Friday, April 4, 2014

2014 Overtures on marrage

This year the elephant in the room is so obvious that no one will be able to ignore it.     One overture requests  to change the Directory of Worship to remove presiding over a legal marriage but leaves the definition including man and woman:

OVT-011 On Amending W-4.9000 Concerning the Church’s Role in Legal Marriage and Services of Christian Covenant—From the Presbytery of Lehigh.

Another wants to change the same paragraph to replace man and woman and substitute two people: 

OVT-021 On Amending W-4.9000, Marriage—From the Presbytery of the Cascades.

Then you have one that will just change the paragraph to add that Sessions and Presbyteries can change their own definition of marriage as a civil contract according to the local state law:

OVT-033 On Amending W-4.9001, Christian Marriage—From the Presbytery of Midwest Hanmi.

My thoughts on these overtures are that while I may not agree with some of the rationale, I will respect the thoughts of those who are bringing them forward for possible referral to the presbyteries for approval.

However, the overtures that are calling for an Authoritative Interpretation (AI) to impose a total revision of what the church considers as marriage are outside of the normal polity of any Presbyterian church.     If its one thing that the Westminster Confession recognizes is that councils ERR.   This is why overtures passed at GA are sent to the lower councils for debate and approval/rejection.      An AI bypasses all these checks and balances, and imposes an interpretation of the Constitution on the denomination that would force many to rethink their affiliation, and result in the loss of many more members and congregations.

This one replaces the existing AIs on marriage, with one that says that a Teaching Elder can perform a marriage for any couple, not mentioning gender.

OVT-024 On Issuing an Authoritative Interpretation of W-4.9000 to Affirm Pastoral Discretion in Performing Marriage Ceremonies—From the Presbytery of Heartland.

This overture requests an AI that basically does the same as above, but in different language: 

OVT-027 On Issuing an Authoritative Interpretation of W-4.9000 to Affirm Pastoral Discretion in Performing Marriage Ceremonies—From the Presbytery of East Iowa.

This one just wants to remove the entire 1991 AI that currently exists on SSM:
OVT-036 On Rescinding the 1991 Authoritative Interpretation Concerning Teaching Elders Performing Marriages for Same-Gender Couples and Sessions Permitting Such Ceremonies in their Facilities—From the Presbytery of New Castle.

The problem with the rationale in this overture is that is says this:

The United States Supreme Court, in United States v. Windsor, ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, which allowed states where same-gender marriage was illegal to discriminate against such persons, was unconstitutional.

The reality is that the ruling held that the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT  must recognize the validity of SSM performed in states where such marriages are legal, it does not state that other states must recognize those marriages.  The key part of the ruling is this:

Justice Kennedy noted that regulation of domestic relations is within states’ traditional authority, and that the sweeping nature of DOMA as applying to all federal laws had the purpose and necessary effect of treating differently a relationship that the state treated the same. This “demeans” the married couple that is treated differently. In concluding, the Court made it clear that “[t]his opinion and its holding are confined to those lawful marriages” under state law.

Will this legal nitpick hold any sway when this overture is debated in committee, I seriously doubt it.

I don't believe I missed  any, but then again I may have.      This year there will be another concerted effort at electioneering during the GA.  Commissioners will be offered swag that will signal a preference towards a certain point of view, those who refuse such things may then be intimidated to go with the flow.

While I believe that any such indicators from any interest group should be banned from the hall, I don't see that happening as some may yell about free speech.     I see it as the elimination of any external influences from the prayerful consideration of the work of the GA from any group left or right.

My previous thoughts on this issue are a matter of record, I see this is going to be an issue that keeps coming back again and again until those who are convinced that the traditional definition of marriage is correct either capitulate or have left the denomination.

.... and so it goes!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Long Time No Blog !!

OK .. I haven't posted in a LONG, LONG time.    Why ... good question.  Its not as if there hasn't been anything to blog about.    There have been many, many things occurring in today's culture that are forcing those who believe in the authority of Scripture into defensive postures.

  • Can't affirm same-sex marriage?   You're a hater, bigot or homophobe * !!
  • Don't want to take pictures or bake a cake for a SSM?  Be prepared to be brought before a Civil Rights Commission and/or be sued for pain and suffering
  • Believe that if Jesus didn't talk about it in the New Testament, its only because He already said His piece in the Old Testament?   You're a bibliolater, one having excessive reverence for the letter of the Bible.
  • Believe that the PC(USA) Constitution's two parts, the Book of Confessions and Book of Order, are equal in authority, and second only to Scripture?   You're wrong, we can change anything with an AI, and we will.
So, why haven't I been busy writing about it?   Well, part of the reason is that there are those with a better grasp of apologetics who can say it better than I can.    I can write, be sarcastic but that is not what is needed to refute those who play fast and loose with Scripture, those want to affirm behavior that is declared sin by God, as God given.  

