Thursday, October 12, 2006

Answering Accusations

A lot of comments came in overnight, some dealing with recurring issues on this blog. I’ve asked some of them to re-read the posts I’ve made; at least one has, and still does not see what I think I’ve clearly written. I’ll try again.

Timing of our decisions
Two responders react to the same quote in the Synod newspaper.

Mark (not Smith) writes,
"On June 28, less than a week after GA adjourned, the Kirk amended their articles of incorporation to eliminate all previous references to denominational affiliation and accountability."
It appears from this report that The Kirk (the Session?) planned, well before The Layman article about GA's "secret" property strategy and before the New Wineskins Convocation, to pull out of the PCUSA.
More of the same from Arthur,
I can't believe I missed this.
Is this true!
"On June 28, less than a week after GA adjourned, the Kirk amended their articles of incorporation to eliminate all previous references to denominational affiliation and accountability."
I’ve been trying very hard (with varying degrees of success) to be sympathetic to your plight. I'm absolutely appalled by this!!!
I repeat, we were responding to the affidavit filed by our presbytery. It had been discovered in May. We believe that we—legally and morally—own the property of the Kirk. The fact that someone in an organization of which we were a part declared (after we’d been a part of that group for 22 years) that they now owned our property does not make it so.

Oklahoma law allows any trust—even, or especially, one created by another entity—to be revoked. This is what we did. It did not involve leaving the denomination. We did not recommend leaving the denomination at that time. The decision to change our bylaws and charter was made by our session in May, before the General Assembly. The congregational meeting was also scheduled then. Our decision to disaffiliate came after the GA in June, in response to its approval of the PUP report.

The affidavit
A couple of responders question whether the affidavit was secret.
  • First, no congregation was queried or contacted about the affidavit, so we were kept in the dark in that respect, regardless of whether or not it was announced at a later date.
  • Second, one of our members, himself a trustee of EOP at that time, confirmed the irregularities of this action. When he inquired into this motion and meeting he was told that he had missed the meeting, and that minutes were not taken, but the chair had taken “some notes.”
Scriptural (mis)interpretation
On another subject, Jodie said,
Chill Tom,
Are you saying that you do not ignore parts of scripture? Did you hand up your children for stoning or encourage other parents to do so when they answered back to you? (Deu 21:18-21) Do you really believe that Cretans are "always liars, evil beasts, and lazy gluttons"? (Titus 1:12-13.)
Here, as one other responder noted, Jodie fails to understand the nature of the old covenant, in the case of the Deuteronomy passage, and proper Greek exegesis, in the case of the Titus passage. The first is a law changed in Acts 15 (where the specific items retained from the old covenant are listed). The second is an indicative, illustrative statement which, correctly taken in context does not require us to believe that all Cretans are liars. Paul is ironically quoting someone else in this passage.

Many who support the radical changes in the PCUSA revert to this argument that, if we do not literally act on every statement in the Bible, we have no right to insist on literally enforcing any standard of Scripture. In the cases Jodie cites, there are historical, Reformed interpretations that I have given above. In the case of sexual morality we have the specific retention of the Law as exhibited in Acts 15, as well as specific restatements of prohibitions elsewhere in the New Testament.

Essentials versus non-essentials
One person accuses me of attacking people who disagree with me. I really don’t think that I’ve done that. On the other hand, if you believe that taking a stand is an attack, I can’t help how you interpret that.

