Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A Sign of Things to Come?

You could almost hear the sigh of relief from the Presbytery PJC in Pittsburgh. The Rev. Janet Edwards had defied the constitution of the PCUSA by performing what she called a marriage ceremony for a same-sex couple. The PCUSA has ruled that pastors may preside at "unions" but must not perform any service that could be perceived as, or called, marriage.

Edward's case was the first one to come to the denomination post-PUP. A question in the minds of most observers was whether or not the PJC would rule on the theological issues behind the case, or just rule on procedure. They opted for the latter.

It took them about 90 minutes to decide that the whole case hinged on the fact that it was filed 4 days too late for them to consider. It must have been a great relief to have the burden of actual decision lifted from their shoulders. According to local new sources,

The panel said the decision does not constitute a vindication of the Rev. Edwards or any kind of decision on the issue at hand. Rather, it was based on the defense contention that the charges were filed four days past the deadline. Charges had to be filed within a year of the date when the investigating committee began meeting on the case, which was in September 2005.

The Rev. Edwards had announced that she welcomed the trial, and had issued formal invitations to the trial and a "worship celebration and lunch" she is holding at the Pittsburgh Golf Club in Schenley Park after the trial's conclusion.

Is this a sign of things to come? What happened here was a decision that was not a decision. Those supporting the Rev. Edwards can rejoice in her acquittal. Those who oppose her form of Presbyterianism can declare that they have to wait for the next case to see what the direction the post-PUP denomination will take. I think the direction has already been posted.

Keep praying--keep the faith,
Tom



30 comments:

Todd Bensel said...

A pastor's response to problems: if a condition exists that impacts someone in your congregation, do you have a statute of limitations for action? And the people on this PJC are supposedly the best we have to offer? It's very easy to use a rule to sidestep responsibility, isn't it? Especially when the rules being broken are rules that you don't personally favor?

Toby Brown said...

When the details come out, as to how and why this happened, everyone will know how bad our situation really is.

The whole case was manipulated just for this outcome by those in authority.

Keep reading the Presbyterian news sites and blogs...the truth will be revealed!

Cameron Mott said...

I'd like to know what the problem for the "plaintiff" was in getting this properly filed within 365 days.

Arthur said...

Tom,

You already know I believe you have a somewhat degraded regard for rule following and vow fidelity (just my opinion of course).

I guess Rev. Edwards could have just convinced her session and congregation to leave the PCUSA (with "their" property) in order to avoid the rules and conditions they didn't like. Maybe we would have ended up believing we were better off (I don’t believe we would be).

Rev. Edwards is most certainly (in my opinion) guilty of the charges against her. The investigating committee should have performed their constitutionally mandated duty, but they didn't. That's too bad, since this case should have been able to go to trial without the shadow of unconstitutionality hanging over it.

She might have been found guilty of the charges had it gone to trial, but it would have been all for naught when it, most assuredly, would have been overturned on appeal due to the rules violation.

I sat on a criminal jury recently where there was a rules violation on the part of the prosecution. We originally voted 10-2 for conviction (I was one of the 2, Surprise! Surprise!). We deliberated for many hours and finally all voted 12-0 for acquittal. It was a very hard decision to make since all 12 of us believed the guy was guilty well beyond a reasonable doubt. I did not enjoy the position I was in, but I believed it was my duty to take that position.

1 Peter 2:13-17 says:

“Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.”

This submission applies to all the rules/laws of all our governing bodies including those of the denomination. We do have the right (in this country and in the PCUSA) to work to change the rules/laws if we believe they are wrong, but we still have to follow them regardless.

The PCJ did what they had to do, whether we like it or not.

Arthur

Toby Brown said...

Cameron,

This whole thing was an inside job.

The wolves are guarding the hen house!

Cameron Mott said...

I agree that the PJC could do nothing else but can this not be revisited on the basis that the committee[or whoever]did not do its job?

Arthur said...

Toby,

Give it a rest! The Pittsburgh Presbytery is hardly a bastion of liberalism.

