Friday, September 25, 2009

Belhar: four important reasons the PC(U.S.A.) should not adopt the Confession


The Presbyterian Outlook reported that the Committee to Consider Amending the Confessional Documents of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to include the Confession of Belhar in The Book of Confessions reached a consensus to recommend the addition. That means that the General Assembly in 2010 will vote on the recommendation.

If it passes at GA the Presbyteries will then vote, “needing approval from at least two-thirds of the denomination’s 173 presbyteries.” I have been writing on this Confession for the last year. I believe it should not be added to our Book of Confessions for four reasons:

1. Failure to focus the confession on the Lordship of Christ.

2. The issue of homosexuality

3. The Israeli and Palestinian conflict

4. The issue of pluralism

Before I begin explaining each of these problems I must insist that in South Africa with its problems of apartheid, which included the Church, such a statement was necessary. But there are problems with this Confession; the first and most important one being its failure to emphasize Christology including the Lordship of Christ. And it is this failure that causes all of the other problems.

Failure to focus the Confession on the Lordship of Christ: Various theologians have insisted that Belhar looks to Karl Barth and the Declaration of Barmen as its model. While this may be true the writers failed Barth’s and Barmen’s most important tenet, the insistence that a Confession’s main emphasis is to confess Christ. And in fact, Barmen would have been and is the better Confession.

The problem in South Africa within the Church was with the doctrine of the ‘Orders of Creation.’ That is, that in creating, God instituted certain institutions that could not be changed. In South Africa, the church using this system set boundaries for various races allowing the Church to fit within a racist state. In Nazi Germany the rights of government was emphasized in an attempt to allow the Church to fit within a totalitarian state.

But Barth’s word on that attempt was to insist that placing anything beside Christ, as he is found in the Old and New Testament, was a compromising position for the Church. Here Barth is referring to “Creation and Redemption, Nature and Grace, Nationalism and Gospel.” And Barmen, (which was largely written by Barth), supports his concerns while at the same time preventing the Church from falling into any kind of idolatry or antinomianism. And it does that by insisting, biblically, that “Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and death.” (8:11)

And additionally Barmen states, “As Jesus Christ is God’s assurance of the forgiveness of all our sins, so in the same way and with the same seriousness is he also God’s mighty claim upon our whole life. …
We reject the false doctrine, as though there were areas of our life in which we could not belong to Jesus Christ, but to other Lords—areas in which we would not need justification and sanctification through him.” (8:14-8:15)

This places the Lordship of Christ above all statements and yet Christ is tied to scripture. What falls outside of Christ’s Lordship is unacceptable. What falls under his Lordship is. For instance the racism of South Africa is seen as sin when one reads, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:28)

But the Belhar Confession on the other hand emphasizes the unity of the Church which is not a confession that Jesus Christ is Lord, but a confession about what the Church is or must do. Therefore unity is not necessarily tied to Christ’s Lordship, since unity may be achieved by other means.

The issue of homosexuality: Because unity is the main point of the Belhar Confession others have insisted on using it for issues that are unbiblical. In a blog posting,
The Belhar Confession & God's final revelation, I have pointed out that one of the contributors to Belhar, Allan Boesak, has sought to use it as a means to gain ordination for practicing homosexuals in the Uniting Reformed Church in South Africa. Quoting from the Banner, I wrote, “He dramatically insisted that the church’s Belhar Confession demands the defense of the full rights of gay members.”

A statement within the Confession of Belhar, “…we reject any doctrine which absolutizes either natural diversity or the sinful separation of people in such a way that this absolutization hinders or breaks the visible and active unity of the church, or even leads to the establishment of a separate church formation. …” is a very big problem. (Emphasis mine)

In the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A,) the Witherspoon Society’s Eugene TeSelle in a “Special Report to Witherspoon Society and Friends” from the 2004 General Assembly,
ga report by gene.pmd, writes of that part of Belhar, “While we’re talking about absolutizing natural diversity, we might refer the Belhar Confession to the Task Force on Peace, Unity, and Purity as it considers the PC(USA)’s prohibition on gay/lesbian.”

So in the PC (USA) we also will undoubtedly see this confession used in a way that is detached from the Lordship of Christ “as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture.”

The Israeli and Palestinian conflict: In another posting on my blog,
Using the Belhar Confession to overcome Israel’s “racism,” and as a means to bring about repentance from those desiring a Jewish State!, I have pointed to speakers for the Reformed Church in America using the Confession as a solution for what they perceive as racism on the part of Israel. As one speaker, the Rev. Christo Lombard from the Uniting Reformed Church of South Africa, put it “If there is one situation in this world that contextually fits the antiapartheid struggle and its dynamics, for which the Belhar Confession was written, it must be the Palestinian situation, currently.”

