Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sermon Notes: State of the Church Address

Dalton Presbyterian Church, 1/30/11
Show of hands: who has seen or heard Obama’s State of the Union address?

Yeah, this will be nowhere near that good.  Not even Joe Biden good.  But I felt like the timing was right to try something - Elder retreat, talking about the present and future of the church lately.

So because I am not a famous public speaker, I’ll need some prayers.


State of the Church address
Thanks to leadership (stand, clap)

Remember the empty seats, and those who cannot be with us because of physical limitations or health (Dan Rudy, Susanna Amstutz, Jodi Smith)

Thankful for differences - we’re diverse (not ethnically - a shimmering rainbow of Caucasian!) in beliefs and politics.  Sometimes this comes out as fear to delve into divisive issues - but I see this as a strength, that we can come together even though we don’t agree on every line-item of a given creed.

Commonalities and continuity; this church, in one form or another, has been here a loooong time.  200 odd years.  From back when the flag didn’t nearly have so many stars.  In a couple years, we might want to think about doing something for our bicentennial.  That’s a long time.  Imagine all those saints who came before us - just in this little place in the world.

History - we’ve known times of flourishing, we’ve also known schism - the split 25 years ago that is still fresh for some of us - a split that is still felt now (I see it impact our live and ministry on an almost-weekly basis - it sneaks it’s way into other issues); and thru it all tremendous change.  We are inheritors, but the church now is almost nothing like it was 50 years ago; even less 100 years ago, or 150.  We’re not suddenly talking about change.  We’re simply continuing to change.

In recent memory, though, the world has moved.  The world always moves faster than the church - Facebook killing the church? - Evangelicalism and conservative politics - Christianity is a third-world movement, and will be for generations to come.  Even if we’ve tried to stand still, the ground has moved out from under us.

The state of the church is always this - the world has moved, and we must be part of it.  

The state of the church is always this - God has remained still, and we must move the world.

THis church doesn’t just have a past - we’ve also got a future.  We are not like any other church, and we are planted  here for a reason, no less now than our predecessors were 200 years ago.  We are called to flourish; we are called to live out our passion; we all have a mission.  Our calling hasn’t changed - it’s just that we have to figure out how to follow God out into the world.  The way we do church will not be the way we’ve done church before.  Until we are perfected, until Kingdom come, we are not finished.

We have this future, but I cannot hand it to you.  I cannot go get it and bring it back.  It isn’t going to land in our laps.  It is possible to run away from our calling.  God is alive and moving in our lives, alive and moving in the world outside these doors - but can ignore that if we want.

This future will not be made clear to us through wisdom - we read that in 1 Corinthians.  If we are looking for a wise, well-considered path, that won’t quite get us to God.  If we are careful and deliberate and discerning - that won’t quite cut it.  

We continue to read, in 1 Corinthians, that this future won’t even come by way of signs and miracles!  If we are waiting for a miracle, even if we experienced a miracle, a sign, here and now, that wouldn’t quite get us to God.  That’s a load off of my shoulders, because I’ve got no miracles.

What will move us into the future is...foolishness - the foolishness of trusting a God we cannot see, trusting a savior who died on a cross, trusting in our own efforts when we know how flawed we are, trusting in the Holy Spirit to strengthen us when we cannot do one more thing.  

Our hope is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is life to those who are alive with God. If we look ahead with the mindset that we are dying, God’s future for us will look like nonsense.

If, however, we are able to become fools, to cultivate our inner foolishness, then it’ll all make sense.  We’re called to be foolish, and seek God’s wisdom - we are called to be weak, and trust in God’s strength - we are called to be regular folks, and let God be the one who grants us our status.

But these are all just words.

I thought about this passage, and about the Elder retreat we had yesterday.  We talked about a lot of things - including what we thought we as a church, and the Elders in particular, were good at.  What we care about most.  Where we should be headed.

And this is where a President would outline the government initiatives and programs that would bring us into the bright future.  I’m not a President, though.  Being a pastor is quite different from being President.  I can’t really make much happen on my own.  In light of that point of divergence...

