Wednesday, June 30, 2010

On our way ....

I'm on my way to Minneapolis so prayers for all:

There is a reason to go and bear witness to our faith. That is the loving transforming grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. What a great price he paid for our freedom. What a great love God shows us in the life, death and resurrection of his eternal Son.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Trying not to be snarky: some thoughts about a James Wall posting

It is so full of insults I don’t really know where to begin. James Wall writing about some professors who have written good critiques of the Presbyterian Middle East Study Committee’s paper, dismisses them as scholars who are hiding “behind a smoke screen." Wall states that they are not "even remotely approaching the standard of pertinent scholarship one expects from four academics from such prestigious educational institutions.”

Wall’s article is entitled
Israeli “Agents” Infiltrate Presbyterian General Assembly . The four scholars, who according to Wall are supposedly Israeli agents, are:

Dr. Ted A. Smith and Dr. Amy-Jill Levine who wrote
Habits of anti-Judaism: Critiquing a PCUSA report on Israel/Palestine., and Dr. Katharine Henderson and Dr. Gustav Niebuhr who wrote, Peacemaking is more than pointing fingers.

The temptation is to critique Wall's posting, and that in a snarky manner. But how do you respond to such words as “Katharine Henderson and Gustav Niebuhr find the report to be ‘unbalanced, historically inaccurate, theologically flawed and politically damaging’. How many days or weeks did they study the Resolution to enable them to make that sweeping judgment?”

Or speaking of Smith and Levine:

“The two Vanderbilt professors attack the PCUSA Middle East Study Commission with a string of innuendoes that shout “anti-Semites in the room”. They do so, however, in the polite, and deliberately misleading, language of a dusty seminar room.”

I think perhaps the best way to counter this attack is to ask my readers to read the two articles by the four professors. The articles are balanced and reasonable. And they are not one sided as is the Presbyterian report.

Also I should mention that Dr. Katherine Henderson, who is President of Auburn Seminary, is speaking at the
Presbyterians for Middle East Peace’s breakfast at General Assembly, as is Rachel Lerner, Vice President of J Street, a Jewish Organization that the Study Committee claimed they spoke to but didn’t. Also the one dissenting member of the Middle East Study Committee, Dr. Byron Shafer, will be speaking.

On that same web site,
Presbyterians for Middle East Peace, is the means to sign the paper that Wall complains about in his post. Rather than being snarky I will ask you to also go to the site and sign up for the breakfast and sign the paper. See you there!

But I do have a few more words. I found Wall’s posting when looking at the Israel/Palestine Mission Network’s Facebook page. The whole combination gave me a sinking feeling in my stomach. Not only did I see Walls’s article linked to, but there was this:

Now just a bit more. The Germany of the 1930's, without a Hitler, is knocking at the door of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). We are free and we have a choice. We can go on allowing a few in leadership, and some who volunteer, to form our souls into evolving monsters or we can be fair and even minded caring for all in the Middle East. We can be real peace makers not soldiers marching to the beat of Hamas' drums.

By the way, the video was made in Venezuela.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Dogs, Pigs & Pearls again: for the Lord's Day

Angry that the German Christians wanted to rewrite and reinterpret scripture in order that Germans would more freely come to church, disappointed that the Confessing Church did not preach about the suffering of grace or the power of the proclamation of the word clearly enough Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:

“Christ has given his church power to forgive and to retain sins with divine authority (Matt 16:19, 18:18; John 20: 23) Eternal salvation and eternal damnation are decided by its word. Anyone who turns from his sinful ways at the word of proclamation and repents receives forgiveness. Anyone who perseveres in his sin receives judgment. The church cannot loose the penitent from sin without arresting and binding the impenitent in sin.

'Do not give dogs what is holy and do not throw your pearls before swine lest they trample them under foot and turn and attack you.’ (Matt 7: 6) The promise of grace is not to be squandered, it needs to be protected from the godless. There are those who are not worthy of the sanctuary. The proclamation of grace has its limits. Grace may not be proclaimed to anyone who does not recognize or distinguish or desire it. Not only does that pollute the sanctuary itself, not only must those who sin still be guilty against the Most High, but in addition the misuse of the Holy must turn against the community itself. The world upon whom grace is thrust as a bargain will grow tired of it, and it will not only trample upon the Holy, but also will tear apart those who force it on them. For its own sake, for the sake of the sinner, and for the sake of the community, the Holy is to be protected from cheap surrender. The Gospel is to be protected by the preaching of repentance which calls sin sin and declares the sinner guilty. The key to loose is protected by the key to bind. The preaching of grace can only be protected by the preaching of repentance. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from The Way to freedom, 151, found in Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas 2010,

Friday, June 25, 2010

A yes for Sacramento's overture Item 16-01 rather than a yes to a combination of Belhar, Accra and Kairos

The Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) recently placed their advice on Sacramento’s overture item # 16-01, “On Commending Confessions that Uphold the Oneness of All Believers, and Discontinuing Efforts to Include the Belhar Confession in the Book of Confessions.” The committee disapproved and lifted up not only Belhar but tied it to the Accra Confession and the Palestinian Kairos document.

