Wednesday, June 8, 2011

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 ....

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