Friday, January 11, 2008

Presbyteries Employing the Tarkin Doctrine

What's the Tarkin Doctrine? Unless you're a Star Wars geek, you probably don't catch the overtures. But you can make sense of it in contrast to Princess Leia's rebuff of a power-mad Imperial governor: "The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers."

Certain presbyteries think that they can do whatever they want in terms of perverting the gospel (and ordaining perverts to the gospel ministry), and the Christian churches that are affiliated with them are just supposed to sit there and take it because of a spurious and pernicious property trust clause. (Apparently, it's the only enforceable section of the constitution...someone should tell the higher-ups at 100 Witherspoon that there's a whole Form of Gov't there, starting with G-6.0106b.)

What these presbyteries are going to learn is this: there are many Christians out there who cannot be bought. You can bully them all you want, and take the property they and their forebears bought with the flick of a rapacious pen. But the God and Father we serve owns the cattle on a thousand hills and has promised that when we are scorned for the sake of his Son, we're blessed.

The more you tighten...


Landon Whitsitt said...

Chris, my old classmate,

Given that you and I have both taken a vow to "be a friend among [our] colleagues in ministry", this hurts. I accepted the hand you offered in our private discourse regarding recent events. I accepted it in trust and told you as much. I am now sad that I did.

To categorically pronounce that my Presbytery of ministry is "perverting the Gospel" is an offense to the work that I and my colleagues (from all points on the spectrum) have struggled to faithfully engage. To liken the hardworking elders and ministers here to the Imperial Empire is cheap and childish.

Did you know that we have just completed three years of Sabbath here in Heartland, designed to help us come together as a body? Did you know that that process was designed and facilitated by those from all "sides" of the church? Did you know that everyone - EVERYONE - approved the final report of this committee for how we can continue the good work of the last three years?

We do not have a heavy fist. We do not go on witch hunts. Decisions that have been made were made by very wide margins, with very heavy hearts. To insinuate otherwise is an affront to the hard work of discernment the good people of Heartland Presbytery have endured.

You do not write in a vacuum, friend. How am I, one who had struggled to build and maintain an (admittedly tense) relationship with you expected to respond. "Oh, you're right Chris. I can now see that I have, in fact, been serving the Devil and not Christ." Do you expect that you are the Nathan to my David? You have previously called yourself a "troubler of Israel" (a prophet), but remember - no prophet ever wanted to be one nor called themselves one.

I am hurt, Chris. At least with regard to me, you have violated your vow of ordination. You have looked askance at the ministry of reconciliation because you have chosen to follow in the ways of sensationalism and here say.

I am a real person - a real live person that you know. Not some nameless face of "Heartlessland Presbytery", not some random commissioner to a presbytery meeting - No, it is me: the Rev. Landon Whitsitt, your former neighbor, friend, classmate, and colleague in ministry.

This was never about property. This was about a violation of the covenant that bound us.


Benjamin P. Glaser said...

Quality!!! Post of the Year!!!

Red_Cleric said...

Love the analogy. Agree with the statement. Reminds me of the exchange between Luke and Emperor.

Luke: Your overconfidence is your weakness.
Emperor: Your faith in your friends is yours.

Can't help but wonder in what/who do we place our faith and confidence. As for me and my house we shall serve the Lord.


Sorry your feelings were hurt Landon, you'll get over it.

Chris said...


Concerning the decision's unanimity, it seems like there are still folks in your presbytery who are greatly troubled at the power grab.

If you read the article, I am blogging against a corporation (Heartland Presbytery), not an individual (you). LPTS taught us that we should take all sorts of time decrying whole swathes of people, so long as we don't make it personal (President Bush and myself excluded). Thus Scott Williamson or Johanna Bos can vituperate freely against white males and - so long as they don't get personal - they can still be friends to colleagues in ministry.

Your case is somewhat more sensitive, though. Since you chair a committee that was instrumental in bringing this about, I'm guessing that you are hurt by these criticisms. You wouldn't be the first person sore about criticism that comes from "just doing [your] duty." My advice: keep looking at the Word of God and asking "What is Truth" while you wash your hands. Maybe that will help.

