Saturday, July 31, 2010


Recently I was asked why I maintain my anonymity on this blog. After all, it's not as if I'm a widely read blogger! This may sound trite, but I stay anonymous to protect my friends.

I often speak of people I know who are (or were) in the process of becoming a Minister of the Word and Sacrament. As many Presbyterians know, this is not an easy process. Every step of the way you are evaluated, tested, and evaluated again. Psychological tests, Bible Knowledge and Ordination exams, written statements of faith; the testing requirements go on and on.

Then there are the evaluations and meetings with the Committee on Preparation for Ministry, or CPM. Members of the CPM are drawn from the elders and ministers of the Presbytery, and they all bring to the table their personal perspectives and beliefs. All the previous tests taken on route to be ordained are objective, unfortunately the CPM can be a hotbed of subjectivity.

In the ideal world, candidates would be judged on their fitness to pastor, their ability to preach, and their belief in the saving power of Christ. In the real world, it's often based on if you use enough inclusive language in your statement of faith, how P.C. you are in your beliefs about inclusion, and whether or not you're male or female.

Now, enough with the background for my reasoning to stay anonymous, let me talk of myself and the friends I protect.

I make no bones about the fact that I am conservative. I'm not as conservative as some, no posts about the Regulative Principle of Worship from me; but I'm more conservative than most, again no posts about affirming non-celibate LGBT ministers here either. I am a Five Solas Presbyterian, one who believes that Christ shed His blood, died, and rose to redeem us from our sins. Unlike some who are ministers in the PCUSA, I believe the Resurrection happened, that the Apostles saw the risen Lord, and that He ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father. The Nicene Creed is more than just words on a page, it is the bedrock of my faith.

The problem is that if I reveal who I am, I can accidentally tar those whom I write about with the brush some would use to paint my beliefs; and this could submarine those friends who are in the process. It is a shame that this could happen, but I know of at least two people who have had their conservative views cause problems for them; and these are women candidates.

One had a Session that was fully supportive of her starting the process by becoming an Inquirer, however the pastor at that church was dead set against letting this conservative woman proceed.

Another had views that were diametrically opposite those of the E.P. at her presbytery. The E.P. had some influence on who would be on the various committees, and used it to stack the CPM with like minded individuals. This CPM consistently caused problems for my friend, and her children, who were also in the process.

Another female friend in a very liberal presbytery luckily had a CPM advisor who was a conservative and who provided advice on how to make it through the CPM without getting 'flagged'.

Now I trust that there are non-celibate inquirers/candidates who also try to stay below the radar at conservative presbyteries. FWIW, from what I can tell, they usually move to a more liberal presbytery where they wouldn't have to stay below the radar. However, they are trying to hide their inability to resist their sinful nature, rather than hide their faithfulness to the scriptures.

Which is worse?? I leave that to the reader, but I suggest failing to recognize and repent of sin is a pretty good indicator.

More than likely I will be trashed by those come across this blog, and disagree with that statement. They will call me homophobic, backward, traditionalist, and (horror of horrors) that epithet of last resort Evangelical.

I have no problem with that, because they're MY beliefs, and I'd say so overtly, but I've a duty to my friends. Perhaps, in a year or two when everyone has been granted leave to circulate their PIFs, I'll reveal who I am.

... and so it goes !!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Blog Problem

I've been notified by a reader that since I've gone to the new template, they've been unable to cut and paste from my blog.

This tended to astonish me, as I was amazed that I blogged about anything that someone would WANT to copy ;)

That said, I just tested the copy function in IE8, Firefox and Opera, and it does work in all the browsers. That said, IE8 does tend to be somewhat strange both in highlighting the text, and accessing the Copy function. You can't right click on the highlighted text to copy it, you must go to the EDIT menu on the standard toolbar and select COPY.

On all the others, the right click properly brings up the menu so you can select copy from there.

Hope this helps those who are having a hard time.

... and so it goes!

Sola Scriptura

Thanks to Church and World, I was able to read the comments of our new Vice Moderator of the General Assembly on Bill Tammeus' blog about how Sola Scriptura is dead in most places ... so where do we lodge the authority of our faith?.

Coming to the Reformed faith late in life, after growing up Catholic, my knowledge of the Bible was sorely lacking. Oh sure, we got a dose of the OT and the NT at Mass, but not an in-depth study. Perhaps it has gotten better, but in the 50's and 60's, you just didn't get that in a Catholic school.

Anyway, in my membership class at Treeburn Presbyterian back in 'Nother Completely different Presbytery, concepts like Total Depravity, and the Solas were introduced into my consciousness. I did some additional reading, really started getting into small group Bible studies, found out what the Solas meant, and what Calvin said about Christianity and humanity.

