I'm not that kind of Presbyterian

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The national assembly Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA) has authorized congregations to use alternative names for the Holy Trinity in worship:

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The divine Trinity — "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" — could also be known as "Mother, Child and Womb" or "Rock, Redeemer, Friend" at some Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) services under an action Monday by the church's national assembly.

Delegates to the meeting voted to "receive" a policy paper on gender-inclusive language for the Trinity, a step short of approving it. That means church officials can propose experimental liturgies with alternative phrasings for the Trinity, but congregations won't be required to use them.

"This does not alter the church's theological position, but provides an educational resource to enhance the spiritual life of our membership," legislative committee chair Nancy Olthoff, an Iowa laywoman, said during Monday's debate on the Trinity.

Evidently not one to be content with half-hearted heresy, Josh Trevino has further suggestions, including:

  • Superman, Batman, and Green Lantern
  • Rock, Paper, and Scissors
  • Moe, Larry, and Curley

Pejman Yousefzadeh chimes in at Red State. Here's a sample:

  • Alvin, Simon and Theodore
  • Tinker, Evers and Chance
  • Dewey, Cheatham and Howe

He also suggests "Sonny, Michael, and Fredo," but I think "Vito, Michael, and Tom Hagen" makes for a better parallel.

Nearly all of the Presbyterian Churches in Tulsa are a part of the PCUSA. Christ Presbyterian Church is a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). I usually describe it as the Bible-believing Presbyterian denomination (as opposed to the liberal mainline denomination).

While the PCA (which has its General Assembly this week) has its lively theological debates, they are well within the scope of the Westminster Confession, the historic standard of Presbyterian belief. There are 27 overtures on the agenda -- many dealing with presbytery boundaries and committee structure -- but the big theological issue at this year's GA will be whether the Federal Vision / Auburn Avenue / New Perspectives on Paul understanding of covenants and justification are within the bounds of PCA doctrine.

I know a lot of good, devout Christian folk who belong to PCUSA congregations, and there are PCUSA congregations that are, by and large, faithful to the Scriptures. When the northern and southern mainline churches reunited in the early '80s, there was a period in which congregations could withdraw and align with another denomination, without forfeiting their church buildings, which are owned by the denomination, not the individual congregation.

That grace period has long since ended. It would be a huge sacrifice for a congregation to leave the PCUSA, but the level of nonsense seems to grow year after year.

UPDATE: Tom Gray, pastor of Kirk of the Hills in Tulsa, one of those faithful Bible-believing, gospel-preaching congregations in the PCUSA, has been blogging the PCUSA General Assembly. One of the commenters below mentions passage of the PUP report -- "Peace, Unity, and Purity." Gray says of the report's adoption:

The PCUSA rejected clear, important Biblical injunctions on sexual behavior in order to adjust to our culture’s standards. "Sola Scriptura" has become "Via Vulgaris."

A bit further on:

I had the chance, following the vote, to visit with many people in the various conservative renewal groups. Some are claiming "victory," since there was a minor alteration in one paragraph, and because the GA did not strike down G-6.0106b (the "chastity and fidelity" clause).

On the first they are, I believe, deluded. The whole point of the PUP report has been to start a new "experiment" in being the church; an experiment that allows for the ordination of practicing homosexuals and, inevitably, the encouragement and endorsement of same-sex marriages. On the second, retaining G-6.0106b is irrelevant since local option negates it.

His description of the committee that reviewed the PUP report will tell you a lot about the forces that have control of the denomination. Here are his notes of comments made by committee members about the notion of allowing local option ordination standards.

In a comment on that post, Gray echoes the concern I had (which, thankfully, didn't come to pass) about the commission that was reviewing Tulsa's City Charter. It's a common disease of committees:

What I find most frustrating here is that commissioners (some) tend to want to be "nice" and go along with what is presented to them. Because the average member (commissioner) is not highly Biblically literate, thery are vulnerable to "experts." Combine that with the "niceness" factor and we have a high speed slippery slope.

