Thursday, December 30, 2010

Exclusion of LGBTQ persons adds nothing of value to the ordination standards we already have

Ignore for the moment that the average American becomes sexually active at 16 and gets married at 28, and that simple ‘chastity in singleness’ does not begin to address this societal reality in believers’ lives.(1) Apart from the exclusion of LGBTQ persons from ordination, G-6.0106b does nothing whatsoever to further or deepen the Book of Order’s definition of ordained office or requirements for those seeking ordination.(2) It can be omitted without losing anything of value.(3)


Commentary
1. Turning specifically to the 'fidelity and chastity' clause of G 6.0106b, we find a standard that at least 95% of Americans have entirely abandoned - that of total chastity outside of marriage.  This standard arose in a context where it was common for 14 year-olds to be married, and to be parents before they would be allowed to vote in the United States.  Education and rising standards of living have made it so that this way of life will likely never return.  What we currently demand is that the vast majority of ordained persons in the last few decades simply and quietly buy into the duplicity of our polity.  We do not ask; they do not tell about their actual sexual practices, because we  don't dare.  The most effective way for G 6.0106b to be repealed is for it to actually be enforced.  As it stands, our policies encourage heterosexual hypocrisy as well as exclusion of called LGBTQ persons.

2. Our ordination standards say that we should ordain no person who fails to repent of anything which Scripture and the Confessions call sin. That, right there, makes every single Presbyterian minister, Elder and Deacon utterly undeserving of ordination. There are so many things called sin, many of which are such sweeping categories that thorough repentance is utterly impossible. Are you ever stubborn? Do you ever doubt or exhibit any unbelief in anything scripture or the confessions say? Have you ever "done works which have no other warrant than the invention and opinion of man?" Meaning - do you ever do anything that is not positively commanded or at least permitted by analogy in scripture, such as watch a movie? Have you ever made, displayed or viewed any picture of God? Do you fail to hate sin with your whole heart? Do you ever ascribe any good at all to anything besides God? Do you make bold or curious searchings into God's secrets? G 6.01016b is not only an impossible standard, it is vague to the point of uselessness. Applying it consistently would require a degree of interpretation of scripture and the confessions which no group of people could possibly consent to as it would invariably include behaviors many people simply do not agree are sinful.

3. 10A does more than simply delete the section of the Book of Order in question - it replaces it with a statement that is far superior and which draws upon Presbyterian history for an answer that empowers Presbyteries and allows for freedom of conscience in the non-essential issue of the status of LGBTQ persons.

27 comments:

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

I love how all of your standards for ordained officers revolve around trying to bring the standards down to some sort of lowest common denominator rather than setting the bar attainably high.

I can tell you that at least in my case, the standard was applied equally. It's not a secret that my eldest was conceived outside of wedlock. I had already gone through a period of penitence and restoration with my session. But before I could be accepted even as an inquirer, I was required to acknowledge my guilt before the standard and affirm my ongoing repentance (that is, that I agreed with God that I had sinned, I wasn't going to try to excuse myself, and I was doing everything in my power to live a different life). The CPM never made a public ordeal of it, but each interview included an inquiry as to whether I'd maintained a chaste marriage.

It is *not* unreasonable to demand this basic, transcultural requirement which has been in place from the earliest days of the church (see Acts 15). Any who cannot control themselves in this manner - at least from the time they believe themselves mature enough to take up the responsibility of church office - are controlled at the highest level by a desire for something other than for Christ and His righteousness.

Are many of the single people in the pews fornicators? In the mainline, at least, I would say "yes." Are some of the married ones adulterers in fact? Yes. Does that then change the nature of the requirement? No.

Whatever happened to self-discipline, spiritual discipline, and (when needed) church discipline? Or are we only good at repenting of other people's sins?

Doug Hagler said...

@ Chris: Most of this comment is stuff you have posted before and we've thoroughly refuted before. I don't want to spend too much time doing this again.

If you did any research at all, you would find that outside your beloved whipping-boy "the mainline", everyone else in the pews are also "fornicators" by your definition. 95% of them anyway, in the pews and out of them, in the pulpit and out of it. I know you believe that context should never be taken into consideration - that is why I find many of your ideas either nonsense or untenable or both - as we've discussed before. Again and again the Bible is context sensitive (look back to Acts 10 for just one famous example - it is one of very many). I see no reason whatsoever why people who take the Bible to be authoritative can't also do that. Well, everyone takes context into account; the difference is that liberals are honest about it.

And on this particular post/comment thread, you are the only one who is obsessed with other people's (supposed) sins. So your rhetorical zinger I just turn back on you with the usual aplomb.

I'm glad you found your ordination process to be a meaningful help in your marriage, etc. The story doesn't add much to the conversation about polity for a whole denomination, though. I could easily tell a story about a divorced or non-virginal unmarried ordinand whose process was helpful for them and cancel it out.

