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Switch to Forum Live View Throwing gasoline on smoldering embers
5 years ago  ::  May 27, 2009 - 5:04PM #1
DeweyCMH
Posts: 64

Submitted for discussion; printed in the latest Presbyterian Outlook:


I am tired of the conservative branch of the church threatening us with leaving over this issue. Go! I am tired of being blackmailed. Those who say it is "self-evident" that the Scriptures are against homosexuality (and therefore God is) need to do some deeper study. institutionalizing prejudice against a part of the body of Christ makes me ashamed of our denomination, and goes against every loving word our Savior spoke.


Jefferson Hatch


Branchvill, NJ

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5 years ago  ::  May 28, 2009 - 9:10PM #2
sterrettc
Posts: 89

I know that you are trying to start a lively discussion, but I can only say "amen" to the sentiment of the quote.  I don't want anyone to leave the church, but it is the ones who complain that the question is tearing the church apart are doing the most to try to make that so.

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5 years ago  ::  May 29, 2009 - 10:36AM #3
DeweyCMH
Posts: 64

I agree. For what it's worth, I didn't hear of any congregations threatening to leave the denomination unless 08-B was passed, and I haven't heard of any threatening to leave since its defeat. For their part, they have been working within the polity of the church to debate, espouse, and hopefully achieve, the theological interpretation that they feel is correct for the church.


On the other had, we have seen years of complaints from their opponents, and continual threats to leave the church if their own view was rejected. During all of this, they have righteously claimed to be taking a stand based on theology and subsequent morality - and that the denomination was acting in ways that were more concerned with money and other earthly concerns.


If this were actually an accurate assessment, these individuals and congregations would have left long ago. The doors are open; no one is holding a gun to anyone's head. Their actions (or to be more accurate, their failures to act) are, in fact, no less based on the issue of money and ownership of the property than are the denomination's.


For years, these people were perfectly fine with the denomination's policy of being a connectional church, and the denomination holding the property in trust for the congregation - a policy they accepted, as part of their membership in the denomination -  as long as they weren't in disagreement with others. But when they feel like they're not in the driver's seat, they start to complain when the Presbyterian polity doesn't permit them to act like Congregationalists.


We have a form of church governance, an agreed-upon Book of Order. That same BoO provides the framework for both our connectional nature and the means by which we debate and settle matters within the church. If there is any individual or congregation who feels that this is not an acceptable system to them, they're welcome to leave - but they don't get to single-handedly change the rules by which they will be removed. If as a matter of conscience they feel they no longer belong in the denomination, then they should go - and go without demanding he denomination to break church polity (in fact, one of the very charges often leveled against the denomination by these people) simply in order to accommodate them.


The man's letter reminded me of something that happened just four weeks into my commission to the rural church I serve. This particular Sunday, we had a family of visitors in attendance - the first actual visitors since I'd been there. Before the service, I introduced myself to them and welcomed them; they seemed very nice - husband, wife, son, daughter. That Sunday, I was preaching a lectionary text from 2 Timothy, and at the very beginning of the sermon I was giving some introductory information about the letter itself. As part of that, I was making the point that many (if not most) biblical scholars now feel that Paul himself didn't write the letter, but rather, that one of his disciples may have - but that in any case, it's content was such that if it weren't actually written by Paul, it certainly could have been. I'd only gotten out that "Many biblical scholars have come to think that Paul himself didn't write this letter..." - when suddenly, the man jumped up out of the pew. It happened so fast, you'd think I had a button on the pulpit that activated an ejection seat. He prodded his family to all stand up, and he marched everyone down the aisle and toward the door - all the while, yelling back at me, "Paul wrote it or he didn't! Paul wrote it or he didn't! This is the Word of God! Shame on you! You should be ashamed of yourself! Shame on you!!!"


As I stood there, gradually regaining my thoughts, I watched this scene playing out, and the man yelling at me, and I remember thinking something to the effect of, "If you feel you must go, then go with the grace of God - but with it or without it, just go."


Actually, I think a more accurate way of phrasing my thoughts at the moment would have to include a warning for him to be careful of the double-acting hinges on the back door - but the underlying sentiment was the same.

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5 years ago  ::  May 29, 2009 - 5:36PM #4
sterrettc
Posts: 89

May 29, 2009 -- 10:36AM, DeweyCMH wrote:


During all of this, they have righteously claimed to be taking a stand based on theology and subsequent morality ...




I don't mind their assertion that their stance is on theology and subsequent morality.  What I really dislike is their assertion that my stance is not.  I am fine disagreeing, but we should at least be able to acknowledge the veracity of those with whom we disagree.

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5 years ago  ::  May 29, 2009 - 10:55PM #5
greenponder
Posts: 1,395

I'd like to side step the issue of homosexuality and ask a few questions and make a few observations.
It seems to me that many denominations change from being (for lack of better terms) theologically conservative to being theologically more liberal over time. The pressure to liberalize seems to come from the seminary professors and "politicians" in the denominational hierarchy. They change their position on an issue and have the time, power and relentlessness to change the denomination's position and then expect the people who have not changed to shut up or leave.
Do you think it is true that in most cases of schism it is the conservatives who end up leaving?
Isn't it true that the people espousing the liberalizing of the church's position are usually the ones who have the greatest financial interest in terms of salaries and pensions?
The person quoted in the original post is a good example of this. He is the one whose interpretation of Scripture has changed from what the denomination has traditionally believed Scripture to be saying and he wants to impose that view on his denomination. Now, it seems that he thinks that those who cannot in good conscience go along with his change should leave. Is that fair? He is the one who has changed, if he disagrees with the denomination why isn't he the one who should leave?
I am not advocating that a denomination should never change it's position on anything but it seems like the change is always in the direction of liberalizing. Can you think of any instances where this liberalizing tendency has been reversed?

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