Monday, July 31, 2006

In Response (Again)

This blog is consciously written with two audiences in mind: my own congregation and those who are generally interested in what is going on in the PCUSA. Today’s blog is primarily addressed to the former.

I make no secret of my frustration with what is going on in the PCUSA because as a pastor, I am deeply concerned with the PCUSA’s departure from long-held Biblical beliefs and practices. Some of you have expressed concern (to others, not to my face) that I am “bashing” the denomination. Some have even, so I’ve heard, said that I am making things appear worse than they are through “half-truths.” Neither one is true. I’m simply stating things as they are.

This is the denomination into which I was ordained—by choice, not family history, pressure, or anything else. Even now I believe that Presbyterian/Reformed theology is the best expression of what Scripture truly teaches. I believe that our organizational system (polity) is the best among all. Why, then, am I negative? I am so because our theology has been discarded and our polity gutted—as evidenced in the 271th GA’s ruling that individual sessions and presbyteries may declare beliefs and practices that the PCUSA has historically insisted are essential now to be “non-essential.”

Some of you, apparently, wish that I would say some good things about the PCUSA. I admit that the Presbyterian church has done much good. Individual congregations and presbyteries continue this tradition of blessing. But our national denomination has gone so wrong that this situation must be addressed.

Suppose that you went to a doctor who had had a wonderful reputation as a careful, scientific diagnostician. He was solely responsible for saving thousands of lives. More than that, he’s a nice person—you like him a lot.

But things of late have changed. Now he is consistently wrong in his diagnoses. People he once might have saved are now dying because he is simply wrong. More than that, he has begun to abandon traditional medicine (maybe this is why patients are dying) and has convinced a significant minority of his patients that the use of crystals and chants are more effective than antibiotics, surgery, or other typical medical procedures.

Would you continue to entrust your family’s health to him? Or would you say “We have to say good things about him because of the good he did in the past”? Would it be healthy to say “We need to stay with him out of loyalty”? Would it be appropriate to say “We’ll stick with him because we can ignore his unscientific medicine and treat ourselves”? Would it be more important to balance critical statements with positive ones, or would it be more important to save lives?

To me, this seems to be the kind of argument I’m hearing. Some believe that denominational loyalty is the highest good. And a number of churches are saying that they can do what they want on their own, so why should they be concerned about the denomination?

People have expressed the hope that we can change the problems from within. This is what hundreds of pastors and even more elders have struggled to do for the last 30 years. The problems haven’t improved; they’ve only worsened in that time.

Friends, it would be much easier for me to ignore what is going on in the PCUSA. I am eligible for retirement in just five years, so it would be easy to ride this out and leave the problem to my successors. We cannot be so short-sighted. What is happening in the PCUSA now will have long-term effects on all congregations in the denomination. Ignoring negative issues and saying what is positive might feel better for the moment, but it will in no way correct the problems we face. In fact, it will make the problems worse.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Although you naturally consider your own congregation and those interested in the PCUSA there are many other people watching, reading, becoming involved in important issues because of your brave,proper stand and wise words. Even though my family are members in another denomination and have only (also) attended THE KIRK for 2 months we see some of why God led us to your church because we have been very concerned about the rampant departure in many churches and individual Christian lives from sound Biblical theology and a deep, commitment to daily (even on other days than Sunday) follow what the Word of God teaches . If you do not take a stand and offer your voice of leadership to stir people to CARE and BE. INVOLVED and return to Biblical absolutes then things will not get better and the 'natural' process of slowing down to die and decay will occur. We must all become proactive about defending the Truth and actively stirring up the gifts that are in us by the Holy Spirit. Thank you for your leadership

Anonymous said...

My wife and I say a loud "amen" to the above response to your latest blog, Tom! We have actually returned to the fold where we see you leading a faithful congregation through the wilderness of the big PCUSA but we also discern that there is a revitalization of your flock as they faithfully come to a true worship service full of glorious old hymns, a sense of peace and meditation, and a solid Bible-based sermon. A true picture if we ever saw one! Our prayers continue to be poured out to you pastors, officers, volunteers and other faithfuls.

Mark Hildebrand said...

