Sunday, May 30, 2010

For Memorial Day

I found this wonderful video on a radical Islamic blog. It was being used for propaganda. I thought it needs to be redeemed and placed in some reasonable place-so why not here. So whether you think our troops should be in Iraq and Afghanistan or not you will enjoy this. For Memorial Day, enjoy-and get out your Kleenex.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Israel/Palestine Mission Network lied: should we care? UP-Date

I am so bothered by this …

In an attempt to get the Presbyterian General Assembly to not receive the paper
Christians and Jews: People of God the Israel/Palestine Mission Network lied about the Jewish organizations in the United States suggesting that they sent a bomb to our Presbyterian headquarters and burnt down a church. They also lied about the Jewish people in their synagogues. The Israel/Palestine Mission Network lied.[1]

Why won’t more Presbyterians speak up? Surely even those Presbyterians who believe that everything Israel is doing is wrong can’t believe that lying about Jewish organizations in the United States is the right thing to do? Why isn’t there an outcry from fellow Christians about this?

The IPMN insists that the rising anti-semitism, the caricatures of Jewish people, in all countries, is caused by the Jews themselves. That is an old story. Less than eighty years ago such lies led to the death of six million Jews.

The book I am deeply engrossed in led me to think deeper about the issues. In Bonhoeffer, Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, there is a chapter on the German Christians, that side of the Church who followed Hitler. As I was reading it I began making some comparisons.

The two groups, the German Christians and the Israel/Palestine Mission Network, were and are willing to cut out parts of the biblical text in order to hold on to their views of God, Israel and the Jews.

For instance the authors of the paper “Christians and Jews: People of God: An Example of Occupation Theology” insist that the original paper “Christian and Jews: People of God” offered by the Office of Theology and Worship, the Office of Interfaith Relations, and the Office of Evangelism misuses New Testament metaphors such as the root of the olive tree and the way the work of Christ has broken down “the dividing wall of hostility” between Christian and Jew.

They also write that the use of historical criticism is helpful because it calls into account those Old Testament texts that are used against the Palestinians. The German Christians rejected all of the Old Testament and used only those parts of the New Testament that seemed anti-Semitic. The German Christians went the whole way in their rejection of scripture, but IPMN is traveling on the same road.

The German Christians continuously lied about the Jewish people blaming Germany’s financial mess and moral decadence on the Jews. Their goal was to rid Germany of all Jews.

IPMN has now reached the stage of lying about the Jews with the supposed goal of not allowing anything to be said about the Jewish people that they disagree with. If they can convince the rest of us that the Jewish organizations in the United States sent a bomb to Louisville and burned down a church perhaps they can accomplish their goal but then we will all be involved in their lie. We will all be guilty.

[1]The Paper I am writing about with the lies in it is attached to this overture
On Referring “Christians and Jews: People of God” and “Understanding Christian-Muslim Relations”

Because someone asked how they could speak up, and I suggested e-mailing and calling the Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons, I stated that I would link to my other postings on this problem.
An overture filled with fury: anti-Semitism again
Slandering the Jewish people-more on overture 08-09
Equpping the saints, telling lies, and other thoughts

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A late Pentecost: the heart of the Church-love for the sinner

Writing about Pentecost, Michael Adee speaks of being the Church of the heart. That could mean many things but, at the end of his article, using some negatives to show what it is not, he writes, “Imagine if we became a church of the heart, rather than the church of polity, doctrinal statements or litmus tests for correct belief and practice? As Presbyterians, we do not have to be like we have been for the last 218 years. We can learn to trust God, to trust God's work in each others' lives, to trust each other to work out our salvation, calls to ministry, discipleship and intimate lives.” (Bold authors)

But isn’t there a hardness of heart among us when we do not care for the sinner both bodily and spiritually? A hardened heart does not hear the word of God. A hardened heart does not melt before the holiness of God nor care for brothers or sisters who are walking too close to the worldly culture of our day.

Yes, a church of the heart will share; reaching out to the poor and needy, but there is something more. There is a complete picture of the early beginnings of the church of Acts.[1] “So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."

So these four things comprise a complete picture of those four areas important to the first Christians:

1. The apostle’s teaching
2. Fellowship
3. The Lord’s Supper but probably meals together also
4. Prayer

And the apostle’s teaching, which is doctrine, would have included this verse which undoubtedly was an ancient hymn of the Church:

“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 Timothy 3:16)

And this, "But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting, save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh." (Jude 20-23)

[1] With Calvin we must agree that God’s Church is not limited to the New Testament it is also found in the Old Testament.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

We must light a candle when the shadows are uncertain

Here is a very bright candle

I would like to commend a web-site that will be helpful not only to commissioners coming to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly, but to all Presbyterian members. It has been carefully laid out by Robert Austell a pastor in Charlotte North Carolina who blogs at Lighthouse/searchlight Church. His very important new site is Picture by Stephen Larson

On the site Presbyterians will find news, articles and advice on the coming General Assembly. There is a page that is meant just for commissioners Commissioner Basics - where? what? how? .