Mark (still not Smith) wrote,
Second case in point: women and ordination. In the past two months I have read at least two responders to your blog who asked you to clarify your understanding of women and ordination. The most recent request went unanswered. You answered the first request with the standard EPC view that the ordination of women is a nonessential issue, so it's left to local option. Frankly, I was stunned. Why would The Kirk, who spent so many decades in a denomination (the PCUSA) that stipulated adherence to the biblical and confessional doctrine of women in ordained leadership suddenly say that it is nonessential? You rail against those "godless" "faithless" "unbiblical" "unChristian" PCUSA denominational leaders, and yet you readily abandon a fundamental biblical principle that values the leadership of women in favor of local option? Your claims of biblical fidelity don't add up.
I can make it clear: I believe in women’s ordination (which I’ve already written). I am fully in favor of women's leadership wherever they are gifted so to lead. My wife is a full professor in a university. My daughter is a physician. It is not essential that they be either, but for the fact that God has provided them with the gifts so to serve. I do not classify women’s ordination as an essential, as I would the infallibility of Scripture. Nor would I even classify ordination (as we practice it today for both men and women) as an essential. I’m sure I’ll get some response to that statement! I believe in music in worship, but don’t regard it as essential to Reformed faith. I believe that Sunday school is important, but it is not essential to Reformed faith. Is the pattern clear? Essentials are just that—without them, we are no longer Christian or Reformed. All else is non-essential.

Denominational “evil”
Finally, from the ever-active Mark (not Smith),
Tom, I understand that YOU believe most, if not all, PCUSA leaders are in league with the devil, and that all they want is the money and property of dissenters. As one of your responders said, the great majority of the PCUSA doesn't agree with you. If YOU believe that puts us in league with the devil, too, so be it. You're entitled to your beliefs.
Mark, I do not believe what you say I do. There are people in the PCUSA at all levels whom I not only respect, but admire. That doesn’t mean, though, that sinful agendas are not prevailing at this time in the PCUSA. Why is it that the PCUSA is abandoning its long-held respect for the essentials of Scripture? Why is it that the PCUSA system has only one outcome for congregations seeking dismissal? Where is there a sign of grace? There is clear evidence for my suspicion of some of our leaders. The clearest current instance is where the Louisville-leaked game plan plainly says that, if presbyteries are too generous toward departing congregations, the national denomination will step in, revoke the presbytery’s decision, and squeeze the turnip.

I have to resign myself to the fact that, whatever I say, people will believe otherwise. This is human nature. I await the responses.

Keep praying--keep the faith,
Tom

18 comments:

Jim said...

Tom,
I am f I just do not follow your train of thought. Why is it OK with you for women to be ordained, but not homosexuals? I understand your thought that it is not essential, but I fail to understand why a double standard exists. Also, can you please comment on why you believe homosexuality is somehow a more severe sin than those you and I commit on an unfortunately regular basis. Thanks for hanging in there and explaining.

Sam Sibala said...

Tom,

We are praying for you and your health. Quit wasting your time and energy with these people! We have lots to do for God's kingdom and we need you and Wayne to keep us moving thru the leading of the Holy Spirit. Tell us more about establishing churches in the east, west, north and south. Tell us more about becoming truly a church of small groups. Tell us more about local, national and international missions. Tell us more about becoming disciples of Christ. Tell us more about becoming fishers of men.

We do not need to defend our position or actions to people that have no clue what has been happening in our church for the past several years. If they are so engrossed in our business have them come down to Tulsa and worship with us, pray with us and fellowship with us.

Our congregation needs healing. We need to move on. Let us not look back. Let us move forward to what God has called us to do!

Lead us.

NetProphet said...

Proverbs 3:5-8

Larry said...

I agree with Sam. Quit wasting your time answering their points. For example, if Jim wants to know why their is a difference between ordination of women and ordination of homosexuals, then Jim ought to read Robert Gagnon's comprehensive book on the topic.

Ted Rossier said...

Jim,

Just so you know, I do not attend the Kirk, though I do visit when I'm in town. My parents are members, so I have an interest. But let me ask you something.

Would you support the ordination of a minister, man OR woman, who was in an open adulterous affair and had no intention of ending the affair or repenting of their sin? How about a minister who spends his day off drinking excessively and gambling at the Cherokee Casino, and sees nothing wrong with it? Or one who feels like it's okay to help himself to part of the offering each week, because, after all, he deserves it?

Don't you think such a person might just bring reproach upon the Church?

Leaving aside for the moment the issue of the church disciplining lay members who live in open unrepentant sin, the fact is that ministers are and should be held to a higher standard. They are our leaders and representatives. The key word here is "unrepentant". A person who struggles with homosexuality, but who lives a life of repentance before God and desires to be sanctified may be a fine candidate for ordination. But not one who "calls good evil and evil good."

