My friends from Seminary, many of them, are posting from #GA222 in Portland. Reading their posts, I feel like such a dog in the manger. “They’re happy. Why can’t you be happy for them?” I ask myself. The reason is the same reason I wouldn’t be happy if someone had cancer and they were treating it with homeopathic remedies. (“None of the side-effects of chemo!”) They may be happy, but they’re not addressing the problem.
Good grief. The brain trust at World HQ published the PC(USA) Book of Confessions as a PDF without a table of contents. Way to move (cautiously) into the 1990s!
In view of all the changes to the PC(USA)’s Book of Order, it’s worthwhile to look at what its Book of Confessions says it believes. We wouldn’t want our practice to get ahead of our theology, after all:
That’s pretty good. But it goes on to explain this problem as follows:
There’s as much wrong as right with the list of reasons. (1) and (3) are obviously true; (2) has some truth in it, and (4) might be true if it weren’t for people like Norman Borlaug who solve problems instead of whining about nebulous potential dangers whenever the status quo is challenged.
Another problem with this list is that by lumping everything until about WWII together and calling them “perrennial” problems, backward views about sexual relationships like those of Boko Haram and ISIL don’t rate a mention, for all the violence and sorrow they’re causing.
In other words, our confusion about the meaning of sex was reflected in the very documents that tried to address it, almost fifty years ago.
Yet it reads like a breath of fresh air in today’s climate. The last two generations have not fared well (by any metric) as a result of what appears to be not a linear but an exponential accumulation of problems.
In the intervening years, new ways our confusion is aggravated have become apparent. I would include among them, (5) by the welfare state’s need for a broad tax base, which led to the creation of many inducements for women to work outside the home, and (6) by society’s misinterpretation of marriage as being about conferring approbation of and support for sexual rather than parental relationships.
Many of these causes are in fact symptoms of another, deeper, problem: the idea that we are smarter and more enlightened than our ancestors. We have made more progress along some invisible track. This gives us the audacity (or impetuosity) to implement change based simply on theory, rather than promising results from field tests. We impose our theory across all of society rather than using small laboratory environments to discover what works and what doesn’t.
…turn out the lights? Another one bolts for the exit. I don’t think they’re going to be the last.
The church in Richland became one of 20 southwestern Pennsylvania congregations to vote to leave the Presbyterian Church (USA) and join the EPC. Of the 400 members who voted Sunday, 368 voted to leave; only 31 voted to remain affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Mt. Lebanon United Presbyterian Church and Round Hill Presbyterian Church in Elizabeth Township also voted to join the EPC recently.
Just take a look at the items in the “Legislative Alerts” tab.
Good grief. That’s what the PC(USA)’s Presbyterian Mission Agency (i.e. the GA Council, lately known briefly as the GA Mission Council) is doing in its Office of Public Witness?
I’ve been too busy to follow the GA closely, but I’ll post a few items that I noticed over the weekend.
(By the way: the only way to get timely information about GA seems to be by following Twitter or the RSS feeds for the Christian Post. Our denomination’s official sources are either unnavigable or updated at a tempo that is rather, umm, leisurely.)
The big news, of course, is that GA did not approve the committee’s redefinition of marriage. The defeat was by a narrow margin, however, and is probably only a matter of time, however, with the continuing exodus of more-conservative congregations.
In other news, GA:
- rejected an attempt to go back to the status quo ante ordination standards.
- amended the list of qualifications for ordination to include repentance of sin and diligent use of the means of grace. (Same story as previous item, but further in.)
- kicked the report of the Mid-Councils Commission to the curb. I haven’t read the report myself, but I know somewhat and have great respect for Tod Bolsinger, the Commission’s moderator, so I’m inclined to read this as a missed opportunity.
- voted to approve a number of recommendations to “support immigrants. (I’m personally unconvinced about the merits of several of these — advocating for the DREAM act, for example — as either Christian witness or public policy.)
- voted to approve recommendations of the Church Growth/PILP committee. I haven’t read the details, but nothing in the summary jumped out at me as being applicable to the church I serve. (It’s nice to talk about “igniting” a “movement,” but what it looks like is a bunch of dying white congregations giving advice to people of color about how to become growing churches. Hello?)
- renamed the General Assembly Mission Council to be the Presbyterian Mission Agency. (AT LAST!)
- failed to change the four special offerings.
- is resolved against spanking children. (But aborting them is a personal decision.)
- removed 50 authoritative interpretations of the Book of Order issued since Unification back in ’83 that had been made moot by the New Form of Government.
(Did you get that? These are factors that, when you find them in a church, give you grounds to predict that the church will have a more high-giving contributors than average churches. The article calls these factors “accelerators” but that suggests causation, as if these factors somehow stepped on the tithing gas pedal. From my reading, a better term would be “predictor.”)
Anyway, these “accelerators” are as follows:
- More conservative worshipers.
- More people who attend at least weekly.
- More (i.e., a higher-than-usual proportion of) men.
- Larger congregations.
It’s interesting to speculate what the connections are (besides statistical anomaly) between these factors and higher giving.
Preparing for my last sermon, I found some choice quotes from Calvin on submitting to traditions. (These are from the Institutes 3.19.7-11, with tiny modifications for readability).
We are not bound before God to any observance of external things which are in themselves indifferent (“adiafora”), but that we are now at full liberty either to use or omit them. … Once the conscience is entangled in the net, it enters a long and inextricable labyrinth, from which it is afterwards most difficult to escape.
In one word, we see whither this liberty tends viz., that we are to use the gifts of God without any scruple of conscience, without any perturbation of mind, for the purpose for which he gave them: in this way our souls may both have peace with him, and recognize his liberality towards us.
“A haughty mind often dwells in a coarse and homely garb, while true humility lurks under fine linen and purple.” Let every one then live in his own station, poorly or moderately, or in splendor; but let all remember that the nourishment which God gives is for life, not luxury….
… We should assert our liberty before men. This I admit: yet must we use great caution in the mode, lest we should cast off the care of the weak whom God has specially committed to us.
… Our liberty was not given us against our weak neighbors, whom charity enjoins us to serve in all things, but rather that, having peace with God in our minds, we should live peaceably among men. What value is to be set upon the offense of the Pharisees we learn from the words of our Lord, in which he says, “Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind,” (Matt. 15:14).
Bend over backwards to accomodate the weak, and ignore the Pharisees. How easy it is for me to do just the opposite!
Another problem with the new PC(USA) web site: apparently we don’t believe anything anymore. Or, if we do, those beliefs are carefully hidden.
But I was hoping the PC(USA) web site would at least be better organized. I entertained the hope that it would be easier to find things there now, and it’s not.
The pull quote you see here isn’t quite a quote; if you watch the video you’ll see they “punched it up” a bit. What he actually said was,
“It’s a reasoned faith. I don’t believe we should check our heads at the door when we go to church. That’s one of the reasons I’m a Presbyterian, I guess.”
I sighed when I read that, but the way the page looks, you can hope it’s dynamic content and different visitors will see different quotes. But so far, it appears to be stuck on this one. That’s regrettable.