The information listed on all pages comes from all sides of the Church. As Austell states, his site provides “equal access to all the information out there.” If you want to read GA information coming from the Layman or the Covenant Network, from the Mad Parson or Michael Kruse here is the place to go. I will put a link at the top of my side links so it will be there until the end of General Assembly.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Equpping the saints, telling lies, and other thoughts

Late Tuesday evening I returned from an out of state trip. After partially catching up on what needed to be done in the house, writing a letter to the editor, which in this case was a joy because I could dig deep into one of our confessions, and returning to another joy, a new biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I spent far too much time on Google.

I was searching out a mystery created by the San Francisco Presbytery with its overture 08-09 and the overture’s link to a paper created by the Presbyterian Israel/Palestine Mission Network.

Truthfully it is the IPMN which has created the mystery. With their paper, Christians and Jews: People of God” an example of Occupation Theology, they have created such a lie that it is impossible to untangle it. And so several of us have googled trying to find out what church in what Rochester city in what state (probably New York) was burnt down and why. (picture: Early Rising by Lauren Ford)

We already know that the footnote connected to their accusations of threats has liable information in it. That is they accuse Jewish organizations and members of Jewish synagogues in the United States of sending, (perhaps a bomb) to the Presbyterian headquarters in Louisville. Remembering the past plus reading news articles we know the truth about that. It isn’t true. But did the Jewish organizations and the Jewish citizens really burn down a church?

This is all that can be found, “Fire guts historic New York church,” at the Presbyterian News Service or anywhere else for that matter. The church was struck by lightning.

The above thoughts all came together as I made coffee and my husband asked me if I knew which epistle had the verse about Jesus ascending to heaven and giving gifts to the church. So after suggesting it might be in Ephesians I sat down and read chapter four. I thought how we can all be gifts to the church by walking in the newness that Jesus gives us or we can insist on damaging the church with our own personal agendas.

That chapter in Ephesians speaks about the gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers who equip the “saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” But it also speaks of what we need to lay aside which includes anger and stealing and this, “Therefore laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.”

This brings me back to the biography of Bonhoeffer, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, there is a section on Martin Luther and how he at first understood how badly the church had treated the Jewish people and then how he in several ways became mentally unhinged and said some very horrible things about the Jews. His later words were used by the Nazis, his earlier sane words were used by Bonhoeffer and others.

If I had been a Jew and had seen such dolts and blockheads govern and teach the Christian faith, I would sooner have become a hog than a Christian.”

Martin Luther must have been looking over some of our backs. I am pleading with myself and others: use the gifts Jesus gives us to help the church, equip the saints, bring others to Jesus Christ, bring discernment to the body, care for one another and the lost. Anchored in the One who is the Truth, tell the truth.

"As a result [of being built up] we are no longer to be children tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in decietful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building of itself in love. (Eph 4:14-16)"
H.T. to Dexter Van Zile of Camera for Church News

Saturday, May 15, 2010

We are not standing alone, He is with us

Having done all stand, yes, that is holy Scripture, but he is the one who makes it possible.

Just last week I saw a video on the blog of Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile which I posted on my site. Tonight trying to help a friend find the song to post I looked again at Anyabwile’s site, Pure Church and found something else he was pointing to that I liked. Great for Sunday. So this is on Pastor Wyeth W. Duncan’s site, A Debtor to Mercy. And it is him singing. Beautiful song but read some of the posts there also, and then read some more of Anyabwile’s.

When the storms of life are raging,
Stand by me;
When the storms of life are raging,
Stand by me.
When the world is tossing me
Like a ship upon the sea,
Thou who rulest wind and water,
Stand by me.

In the midst of tribulations,
Stand by me;In the midst of tribulations,
Stand by me.
When the hosts of hell assail,
And my strength begins to fail,
Thou who never lost a battle,
Stand by me.

In the midst of faults and failures,
Stand by me;
In the midst of faults and failures,
Stand by me.
When I do the best I can,
And my friends misunderstand,
Thou who knowest all about me,
Stand by me.

When I’m growing old and feeble,
Stand by me;
When I’m growing old and feeble,
Stand by me.
When my life becomes a burden,
And I’m nearing chilly Jordan,
O Thou Lily of the Valley,
Stand by me.

Hat Tip to both pastors.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Why the PC(U.S.A.) should not adopt the Confession of Belhar: Answering the “Report of the Special Committee on the Belhar Confession”

A confession of faith must have as its main focus the Church's confession of Christ. All other important concerns of the Church, including her unity, the justice she advocates for, the reconciliation she calls for, must be subsumed under the heading 'Jesus Christ is Lord.' Lack of that focus is the problem troubling the Confession of Belhar. The Confession of Belhar has an incomplete Christology and fails to make a clear confession of Jesus Christ. It also lacks scriptural boundaries.

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 has unanimously recommended the Confession (16-012). That means that the 219th General Assembly, (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.

The Committee gives several reasons why the PC (U.S.A) should adopt Belhar beginning with the statement, “The Confession of Belhar Confesses the Christian Faith powerfully, touching hearts especially at those places where we are struggling today to be faithful.” The authors of 16-12 go on to speak of reconciliation, unity and justice.

