Friday, March 26, 2004

All the stuff that's fit to print 

The Presbyterian Publishing Corporation is turning over a new leaf. Not letting volumes of dust cover their discontinued mission statement, they have authored an abridged version, whose contents I would thus edit to give it more spine (edits offset in brackets):

"[Without needlessly] building on [but rather staying faithfully within] the Reformed Tradition, the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation seeks to glorify God by contributing to the [biblical,] spiritual and intellectual vitality of [those in] Christ's Church [who still actually believe in Christianity].

"To that end, PPC publishes [biblically faithful] resources that advance [solidly Reformed, rather than hardly] religious scholarship [unlike our time of temporary insanity when we printed John Hick's work], stimulate conversation about [actually upholding rather than dismissing biblical] moral values, and inspire faithful living [as the Bible and our Confessions define 'faithful,' and we will never, ever, ever again publish a single word written by Chris Glaser, so help us God, cross our hearts, hope to die.]"

I think the amplified version could become a best-seller.

Unbalanced "justice" 

[This is a "guest blog" by Bruce Williams, the prolific Presbyterian sage of San Francisco, in response to the March 22 blog below.}

[Tragically, four days after this guest blog was posted, our Christian brother Bruce died suddenly of a heart attack while jogging in San Francisco. The church militant lost an insightfull and articulate voice of faith and reason; the church triumphant welcomed home a good and faithful servant. I mourn Bruce's loss and am going to miss his wisdom and commentary. At the same time I celebrate with him his transformation into the life that is really LIFE! The Lord gives; the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. --Jim Berkley]

Some further reflections on the recent Methodist "trial":

What is disturbing to me is a growing recognition that the process of this trial had very little to do with justice. Any truthful process of justice requires a careful balancing between compassion and dispassion.

The Methodist trial was reflective of a position that has gone beyond any real commitment to justice and into a place that can only be described as fanaticism. That's a place, when combined with religion, that has been regularly and historically demonstrated as the most intolerant and dangerous place for the health and welfare of the society.

Monday, March 22, 2004

A Corrupt, Damning Decision 

Mobs pay no attention to the law. They’re sure they know better than the law, and so they become an emotional law unto themselves, acting as they want to act, not as the law says they must act.

A deceptively orderly mob—passing as a United Methodist jury, but nevertheless a mob—mugged Methodist law last week near Seattle, leaving a host of victims in the Karen Dammann trial.

A sorry, sad victim of this mob rule is any sense of order, law, integrity, or rightness. Thirteen clergy jurors could look at the passage in the Methodist Discipline that reads “Since the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be accepted as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church” and then say “We searched the Discipline and did not find a declaration that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” (See the news story or the official jury statement.) In addition:
• The bishop bringing the charges did not want to be successful in prosecuting them.
• The minister who prosecuted the case presented limp, wooden, perfunctory arguments; failed to maximize his opportunity to seat an unbiased jury; called only one witness for the prosecution; and then wasted no time in expressing his personal joy and relief when his case failed. He never wanted to win.
• Although jurors are instructed that those “who state that they cannot in good conscience uphold the Discipline are ineligible to serve on a (church) trial jury” and should excuse themselves from service, these jurors didn’t have the integrity to “step aside.”
• The bishop presiding over the court allowed the Methodist Discipline, itself, to be put on trial, as if the regional court had the right to make national law rather than adjudicate it.

There's a word for all this: corruption.

Methodist church members are further victims. In the entire Northwest, are there not thirteen pastors to be found who knew integrity from deception in order to sit on the jury? With this kind of pastoral leadership, how can the UMC ever prosper here? And how many churches will be further weakened by this controversy and a regional structure that has lost its theological mind?

Rev. Dammann’s church members are victims. They’ve already been saddled with a pastor more intent on doing her own thing than on serving their best interests. Her flock seems quite secondary to this shepherd. She has spent more time on personal leave than serving the church, but she did find time to go to Portland, Oregon, right before the trial for an outlawed, in-your-face "wedding" service with her partner. And after the verdict inexplicably fell her way, she said, “It washed over me that it was over and I was still in the kingdom. It was an overwhelming feeling.” Say what? The trial wasn’t to remove her from the Kingdom! Here is a pastor who doesn’t understand the elementary difference between having “sacred worth” as an individual in the Kingdom of God and yet being fully capable of sin and fully needing to repent. What other confused messages does she feed her starving sheep?

The greatest victim, however, is the Rev. Karen Dammann, herself, the self-avowed practicing lesbian minister under trial. She now thinks that continuing in sin is perfectly okay with God. She now has the official license of the United Methodist Church to practice her sin unabated. No one had the Christian love to tell her that her sin is killing her and separating her from Christ, as long as it remains unconfessed.

And how many other homosexual persons—valuable souls whom God loves—will be similar victims, encouraged by this mob action to continue, unrestrained by God's loving will, in sin that would damn them?