I’ve been thinking about what I am called to do.  What it is that I am good at.  What I care about.  What am I supposed to do, in light of this reading, in light of our calling, in light of where we are, who we are.  Who I am.  I don’t want to speak for anyone else.

I will speak for myself.

I like the idea of being a Fool.  Some of the astute and observant among may have noticed - I am a fool.  I am a goofball.  My head is in the clouds.  I am a dreamer.  I log more time in my own imagination than I do in this “real world” everyone keeps telling me about.  Sometimes this is a strength, and sometimes it is a weakness.  Part of me is happy to read that we are called to foolishness.

I don’t have any miracles up my sleeves, and I am only occasionally wise - but a fool provokes.  I will therefore throw down a challenge.  I will call you out, here and now, you, and everyone who isn’t here this morning, and everyone we can convince to come through those doors.

My challenge isn’t to dare you to sit in the front few rows of the church - even though it is warmer up here, and a lot easier to hear.  I’m afraid what I have in mind is even worse. (and let me take a moment to honor the courage of the intrepid few who braved the front row this morning)

This morning, I’m going to use a dirty word in church.  I want you to say this dirty word with me.  Ready?  

“Evangelism”.  Say it with me: “Evangelism”.  

We had our Elder retreat, and do you know what the Elders chose as the highest priority for the church going forward?  Evangelism.  So I am doing something tremendously foolish.  I am calling upon an aging, shrinking Presbyterian congregation to join me in becoming evangelists.

Like fools, like Paul and the first apostles, we are called to proclaim Christ.  Whether we like it or not.  Whether it seems wise or not.  With or without miracles.  Whether we feel strong enough or not.

The state of the church is always this - we are chosen by God, we are called for ministry, and our future is present with us right now.  You remember what Jesus was saying in the hills of Galilee in our reading last week?  The Kingdom of God is at hand.

The state of the church is always this - we are the kingdom of God.  And we are called to carry this good news in our hearts, in our lives, and out into the world.

I’m not going to drop this evangelism thing.  If you ignore it, it won’t go away.

This morning, I dare you to believe it.

Friday, January 28, 2011

PresbyMEME: Why I am voting yes on 10-A

Name, City, State
Aric Clark, Fort Morgan, CO

Twitter and Facebook profiles
Twitter: @aricclark
Facebook: Aric Clark, Two Friars and A Fool 
Presbytery and 10a voting date
Presbytery of Plains and Peaks, May 7th 2011

Reason ONE that you are voting "yes" on 10a is...
Close friends of mine who are already ordained, but closeted, some who are ordained and open about their homosexuality, and others who are seeking ordination, but currently prevented by our polity have proven to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Holy Spirit is working in and through LGBTQ persons as much as through any heterosexual and it is time the Church moved past our prejudices. This is merely the next step in our continual journey toward a fuller understanding of God's kingdom. One day we will have a Church that reflects the radical, profligate grace of Jesus Christ.

Reason TWO that you are voting "yes" on 10a is...
This is core Presbyterian polity. Where people of good intent and rational thinking disagree it is vital that we permit freedom of conscience. It is vital that we not rob our presbyteries of their right to be the ordaining body by turning our constitutional document into a rulebook and inserting personal political agendas into what should be ongoing theological conversations. Amendment 10-A does not make explicit statement regarding the ability or inability of any individual to be ordained based on arbitrary criteria. Instead it puts the responsibility and the authority squarely on the shoulders of the ordaining body where it should be.

Reason THREE that you are voting "yes" on 10a is...
I can't limit this list to three reasons. Here are many more. There simply aren't any good reasons to vote against 10-A.

What are your greatest hopes for the 10a debate that will take place on the floor of your Presbytery?
I hope we conduct ourselves with humility, patience, and love, and I hope justice carries the day.

How would you respond to those that say that if we pass 10a individuals and congregations will leave the PC(USA)?