Still, despite the above words of reassurance that Belhar confesses the Christian faith powerfully the Confession itself has little to say about Jesus Christ the living Word of God. Nor does it refer to texts in the Holy Scriptures.

The Confession of Belhar was adopted by the South Africa Dutch Reformed Mission Church in 1986 and later adopted by the Uniting Reformed Church of South Africa. Belhar was an attack on apartheid and its awful use by the white Reformed Church in South Africa. The Confession of Belhar was meant to denounce a theology of racism. Members of the various ethnic churches of South Africa understood that Belhar was about racism

However, some members of some Reformed churches in the United States, including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), believe that Belhar was meant to address more than racial issues. They believe that Belhar will also allow the ordination of unrepentant gays and lesbians, and will also sanction same gender marriage. Using a document that does not properly define the Lordship of Christ or the authority of scripture they take several statements from the Confession and use them to make a case for unscriptural actions by the church.

One such Statement is:

"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."

This statement, pulled from its important subject, racism, allows some to insist that the requirement of church officers to “live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001) or chastity in singleness” is sin. The statement would also be applied to the biblical and confessional doctrine that marriage is always between a man and a woman.

There are absolutes in the Christian faith. Racism is sin (Gal. 3:28). Marriage is between a man and a woman (Matt.19:4-6). Disobeying the absolutes of God’s word may cause divisions within the Church.

Reconciliation: The principle of reconciliation, in any confession of the church, must be understood within the boundaries of Christ’s Lordship over the Church as is taught in the scripture. In the pastoral letter offered by the Special Committee the connection between Lordship, the word of God and reconciliation is recognized. They refer to several scripture texts, Eph. 1:9-10, 2:11-22; 2 Cor. 5:16-21; Gal. 3:23-4:7. Yet, there is no scripture text in the Confession of Belhar.

Reconciliation occurs because of the love of Jesus Christ. Because of his great sacrifice on the cross we love him and we love our brothers and sisters. Such love includes faithfulness to the Lord and care for one another. Such care embraces admonition against sin, including the sin of racism and unbiblical sexual actions.

Unity: Unity within the Church always occurs because Christians are united to the Lord of the Church. In their union with the Jesus Christ they are united to all other believers. That is a fact that some may deny in their sinfulness, it is nonetheless true. While Christians, who belong already to the One Universal Church, are truly united, yet it is proper to call all believers to unity in both truth and fellowship. In Jesus’ high priestly prayer of John 17 he prays that his disciples will be one as he and the Father are one. But he also prays that the Father will “sanctify them in the truth” going on to state that God’s “word is truth.”

That kind of unity that includes the believer’s journey of sanctification shaped by the word of God will leave behind all habitual sin including racism and sexual immorality. “Such were some of you [fornicators, effeminate, homosexuals, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, swindlers] but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor. 6:11 with 9-10 NAS)”

Justice: The Bible simply swims in the good waters of justice. Whether God’s law, or the prophets, or apostles they all speak to and for justice; they lift up the immigrant, the orphan, the widow and the oppressed. But such justice is tied to the holiness of God. God’s words to his people often begin with their careless disregard for his holiness. They worship idols and commit sexual sin. And then they turn with hatred to their brothers and sisters.

But the justice of God is also tied to the costly grace of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ blood was shed for the sins of racism and bigotry. He transforms the racist. He died for the sins of sexual brokenness. Jesus forgives and heals. He certainly died for a humanity who seeks innumerable ways of ignoring a holy God’s warning and care. It is that forgiveness and healing that brings about the justice of God.

Jesus is Lord; that is the ultimate Confession for the Church of Jesus Christ.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Slandering the Jewish people-more on overture 08-09

In my blogging post, An overture filled with fury: anti-Semitism again, I partly focused on the slander used by the Israel/Palestine Mission Network when they wrote their paper, “CHRISTIANS AND JEWS: PEOPLE OF GOD” AN EXAMPLE OF OCCUPATION THEOLOGY. The paper is a reference in overture 08-09 which has been placed in the Ecumenical Committee for the Presbyterian General assembly.

Part of the slander accuses the Jewish organizations, who opposed the divestment actions of the 2004 Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) General Assembly, of sending a package to the Presbyterian Headquarters which might have been a bomb. The truth is someone sent a letter threatening to burn Presbyterian Churches. You can read about the letter and the arrest of the person who wrote it here at the
Presbyterian News Service. The man, Jeffrey A. Winters, had no connection to any legitimate Jewish organization.

You can also read about how all the various Jewish organizations denounced the threat as soon as it was aired,
Jewish Leaders Condemn Presbyterian Arson Threat. For instance, reporter, Pauline J. Chang of the Christian Post quotes Rabbi Eric Yoffie of the Union for Reformed Judaism who stated:

“We are disgusted and outraged by those who have threatened to use violence and arson against Presbyterian churches to protest the Presbyterian Church (USA)'s recent steps toward divestment from Israel,”

She also quoted Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. “The thugs who have made these reprehensible threats are far outside the mainstream of American Jewry, and we, the largest branch of American Judaism, condemn them forcibly, vigorously, and unequivocally.”

