Saturday, June 12, 2010

Lost all respect !!

The other day I received my copy of Presbyterians Today, the magazine of the PCUSA. I understand that the mag is designed to present information about the PCUSA in as best a light as possible. However, I always believed, based on previous articles that were not so flattering, that it was fairly independent.

I've lost all respect for that idea after this edition.

As many Presbyterians who take the effort to find out what's going on in the PCUSA know, one of the issues coming up in the General Assembly this year is the adoption of the Belhar Confession as one of the Confessions of the Church. Belhar was written at a very specific time in the South African church. It deals with a form of racism that really is not part of the PCUSA today. Adding it as part of the Constitution of the PCUSA, which the Book of Confessions is, is not necessary as the other part of the Constitution, the Book of Order, is very specific about the requirements for racial inclusion.

However, in many orthodox Presbyterian minds, that is not why its being brought forward for inclusion. Dr. Richard Mouw explains why here. Viola Larsen has been going over Belhar in a series of posts here. The inclusion of Belhar is not a done deal, so there has been advocacy done by those for and against. Frankly, I've seen more from the for group, than the against.

So, what does that have to do with my lack of respect for the editors of Presbyterians Today ??

After reading all my favorite areas of the magazine, especially Best of the Blogs by fellow Presbyterian blogger Quotidian Grace. I started to read the rest of the magazine. There as part of a 10 Part Series on the Confessions of the Church is an article on the Belhar Confession by a member of the Special Committee on the Belhar Confession.

In the article J.C. Austin gives the three questions that must be answered for any addition to the Book of Confessions. Then he answers them all in the affirmative. However, the questions he asks, are really not what the Book of Confessions itself says about adding a new confession:

When the proposed confession is a historic document, the church should understand
the original circumstances of formulation and reception. Additionally, the
contemporary need for the confession and the possibilities for reception should be
demonstrated. Then, the value of the historical confession should be tested by a
period of reception in the church. A confessional statement should prove itself
foundational to the church’s faith and life before it is proposed for inclusion in the church’s confessional standards.

The Assessment of Proposed Amendments, PCUSA Book of Confessions

Ok, so its a puff piece about Belhar, what does that have to do with my losing respect ??

Because there is NO rebuttal by an opposing voice, and neither can there be any that would be available to any GA Commissioner prior to the GA. All they see is a very affirmative piece, with no criticism of the reasoning behind the piece.

Considering that the Belhar is not even part of the Book of Confessions, including it in a 10 Part Series on the Confessions of the Church is being presumptive at best, since there are only 9 current Confessions in the BoC (which includes the Larger and Shorter Catechisms), and manipulative at worst.

Then there's the timing of the piece. I had missed the 2 previous pieces on the Confessions, but I'm assuming that if they were done in order, they would have been the Nicene Creed and the Apostles Creed. Even if they were only doing the actual Confessions, the Belhar would not have been the next in line.

No, this piece, was planned for this edition to appear right before the GA. In this action the editors of P.T. have shown that they are just as political as the rest of the GAMC in advancing an agenda that does not reflect the thoughts of the majority of Presbyterians in the pews.

I had just resubscribed to P.T., having accidentally let the subscription lapse, thinking that I would get some good information I could take with a grain of salt. Taking a teaspoon of salt would not make this article less palatable. I think I'll let my subscription lapse after this year.

And so it goes ....