As I have stated before, although commissioners do not need to follow ACSWP’s advice I will comment on it. But first I would like to look carefully at Sacramento’s overture.

Sacramento’s Overture, item # [16-01].

The overture lifts up all of the important statements in the Church’s constitution, which focus on the unity of the body of Christ. (The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Book of Order & Book of Confessions) In recommendations 1& 2 the overture insists that diversity, including, racial ethnic diversity, be encouraged and lived out within the Church. “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:27-28)”

Within the body of the overture both the “Brief Statement of Faith” and the “Confession of 1967” are singled out. Those two Confessions speak in particular to ethnic unity. In fact, the Confession of 1967 has very practical statements that fit well the racial problems in the United States:

"God has created the peoples of the earth to be one universal family. In his reconciling love, he overcomes the barriers between brothers and breaks down every form of discrimination based on racial or ethnic difference, real or imaginary. The church is called to bring all men to receive and uphold one another as persons in all relationships of life: in employment, housing, education, leisure, marriage, family, church, and the exercise of political rights. Therefore, the church labors for the abolition of all racial discrimination and ministers to those injured by it. Congregations, individuals, or groups of Christians who exclude, dominate, or patronize their fellowmen, however subtly, resist the Spirit of God and bring contempt on the faith which they profess." (The Book of Confessions, The Confession of 1967, 9.44)

This is a much clearer statement and far more demanding than Belhar.

In recommendation # 3 the overture asks the General Assembly to not adopt the Confession of Belhar. The reasons given involve the complexity and confusion of the document. This has led some to desire to use Belhar as liberation theology and to insist that it can be used as an advocacy tool for same sex issues. But the overall problem with Belhar which allows for such use is that its main focus is on confessing unity rather than confessing Jesus Christ.

As a means of contrasting the Christology of Belhar with the Christology of other confessions, Sacramento’s overture asks the GA to add a comment to their yes to item #16-01 which is a quote from the Declaration of Barmen. That is:

“'I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one comes to the Father, but by me' (John 14:6), 'Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. … I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved.' (John 10:1, 9.) 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. We reject the false doctrine, as though the church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation apart from and besides this one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and truths, as God’s revelation." (The Book of Confessions, The Theological Declaration of Barmen, 8.10–8.12)

The Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy and their advice:

The ACSWP makes some statements that are concerned with only the Confession of Belhar but then turn to what is called the Accra Confession.

Their first statement is, “The Belhar Confession adds a voice from the Reformed church in the global south to our Confessions.” It should be noted, however, that our Confessions are not chosen as a way of accommodating numerical fairness of any kind but rather when it is time to confess, we then confess Jesus Christ as Lord.

The ACSWP also states that: Belhar stresses that if the church is to be the church it is called to be, it must make visible that reconciliation. It asks us to look at our church and see what others see. Do others see a people reconciled in Christ, bearing one another’s burdens, needing and fulfilling one another’s hopes? Belhar asks how we can be the church of Jesus Christ and not exhibit this gift of unity across racial divides.”

But the open door that Belhar offers to those seeking to ordain practicing homosexuals as well as marriage for same gender couples will bring a great deal of disunity to the Church. As can be seen by recent events most Christians in the global south do not share the western Church’s slide toward sexual perversity. Not only will members of the PCUSA be thrown into greater disunity but division will be a global reality.

The unfaithfulness of some churches in the west in sexual matters is of far more concern to the southern cone than western Reformed Churches adopting a southern cone confession.

The ACSWP and the Accra Confession:

Beyond these two statements the ACSWP speaks of the 2010 Colloquium of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches on the Accra Statement and the Belhar Confession which was sponsored by both the ACSWP and the Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns. Quoting from a paper presented by the Colloquium they write “This Colloquium, or structured conversation, was designed to explore complementary elements in the Accra document and the Belhar Confession.”

That was the conference, Confessing When Empire Trembles: Belhar and Accra Confessions in Conversation: held at the Presbyterian Conference site, Stony Point. I have written about the Conference here, The goddess, Belhar & Accra at Stony Point and the Accra Confession here, How many confessions is the PC (U.S.A.)'s 219th General Assembly voting on?.

A resource added to the advice by the ACSWP is the paper that ACSWP quotes from[1] In that paper three documents are lifted up, the Confession of Belhar, the Accra Confession and the Kairos Document, “A Moment of Truth.”

The documents looming behind the Confession of Belhar:

If the ACSWP is suggesting that the three documents are related, and they seem to be, they are right. None of the documents confess Jesus Christ in a proper manner. All are careless of the complex situations in their area of interest. The Kairos Document is totally focused on the rightness of the Palestinian’s cause without any room for Israelis needs. All terrorism is blamed on Israel and the Jews are denied their need of a Jewish state. Complete divestment and boycott of Israel is promoted. The Accra Confession is a document that caricatures capitalism and points toward socialism as the more biblical economic point of view. And Belhar does not properly confess Jesus Christ.