Chang also wrote, “The Simon Wiesenthal Center, one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the US, joined in the condemnation, saying it “repudiates any and all threats of violence against the Church,” in a statement.

The Jewish people in Germany during the time of Hitler were also accused of such things. Supposedly they were behind the horrible Versailles Treaty (but of course they weren’t.) But so many Christians in Germany preferred to listen to lies. They failed to stand up to Hitler and the Nazis, and the German Christians who helped propagate the lies. They aided the Nazis in killing six-million Jewish people.

It seems that the Church must always be confessing her sins. She did during the Nazi days. She will now need to again. Dietrich Bonhoeffer one of the Confessing Pastors in Germany who died rather than let such lies live, wrote a confession for the Church during those days. I have written parts of it here before. But now we, I, need this part now.

“The Church confesses herself guilty towards the countless victims of calumny, denunciation and defamation. She has not convicted the slanderer of his wrongdoing, and she has thereby abandoned the slandered to his fate.

The Church confesses that she has desired security, peace and quiet, possessions and honour, to which she has no right, and that in this way she has not bridled the desires of men but has stimulated them still further.

… By her own silence she has rendered herself guilty of the decline in responsible action, in bravery in the defense of a cause, and in willingness to suffer for what is known to be right. She bears the guilt of the defection of the governing authority from Christ.”

It is time to confess sin, while confessing Christ. It is also time to stand up for those who are slandered.

The Israel/Palestine Mission Network have lied about the Jewish people in the United States. And because I am a Presbyterian (U.S.A.) church member I have lied and must confess that I have hurt the Jewish people.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

For the Lord's Day and all the young people in my life.

For the Lord's Day and all the young people in my life. Thank you for your love. May you all find joy and safety in Jesus.

Friday, May 7, 2010

How a news agency, PNS, can affect voting in the General Assembly

Just today, May 7, 2010, less than two months before the General Assembly, the Presbyterian News Service offered a report by reporter Sue Boardman. The report is “Staying at the Table: Atlanta Presbyterians ponder Civil Unions/Christian Marriage report. The title would be okay but the report is one sided so the title is wrong.

It is really about one person’s view of marriage, civil unions and the majority report of the Committee to Study issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage. This is shaping opinion and outcome by a news media report.

The person the reporter focused on is Rev. Margaret Aymer, assistant professor of New Testament at ITC's Johnson C. Smith seminary, who is a member of the committee and advocates for the ordination of gays and lesbians as well as same gender marriage. Aymer led a conversation on marriage and civil unions at Atlanta’s Interdenominational Theological Center. The reporter, Boardman, wrote that it was a small gathering of “pastors, elders and students." (Italics mine)

So here are some questions for the reporter and the Presbyterian News Service, “Why was this a news worthy report?” Why if it was a news worthy report didn’t the reporter find a way to ask questions of people on both sides of the issues? Since the PNS has published this report will they now interview one of the writers of the minority report?

The minority report did come up in the conversation. Boardman writes:

“Responding to questions about the minority report coming from three members of the committee, Aymer admitted, "I haven't read it. Realizing that, despite all our efforts at covenant community, there was going to be a minority report was extremely painful but still, we all stayed at the table."

'The minority report,' Aymer added, "may consist only of things which were considered and voted down by the committee."

So here are some of the things that were voted down by many in the committee, it is of course from the Minority Report.

“Our starting place

Included in the mandate of this special committee was a directive that the PC (USA)constitutional definition of Christian marriage not be changed. In our confessions, marriage is
consistently defined as a lifelong covenant between God, a man and a woman, and the community of faith.

The PC(USA) Book of Order states: “Marriage is a gift God has given to all humankind for the well-being of the entire human family. Marriage is a civil contract between a woman and a man. For Christians, marriage is a covenant through which a man and a woman are called to live out together before God their lives of discipleship. In a service of Christian marriage, a lifelong commitment is made by a woman and a man to each other, publicly witnessed and acknowledged by the community of faith” (W-4.9001).

Regarding marriage, the PC(USA) Constitution consistently declares that:

Marriage “was instituted by the Lord God himself” (The Book of Confessions, 5.246; also 6.131, 6.133, 7.130, 9.47, and Book of Order, W-4.9001);
 Marriage is a “spiritual and physical union [of] one man and one woman” (The Book of Confessions, 6.131; also 5.246, 6.133);
 Marriage is “designed of God to last as long as they both [husband and wife] shall live” (The Book of Confessions, 6.133; also 6.131, 6.137, 9.47 and Book of Order, W 4.9001);
 “Marriage is a gift God has given to all humankind for the well-being of the entire human family” (Book of Order, W-4.9001; also The Book of Confessions, 6.131);
 Marriage serves purposes including "the mutual help of husband and wife; the safeguarding, undergirding, and development of their moral and spiritual character; the propagation of children and the rearing of them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (The Book of Confessions, 6.134; also 6.131);
 “Marriage is a civil contract between a woman and a man” (Book of Order, W- 4.9001);
 “For Christians marriage is a covenant through which a man and a woman are called to live out together before God their lives of discipleship” (Book of Order, W- 4.9001);
 Christian marriages are to be “publicly witnessed and acknowledged by the community of faith” (Book of Order, W-4.9001);
 Christians are called to “continence” in single life or “complete love and concord” in marriage (The Book of Confessions, 5.245-246; also 4.108, 7.248-249).