Tom:
As I understand it, the presbyterian church considers the pastoral staff to be "teaching elders", as opposed to "ruling elders" (elected from our congregation). Your charge is to educate and exhort us into a deeper personal relationship with Jesus, which will take us out into the community (Tulsa and the denomination) with the Word of Truth. Those that have been criticizing you assume that YOU are making decisions for us, when in fact you are equipping US to make scriptural decisions for our congregation. Thank you for your faithfulness in this task. You are appreciated by more than just the ones who have made their voices heard.

Mark

Dave Moody said...

Tom,
As a guy who's a long way from retirement (I hope!)-- I thank you for not taking the easy road of leaving it for the next generaton to deal with. Thanks for showing what faithfulness to one's vows looks like.
All the best,
dm

ps> I do have one bone to pick with you though. None of the software the Kirk was selling during the NW convocation was Apple OS X friendly, it was all Windows. What's with that? I expect more from you! ;-)

Janna Geiger said...

Tom,
I would also like to personally thank you for your teaching. I have only recently (approx. 2 years) been attending the Kirk. I grew up in an entirely different denomination and it was not easy for me to adapt but what I see and believe is that you and all the pastors at the Kirk teach the Bible. My point really is that being "new" to the denomination, if it weren't for the sound teaching and the critical self-evaluation, I would not think too much of the Presbyterian denomination. Thank you so much for being a wonderful faithful leader.

Sincerely,
Janna Geiger

Anonymous said...

Tom, I met you in Branson just prior to GA and I appreciate many of the things you and NWI are doing. But to take your analogy of the doctor from a different perspective. What if I am going to a great doctor who is healing my family, but the AMA gets into crystal gazing, etc. Do I leave my doctor because of the AMA? I would like to still hope (I only have less than two years to retirement and have been fighting the issues for almost my whole career) that the ideas you are proposing wrapped in prayer and undergirded by the power of God will result in changes to our denomination. Am I dreaming? Pastor Walter Hamer, Monett, MO

The Devil's Advocate said...

Playing Devil's Advocate:

The AMA goes to crystals and strange chants, and starts encouraging all member doctors do the same. Would not your doctor have problems with this? Would he not discuss what could be done with other like minded Doctors?

Now assume there are several other reputable Medical Associations available to join to give a Doctor legitimacy in the eyes of patients. Would the Doctor not consider leaving the AMA for one of these other associations out of concern for his patients? After all he could no longer guarantee they would receive proper treatment if he sent them to someone in the AMA because he does not know everyone who is going to crystals and chants.

Your Doctor, if he was a good one, would be concerned what his patients would think. He would speak to his patients about the changes in the AMA and explain that he is seeking to resolve this but the AMA is not inclined to change and short of the Government forcing them to change with acts of Congress they are unlikely to.

Let us take this one step further: The AMA finds out about this group of concerned Doctors because they've been trying to enact change that would set the AMA back onto the path of medicine not superstition. These Doctors start being told they either accept the new way of things or they could have their medical licenses pulled and be fired for no other reason than using sound medical science rather than medical superstition.

Do these Doctors, then, not have a legitimate concern for their own professional safety and their patients very lives? Would the thinking, reasonable patients not WANT their doctor to be looking into a different certifying organization? Would they go 'Because I've been under the AMA my entire life I'm not leaving. MY Doctor is good, it's not my business that the others under the AMA might not be, I don't deal with them.' No, they wouldn't because their lives might hinge on such a doctor in an emergency situation.

As your analogy runs, the Doctors are the churches, and the AMA is PCUSA, the patients are the members of the congregation. If it were medical science there wouldn't BE an argument. But no, this is spiritual, and loyalty to denomination is apparently more important to some people than loyalty and FAITH which are what make a denomination tick to start with. PCUSA is not the only one with some screwed up priorities. Or has no one else realized that by declaring the tenants optional, and pretty much decreeing scripture optional, the PCUSA is a breath away from stopping being even CHRISTIAN? If Paul's letters can be discarded as out dated what's to say the rest of the Bible won't be? Including the whole: Jesus is God thing. They're already arguing points that chip away at that concept. And that's the Concept that makes us Christian rather than Muslim, Buddhist, or a follower of the Great and all Powerful Mog the magnificent. (Please note heavy sarcasm on the last.)