He elaborates on this in a later entry:

I have deep reservations about the committee process at General Assembly. When commissioners first arrive they are instructed as to how to work in the committee. This is done, in my experience, through a process where the commissioners are repeatedly enjoined to suspend their previous opinions. The upshot of this, particularly for vulnerable commissioners, is the sense that opposition to what someone else says is in bad taste.

He goes on to describe the "discernment" time that the Ecclesiology Committee went through before starting its work. Here is part of what the leader of that session said:

"One of the ways to know the opening of God is when there is energy; when there is freedom, openness and freshness. Another is in that neutral place, letting go of agenda or outcome. Imagine one of the options open to you and imagine going down that pathway." [Letting go of agenda is what the "standard" commissioner preparation tries to accomplish. Is it a bad thing to have a strong opinion? Why?—Tom]

I suspect that the experts aren't letting go of their agendas, but they want these lay people to feel that they are following the Holy Spirit by turning off their brains and letting themselves be swayed by emotional arguments.

(I can't help but think of the application of this to Tulsa's city government. Debate is called bickering by the Whirled and their allies. People with strong opinions are dismissed as naysayers. All of this is to clear the ground for their agenda to be enacted.)

Here is the result of that mental clear-cutting:

The committee members were asked to share what they felt during the discernment time. ...

Another young woman said an image of a music class came to her. "I’ve taken music theory this year, and we learned about dodecaphonic music... you basically throw the notes down on the floor to make your original theme, and then create a piece using only those themes. I personally disliked that part of music theory because I like to pick my pitches... We were all worried about it, but when I stepped back, the piece was beautiful. That is what we are going to do in this committee. It will come out as whatever God intends and we will go home happy because it all works out."

A convocation of evangelical PCUSA congregations, the New Wineskins Initiative will be held at Kirk of the Hills July 19 - 22. It looks like the embryo of a new Presbyterian denomination. They would do well to learn from the mistakes and successes of the PCA, which was founded in a similar way by existing congregations leaving what was then the PCUS (the southern Presbyterian Church).


Stuart Turner said:

From what I understand, they have also passed parts 4, 5, and 6 of the PUP report. This report basically gives local option to every church in PCUSA. Because of this, Kirk of the Hills Presbyterian Church may soon be leaving PCUSA.

Well, I don't think you will find any PCUSA churches in Tulsa doing that either. I think you would be wise not to make blanket generalities about all the churches in PCUSA. What you have right now is several people at the national level who are at the fringe yet making the major decisions. Just like you have in the American Episcopal church. Furthermore, it is extremely sad to characterize a denomination as liberal or conservative. God has some pretty simple instructions, but the protestant man just doesn't get it. He has to divide and subdivide and subdivide again so the overly complicated house of cards he has built has just enough room for him and those few who think like him.

JD said:

That's not the worst of the inanity at the General Assembly. In years past _that_ kind of Presbyterian has debated whether the Lord Jesus is _the_ way or just _one_ way to the Father, whether the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and whether or not to enforce sexual strictures(ala the Episcopaleans) on its clergy.

For further reading from a traditional POV go to layman.org...... it's a headturner.....

Joseph Wallis said:

I think some further research would need to be done to see if buildings are owned by the synod or the national assembly. I think its the former, which would mean that entire synods could break and not have to lose their buildings.

Kirk of the Hills can make such considerations because they have the funds to actually buy their building from PCUSA if they wanted to.

Twatch said:

..........in the last days even the elect will be

Joseph Wallis said:

After reading Tom's blog in detail, as well as reading up on New Wineskins, I just don't get it. On one hand New Wineskins state that they don't want to divide the denomination, but on another they are doing just that. Essentially New Wineskins is sounding more and more like PCA all the time. Why don't all the New Wineskin congregations just merge up with PCA? If a large minority of PCUSA truely believes this way, then just split off and join PCA.

Richard Hedgecock said:

Michael -

Superman and Green Lantern ain't got nothin' on you.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on June 21, 2006 1:21 AM.

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