Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Restricting Comments

It has been very interesting to read the comments posted on this blog. At the same time it has been, at times, a little too adversarial for my liking. When you post a comment, it first comes to me as an email. I look at it and post it so long as it doesn’t include offensive language or attack a person other than me. I’d estimate that I have had to throw out 1 of every 10 comments received for these two reasons.

Most of the time I can easily endure conflict directed at me personally. Sometimes it is harder, which is the case right now. My congregation knows that I have had to deal with chronic pain for most of my adult life. Usually it is just a background issue, but there are times, like now, when it is severe enough to sap a lot of my energy. With lowered coping skills at hand I’m more inclined to consider something others have been asking me to do.

Quite a few people have asked me to block anonymous comments, since most of the bile has been vented through those. After much consideration, I agree that their concerns have real merit. So, from this time on I’ll only post the comments of those who sign their names. In the very near future I will further limit access to those who register as members of this blog.

I don’t want to limit the dialogue, for I actually enjoy that. I’ll have to admit, though, that I could get by with a little less anger in some of the comments. I have publicly admitted to my own failings in that regard in a previous post, and I don’t want the value of the whole blog to be tainted by a few.

What I will not do is stop talking frankly about the issues we are encountering as a church, as denominations, and as Christians. It is not just the PCUSA that is in theological turmoil, but almost every mainline denomination—and the turmoil is over the same issues. There are Christians in the pews of these denominations who have no idea of what is happening in the greater church, and need to find out if there will be any chance for substantive change.

There is something happening in the Christian world today that may bring about huge change in the future, and I’m excited to be alive and active in the church at this time. I believe that the value and function of denominational structures is becoming largely irrelevant to younger Christians. I also believe that devotion to mainline denominations will be fading into obscurity within the next generation. What replaces them is what interests me right now.

We are witnessing unprecedented interaction between conservative and evangelical leaders of different denominations. What we have discovered is that we have far more in common with each other (because we hold to orthodox beliefs) than we have had within our own denominations.

This is ironic because the mainline denominations have worked hard over the last 60 years to build up ecumenical relationships between the different church bodies. It has been largely ineffective, consisting mostly of meetings and joint statements on world conditions. What is happening between conservative and evangelical pastors and church officers, though, is truly ecumenical. We are fellowshipping and worshiping together. We are looking at joint missions. We enjoy each other.

If there is any hope for denominations in the future it will be because the people in the pews rebuild them. The people at the “top” have demonstrated little ability to keep them alive.

Keep praying—keep the faith,
Tom

43 comments:

Anonymous said...

Tom,

Many of the adverse comments about the actions taken by the pastors, session, and congregation of Kirk of the Hills to disaffiliate with the PCUSA have centered on procedues according to the Book of Order.

Some of these people are downright hostile to the fact that the Kirk has chosen to take a stand for historic, Biblical faith over the straying theology of the PCUSA which is being heavily shaped by the current culture and advocacy groups desiring to make what Scripture deems sinful to be acceptable.

We who feel that the message of salvation and the Gospel of Jesus Christ are timeless, cannot sacrifice this belief in the name of political correctness and the clarmoring of a culture that desires morality to be the doing of what is right in one's own eyes. God, and God alone, as our Creator has the right to set human moral standards.

As for the issue of abiding by the Book of Order and disciplining according to its rules--the PCUSA has openly allowed pastors to perform same sex marriages with no consequences and accepts pastors who deny the Virgin Birth, the divinity of Christ, the bodily resurrection, and other tenents of the Christian faith. Pluralistic and syncretic worship practices take place at many PCUSA conferences and no one is so much as given a slap on the wrist. The re-imagining conference and the Voices of Sophia are still active within the denomination. There are some stating that Jesus is not the only way to salvation, and a church in Texas has admitted an atheist to its membership.

The only thing that the PCUSA has taken a hard stance on by threatening retaliation is the property issue.

Sound theology doesn't matter to the PCUSA, property does.

A few fiery preachers like Whitefield and the Wesleys spurred on by an outpouring of the Holy Spirit are what we need right now.

"Revive us again, fill each heart with Thy love, may each soul be rekindled with fire from above. Hallelujah! Thine the glory, Hallelujah! amen; Hallelujah! thine the glory,
REVIVE US AGAIN!!!"

Peggy Alexander

Mark said...

I don’t want to limit the dialogue, for I actually enjoy that. I’ll have to admit, though, that I could get by with a little less anger in some of the comments. I have publicly admitted to my own failings in that regard in a previous post, and I don’t want the value of the whole blog to be tainted by a few.

I for one support your decision. A while back I had to stop accepting anonymous comments on my blog merely because of spam. Here, I think you have plenty of reason to stop the anonymous and angry comments.

I think that to some degree the amount of anger that is behind comments is related to the stridency of the original posts. I was very happy to see you "admit your failings" (as you put it - I'd use a less judgmental phrase). It humanized the debate - something that has been needed for some time.

When we realize that our disagreements all stem from differences in opinion and usually not differences in behavior, and that we are all sinners fighting with different degrees and types of sin, we can't help but see people as human beings and not ideas. Too often we treat people as placeholders for ideas, and attack the person rather than the thought.

