Wednesday, June 8, 2011

An Aside

As a Reformed Catholic in the PC(USA), I've tried to conform to the teachings of Scripture and the Book of Confessions. Yet, I've just skimmed most of the Westminster Confession of Faith, and read some of the shorter Confessions.

However, with the recent votes on adding Belhar to the list of Confessions in the BOC, I thought it a good idea to think about holding a Bible study on some of them. I picked up a copy of G.I. Williamson's The Westminister Confession of Faith for Study Classes, 2nd ed.. Needless to say it is a comprehensive study, and not one that will be done in 10 or even 20 sessions.

I'm finding the teaching to be fascinating, and not having taken the time to go through the Westminster Confession previously, very enlightening.

I find that Chapter 1, paragraph 6 is highly enlightening:

The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.

As ordained Elders (Teaching and Ruling) in the PC(USA), we vow before God and our congregation to conform to Scripture, the Constitution and the Confessions. Does this paragraph not tell us that Scripture is complete, and that what it says is not to be challenged?

The paragraph goes on:

Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word ...

Now this seems to give those who want to reinterpret scripture to say that sin is not sin an out, but does it??

...and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.

Note, that is says there are some areas that can be decided by man, but always under the rules of the Word, .. always to be observed. In other words, we cannot change the fact that sin is labeled sin in Scripture. Yet, here we are in the PC(USA) doing just that.

And so it goes ....

Interesting Times for the PC(USA)

The Presbyterian Outlook yesterday (June 7th) came out with an online article proclaiming the passage of the New Form of Government by a majority of Presbyteries.

It also announced that the Belhar Confession, written for a specific time and place (apartheid and separate churches in South Africa) was voted down by over 1/3 of Presbyteries.

The way they phrased it, "the Belhar Confession has been approved by a solid majority – 89 presbyteries to 60 so far. However, this proposal to amend the Book of Confessions requires a two-thirds majority for adoption, so it only takes 58 negative votes to defeat it." Interesting spin ... a solid majority, why not say over a third of presbyteries did not approve of Belhar.

Finally, the article reiterates that amendment 10A passed, removing the so-called fidelity & chastity clause. Now presbyteries and sessions can, if they so desire, recommend for ordination and/or call to office sexually active individuals who are not married. Please note, I do not say sexually active homosexuals. While that clause had been characterized as targeting LGBTs, it covered all those who did not practicefidelity in marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness.

So what's the big deal? Why are the passing of two and the defeat of one so bad?

From the progressive, liberal side the defeat of Belhar removes a confession that was going to be used to justify the ordination of sexually active LGBTs under the new clause .. governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates ...

That said, you have the new nFOG's Foundations section that has a paragraph F-1.0403, which is nicknamed the diversity provision. It states:
The unity of believers in Christ is reflected in the rich diversity of the Church‟s membership. In Christ, by the power of the Spirit, God unites persons through baptism regardless of race, ethnicity, age, sex, disability, geography, or theological conviction. There is therefore no place in the life of the church for discrimination against any person. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) shall guarantee full participation and representation in its worship, governance, and emerging life to all persons or groups within its membership. No member shall be denied participation or representation for any reason other than those stated in this Constitution.

Well, guess that tells us. If we believe that sin is sin and others don't we can't do anything about it. Don't believe Christ is Lord, so what come on in; otherwise we'd be discriminating against their theological conviction.

Preach that the Resurrection is just a myth, no worries .. you're OK. (Oh wait, that's already occurred under the current FOG ... nevermind .)

There are other parts of the nFOG that will trouble the PC(USA) in the future. No one knows the full impact of the changes affecting the independence of the local Session, Presbytery or Synod. There are paragraphs referring to the General Assembly, Synod and Presbytery as having authority and power to develop strategy for the mission of the church, the Session is left to lead the congregation in the mission of the whole church. It does sound like the Session is getting the short end of the stick.

In describing the problems with the nFOG at the day of the vote in Crimson-rock Presbytery, one speaker called a yes vote on nFOG " .. buying a pig in a poke ...". I think she got it right, we have no idea where nFOG is going to lead us. I fully expect a boatload of amendments to the BOO next year at General Assembly once individual Sessions (well, those that care to actually interact with others in their presbyteries) and Presbyteries realize the ramifications of the this change. Moving the PC(USA) from a connectional to a hierarchical organization.

So where do we go from here? There are a number of possibilities being talked about, but that's for the next rock.

And so it goes ....