~Heather Underwood

PS I am an analyst and this particular trend has been repeated throughout history. "It's not my Problem!" historically leads to things like oh... Stalin, Hitler, you get the general idea.

Presbyterian Parson said...

Tom,
As an orthodox minded Presbyterian, it is somewhat surprising to see you siding with the Donetist Heresy -- seems to be rather unorthodox in approach. It strikes me than an analogy from the history and theology of the church seems more on target and relevant than borrowing from another profession such as medicine. St. Augustine's argument that the purity of the Church and its clergy seems to apply in this case. As I recall the abuses of the clergy in his day cut all the way to primary doctrines of the church.

On a practical note, it seems to take your congregation down the path of severing your membership from the PCUSA, which I am not sure if that is your inclination or not, will create more division and discord within your own congregation? I am not sure that is wise or pastoral. Brings to mind how Highland Park Church split over the property issue and the liberalness of the PCUSA after reunion. If you expect to retire in five years this would seem to be a difficult place to begin for your successor. I hope you will keep a "Kingdom" perspective, which allows God's timing and fulfillment of His will and purpose to be different than our own impatient ideas of time.

In hopes of peace, purity, and unity

TomGray said...

Dear presbyterian parson,
You miss the point. First, it was an analogy, not a thorough theological or historical statement.
Second, in the analogy, the doctor is the denomination. The Donatist heresy was about the fitness of a priest/bishop, not the church.
Rather than refer to the early Church (prior to schisms or denominations), I prefer to deal with this Scripturally. In separate references in the Corinthians, Paul clearly states that immorality in the church should be dealt with the eviction of the party at fault or separation from that party.
For those who argue that Paul never suggested leaving a church (such as the one in Corinth), it was never the whole church (denomination) at fault. It was individuals within that church.
I firmly feel that we have reached a point where separation may well be necessary unless the PCUSA repudiates both the new AI from the PUP task force AND refuses further consideration of approval of unbiblical lifestyles.
Tom

TomGray said...

Dear presbyterian parson (a post script),
I qualify for retirement in 5 years. If we end up shifting out of the denomination, I expect to work for another 10 to 15 years precisely because I wouldn't want to leave a job half-done.
I am very familiar with the Highland Park situation. If you remember, the precipitating factor there was not the stand of the denomination (although that became the center of the debate) but the exit clause for PCUS churches that had to be completed by the year of their debate.
The situation was so bad there that I believe it ultimately took the life of my friend and colleague, Clayton Bell (his son, Nelson, was one of my associate pastors at the time). Clayton was a far more gracious man than I could ever aspire to be. After the difficult split in his church, he said a number of times, “God created two good new churches from that split.”
I also would challenge the idea (I think you’re implying) that a “Kingdom attitude” requires maintaining membership in the PCUSA or any other denomination. It could be just the opposite. There, to my knowledge, is no part of the Church today that is not part of some schism or another.
Having said all this, leaving a denomination is a last resort. Should it be the faithful decision, it would require working through the inevitable conflict involved.
Tom

Anonymous said...

Dear Tom,

There is some really good stuff in your posts. A blog can work like an interactive journal and help you think. I offer my own thoughts in part to do just that. If it fails let me know, and I will desist.

I must confess that the lure of starting something new is powerful and stimulating. Anything that revitalizes the church has my vote going in. The Gospel is only as alive as it is in the hearts and minds of God's people, not institutions. I think the real reason mainline denominations including ours have been in decline is that they reflect the general spiritual well being of the American people as a whole. The last time we were growing was when Kennedy was in the White House and the mood of the nation was exuberant: "ask not what the country can do for you..." Young and vibrant. Then came Viet Nam, riots, assassinations, Nixon, Watergate, and the bottom fell out. It was all on the evening news. The loss rate slowed after Watergate and slowed more with the end of the Viet Nam war, again with the end of the cold war, and again with the dot com bubble. After 9/11 however, our mood has turned ugly and it is showing up in church. I think that is what the numbers really reflect, not some internal theological or doctrinal stress. What the world feels, we His people feel, and that puts us in the perfect position for intercessory prayer. It also raises questions about our own well being. I think it is OK for the church to be wounded with the world. Its part of being the broken body of Christ.