I would say that we can't be held hostage by those petty enough to threaten to take their toys and go home if we don't play the game their way. Those who cannot worship with their fellow presbyterians if we permit freedom of conscience on this issue have my blessings to depart.

What should the Presbyterian Church focus on after Amendment 10a passes?

The most urgent issue by far is our theological approach to violence. I would like to see the PC(USA) begin the process of becoming a Peace Church. I would like to see GA appoint a commission to study scripture and the confessions and present a paper to a future GA for adoption as an authoritative interpretation stating that being Christian and Reformed entails gospel nonviolence, and urging peaceful resistance to militarism in our society.

A close second to the issue of violence is our strategy for church planting in the PC(USA). I'd like to see us begin planting churches much more aggressively, using the wealth of young talent we have coming out of our seminaries. I would recommend setting up a grant program where recent seminary graduates can receive two years part-time salary and be ordained to an innovative ministry they design and initiate. Instead of trying a dozen expensive NCD's nationwide next year, lets plant 300 cheap ministries and see which ones take root.

How does your understanding of Scripture frame your position on 10a?
Scripture is constantly woven into my views on everything like themes in a symphony. By immersing myself in it, my imagination is shaped by it and scriptural ideas appear even unintentionally in my thought stream. On 10-A in particular the Biblical trajectory of God's inclusive love has been ever expanding. God's servants have always been challenged not by who God denies or rejects, but like Jonah by who God embraces. To understand God means to have your mind changed to understand the people you previously regarded as unclean, undesirable, "other" as the objects of God's affection. Putting on the mind of Christ means learning to love and accept  those who God loves and accepts.

    Tuesday, January 18, 2011

    PresbyMEME: Why I Am Voting Yes on 10A

    Name, City, State
    Douglas Hagler, Dalton, OH

    Twitter and Facebook profiles
    Twitter: @robosnake
    Facebook: Douglas Hagler, Two Friars and A Fool, Dalton Presbyterian Church, Robosnake Games, The Stand-Up Comedian Party

    Presbytery and 10a voting date
    Muskingum Valley Presbytery; March 12, 2011

    Reason ONE that you are voting "yes" on 10a is...
    Instead of merely ONE reason, I offer...over two dozen good reasons why everyone should vote "yes" on 10a.  After writing and expanding upon each of those, it's actually kind of hard to come up with more.  Let's see.

    Reason TWO that you are voting "yes" on 10a is...
    The arguments against 10a are founded in theology and modes of interpretation I reject, including but not limited to: complementarianism, literalism, fundamentalism, and what I want to call "hypocriticalism", or "the hypoCritical method", whereby some conservative Biblical interpreters pretend they are not preferencing some parts of scripture over others, but rather pretend there is a singular "Biblical position" that we need only align ourselves with.

    Reason THREE that you are voting "yes" on 10a is...
    My mom is queer, and an ordained PC(USA) pastor.  You talkin' about my momma?  I'm-a slap you. [1]

    What are your greatest hopes for the 10a debate that will take place on the floor of your Presbytery?
    I am a coward, so I simply hope that no one yells at me, or at each other for that matter.  I hope that the justice and equality viewpoint, which is a minority viewpoint in my presbytery, will not lead people who know nothing else about me to think ill of me, or glare at me, or that kind of thing.  Basically, pessimism, cowardice and selfishness guide my hopes, such as they are.  I would like to see some movement from 30% in favor of justice and equality to some higher proportion when the vote finally comes down.  I hope not to hear anyone compare LGBTQ persons to pedophiles, drug addicts, people who have sex with animals, or people who are incestuous.

    I hope I don't blow my lid, particularly in the event that people actually make those false and obnoxious comparisons, in public where I can hear them.