However, its another General Assembly year, and the number of overtures sent to GA this year has been limited by the requirements to have two Presbyteries concur on the overture.    This new requirement may have reduced the workload of a few committees by half.  

Then again, there are about 7 or 8 different overtures to change the Book of Order's definition of marriage.  If the committee thinks it over correctly, they can combine overtures into one.      However, we also have a push to have the GA create an Authoritative Interpretation (AI) to change the definition of marriage  If this gains traction it could cause a major uproar in the denomination, and the PC(USA) would see more departures, both by individuals as well as entire congregations.  

Why ?   Because an AI would bypass the normal way to change the Constitution by eliminating the voting by the presbyteries.    This would force the will of a minority, a mere 340 or so commissioners, on the entire denomination of 1.8 million.    But, but, but .. the regressives in the denomination would point out that one of the basis of our polity is that the Holy Spirit works in our councils.   The problem is, the Westminster Confession (part of that pesky Constitution) also says that councils do ERR!!!

This is why an overture passed by the GA is sent to the presbyteries for approval, so that other councils can pray, think and say YEA or NAY on the overture.   It provides a second chance for the Spirit to work to confirm or correct the action of the GA.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be going over the most controversial of this years crop of overtures.

Now .... for something completely different.

A few years ago, after a blog post where I copied a friend's Alternate Universe News Report, a comment was left that said:
Why do you refer to yourself as a "reformed Catholic"? Why don't you just address yourself as a Presbyterian? As a Catholic, I find apostates like yourself hold on to the term "Catholic" as a means of currying favor with the world. It is always "recovering Catholic" or "lapsed Catholic", never a complete divorce from the Church. Is there any justification for the tag line "reformed Catholic"? Just be a Presbyterian, which is completely irreconcilable to Catholicism.
I answered with this 
Good question.

Why do I use the term, because, as many of the Reformers were, I was brought up Roman Catholic, and lost the faith.

I returned to Christianity as a whole, the church Catholic, when I started attending a Reformed church, a PC(USA)church.

I have no quarrel with Roman Catholicism, only with the man-made rules that were added after the period of the Church Fathers, starting around 900 AD.

In our basic beliefs, there is nothing that I believe that is different from the Roman Catholic. We both pray and believe in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds, as do most of Christianity.

And as far as you calling me apostate, there are two definitions for that term:

Definition of APOSTASY
1: renunciation of a religious faith
2: abandonment of a previous loyalty : defection

I do not recognize the first definition as applying, as I have not abandoned my faith in the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There is only one way to the Father, and that is in Christ Jesus.

As far as the second definition, yes, I have abandoned my previous loyalty to the institution of the Roman Catholic Church, I'm not all that loyal to the PC(USA) for that matter.

There is only one loyalty I hold to, and that is my faith in my Savior.

Sola Scriptura
Sola Fide
Sola Gratia
Sola Christus
Soli Deo Gloria

And this is why I call myself the Reformed Catholic.

.... and so it goes!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Disappointed, but not surprised.

I haven't blogged in a year, some would say that's a good thing.    But after the 2012 GA I had decided why bother, the PC(USA) is going to hell in a handbasket, and nothing I say or type or gripe about will change the eventual demise.  Evangelical friends are leaving, either by walking from their current congregation, or by moving with the congregation to the EPC or ECO.

As more and move evangelicals leave, the PC(USA) is becoming a mirror of the UCC.   Proclamation of the Gospel takes second (or third) place to proclamation of the gospel of political correctness.      Presbyteries are more interested in rooting out "schismatics", then in rooting out those Teaching Elders who proudly proclaim that Jesus did not rise from the dead, never ascended, and was basically a good person who had good ideas;  kinda like a Jewish Confucius or Buddha.

Then there was the Pittsburgh GA.  It wasn't all bad; there weren't any huge puppets at worship.   However, there was the ruling that the BOO does not need to agree with the BOC, and the push for authorization of same sex marriage (SSM).     

As I watched the live streaming from the Pittsburgh GA last year, I was wondering where most of the YADs (Young Adult Delegates) picked up their version of theology; today I was given a glimpse of one possible source.

A pastor friend received a text from a youth director who had taken a group of kids to one of the PC(USA) camps:

"Interesting day today. Started with some good old fashioned heresy. Worship leader told us it was ok to use the word "she" for Jesus in the song we were going to sing. That was followed with an adult male "coming out" in (our youth's) encounter group." (coming out to 12 and 13 year old's mind you!)
 I'm disappointed, but not surprised about this as I keep informed about what is going on in the PC(USA), but will this be a wake up call for any moderates??   Or for those evangelical institutionalists who believe that their staying in the denomination will act as a moderating force?    That only works when you have access to actually do some moderation, and I don't see that happening real soon.      