Concerning ordination vows, we were both officers of the PCUSA in seminary. I'll answer your charge if you'll answer mine.

Tell me how you were being a "friend among [your] colleagues" when - during seminary - you accused me of adultery and began a little backdoor campaign to cause dissension about it. (That one cost me the truest friend I had in seminary and caused my wife considerable grief - not to mention the $1,000 in counseling that the presbytery asked me to undergo because of it and the pall of suspicion that it fostered, such that I am unable to fulfill my call within the bounds of the PCUSA.)

Tell me how you were being a "friend among [your] colleagues" when - during seminary - you ignored the adultery that was going on in your own "covenant community" because these were your friends (or you were too busy witch-hunting the local conservative, aka me). What's going to happen when those two earn their doctorates (in theology and marriage/family therapy, no less!)? Have they gone through any discipline? Been confronted for breaking their marriage vows - by friends and colleagues in ministry?

I could go on, but I made certain promises to you, and this blog - my whole ministry - is moving out of pique and into peace.

Landon, I honestly believe that you want to do the good and that you want to act with integrity. If you're anything like me, you fail at it at least as often as you succeed. I think you should see that the covenant binding the remaining members of the PCUSA is so much deeper than the Book of Order. If that Book of Confessions had been referenced more, things would likely be different today. But it seems like the only warrantable trials are about property (and sometimes sex). It's as if we've forgotten everything that Paul taught us in 1 Corinthians.

As things stand, I can't be a peaceful officer in a denomination that refuses to discipline heretical and adulterating ministers. Why? Because I'm so pure? Hardly. Instead, it's because I might need the help one day.

Landon Whitsitt said...

I'm not going to succumb to your game here. If you want to say that I've taken this too personally, fine. You go ahead a link a few things and quote professors you disagree with, and call it justified. If it's easy for you to feel that you have done the right thing because you can allege some wrongs that I have done in the past, so be it. I'm not going to honor your ignorance of the facts nor my actions in either situation.

I will only ask one thing in my defense: Please do me the honor of not flattering me regarding my good intentions immediately following a recitation of my propensity for malice and deceit.

Anonymous said...

One (minor) theological clarification on your post:

We're all technically perverts, in one way or another. But some are led to repentance and restoration by the Spirit and godly brethren, while others wallow and exult in it.

You're future in the church of Jesus Christ looks promising. In the PCUSA though, not so much.

Keep writing!

Chris said...

See what I mean about needing the help! Thanks, Toby.

I have found that I do have a future in service to Christ in & through His church. It hurts that it won't be in the Presbyterian family, but I think the most faithful stewardship of my limited resources (i.e., since I need to be a tent-maker for now) is to just resign from the feud and serve in a less conflicted ecclesial structure. More to blog about that in coming days....

Chris said...


We just keep seeming to butt heads and ramping it up into ad hominem, don't we? That's a big part of why I'm leaving. I'm just not cut out to look at someone who uses the resources of Christ's church to advance agendas for - say - abortion "rights" and say "well, bless ya' colleague!" That's why it's probably best for the peace of what's left of the church in the PCUSA that I leave.

I will say this, though (since we're both still apparently locked in a p****ing contest over who has the moral highground): I'll accept that this was about covenant, not property, when Mr. McKell is defrocked and the session of Grace Covenant in Overland Park is seized by an AC for flaunting the constitutional standards for ordination of officers.

Presbyman said...

If Landon truly spread scurrilous rumors about Chris in seminary, Chris owes him nothing more than a good kick in the butt.

Chris said...

We both did wrong to each other and butted heads. Every time one or the other of us tries to take the high road, the interlocutor sneaks in a dirty one and the cycle starts again.

I think it's a metaphor for what happens at large in the PCUSA.

Anonymous said...

I think 'unequally yoked' applies here, Chris.

It's what we all are suffering from--both sides!