The solution to the numbers problem doesn't require a particularly Christian message, only a positivistic one. Remember Shuller and the power of positive thinking? A growing church is not a sign of being rooted in Christ or the Scriptures. That being said, the Gospel is - by definition - good news, producing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control... Any two or three of these fruits should be enough to cause positivism and church growth.

Sadly, the good and the newsworthiness of the Gospel keeps getting lost. (It's such a tiny little thing.) Find it and you will have your renewal. (Ha! A parable comes to life!)

I liked your postings on amateur astronomy. It provides a wealth of valuable metaphors. One metaphor relates to the study of Scripture. In your posts you talk about " the power of teaching the clear meaning of Scripture" and a concern that we have strayed from " a common-sense understanding of Scripture."

The "clear meaning of the text" is as incomplete an understanding of the scriptures as a view of the heavens is to the naked eye. What you see with the naked eye drives your passion, but it is only your starting point. Granted there are things you can only appreciate with the naked eye, so you always need to pull back, but the other deeper wonders that are there require other tools, and they re-interpret what you see with the naked eye. With high power optics, multi-spectral sensors and long duration exposures, you find that what you thought you saw was just the surface, and sometimes even completely wrong. The heavens are not going around the Earth, as once people assumed from the clear evidence before them. Entire religions were based on such faulty premises. We were and often are still fooled by our own limited vision and self obsessed points of view. The "clear meaning of the text" is only the superficial surface, and it is often proved wrong upon further inspection.

That phrase "common sense" is also a red flag. "Common sense" means a culturally and time specific point of view. The use of the term usually indicates one of two things. The person using it is either completely unaware of their own cultural and linguistic biases, or the person is trying to manipulate the opinion of others via theirs. Either way, a 'common sense' reading of the text is at best a misnomer.

On the topic of political influence, I too believe that teaching our faith is the most critical point of contact with society. However it is also important to remember that America's society is a democracy. The burden of responsibility for America's actions rests on the shoulders of its citizens, meaning you and me. By not paying taxes, the church institution is getting special treatment from the government. This special treatment, by all other governmental standards of business, creates an improper relationship. We are indebted to the government, and our silence in face of its behavior implies bought and paid for subordination and consent. In order for a US based church to avoid this conflict of interest it needs to forfeit all special treatment including its tax exempt status. Radical? How serious are you about renewal?

On a slightly different note, I think your vision of renewal would be far more credible and convincing if the NWI lost its association with 'the Layman.' This is a deal breaker. The PLC is hopelessly tarnished by the scandalous fortune it has spent and brokered over that last 40 years trying to bring down our denomination. Many of us are convinced it represents primarily the interests of the Christian nationalists and the Republican Right Wing. The issues it chooses to address, and the manner by which it does so are carefully selected to maximize the damage it can inflict on our church. It may not be undeserved, and the hard right is obviously not the only outside force trying to hijack our churches, but by remaining associated with the PLC your renewal movement will lack the integrity it needs.

There is also a question as to whether this is just really all about not ordaining gays and lesbians. It would be very hard to build a compelling renewal based on ordination standards alone. Yet sometimes it seems that is exactly what you are trying to do. Or at least trying too hard to convince everyone that is not what you are trying to do, indicating by a guilty conscience that maybe it is. If memory serves me right, Luther and Knox were ordained only as Roman Catholic priests, Luther lost his when he got excommunicated, and Calvin was never ordained at all. So, suggestion number two, tone down the attitude about ordination. It's not the point.

Again, only in my humble opinion, but hoping to help you reflect,

Jodie

(I must learn to be more concise!...)

Anonymous said...