Doug Hagler said...

"I love how all of your standards for ordained officers revolve around trying to bring the standards down to some sort of lowest common denominator rather than setting the bar attainably high."

Also, for the record, that statement is total nonsense, and demonstrates that you're not really reading what we're writing about ordination standards; nor have you taken seriously the text of 10A. But, again, I'm glad that anecdotally the ordination process as it was applied in your particular situation worked for you.

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

First, where are you getting your figures for 95% of pastors being fornicators? I happen to know many families that raise chaste children (even through college). It is quite common in homeschooling families. It's just sad that you think we have to look at the sinful culture and say "that's our standard" instead of letting the gospel lead us into greater obedience (which, as Jesus told us, is the sign that we love Him).

Aric Clark said...

The 95% comes first from this study, and then this major one which backs it up. Neither had a control specifically for clergy, but both had controls for various professed religions and the numbers didn't vary. It's pretty well established that pre-marital sex is the beyond normative it is almost universal in our society and has been since the 1940's the earliest we can track. Ask 80 years olds today and ask 20 year olds today and the results are the same.

You will continue to accuse us of merely acceding to sinful society and we will continue to think you have your head in the sand from which position it is impossible to say anything intelligible about ethics.

Alan said...

"It's just sad that you think we have to look at the sinful culture and say "that's our standard" blah, blah, blah..."

Ah yes, the old "following the culture" canard.

In fact the PCUSA with its regressive policies is already following the culture, not Christ. Contra the bizarre notions held by anti-gay folks like Chris, our current US culture is one in which there are no employment protections for LGBT people (cf. G-6.0106b), where there is no marriage, immigration, or tax equity for LGBT people (cf. the anti-gay marriage policies in the PCUSA and the recent crazed rhetoric regarding merely offering non-ordained people benefits for their partners.) And, if that discrimination doesn't satisfy their anti-gay agenda, then they feel completely justified in beating the gay out of people with a baseball bat ... after all, that's justified in Leviticus.

Yes, the Church is already following culture quite nicely. It would be good if instead the Church started leading culture again toward justice, inclusion, and mercy instead of intolerance, bigotry, stupidity and hate.

And it will, eventually.

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

Aric,

I noticed that the material you cited consisted primarily of persons who became adults around the time of the sexual revolution. Even then, there was a fairly large number of persons who entered marriage as virgins, though they report the higher incidence of premarital sex by the time they have reached 40. That's a witness to the divorce culture so carefully cultivated by innovators and advocates of the plastic family.

You continue to stress the normativity of this behavior by looking around. I'm going to continue to stress that we find our ethic, sexual or otherwise, from the clear commands of Holy Writ. Let me ask you: is there a biblically sound case to be made for changing our understanding of non marital sex (whether premarital or otherwise)?

Aric Clark said...

@Chris,

Yes there is a biblically sound case to be made for changing our understanding of non marital sex. I don't have the time to make it here, but you may some day get your satisfaction. Hell we might write a book.

For now you'll have to be satisfied with some general pointers: there is no singular sexual ethic in scripture, many different forms of relationships are evident and approved of. Some of those forms of relationships we now rightfully find unnacceptable (concubinage, polygamy, marrying of slaves and prisoners of war, child marriage, women as chattel etc..). As such any sexual ethic interacting with scripture has to be selective. Here are some things we would select as scriptural norms for ethical sexuality - equality, individual freedom, mutuality, doing no harm. These are a start and need to be fleshed out, but they are principles evident in the Bible and applicable to our circumstances.

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

Again, Jesus sets the norm: "In the beginning, it was not so..." We have to look to the Genesis narrative to find the answer. (Even when seeming permutations are reported without excoriation, the norm is established although it isn't consistently upheld.)

Doug Hagler said...

Yes, because Genesis is where we go for ethical norms.

Except in almost EVERY OTHER INSTANCE.

Try again. :p

Doug Hagler said...

...which is actually an issue we dealt with at length in previous posts - if you are reading them, feel free to address the arguments we've already made.

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

Genesis is where Jesus went when His contemporaries were confused about marriage. I really don't have an option here if I am to follow His Lordship on the matter. You, of course, may follow your bliss.

Doug Hagler said...

Don't lie, Chris. We're both following our bliss here. Or, at least, we should be. In this case, my bliss is justice and a solid argument to stand on - so I'm happy thus far with this whole series.

Also, your statement is false; Jesus went to more than Genesis to talk about marriage and family, and you know it. His hermeneutic, like ours, drew from the wide witness of scripture, with a special concern for the most vulnerable in his society and for those who were considered outsiders and "unclean".

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

Remind me where our Lord took the cavalier revisioning attitude to marriage that your hermeneutic demands. It seems that on the contentious marital issue of His day, divorce, Jesus was siding with a very strict, conservative, literal reading of both the Mosaic text and the Genesis origin of marriage.