This is the very same Presbytery that just honored four New Wineskins Pastors. It is the same Presbytery that is home to Dr. Robert Gagnon, the same Presbytery that sent an overture to the last GA that would convert ALL “shall” language in the BOO into Essential tenants…

Where are these “wolves” you speak of?

I can’t understand why Tom would say, “You could almost hear the sigh of relief from the Presbytery PJC in Pittsburgh.”

I might (but not quite) be tempted to believe that the Pittsburgh Presbytery PJC did it deliberately to foment outrage from the Evangelicals.

Arthur

Ted Rossier said...

Arthur,

I'm an attorney and I have experienced instances where judges have ignored "time rules" in the interests of justice. Time rules are important for orderly conduct of cases, but they are not to be used to initiate a miscarriage of justice. That is a long-standing rule of American jurisprudence. In any court I've ever been in, a four day delay is usually excusable. Not that the lawyer would escape without being castigated by the judge; quite the contrary. But the case would most likely be allowed to proceed.

I do not know what the prosecutorial misconduct in your case was, but I would venture to guess that it was not merely being late a few days in filing some papers.

The PJC sounds more like the US Supreme Court to me. Avoid a difficult and controversial issue by dismissing the case on a minor point of procedure.

Ted

Arthur said...

Correction:

In my last post, I didn't mean to say:

"...that the Pittsburgh Presbytery PJC did it deliberately..."

I meant to say:

"...that the Pittsburgh Presbytery investigating committee did it deliberately..."

Arthur

TomGray said...

Arthur,
In response to two of your notes.
First, we didn't leave the PCUSA to avoid a rule. We left because we could no longer, in good conscience, stay in a denomination that allows clear Scriptural truth to be questioned and, as well, could no longer define what it believes.

The fact that we are attempting to keep our property is what we believe is good stewardship. I have no question but that those who gave to the Kirk did so for the congregation, not the denomination.

Second, as to the "sigh of relief," I believe that most in the PCUSA wish that these cases would just go away. Both the violations and the ensuing trials are further embarrassment to a denomination that finds it hard to blush. Dismissing this on such a technicality makes me thing (just my opinion, as you say) that the PJC was looking for a way out.

Tom

John West said...

In most of the above discussion it seems sad to me we have lost track and do not see the elephant in the living room. It seems undisputed that a same sex marriage was performed by, or at least with the blessings of of a Presbyterian minister within a Presbyterian Church, an obvious blatant violation of many scriptures, and nothing has happened. I do not even see much of a cry of outrage from people opposed to this. Whether it ever came to so called trial within the Church is almost beside the point. The point is that it happened which seems undisputed. I for one am outraged. I cry against this dispicable utilization of the Church. It seems very odd this can happen on the one hand while this denomination makes open attempts to grab the property and resources of Churches wanting to leave such atrocities behind. John West, Hillsdale Ks.

Mr. E said...

This whole thing amazes me. Janet Edwards herself, admits to performing a same sex marriage ceremony. She willingly disobeyed a constituion that she vowed to uphold. The PJC aquitted her on a time limitation. Where's the accountability here? In another blog, I asked a fellow blogger if we have lost faith in those who we elect to lead. The actions of the PJC and their failure to hold this pastor accountable for her blatant disregard for our constitution answers my question with a screaming YES!!!

Cameron Mott said...

I see this bearing of witness that the denomination is "doing nothing" all the time, when there seems to be ample evidence that is false and the denomination is doing something. How is the denomination ignoring this? It was investigated and prosecuted by the Presbytery. Unfortunately not prosecuted in a timely fashion. Do some of you have foreknowledge that this is the end of this dispute? If so, please share.

Do we really want PJCs who do not follow the rules of order/law?

Arthur said...

John & Mr. E,

I thought I made it clear I believed she was guilty. I can't speak for anyone else but I don't think any of us missed any elephants in the room. Maybe the "cry of outrage" is missing because we chose to approach the issue decently and in order.

Does it really matter if our man-made legal constructs don't allow us to punish all the guilty ourselves? I would rather let a few guilty go if it means we allow the innocent to pass. Of course I realize that statement could set off a fire storm of comment, both pro and con, with scriptural support both ways. That's just my opinion.

Arthur

Arthur said...