Tom,
As I recall the donetist heresy was about apostate clergy and whether or not to strip there ordinations because the gospel and the sacraments would lose efficacy. Clearly that goes to the very legitimacy of the church's enforcement of standards among clergy. I believe that Augustine made the scriptural point against the donetists using the parable of the wheat and tares, where Jesus acknowledges the co-existence of good and evil until the final judgement, and the seperation is ultimately up to God. It seems to me that the clear sense of the text is that a few weeds may slip in to the ranks of church officers, there are certainly many weeds present in my own life, but the power of the gospel is in the hands of a sovereign God to work through a church that is stricken by sin. If GA and the PUP has acted to allow a few weeds into the ranks of officers, which it is not altogether clear it has, I think it is intended to allow for a more orderly way for this to happen, which really is not much of a change from what has been happening since debates about sexuality have arisen in our day.

The Reformed tradition has tended to lean in the direction of this understanding of sotierology and sanctification - righteousness is imputed to us as God's gift in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only one who can bridge the gap between human impurity (imperfection) and God. Our obediance to Christ is our act of gratitude not an effort to maintain the purity given to us in Christ.That is where I have never understood amendment B in the first place. We took the PCUSA back to a more Catholic understanding of sins (and away from Paul's teaching about sinful nature) -- where sins are to be ranked in order of graveness, with sexuality finding its way to the top of the list. I can think of quite a few others that I suspect Jesus might find alarming, more present and not questioned. No doubt sexual behavior can have grave consequences in the life of the church. Libertine attitudes about sexuality do not comingle well with the Christian faith as attested in the Corinthian church, and these issues along with many others should go to governing bodies weighing and measuring the character of people being considered to hold office.

I have not read anywhere where the PCUSA has changed its understanding of Biblical norms for human sexuality. And I appreciate that the debate is being hashed out around the Scriptures, whichs seems a very Presbyterian thing to do and good for our denomination. We are all attempting to wrestle faithfully with a difficult issue in the lives of many people in our flocks.

"What shall we say then, shall we sin all the more to let grace abound, of course not?"

With peace, purity, and unity in mind
Presbyterian Parson

The Devil's Advocate said...

Devil's Advocating again:

Ok folk, time for me to earn a Captain Obvious award here: Ordaining gays, Lesbians, transsexuals, and bisexuals is a surface issue. The real issue... the real PROBLEM is that the PCUSA is using bullying, fear tactics, and threats to the livelyhood and existance of churches throughout the country because they have pointed out a theological problem. The PCUSA has declared the bible OPTIONAL. If they threw out Paul sooner or later they'll throw out Jesus entirely. After all he's never been exactly popular in the raw unfiltered formate. This isn't an argument about 'should we ordain...' This is an argument about 'The bible clearly says THIS IS WRONG.' And the PCUSA going "We don't care we'll ordain them any way. Screw the Bible it doesn't know what it's talking about." The PCUSA made the issue Ordination but as has been said (and apparently ignored) time and time again the PROBLEM is the PCUSA saying Scripture is essentially just another work of uneducated non-fiction. I pose the question again. Can any denomination who throws out the Bible call itself Christian anymore than any group of Muslims who throw out the Koran and it's teachings actually call themselves Muslim?

It is common sense not to jump out of an airplane at 30000 feet without a parachute. If you look at the origional text of scripture and it says something plain and clear. "Do Not Kill" Does not take interpretation or anything more than a good dose of common sense (which is obviously currently lacking) to realize the scripture is not saying that murder is wrong except when...

You know what? The world is MORE hungry for honest Christianity than ever. I spent 5 years active duty military. In that time frame I spoke with people of every faith from a girl who followed the Egyptian gods to mormons to Wicken to rabidly evangelical aethists. There was a real trend in what kept them away from christianity.

1) The "Convert or Else" reputation and attitude some churches and individuals put forth.

2) Inconsistent churches. Churches who preached one thing then toned it down becuase someone complained. Individuals who changed what they believed because it wasn't popular also fall in this catagory.

In conclusion, I managed to talk about touchy topics with people who were overtly hostile to Christianity because I didn't sugar coat what I believed. I didn't back down, I didn't say 'well yes you're a good person so that makes it alright.' I was up front and honest and said "I believe this is wrong for X, Y, and Z scriptural reasons. No I don't hate you for it."

The PCUSA has robbed itself of the coult of being able to say 'We know what we believe and we stick to it.' People are running from the churches NOT because the world has gone haywire, but because the CHURCHES have gone haywire! They've stopped sticking to what they believe. The churches that are GROWING are the ones who stick to their scripture and their belief.