    How would you respond to those that say that if we pass 10a individuals and congregations will leave the PC(USA)?
    To put it bluntly - no one is forcing any congregation to stay.  If justice for LGBTQ persons is too much to stomach for some congregations, then so be it.  I'd rather they stayed and saw our LGBTQ sisters and brothers as human beings worthy of dignity and called by God to serve in ministry.  Failing that, if they simply must leave, then they'll leave.  I'm sure congregations left when we started ordaining women as well.  I'm sure congregations got angry when we stopped speaking out against interracial marriages.  Remember when some Presbyteries said it wasn't ok to own slaves?  A lot of congregations left over that too.  If this is the deal-breaker for some congregations, then that's what it is.  That has no bearing whatsoever on whether this is the right thing to do - and it is the right thing.  In 50 years when the culture has sea-changed on this issue, we'll be hearing about evangelical mega-churches with burgeoning pro-LGBTQ outreach programs, just like we're suddenly hearing more about environmentalism and social justice from them now.

    What should the Presbyterian Church focus on after Amendment 10a passes?
    Becoming a committed peace church and regularly engaging in active, participatory nonviolent direct action.  While Jesus is silent on homosexuality, he is very clear that his disciples must never, under any circumstances, use violence.  Before it was co-opted by Empire, the Church was a peace Church.  We will always be the slaves of Empire until we return to Jesus' original way of (among other things) radical nonviolence.

    How does your understanding of Scripture frame your position on 10a?
    Scripture is an ancient collection of human documents, written by people who were inspired by their faith and experiences to write a wide variety of things.  It didn't descend on a cloud in King James English; it wasn't beamed into the writers' brains; God wasn't working them like puppets.  Human beings wrote it, and whatever anyone says, human beings are left to interpret it.  We pray and hope for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our own interpretation and thinking.

    It is a messy process, and it leads to a situation where the Church has been on the wrong side almost as much as on the right side, and the church has often had to be corrected by the culture rather than successfully correcting the culture.  This is to be expected when human beings are interpreting human writings which touch upon the deepest topics of human life and experience of the divine.

    Scripture is also just one of many things which we rightly take into account when discussing theology and church life, including philosophy and reason, science, history, our own personal and collective experiences, God's ongoing inspiration, what the various Christian traditions have to say on the matter, and so on.  This is right and good and necessary, and I believe, precisely what God intends for us to do.  To use our whole minds, our whole bodies, and our whole collective wisdom, to bring all of that to bear, to the best of our abilities.

    Bible-thumpers need not apply. [2]


    1. No, I won't literally slap you.  I'll just want to.  Nonviolence is for the violent, after all.

    2. If you want to read it and talk about it, I'm with you.  If you want to thump it or use it as a weapon, see above.

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011

    Broken Reeds

    This was the sermon I preached this last Sunday, January 9th. I had written an entirely different sermon focusing on the Baptism of Jesus in Matthew, but following the events of the week felt compelled to rewrite. Hat tip to George Macdonald whose ideas these were before they were mine

    Isaiah 42:1-9

    The words God spoke to Jesus at his baptism are echoed in many places through scripture including this passage from Isaiah where God says “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations.” Justice to the nations. As Jesus was being ordained, commissioned by God through John and the water of the river Jordan for his ministry of salvation this thought was reverberating in the background – that he would bring justice to the nations. And not just any kind of justice but one that is described as being so gentle it would not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick.

    This morning I ask you to meditate on justice. Justice is an ideal everyone will commend and everyone claim to desire and to serve, but I want you to consider whether we have any idea what justice is, in light of recent events in our society.

    Yesterday a young white man of 22 years, Jared Loughner, walked into the middle of a meeting in Tucson, Arizona and opened fire on a group of people gathered there to meet their congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords. Representative Giffords was hit in the head and at first believed dead, but is now known to be alive and in intensive care after surgery, and is under sedation as they wait to see if she will survive. Others were injured and six were killed outright including Gabe Zimmerman, an aide to the congresswoman. US District Judge John Roll. Dorothy Morris, 76. Dorwin Stoddard, 76. Phyllis Scheck, 79. Christina Greene, a child of 9.

    People are rightly shocked by this horrific violence, which unfortunately is only exceptional in that it targeted a political figure. On the same day 27 people were killed in the ongoing drug war in Mexico. There are 16 casualties on average every day in our conflict in Afghanistan. There are 11 or 12 deaths each day due to violence in Iraq. Given national averages, in our own country, 45 other murders occurred in America yesterday which received no national media attention.