Authoritative interpretations of the Constitution have established that:

 “Officers of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) who are authorized to perform marriages shall not state, imply, or represent that a same sex ceremony is a marriage because under W-4.9001 a same sex ceremony is not and cannot be a marriage” (Spahr case, 2008).

 Sessions “should not allow the use of the church facilities for a same sex union ceremony that the session determines to be the same as a marriage ceremony” (1991 General Assembly).”

Boardman writes that Aymer stated:

"It was eye-opening for many members to realize that people disagreed for biblical and theological reasons. We are called by our denomination to read the Bible, taking seriously the issues of language and structure of scripture, and the context of the texts. It was a little strange for me, being from the PC(USA)’s smallest and least remembered seminary, to be the only biblical scholar in the room!"(Italics Mine)

What was it Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to babes. (Matt 11:25)”

And there is the great theologian Karl Barth, who never once felt a fellow Christian was beneath the dignity of the name theologian or biblical scholar if they were serious and knew the subject and the word.

Barth wrote the introduction to a book, Cross and Swastika by a fellow Swiss, Dr. Arthur Frey, who was neither a theologian nor a biblical scholar.[1] Barth stated:

“One thing I do know, however, and that is that at the first encounter I realized I had become acquainted with a man who obviously had read and reflected to an astonishing extent on theological and ecclesiastical matters and who in this field had won the right to independent judgment—a man with whom I could converse on a basis on which it is possible to converse with not many theologians."

Another way that connects Barth’s thoughts about lay theologians and bible scholars to the Majority’s Report, in which they give no opinion, is his praise for the author of the book because Frey, when no one else in Switzerland had a decisive view about the church in Germany, was able to make a decision, to say a definite No to German Church ideology and theology.

The intellectuals among the Swiss, as Barth put it, “has to be as much as possible the cleverer, and therefore—has not to come to a decision!” That reminds one of the Majority Report, perhaps clever about unity but not at all pastoral. Not helpful to those who need biblical and confessional guidance.

Hopefully the PNS will interview a member of the Minority Report, perhaps Rev. William C. Teng whom I am sure Karl Barth would find capable of astonishing theological and ecclesiastical conversation.

[1] Barth writes: “The reader of this book would certainly never have suspected that the author’s thesis for his doctorate, published 1922, had for its subject: “Meat Price Policy in Switzerland during World War, 1914-1918.” Dr. Arthur Frey, Cross and Swastika: The ordeal of the German Church, (Student Christian Movement Press), 1938.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

God confronting the nations through the Jews

As I flew to the Voices of Orthodox Women’s board meeting last week I sat by another Christian. She asked me what church I went to, and I barely got the word Presbyterian out of my mouth when she asked, “Why do Presbyterians hate Israel so much?” I stumbled over words as I tried to explain to her some of the things about my denomination.

I thought of this last weekend as I continued the class I am leading at church on issues coming before the General Assembly. The subject was the Middle East issues.

I gave out several handouts as I always do. One of them was simply a long quote from a book written by the Torrance brothers. Most people in the Presbyterian Church have heard of theologian Thomas F Torrance who translated Karl Barth’s Dogmatics. And many Presbyterians have enjoyed Professor James B Torrance as a teacher. I had Systematic Theology II from him. My all time favorite class.

But probably not that many have heard of Rev. David W Torrance who was not only a Pastor in Great Britain but like his brothers studied under Barth. The quote is from a chapter written by David Torrance, “The Mission of Christians and Jews.” The book is A Passion for Christ: The Vision that ignites Ministry.

This is the quote:

In what way does God confront the nations and peoples of the world today through the Jews?

1. Their remarkable preservation through history, scattered as they have been across the world and persecuted time and again in the most horrific ways, points to the miraculous hand of God who has set them apart for himself and promised, ‘Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,’ declares the lord, ‘will the descendents of Israel ever cease to be a nation before me (Jer 31:36). Their preservation points to the hand of God.

2. The very presence of the Jewish people today recalls us to their origins-to the great things which God has said and done in Israel and which are witnessed to in the Old and New Testaments.

3. The continuing presence of the Jewish people today-particularly their presence back in the Promised Land-reminds us that we and the nations have to reckon with a living, personal God. He is a God who acts in space and time, a God of judgment as well as mercy.

4. Their presence in the promised land reminds us in this twentieth century [and 21st ]that our destiny is not in our hands. The nations do not hold their destiny in their own hands. It is not in the hands of their governments. Our destiny is in the hands of God who personally intervenes in history challenging the nations to humble themselves and to obey him, even as he challenged Pharaoh of old.

5. The modern history of Israel reminds us that God is over-ruling the continued sin of this world, as he fulfils his purposes of love and redemption. All history is leading up to the consummation of God’s purpose for this world, when he himself will come in Christ and the nations must meet with him and render account to him.

