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...

Panzers...not pansies

The Layman reports that Bel Air Presbyterian Church failed in attaining a stay for a same-sex blessing that will occur this Sunday at neighboring Brentwood Presbyterian Church (according to the LA Times). Frankly, while I'm against the service because of how it perverts marriage (a covenant instituted by God himself), I would not have wasted my breath on asking the presbytery to interfere with the "blessing."

Instead, since an ordained Presbyterian Lesbyterian minister (Ms. Bove) is one half of the couple being blessed & recognized for her 10-year same-sex relationship, why not go ahead and ask for an enforcement of the constitutional standard in G-6.0106b? She works as a chaplain at a children's hospital, and it wouldn't be difficult for her to gain "ordination" by any number of false ecclesiastical structures - so it wouldn't even threaten her livelihood. (Compare that to the action against Kirk Johnston.) But it would do something that most folks enmeshed in the system are incapable of doing: show some backbone.

I've said it before and I'll keep saying it till someone listens: the Presbyterian Church USA is falling apart because there is no resolve to discipline her ministers. The recent lawsuits over property show that the Constitution's Form of Government only serves as a punitive instrument to enforce specious claims of provenance. The Book of Confessions and the Book of Order are flaunted on a regular basis, but don't even think of trying to snub the Board of Pensions! Every once in a while, we'll nod to our sexual standards - but even that is rare. (We seem to prefer to go after the ministers who do the service, rather than attempt to lovingly discipline and restore the unrepentant homosexual.)

What we THEY need are some pastors who can be Panzers...instead of pansies.* Unfortunately, they like to throw out the ones they can't tame or buy out.

*No insult offered to either the genus viola or the genius, Viola, who shows more resolve than most men in confronting the errors of the PCUSA.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Thoughts on my future in the PCUSA

I posted this on livejournal privately about 16 months ago. It was right before I started blogging - right before the committee that oversees my work in the PCUSA (the CPM) passed me through to candidacy. I've sat on it for a long time because the CPM did forward me through the process, and I was overcome with a sense of hopeful expectation. I'm finding that 16 months later, that hope was misplaced. I've been doing a lot of soul-searching and trying to listen for what God is telling me to do with the call to preach that he gave. It's hard because I've had to face so many of my own idols (especially idols of professionalism, entrance to the middle class, intellectualism, etc.). But in the end, I know that Christ will have a more useful instrument in his hands.

To that end, I'm posting some of my reflections. Many of these have been written over the past two years, but were held back because I didn't want to seem pessimistic (especially when there were these glimpses of hope). However, the situation has really become intolerable for me. I'm having to take my own advice. For years, I've told LGBT friends (yes...I have them) to seek a denomination where they can be faithful to what they believe they're called to do. I told them that if we stayed in the same denomination, we'd fight until there was no time left for faithfulness - and would destroy all the bonds of love that should still tether disagreeing Christians. The time has come for me to do the same thing: It's time I chose whether I wanted to spend the next thirty years fighting OR do I lay that down and go where I can minister without feeling that I'm compromised? (Quietude in the face of what's happening in the mainline simply isn't an option for my personality, and I'm not even sure it's biblically possible.)

Here's the first post, written when I was but an inquirer....

It's finally beginning to dawn on me.

I've been quite rigorous in my preparation for ordination as a Minister of Word and Sacrament (mowas) in the PC(USA). I've done reasonably well in an antagonistic seminary where I was opposed and maligned (while making no small stink of my own), I've managed superior marks on our mandated ordination exams, gone through several psychological evaluations, and passed field education requirements with lauds from both supervisors and congregants.

Nevertheless, I find my efforts at advancing to candidacy stonewalled by the committee that oversees that preparation. Musing tonight on what I might say should they again deny my request for candidacy, it finally dawned on me:

The PC(USA) has spent forty years eroding the doctrinal core (the Westminster Standards) of our unity, and dilapidating our constitutional integrity, that the only thing left to hold us together (besides the Board of Pensions) is a certain attitude or posture.