    Regardless of the circumstances, the attack on Representative Giffords yesterday was a travesty. We should lift up our prayers on behalf of all of those injured, the families of those murdered, and the whole of our nation as it reflects on the complex dynamics that lead to violence.

    We must also pray for Jared Loughner, the man who decided to take a gun and point it at another human being and pull the trigger repeatedly. There will be a lot of over-analysis focusing on young Jared in the media in the coming days. His internet profile will be delved into. His personal life will be examined. His friends and family and acquaintances will be interviewed as everyone tries to come up with some explanation for why he chose to do what he did.

    Some people already are blaming the political rhetoric in our country which has gotten so intemperate that attack ads regularly indulge in violent metaphors “targeting” their opponents. We have reached a point where we no longer distinguish between political adversaries and enemies. The hatreds and divisions along ideological lines are stark these days much to our shame. That climate may have contributed to this attack, and it is definitely deplorable behavior, but Jared was still the one who pulled the trigger.

    Others will blame this attack on mental illness. They will say that Jared Loughner is a disturbed young man. A lone bad apple. Psychotic. Crazy.

    It is probably true that he is suffering from a madness, but if so it is a very mundane, even commonplace madness. It is a delusion that most of humanity suffers from – the delusion that retributive violence is a mechanism of justice.

    The servant of God is coming to bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth.

    Though we do not yet know the specific reasons Jared Loughner did what he did it is guaranteed that in his mind it was justified. He almost certainly did not fire that gun believing himself to be doing evil. He probably believed at the time, and perhaps even now, that his actions were in some way contributing to a just result. A righting of wrongs.

    This hysterical delusion has gripped humanity from our beginnings and though we have shaken it in rare and beautiful occasions, too often it has ruled the day. Our courts, our prisons, our armies, our security, our governments, our identities are built on the illusion that evil can be defeated by force, that wrongs can be righted by punishment.

    But punishment and retribution have no power to make things right. Violence can never establish peace.

    Consider a very basic example. If you have stolen something from me, how can this injustice be made right? If you are caught and sent to jail does this fix my injury? Even if the stolen object is found by the police and returned to me, has justice been accomplished? Won’t the lingering wound of having my privacy invaded, my trust violated remain? How can your punishment fix that? It doesn’t. There is only one way for amends to be made and that is for you to repent and come to me asking for forgiveness. That is it. No judge, no court, no police officer, no lightning bolt from the sky, no punishment of any kind can ever fix my injury. Only the one who injured me has the power to right the wrong. Only I, by forgiving, have the means to restore peace.

    But instead of repenting and seeking forgiveness, and instead of offering it to those who have wounded us we keep seeking justice through retribution. We keep hoping the proper application of punishment will heal our wounds. In our personal relationships this is deadly, and when applied to society as a whole, extrapolating our own grievous injuries onto the body politic it results in a massacre. Every time we turn to the sword for justice we end up with broken reeds scattered across the floor. Shattered lives, wrecked hopes, and dismembered dreams are all that remain of our quest for justice.

    We must conclude that we know nothing about the nature of justice, least of all God's justice which comes at the hands of one so gentle it does not break even a bruised reed. Justice, as Christ administers it, is not something opposed to forgiveness, not a force tempered by mercy, but mercy itself, forgiveness itself, reconciliation itself made concrete between victim and perpetrator so that not even a smoldering wick would be quenched by its arrival.

    Since humanity could reason we have always reasoned the costs of retributive violence justified. They are not, and never can be. No matter how we will it, or legislate it, or excuse it violence will never bring us either justice or peace. It will only heap more broken reeds on the pile.

    But there is a way for us to act justly toward one another. There is a way for us to make peace.

