An historic change will take place in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on Sunday when a measure takes effect allowing openly gay men and women in same-sex relationships to be ordained as clergy.
The change, which was approved by a majority of the church’s regional bodies in May after contentious debate in the 2.8-million member denomination, is being marked by a day of prayer at dozens of churches.
I love the difference which often appears in print between openly gay and I guess closed gay or something. It is a misnomer to think that denominations haven’t been ordaining gay men and women for a very long time and only now will begin too.
Some will say that the difference is now that they are doing so openly.
While the Office of the General Assembly awaits official tallies, it appears that a majority of the 173 presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have approved a change in PC(USA) ordination standards.
At its meeting on Tuesday, May 10, 2011, the Presbytery of Twin Cities Area became the 87th presbytery to approve an amendment that will remove the constitutional requirement that all ministers, elders, and deacons live in “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness” (G-6.0106b in the church’s Book of Order).
The new language reads, “Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G-1.0000). The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation (G.14.0240; G-14.0450) shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003). Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.”
….The effect of the new language also opens up the possibility that persons in same-gender relationships can be considered for ordination.
To say the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is deathly ill is not editorializing but acknowledging reality. Over the past year, a group of PC(USA) pastors has become convinced that to remain locked in unending controversy will only continue a slow demise, dishonor our calling, and offer a poor legacy to those we hope will follow us. We recently met in Phoenix, and have grown in number and commitment. We humbly share responsibility for the failure of our common life, and are no better as pastors nor more righteous than anyone on other sides of tough issues.
Why? You’ll have to find out their claims, but I hope that it is not more from the Confessing Church movement crowd.
Here are two things which catch my eye:
Values: Property and assets under stewardship of the local Session. Dues/Gifts for common administration should only allow and enable continued affiliation among these congregations;
Proposal: Congregations and presbyteries that remain in a denomination that fundamentally changes will become an insurmountable problem for many. Some members of the Fellowship will need an entity apart from the current PC(USA). It is likely that a new body will need to be created, beyond the boundary of the current PC(USA), while remaining in correspondence with its congregations. The wall between these partner Reformed bodies will be permeable, allowing congregations and pastors to be members in the Fellowship regardless of denominational affiliation. All kinds of possibilities exist, and much will depend on how supportive the PC(USA) can be in allowing something new to flourish.
This is what I see happening – the conservative minded members what to divest the PCUSA from ownership of the local instruments of congregational worship and governance. Then, they want to former their own body within the PCUSA. In other words, and I may be wrong, they want to be able to take their buildings with them when they leave.
Following up on the report from here, today the General Assembly of the PC(USA) voted for a revised report on Middle East peace.
Just before breaking for lunch today, the 219th Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly approved a radically revised version of the report from its Middle East Study Committee (known in procedural code as 14-08). The vote was 558 affirmative, 119 negative, 7 abstaining. The revised report can be found here.
The Jewish Council on Public Affairs and 12 other Jewish organizations have now released a joint response to the PC(USA) vote.
In recognizing Israel’s security needs while striving to remain faithful to the church’s Palestinian Christian partners, the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has embraced a more thoughtful approach to Middle East peacemaking.
As the greatest peacemaker of the last century said, “I believe it is peace in our time.”
I realize that this is a touchy issue for many. Those on the right of the issue see everything through the lens of Zionism, which is, in my opinion, unbiblical. However, those of us on the left cannot forget the matters of religion which are at play here.
Recently, the Methodist Church in Britain has decided to boycott Israel over their injustice to the Palestinians. Today, there is news the Presbyterian Church (USA), arguably the more liberal of the bunch, may consider something that, in my opinion, is a step in the right direction. At first glance, I agree with the Methodists in Britain concerning the injustice in Palestine, however, by boycotting products from those settlements which they consider illegal they are hurting the innocents among the settlements while they are championing the innocents among the Palestinians. The saying goes here, that an injustice to one is and injustice to all. There should be a better than, especially since the problems between Israel and the Palestinians are concerned more their respective governments than with the people themselves.