Another speaker, Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, pastor of Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem, also hoped that the Confession might be used against the State of Israel. And in the same way those in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) who are advocating for this Confession may attempt to use it as leverage against Israel.

One of my first postings on Belhar was concerned with a faulty study paper on Belhar. It made reference to the United Nations World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance which met in Durban, South Africa from August 31 to September 8, 2001.


I began that posting, “At the coming 218 General Assembly the Advocacy Committee on Racial Ethnic Concerns is offering Rec-046, Resolution to study the Belhar Confession for inclusion in the Confessional Documents of the Presbyterian Church (USA).”A study paper was recommended by that committee,(Report of the Task Force to Study Reparations) .

The authors of that paper castigated the United States for walking out of the conference. What the author’s failed to write was that Israel also walked out of the Conference because it was an extremely anti-Semitic conference.

The then U.S. Secretary of State, General Colin Powell, wrote:

“Today I have instructed our representatives at the World Conference Against Racism to return home. I have taken this decision with regret, because of the importance of the international fight against racism and the contribution that the Conference could have made to it. But, following discussions today by our team in Durban and others who are working for a successful conference, I am convinced that will not be possible. I know that you do not combat racism by conferences that produce declarations containing hateful language, some of which is a throwback to the days of "Zionism equals racism;" or supports the idea that we have made too much of the Holocaust; or suggests that apartheid exists in Israel; or that singles out only one country in the world--Israel--for censure and abuse.”

If members of the AACREC could so easily ignore the racism of this conference while recommending Belhar and their paper, it may be inferred that they may also use the Belhar Confession in the same manner as Raheb.

The issue of pluralism: And Raheb formulates the last concern that members of the PC(USA) may have with this Confession.

In a final and complete leap away from Barmen, Raheb divorces Jesus Christ from the Confession, writing “On several places in the confession the word “church” is replaced by another category called “the People of God.” The Belhar Confession uses this term to describe the church. My question would be, is it possible to expand this “People of God” terminology to encompass the “peoples of God,” including in this Jews and Muslims? And by this to provide a monotheistic platform for unity?”

Now, with this formula we have unity totally taking over the Confession as it shallows up the Church’s confession of Jesus Christ as Lord. In fact, Raheb’s formula does more than shallow; it empties and turns the confession into a hollow unfaithful paper, recommending apostasy.

A Confession of Faith for the Church must have as its main focus the Church’s Confession of Christ. All other important concerns of the Church, including her unity, must be subsumed under the heading 'Jesus Christ is Lord.' He is Lord over sin of any kind. Lord over adultery and homosexual practice. Lord over racism and anti-Semitism. Lord over all gods and powers. Jesus Christ is the Lord of his Church, within her, above her and leading her. That is the ultimate Confession for the Church of Jesus Christ.





26 comments:

Dave Pepper said...

I would add:

5) We don't need yet another confession to ignore. Adding another to our cafeteria line weakens, not strengthens our witness.

Yes, a little cynical for a Saturday morning.

Dave Pepper
Mountain View WY

Jodie said...

I don't see the need for another useless confession either, but after reading Viola's post I would vote for including it.

It would be a meaningful addition to our public confession of faith, and an important stand against the right wing Fundamentalist thugs that poison all faiths.

Jodie Gallo
Los Angeles, Ca

Viola Larson said...

Dear readers,
Please help my blog by ignoring all insulting comments. I would like to see all discuss the issues.
So don't answer the insults.

Viola Larson
Sacramento, Ca

Jodie said...

Viola,

I don't see why any of your readers should find what I said insulting. Dave Pepper is right. Hardly anybody reads the confessions in the BOO and those that do usually do so to further some ulterior agenda. It's not a secret.

That being said, the Belhar Confession was born out of the bloodshed of South Africa, and it could just as easily have been born out the the bloodshed of the old South, or out of the Taliban bloodshed in Afghanistan.

There is also a dangerous element today in America that shows up at political rallies with AR-15s and in Washington with signs saying 'we come unarmed - this time'. They would deny everyone their rights except their own, and they claim to have a right wing God on their side.

This confession stands against such thugs, as Jesus does, and a stand against them should be made.

Now.

If that offends somebody, I do not apologize.

Jodie Gallo
Los Angeles, Ca

Toby Brown said...