I support your decision, and look forward to continuing a productive (and hopefully loving) dialog.

Larry said...

Good idea to stop anonymous commenters. All they have to do is to click the "other" button and type in their name.

It is my obwervation that most, if not all, of the arguments and antagonisms by the PCUSA cheerleaders have been made.

You are correct in stating this issue is much bigger than Kirk of the Hills being a PCUSA church or not. The theological issues plaguing the PCUSA have also infected the Episcopalians, the Methodists, the ELCA Lutherans, and the UCC.

What is still unkown is to what extent churches in the mainline denominations will take the bold action taken by Kirk of the Hills. Thus far, the record shows that far too few churches are willing to be bold.

Pamela Cook said...

I'm glad you made the decision to stop the madness. If a person wants to disagree with something stated he/she needs to be man/woman enough to give their name. Otherwise they are cowards that have no productive purpose for the most part.

I can understand a situation where someone is still a part of the PCUSA and is afraid of being persecuted for speaking out. I think there was only one or two anonymous posts were those type of messages in ALL the blog entries I have read the past four months or so. All the others were people that just wanted to persecute you all for trying to sincerely follow the Lord and His word.

The denomination is worshipped and the Bible means absolutely nothing. That is a frightening thing to me, especially with all the mess we are dealing with in the US. We do not need to water down the gospel of Christ one bit.

Productive dialog is helpful, especially for someone like myself that is not a part of a denomination. However the vicious anonymous blog entries pretty much solidified my view of denominations as a whole, that is, for the most part they are structures that become prisons for those that follow. If you do not go by the letter of the process you are persecuted, especially if you dare to say that (1) their theology is against the Bible or (2) want your property if you decide to leave.

Tom, this season will pass. Just know that I and many that are not a part of The Kirk are praying that this situation is resolved and that you can get on with the business of what you and The Kirk desire to do, that is, to follow Christ the best you know how. I'm also praying that more congregations will gain the strength to leave as well. You are not a leader if there is no one to lead. The more that leave the less they will have to work with. The Kirk was scattered by God as far as I'm concerned. I'm sure others will follow if the PCUSA leaders refuse to repent.

Jim said...

Jim,
I have no problem registering and discussing issues. I for one find myself at odds with your actions and the way you have conducted yourself since disaffiliation. I think you are in much need of some humility. I would hope that a high profile church like Kirk of the Hills would have conducted itself more admirably while leaving the denomination. The way you have flaunted about in the Tulsa press and on this blog frankly seems quite juvenile. I urged you in another post to take a more educational and pastoral approach to your advocacy of orthodox views. I do this once more and hope that this time you and the congregation will listen. If you do so, I believe that you property issues will become much easier to deal with. It is my belief that the Presbytery is as eager to be rid of the issue of Kirk property as you are to have it and would make you a fantastic deal if you would just quit sparring with them. I wish the best for you and your congregation and hope that you can all find a comfortable home in EPC.
Peace and love, Jim

Sam Sibala said...

Thank you Tom for your transparency and honesty regarding your comments on this very public forum. As you and Wayne have taught us in the past, we as followers of Christ are called to be transparent to the world so that the world can see the Christ in us, rather than the sin and sinful attitudes that we all possess. I agree with you regarding the limiting of comments that do nothing to edify or uplift the body of Christ.

Arthur Woodling,

Thank you for your clarification of your position and background. I completely agree with you that there is always two sides to every story. Your observation about distorted truth is exactly correct. I did a search for you simply for you to either refute or clarify your position regarding your statement. We live in the Information Age and the accuracy, credibility and relevance of information makes that information valuable. With the power of the Internet we can investigate, clarify, and verify the legitamacy of a person's comments. Is that not the premise of being a witness for Christ in the virtual and digital world we live in? Rev.1:19,
Prov.2:1-15

I am glad the Internet was invented, created and given to us by God and not by Al Gore as he boldly claims!!

Thanks for you comments Arthur.

We can all agree to disagree agreeably and have meaningful dialogue. I believe it is Tom's, as well as my desire to enlighten and edify the body of Christ in this public forum. My comments in the past, I admit probably did not accomplish those goals.

That goes for you too Mark!! Heh..heh. What would Jesus Blog?

arthur.woodling said...

Tom,

You said:

"My congregation knows that I have had to deal with chronic pain for most of my adult life. Usually it is just a background issue, but there are times, like now, when it is severe enough to sap a lot of my energy."

I'm very sorry to hear about your personal battle with chronic pain. Although I have been spared this misery, my Wife and others in my family have not. So, in a sense, I feel your pain. It can cut into ones ability to do almost anything.

I have to confess that the inside information about you that my pastor relayed to me was about a health issue, and that there was a connection between that, your ministry, and your relationship with the EOP. Is this true? If so, how significant has the impact of this been in relation to the other issues you've mentioned on this blog? I was left with the impression that it could have been pretty major.

Since I was handed very limited information on this, it is quite possible that I jumped to an erroneous conclusion. If my tone on earlier posts has seemed excessively angry to you, it's been because I've felt you were holding back important pieces of the mosaic, and catering to the more extreme elements who might form their opinions purely based on fear of potential misinterpretations of the PUP report (like believing that it OK's "Local Option").

