, Keewatin Pioneer, Keith H and Kel Kel.

Presbyterians for Renewal (PFR) is proposing that the PCUSA create a 17th synod. This synod would be a non-geographical synod that evangelical churches and presbyteries could join. This synod would have its own set of ordination standards.

The positive side of the PFR proposal:
1. It would provide a “place” in the PCUSA for evangelical congregations who disagree with the current denominational stance on the ordination of LGBTpersons.
2. Congregations/presbyteries would still have access to the millions/billions of dollars in the Presbyterian Foundation.

The negative side of the PFR proposal:
1. The 17th synod model does not address the root cause of the ordination standards debate—the authority and interpretation of scripture. There is no agreement on the person of Jesus: born of a virgin, did miracles, bodily resurrection, etc. There is no agreement that the only way to God is through Jesus—period. There is no agreement on the nature of God. The list of disagreements could go on and on. How can the churches of this 17th synod continue to be a part of a denomination that has moved away from orthodox, biblical Christianity?
2. The 17th synod model sacrifices biblical truths and teachings to the un-biblical position of unity at all costs.
3. The 17th synod model would necessitate a total reworking of the PCUSA’s structure—and thus, will never happen. The General Assembly would have to be modified to create a one headed monster with two bodies. How would the PCUSA create a curriculum that would be used by both branches of the denomination? How would the Washington D.C. office speak effectively for both branches of the denomination? How would mission be accomplished when one branch may want to support mission efforts that the other branch would view as heretical? How would the General Assembly and the General Assembly staff be divided to meet the needs of all PCUSA constituencies? The 17th synod model would necessitate a total reworking of the PCUSA—from top to bottom. It is never going to happen.
4. The 17th synod model would necessitate a reworking of our seminaries. The PCUSA does not “own” a single seminary. There are seminaries that are related to be PCUSA—they are totally independent. Would the seminaries have two sets of faculty—one set from the liberal/progressive camp and one set from the evangelical camp?
5. In the 17th synod model, how would pastors move from the 17th synod to any other synod or from any of the other 16 synods into the 17th synod? There are many churches that are made up of evangelical and progressive membes and not join the 17th synod. How would an evangelical pastor receive a call to such a church from the 17th synod? Would it be possible for a liberal/progressive pastor to become the pastor of an evangelical congregation in the 17th synod?

In summary, I do not understand how a person/pastor/church can believe that the PCUSA is doing “things” that are absolutely forbidden in scripture and still allow people and the denomination who are advocating the unbiblical positions to be in authority over them. Such a position is unbiblical and unacceptable.


At 12:06 PM , Blogger Aaron said...

Thanks for this analysis!

My initial response to the 17th synod idea was captured in your 3rd point on the negative side - that the reworking involved would be so complex that it would never happen. Even if it met with little opposition, it would still take 4-6 years for such a framework to be worked out (and at what cost to mission in the meantime?) In other words, at best it looks like no more than wishful thinking.

What I hadn't seen immediately (but am now starting to think) is that even if the transition to the 17th synod model were accomplished, the problems may still outweigh the benefits.

At 1:42 PM , Blogger linda lee said...

What percentage of churches would likely join such a presbytery?
Wouldn't you just be taking the evangelical churches out of the existing Presbyteries and then leaving a more progressive group in the original Presbyteries who may have more power to cause more liberal agenda at the GA.
This might pose extreme problems.
Wouldn't a large percentage of churches want to join a 17th Presbytery, because most of the churches in the PC(USA) are
evangelical unlike the GA.You would have to consolidate the presbyteries as they will loose so many churches. There will still have to be voting at the GA. What weight would this 17th Presbytery have in the voting if they are only represented by 2 - 4 voting representatives? Right now, it is imparative to have representatives to the GA voted on by each presbytery and for those representative to vote on issues that affect the whole denomination according to the will of their Presbytery (not stacked in order to have a more progressive agenda as is happening now). Easier said than done as the powers in charge want to hang on to their places and the same people keep going to GA (from my Presbytery anyway). Then the GA will reflect the majority of churches which are more evangelical. Isn't this a better approach?
God is certainly stiring things up though - keep your eyes open!

At 6:50 PM , Anonymous Paul said...

Forget the logistics of synod reform. Once the collective wisdom of our corporate culture assigns the motive of schism to such reform, its proponents will be treated like lepers. Need a case in point? This is how our church treats the New Wineskins Association of Churches.

As to the prospect of everyone standing where they are in their current presbyteries, our future looks more like a vision of Dante's "Inferno." The fifth circle of Hell is where the swamp-like water of the river Styx flows. This is where the wrathful fight each other on the surface, and the sullen or slothful lie gurgling beneath the water.

This is our fate if we are left to ourselves. We need Jesus... the only singular saving Lord.

At 8:14 AM , Anonymous Warren Gene said...

In all of the debate, has there been a suggestion that the liberal element of the PCUSA should leave and form their own denomination. Now, really, does the pro-GLBT group really subscribe to and hold dear the biblical, more conservative heritage of the PCUSA and Presbyterianism in general?
The 17th Synod model has some possibility but the arguments presented cast a shadow over its reality. Now is a time to fight not flee. Graciously and courageously stand and articulate those principles our forefathers stood on as reflected in our Book fo Confessions.

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