I have looked for churches in Hawaii, Texas, California, and Canada. I've noticed the trend in all of these places: The churches that thrive are the ones who stick to what they believe. The PCUSA has ignored this evidence.

My question to you all is: Are you trying to save the Titanic after it hit the iceberg? Are you clinging to the denomination and arguing analogies simply because you are afraid to stand up to the denomination that is clearly in the wrong. (This isn't exactly a gray area. The language of the passages under debate is NOT ambiguous in any way shape or form.)

We either believe in the bible or we don't. We either follow Christ or we don't. The PCUSA has CHOSEN to willfully put sociatal opinion above the clear STATMENTS (not interpretation) of scripture. Go, look it up. There are pleanty of programs out there that give the origional greek and hebrew and aramaic and actually go through what the words and phrases mean in those languages.

I am an analyst and a linguist but it shouldn't take an army linguist and analyst to figure this out. If you're thinking we're making a fuss over nothing, I recomend you talk to someone who's not christian about this whole issue. You'll find the perspective ironically much clearer.

Heather Underwood, who never thought she'd have to Devil's Advocate THIS group.

Anonymous said...

Please clarify something for me, Ms. Underwood. You said, "If Paul's letters can be discarded as out dated what's to say the rest of the Bible won't be?" Are you referring to a particular statement that's been issued by the denomination? I haven't heard that.
Parson II

New to Your Fold said...

Although the AMA -Doctor analogy was just that I would like to say I am a female MD who DID belong to the AMA until their policy and political stands went against God's Word.I could not just ignore the Biblical fact that killing babies at ANY point for convenience of the freely choosing and living mother. I was in good standing when I left the AMA Oh and for those of you who might not know, you CANNOT belong to the OKLA Med Assoc NOR the Tulsa County Med Assoc if you don't belong to the dear AMA! PLUS my malpractice ins prems went up 25 percent because Plico is in bed w/ the OK Med Society. So I have paid a price but worth every penny and professional criticism to not sell my soul and allow the BIG Boys to dictate my morality. Keep up standing for the inffalible Word of God.

Anonymous said...

Dear Heather,

I too am having trouble with your facts and figures. Where has the PCUSA declared the bible optional? Can you point me to it exactly, because I have searched and cannot find it. And where is the PCUSA saying that "Scripture is essentially just another work of uneducated non-fiction."

To answer your question about the Titanic and bible passages, the ordination debate is on whether it is OK to single out one kind of sinner as being non-ordainable while allowing the ordination of another kind of sinner. The argument that lacks a biblical basis is the argument that says fat people and their divorcee friends can be ordained even after they re-marry, but gays and lesbians cannot.

The reformed tradition is that no one sin is any less fatal than any other. The Book or Order says that if a person is unrepentant of >any< sin called out either in the bible or in the book of confessions, they cannot be ordained.

The choices for ordination are three. Either nobody can be ordained, or everybody can be ordained, or some can and some can't. The Scriptural possibilities are only two. Either nobody - because nobody meets the biblical standards of purity (works for me), or anybody - on the basis of grace (works for me better).

The Roman Catholic solution to the Donetist Heresy is quite elegant and applies directly. My guess is that in the end it will prevail. The Gospel is the word of God even if it comes from the mouths of rocks and stones. The Sacraments are the work of the Holy Spirit, and purity is a gift from Jesus.

Also for the Peace, Unity and Purity of the Church,

Jodie

Anonymous said...

Just a quick comment. I do not wish to speak for Dr. Gray, he is most capable of doing that himself. BUT, my feelings in light of a recent sermon he gave are that it is quite clear that we are not protesting a certain type of sinner be excluded from a particular office. We are ALL sinners. There will always be sins in the church, sexual and otherwise. God forgives any such sins. What scripture states that God does NOT forgive, is false teachings.

We protest ordaining anyone who claims a homosexual marraige (or other so called alternative lifestyle) is within the teachings of Christianity. This is no different than protesting a person who openly claimed that greed, worship of other gods, stealing, etc., is ok by Christians.

