Saturday, August 28, 2010

Slipping Down the Slope

The Rev. Jane Spahr was tried this last week on the charge of performing marriages between persons of the same sex. She had been tried earlier and found not guilty through an orwellian torture of language and logic. Her presbytery judicial commission said she couldn't be guilty of "marrying" same sex couples, since such a thing didn't legally exist (at that time). Therefore, they reasoned, whatever she did wasn't a "marriage."
Complaints were filed with a higher judicatory, and said judicatory demanded another trial take place. This time, Spahr was found guilty. Had the denomination come to its senses? No. All you have to do is read the judges' remarks in the text of their decision:

The Permanent Judicial Commission, in sustaining the first three charges, recognizes that while the Rev. Dr. Jane Spahr has indeed performed these marriages, which were and continue to be legal marriages, she did so acting with faithful compassion in accord with W­7.3004. These marriages were legal in the State of California, being civil contracts (W­4.9001), and are different from same sex ceremonies. The testimonies of those at court clearly demonstrated this difference.
We commend Dr. Spahr and give thanks for her prophetic ministry that for 35 years has extended support to “people who seek the dignity, freedom and respect that they have been denied” (W­7.4002c), and has sought to redress “wrongs against individuals, groups, and peoples in the church, in this nation, and in the world” (W­7.4002h).
In addition, we call upon the church to re­examine our own fear and ignorance that continues to reject the inclusiveness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.(G­3.0401c) We say this believing that we have in our own Book of Order conflicting and even contradictory rules and regulations that are against the Gospel. In this particular case, in W­4.9001 we have inclusive and broad descriptive language about marriage, “Marriage is a gift God has given to all humankind for the well­being of the entire human family.” This sentence is followed immediately by “Marriage is a civil contract between a woman and a man.” The language of the second statement draws on our cultural understanding today of marriage that is rooted in equality. But it is not faithful to the Biblical witness in which marriage was a case of property transfer because women were property. Nor does it specifically address same gender marriage.
This follows a General Assembly that has recommended removing the one paragraph in their Book of Order that insists on Biblical sexual behavior. The Bible warns against this kind of false teaching:

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. (2 Peter 2:1-2)

Yet, not everyone believes that Scripture is authoritative in the PCUSA. None other than the current vice moderator of the General Assembly, the Rev. Landon Whitsitt, has declared "Sola Scriptura is dead."

"...the most important questions of our day is 'Where is the authority?'  'Sola Scriptura' is dead most places, and dying rapidly in others. So where do we lodge the authority of our faith? That's the real battle we see fought in the church." 

 This specifically means that an elected leader of the denomination (2nd highest) believes that Scripture is just another book in the denomination's library. What is the point of having a whole book of Confessions if the Source of those confession is declared dead? Why do PCUSA officers still vow to believe and teach the "essential tenets" of the Reformed faith, when no such tenets exist.

The argument over sexuality is not the central point of the church. It is symptomatic, though, of a church that has demonstrably lost its way. I wonder still why those who truly believe in Scripture maintain membership and support in an organization fundamentally opposed to the fundamentals?

There is no perfect church. There are no perfect denominations. To those in the PCUSA who slyly say this to those of us who have left, we can at least answer that there are many denominations, such as the EPC, who choose to follow Scripture first, and trends last.
Keep praying, keep the faith.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Attention on 61st Street

So much has been said about Kirk Crossing that some feel Kirk of the Hills has gone onto the back burner in terms of interest. Not so.

Since Kirk Crossing starts next Sunday, the calendar demands a lot of communication over the past few months. During this time we have not been ignoring Kirk of the Hills. We’ve been planning changes—not dramatic, but steps toward renewing our ministry.