The ACSWP have allowed their disapproval of Sacramento’s overture to tie all three documents, Accra, Kairos, and Belhar together. Using their rationale to vote for Belhar would be to approve of the other two. Sacramento’s overture, item 16-03 is by far the better option. It upholds ethnic diversity in the Church, points to a wonderful confession of Jesus Christ and in the rationale explains what a Confession is meant to do: Confess Jesus Christ.

[1] I am aware of the theological outlook of at least two of the participants who affirmed the statement of the conference “Confessing When Empire Trembles: Belhar and Accra Confessions in Conversation”.
Cynthia Holder Rich-hopes to use Belhar as a means of gaining ordination for LGBT persons.
Rita Nakashima-Brock- denies the atoning death of Jesus Christ. She sees it as child abuse.
Also one of the presenters, Rebecca Told Peters, sometimes refers to deity as goddess and advocates for same gender marriage and ordination of LGBT persons.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

How many confessions is the PC (U.S.A.)'s 219th General Assembly voting on?

How many confessions is the 219th General Assembly voting on? Two you might answer. And that would, in a sense, be correct. One study committee is asking the GA to adopt the Confession of Belhar. Another study committee is asking the GA to allow them to work for two more years on the Heidelberg Catechism as they work with two other Reformed denominations toward a new translation.

But another confession is being introduced to the PC (U.S.A.) through Item # [08-08], Review of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches/Caribbean and North American Area Council of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.

One of the affirmations the General Assembly Committee on Ecumenical Relations is asking the GA to make in item 08-08 is # 4 “Integrate and interpret the Accra Confession and the historic commitments, along with the life and work of the WCRC/CANAAC, throughout PC(USA), its congregations and presbyteries.” (Bold mine)

The Accra Confession pops up throughout the document.

For instance, # 9 in the document states: “Request the General Assembly Committee on Ecumenical Relations to contact the coordinator for the Committee on Theological Education and seminary organizations to provide briefings on the new realities of WCRC/CANAAC, and to ask PC(USA) seminaries (including seminaries in covenant agreement with the General Assembly) to include the Accra Confession as a study document.”

In the rationale this:

“A key WARC focus has been the dissemination of the Accra Confession so churches can use it to affect their local contexts. Through study of the biblical and Reformed perspective on economic life and justice, as well the study of how economic processes work locally and globally, the Accra Confession creates space for a healthy debate and for hearing the voices and concerns of women and men, young and old, people from the Global South and the Global North. The hope is that member churches will act as agents of transformation in a manner that goes far beyond the church…”

After that is listed, under bullets, how the confession might be used. An example is, “Continuing to build theological consensus faithful to the Reformed ethos and the Word of God to ground social justice.” Another is, “Supporting the development of contextualized models for Reformed Theology and Bible study that use local and global contexts as a resource to address issues of economic and environmental justice.”

So as one might suspect the Accra Confession is an economic document. And I have noticed in my research on the Confession of Belhar that it is always looming over the shoulders of Belhar. For example a conference at Stony Point, a PCUSA conference site, several months ago featured this Confessing When Empire Trembles: Belhar and Accra Confessions in Conversations.

The Confession can be read at The Accra Confession: Covenanting for justice in the Economy and the Earth. But basically the document insists that such economic views and intuitions as capitalism and the World Bank are biblically unfaithful. (They may or may not be depending on the day, the year, the era, the context.) The Confession itself admits that it is not a confession in the traditional sense.

As the authors put it:

“Faith commitment may be expressed in various ways according to regional and theological traditions: as confession, as confessing together, as faith stance, as being faithful to the covenant of God. We choose confession, not meaning a classical doctrinal confession, because the World Alliance of Reformed Churches cannot make such a confession, but to show the necessity and urgency of an active response to the challenges of our time and the call of Debrecen. We invite member churches to receive and respond to our common witness.”

Nonetheless Accra is being used in a classical way since its creators enjoin all other churches to embrace and confess it. The problem is that although it rightly describes the needs and sufferings of the world it often caricatures the political views it disagrees with and then more or less banishes them from any Christian world view.

For instance this:

“12. In classical liberal economics, the state exists to protect private property and contracts in the competitive market. Through the struggles of the labour movement, states began to regulate markets and provide for the welfare of people. Since the 1980s, through the transnationalization of capital, neoliberalism has set out to dismantle the welfare functions of the state. Under neoliberalism the purpose of the economy is to increase profits and return for the owners of production and financial capital, while excluding the majority of the people and treating nature as a commodity.

13. As markets have become global, so have the political and legal institutions which protect them. The government of the United States of America and its allies, together with international finance and trade institutions (International Monetary Fund, World Bank, World Trade Organization) use political, economic, or military alliances to protect and advance the interest of capital owners.”