 ... and so it goes!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

An alternate universe news report??

I copied this from an online friend who originally wrote it.     He opened it with this: 
Please tolerate my foolishness please .... a weird news report:
Jesus of Nazareth's controversial stance in favor of traditional marriage has ignited a storm, leading to him and his followers being banned from municipalities across the nation.

The controversy centers around his hyper-conservative and narrow-minded view of marriage (quoted in Matthew 19:1-6) as between one man and one woman. Civic and religious leaders are up in arms as a result.

Mayor Thomas Menino of Boston banned, Dan Cathy, the CEO and founder of Chick-fil-A restaurants, due to his agreement with Jesus of Nazareth. "The guy is a homophobe," commented Menino. "Even his own religion and fellow citizens can't stand Jesus and his followers! Like us, they are trying to silence him too. No wonder: they act like he is God, or something. We can define morality, just fine, without Jesus of Nazareth."

Mayor Rahm Immanuel of Chicago has weighed in. Recently, he banned Chic-fil-A restaurants, due to their founder's affirmation of Jesus' conservative view of marriage between one man and one woman: "I may not be able to do anything about street murders in my city (Chicago has a higher murder rate than that of Afghanistan), but I sure can keep Jesus and his followers from entering this fair city."

Citing their policy on freedom of expression, Facebook shut down Mike Huckabee's forum for freedom of religion and speech for evangelicals and catholics who believe the teachings of Jesus. "Even though I make billions of dollars, and control millions of people's opinions, I am one of the 99%," said Mark Zuckerberg, founder of the social media juggernaut, Facebook, "In our attempts to foster open debate, we will censor evangelicals and catholics who believe such hate speech as espoused by Jesus of Nazareth."

We called Emperor Caesar's Homeland Security for their opinion of Jesus and his followers. An official released this prepared statement, "Jesus and his followers are very dangerous. They refuse to adopt the morality of their culture. We applaud your efforts to stifle them. We are working on a final solution for them, and know that, together, we will save the world from these people and their subversive views."

"I swear, I do not know the man!" emoted Neo-Oprah-dox theologian, Bishop Bubu of the Church of the Couch. "Jesus used to be the cool kid who cared for the poor and powerless, and stood against abusive civil power and religious hypocrisy. But now, he clearly stands against us. As you know, we Progressives are ever-evolving in its view of everything. Jesus is going the other way - back to Creation - to define marriage between one man and one woman. I may not believe much anymore, but one thing I can tell you with conviction: Jesus is no Progressive."

The Presbyterian Church's Committee on Tolerance and Diversity has also taken a strong stance. We caught up with the chairperson, while attending a seminar, "Tickling Our Ears." He solemnly remarked, "After much weeping and gnashing of teeth, we decided to delete Jesus and his writings from any influential position in our church. Sadly, the only just and loving way to protect our freedom of conscience and behavior was to remove Jesus from our midst. We cannot, yea we must not, tolerate his diversity. But, we continue to pray for more light to shine upon his heart and mind."

The PCUSA is presently in federal court, suing Jesus for ownership rights to the Kingdom of God. If they prevail, they will rename it: "Rainbow Realm of Pan-Gender Deity."

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Watching the PC(USA) GA

Like many Presbyterian polity geeks, I'm sitting home watching the PC(USA)'s 220th General Assembly via streaming video.

You may have heard of a few things going on:  Israeli Divestment, same sex marriages.    I"m not going to review them here, except to say they both lost, and your local paper may not have the full information, nor the expertise to understand what our polity is all about.

No, this blog entry is about the overall BLOAT of the General Assembly docket, as well as the bloat of the number of advisory committees that give orders advice to the various committees that review the overtures sent in by the presbyteries.

These advisory committees weigh in on almost every overture that comes in, and it makes you wonder what some of them are doing putting out an opinion on an overture that really has no relationship to the area they are supposed to be advising on.

Today, I watched as the discussion of same sex marriage started three hours late.  This was due to the battle over divestment the night before.   The GA plenary schedule was already 3 or 4 hours behind by the time they started the SSM deliberations.   In the middle of all of it, they had to break for dinner.

They came back, and went for another two hours.    As I finished watching for the night at around 12 midnight, they were still going over another committee's report.    OK, I get it, every GA commissioner has a right to express an opinion, and to propose amendments, but good grief .. please be prepared.       Then you have the commissioners who ask for some clarification by calling on the resource  person from an advisory committee.   Oh great, lets just have the staffers do the testimony, deliberation and decisions then.