A new emphasis on reaching out to our neighborhood.
We don’t want to wait until our congregation’s average age is late middle-aged or older. We need to continue to reach out to younger people. Demographic studies show that our neighborhoods, particularly north of 61st Street, are getting younger. Even as we’ve gone door-to-door in Jenks for the establishment of Kirk Crossing, we will do the same here.
We’ve found that one of the most dramatic demographic changes is that of single moms. That is the fastest growing segment in the radius around 61st Street. While we’ve always had single moms, we’ve never established programs strictly for them. We will need to do this soon, and we’ll need hundreds of volunteers to help.

Enhancing traditional worship.
Kirk of the Hills started with traditional worship, and it is still the most-attended style of worship here. While we have never been “high church” in terms of our worship, we still wish to have an atmosphere of the awesome presence of God as we worship Him. A few changes in the order of worship will be coming. Nothing will be drastic or unfamiliar, but the changes will be for the purpose of reminding us of God’s presence.

Maintaining contemporary worship.
We are not moving contemporary worship to Kirk Crossing. Although that will be the single style of worship there, we will continue to have traditional and contemporary worship at Kirk of the Hills. For quite some time, contemporary worship will be exactly the same at both places, since it will be at evening worship at Kirk Crossing and morning worship at Kirk of the Hills.

Upgrading facilities.
Changes are needed in some of our Sunday school rooms. We need to find a better area than the conference room for fellowship between and after worship services. We need brighter projection so that the items on the screen in the sanctuary can be read without lowering the lights or the shades. The organ needs critical maintenance.
Since we have a complete facility there is no need to build new ones, but upgrading what we have is an ongoing concern.

We celebrate our 50th anniversary in 2011. We’re going to use the Biblical theme, “Jubilee,” as our guideline for the celebration. We will honor and celebrate our past in the context of looking ahead. Jubilee, in the Bible, was a “Sabbath’s Sabbath,” where all the people of God reminded themselves that the land was God’s not theirs. Kirk of the Hills is God’s, not ours, and we are diligently trying to minister, maintain, and move ahead with that in mind.
Keep the faith, keep praying.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Crossing is Coming

As I write, the first service for Kirk Crossing is just 11 ½ days away. Kirk volunteers will set up more than 100 chairs, sound equipment, video equipment, and whatever is needed for children who come. It’s an exciting time.

The last time “we” did this was in 1961. A group of 30-somethings came together at Carnegie Elementary School with a vision of what Kirk of the Hills might become. A few of those very people will be at Jenks West Middle School to repeat that act of faith, this time along with younger people two and three generations after them.

I am so thankful to the more than 200 Kirk members who have stepped forward as volunteers to make this a reality. Not all of those 200 will make Kirk Crossing their permanent home. In fact, our greatest hope is that we will start with a majority of people completely new to us.

I am also thankful to the Kirk staff, most of whom are doing double-duty, making sure that our programs and ministries are of equally high quality at both locations. The staff has always gone the second-mile in service to the Kirk. That’s one of the reasons that we have the resources and drive to take this step. Another big reason, of course, is all of you.

Kirk Crossing will be a second campus of the Kirk. We will be one church with two locations. Other than that difference, we will be one church, with the same sermon Scriptures at both locations, shared equipment, shared offering, shared programs, and shared mission.

I know that this process is somewhat confusing. Some fear that we will let the “home” location slide while we pay most of our attention to the new one. Nothing could be further from the truth. We cannot do a good job in Jenks without an equally good job being done at 61st Street. (In my next blog I’ll talk about some of the specific things we’ll be focusing on at Kirk of the Hills).

Some are worried that Wayne and I will shift our attention away to Kirk Crossing. The fact is, we will both be continuing the same preaching schedule at Kirk of the Hills. With five preachers on staff we have the depth to cover both places without either one feeling second-class.

Wayne and I have our anxious moments, but they are simply about entering the unknown. Once we are underway, the excitement of the work should redound to the benefit of everyone, regardless of location. Keep the elders, pastors, staff, and volunteers in your prayers as we take this great step forward.

Keep the faith, keep praying,

The Kirk Crossing property at I-75 and 114th, as seen Monday afternoon.