Israel’s return to the land of promise, following as it does an attempt under Hitler to obliterate everything Jewish, reminds us not only that God is the Lord of history but also that events seem to be moving on fairly fast toward the ultimate goal of history. Israel continues to be God’s covenant people and God continues to speak through the Jewish people and through them to show his glory to all who have eyes to see.”

David W. Torrance, “The Mission of Christians and Jews,” A Passion for Christ: The Vision that Ignites Ministry 123-124.

If you are interested in the book you can order it from The Layman on Line

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Some excellent writing on the problems in the Middle East

To not stand alone is good. Sometimes one must do so but not now in the case of several Presbyterian (U.S.A.) organizations which are not only attacking Israel but also the Jewish people in the United States. Several good friends of mine are blogging about the escalating problem and although they are not PC (U.S.A) they have very good reasons for joining the fray.

Will Spotts

Will Spotts who was PC (U.S.A.) for many years but left the denomination partly because of the battering that Israel and the Jews have taken from this and other mainline denominations is providing his very logical and compassionate voice to the problem. Will had a blog at one point entitled Whatsoever Things. If you click on that now you will find that the Title has changed to, “The PC (USA) on Israel and Palestine.

His first posting is About: First Do No Harm where he explains why he has once again decided to defend righteousness by means of a computer. His second posting is MAP THING: Why Willful Ignorance Is Not an Option And in the third posting which is a series he begins to dig into the options the PC (U.S.A.) has. That one is Which Is It to Be – Pro-Palestinian, Anti-Israel, or Antisemitic? (part 1). He is writing in areas I have not explored or even touched.

For instance This:

“Most importantly, I have been amazed by the lack of reaction among ‘ordinary’ Christians. It is as if these ‘ordinary’ Christians – who are not themselves antisemitic, and who do not, themselves hold Israel to a double standard – remain perfectly content for organizations to which they belong to do so. It is as if they do not recognize their responsibility and culpability for the actions of churches where both their membership and their financial contributions are voluntary.”

And this:

“The word ‘antisemite’ itself was apparently coined by Wilhelm Marr when he formed the German ‘Antisemitic League’ (“Antisemiten-Liga”) specifically to combat the ‘Jewish threat to Germany’. Marr also used the phrase “Jew hatred” (Judenhass) in a pretty much equivalent fashion. Marr’s emphasis was placed on non-religious, race based opposition to the Jewish people. The word ‘antisemitic’ came to be preferred over ‘Jew hatred’ because it seemed to provide a thin, pseudo-scientific veneer for the whole concept.”

Please read all, it is worthwhile and at this time in our history very important.

David Fischler

The other person is David Fischler who a Pastor of an Evangelical Presbyterian Church and blogs at The Reformed Pastor. He just this year visited Israel and posted some wonderful pictures. David doesn’t always write about Israel and Palestine but when he does his posts are extremely thoughtful, logical and full of a Pastor’s good sense and care.

Just this week David read what I had posted on San Francisco’s latest overture, 08-09 On Referring “Christians and Jews: People of God” and “Understanding Christian-Muslim Relations” in which their diatribe is extreme. And here I am talking about the information they have added to the rationale. It is a paper provided by the Israel/Palestine Mission Network. David posted about the information here PCUSA Israel-Haters Rave Away. As a Reformed Pastor who is Jewish the IPMN must be extremely insulting to him, perhaps scary.

Here is a section from his post:

“I think at this point that it has become crystal clear what the IPMN stands for. Jews who are so foolish as to desire to live in the historic homeland of their people should be at the mercy of the Jew-haters who dominate most of the nations that surround them. The claims of the Jewish people on that homeland are to be rejected, Israel’s right to exist denied, and the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state advocated.”

Please use the material at both of these gentlemen’s blogs.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

An overture filled with fury: anti-Semitism again

Anti-Semitism[1] is hatred of the Jewish people. It is not the hatred of all Semitic people but is instead a word designated for the Jews alone. With a great amount of fury the San Francisco Presbytery and the Israel/Palestine Mission Network as well as other Presbyterian (U.S.A) organizations, have exposed their great hatred for the Jewish people, not just the ones in Israel but also the ones in the United States. And they have also revealed their great contempt for God’s word.

Recently added to the overtures in the Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee is 08-09 On Referring “Christians and Jews: People of God” and “Understanding Christian-Muslim Relations” This overture asks the General Assembly to postpone both of those reports until other more political organizations, such as the Israel/Palestine Mission Network, the National Presbyterian Middle East Caucus and the PCUSA partner churches and agencies in the Middle East can be consulted. (Keep in mind these are theology papers.)

The main problem for them is the Jewish paper. In the rationale section of the overture they have linked to a pdf file written by the Israel/Palestine Mission Network and referred to it in the text.[2] It is mostly about the paper “Christians and Jews: People of God.”