Belhar is yet another bad idea. A statement written for a particular time and place is not a confession, but a position paper.

And what Dave said is absolutely correct as well.

Kattie W. Coon said...

"A statement written for a particular time and place is not a confession, but a position paper."

Interesting comment; it makes me wonder if Toby didn't actually read it. I see no specificity as to time and place in their wording.

As I see it, it's a statement (like others) that reminds us not to repeat old mistakes.

Toby seems to think we should interpret this Never Again kind of statement as a Just Not This Time kind of statement. I wonder why that would be. Hmmm...

Also, here’s an excerpt of how the preface to the PC(USA) Book of Confessions describes its collection of documents.

“The creeds, confessions, and catechisms of The Book of Confessions are both historical and contemporary. EACH EMERGED IN A PARTICULAR TIME AND PLACE IN RESPONSE TO A PARTICULAR SITUATION [emphasis mine]. Thus, each confessional document should be respected in its historical particularity; none should be altered to conform to current theological, ethical, or linguistic norms. The confessions are not confined to the past, however; they do not simply express what the church was, what it used to believe, and what it once resolved to do. The confessions address the church’s current faith and life, declaring contemporary conviction and action.”

So, yes, the Belhar Confession emerged from a particular time and place. There’s nothing wrong with that according to the BOC. Maybe Toby would prefer that we throw them all out. If so, maybe he should endeavor to produce a good reason why.

Also, as far as “a position paper” is concerned, maybe Toby needs to look up the definitions of “Doctrine”.

It looks to me like Toby has some work to do.

Kattie
Huntsville, Al

Anders said...

You wrote: “we could not belong to Jesus Christ, but to other Lords—areas in which we would not need justification and sanctification through him.” ”

(le-havdil) How to live in order to enable the Creator in His loving kindness to provide His forgiveness is outlined in the Bible ; and was also taught by the first century Ribi Yehoshua from Nazareth (the Messiah).

Read it here: http://www.netzarim.co.il
Have a nice day!
Anders Branderud

Viola Larson said...

Dave,
I agree with your cynical thoughts: )But I wish we did not ignore the ones we have. And right now I believe Barmen is very important.

Viola Larson said...

Toby,
A Confession is often written for a particular time and place but you are right in that if it is only that it is simply a position paper. But if a confession is to be truly ecumenical both for all time and all places it must be the church confessing Jesus Christ. Belhar has all the problems it has because it fails to make confession of Christ as its main concern.
The particular time and place part has to do with where Jesus Christ as Lord has broken down and so the Church has failed in its confession.

Viola Larson said...

Kattie,
I agree with the first part of the statement from the BOC, but the last part is a bit garbled. (I think) A statement of faith must confess Jesus Christ as Lord that is the ultimate concern of the Church and is what her confession is about. If I sound like a broken record it is because I am very serious about this.

But I am also concerned with how after you have made your argument you turn around and insult the person you are debating. Please do not do that again here on my blog.

Viola Larson said...

Anders,
That part of my posting you copied is from the Declaration of Barmen. It was written in Nazi Germany by that part of the Church called the Confessing Church. They called themselves that because they choose to confess Jesus Christ as Lord rather than accept Hitler as Lord. And part of their concern was something called the Aryan clause that they were being forced to accept which excluded Jewish Christians from the Church.
I believe you are right about this, “(le-havdil) How to live in order to enable the Creator in His loving kindness to provide His forgiveness is outlined in the Bible ; and was also taught by the first century Ribi Yehoshua from Nazareth (the Messiah).” However there is more.
Jesus, who was both human and God died for us, in our place, just like the sacrificial lamb, so we could be declared free from our sins. He was the lamb of the Passover. It is He who makes acceptable to the Lord, not our good works. We do the good works because he has freed us to do them.
Jesus was resurrected so we could have eternal life.

Kattie W. Coon said...

It's a curious thing to witness your concern over my suggestion concerning young Toby in light of the truly insulting personal smear you recently wrote, reiterated, and defended concerning Marc Garlasco.

I'll tell you what; I'll try to clean up my act if you and the rest of your commenters try to clean up as well.

Kattie,
Huntsville, Al

Viola Larson said...

"Young" Toby Lol

Viola Larson said...

Toby,
Here is a great verse for you:
"Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe." (1 Timothy 4:12...and go with the rest which I know you do)

Viola Larson said...

Kattie you don't get to insult other people on my blog.

Craig M. Riley said...