Tom,

You said:

"First, we didn't leave the PCUSA to avoid a rule."

Yes, I know. That's why I included "conditions" in my original statement. Rules for her, conditions for you.

You also said:

"The fact that we are attempting to keep our property is what we believe is good stewardship."

In all fairness, I believe you. I just don't agree with you that it is good stewardship.

You also said:

"Dismissing this on such a technicality makes me thing (just my opinion, as you say) that the PJC was looking for a way out."

Maybe so, but it seems to me that a conservative presbytery that usually receives the accolades of "The Layman", and other hard line conservatives, would all of a sudden risk incurring their wrath. Not really much of a "way out" if you ask me.

Arthur

phillip j. owings, said...

arthur,

i am only acquainted with you through your published comments. based on that you appear to be a highly educated, affable, prejudiced man(?), bent towards doing anything you can to discredit Tom and the actions of the Kirk of The Hills. is that the act of a Christian?

phillip j. owings

Backwoods Presbyterian said...

Like I said on Toby's Blog the people-even those who disagree with the conservative viewpoint-in the Pittsburgh Presbytery are very upset about this action. It makes us look like amatuers and cowards.

Mark said...

Something smells fishy in Pittsburgh. I agree with Arthur. Why would a well-known conservative presbytery allow the time to lapse on a case that is so clear cut. And I'm a liberal!

In Christ,
Mark

Arthur said...

Phillip,

I have my prejudices, just as everyone else who posts here seems to have. Tom is certainly not immune to making prejudiced comments. I would hope that he, being a pastor and all, would try a little harder to keep his prejudiced, jaded comments under a little more restraint.

I don't have to do any work to discredit Tom, and I'm certainly not bent on doing so. I feel his use of this blog is a discredit to his profession, and his continual derogatory, grossly over generalized, or just plain incorrect comments about the PCUSA serve no constructive purpose. He discredits himself.

I know a lot of people, who know Tom, love his sense of humor. Maybe some of what he writes is given in that light. If so, he needs to realize that humor to one may be blasphemy to another. Remember that people recently died over a cartoon depicting Muhammad. The Apostle Paul was VERY concerned about how to do effective evangelism when we were bringing both Jews and Gentiles under the same roof.

You might have noticed that I criticized Ted yesterday for directing certain comments right at me when I felt it was more appropriate to make them to all of us. I think that same criticism should go to Tom as well regarding his pointed comments to the PCUSA.

If Tom wants to proclaim Biblical Truth as he sees it, I'm all for that, even though I may not always agree with him. I suspect he and I agree on more than any of you realize.

Arthur

Mr. E said...

Arthur:
Again, she admittedly performed a same sex "marriage". This is beyond innocence and guilt. Ms. Edwards willfully commited this act with full purpose in defying scripture and the very constitution she vowed to uphold. Is her act upholding the peace, unity and purity of the church? Not in my opinion. But mine is just another "cry of outrage".

Pastor John said...

I don't actually blame Rev. Edwards herself for the fiasco. She did what she felt called to do, and was very clear about what she was doing. Instead, I think our whole denominational culture is rotten. In an attempt to be "nice" and find compromise, we have allowed same-sex union services to be performed, but they cannot be called "weddings." But guess what? The revisionists in our denomination are not interested in compromise ... they want marriages to be performed for same-sex couples, period. And when this happens, it seems inevitable that the perpetrators (such as Janet Edwards and Jane Spahr) are not brought to account, even though they proclaimed to everyone within earshot that they indeed performed same sex "weddings." The PJC in Redwood simply invented its own understanding of the Constitution to acquit Spahr, while the IC in Pittsburgh committed an incredible blunder that may or may not have been deliberate. No matter how hard the revisionists push, somehow people in positions of responsibility avoid pushing back.

Cameron Mott said...

The Spahr case is under appeal and I thought I understood from a NY paper the JK Presbytery is studying whether they can still bring charges.

Richie said...

Tom,

I submit the following article as an exhibit of where your brand of orthodoxy is taking you. It doesn’t address the things you are missing, but it shows in part that by the time you ever turn to those forms of immorality that the Evangelical church is failing to address, the world will have lost its last best chance to hear the news of the Kingdom of God among us.