While Christians always agree that it is biblical to care for the poor, needy and oppressed, they can and do disagree over the best way this is accomplished. Neither socialism, which Accra points to, nor capitalism which it points away from are biblical mandates. That a so called confession, such as Accra, should so carelessly be pushed off on commissioners at the General Assembly only adds to the mistrust that is growing among many denominational members.

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that I have noticed that Accra is always looming over the shoulders of Belhar. I looked today at the new advice placed by The Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP)on Sacramento’s overture #
[16-01] to not adopt Belhar. The ACSWP has disapproved #16-01, and in their rationale for disapproving they use Accra with Belhar to make their point. I will write about that in my next posting.

Monday, June 21, 2010

What direction is the wind blowing? What wind is blowing?

Over the weekend I placed a video on my posting, with a song "Which way the wind blows." Some of the words are:

Where is your wisdom
You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow.

I believe a very foul wind is blowing for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). History has never totally repeated itself, but anti-Semitism repeats itself over and over. Let it not be us oh Lord.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Israel/Palestine Mission Network, it seems to me, is always moving where the stench is growing. While some of their connections are with the needy people of Palestine their political pushiness is lodged in other places. For instance on IPMN’s Facebook page they link to several online accounts of a recent protest in Oakland California. There both protesters and longshoremen supposedly kept an Israeli ship from being unloaded for 24 hours. Not a great deal, but those at IPMN were able to say they were there. (Picture: David Becker and Alliance Coalition by Zombie)

One article in the
S, F. Gate which IPMN points to starts, “(06-21) 04:00 PDT OAKLAND -- Hundreds of demonstrators, condemning Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, picketed at the Port of Oakland on Sunday and may have prevented an Israeli cargo ship from unloading for the day.
Two shifts of longshoremen agreed not to cross the picket line, leaving nobody to unload the vessel.”

The reporters, Victoria Colliver and David R. Baker, who wrote the article for the San Francisco Chronicle, stated that Richard Becker, with the ANSWER Coalition said that “some [longshoremen] workers showed up for the morning shift, but virtually none did for the second.”

In pointing to this particular article IPMN states “
IPMN members were part of the crowd of protesters in Oakland!” You will need to scroll down on the page in the link. (If you do not have a Facebook account you may not be able to see this link.)

If you are interested in David R. Becker and the ANSWER Coalition go to
San Francisco "Anti-War" Rally: The New Communist/Truth/Jihad Alliance. (But be careful there are some offensive pictures there.) I have also placed a picture of David R. Becker and ANSWER Coalition at this earlier rally at the top of my posting.

This is at Zoombietime a photo journalist, who has also written an enlightening article on the protest: Radicals, Islamists and Longshoremen blockade Israeli ship in Oakland. Zombie writes of David Becker, ANSWER and the earlier protest, "The rally was put together by ANSWER, a communist/Islamist revolutionary group."

To continue about the radical bent of the IPMN if one remembers the recent anti-Semitism of news woman Helen Thomas- she now has a Facebook page
Helen Thomas, Friend of Palestine & American Hero in a Time of Scoundrels. And Polly Johnson secretary of IPMN has joined it. (once again if you are not connected to Facebook you might not see Thomas’s page.) And in case you don’t know about the Helen Thomas incident here is the video.

While the very far left and the anti-Zionist groups are joining forces, I think we have to expect a further erosion of integrity on the part of some few edges of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). From accusing Jewish organizations in the United States of sending a bomb in the mail and burning down churches (and then refusing to apologize when confronted with the truth) to posting the radical Islamic film
I am Israel, to joining forces with the Alliance Coalition in Oakland the Presbyterian IPMN is headed in a direction that should cause Church members great alarm. May the wind of the Holy Spirit melt us with grief.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns & the Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns:

Comment on Sacramento’s Overture # 16-01 on not adopting the Confession of Belhar

The Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns and the Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns have now commented on Sacramento’s overture # 16-01, “on commending confessions that uphold the oneness of all believers and discontinue efforts to include the Belhar Confession in The Book of Confessions.”

They both disapprove the overture and in peculiar ways lift up the Confession of Belhar. And both ignore the need for a strong confession of the Lordship of Christ. While commissioners do not have to follow the advice of any of these comments I will still make my own comments about their advice.

The Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns is opposing the overture for several reasons. First they write that, “The Belhar Confession arose in a context of racial hatred and oppression, when the church was separated by sinful practice and belief. The confession states that belief in Jesus is the only condition for membership, arguing for a radical unity in Christ.”

Their account of history is certainly right and they correctly link the racism of apartheid with the racism foundational to the past institution of slavery in the United States. However, their apologetic for Belhar simply echoes Belhar. It lacks a proper confession of Jesus Christ. For example they argue that belief in Jesus is the only condition for membership in the church. They then equate such membership to radical inclusiveness. Their words as well as Belhar’s words should be compared with the Book of Order’s statement on membership.