Arthur

arthur.woodling said...

To Sam Sibala,

If you can come up with an aerial photo of my house, I'll be truly impressed.

Arthur

Dan Dermyer said...

Arthur,
Depending on where you live, you can maybe find one on Google maps. There is a satellite view as well as a roadmap view and in many areas it is pretty sharp!

Cameron Mott said...

I am all in favor of more dialogue and less polemic.

arthur.woodling said...

Dan,

I'm well aware of that. It was a challenge I posed to Sam (to you too if you think you can do it).

Arthur

Paul Welch said...

I get a little frustrated about remarks like, "you are acting juvenile" as well as other comments about how the Kirk has handled its leaving of the PCUSA. I assume they feel that the PCUSA represent the "mature Christians".

I would personally feel much better if the difference of opinion on this blog WAS merely about property; however, I know that it is actually about theology. If the Kirk is correct in leaving the denomination due to its holding to the sanctity of scripture as well as the actions of the mainline church, then it would mean that a statement has been made that those in PCUSA are not following what Christ commanded. This would be a considerable "slam" to the ego and I think that is what underlies most of the discussion.

I posted it earlier and I would still like to know if those attacking the church would agree with the statements: 1. Jesus is the only way to God as he said and 2. That scripture is inerrant. I would very much like to see a reply to these two questions by those attacking the Kirk. If the answer is "no", then I would like to know their definition of "being a Christian" since thinking Jesus was just a really good teacher isn't an option as C.S. Lewis commented years ago.

Anonymous said...

While I certainly understand not taking anonymous comments, I do hope that you won't lock out those of us that want to read the blog. That is, please don't make us "join" to read.
I left a church because of politics gone amok and haven't been back for quite a few years. I've read most of your posts and have only one comment As an outsider, the tone at times is a bit "holier than thou"...which in retrospect might be appropriate for a church blog ;) I might also observe that you are probably seriously endangering your health with this battle. Pick your fights wisely......

TomGray said...

Dear last anonymous to be posted,
You have three options on comments, of which I'll allow two. One is a direct link identity, the second is "other." You can use the second, sign your name, but not be linked.
Tom

arthur.woodling said...

Tom,

You said:

“What is happening between conservative and evangelical pastors and church officers, though, is truly ecumenical. We are fellowshipping and worshiping together. We are looking at joint missions. We enjoy each other.”

Although I’m happy that you are finding fellowship and worshiping together, it almost sounds to me like you are a proponent of segregation.

Paul,

You said:

“If the Kirk is correct in leaving the denomination due to its holding to the sanctity of scripture as well as the actions of the mainline church,…”

I submit that they would not be correct to leave for those reasons.

Please forgive me for the length of this next part.

Here’s what John Calvin had to say:

Institutes of the Christian Religion
(Book 4, Chapter 1, Section 14)
14. Paul and the needs of his congregations
“They exclaim that it is impossible to tolerate the vice which everywhere stalks abroad like a pestilence. What if the apostle's sentiment applies here also? Among the Corinthians it was not a few that erred, but almost the whole body had become tainted; there was not one species of sin merely, but a multitude, and those not trivial errors but some of them execrable crimes. There was not only corruption in manners, but also in doctrine. What course was taken by the holy apostle, in other words, by the organ of the heavenly Spirit, by whose testimony the Church stands and falls? Does he seek separation from them? Does he discard them from the kingdom of Christ? Does he strike them with the thunder of a final anathema? He not only does none of these things, but he acknowledges and heralds them as a Church of Christ, and a society of saints. If the Church remains among the Corinthians, where envyings, divisions, and contentions rage; where quarrels, lawsuits and avarice prevail; where a crime, which even the gentiles would execrate, is openly approved; where the name of Paul, whom they ought to have honoured as a father, is petulantly assailed; where some hold the resurrection of the dead in derision, though with it the whole gospel must fall; where the gifts of God are made subservient to ambition, not to charity; where many things are done neither decently nor in order. If there the Church still remains, simply because the ministration of word and sacrament is not rejected, who will presume to deny the title of church to those to whom a tenth part of these crimes cannot be imputed? How, I ask, would those who act so morosely against present churches have acted to the Galatians, who had done all but abandon the gospel, (Gal. 1: 2,) and yet among them the same apostle found churches?”

Sam Sibala said...

Arthur,

How about this instead?

http://www.orchardpark.org/

TomGray said...

Arthur,
The difference here is in what I believe the PCUSA has done. It is not a matter of lax morality or some heretical teachings. The 217th GA in its authoritative interpretation has placed the PCUSA officially saying that parts of Scripture may be effectively ignored.

Therefor, there is not the requisite adherence to the proper preaching of the Word and, thereby, proper administration of the Sacraments.

Tom

Mark said...

Dear Tom,

You have stated many times in your blog that the Session voted on August 15 to disaffiliate from the PCUSA because of "secret papers" drafted by GA leaders and exposed by The Layman.

Please explain the following comment reported on page 5 in the October/November issue of The Presbyterian Sun:

"On June 28, less than a week after GA adjourned, the Kirk amended their articles of incorporation to eliminate all previous references to denominatioal 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.