Also, your equating ordination of women (where it is possible to argue both sides from Scripture) with homosexuals indicates to me that you really don't believe that homosexuality is a sin, which also indicates to me that you don't believe the Word of God. I encourage you to think about the implications.

Ted

Mr. E said...

Good day to all!
Pastor Gray, you make some very good points. The answers to the plight of the PCUSA and all mankind for that matter is found in scripture. We have to stand firm in God's word. Prayerfully seek Him and he will reveal. One problem here is that we tend do try to conform God to our desires instead of conforming ourselvelves to Him. As the saying goes- "If you start a train of thought, you better check your ticket to see where you get off". Be relentless in pursuing Him!

In Ppeace,
Mr. E

arthur.woodling said...

mr.e,

You said:

"One problem here is that we tend do try to conform God to our desires instead of conforming ourselvelves to Him."

This is so true of all of us, Conservatives, Moderates, and Progressives.

Arthur

Toby Brown said...

I agree with your parishoners!

These people choose to not understand the Christian faith and tie us down with explaining the obvious!

Jim--
In case you have not read your Bible, Being a woman is NOT SINFUL!

Our sexual activity is based upon what is plainly taught in God's Word and that means that ANY sexual activity not between a married man and woman is sinful.

The only double standard here is in those who claim to want to dialogue but who refuse plain reason and clear Scriptural princicples.

You have a Bible Jim---read it!

Richard Wilson said...

Tom,
I have acknowledged previously that I am not in total agreement with your theology. I do work at understanding others and try my best to discern God's will. I believe that the Bible is the WORD OF GOD passed down to us through men inspired by God. Perhaps I don't really understand what is meant when one says the Bible as we have it today is inerrant but I know that man errs and corrupts so I believe we really have to work to discern God's will. We are instructed to not change the Bible yet don't we know that through human error the Bible has been changed? Inspired men chose what was to go into the Bible, transcribed, translated, interpreted and so forth. God created and saw that it was good and still we failed him. He gave us a new start, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS and still we failed him. He made the ultimate sacrifice in giving us OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST and still we fail him. I believe that God did not stop speaking to us when he gave us HIS HOLY WORD through man--I believe He is still speaking through man to us today. The hard part is that He has made us responsible to discern HIS TRUTH AND HIS WILL in all of this. None of us will discern it all absolutely correctly until the day we stand in HIS JUDGMENT! To say the Bible is inerrant (based on my understanding) makes it too easy for us. I believe that is why the churches that hold the Bible to be inerrant are growing--both the man or woman delivering the message and the people in the pews want it to be easy!

I am thankful for your determination to keep this forum open to points of view that differ from yours. When differing views are not allowed to be expressed we lose a valuable resource that might cause us to reexamine and perhaps even conclude that we need to make corrections. I believe that leaders in a church should be representative of the congregation and that those with differing views should express them to avoid a dangerous rubber stamp mentality.
I wish that I were not the one writing this comment but there seems to be no other local input. I am not an "insider" but I feel obliged to speak out when I recognize partial or complete inaccuracies. I appreciate the points raised by Arthur and Mark (not Smith)and understand them to be from outside EOP.

I recognize that I am not the only one who has felt hurt--obviously many at The Kirk have felt hurt that some of us just don't understand why The Kirk has acted as it has. Clearly there is difference in beliefs and interpretations but what is wrong with that? Do we all have to believe precisely the same way?

It is distressing to me to read that some feel the presbytery has not been open to listening to your differing beliefs and interpretations. I have heard the senior pastor of the largest church in our presbytery express his concurrance with your beliefs but disapproval with your actions and I know there are many smaller churches who feel the same way. The only reluctance to dialog with The Kirk that I am aware of came only after you filed suit.

I remain concerned that The Kirk has not been willing to consider all sides. For example, the first comment to this post asked "Why is it ok with you for women to be ordained but not homosexuals?"--the response I would like to hear is that The Kirk will take the lead in sponsoring a forum on that topic but instead the first response I see is "read Robert Gagnon's comprehensive book on the topic". Why not study both sides of the topic which would require using other resources such as Jack Roger's writings?