Lies !: Although the IPMN lists some things they like about the paper they in various ways take them back when they start expressing their dislikes. So I will begin with their complaints. Under “the fatal flaws” they first look at what they title “The Separation of Theology and Justice.” After arguing that not enough is said about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians they write:

“By neglecting the reality on the ground, this report would ‘make nice’ with certain American Jewish organizations to avoid unwarranted charges of anti-Semitism. These are the organizations that have provided financial and political support for the Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands since 1948, and used threat and intimidation to censor debates about Israel within and without the Jewish Community. A report that confesses Christian guilt for the past and calls for changes in our theology and practice but neglects to mention contribution of American synagogues to the oppression of Palestinians over the past six decades appears to us as inauthentic interfaith dialogue.”

There is a footnote with the line about threats and intimidation to censor by Jewish organizations. The footnote is, “The package (a bomb?) sent to 100 Witherspoon St in 2004, the fire in a Rochester Church, the picketing of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship event at GA when Professor Norman Finkelstein was a featured speaker, and the many visits of teams of Jewish neighbors to local Presbyterian Churches are examples of these tactics.” The rest includes a Jewish web site that supposedly documents all of this. (But it doesn’t)

So let’s start unraveling all of this by insisting that the package was never linked to any Jewish organization. Nor was the fire. And arson and bombing are not American activities but picketing is. And visits to local Presbyterian Churches by Jewish neighbors-I hope the pastors preached about Jesus.

The first quote about how Jewish organizations have been helping Israel for six decades- I hardly know what to say. Have these authors ever heard of the Marshall Plan which helped Europe recover from the ravages of World War II. Many Jewish organizations in the United States started for the same reasons and function in much the same way. Others do fight bigotry and intolerance and of course just like the present Presbyterian Washington office the Jewish citizens of the United States also lobby for what they think is right. What could be more American?

The Jews cause anti-Semitism ?:The authors refer to many different issues in the Christians and Jews paper and one of its concerns, the rise of anti-Jewish rhetoric and actions is attacked by the authors of the IPMN paper, who state:

“This statement [about the rise of Anti-Jewish rhetoric and actions] needs to be contextualized. The ‘anti-Jewish rhetoric’ does not arise out of a vacuum, or some inchoate reservoir of anti-Semitism. In fact, the case can be made that it is a reaction to the actions of the state of Israel. And this is related to the American Middle East wars, which, combined with the U.S. defense of Israel internationally, fuels anti-Jewish stereotypes and some classic anti-Semitic beliefs.”

So those who defame the Jewish people are not at fault! Instead the Jews are! And the United States. That is a classic double bind. There is no defense against a double bind and when combined with classic anti-Semitism it is pure evil. The victim is made responsible for the crime. It is like telling a woman she was raped because of the way she dressed.

Jews as the people of God: Finally the authors turn to theology. They complain that, “Christians and Jews’ uses selected texts in the Old Testament and in Romans 9-11 to affirm the continuity of Jewish and Christian faith. It declares that both are ‘people of God.’ And ‘serve the same God.’” They go on to complain that the paper fails to show the differences between Christian and Jewish faith as the paper on Muslims does. But their real complaint here is “Muslims who compare the titles of the two reports may conclude that we believe they worship a lesser God than Christians and Jews.”

But here is the real problem: the paper Understanding Christian and Muslim Relations does speak of both Christians and Muslims worshiping the same God which isn’t true. The Christian Jewish issue is a bit different. I think it can be put this way.

The Old Testament is full of Jesus Christ, it is about him. The Jewish people do not accept that and yet their Scriptures are a beautiful and true picture of the God Christians worship. Without the Old Testament Christians would have no foundations for their faith in Jesus Christ. That is not true of Islam. Their holy text is a contradiction of what Christians believe.

Furthermore, God has, as the Christian and Jews paper points out, given promises that tie the Jewish people forever to God’s keeping power. “From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling are irrevocable. (Romans 11:28)”

While I wish the paper Christians and Jews had been clearer and more insistent that all peoples, including the Jewish people, need Jesus for eternal salvation it does state that “Presbyterians share a basic conviction that the Church is called to tell the good news of salvation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord to all people.”

The Authority of Scripture or Not: Other problems with Israel/Palestine Mission Network paper is their view of Scripture and their misrepresentation of the Christians and Jews paper’s view of Scripture. Writing about biblical interpretation they suggest that the theological paper upholds historical critical methods which will “call into question the validity of anti-Jewish texts in the New Testament.” They state this about the Christians and Jews paper as an excuse to question the validity of Scripture themselves.

But this is not what the Christians and Jews paper does. Instead it states, “Inappropriate uses of the historical-critical method of studying Scripture can reduce the Old Testament to a mildly interesting account of what people used to believe long ago and far away. For Christians, the Old Testament is more than a record of ancient Israel’s faith; it is ‘Christian Scripture.”

The paper also states, “Unfavorable New Testament references to ‘the Jews’ do not refer to all Jews of the first century, and certainly not of the twenty-first.” None of this questions the validity of the Holy Scriptures. But the Israel/Palestine Mission network paper does. They write:

“We believe it is necessary to use historical critical methods to call into question biblical texts in Genesis, Deuteronomy, and Joshua that are used to support the Israeli treatment of Palestinians within Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

Land, Zionism, and a Jewish State; A few other problems: The authors of the IPMN paper complain about the section on land in the Christians and Jews paper. And yet, while the IPMN and other Presbyterian pro-Palestinian organizations always give a one-sided story about Israel and land, the theological paper constantly gives two accounts. They explain the merits and problems of connecting Israel to God’s promise of land. The paper Christians and Jews is extremely fair in this area.