While I always understood the Bible was the inspired Word, I came to understand what Sola Scriptura really meant. While I don't take the Bible completely literally; there is some allegory in Genesis after all, the laws as enumerated in the Old and New Testaments are clear, non-allegorical, and obviously meant to be followed. I also realized that my old denomination, the Catholic Church, while having a fairly direct lineage from the early Church through Peter, had lost its way through the manipulations of ritual and rules by the hierarchy.

The Reformers said Sola Scriptura, that anything outside the Scriptures is the work of mankind, and not that of God; and we should not follow such. Is that statement being rejected by our new Vice-Moderator?? Evidently so!

Others have commented on this here, here, here, here, and here, much better than I could. Many of my original thoughts were confirmed by those listed posts. However, I'm not capable enough to respond with the kind of theological argument that would refute that statement.

What I can say is that for many Presbyterians in the Pew his declaration could be construed as a call to schism. What he is saying is that if the Bible does not agree with what he wants, we just do away with the Bible as the authority for the church. In effect, he is calling for a split in the PCUSA of those who believe in Sola Scriptura, that is, conform the world to the will of God; and those who want to find a different authority, to conform the church to the world.

Many will say that split is already here, and those who believe in the authority of the Bible are voting with their feet. I tend to agree, the PCUSA shrunk by 60k this past year alone. Not all left with churches moving to another denomination, I'm not sure of the breakdown, but I don't believe the rest all passed on to join the Church Triumphant.

I won't be leaving, its too easy to walk away and give up the PCUSA. I won't leave, not when there are those in countries being persecuted for their faith in Christ. Can I not do the same in a denomination that is becoming less faithful to Christ and His Word?? A pastor friend of mine said to me, As long as I can preach Christ, and Him crucified I will stay!. As one who believes that the Word was made flesh, and that we can only learn about Him through the Word, I will stay and be faithful.

... and so it goes!

Friday, July 9, 2010

I like this priest !!

Once you get past the stuff about the flowers, it does get very interesting. See how an ecumenical advisory delegate perceives the PCUSA's GA deliberations.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

There is hope!!

At this weeks Christian Life Conference, the morning inspiration speaker talked about Lamentations, and how in Lamentations there was an underlying theme of hope. At that conference, there were prayers offered up for the commissioners at the GA, prayers that those attending would have the Holy Spirit move them to preserve the traditional teachings of the church.

Today, the GA voted on the overture to remove the fidelity and chastity provision of the PCUSA Book of Order. The vote was 53% to 47% for, 373 to 323 with 4 abstentions. This vote was far less than what was final at the 218th GA on the same question.

UPDATE: Later in the session, the GA approved a motion to include both the majority and the minority report on marriage in the study to be sent to churches. Then after a vote to disapprove three separate overtures that asked the GA to restate the traditional PCUSA view of marriage, a motion was made to use the approved minority and majority studies to answer the rest of the overtures under committee 12. Those overtures had been recommended for a floor vote as amended, and would have opened the door for authorized same-sex ceremonies.

The rational for using the action on the study to answer all remaining overtures was that the GA had just recommended this paper to the entire church with recommendations for its use, and to try to pass overtures which then affect the entire church and make the study moot, is illogical.

I suspect that there was rejoicing in some areas, and gnashing of teeth in others.

There is Hope !!

Why do we have YAADs again ??

As to emphasize the point I made in two previous posts, as I was watching the video feed from the 219th GA tonight I saw something that should make every Christian who believes John 14:6, whether liberal, moderate or conservative weep.

As I watched the nFOG floor debate, one Teaching Elder who was speaking in opposition to the nFOG brought up that the Foundations part of the nFog does not clearly affirm the teaching of John 14:6, and smacks of universalism, that is, there are more than one path to God.

In favor of the nFOG, a YAAD spoke up, and was talking about her feelings as a "young adult", which wasn't a problem, but then she addressed the previous speaker's universalism comments.

To paraphrase:

I don't think that that is against scripture and our teachings

I rest my case !!

UPDATE: I'm surprised no one told me that I had TAAD instead of YAAD in my title. I guess everyone knew what I meant ;)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

180 degrees out-of-sync!

As I try to follow what is going on at the GA, while trying to enjoy a brief R&R away from home, I keep seeing what appears to be the major disconnect between what the average PCUSA member believes, and what the GA votes on.

What I find interesting is that while a majority of presbyteries defeated the last overture trying to amend the Fidelity and Chastity amendment, a majority of members in the committee voted to approve the latest attempt to remove it, sending it to the Plenary session with its concurrance.