Yours in Christ,
Mark (not Smith)

Mark said...

Dear Tom and All,

I read several of the blog articles tonight. One reader made a comment that I cannot find. It was something like this:

"I seem to remember hearing that in the Greek or the Hebrew, word order doesn't matter as long as all the words are there."

I'm surprised that Tom, as a seminary trained clergy person, did not clarify for the reader that yes, in fact, word order can matter in both the Greek and the Hebrew. While there are certain circumstances where word order does not matter, one does not simply state that "if all the words are there" the meaning is always clear. Much ink (and sadly, much blood in some centuries of the Christian era) has been spilled over disagreements about "the clear meaning" of scripture. This blog is but one example of those disagreements.

Yours in Christ,
Mark (not Smith)

Mark said...

Dear Tom,

I have combed through the PUP report and the GA proceedings on Recommendation 5 from the PUP report, and I have yet to find evidence for the bold claim you made on October 11:

"The 217th GA in its authoritative interpretation has placed the PCUSA officially saying that parts of Scripture may be effectively ignored."

Exactly where in the AI did the GA "officially" state that parts of scripture may be effectively ignored?

Yours in Christ,
Mark (not Smith)

Mark said...

Dear Tom,

I'm sorry to hear that you suffer from chronic pain. For many years I suffered from CF/IDS (chronic fatigue/immune deficiency syndrome). I stumbled across Dr. Peter J. D'Adamo's "Eat Right for Your Type" blood type diet and it did wonders for me. Within weeks I was free of CF/IDS and my overall health improved remarkably. I view it literally as a God-send. Perhaps it could help you, too.

I keep you in prayer for healing and freedom from your pain.

Yours in Christ,
Mark (not Smith)

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.)

All of us pick and choose our favorite parts to obey and to ignore. The examples are endless. Don't pretend otherwise. By the measure you give, you will also receive. Or do you ignore that part of scripture as well?

I think you are drifting too far from your original complaint.

Jodie

arthur.woodling said...

Tom,

I think your argument here is fundamentally flawed.

You said:

"The 217th GA in its authoritative interpretation has placed the PCUSA officially saying that parts of Scripture may be effectively ignored."

I submit that they didn't. They recognize that we are all totally depraved, and unable to tell whose interpretation of scripture is the correct one (assuming there really is a correct one). Are we to deny a calling to someone who truly deserves it simply because, in our depravity, we fail to recognize it?

You also said:

"Therefor, there is not the requisite adherence to the proper preaching of the Word and, thereby, proper administration of the Sacraments."

In my opinion Calvin said nothing here about "proper" preaching of the Word or "proper" administration of the sacrament. Who are we to claim we know best what "proper" is. Do we take the traditional interpretation of the scriptures or do we continue to search for the truth. The Westminster Confession, in my opinion, would advocate the latter, warning us against using tradition.

Cameron Mott said...

"I posted it earlier and I would still like to know if those attacking the church would agree with the statements: 1. Jesus is the only way to God as he said and 2. That scripture is inerrant. I would very much like to see a reply to these two questions by those attacking the Kirk."

I don't feel I'm attacking anyone but I answer yes to those and I don't think it would hurt for all of us on both sides of the debated issues to ask in our hearts how scriptural our actions are.

arthur.woodling said...

Sam,

A very fine house indeed!
Your point is well taken.

Arthur

Mark said...

Dear Tom,

Last night I read about The Kirk and EOP in the Synod newspaper and I posted a question. Then I read through your October postings and replied with more questions and comments.

Now that I've slept, things have had a chance to percolate in my mind.

I've said this before, particularly back in August, but I see a disturbing trend that you and your staunchest supporters exhibit on this blog. Rather than acknowledge a difference of opinion or answer some questions directly, you and some of your supporters have a tendency to demonize those with whom you disagree or ignore their legitimate questions.

First case in point: Reformed and Reforming. You ignored his key questions. M.B. jumped in with how "mean-spirited" and "angry" he is, yet he was making observations of information you yourselves have posted on this blog. You, Wayne, the session, and the majority of the congregation have cut all denominational ties. Y'all made your decisions and acted upon them in a fashion that eschews CONNECTIONAL fellowship and Presbyterian polity. Presbyterian congregations and governing bodies are connectional with each other by their very nature. Y'all have declared yourselves to be independent, and y'all have acted independently. Ergo, y'all aren't Presbyterian. It's not a moral judgment to say that; it's simply an observation of fact. Yet y'all demonize by saying that to make that observation is "mean-spirited" and "angry".

I know, I know. Y'all VOTED to join the EPC. However, voting to join a Presbyterian denomination does not automatically make y'all Presbyterian, particuarly when y'all keep lauding your independent decision making processes. You will become Presbyterian only IF and WHEN you actually join a Presbyterian denomination and abide by its beliefs and polity.

Reformed and Reforming made another good point. If your theology and worship practices tend as far away from the Reformed tradition as you describe on your blog, then the Assemblies of God might make a good home for you. The Assemblies are a holiness denomination that employs Presbyterian (that is, connectional) polity. I couldn't say for sure, though, because I've never worshipped at The Kirk.

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.

