Friday, April 4, 2014

2014 Overtures on marriage

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!

Update 05/16/2014:

PLEASE NOTE:  these thoughts were written way before I knew where I would be serving at GA.

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!