While the BOO insists that it is a sin to deny membership to those who profess Christ it explains the meaning of the Christian’s profession in this way:

“The incarnation of God in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ gives to the church not only its mission but also its understanding of membership. One becomes an active member of the church through faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and acceptance of his Lordship in all of life. Baptism and a public profession of faith in Jesus as Lord are the visible signs of entrance into the active membership of the church.” G-5.0100.

Radical indeed! It is both one’s commitment to the Lordship of Jesus as well as the diversity of members that must be included in the term radical. Belhar does not offer a clue about such faith because it fails to properly confess Jesus Christ.

Next their comment attempts to show that one need not be concerned that the Belhar Confession will be misused because even the Bible has been misused. Which is true, yet, the Bible has, will and does correct those same evils. But Belhar will not correct its misuse because it has no boundaries. Its concept of unity has no qualifications.

Belhar’s call for unity, without a clear Christological confession set within the boundaries of Scripture, may lead to unscriptural unity. In fact, the ACRC wanders beyond Belhar with this statement: “We are more diverse in culture, race, and ideas, and as a result, there is a need to gather together all groups with love, based upon the common principles of reconciliation, justice, and unity.”

The authors are assuming that Christian unity can be founded on the principles of reconciliation, justice, and unity. They have it backwards. The Church’s confession of Jesus Christ as the one and only Lord as he is known in scripture is the only basis for unity. From this unity will flow scriptural justice and reconciliation.

The Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns, who in their comment state that they are advocating for people who are marginalized due to race, gender, or sexual orientation, disapprove the overture but are mainly having a language problem. But it isn’t with Sacramento’s overture but rather with Belhar.

Interestingly, they ask to have the language of the Confession of Belhar made more inclusive, but this is placed on Sacramento’s overture not on the recommendation for Belhar. (Here they are referring to language about God.) Perhaps they do not wish to place anything negative on the Belhar recommendation.[1]

This is a part of what they write regarding the need for inclusive language:

“While exclusive language for God may not be a primary cause of women’s oppression, exclusive language is certainly a reflection of patriarchal society and encourages us to see women as subordinate to men and to view men as more closely resembling God’s image. If we are to truly confess solidarity with all people who are oppressed and to witness against apartheid of all forms, then we must also address the language that divides women and men and encourages us to see separate and often very unequal roles as divinely ordained.” (Italics mine)

Since the ACWC offers no rationale for rejecting Sacramento’s overture but instead speak of what they don’t like about Belhar, I can only guess that the reason is lodged in their advocacy for those who they feel are marginalized because of race, gender and sexual orientation. (This is after all the GAMC Committee that
advocated for the passage of same gender marriage on overtures in committee 12, Civil Union and Marriage issues.)

So we come back around to the same problem. The ACWC has nothing to say about Christology, or confessing the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Instead they are concerned with confessing solidarity with all oppressed people, which isn’t bad but isn’t what a confession is about.

I believe I should end this with the statement that is placed at the end of the rationale on Sacramento’s overture #16-01. It was written by Dr. Arthur Cochrane in his chapter on the nature of a confession in his book The Church’s Confession Under Hitler.

A Confession is therefore not the publication of the opinions, convictions, ideals, and value judgments of men. It does not set forth a program or system of theology or ethics. It is not a set of principles or constitution for a fraternal order, social service club, or a religious society. It is not a political or ethical, religious platform. It does not bear witness to certain events, powers, figures, and truths in nature and history that may be championed by certain groups in society. It confesses Jesus Christ as the one Lord, the one justification and sanctification of men, the one revelation, and the one Word of God which we have to hear, trust and obey in life and in death. Thus, the Belhar Confession, for all its strengths for its time and setting, does not qualify as a confession of the church for all times in all places, since it centers on local circumstances rather than on Jesus Christ.

[1]The actions of the ACWC become even more confusing and strange when one notes that they direct the reader of their Belhar approval to item # 16-03 On Amending W-2.3008b Regarding Baptism of Children. That rationale seems to be an attempt to say that unborn babies are not already claimed by our electing God and that Calvin has been taken out of context? It has nothing to do with Belhar.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Story and song for the Lord's Day

From the Jesus Movement, a wonderful testimony from the group, the Second Chapter of Acts. A broken bunch of kids that Jesus used mightily. This video features their story and two songs. The first song is the Easter one that so many remember, the second song is one of my favorites. Enjoy for Sunday.