What of Deborah (Judges 4, the prophetess and judge who assisted Barak in battle and prophesied that victory would come at the hands of a woman); Huldah (2 Kings 22, the prophetess who verified "the book of the law" to be scripture when the mean in leadership were uncertain); Anna (Luke 2, the prophet who spoke about the child Jesus); the unnamed woman at the well (John 4, an evangelist whose testimony prompted an entire city to seek Jesus); Mary Magdalene and the other women at the tomb (the first evangelists of Christ's Resurrection, though in some accounts the men refused to believe); Prisca/Priscilla (Paul's colleague in ministry); and Junia (Romans 16:7, described by Paul as prominant among the apostles, and in Christ before he was)? Do you truly believe that these biblical precedents are nonessential?!

I'm not making my observations or asking my questions because I'm "mean-spirited" or "angry". I do this because I'm curious and I'm confused by the disconnect between your words and actions.

Yours in Christ,
Mark (not Smith)

Mark said...

Dear Tom,

You said to Arthur:

"Arthur,
The difference here is in what I believe the PCUSA has done. It is not a matter of lax morality or some heretical teachings. The 217th GA in its authoritative interpretation has placed the PCUSA officially saying that parts of Scripture may be effectively ignored.

Therefor, there is not the requisite adherence to the proper preaching of the Word and, thereby, proper administration of the Sacraments."

If you truly believe the GA has done what you claim it has done (a claim I do not accept), then what else could it be but lax morality or heretical teachings? Those two categories cover everything you've been complaining about all summer. Tom, you're not making sense.

The key here seems to be in your first sentence, "what I BELIEVE the PCUSA has done" (emphasis added).

I remember my very first presbytery meeting. It was in the early 1980s and I was a college student and a vistor. Acting on the 1978 AI ("condemn the sin, not the sinner") the presbytery had appointed a task force to study how the presbytery could minister to the sizeable homosexual population in its bounds. The task force was reporting back. The first part of the report was the standard, scathing denunciation of homosexual practice. The written description of the consequences of succuming to this "sin" positively reeked of burning sulfur. Next came the section of the report on compassionate ministry to homosexuals. In spite of the strongly worded denunciation of homosexual practice in the earlier section, certain members of the presbytery kept attacking the wording of the compassion section as not having strong enough denunciation language. That's when I realized there was no desire for compassion. All that was allowed was strong, condemning language. These people expected the presbytery to check grace at the door. I was greatly disillusioned. (This was back when I still thought homosexuality was a sin. I've since changed my mind after studying scripture and the confessions on the matter.)

What I see too much of in the wake of GA and on this blog is "we didn't get OUR language passed". People keep shooting down what GA did because it didn't conform to THEIR personal beliefs about what the Bible says. It doesn't matter that all the voting commissioners were elected as representatives by their governing bodies, and that the majority was opposed to the ordination of noncelibate gays. If the language wasn't condeming enough, then it must be apostate.

That reminds me of the case a few years back of a lesbian who was a self-proclaimed celebate and was ordained as a minister of the Word and Sacrament. Various Coalition types filed accusations that questioned whether or not she truly was celebate. Man, how poisonous does this have to get before we see that too much is too much? She was an avowed celebate. She was abiding by the rules. End of issue, please!

Meanwhile, the GA actually upheld G-60106b (oughta make you happy), approved an AI to reaffirm the historic standards of the Adopting Act from the 1700s (oughta make us all happy), and told us all to work harder to treat each other with Christ-like respect in the midst of disagreement (oughta make God happy).

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.

Just remember to be clear that these are YOUR beliefs and those of people YOU agree with, and not necessarily everyone else's in the PCUSA.

Yours in Christ,
Mark (not Smith)

Mark said...

...And another thing.

Tom, you play up EOP reaching out to The Kirk members who wish to remain in the PCUSA, and you play it down. Frankly, what EOP is doing is a pastoral issue and has nothing to do with your consiparacy theories.

I once served a yoked parish of three congregations with a combined membership of 50 members. One of the congregations had only three members! The parish was the last foothold of Reformed witness in their towns and they had no intention of closing up shop because they weren't as grand as The Kirk. We had vibrant worship (a complete service in each church every Sunday morning), regular Bible study, an active youth group, and local mission efforts. We even baptized new Christians in all three churches. I moved on to another pastorate ten years ago, and that yoked parish is still faithfully serving Christ.

Three people, or eight, or 36 may only register as a blip on your screen, but as a pastor of small congregations, I've learned that they matter a whole lot to Christ, for he said wherever two or more are gathered in his name, he is there among them. Wherever Christ is, is a pretty special place. It doesn't require a 100,000 square foot facility to be considered a true church.

The reality is that of the 11,000+ congregations in the PCUSA, the majority have 100 members or less. Yet from those small congregations comes an abundance of mission funds and faith. The individual pennies gathered in special offering boxes may be a pittance compared to your $3 million per year budget, but they are given with no less faith than your members give. Remember the widow's mite? We small churches have managed to scrape together millions for missions over the years.

So, I don't care if only eight PCUSA sympathizers from The Kirk turned out at Southminster for a special worship service. If God could repopulate the world with only eight people (remember Genesis?), I imagine God could rebuild a PCUSA church from what you've left behind. Or do you not believe the promises of God?