I remember meeting in a pastor's study for a college-age Sunday School meeting, and seeing among the pastor's books, one entitled, "Methodist Doctrine". I remember that I couldn't see the need for that book. We have a much greater book of doctrine, history, and practical living:The Bible, of course.
For the same reason, I can't really see a reason for "confessions", or Creeds--though I do find the Apostle's Creed useful to organize in compact form the important beliefs of the Christian faith. I don't really understand the need for many confessions or many creeds, whether dealing with different circumstances or not.The Bible IMHO, is all we need with regard to those things. The Spirit of God is to teach us the rest, n'est-ce pas?

Viola Larson said...

Hi Craig,

I will tell you a story which I consider funny. A long time ago-and no it wasn't a dark and stormy night, at a Jesus movement Church I went to-and I think you did too- as director of ARC I finally insisted that we have a statement of faith which my now son-in-law Gunther Juncker wrote. It was very good too.

Anyway the powers that be questioned whether or not we should do that. And then one interesting day the leading intellectual of the Church, a friend, came sneaking into our office to get our Statement of faith to help him write one for the Church. Because somebody had asked!

The point is that Confessions of the Church help the Church to confess what the Church believes. They are not inspired like Scripture but they are certainly aids to Scripture.

The first Confession written by a whole body of Church leaders was the Nicene Creed. It happened because there was a Churchman who kept insisting that although Jesus was a being higher than humans or angels still he was created, that is was not God.

This Creed is one that all Christians point to when some theologian or pastor wants to insist that Jesus is not God. And a Confession is not something that is made up out of thin air but is tied closely to the Scriptures.

The churchman's name was Arius and the Church Father who stood against him was Athanasius. C.S. Lewis writing of him said-

"He stood for the Trinitarian doctrine, 'whole and undefiled,' when it looked as if all the civilised world was slipping back from Christianity into the religion of Arius"

So on the whole they are very important.

Jodie said...

So Viola,

Back to your criticism of the Belhar confession, I think your first point is wrong because the Confession is subtended to and book ended by the Lordship of Christ.

"Jesus is Lord.
To the one and only God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be the honor and the glory
for ever and ever. "

A confession is always a position paper. Historically they have typically been in reply to a question. There is no rule or guideline that states that a confession must make "confession of Christ its main concern". I question whether ANY of the confessions starting with Nicea made that their main concern. In my opinion, and its just my opinion, most of them seem to be about State Religion and the separation of Church and State, really. Starting with telling the emperor of Rome he can't be called the Son of God anymore (there can be only One) down to Barmen. As the State and State Religion evolved, so have the confessions. The first one NOT for the purpose of dealing with the separation of Church and State is the Confession of 67. THAT is what makes it so different.

But I digress. Back to your claim: If you could get an institution that proclaims that Christ is not Lord to adopt Belhar, I would give your claim a second thought.

The other claims you make are basically that someone else might misuse the Confession for their own agenda. If that were a justification for rejecting a text, we would have to reject the Bible itself.

I AM concerned by your trivialization of the Barmen Confession. As you rightly point out, it was written against a Fascist dictator setting himself up as the autocratic head of the church, and using his power and authority to co-opt the Church into turning a blind eye to unspeakable crimes. (A right winger who in classic Orwellian language called himself a "socialist" even though he hated left wing socialists more even than he hated the Jews).

There may come a time when we need to pull that confession out and use it for its intended purpose, but if we trivialize it by using it for trifling issues and internal church squabbles, then what language shall we call upon when the true need arises?

The Belhar confession on the other hand is addressing an issue we continue to face today in many places of the presumably Christian world. Even here in the US it keeps popping up its ugly head.

I think it is timely and relevant and an important statement that should be made. It answers correctly a fundamental question that none of our confessions address.

Viola Larson said...

The Nicene Creed is above all things about insisting that Jesus Christ is "the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father..."

This was against Arius--(not the Emperor Constantine who presided over the Council)-- Arius had insisted that Jesus Christ had a beginning rather than being the Eternal Son who was God. This makes a lot of difference since as an innocent human He could pay for our sins and as God it was impossible that he should stay dead. Under Arius salvation would be by works not grace by Jesus Christ.

Confessions must confess Christ in a real way. By that I mean they must be about what the Church has to say about Jesus Christ. All other concerns must be subsumed under that. After all the first Confession of the Church was Jesus is Lord.

One very important Confession is

"By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness:
He who was revealed in the flesh,
was vindicated in the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory. (1 Tim. 3:16)"

Paul Janssen said...