Which Way the Wind Blows

Feel a Feeling
Say a Saying
But you'll still be lonely
If you think life is only for this moment

Do a Doing
Mourn a mourning
Still won't get you off your sorrow
So go ahead and cry, but you can't pry a look at tomorrow

You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow

Run a Running
Hide a Hiding
Whenever you hear the truth
And when you ask for the proof, you won't listen. Listen

Praise a praising
Build a building
Trying to get peace in your life
And you don't even know wrong from right

Where is your wisdom
You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
You don't know which way the wind blows

So how can you plan tomorrow
Die a dying
By believing and receiving

Forgiveness from Jesus who took the sin from sinning
You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
Jesus knows which way the wind blows

So how can you plan tomorrow
Believe Him and receive

You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Advocacy Committee for Women's Concerns and their advice on overtures pushing same gender marriage

The Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns on all overtures that are meant to change the Book of Orders language about marriage from “between a man and a woman” to “between a couple” advises the 219th General Assembly to approve the overture. They place their rationale on item 12-07. There they write:

“The practice of excluding people who are gay and lesbian from marriage has its roots in the persistence of patriarchal standards for the lives of women and men. The notion that men and maleness is superior dictates that men and women behave in particular ways that abide by the rules their sex dictates. For this reason, same-gender loving women and men are perceived as a direct threat to the norms that patriarchy lays out, as they, in their loving, challenge the models of prescribed masculinity and femininity that patriarchy determines. Gay men are a threat as they are perceived as “too feminine,” and lesbian women are perceived as “too masculine.”

In withholding the right to marry from same-gender loving people, the church is upholding this patriarchal standard for humanity. As a group committed to standing against patriarchy and its effects within the world and the church, ACWC advocates that same-gender loving women and men be allowed to participate in the commitment of marriage. The ACWC draws particular attention to the vulnerability of lesbian women in this exclusion, as these particular members of the body of Christ find themselves excluded and marginalized both for their gender identity and sexual orientation.”

The ACWC, having just admitted that one of their goals is to advocate for same gender marriage, have, in their advice, placed themselves on the side of those who are adversaries of the one holy universal church. They are not in this case advocating for the needs of women but are instead stepping on biblical truths valued and upheld by many Presbyterian women.

Going further they have insulted the husbands and friends of many Presbyterian women who also value and uphold biblical truth. They have insulted my husband, my sons, my grandsons, sons-in-laws and friends.

In my estimation they have lost all sensitivity towards those they are called to help. If the ACWC was a committee that was part of such affinity groups as More Light Presbyterians or the Covenant Network giving this advice would make sense. But then, in fairness, they would not be allowed to place such advice on an overture meant to be voted on by Presbyterian commissioners. They are after all a Presbyterian Church (USA) committee meant to advocate for women's needs.

There is an even greater loss of sensitivity in their action. The ACWC is basing their advice on radical feminist theories rather then on the commonsense of the Bible. They have lost their care for scripture and instead are standing with the popular culture of the day. They are failing to be prophetic.

The ACWC have lost their sensitivity to the warnings and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. They are rejecting the words of Christ as he reaches back to the beginnings of Scripture and insists that marriage is between a man and a woman. (Matt. 19: 3-7)

May the Holy Spirit sweep the church, once again, lifting up Jesus Christ and his word. May we bow before the holy God who calls us, while bearing the righteousness of Christ, and follow in obedience.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Will Spotts: Toward a Fair PC (USA) Policy on Israel and the Palestinians

Will Spotts at his blog The PC (USA) on Israel and Palestine has posted an excellent paper containing all of the different overtures and papers on the Middle East coming to the Presbyterian General Assembly. In the paper, Toward a Fair PC(USA) Policy on Israel and the Palestinians, you will find the item # and commentary with advise on how to deal with the item.

For instance this:

"Disapprove item 14-03 “MRTI Report of its Engagement” and answer with 14-06 [The MRTI recommendation is to denounce CAT rather than to divest from CAT.]

Because it falls under a larger, state-sponsored boycott movement, it would likely violate US law for CAT to refuse to sell to Israel. The PC(USA) would end up either divesting from or denouncing a company for NOT breaking US law.

There is no information to show that CAT is unique even among PC(USA) investments – in terms of either the uses of its products or its corporate policies that merits being singled out.

CAT was selected for maximum publicity value. It is theater, not moral investing. CAT is a target of a wide campaign of BDS – BECAUSE it can’t legally comply, and therefore provides regular publicity.

The opposition to Caterpillar is expressly related to the divestment initiative from apartheid South Africa. It intentionally communicates an equivalency between the two situations.

The MRTI and the presbyteries have not looked at most other companies’ products used in Israel and the occupied territories. For example, the MESC report includes a photo of a bulldozer being used, apparently, for some nefarious purpose. (It is listed as an Israeli army bulldozer at work destroying crops.) Look closely at the photo. It is a Volvo."

Or this which hasn't gotten enough mention by any of us:

"Disapprove item 11-04 “Human Rights Update 2010” [Report by the ACSWP]

In this report the ACSWP failed to follow the explicit directions of the 2008 GA – “Identify Violations of the Civil Rights of Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the United States and Other Areas of the World, Along with Other Incidents of Violation of Religious Freedoms, as Part of the Regular Human Rights Report to the General Assembly.”