    In Egypt there is a sect of Christians, the Copts, who are a very small minority in that mostly Muslim country. Furthermore, the government of Egypt has not been protective of their rights, but has too often turned a blind eye to violence and persecution committed against the Copts by others. Recently the violence has been particularly bad with extreme Islamist groups attacking Coptic Christians in their churches. A car bomb just over a week ago on New Years Eve in Alexandria killed 21 Copts. 21 broken reeds. 21 lives cut short. No doubt the bombers believed like Jared Loughner and like all people who have ever committed violence for a cause that they were contributing to a better and more just future.

    But a movement sprung up in the wake of this latest bombing. Some Muslims began to say that they would not tolerate the violence. They would not tolerate the attacks supposedly made in their name against their fellow Egyptians. "An attack against one is an attack against us all," they said. Banners went up throughout the city of Alexandria showing a cross inside a crescent - symbolizing the unity of all Egyptians. A plan was formulated. Coptic Christians follow a different calendar than us in the west. Their Christmas holiday is on January 7th. During the mass to celebrate that holiday when Copts would be gathered in their churches and more attacks were feared Muslims began showing up at the doors and outside the churches holding candle-light vigils. They would be human shields, risking their lives, so that if any violence were attempted against the Copts it would kill Muslims too.

    Thousands. They stood up by the thousands willing to take a bullet for people very different from them. People with no political power or importance. People their own government wouldn't protect. They arrived like God's justice- quietly, but formidably. Irresistible in its graciousness, and so gentle that not even a bruised reed was broken.

    They proved conclusively by their actions that violence can never establish justice. But love can.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011


    Thank you for following through each of these posts and for engaging in discussion, even when it became frustrating to do so on both sides.  We will continue to have this conversation, but we will also be moving toward new issues and topics.  The issue of LGBTQ ordination has taken up a tremendous amount of our time and energy in the last couple of months, but it is far from what we see to be the greatest challenge facing the Church today.  LGBTQ ordination is merely an instance where we felt we could make many very powerful arguments in favor of inclusion, and could further refute many poor arguments put forward against equality for LGBTQ persons.

    There are not even selfish reasons to retain G-6.0106b and continue to unjustly exclude LGBTQ persons from ordination. That single clause will not prevent frustrated congregations from leaving the denomination, nor will it convince parishioners frustrated with decades of conflict over this issue to remain. It will not maintain even a veneer of peace, unity and purity in the church. G-6.0106b does not put our current debates over ordination to rest. What it means is that barely more than half of the denomination is able to force its interpretation of ordination on every individual Presbytery, congregation, and member of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

    Getting rid of G-6.0106b will not force a single Presbytery or congregation to ordain or accept a single candidate they do not vote to accept. What it will do is enable thousands of congregations and dozens of Presbyteries who have been a slight minority in the denomination right now to consider, just consider, LGBTQ persons for ordination where they might be called to serve.

    In a situation where believers disagree in good faith according to their conscience, where 30 years or argument has not made any progress in producing consensus, it seems most reasonable, most just, and best to allow freedom of conscience. Nothing is preserved when 51% of the denomination maintains a specific litmus-test and forces 49% to apply it. There is no other clause like G-6.0106b which is aimed at a specific issue in the same way in all of the Book of Order. G-6.0106b is an aberration in our polity, and we are better off in every conceivable way without it. It is not justified ethically, rationally, politically nor theologically. It is time for us to vote in favor of inclusion.

    Saturday, January 8, 2011

    The Church is currently lending tacit support to mocking, bullying, torment and exclusion suffered by LGBTQ persons

    (1)LGBTQ persons are being mocked, bullied, tormented, and discriminated against at this very moment, possibly jailed or even executed overseas.(2) Some in recent days have taken their own lives as a direct result of this hateful treatment.(3) Every second we fail to stand up and declare unequivocally that God loves them and they are welcome, is a second we acquiesce to bigotry and tacitly support bullies.(4) It is time to begin undoing the harm official church policies of exclusion have wrought.

    1. We can be thankful that the Church is no longer, in the United States, and other industrialized countries at least, able to lend it's open support to mocking, bullying and torment of LGTBQ persons, any more than the Church can any longer support anti-Semitism, as it did for many centuries.  This is not the case in most of the rest of the world.  The Church still can and does lend it's open support to exclusion, of course - that is part of what is at issue here.