Dear Viola,
Regarding your four points.
In the first place, in my opinion the Belhar is very, very clear on the Lordship of Christ. The matter of unity is responsive to the prayer of Christ for unity. The matter of reconciliation is quite clearly in the declaration founded upon the reconciliation between God and humanity accomplished by Christ on the cross. And the question of justice tracks almost verbatim the inaugural message of Jesus from Luke 4 and Jesus' apocalyptic passage in Matthew 25. Not clearly enough founded on the Lordship of Christ? I'm not quite sure what you're looking for.
2. The issue of homosexuality. For the life of me, I can't figure out why people haven't discerned that matters of unity, reconciliation, and justice cut both ways. By which I mean to say, "absolutization of any form of natural diversity ...." is just as critical as, say the Metropolitan Community Churches as it is of any mainline denomination. It cuts just as much to the heart of gay and lesbian Christians who may say "I've had enough of this lot of supposedly Christian people; I'm leaving" as it does to the heart of people who say "unity must be founded on truth, which is found in the Bible, which condemns homosexual activity." The Belhar bids BOTH sides humble themselves under the afore-mentioned Lordship of Christ.
3. Regarding Israel/Palestine -- I'm not quite sure I'm following your argument (I think you may be making assumptions that people will agree with your main point, which doesn't seem to be made clear). I would only caution one thing. Neither Christo Lombard nor Mitri Raheb speak "for" the RCA. They spoke TO the RCA, but that is by no means the same as speaking for it. Thus at this point I would just caution you to read the documents with more subtlety, and make sure that you are not attributing statements to a denomination. (I make no comment on the substance of this one, because I don't quite understand what you're doing.)
4. Again on Raheb, he was offering speculative comments at a dinner. He was not speaking for the RCA. I do not believe such an extension of "people of God" language is understood by any of those who use it as a basis for universalism. It is a term that has come into pretty common ecumenical coinage as the latest in a line of terms for the church. Did Raheb speculate about extending the term to something like "peoples of God"? Of course he did. But let's be fair about it. His reading is a stretch at best. It's been a common error, whether intentional or no, for those who do not favor the Belhar to misquote, or to quote out of context, or to tell only part of the story (the Boesak incident is most often only half-told). All I would advocate is that, like it or not, deal with the Belhar as it is, not as you construe it to be, and not as you think "others" might someday interpret it.

Viola Larson said...

Paul,
Confessing ChristOne of the interesting things I have found reading Barth, this is from his Protestant Theology in the Nineteenth Century and I won’t be able to find it that quickly now, is his complaint against the Church of his day starting too many of their hymns with “I.” Notice that the Declaration of Barmen emphasizes the Lordship of Christ. That is its main confession, after explaining the reason for the Confession it begins with the points and with Scripture. First John 10:1,9 and then “Jesus Christ, as he is attested to us in Holy scripture,” and then who he is-“the one Word of God which we have to trust and obey in life and death.”

Then the Confession talks about what Christ is to us, “Our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.”

In the third point the confession points out that Christ is the head of the Church and the whole body is joined to him. I could go back thru looking at the negative part which also proclaims Christ. For instance, it says that the Church cannot acknowledge other events besides Christ for its proclamation.

But Belhar’s points are about Church unity-not about Christ. They may refer to Christ every so often but they are not focused on Christ. For instance,

That Christ’s work of reconciliation…

That unity is,…

That this unity must become…

That this unity can be established…

That true faith in Jesus Christ is the only condition …

All of this except for that last one begins with the Church, with us, some of it ends with Christ but without ever establishing how it is that Jesus Christ gives unity to the body. If he is our righteousness as Barmen testifies than then that unity is a given. And those who reject his Lordship reject unity. That is important-Barth would never start with us but instead with Jesus Christ.

HomosexualityYou are not very clear about the homosexual issue but I will try to answer you. Let me state that part of Belhar completely.

“We believe that true faith in Jesus Christ is the only condition for membership of this Church; therefore we reject any doctrine which absolutizes either natural diversity in the sinful separation of people in such a way that this absolutization hinders or breaks the visible and active unity of the Church, or even leads to the separate Church formation;”

That could clearly be used to say that those who are practicing homosexuals (and note in my article it is already being used)should be allowed ordination because otherwise they are being excluded and that breaks the visible unity of the Church.

Because this confession has no scriptures, does not link Christ Jesus to the whole of the Old and New Testament, there are no boundaries set accept not absolutizing diversity to the point of separation. But to be obedient to the Lord of the Church and his world there must be a separation between those who are obedient to his word and those who are not.