The ACSWP did not complete the required task but still submitted a report.

That report found Israeli Jews alone (in all the world) to be committing violations of religious freedoms worthy of specific Presbyterian attention.

This report found Muslims and Christians to be the only victims of such discrimination worthy of Presbyterian support."

This last is on the agenda for Committee 11, and Will's paper shows what committee each item is in. This is a great posting for commissioners. So direct them to Toward a Fair PC(USA) Policy on Israel and the Palestinians.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Science has underlined the keeping power of God

The thought came up again on the comment section of my posting I have no words: Carol Hylkema's answer to my e-mail. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Israel/Palestine Mission Network in their booklet Steadfast Hope suggested that the Jewish immigrants to Israel were genetically not connected to ancient Israel but were only descendants of converts to Judaism. In other words, genetically, they have no real claim to any part of the Holy Land at all.
IPMN in making the claim referenced Shlomo Sand and his book The Invention of the Jewish People. (The title of the English translation is slightly different then the original title.) The authors, IPMN, of Steadfast Hope write:
“The founding narrative of the State of Israel links the modern-day Jews’ claim to the land of Israel/Palestine to their direct genealogical descent from the ancient Israelites. Recent anthropological scholarship shows that this widespread belief is very likely a myth, not historical fact. Shlomo Sand, an expert on European history at the university of Tel Aviv, and author of When and How Was the Jewish People Invented? posits that the Jews were never exiled en masse from the Holy Land and that many European Jewish populations converted to the faith centuries later. Thus, he argues, many of today’s Israelis who emigrated from Europe after World War II have little or no genealogical connection to the ancient land of Israel.”

Now new genetic findings and their reports, as should be expected, show that Sand’s theories are false. The information is gathered, explained and linked to in an article in the New York Times. “
Studies Show Jews’ Genetic Similarity” written by Nicholas Wade shows the close relationship between the Ashkenazim and Sephardim Jewish communities.

Wade writes, “Jewish communities in Europe and the Middle East share many genes inherited from the ancestral Jewish population that lived in the Middle East some 3,000 years ago, even though each community also carries genes from other sources — usually the country in which it lives.”

He writes further, “A major surprise from both surveys is the genetic closeness of the two Jewish communities of Europe, the Ashkenazim and the Sephardim. The Ashkenazim thrived in Northern and Eastern Europe until their devastation by the
Hitler regime, and now live mostly in the United States and Israel. The Sephardim were exiled from Spain in 1492 and from Portugal in 1497 and moved to the Ottoman Empire, North Africa and the Netherlands.’
This is an extremely fascinating article including the links. In an earlier posting on Sand’s book,
Shlomo Sand's book "The Invention of the Jews" from a Christian perspective , I pointed out that one had to forgo any belief in the biblical account of ancient Israel in order to accept most of the book. Now it is amazing that science is vindicating the faithfulness of God to keep his promises.

It isn’t that God needs to place the Jewish people back in the Holy Land in order that Christ will come again. That isn’t biblical. But what is certain is that when God calls, chooses and makes promises to a people he keeps his word. Israel’s preservation as a people despite unremitting persecution is a sign of the faithfulness and love of God.

The Jewish people's preservation is a sign that the Church must observe. Jesus our Lord has promised that he will build his church and the gates of hell will not prevail against her. If he removes her candlestick in one place it will still burn bright in another. The story here, for both the Jews and Christian believers is about God’s word, love, promises and faithfulness.
Picture by Stephen Larson

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Under the river: without fury or fear

Flannery O’Connor wrote a hard gritty story, her usual kind, "The River." It is about a little boy raised by an indifferent mother who held adult parties, simply meaning that they were not for small boys. As the planning begins the boy is sent off to his baby sitter who takes him to an old fashioned river baptism.

In the story the preacher says to the little boy, “’If I baptize you,” … “You’ll be able to go to the Kingdom of Christ. You’ll be washed in the river of suffering son and you’ll go by the deep river of life. Do you want that?’”

The little boy thinks this is great. He won’t go back to his apartment. He will, “go under the river.” And so he lets the preacher baptize him, only to be disappointed that he is raised up out of the water.

The next morning at home while his mother sleeps with a hangover he wanders around the apartment looking at rotten food in the refrigerator and eating peanut butter between stale pieces of raisin bread. He plays with the ashes in the ashtrays, rubbing them into the rug, but suddenly knows what he wants.

Stealing money from his mother’s purse, the boy goes to the river. He wades in and then struggles to stay under the river. Just as someone comes to grab him, the river grabs him instead and pulls him under.

O’Connor writes, “For an instant he was overcome with surprise: then since he was moving quickly and knew that he was getting somewhere, all his fury and fear left him.”