I wish that I could describe that attitude, but I do not understand it well enough to display it to my committee - much less provide an analysis of it here. There are some elements I believe I have singled out, but they are not kind and I do not think I would do well in displaying my own biases here as they touch so personally upon my own sense of call.

But one thing is certain: in the opinion of the CPM of my home presbytery, I do not have it. And no matter how sane and well-meaning I am, no matter how professionally competent I am, no matter how ardent I am in my love of Jesus Christ and the salvation he has secured for me and for all of his flock, I am not yet able to live out my call within the bounds of the PC(USA).

If any good has come out of this at all, it would be that I have greater sympathy for those who feel as though they are unfairly denied a place in the leadership of the church (esp. women in the Roman Catholic setting and LGBT persons in the protestant world). I haven't changed my mind on what the requirements of ordained ministry are...but I think I can trust their hurt a little more. Further, I think I can see how easily this hurt can overwhelm our best reflection on our particular place in the process.

I have affirmed again and again that I trust the CPM to make the right decision. It will break my heart if they believe that the best decision to be made - for the sake of the church - is to restrict my ministry within the PC(USA). They have every right to do it - and I would even maintain that they have every responsibility to do it. And it takes every ounce of Christian maturity to say that, because I fear that the answer will be "no" when I go before them this fall.

Ach! Zombies!

Over at Evangelical Outpost, they've posted an academic paper showing that vampires can't be real because they would have destroyed the human population by now. One problem - as anyone who has played Vampire: The Masquerade or read Anne Rice would know: Vampires don't have to kill the living in order to feed. Moreover, simply being bitten by a vampire isn't sufficient to turn the victim into one. Therefore, the smart vampire would feed selectively and never deplete the food supply.

Zombies, however, have no such finesse. They are a true scourge. And they hold particular horror for those of us who actually do believe that the dead have risen in the past and will rise in the future. And whose original sect was persecuted for "cannibalism" by the Romans. I'm starting to smell Jungian archetypes.... Or maybe Paul had something else in mind when he was talking to those wacky Galatians.

(post title taken from the best Simpsons Halloween segment ever!)

CPE - An Essential of the Faith

Back in November, I received a letter from the Presbytery Committee that oversees my candidacy for ordination: Complete a unit of CPE (and magically pay to feed, house, and insure your family while you're doing that instead of working) or be removed from the process.

Apparently, in Holston Presbytery, the essence of Reformed ministry is CPE and stuff like resurrection, or inspiration and authority of the Scriptures, or the Trinity are just, well, adiaphora.

God, where are You calling me to go? I'll follow...if You'll give me bread for the journey.

Philosophical New Years

Should old Aquinas be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should old Aquinas be forgot
in these days of Wittgenstein?

Can quiddity, haececity,
analogies divine,
Resolve the paradoxes of
Willard van Orman Quine?

(Okay...I meant to post this on the first. I've been busy house-hunting. Sue me.)

Sunday, January 06, 2008

“If we stand up for what is right” by John Calvin

“If we stand up for what is right, we are bound to arouse the fury of many people. Many more will follow in their wake. The more we make peace, the readier the world will be to revile us. Our name will be bandied around every table and every street in town. Scurrilous things will be said about us. But there is more. St. Paul tells us that anyone desiring to live a holy life in Jesus Christ must expect persecution.

“God, it is true, will certainly give us respite from time to time, but we cannot avoid making many enemies. Satan has many allies in this world: possessed by his spirit, they cannot endure the light of the gospel or allow God to rule over them as one might rule over children. We must therefore defend the cause of the gospel and bear witness to the truth of our Lord Jesus Christ, ever if it means unremitting struggle with a large number of people, including those who pretend to be believers and who claim to be of the same religion.

“We are engaged, I repeat, in a mortal struggle with them, and even more with those who openly defy God and who would love to see the gospel vanish from the world.”

–John Calvin, Sermons on the Beatitudes, trans. by Robert White (Carlisle, PA.: Banner of Truth, 1562/2006), pp. 58-59.