The IPMN paper complains of the warning about anti-Zionism in the theological paper. Instead of heeding the warning, IPMN faults Zionism for seeking a Jewish State. As an example they write, “The push by the current government of Netanyahu for recognition of Israel as a ‘Jewish state’ is one example of this ideology.” And they footnote this with, “The common denominator of most forms of Zionism is the demand for a Jewish State.” Indeed!

And may it ever be a Jewish State.

Then the final request in the IPMN paper is that all the political entities in the Presbyterian Church who would like to see that Israel loses her status as a Jewish State be consulted when the Church writes a theological paper on Christians and Jews.

In the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) something evil this way comes-may God stand between it and his Church. Deliver us from evil.

[1] Anti-Semitism A Presbyterian Pastor, John Shuck, asked this question and I thought I would answer it.
[2] see- 111 Refer Papers Attachment.pdf

Sunday, May 2, 2010

First Presbyterian Church of Roseville, Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church and the comfort of our Lord

I wanted to rant and rave. A friend wanted to curse them, something a Christian may not, cannot do. Here is the truth, forgiveness will bring healing to them or it will eat away at their soul. They, like the creatures, in C.S. Lewis’ essay, “The Weight of Glory” will progress toward a thing that if you saw it in reality would be a horror and a corruption that might be found in nightmares.

Yes, the sad thing is that just now, in the face of this, we will meet for worship and then a Presbytery meeting in the church whose former leader, I will not call him pastor, caused all of us, to not allow them to leave with their own gifts and works, their church buildings.

God is better than that. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord …” a heavenly voice has said. Why? Because they not only “rest from their labors” but they carry their deeds, their works, with them. Those deeds truly belong to God, he prepared them ahead of time, but he allows the saints to carry them to heaven. (Eph 2:10; Rev 14:13)

Not so the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
First Presbyterian Church of Roseville California will pay half the court cost and “they will pay $810,000 (about 10% of their church's appraised value) over a 20-year period at no interest. (This would be a monthly payment of $3375.)” And Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church; they also are settling with the PC(USA). But will there be trust anymore?

In the beautiful passage of Isaiah which Jesus quotes, as he reads from the Prophets in the synagogue at Nazareth, his very being is expressed.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord” (61: 1-2a).

But the latter part of the sentence containing 'favorable year of the Lord' is not spoken by Jesus, that is, he does not say that he is sent to proclaim “the day of vengeance of our God.” But notice, within the text such vengeance is connected to God’s promise “to comfort all who mourn” granting to them an exchange of garlands for ashes and “the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantles of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.” And Jesus as the eternal Son of the Father and Lord of the Church pulls all of the promises and warnings of Scripture into himself.

It is all tied up together. The comfort is now, it belongs to God. In the same chapter in God’s written word is this, “Instead of your shame you will have a double portion, and instead of humiliation they will shout for joy over their portion. Therefore they will possess a double portion in their land, everlasting joy will be theirs.” While this undoubtedly has application to physical Israel in the midst of her history it also applies to spiritual Israel, the church.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer has written about the church struggle of his time, “Trust will always be one of the greatest, rarest, and happiest blessings of our life in community, though it can emerge only on the dark background of a necessary mistrust. We have learnt never to trust a scoundrel an inch, but to give ourselves to the trustworthy without reserve.” (Letters & Papers from Prison)

The Lord Jesus Christ calls his church to obedience, patience, suffering and joy. And to wait for his sovereign will in all things.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Belhar Confession, the Covenant Network and the Minority Report of the Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Unions and Christian Marriage

Using the language of Belhar, the Covenant Network, which advocates for the ordination of unrepentant gay and lesbian church members and also same gender marriage, slams the Minority Report of the Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage.
minority report states:

“It is the intent of this report to represent the church’s biblical, historic, and confessional position that, among all varieties of sexual relationships, only marriage between a man and a woman is ordained by God and blessed by our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In its criticism of the Minority Report, the Covenant Network, under the subject Marriage and Civil Unions, offers an article,
Marriage and Covenant, which refers to the above statement as absolutizing one particular biblical way of interpreting scripture on the issue of same gender marriage. They write:

“However, three committee members chose to submit a minority report, which also acknowledges that there truly exist variant interpretations of Scripture, which in turn dictate different pastoral models and advocacy models,” yet proceeds to absolutize one of these and attempt to impose it upon all.” (Italics mine)

The problem passage in the Belhar Confession is “…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. …”

This should help those who want some clarity on how the Belhar Confession could be useful to those people who are advocating for ordination and marriage of those who are unrepentant practicing homosexuals.

However, it ought to be noted that the Majority Report does not say that any of the interpretations are correct it simply admits that there are different ways that people have interpreted the Scripture. And it fails to mention that both the Presbyterian (U.S.A.)’s Book of Order and Book of Confessions absolutizes marriage as between a man and a woman, and that absolute understanding finds its foundation in the word’s of Jesus:

Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh…’”