That part of The Kirk that has decided to go along with the leadership's position only because they did not want the church to be split should be a concern. It may well become apparent later that a different solution would have been more appropriate than the one you have chosen.

Your criticism of the EOP sponsored worship services at Southminster is, I believe, unfair. Because of what you wrote last week, I attended Sunday night's service and heard only pastoral concern expressed for both those choosing to leave the denomination as well as those wanting to stay.

I just don't understand why most of the conflict and harm could not have been avoided if you had chosen a different course of action.

Mark said...

Dear Tom,

This latest article, "Answering Accusations", is the clearest and most concise summary of your experience and viewpoints I've read on your blog. I deeply appreciate the time and thought you put into writing it.

I wish to join in agreement with Richard Wilson and others in thanking you for keeping the dialogue open. It cannot be easy for you or for those of The Kirk's members who regularly read and/or respond on this blog to keep up this level of dialogue. It certainly isn't easy for those of us who disagree with some of your words and actions. Yet God calls us to reconciliation, and that's not possible if we cut off communication.

I ask (not demand) only two things more.

First, if you are going to link to the "secret" documents published by The Layman, please link to the PCUSA documents that elicited your ire: the final PUP report and the Trinity paper. Let people read them fully for themselves and make up their own minds, instead of reading your -- shall we say biased? -- summaries.

Second (and related to the first), if you're going to make definitive statements about what GA supposedly did this summer, please quote the GA documents directly and in context. Again, it lets people make up their own minds. If we quote directly from the Bible, why not quote directly from everything else, too.

To head off comments that will undoubtedly come, I did not just say that the Bible and all other writings are of equal authority and worth. I believe that the Bible alone is the authoritative written Word of God. I am merely stating that direct quotes are always better than paraphrases and summaries, especially when debates rage over the meaning of every single word.

Once again, thank you for staying in dialogue.

Yours in Christ,
Mark (not Smith)

arthur.woodling said...

Mark,

I would like to second your sentiments concerning Tom's latest attempt at "Answering Accusations". It was the best so far. I wish he had answered the part that actually appalled me though. I'll drop it since it'll probably come out in the court proceedings anyway.

I agree with your request that he provide links or something to the PUP report and the Trinity paper, although anyone who is interested can easily find them on the pcusa.org web site. I would also like to add that all should read the recent papers written by the OGA concerning the PUP report, etc. They are a little harder to find.

One is:

"Discernment in Examining Bodies - G-6.0106"

http://www.pcusa.org/constitutionalservices/ad-op/note18.pdf

A second is:

"Implementing the Trust Clause for the Unity of the Church"

http://www.pcusa.org/constitutionalservices/ad-op/note19.htm

A third is (maybe the most important):

"Constitutional Musing #11 Examining Officers"

http://www.pcusa.org/constitutionalservices/musings/note11.pdf


Note: The entire link doesn't seem to show up visible on my screen, but a cut and paste job seems to get it all. Blogger seems to be a little funny that way.


Arthur

arthur.woodling said...

Tom,

You said:

“In the case of sexual morality we have the specific retention of the Law as exhibited in Acts 15,”…

I don’t know about that.

Specifically Acts 15:29:

The NIV refers to “sexual immorality”

The KJ refers to “fornication”

Luther’s 1545 translation, I’m pretty sure, refers to prostitution.

The Greek texts also seem to me to be referring to prostitution.

Although I don’t rely on this, there doesn’t seem to be a clear historical consensus on what is being prohibited here. There appears to be a clear controversy here, which, according to Westminster, sends us referring to the Greek.

How much of the Law is being retained?

Any thoughts?

Arthur

Ted Rossier said...

Arthur,

In this case you have to let Scripture interpret Scripture. There are plenty of unambiguous places where homosexuality is specifically prohibited, as well as the general created order and what is natural as opposed to unnatural. What I'm saying is that general revelation shows us what is right (see Romans 1), and special revelation confirms it.

