Thursday, July 31, 2003

And PCUSA supports THIS? 

There are many times when I get weary over the number of non-Christian, un-Christian, and even anti-Christian things that get promoted as if they were actually Christian. The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, sponsored in part by the PCUSA Washington Office, is a case in point. The Christian sexual ethic gets completely watered down if not tossed out entirely by this crew.

Heather Bernstorf, a student at Asbury College and intern at the Institute of Religion and Democracy in Washington, D.C., writes an excellent report of a religious summit on sexuality put on by RCRC. Read it and weep. The church of Jesus Christ must have a better message than this for our society!

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

The Law of Unintended Consequences 

There is much in the news these days about homosexuality, including the Supreme Court's decision on Texas's sodomy laws. Wouldn't one expect the common person on the street -- the person without the benefit of the knowledge of God's commands about sexual behavior -- to just kind of go with the flow of pro-homosexuality sentiment?

Not so. A recent poll reported in USA Today notes that there has actually been a popular BACKLASH against the decision, with people returning to more conservative opinions, reversing a recent trend toward liberalized attitudes.

History isn't always a movement in a single direction. Often it acts more like a pendulum in motion, swinging one way for a time, and then reversing itself. Opinions have swung toward license for some time now. Let's pray that we've reached the end of the pendulum swing, and that we'll watch it swing back toward God's gracious plan for our sexual practices.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Fraternal Order of Presbyterians? 

A news story about Elk Lodges sounded awfully familiar to me: a loss of members, the pressing need to attract young families, each person reach out to one new person.

Read through the story and substitute Presbyterian where you see elks , Moderator where you see Grand Exalted Ruler, and church where you see lodge . You're on your own with the line: "The Moose also have eliminated the use of head gear and robes in their ceremonies." Presbyterians aren't quite on the, uh, horns of the same dilemma.

It's almost eerie how the story could be about the PCUSA. Well, eerie, and tragic, because the PCUSA has a Savior and Lord the world is dying to know.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

A quote for all seasons 

"If you cannot pluck up bad ideas by the root, if you cannot cure longstanding evils as completely as you would like, you must not therefore abandon the commonwealth. Don't give up the ship in a storm because you cannot direct the winds. And don't arrogantly force strange ideas on people who you know have set their minds on a different course from yours. You must strive to influence policy indirectly, handle the situation tactfully, and thus what you cannot turn to good, you may at least make less bad. For it is impossible to make all institutions good unless you make all men good, and that I don't expect to see for a long time to come."
Sir Thomas More, Utopia

What's up with the Baltimore review? 

Baltimore Presbytery was the focus of a lot of consternation the last twelve months, due to some semi-official stands they took on gay-ordination issues. PFR commented on it November 19, 2002.

The Synod of the Mid-Atlantic appointed an administrative committee to look into any irregularities. They began what they thought would be a reasonably speedy process after the first of the year. It is now late July, and the story is colder than a Fudgesicle.

A talk today with John Goodman of Coastal Carolina Presbytery, chair of the administrative committee, brought me up to date: They are behind in their work, primarily because fickle weather cancelled three of their meetings since January. They met just recently on July 15 and are being diligent and responsible in the pursuit of their responsibilities. They hope to have a final report by the October 17 or 18 meeting of the Synod of the Mid-Atlantic.

Patience is a virtue, and ya gotta have it in this business! Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

A peek inside a "progressive" squabble 

Those who want to remove "fidelity and chastity" are not happy with one another, mainly over the issues of tactics and timing. For a great view of how the other side is feuding among themselves, check out this letter.

In addition, this letter gives an interesting perspective on the multiple charges being lodged by Paul Jensen: Might they leave such a sour taste in people's mouths that they would CREATE an atmosphere for removing "fidelity and chastity," when now just the opposite is true? That's what the writer contends.

See for yourself.

We're not the only group applying pressure 

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction...

Many renewal groups are working to maintain the sexual standards that God gave us in the Bible. So we speak out, apply pressure appropriately, and work to see that the bar doesn't get lowered just because as a society we currently wade in a moral cesspool.

But there are others on the other side who are just as determined to rewrite God's law and take the PCUSA with them into places we ought not go.

In May, the General Assembly passed an overture that was intended to urge pastoral care for gay persons and their families. Pastoral care is ALWAYS appropriate. However, the amended overture that G.A. passed (which deflected a brazen attempt to get the denomination in the business of gay advocacy by establishing such a denominational department or entity) is now in the process of being twisted into what it definitely was NOT intended to be.

See an article on the Witherspoon website to get an idea of the kinds of efforts that are being planned to influence our denomination to become partisan AGAINST its own policy. Countering letters and phone calls from orthodox Presbyterians might well help sound decisions to be made.

Monday, July 21, 2003

Is per capita mandatory? Nope. 

Paying per capita apportionments cannot be compelled by presbytery, according to a ruling by the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission, although sessions operate under a high moral obligation to pay their fair share of the costs of Presbyterian government.

The ruling is explained in a detailed article by attorney Kathy Miller Trimble, who argued the winning side of the case. Articles in The Layman Online and Presbyterian Outlook also offer viewpoints on the ruling. This GAPJC decision ought to make it abundantly clear that our Constitution does give sessions the right to determine how congregational benevolences are spent.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Jesus' so-called "silence" about homosexuality 

Have you ever heard the argument that says, "Jesus said absolutely nothing about homosexuality, so therefore he must have been in favor of it"? That argument from silence is regularly tossed about. I must have heard it several times at the recent General Assembly.

Rick Minnich, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Ogden, Utah, gives us a scholarly and concise counter to that logically weak contention in a paper available in the Resources section of the PFR website. It turns out that Jesus DID speak about homosexuality, but even if he had not, his silence on the matter would have meant that he was opposed to homosexual practice. Rick has done a great job making points you will find useful.

And this is liberal! 

The row in the Church of England over the attempted consecration of Canon Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading, despite his acknowledged homosexual partnership, is not unlike what is happening in the PCUSA. The Guardian newspaper printed a commentary particularly harsh on evangelical Christians.

The sheer, bold disdain of believing Christians in this article is matched only by the author's abysmal ignorance of the purpose of a church and the ways of belief. I commend this article to your reading, definitely NOT because I come close to agreeing with it, but because it portends what may well become the norm on this side of the ocean as well. In our post-Christian western culture, we will not only not be appreciated; we can also expect to be roundly excoriated.

It happened to Jesus. Get ready for it to happen to us more and more, because we're trying to be like Jesus.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Inflated numbers

A recent article in Presbyterian Outlook gave the impression that renewal groups have a $10 million ordination-standards "war chest," ten times greater than that of liberal groups. Both a $10 million figure and the idea of a "war chest" are off the mark.

First, the $10 million figure is the combined total budgets of several renewal groups, budgets that contain enormous amounts of pass-through income, such as PFR's over $3 million in camp registrations that get paid to hotels and food vendors.

Second, renewal groups spend large parts of their gift income on broad ministries that have nothing to do with denominational issues, and even the money they spend on issues is split among a number of issues beyond ordination standards.

PFR's $4.7 million total receipts was a large chunk of the estimated $10 million "war chest." But of that only $1.4 million is actual donations, and of that only about $170,000 is used for issues ministry in particular, and of that only a portion is used for the single issue of ordination standards. No, PFR and other renewal groups have no $10 million stockpile of money to combat the lowering of ordination standards. [Click here for a fuller explanation published in an Outlook Guest Viewpoint.]

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