Then you have the Young Adult Advisory Delegates ... !!  Yes, I realize that its good to have the voices of youth at the GA, but how are these kids selected?  Most have no grounding on Scripture (a lot of what I heard is of the well, the Jesus I know'  type of response), and hardly any Polity knowledge.     These kids are the ones most easily swayed by the personal feeling types of arguments used by many of the liberals.

Even so .. none of this would be an issue, if it weren't for the sheer number of these overtures coming from the Presbyteries.  The number of overtures for the Social Justice committee is staggering, then you have the others change in Polity .. Church Orders .. and so on.

Which is why, over the past three or four GAs that I've watched, the last night of the GA always lasts way past midnight so that all the business can get accomplished.  And for what .. pronouncements by the PC(USA) to tell Iran to play nice with its neighbors.    Oh yeah, I can just imagine the Ayatollah saying to himself Gee, the Presbyterians of the PC(USA) are upset with what we're doing, I'll have to fix that right away." !!      Hey guys .. GET A CLUE .. the days when people paid attention to what the PC(USA) said are long gone.  In fact, they were way before the PC(USA) was born during the merger.

Looking at the GAs of the EPC, PCA .. even our spiritual cousins, the Church of Scotland, and Free Kirk of Scotland.     They don't have these late night sessions, they don't even have staffs 1/4 the size of ours.      Yet they get things done, decently and in order.  and, in the case of the Church of Scotland, actually get ahead of themselves so they can call a free afternoon in the middle of a GA.

But I guess that's what happens when a denomination gets more worked up about calling on parents to stop spanking their kids, than spreading the life changing Word of God to a nation, a world that is looking for the Truth.

Then again, this GA affirmed that the denomination has many interpretations of Scripture, so no one should prevail.    As Pilate said .. What is truth?   In the PC(USA) we don't have the ONE any more.

... and so it goes.

Friday, June 22, 2012

PC(USA) Membership Declines Again !!!

The PC(USA) released on Friday, latest tally of denominational statistics.  For those who have been following the numbers of evangelicals leaving the PC(USA) its not a surprise.

From the article on the PC(USA) website:
The total membership of the PC(USA) at the end of 2011 was 1,952,287, compared to 2,016,091 in 2010, which is a decline of 63,804 members.  

The rest of the report is also discouraging: 

Eighteen new churches were organized in 2011. Seventy-five were dissolved, compared to 77 in 2010. Twenty-one congregations were dismissed to other denominations, five fewer than the previous year.
75 churches dissolved, probably due to lack of new members.  Why is that, is the PC(USA) becoming even less relevant than before??   21 dismissed .. only 21 ??  What about those who just said we're outa here.     Based on the survey of EPs done by the Presbyterian Outlook, there are over 800 more churches that are either in the process of dismissal, or are in a period of discernment.
Slightly fewer than 55,000 individuals joined by profession or reaffirmation of faith, nearly one-third of who were 17 years old or younger. Adult baptisms totaled 5,740, a decrease of 408, and the number of child baptisms declined by 1,038 to 21,422.
Fewer baptisms, fewer new members, fewer child baptisms.   Where are all the people going?  Well some are going to other reformed denominations.    The Redeemer Presbyterian Church (and its satellites) in NYC is growing every year .. this is a PCA church.    A complementarian  church with no female TEs or REs, which holds to the WCF.  Why would families join such a church??   Perhaps right teaching ??

Membership loss came through certificate of transfer (23,082, compared to 29,835 in 2010); death (31,754, which was 717 fewer than 2010); and “other” (95,613, compared to 88,731 the previous year). The “other” category includes those who were members of churches that were dissolved or dismissed to other denominations. Two-thirds of the “other” category encompasses the removal of members from the rolls who are no longer active and have not become involved in another community of faith.
Seems the 2/3s that have  been removed are those that were formerly on the inactive lists which is no longer required by the PC(USA).     So, no more padding the books any longer.

So what does the Stated Clerk see as good news:

“The loss of membership through certificate-of-transfer is the lowest number it has been in at least four years, which is encouraging,” he said, “and per-person giving rose in 2011, reversing a downward trend in 2010.”
So we're seeing less people leaving through Certificate of Transfers,  what about those who just walked?  All a certificate means is that the denomination they moved to (or the member) asked for one.      Per person giving rose .. well it would have to in order to cover those members who have left, or are withholding money due to PC(USA) polity and doctrine changes.

I said last year in another venue, that the membership drop would bring the PC(USA) under 2 million.  I fully suspect that this time next year will find a membership have drop from 1,952,000 to 1,880,000.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The recent GAPJC decision.

OK ... so now the Book of Confessions can't be trusted by the PC(USA) to tell us what standards should be used when examining people coming up for ordination to church offices.  That throws out half the PC(USA)'s constitution.

Normally, I would have a lot to say on the matter but, as usual, someone else has said it better than I have.  So I direct your attention to this blog post.