Thursday, February 4, 2010

Theologically Ghetto-Fabulous

I read about this on Shuck and Jive and it kind of blew my mind.

This is the argument of Presbyterians For Renewal as far as I can tell:

"Unless everyone agrees with us about everything, we cannot possibly live out our mission. We are hindered in proclaiming the Good News if anyone in the PC(USA) does not buy into our theology wholesale. Therefore, we must create a theological ghetto composed only of those who agree with us so that we can begin to move forward with our mission. Otherwise, we are totally impotent to act."

I've never heard of a mission that is so feeble. I wouldn't even require this of parishioners at my own church who I am working with, much less a whole denomination. It is historically unprecedented as far as I know in the Presbyterian Church that one part of the Body would be completely paralyzed unless every other part of the Body agree with it entirely.

What kind of Gospel is this that is so easily derailed? Except for occasional discussions in Presbytery or above, disagreements about the status of homosexuals have no necessary impact whatsoever on our shared ministry - unless one group throws a tantrum and refuses to move forward with anything until there is agreement in everything.

This overture sets a totally untenable precedent - that in order to do our work as believers, we have to create theological ghettos around dogmatic particulars cherry-picked from our tradition...which is not a dogmatic tradition at all! It is a confessional tradition!

This is a perfect example of how orthodoxy can paralyze orthopraxis. For some, we must all assent to the same set of truth-claims before we can start doing what is right. I mean, if we don't agree about homosexuality, how can we agree about how to treat the poor? It is either all or nothing for these people.

That is totally absurd! We have to agree about homosexuality before we can feed the hungry? Clothe the naked? Release the prisoners? Love our enemies? Bind up the brokenhearted? Mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice? What kind of foolishness is this?

It is like a Gospel made of paper-thin crystal that will shatter into a million pieces if it isn't handled with kid gloves. It has to be placed in a hermeneutically sealed vault (New Synod) and only handled by people with special training (those who agree with Presbyterians for Renewal on every conceivable theological issue).

It is not a Gospel that I recognize. They are going to 'embody God's trasformative grace' by being neither gracious nor transformed? This is a brittle Gospel indeed, and I hope no one is fooled into thinking it is the real deal.


Eddie Louise said...

They lie!

"welcoming all of God’s children with the unconditional love of Jesus Christ"

Because they also clearly state - we will only accept those who act as we demand.

There is nothing unconditional in this. There is also nothing Christ like!


Drew Tatusko said...

they forget this is a connectional system where we have a balance of majority rule with minority protection. early presbyterians knew that we could not all agree and wanted a system where we could disagree as a matter of conscience under an umbrella. old light and new lights divided much different is this situation from that one? pfr seems to indicate that they want a new book of order from this. painful to watch.

Toby Brown said...

Hey Doug!

Our presbytery overture this year offers a better option. We call it Flexible Presbyteries. Basically, a church can move to another presbytery that is within reasonable travel time. I think this option is far better than the Ghetto Synod of PFR.

Alan said...

I truly wonder about churches in a denomination for whom bureaucratic administration is more important than preaching the gospel. Doesn't matter what the silly gerrymandering plan is, it's still based on bureaucratic expediency rather than unity in Christ or anything Scriptural.

One does wonder where the find the verse in Scripture that supports this plan. Oh, I'm sure they find something to twist, but it must be quite the interpretational gymnastics.

Fortunately none of these proposals will see the light of day because there is nothing even remotely Presbyterian about them. Meanwhile we can enjoy the irony that so-called "classical Presbyterians" are looking for ways to ignore and obstruct truly classical Presbyterian connectionalism. (The very argument they've been using against inclusion for the last 30 years.)

Once again, we see who is actually in favor of unity and who picks up their toys and leaves the sandbox when they don't get their own way.

Jodie said...

"in order to do our work as believers, we have to create theological ghettos around dogmatic particulars cherry-picked from our tradition..."

Pretty good definition of a cult.

If a congregation is busy BEING a church, and if a Presbytery is staying out of their hair while they do it, it doesn't really matter what Presbytery they belong to.

And if they are not being a church, it still doesn't matter what Presbytery they belong to. Changing Presbyteries won't fix it.

So the only valid reason for a congregation to leave a Presbytery as I see it is to get away from busybody meddling that is actively preventing them from being a church.

The only times I have personally witnessed this was when Fundamentalists in one congregation actively tried to block the ministry of another. I've not seen that happen in the other direction.

(Except perhaps during the process of calling a new pastor.

But that whole process is broken anyway. It takes longer for a congregation in our denomination to select a new pastor than it does for the nation to select a new president or supreme court justice.

That should tell you something.)

John Shuck said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Shuck said...

"Flexible presbyteries."

There are many of us who take the vow of collegiality seriously. I am likely a theological minority in my presbytery but I work with my colleagues of all stripes on all kinds of things from campus ministry, to our camp, to our youth, to mission, to helping each other do ministry (regardless of whether they are "liberal" or "conservative.")

Some of us are not so obsessed with what others are doing with their privates that we can actually be Presbyterian.

But hey, if all the busybodies want to transfer to Beaver-Butler for flexibility's sake, maybe that's a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Let's not confuse PFR's proposal with the one from Beaver-Butler. We are proposing flexible, but still largely local presbyteries. Think porosity. PFR seems to be more ghetto-like. Our way is less drastic and more in line with historic presbyterian polity.

Think liminality over modality.

Or not.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and surely I get some props for the vocab today?

Aric Clark said...

Toby, props for vocab.

The Beaver-Butler proposal is better. I'm not sure what the practical ramifications of it over the long haul would be. I could see some very contentious fights in split presbyteries about whether to allow a church to leave/enter a different presbytery. Some of our presbyteries are also geographically ridiculous already. I can't imagine churches from even farther away wanting to exacerbate the drive they have to make it to meetings.

Doug Hagler said...

...better does not mean good, however. The B-B proposal can only lead to even more bitter fights.

Anonymous said...

Impossible, Doug. This denomination is already Fight Club. It can't get any worse.

John Shuck said...

Half measures won't do any good. It could also be a strategic maneuver to put majorities in more presbyteries in a desperate attempt to ensure continuation of G-6.0106b.

G-6.0106b is going this time. No reason whatsoever to redistrict. I have no energy or desire to support any lame plan like that.

But I would support a plan to remove the property clause. That is a change in thinking on my part. Less coercion is best.

But again, there is no reason for me to bargain. All of this bs is about the gay. G-6.0106b is going. The anti-gay crowd better act fast.