IsraL AND PalestineI was not insisting that either Christo Lombard or Mitri Raheb spoke for the RCA. But they did speak to them at a Synod and others will make their arguments in the same way. It will be used as a starting point. And that is my point.

pluralismThe same with pluralism. And here my complaint is that a Confession that should confess Christ will in the end be used to confess Monotheism which is not a confession of Christ. And if Mitri could state it others will try. Why not Barmen?

Viola Larson
Sacramento Ca

Viola Larson said...

That last part was supose to be Israel and Palestine-not sure what happened.

Paul Janssen said...

Viola,

It seems you desire that the Belhar be more explicit in its confession of Christ as Lord.

Let me be succinct: The Belhar's section on unity is directly responsive to Christ's prayer that we (his followers -- not all peoples) be one.

The section on reconciliation rests on the reconciliation won by Christ, and while you may not find it explicit enough for you, it is clearly not speaking of reconciliation from any other source.

The section on justice speaks loudly and clearly of justice that is shaped by the inaugural message and postscript to Christ's ministry.

The confession leads off with a trinitarian superscription and ends with the most basic confession: Jesus is Lord.

It seems you want the Belhar to have said "Christ is the one Lord of the Church. Therefore..." It doesn't state the Lordship of Christ the way you want it stated. Instead, it posits the Lordship of Christ in its own way. This seems not to be a very substantial argument -- more a quibble, in fact, than an argument.

These discussions get frustrating: how much Christ do you want?

Sometimes when I am reading some criticisms of the Belhar, such as the one that says there isn't enough Christ in it, I feel like I am watching a movie review, where the reviewer criticizes the director for not making the movie he/she wishes the director had made.

The Belhar says what it says. You seem to wish it said something about Christ more explicitly. That is not, it seems to me, sufficient reason for not adopting it. It expresses your reservation well enough, but you seem to make the assumption that the confession should be even more Barthian than it already is (and it already is thoroughgoingly Barthian).

Regarding the "gay and lesbian issue." A prior writer is correct: insofar as people are using the Bible itself to justify their positions regarding full inclusion, your argument would lead toward the throwing out of the Scriptures themselves. Will people use the Belhar to forward their own ends? Yes. As they have with the Heidelberg, the Belgic, and the Canons. So? Why is it more problematic for people to cite a confession to forward a cause about the justice of God rather than about the sovereignty of God? A prior assumption is being made here, it seems, that some "attributes" are more palatable than others.

All I was saying about the issue was that the sections on unity and reconciliation press advocates of the ordination of "practicing homosexuals" to be remain within the one body of Christ rather than to just give up. It says that they cannot absolutize their orientation as cause for separation any more than someone can absolutize their race. No one -- NO ONE -- gets to say "I have no need of you."

Re: Lombard and Raheb -- the argument that people will misread the Belhar is already a specious argument, as many have said. What did the church do when Boesak made his argument? It affirmed the primacy of the Scriptures over the Belhar; i.e., it said "We do not read the Scriptures to support this particular agenda." The church affirmed the Scriptures! What more could you want?

Viola Larson said...

Paul,
An interesting response in so many ways. Your middle question made me jump-How much of Christ do I want-Everything he has to give which I assume is all since he gave his life. Okay I know that is not what you meant. You meant in the Confession. And yes I do think Belhar needs to be more explicit about its confession of Christ.

And of course, as you say, the call for unity is in response to John chapter 17, Christ’s great high priestly prayer. However, in that prayer, notice that it is Christ who is both the intercessor for those who belong to him and the one who thanks His Father that He has lost no one. It all starts with Jesus Christ and ends with him. So should Belhar.

I was going to write more, but this has been a long day for me. Perhaps that is enough.

On my blog on the side of it under labels is one, Barmen and the Church's Confession I suggest that for anyone reading these comments. I know it is a lot of reading but important.
Viola Larson
Sacramento Ca

Anonymous said...

Well....I'm really late to this conversation! And the overture at the general assembly to adopt the Belhar Confession already passed. I read the confession for the first time today, and my initial reaction was pride that the Dutch Reformed Mission Church took a stand against apartheid in South Africa, immediately followed by the awful understanding that these same words will be used to malign Israel (so now we know where I stand). And then I found your blog and insightful comments on the PC(USA) web site. So thanks for that. Keep writing. Annabel.

Viola Larson said...

Hi Annabel, I am glad you found me. your comment went into my spam for some reason. I will keep writing.