We (I am using we to mean those who no longer feel comfortable with the PCUSA's theology) freely admit there is sin in our congregation, and this will always be. There can be no chuch without sinners. HOWEVER, when the church appoints those who openly stand against the message of the cross, we are no longer the church we claim to be.

As Dr. Gray previously mentioned, the sexuality issue is relevent because the church is presently focused on it. Though it is true that our country's civil war was the result of many factors and a deep split in ideology, it would be remiss to have the two sides debate the issues and not focus on slavery as the tipping point to steal a Gladwell phrase. (I steal as a sinner, I do not profess that stealing is right :).)

It is my feeling that those who TEACH that these alternative lifestyles are within the realm of our faith SHOULD NOT be ordained, or hold an office such as church elder, regardless of whether they themselves are practicing such a lifestyle. Again, this is also the case for those who would teach that stealing, lying, worshiping idols, etc. is ok.

Hope that clarifies why we do not feel we are attacking homosexuals or any particular group of sinners as different from others.

Peace be with you

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Presbyterian Parson said...

We have just tumbled into the abyss of unhelpful discussion. Tom, help us get back on track!
Presbyterian Parson

Anonymous said...

As one who has enjoyed your strong spiritual leadership over the past 16 years, I pray that God will contine to provide you the strength to lead. Our flock needs the patience to absorb all that is at stake and an understanding of the long term impact of not standing up now!

Not so differant from governmental issues at the County and other levels. We need God continually guiding us and real leaders with courage and spiritual insight to go forward. Change/standing ground is uncomfortable for most even if intelectually they know it is necessary.

The thoughtful discussions are great for all of us. We are blessed to have you leading the charge.

Your Assessor-Ken

Anonymous said...

Let's stop, take a deep breath,and return to the teachings of our Holy Bible.

Let's take to heart the last verse of Hosea 14:9 and especially "for the ways of the LORD are right"!

Amen?

Anonymous said...

Although I am realtively new to the Kirk (3 months), I was immediately impressed with the soundness and the groundedness of Tom's preachings in scripture. Not bad for a reformed Baptist! (which I also am). The issue which is being debated here should not be an issue at all. As an analogy, would you want Jeffrey Dahmer or Adolph Hitler or Fidel Castro teaching your children good government and personal relationships? Of course not. So my question to you is, why is this any different? Homosexuality is wrong. The Bible tells us so in no uncertain terms. So why should Tom stand up and say to his congregation that because the PCUSA says it's okay, then it must be. I cannot tell you how profoundly impressed I am by Tom's stand in this matter. He is doing what is right according to God's word. Bless you, Tom. Keep fighting the good fight.

Anonymous said...

The ordination issue does not hinge on the sins of the candidate (or lack thereof) as suggested by Jodie and others. Rather it hinges on the word UNREPENTANT. No question, we are all sinners. The difference is whether or not we repent of our sin and are sorry we did it. It is only when you refuse to repent by stating that sexual sins are really not sins that G6.106.b comes into play.

This "we are all sinners, so let everyone be ordained" just does not hold water.

If you have not read G6.106.b in the Book of Order, let me know and I will post it. I am sure there are many here who can explain it if there seems to be any confusion or ambiguity.

Keep in mind that ordination is for the people we choose to be leaders of our church and who are to try to be good examples. We welcome all sinners into our fellowship. We are called to love each other, but not to love the sins.

Blessings,

John Haley

Anonymous said...

Well, I guess we are not going to hear back from Tom on this thread...

John Haley asked if I had read G-6.0106b. I have. What I would like you to do is review the Book of Confessions (you can do it online) and run a search for every sin that it calls out. Check out the Greater Catechism. Do you really know anybody at all that meets the full criteria of G-6.0106b? Do you know of any ordained person who is honestly self-acknowledged and repentant of all the listed sins, and do you know anybody who is even checking?

I think you will agree that repentance is not a viable or practical escape clause. We are all >unrepentant< sinners, many times over. Whether the argument about ordination hinges on "sin" or "repentance", the result is the same. The criteria cannot be met.

It is theoretically possible to hate the sin and love the sinner. In practice however, either the hate of the sin gets lost in the love for the sinner, or the love of the sinner gets lost in the hate of the sin. I would rather err on the side of 1Cor 13.