Click here for a statement from James V. Heidinger II of the Methodist renewal group Good News.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Methodist Mob Rule 

An Epic Poem about the Virtues of United Methodist Justice
(Inspired by the Karen Dammann case.)

by James D. Berkley

The rule of law?

The End

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Involvement in polity 

"The penalty that good men pay for not being interested in politics is to be governed by men worse than themselves."

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Amendment 03-G fails 

As of late afternoon March 16, the vote tally for Constitutional amendments indicated that every remaining presbytery that had not yet voted on the amendments coming out of the 2003 General Assembly had to vote for Amendment 03-G (see page 28) for it to carry. That did not happen.

The evening of March 16, Seattle Presbytery voted to disapprove Amendment 03-G, and it will not become part of our Constitution.

Amendment 03-G had honorable intentions. It sought to compel immediate administrative leave for any pastor or church staff member accused of sexual misconduct with a minor or a person unable to give consent. Everyone wants to protect the innocent and powerless.

However, the amendment provided absolutely no due process for the accused. With only a written accusation, the person would automatically be removed from any exercise of ministry until the conclusion of the disciplinary process, which often can take months. Frivolous or malicious accusations could ruin an innocent leader's reputation, without any opportunity for wisdom or judgment to prevail. Thus, the amendment was defeated.

Help is on the way, however. First, the General Assembly set up temporary safeguards that would call for administrative leave if a quick hearing suggests the need. And second, an overture (04-17 from Baltimore) is coming to this summer's General Assembly and would provide the no-nonsense protections Amendment 03-G would have mandated, but also adds a quick examination of the accusation before an administrative leave would be required. Given the heightened concern about abuse, I would expect it to pass.

We must protect the most vulnerable from abuse. But the answer can't be "some provision, ANY provision!" It needs to be a wise and fair constitutional provision. I believe the presbyteries understood this, and I look forward to the perfection and approval of Overture 04-17 this summer to be just that wise provision that we seek.

Monday, March 08, 2004

The Harm of Gay Marriage 

"What can be the harm of it?" we hear almost incessantly these days about permitting homosexual pairs to marry. "Why not just let them decide whom they will love?"

It sounds somewhat reasonable at first blush. There's a lot of love to go around. Two other people deciding they love each other isn't going to break up my marriage. So what's the harm?


First, it begins with God. God is harmed. King David said so wisely in Psalm 51 (about his heterosexual infidelity), "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight." God set things up so that faithful married heterosexual monogamy was the only proper place for sexual intercourse. When we offend against that God-ordained standard, we offend God. Such sin is revolting. Literally.

Second, each offending individual is harmed. No one sins without having to deal with the consequences. There is real ontological guilt before God (whether felt or not). There is punishment, both spiritually in separation from God and even physically (is it any surprise that illicit sex causes disease and other physical damage to a body?). Setting up faux "marriages" for homosexual persons encourages or at least condones a behavior that injures those involved, which is hardly a wise or loving thing to do.

Third, those promoting such godlessness are harmed. Aren't there some "Woe to you!" statements about causing another to stumble? Isn't there something like a millstone to be placed around the necks of those who lead others astray? Blind guides and foolish counselors do themselves harm by mindlessly aping the "advice" of a culture more interested in lustful indulgence than in godly discipline.

Fourth, society is harmed. If you want to see a preview of what the U.S. could become by casting aside God's moral laws, look to Scandinavia, where anything-goes relationships HAVE weakened heterosexual marriage and produced a majority of children born out of wedlock who lack the advantages of two complementary parents. Even homosexuals there now frequently don't bother to register their "marriages," now that they've wrested the "right." We don't have to descend to that level!

Fifth, children would be harmed. Studies show that children simply do better with a mother and a father married to each other. God made the little tykes pretty adaptable, and they can often survive any number of assaults against God's best plan for their protection and nurture. But everything else equal, they do better with a mom and a dad--not a mom and a mom, a dad and a dad, or a parent with a succession of lovers of whatever stripe.

And sixth, reasonable order is harmed. Once marriage becomes, uh, DIVORCED from biblical morality, then absolutely anything goes. Logically, one cannot argue for "the right of someone to choose whom they will love" or even "the absolute right to marry" for homosexual persons without likewise arguing for the approval of polygamy (lots of wives), polyamory (lots of lovers), polyandry (lots of husbands), incest (lots of shared genes), pedophilia (lots of problems), or any number of other "choices." Marriage has already been regulated in terms of the relatedness of partners (incest) or the number of partners (polygamy), for instance. It is not unreasonable for it to be regulated in regard to the gender of partners. No, not unreasonable, but quickly being touted as unfashionable.

The next time you hear a mindless "What's the harm?" know that there's plenty of harm when something God got quite right the first time around gets scrambled. Wouldn't you expect the Maker to be a reliable source of good counsel in the User's Manual--the Bible?

(For further reference: A fine article in Christianity Today provides further arguments and a lot of documentation. Archbishop Sean O'Malley of Boston wrote a clear and compelling opinion article in the Boston Globe. Blogster Mark Roberts provides yet another argument against gay marriage.)

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?