Yours in Christ,
Mark (not Smith)

Ted Rossier said...

Jodie,

I believe you would benefit from some education in basic hermeneutics, so as to not take passages out of context, as you have. First, the passage you cite in Deuteronomy is a civil law (a punishment for a crime) given to ancient Israel, and not applicable to us today. However, the moral principle behind that law, that children should obey their parents, is for all time. The Scripture's stance against homosexuality is a moral proscription based on the created order. In Leviticus it says in one place that homosexual acts are an abomination to God. Elsewhere, it lists punishments for sexual sin. The governmental punishments of ancient Israel are not required of us, but as people of God, proper moral behavior is expected of us. Though none of us always follow it, it is incumbent upon us never to call good that which is evil. And evil is defined by God, not us.

As for the passage in Titus, you and others writing here should go read the entire chapter! Paul's intent is clear that the Cretans were acting sinfully and heretically. The word translated "always" is the Greek adverb "aei" which does not necessarily mean "in all cases at all times" but has a connotation of "on a regular basis". It's the same as if a husband and wife are arguing and one says to the other "you always ignore me!". Now, the person does not mean that their spouse never under any circumstances acknowledges their existence. They are simply using hyperbole, exaggerating to make a point. The Cretan making the statement was doing the same thing.

BTW to you and everyone else, please take note of Titus 1:7-9:

For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

Ted Rossier

Ted Rossier said...

Mark,

Exactly where in the AI did the GA "officially" state that parts of scripture may be effectively ignored?

There was no explicit statement. Tom is speaking of the direct and indirect effects of the PUP, which essentially allow liberal presbyteries to ordain homosexuals and permit same sex "marriages". The larger effect of allowing presbyteries to violate constitutional ordination standards (by taking away GA oversight as the court of last resort) is to split the PCUSA up and make each presbytery self-governing in this regard, where the GA merely becomes something less than even an advisory body. So what you have is a) allowance for ministers of the Word who will not teach that Word, and b) destruction of the Presbyterian form of government, both of which amount to the PCUSA destroying itself from within, a fate which has already befallen more than one major denomination, and which I fear will befall others before it's all said and done.

Ted Rossier

Ted Rossier said...

Arthur,

I submit that they didn't. They recognize that we are all totally depraved, and unable to tell whose interpretation of scripture is the correct one (assuming there really is a correct one). Are we to deny a calling to someone who truly deserves it simply because, in our depravity, we fail to recognize it?

I fear that you have been drinking the post-modern kool-aid, brother. :) What you advocate is allowing anyone into the Gospel ministry that desires to be. This is absolutely against the clear teaching on this subject anywhere in the New Testament that you care to look. There is a right and wrong, there is a correct interpretation, and we can indeed know that we have it right. In many cases there can be very little controversy over the meaning of a given text when it is properly understood in its grammatical and historical context. Our depravity does not excuse sin nor does it mean that we do not separate good from evil; this is antinomianism at best, and at worst a denial of the inerrancy of God's Word. We are morally responsible to judge rightly, to the extent of our limited ability.

In my opinion Calvin said nothing here about "proper" preaching of the Word or "proper" administration of the sacrament. Who are we to claim we know best what "proper" is. Do we take the traditional interpretation of the scriptures or do we continue to search for the truth. The Westminster Confession, in my opinion, would advocate the latter, warning us against using tradition.

In one paragraph, you warn against tradition, but advocate that as long as Word and Sacrament are adminstered, that is all that matters. This is a very Roman viewpoint and completely at odds with Reformed theology. The Westminster Confession says nothing of the sort. Individually, you are right, we as people do not know what "proper" is. That is why God gave us the Bible! As an objective revelation by which we can judge whether our thoughts and actions are proper or not.

Ted Rossier

arthur.woodling said...

Tom,

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!!!

Arthur

arthur.woodling said...

Ted,

Where do I begin?!!

“I fear that you have been drinking the post-modern kool-aid, brother.”

Absolutely NOT!

“What you advocate is allowing anyone into the Gospel ministry that desires to be.”

Goodness NO!

“Our depravity does not excuse sin nor does it mean that we do not separate good from evil”

I absolutely agree. However it is not always clear what is and is not meant by the wording of the Bible (that’s in Westminster too).

“In one paragraph, you warn against tradition, but advocate that as long as Word and Sacrament are adminstered, that is all that matters.”

You give me too much credit. I credited those statements to Westminster and Calvin. It was rhetorical.

“The Westminster Confession says nothing of the sort.”

Oh yes it does:

6.006 “The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.”…


Arthur

Ted Rossier said...

Arthur,

The problem with your position is this: Presbyterians (and other Reformed denominations) have defined themselves in large measure by their adherence to the Westminster Standards (or in some cases the Three Forms of Unity) as a determination of how the Bible is properly taught. To say that the Westminster Confession is referring to itself in the passage you cite is correct in one sense; that is, if the Confession is later found to be in error, it should be amended. But it should always be there and always be as accurate as possible a summary of what the Scriptures teach on the subjects it addresses.

Any pastor who cannot in good conscience subscribe to the confessional standards of the church should not be ordained. Exceptions and "scruples" are sometimes allowed, but when those exceptions involve essentials or vitals of our faith, they cannot be.