What do you want the people of the world to think of when they think of Christians?

http://news.yahoo.com/s/usatoday/
20061120/cm_usatoday/
whenreligionlosesitscredibility

Reminds me of a story I once heard. A man was standing out front of his burning house watering the lawn. His neighbors called the fire department, and they asked him why, with his house on fire, was he watering the lawn. His answer was “because the grass was dry”.

In other words, he addressed the problem right in front of him, but was blind to the much bigger problem behind him.

Ritchie

TomGray said...

Richie,
This is my final response to this subject. There are all kinds of Biblical issues that we must address. Right now, mainline denominations are attempting to rewrite history on sexual morality. That is why I and others are addressing this now--not because we don't think there are other problems.

I think that you are presenting us with a logical fallacy, in that your assertions seem to imply that, if we are dealing with sexual morality, we are not concerned with anything else. That simply is not true.

I want the world to think that Christians are concerned about how people live in healthy relationship with others--among many, many other things.

You are welcome to respond to this blog anytime. We will not post any more responses from you on this matter, though.
Tom

PS I could not bring up the article you mentioned.

Ted Rossier said...

Tom,

Here's a working link to the article of which Ritchie spoke.

http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2006/11/when_religion_l.html

My reading of it is simply the same old tired worn-out liberal arguments and misuse of Scripture that have been refuted time after time after time. However, I would be interested to hear you respond to it if you feel there is something new that needs to be addressed.

Ted

Pastor John said...

Tom,

That article in USA Today is, quite bluntly, stupid. The writer ignores most of Scripture to concentrate on Leviticus, which he treats in a shallow and superficial manner. The exegesis and application is unbelievably bad. It's like a parody of the liberal position. But I know, deep in my heart, that there is an instant Amen Corner for this sort of nonsense. Look at the fawning reviews received for Jack Rogers' ridiculous book on homosexuality and the bible.

TomGray said...

Ted,
Thanks for making the right connection. I agree with you about the oft-repeated liberal view.
"Jesus didn't say anything about homosexuality." He didn't because the culture into which he came was extremely clear homosexual activity was sinful. Jesus simply didn't need to say anything.

"This must be right because it is hard-wired at birth." Leaving aside the lack of scientific support for such a statement, there are many things hard-wired from birth that we must control. I believe that all men lean toward promiscuity. The Bible speaks against this, and we must obey it.

"If we take the Old Testament's word that homosexuality is wrong, we must obey every other proscription in it." This is clearly wrong thinking. Acts 15, built upon the experiences of the apostles (visions, etc) erases the holiness code except for idolatry, the consumption of blood, and sexual immorality. Paul doesn't invent anti-homosexual ideas, nor is he speaking about rape or pedophelia (terms that have specific Greek words NOT used in the NT).

I could go on, but it's tiring. Thanks again for getting the correct URL.
Tom

TomGray said...

Ted,
I found the following quote from Robert Gagnon that expresses well what I believe about sin, temptation, and sinful behavior:

"[Ted] Haggard may have to struggle with homosexual impulses all his life, just as all of us have to struggle with various sinful impulses. Nobody gets an exemption from the struggle, not even when the sinful desires persist. That is why Jesus called his followers to take up their cross, deny themselves, and lose their lives. At the points when we fail to live up to the moral commands of God that we rightly proclaim, the fault lies with our behavior, not with the commands of God." -- Rev. Dr. Robert Gagnon, Associate Professor, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

That sums it up nicely.
Tom

Myron Gwinner said...

Tom, I am suprised that two "typos" I caught haven't been noted (and one was even quoted in a comment).

In the original blog, I assume you meant in the 3rd paragraph to attribute the quotation to NEWS [i.e., media]sources, not NEW sources.

Toward the end of your 6:52PM Nov. 16 reply to Arthur, I think you must have meant MAKES ME THINK ..., not "makes me thing ...".

This last one is really nit-picking, as "thing" really makes no sense, but the first could have a valid meaning.

Cameron Mott said...

The complaint against Rev. Edwards has been refiled according to PNS; hopefully JK Presby is clear on what is when this time.