Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Debates Begin

The Ecclesiology Committee at Work

Saturday was packed with committee business and the beginnings of actual decisions from committees. Remember, though, that what a committee does can be undone at the plenary sessions of GA next week and vice versa.

Committee people at their small-group tables

I spent my whole day with the Ecclesiology committee again, listening to debate within the committee over the PUP report and some of the overtures related to it. My immediate reaction is that the committee is operating on sentiment, rather than critical thinking. Following are some of the comments made during the debate. Almost all the focus was on proposal #5, which is commonly called the “local option” where local sessions and presbyteries would be freed to determine which of our “essentials” are essential.

• “What we need to do differently is have some trust in each other. We need to come together in conversation and look to each other in love.”

• “What we’ve done for 30 years hasn’t worked, this is at least an effort to do something.

• We have to trust our sessions and presbyteries. This is what we’ve always done. The examples [those opposing PUP] have given are extreme.”

• “The gates of hell will not prevail against the church. Let’s trust each other. Let’s come together and stop fighting…and put it in God’s hands.”

• “PUP is a way in which the church can live more faithfully in disagreement. The task forces report has given her greater hope than ever. Their coming together in a unanimous decision is nothing short of a miracle. The moderatorial candidates were all negative people. We need to get beyond that.”

• “If we take proposal #5 away we won’t give people a chance to have God’s love. Also, we are not to judge; only God is the judge. We can’t decide who can or can’t do God’s work.

• “I hope that the GA will trust this committee’s decision and that the denomination will trust the GA’s decision. It doesn’t matter if we agree, but do we love one another and will agree to stay together. I trust them, even if they hold to different essentials. The presbyteries have the right to decide what they want.”

There were, thankfully, some people who looked to Scripture for guidance.
• “I’ve heard a lot about the Book of Order and the PUP, but very little about the Bible. The Bible is way more important than these others.”

• “My presbytery has voted twice not to ordain a homosexual because it is not Biblical.”


A vote was taken on a motion to completely remove proposal #5 from the report. The VOTE: will we strike number 5? yes 23, no 37. This may be a portent of things to come.


Anonymous said...

I just received my copy of "The Presbyterian Sun". On the front page is their ad to sell "T-shirts available now, based on the phrase made popular by former General Assembly Moderator Marj Carpenter of Tres Rios Presbytery." The T-shirt says..."Sinfully Proud to be Presbyterian".

Isn't it sad that this has come to pass (and that they are proud of it!)?
-Paul W.

Chris Larimer said...

I just graduated from LPTS. One student there had worked for Presbyterian College Women and she wore a shirt that said "Agent of Satan" after the Layman laid a blanket denouncement on everyone who works at the center.

It seems such extremes exist on both sides of the aisle, unfortunately.

Good work, Tom.

Phil Graham said...

When I first joined the Kirk choir in 1987 John Newby befriended me, and I later learned that he had been raised Roman Catholic. I asked John what differences he noted between Catholicism and Protestantism -- specifically Presbyterianism. John's comment: "I like that we aren't asked to leave our minds at the threshold as we enter the Kirk."

Meg Scott suggested that the Ecclesiology Committee members become "... Ready to go into neutral gear. Ready to be more guided by the Spirit. This is willingness, openness to ‘Thy will be done."

This seems to me to be a fairly accurate description of "meditation" -- a state in which we TRY to quiet the wheels of our brains. But "neutral gear" implies that we have the ability to "turn off" our brains. Hogwash! Both science and scripture tell us this cannot be done:

I Corinthians 12:15-21
If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.

And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.

If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?

But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be.

If they were all one part, where would the body be?

As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!"

As a sometime composer, I cannot imagine the cacophony that would result if I threw musical notes on the floor, then picked them up and placed them at random on the staff.

Our brains, being in charge of EVERY bodily function, cannot be "put into neutral" or "left at the threshold." Furthermore, I don't think we have some other receptor, independent of the brain, through which The Holy Spirit visits us.

Even asleep, our brains are active (if somewhat "quieter" than during our waking hours.) But does God choose to "talk to us" through dreams? Not in my experience. I sometimes hear from God while in prayer, but more often, He speaks at times not of MY choosing. (He sometimes 'taps me on the shoulder' while I'm driving my car and I like to think I'm alert then!)

This is not to say we shouldn't pray (meditate), but if one of Ms. Scott's 'images' comes to us while doing so, rest assured that, if it was sent by God, it came in through the brain -- the organ God gave us for discerning.

Phil Graham

Anonymous said...

So. Are you for ordaining gays or not? I am so confused. I am shopping. I am an episcopalian. said...

Thanks, Tom, a very good summary. Burl Watson

TomGray said...

To anonymous,
At this point in time, the PCUSA will not ordain practicing GLBTs. We are looking at a potentially seismic shift in our denomination if the PUP report passes the full GA as-is.
Kirk of the Hills, Presbyterian is a conservative and evangelical church. We teach and believe Scripture according to its common-sense meaning. Therrefor we, as a church, do not approve of any sexual activity proscribed by Scripture. This not only includes homosexual acts but many heterosexual ones, as well--such as fornication or adultery.