If a pastor wishes to discard the confessional standards and "search for the truth", then he would better serve the cause of Christ somewhere else.

Of course in this case, the GA has allowed individual presbyteries to discard the confessional standards as they see fit.

Ted

Paul Welch said...

Mark (not Smith),

I also read the article in the recent "Sun" that you refered to in a previous post. The article is incorrect. I don't know if it is incorrect because of ignorance by the writer of what actually occurred, or if it was written incorrectly on purpose. The statement is made, "...set a chain of events in motion this summer which have so far thwarted all efforts by the presbytery to engage in dialogue or reconciliation." Leaders in the EOP did contact decision making individuals at the Kirk, but when those individuals responded that they would meet at any time that was requested, all of a sudden those in the presbytery wouldn't meet. Decisions at the Kirk weren't finalized until the "secret paper" was made known (if you aren't familiar with this paper, you can link to it on the right side of the blog site). Yes, with what has occurred with other ministers and churches who have disagreed with Louisville, the Kirk had thought about what its options were. Open discussions at meetings with members were occurring at least six months before the disaffiliation, so no it wasn't a sudden and secret act. Also, no...the congregation wasn't taken by suprise at the actions of the Session. Whether you believe what I say or not...I was actually there.

Cameron,
Thank you for taking a stand on the question that I asked, ("I posted it earlier and I would still like to know if those attacking the church would agree with the statements: 1. Jesus is the only way to God as he said and 2. That scripture is inerrant. I would very much like to see a reply to these two questions by those attacking the Kirk."). I would be interested in others' answers.

"That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Romans 10:9

DrMom said...

Mark said:
"Tom, you play up EOP reaching out to The Kirk members who wish to remain in the PCUSA, and you play it down. Frankly, what EOP is doing is a pastoral issue and has nothing to do with your consiparacy theories."

Then why didn't the EOP reach out to the members of the Kirk when we expressed concerns about the direction of the denomination over the past many years? Those would have been ideal opportunities to reach out in a pastoral manner. My family did not receive any mailings or anything else from the EOP expressing any interest in our concerns before the disaffiliation. Suddenly sending us multiple letters announcing meetings and services in the name of the Kirk after we have disaffiliated is not pastoral.

arthur.woodling said...

Ted,

You said:

"To say that the Westminster Confession is referring to itself in the passage you cite is correct in one sense;"...

I don't know where you're getting the impression I'm saying the Confession is referring to itself. We seem to be getting our signals crossed.

Also, I see now how you thought I might be advocating ordaining anyone. I wasn't trying to imply that we couldn’t know the truth point by point for a lot of the Bible. I was speaking about the understanding of the Bible as a whole. My statement was to be taken consistent with the Westminster Confession, which I had previously stated I agreed with in another post.

You also said:

"Of course in this case, the GA has allowed individual presbyteries to discard the confessional standards as they see fit."

I don't believe our GA has allowed anything of the sort. In the past, some of the PJC's have let some very unconstitutional (if not unbiblical) decisions stand. If you're referring to the PUP report, the GA Stated Clerk has made it quite clear that we are bound to obey the Constitution whether or not we declare a scruple. Now it's up to the PJC's and the ruling Elders to make good on it. I can't understand why the Conservative wing keeps shooting themselves in the foot by believing there's local option. Cliff Kirkpatrick has told you to enforce the Constitutional standards, so go do it! If the Presbyteries get away with discarding the standards it’s because the elders nationwide let them get away with it. If it happens, it’s our fault. I’m going to keep saying it until people finally start to get it!

Arthur

Jodie said...

Ted Rossier,

Wow! What a delicious display of early 19th century philosophical methods. You show very nicely the contortions you have make to justify ignoring the parts of the bible you don’t like and still claim you are embracing the totality of it. I’ve seen it before, but it always amazes me. I don’t think there is any scriptural basis for your method however – that stuff about civil law vs. moral law – it is mostly based on Kant, right?

Depending on how you count, you are either 200 years behind the times, or 1700 years beyond the times. I haven’t quite made up my mind…

Great illustration, though. Thanks.

As far as the ethnic prejudice against Cretans in Titus, I think it puts a nice context around the passage you quoted. I had never thought of the Holy Spirit inspiring hyperbole to make a point. Interesting….

Do you suppose that business about arrogance, self-control, and hospitality could be hyperbole as well?

Jodie

arthur.woodling said...

Ted,

You said to Mark:

"The larger effect of allowing presbyteries to violate constitutional ordination standards (by taking away GA oversight as the court of last resort)..."

No! No! No! Who took away oversight? No one did. Oversight was specifically affirmed and encouraged. If not by the report itself then by the later opinion of the OGA.

Arthur

Mark said...

Dear Ted,

In response to my question to Tom, you said:

"The larger effect of allowing presbyteries to violate constitutional ordination standards (by taking away GA oversight as the court of last resort) is to split the PCUSA up and make each presbytery self-governing in this regard, where the GA merely becomes something less than even an advisory body."