CLL+

Alan said...

Wow, three posts and three continued ravings from Mr. Larimer.

Seriously, do you not have anything better to do? Isn't there someone in your own denomination you can get your knickers in a twist about? What is the cause of this pathological obsession with a denomination you've already decided isn't really a Christian church?

If you're looking for a hobby, try gardening.

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

This doesn't count as weeding?

Alan said...

I think spreading manure is a more appropriate analogy.

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

Bless your heart.

Doug Hagler said...

Jesus did more than that - he redefined family so as to make marriage a non-issue. Whoever does the will of God is Jesus' family. Brother and sister means members of the Christian community, not blood-relatives.

I wouldn't say cavalier, but Jesus did not hold up marriage as the core of family the way that you do - I will go ahead and say *idolatrously*, as I have said before. In fact, he was at pains not to do so when it would have been the prevailing view of those around him. It seemed like a very big deal for him, in fact, that family did not mean a married couple and their "godly offspring".

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

So Jesus disagrees with Scripture and refutes Micah 2?

While it is true that His radical devotion to the Father's will created tensions in His family relationships, and while through the Church we become members of a family through His blood rather than our own, it is not true that He overthrows the biblical norm of family (centered around the procreative union of husband and wife). Otherwise, St Paul would have been speaking nonsense when he spoke about marriage as an image of Christ in Ephesians 5.

And then there's that whole Bridegroom bit...

And remind me again how intentionally disobeying the commands regarding sexual purity is actually somehow obeying Jesus.

Alan said...

"And remind me again how intentionally disobeying the commands regarding sexual purity is actually somehow obeying Jesus."

Oh, the irony.

Doug Hagler said...

Re: Ephesians 5. I don't think you understand what a metaphor is. Should we also take sheep as normative, since Paul describes Jesus as a lamb? Or should we all be shepherds, and make being a shepherd an essential tenet, or a requirement for ordination? Paul is getting at something that can't be described fully in words, and he uses a lot of images to do that.

Your myopia would be astounding, if I hadn't been encountering it for 4 years straight.

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

Doug: It is, admittedly, a mystery how precisely marriage shows Christ's relationship with the church. But one thing that is clear is that the church is not the same as Jesus (and vice versa). Homosexual coupling (or any of the other alphabet permutations) undoes that central theme and sets us up for an ecclesial organization where Christ has no Lordship, no headship, and is indistinct from other creatures. (Smells like Arianism to me.)

Alan said...

"Homosexual coupling (or any of the other alphabet permutations) undoes that central theme and sets us up for an ecclesial organization where Christ has no Lordship, no headship, and is indistinct from other creatures."

Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes... The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!

Doug Hagler said...

"Homosexual coupling (or any of the other alphabet permutations) undoes that central theme and sets us up for an ecclesial organization where Christ has no Lordship, no headship, and is indistinct from other creatures."

Not only demonstrably false, but also completely absurd. You ascribe to "homosexual coupling" a tremendous power without any good reason whatsoever. I can only assume this arises from your idolatrous worship of heterosexual marriage as the towering and normative principle of and justification of...everything. Otherwise, who could you seriously believe something as absurd as the above without any evidence or logical support?

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

Doug,

If you believe me to be an idolator, Christian love (either for my well-being or for the protection of the flock committed to me) should compel you to report me to my bishop. He may be reached through the diocesan website.

But lets remember that the family was the first human community God called into existence. In the era of the patriarchs, the father of the family acted as priest for his family. God chose to act through families - one particular family (Abraham's), and one line of that family (Isaac...then Jacob). When God Almighty describes Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that's not incidental; it's fundamental to His self-revelation. When God, through Moses, gave the Law and distributed the ministry, He did it through families (tribes)...even making the high priesthood stick solely to the sons of Aaron. Similarly, the NT resounds with family imagery and speaks of our sonship / adoption into the family of God.

Your antagonism towards the family is not consistent with the biblical witness. But it is very much the reflection of contemporary American culture. And it is likely influenced by deep wounds (yours or others toward whom you are empathetic). The answer, of course, is not to jettison the concept but to repristinate it along the lines of God's revealed purpose.

Doug Hagler said...

You see antagonism where it does not exist - among a number of other things you invent which I have pointed out in the past. I am, in fact, antagonistic toward what I see as your problematic ideas around family. I think you raise it up to the point of absurdity, not to mention the fact that you do not define family as Jesus does. Nor even as the Old Testament does. As I have pointed out many times.

I am not you - I call you out personally when I see your idolatry - have done so more than once in the past - but I'm not going to go over your heard to your bishop. We are different, and we deal with disagreement *very* differently. What you call Christian love I see as...neither.

But, again, we've been over this a lot in the past.