Certainly, in the context of Acts 15, what is primarily in view is the pagan worship practice of using temple prostitutes, as that fits with the other prohibitions related to pagan practices (blood, food sacrificed to idols). However, the meaning of the greek word "porneia" is more general, and in other contexts means "fornication" or "sexual immorality". The Scriptures are clear that anything outside of monogamous heterosexual marriage is sinful, and this makes sense based on the fact that human marriage is an allegory to the relationship of Christ to His church.

Ted

arthur.woodling said...

Ted,

You said:

"There are plenty of unambiguous places where homosexuality is specifically prohibited, as well as the general created order and what is natural as opposed to unnatural. What I'm saying is that general revelation shows us what is right (see Romans 1), and special revelation confirms it."

I disagree with the notion that homosexuality is prohibited unambiguously. That a person may be predisposed to same sex relations is not really addressed in the scriptures. On the other hand, I do feel that certain acts described in particular contexts are clearly condemned. I'm not yet ready to accept the broad-brush condemnation that many try to read into the scriptures. I'm not saying that you aren't right in your ultimate conclusion, only that I'm not convinced of it.

You also said:

"However, the meaning of the greek word "porneia" is more general"...

I sort of like the Occam's Razor approach. Let's not give "porneia" a lot of meanings when it really could be a lot simpler. Faithfulness to a single partner seems like it could fit quite nicely.

Arthur

Cameron Mott said...

Tom, you said:

"A couple of responders question whether the affidavit was secret.

First, no congregation was queried or contacted about the affidavit, so we were kept in the dark in that respect, regardless of whether or not it was announced at a later date.
Second, one of our members, himself a trustee of EOP at that time, confirmed the irregularities of this action. When he inquired into this motion and meeting he was told that he had missed the meeting, and that minutes were not taken, but the chair had taken “some notes.” "

I was one of those with a question and thanks for responding but I still have a question regarding point 2. Was this meeting held on an irregular date without notice or was the date known to your Trustee and he was not able to attend this particular meeting?

I have so many questions because the Kirk's actions are being held up as an example in press and churches including mine. Thanks for your patience.

TomGray said...

Dear Cameron,
I honestly do not know if the "affidavit meeting" was one which was regularly scheduled or otherwise. All I know is what I wrote. I do know that our elder/EOP trustee was very surprised by the action and lack of communication.
Tom

Ted Rossier said...

Arthur, you said:

"I disagree with the notion that homosexuality is prohibited unambiguously. That a person may be predisposed to same sex relations is not really addressed in the scriptures. On the other hand, I do feel that certain acts described in particular contexts are clearly condemned."

If I'm predisposed to be a murderer, is it okay if I just sit around plotting ways to kill people I don't like? If the acts are condemned, then the thoughts leading to those acts are also sinful, as Our Lord makes clear in the Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere. "Homosexual tendencies" are just as sinful as homosexual acts, in the same way that lusting after a woman not your wife is equivalent to adultery. And before you start talking about "victimless" sins, go read 1 Corinthians 6.

Or do you not believe that those involved in same sex "monogamous relationships" regularly engage in the types of behavior that you yourself agree are condemned? Or are you saying that it's okay to be in a homosexual relationship as long as it's sexless and there are no thoughts of evil intent, as if such a thing were possible?

Many believers struggle with their thought lives in these areas but that is why we all must live lives of continual repentance. What we must not do is call good that which God deems evil. And if you are confused about what God deems evil, re-read Leviticus 18, as well as Romans 1, where homosexuality (among other things) is denoted as a symbol of God's giving over the reprobate to their own depravity. Hardly a picture of something of which God approves.

Many things are arguable from Scripture. Many things are not. This one is not. It's clear as a bell.

Ted

Anonymous said...

Tom and Wayne, God is true and unchanging. May I say that you are in my prayers for encouragement, clarity and strength. The road is not always easy that God calls us to take, but He does promise to walk it with us. Many churches in town are praying with us. Please do not be discouraged as we all seek God's perfect will. There are many behind our stand for God's word being the same yesterday,today and tomorrow and not subject to cultural change.
God Bless you and know His peace,
Diana