    2. Here we are of course speaking of the most notable example of Uganda, where homosexuality may become a capital offense.  Rather than winking and nodding at such reprehensible legislation, the Church should be denouncing it thoroughly and clearly in every possible venue.

    3. We have seen in the news that mocking, bullying and torment can drive LGBTQ persons, as well as others in groups which are the targets of derision, to commit suicide.  Again, as with the case in Uganda, the Church should take pains to distance itself from such reprehensible behavior.  Instead, the position of the anti-inclusion crowd isn't that the bullies and mockers are wrong, only that they use the wrong methods.

    4. And not only bullies, but possibly execution-squads and lynch-mobs as well.  What in affluent, industrialized society is an issue of bullying is much more serious in failed or tenuous states which do not provide their citizens with the many protections we enjoy.

    Wednesday, January 5, 2011

    No church that does not choose a LGBTQ minister, Elder or Deacon will ever have to ordain one

    (1)Even if the PC(USA) is to begin ordaining LGBTQ persons this very moment, there is no church anywhere in the denomination which would be forced to accept any particular LGBTQ pastor, Elder or Deacon against its will.(2) It is the Presbytery’s function to examine candidates for Ministry of Word and Sacrament, and that will continue without interruption when G-6.0106b is erased from the Book of Order.(3) The fact is that G-6.0106b does not protect anyone from anything. All it does is ensure that people who are demonstrably called to pastoral ministry are not allowed to live that calling out, and churches in need of pastoral leadership are unable to find it.(4)

    1. This was one claim that we made which Rev. Tom Hobson called dishonest, but in our response to him we demonstrated very clearly why this is the case, and will be the case for the foreseeable future.

    2. This is not, nor ever has been, an issue of somehow forcing squirming Presbyterians to accept ministers, Elders or Deacons their congregations and Presbyteries do not choose.  That is absurd, as well as beyond the scope of Amendment 10A.

    3. As we said earlier, G-6.0106b adds nothing whatsoever of value to the Book of Order, and in losing it, we lose nothing but a shackle on the Gospel.

    4. What we have in our current system is the enforcement of a particular stance on a non-essential in the Reformed faith.  Intelligent, faithful people of good conscience can and do disagree on LGBTQ ordination.  For this very reason, we should expunge G-6.0106b.

    Sunday, January 2, 2011

    LGBTQ persons already serve in other denominations

    LGBTQ persons are serving in ordained ministry in various denominations currently and the predicted denominational collapses have not taken place.(1) The real harm is being done however by our continuing to fight over this issue, which damages the peace, unity and purity of the church particular and universal, as well as the witness of the church to the world.(2)
    Furthermore, we must never shrink from doing what is right for the sake of protecting our denomination. Even if acting justly causes a mass exodus from our denomination, that is no reason to continue to act unjustly.(3)

    1. This issue has been addressed in the UCC, ELCA, UU, Episcopal Church, MCC, the GAAAP, the RPI, Religious Society of Friends, the Swedenborgian Church of North America, the Uniting Church in Australia, and others, all of which ordain "practicing" LGBTQ persons.  Other churches like the United Methodists and even the Moravian Church are where the PC(USA) is - actively moving toward LGBTQ ordination. As you can see from the long, robust, and growing list of churches ordaining LGBTQ persons, there has been no great collapse.  Their ministry and witness is not compromised.  In fact, these open and affirming denominations and organizations are in a better position than the PC(USA) currently is - they are benefiting from the calling, gifts and fruits of their sisters and brothers.

    2. What is certainly tearing denominations apart is the lethal attempt to combine the Gospel with bigotry.

    3. We cannot imagine one who loves and follows Jesus Christ choosing the life and health of the denomination over their life with God.  The Protestant Reformation, which resulted in so many denominations today, was a catastrophe for the Roman Catholic Church, breaking apart its stronghold in Europe at the time.  Should we then say that the Reformation should never have happened?