Yes, Hamas was democratically elected, but so was Hitler and so was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Why? Because the peoples in those elections felt threatened and fear won. Hamas is a product of Israeli injustice, truth be told, just as Benjamin Netanyahu is a product of Hamas’ terrorism. (Don’t call it freedom fighting when you kill innocents; it is terrorism.) At some point, both sides will either kill each other, or their will be peace with justice. There are reasonable Christians who feel we must defend the Jewish people by any measure, and in doing so, refuse to separate the political nation of Israel from God’s People of the Jews. Perhaps that is a better place to start.
After all, God’s political economy for Israel involved a King from the line of David, and there is nothing in Israel resembling that. Perhaps we should look at the Maccabean period, which saw Israel defeat an enemy and gain independence. She had a king, but not of David. And what happened? It fell, horribly. If we take these issues biblically, surely we can see that not everyone who claims to be a Jew and not everyone who claims to be Israel is in fact what they really claim to be. Yet, some wonderful and reasonable Christians will bend over backwards, even to the point of excusing Israel’s injustices against Christians, so as to defend Israel the geo-political unit. There has to be a better way.
Maybe the PC(USA) is on the right track? Something that takes into account the people.
Dear Commissioners to the 219th General Assembly,
Thank you as elders and ministers for taking the time to serve the church in your local congregation and session, presbytery, synod and now on our highest governing body, the 219th General Assembly. We know the amount of reading material before you can be overwhelming. You are in our prayers as you discern the will of God and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit for our beloved PC(USA) on all the issues before the Assembly.
The purpose of our letter is to ask you to support and approve the Middle East Study Committee report for the following reasons:
1. The committee membership was chosen to represent the church by our 3 moderators, mandated by the 218th General Assembly, and consisted of different points of view. One from our midst, Rev. Susan Andrews who was the Moderator of the 215th General Assembly, served on the committee.
2. Their mandate was to write a comprehensive report about the Middle East — focusing on Israel/Palestine, in the context of the whole region. They were asked to talk with the people in the region, particularly our Christian partners, and Jews and Muslims. Their mandate did not focus solely on talking with the American Jewish community. That dialogue is essential as we move forward, but this is a Presbyterian statement and is a work in progress.
3. Their report builds on — and assumes — all the reports and statements that have been adopted by the GA in previous years — including the many statements that give voice to a Jewish and Israeli perspective. This report gives voice to the Palestinian Christian voice in a way that has not been heard before — in response to the urgency of the moment and the plea of our Christian brothers and sisters in the region to be heard. There is unanimity among all the many diverse Christian voices in the region in a way that has never happened before. It is a voice of suffering and urgency — and is echoed by moderate Muslim partners. The window of opportunity is closing for a peaceful solution to the problems in Israel/Palestine, and the threat of renewed violence is everywhere. The Christian presence has dwindled significantly in the past 50 years in Palestine/Israel, and so, the voice of reconciliation that Christians have always represented in the region is being silenced.
4. Their report reaffirms what the PCUSA has wanted for decades — a desire for commitment to a peaceful two state solution, within secure and recognized borders, in a nuclear free Middle East; the right of return or compensation for refugees, the security barrier pulled back to the 1967 borders, the end of settlement expansion, the right of Israel to exist next to a sovereign, independent and economically viable Palestine, a shared Jerusalem, all with a clear repudiation of anti-Semitism.
5. Their report lifts up the Kairos document for study — not approval — so that a collaborative Palestinian Christian voice can be heard. The study team report affirms the emphases in the Kairos document on non-violence and reconciliation and hope. The report does not affirm or endorse language about boycott, divestment, or sanction, although, it reaffirms corporate engagement and other non-violent ways to end support for the occupation.
6. The biblical and theological section clearly repudiates any hint of Christian Zionism or supercessionism. What it does do is tie responsibilities for justice, human rights and hospitality to the biblical understanding of land rights.
In light of the urgency of the situation in Israel/Palestine, the 43 years of Israeli military occupation over the lives of 4 million Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, the continuous building of settlements is making the two state solution increasingly difficult.
We urge you to be a prophetic assembly by approving this report to help the whole church begin a two year study of Israel and Palestine and asking our people to travel and meet Israeli Jews, Palestinian Christians and Muslims, and see the situation for themselves. Our church must continue to love both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs and continue to struggle with them to work for truth, freedom, justice, reconciliation and peace.
Again, we urge you to support and vote in favor of this report.