You must not have read the AI. Since there seems to be a general confusion on this blog about the actual wording of the AI, let's quote it here:

----------

5. The Task Force on Peace, Unity, and Purity of the Church recommends that the 217th General Assembly (2006) approve the following authoritative interpretation of section G-6.0108 of the Book of Order:

a. The Book of Confessions and the Form of Government of the Book of Order set forth the scriptural and constitutional standards for ordination and installation.

b. These standards are determined by the whole church, after the careful study of Scripture and theology, solely by the constitutional process of approval by the General Assembly with the approval of the presbyteries. These standards may be interpreted by the General Assembly and its Permanent Judicial Commission.

c. Ordaining and installing bodies, acting as corporate expressions of the church, have the responsibility to determine their membership by applying these standards to those elected to office. These determinations include:

(1) Whether a candidate being examined for ordination and/or installation as elder, deacon, or minister of Word and Sacrament has departed from scriptural and constitutional standards for fitness for office,

(2) Whether any departure constitutes a failure to adhere to the essentials of Reformed faith and polity under G-6.0108 of the Book of Order, thus barring the candidate from ordination and/or installation.

d. Whether the examination and ordination and installation decision comply with the Constitution of the PC(USA), and whether the ordaining/installing body has conducted its examination reasonably, responsibly, prayerfully, and deliberately in deciding to ordain a candidate for church office is subject to review by higher governing bodies.

e. All parties should endeavor to outdo one another in honoring one another’s decisions, according the presumption of wisdom to ordaining/installing bodies in examining candidates and to the General Assembly, with presbyteries’ approval, in setting standards.

----------

So you see, sessions and presbyteries aren't allowed to violate constitutional ordination standards. In fact, they are required to determine if constitutional ordination standards have been violated and then move to enforce them. NO higher governing body oversight has been taken away. All actions by an ordaining/installing body are open for correction by the higher bodies having jurisdiction over it. Nothing went lax. If anything, the standards just got tougher.

Yours in Christ,
Mark (not Smith)

Mark said...

Dear Dr. Mom

I understand that you believe EOP and GA should have conformed to your beliefs. Since I am not a member of EOP (though I am in the same synod) I can't answer why they did not respond to your concerns over the years in ways you believe are sufficiently pastoral.

The pastoral response I was speaking of was the response to those (as Tom makes clear) "few" Kirk members who wish to stay within the PCUSA. EOP is obviously trying to provide them with a worshipping home since y'all have taken the one they were used to sharing and removed it from the PCUSA.

To read what Tom and several of y'all are writing, it's "only" a handful of Kirk members who want to remain in the PCUSA. The rest of y'all have -- what? -- 2,657 members left, so y'all have plenty of people with which to worship. Those eight souls (I'm going off the figure Tom posted) still deserve a place to worship and pastoral leadership to work with them through this new phase in their lives as PCUSA members. In that sense, EOP is providing them with pastoral care.

Why do you care about the letters EOP is sending out, anyway? As you and other soon-to-be EPC Kirk members keep writing in this blog, you're glad to be rid of the "unbiblical, godless, faithless" PCUSA. Why not just tear up the letters and move on with your newly unburdened life?

Yours in Christ,
Mark (not Smith)

TomGray said...

Dear Mark (not Smith),
What if this were reversed? Let's say that, in your congregation, a small group left, but kept sending letters to all of your members encouraging them to join the departure. Wouldn't this be schismatic?

The EOP has mailed to our entire membership invitations to leave the Kirk. They have placed an ad in the (only) local newspaper, an ad that is confusing enough for some of our long-term members to ask if it is our "new church development." Additionally they are asking the court to force us to prepare another mailing on their behalf.

This is a LOT more than simply caring for those few who have left.
Tom

Ted Rossier said...

Jodie,

I must confess to being utterly confused and saddened by your response. Philosophy and Immanuel Kant have nothing to do with it. No scriptural basis? Try reading the Sermon on the Mount, it addresses the issue directly. Then read the book of Hebrews. And oh, BTW, Paul addresses the matter in several of his letters, particularly Romans and Galatians. And then there's the passage in Acts that Pastor Tom cited. In addition to Scripture, Augustine wrote extensively about it, as well as Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, and others. If I'm not mistaken, all of those fellows pre-date Immanuel Kant, who was not a theologian or even a Biblical scholar and as far as I know, never dealt with the subject of the application of the law of Moses.

You are aware that the Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek, right? Ancient languages which must be understood in their grammatical and historical contexts or they are doomed to be mis-understood. The Bible is written in human language, which has figures of speech, idioms, poetic passages, cultural references, the same as we do today. God inspired men to write what He wanted them to write, but in their own idiosyncratic way. Why do you insist on overlaying 21st century language onto a 2000 year old document?

I do not know where you are coming from with your ad-hominem, but the level of ignorance you demonstrate leads me to believe that you are simply spouting off something you read somewhere without checking into its veracity. That's not meant to be insulting, I'm just trying to show you that your statements are in error and that you haven't done your homework.

I believe the totality of the Scriptures are "breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

You apparently do not. You would rather just throw out the Bible and do what feels good to you, unless of course there's a convenient proof text that you can find with which to tear someone else down. If what you represent is "today's thinking", then I want no part of it. You may keep your liberal new age post-modern idols.

Sister, I call upon you to repent.

Ted