Even if you remove the 17 TAAD votes (grrrrrr) it still would show a majority of around 5 to 6 yea votes over the 17 nay. Why is this happening ??

Aa I was riding in a car in the N.C. mountains with my father-in-law (a Presbyterian elder) and his wife, along with my wife, we were talking about this, and I postulated the following:

As we all know, most of the elders who attend presbytery meetings are those saints of the church who are usually retired and female. This is not being stereotypical, just stating a fact that I have seen for myself at a few Presbytery meetings at Plodding Presbytery. This, coupled with the fact that many meetings are scheduled for weekdays when most men and women have to work, results in the majority of those attending being those who are: 1. Retired and can get to the meetings, and 2. specialized clergy who don't have pastoral duties that tie them to a church.

So, the resulting makeup of the meeting are those with a liberal leaning agenda, elders who want to be 'kind' and not hurt anyone, or those who really do not have a good grasp of the biblical/theological underpinnings of much of the Book of Order.

Am I stereotyping the 'specialized' clergy, not really, a read of the Presbyterian Panel results on some issues show that most specialized clergy lean to the left on issues, and most pastors lean to the right. As far as my opinion of the elders that attend Presbytery, that is my opinion based on the meetings I attended in what is considered a conservative presbytery.

So how does that result in the commissioners we get at GA? Again, many times its done because the person is available to take a week off, not because they are the best person for the job or that they will represent the views of the majority in the presbytery. In many cases, the kindly saint who has attended every Presbytery meeting for the past 8 years is selected as a 'reward' for her faithful attendance or service.

And when they get to GA they vote because they believe that the committee who wrote the report put a lot of time into it, and it should be approved; or that they are swayed by the passionate view of one of the TAADs, who knows that the Jesus I know would not do that .. (see my previous post's rant about TAADs).

Then, how are people assigned to the different committees ?? Are the assignments done in order, that is, pick a name, fill a position on committee 1, then the next goes on committee 2, and so on; or is there a pick and choosing of who goes where??

A few posts ago, I talked about how I felt that that Presbyterians Today had injected itself into the controversy about the Belhar Confession when it printed a glowing review in the edition prior to the GA. I'm sure a free copy of the issue or a reprint made it into the hands of many commissioners.

At that time, I said I believed the 'fix was in'. Looking at how the many votes against Biblical faithfulness happening in the committees, can anyone show me where I'm wrong??

Friday, July 2, 2010

General Assembly

The General Assembly will be starting tomorrow about 24 hours from when I finish this post. I'm not one to mince words, so I really don't think that much is going to surprise me as I also believe the fix is in.

[Rant Mode ON]

What's that, you say ?? Well, when you have as many overtures and issues being discussed as the PCUSA has presbyteries, you can't expect each and every commissioner to understand the reasoning, or the issues behind them. They will rely on staff notes which often means that they will get a biased view of whatever overture or report they're going to be looking at.

Eh ?? Biased ?? Of course!! Most of the specialized clergy and staff are liberal, so trying to get a balanced report from most of the PCUSA staff is near impossible. There are small pockets of moderates and conservatives, but they're kept out of the areas that really have power.

Then you have the advisory committees such as the one for women, who couldn't resist putting in their two cents on the Middle East report, or giving rational on overtures that have no basis in theology or reformed thinking.

Finally, you get to my favorite nitpik, the Young Adult Advisory Delegate. These advisors who have no real life experience, get to vote before most every vote at the plenary sessions. Most of these advisors barely have a working knowledge of the Bible, let alone the Book of Order, and vote based on their feelings. Yet, they can influence the votes of many at the GA simply based on the 'feeling' that these young people are the future of the Church and if that what they feel, it must be right.

This is a result of the PCUSA's drift from the basis of the Reformed Christian faith. We have become so progressive that anyone's feelings or beliefs have validity, even when those feelings and beliefs go against a few thousand years of tradition and faithfulness.

This is why a break is going to come, and the PCUSA had better decide whether it will be gracious in its view toward separating churches, or will be needing to find money to pay for lawyers.

Churches will leave, rest assured more members will leave, what will remain might as well merge with the UCC, as there won't be much difference.

[Rant Mode OFF]

Where will I be this weekend? I along with others will be at the Presbyterian Mecca, Montreat for the Christian Life Conference sponsored by Presbyterians for Renewal; where we'll pray for the Commissioners at the GA and the PCUSA in general.

I fully expect to see that there will be some interesting Presbytery meetings this coming year.


Every so often I'll come over here and decide to change the look of the blog. Blogger has introduced a new 'template designer' feature, so I used it to select this template, and to do some tweaks.

It'll last about six months before I get tired of it again ... ;)