What I really want to focus on is your last paragraph. I think that as a denomination, we've already bulldozed the road to being a practices-only institution. This demonic trend began when we refused to do the hard work of discipline in the 1920s. We also refused to do the hard work of finding a way forward within the boundaries of Westminster-styled orthodoxy.
As you know, both personal and institutional integrity depend on appropriate boundaries. The Presbyterian church always allowed some leeway within Westminster Confessionalism through clear and full declaration of scruples antecedent to licensure. Afterwards, you could always go before the Presbytery to declare or renege any points. There was a sense that it was appropriate to be accountable to the larger church for your doctrine. It also fostered a healthy ecumenism because it recognized the catholicity inherent in our system whereby we delimited the body so that we could pursue ministry with less destructive friction and more constructive friction (still a useful end for denominations, as recent studies show).
Joan Gray held up a tiny book that is on my shelf as well. It was the Book of Order for the PCUS. It was small and simple, and it relied on people trusting others. Contrast that with the other small PCUS book on my shelf, entitled The Confession of Faith. It has the Westminster Confession and Catechisms with full Scriptural annotations printed underneath the text on every page. Because you trusted your neighbor on these eternal truths, the outworking of day-to-day decisions could be trusted as well. It didn't mean we agreed on every decision, but that there was a strong layer of cohesion (social, intellectual, theological, and ecclesial) that provided the necessary elasticity to deal with contentious issues. As a minister in my presbytery has repeatedly shown, doctrinal integrity carries very little importance in the PC(USA). You have to know it in order to pass the ords, but believing and preaching good doctrine doesn't really matter.
No wonder we're left with nothing to fight about except bedroom matters and money!
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Why We Fight
This is a response to a fellow candidate (who is also having trouble getting certified ready-to-call):