To the author who said “What scripture states that God does NOT forgive, is false teachings”, I point out that the statement itself is a false teaching. There is no biblical basis for it.

In both cases, you have renewed my concern that the New Wineskins Initiative is not really about renewal, or a call back to the Gospel of Jesus Christ or the teachings of Scripture. I had other problems for Tom, but your entire focus remains first and foremost to not allow anyone to ordain gays and lesbians. It then moves on to figure out how to prove the validity of that restriction with Scripture, then, I presume, to say that anybody who disagrees is by definition apostate, because they deny the Scripture not just the original point if view. That method of dealing with issues always leads to a dishonest reading of Scripture, because you are telling it what to say, and what subject to say it about, rather than asking and listening for what it says on its own terms.

That being said, I have no personal knowledge or experience of anyone trying to do and say all the things you seem worried about. I am not particularly sheltered, yet to me it is all hearsay. I'm beginning to think there is an evening news effect going on. We hear that someone somewhere is being chased by the police through someone's backyard, so we get up to lock our doors. It's irrational. The media makes us afraid of our own shadows.

A credible renewal movement always starts with someone discovering “Oh! >That’s< what the Gospel is! How come I never heard that before?! Hey look everybody, look what I found!” The Gospel is about finding out that everything you thought was important was not, and the thing you least expected turned out to be the secret to infinite life. It’s like finding an antique diamond ring between the floorboards in your attic. It had been there for decades, people walked over it and stepped on it, but nobody saw it. Then suddenly when you least expected it, something flashed in the corner of your eye, and you got closer to see what it was…

IMHO, Jodie

Julius Marx said...

my thought on all this is this-

the bible says to not be unequally yoked-doesn't this pretty much lend itself to that arguement?

all I know is that when I die and and I am in glory, I will stand before God alone-no session, no denomiation, no presbyterians, baptists, methodists, etc.

I would rather be on His side than any other thing.

ronincereberus@yahoo.com said...

I find this entire conversation disgusting. If people want to know why so many in our country are disenchanted with the Church, all they have to do is read this blog. Consider the dirty laundry that is being aired - which if I understand all of this correctly - is filled with half-truths and misquotes from newspapers and officials in higher judicatories of the denomination.

Whatever happened to Christians bearing one another burdens, forgiving as Christ forgave, stop gossiping and spreading rumors and working towards a common goal - Bring Jesus Christ and his saving grace to an unsaved world.

Personally I have found this discussion not only disgusting, unchristian, but frankly bordering on the uncivilized. The next thing you know you will be dragging the denomination through the courts of claim ownership to your property and most likely have all the newspapers and local television stations covering it for you so that you can win (as if that was important) in the scheme of things. HOW ABOUT LETTING GOD WIN FOR ONCE - I believe the Apostle Paul wrote: "and he who was rich became poor for our sakes so that we might become rich" - not so we Christians should argue and destroy each other's reputation on a "worldly website".

God loves us all - would that we would love God in return and put our anger, our bitterness, our disagreements at rest and get about the business at Hand - Witnessing for Christ - feeding those in our community that are hungry - better to cast stones I guess. Who am I - surely I will be dismissed - as have been most that respond.

Mike Roniniski

TomGray said...

Dear Mike,
Please let me know what half-truths there are (specifically) and I will correct them. So far as I know, what I have printed (I cannot speak for commenters) is factual.
I don't respond to everyone because I have a day job and things have heated up a lot lately. Also, there is good interaction of commenters without me in the middle.
You say that we should feed the hungry instead of casting stones. There is a logical falacy here in that you suggest we can do only one or ther other. I also dispute that we are "casting stones." We are calling people to truly Biblical life whichi includes our sexuality, our pocket books, and our time (among other things).
If you followed me around on my day job you'd find that we ARE doing exactly what you accuse us of not doing. There is never a day that goes by that we are not reaching out in love and substance to people who are hungry, homeless, or lonely.
In addition to a $700,000 mission budget, our congregation also contributes more than $100,000 per year that goes directly to individuals who come to us for help.
Tom