We, whom Christ overcomes by his love and life, are moving under the river, away from the dead ashes of our own sins. We are in his Kingdom, moving beyond fury and fear.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I have no words: Carol Hylkema's answer to my e-mail

I simply have no words-this is how someone keeps from apologizing for slander and attempts to shift the blame on to someone else about something else. This is the letter sent to me by Carol Hylkema of the Presbyterian (U.S.A.) Israel/Palestine Mission Network as answer to my letter found here, An exchange of e-mails about item 08-09.
June 9, 2010

"Dear Ms. Larson,

Thank you for your email our calling attention to the error that we made in the footnote on page 2 of our memo to the GAMC of February 18, 2010. As with all IPMN documents, we have an extensive vetting process in which a number of people help edit several drafts of what we send out. During this process the footnote about the letter to Louisville and the fire in a Rochester church was added. We regret that in the final editing, we did not catch this factual error.

Accusing an organization of lying and slander is a serious charge and a substantive jump from asking if we simply got something wrong and requesting that we review it. Promoting respectful dialogue in the search for truth and justice has always been our goal and we trust you share the same goal.

If you are coming to GA, we invite you to stop by the IPMN booth in the Exhibit Hall for further dialogue on Israel-Palestine.

Yours sincerely,
Carol Hylkema, Moderator, on behalf of the
Steering Committee of the Israel Palestine Mission Network
cc: Victor Makari

Hunter Farrell"

To remind readers of what the original letter said go here 111 Refer Papers Attachment.pdf.
This is attached to 08-09 for GA commissioners to read when voting on that item. They undoubtedly will see it and not see this posting. This is what they will read:

“By neglecting the reality on the ground, this report [the Jewish paper they are attempting to redo] 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 debate about Israel within and without the Jewish community.1 A report that confesses Christian guilt for the past and calls for changes in our theology and practice but neglects to mention the contribution of American synagogues to the oppression of Palestinians over the past six decades appears to us as inauthentic interfaith dialogue.”

With this note attached to it:

"1 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. This type of censorship and intimidation is so frequent that Jewish Voice for Peace has created a special website to document it.

It is probably better for me to not write anymore because as a Christian and a Presbyterian I am, at the moment, outraged.

One more thought. I hope that someone will read Ms Hylkema's letter aloud to the commissioners in committee 8, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations.

Removing G-6.0106b-something about that rationale

This last Sunday I finished leading a series of Sunday classes which focused on the main issues coming to the PC (U.S.A.) General Assembly. I tried to make sure I tied them to Scripture and the Confessions. This last class dealt with committee 6, Church Orders and Ministry, and in particular with ordination. I discovered as I went through the various overtures, which are attempting to remove G-6.0106b, that each seemed to make a specific appeal to some supposed fact in their rationale. So I took each one, looked at its main point and answered it.

I decided to rework my handout a bit and post it here:

Overtures on removal of G-6.0106b

· 06-06-Appeals to a hierarchy of authority, that is, Christ, Scripture and then Confessions.

Answer: There is no hierarchy-The Bible is the written word of God. Both Christ and his word have equal authority. For more on Christian authority see “To what authority must church officers submit?” at Faith and Polity Project.

· 06-07-Appeals to inclusiveness –an idea that “no one is left outside the City.”

Answer: Not being left outside the city has to do with redemption, not with Church offices. The scripture and the confessions are clear that those who hold church offices are meant to live as models for fellow believers. See 1 Tim.3 and Titus 1. And “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.” (Heb. 13:7)

· 06-08-Appeals to the grace of God- (See above)

· 06-09-Appeals to believer's lack of agreement, grace and that G-6.0106b is only applied to LGBT people.

Answer: There is agreement in scripture & confessions with the universal church. The practice of homosexual sex is sin. The issue is about not ordaining those who are unrepentant of their sexual sins. We are all sinners and we are all called to repentance. Those issues which are troubling the church today, and all sinful sexuality is included in the troubling, are the issues that must be dealt with today.

· 06-10-Appeals to the Scripture not being the word of God-with this line-“As Calvin understood, Scripture contains the word of God, but it is not the word of God. The result is that we depend on our confessions to inform the way we approach, read, understand, and interpret Scripture.” (Italics mine.)

Answer: This is what Calvin actually said, “All those who wish to profit from the Scriptures must first accept this as a settled principle, that the Law and Prophets are not teachings handed on at the pleasure of men or produced by men’s minds as their source, but are dictated by the Holy Spirit. … We owe to Scripture the same reverence as we owe to God, since it has its only source in Him and has nothing of human origin mixed with it.” (A statement from Calvin’s Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:16)

· 06-12-Appeals to new revelation-“That God can speak a new word in a new time if God chooses to do so, through the living word, Jesus Christ.”

Answer: But the Word has already been spoken. “God, after he spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the world.” (Heb. 1:12) with this “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb. 13:8) Any so called “new word” cannot change what the word of God has commanded.

· 06-13Appeal to a hierarchy of authority. See above 06-06

· 06-014-An appeal to the issue of divorce.

Answer: Divorce is acknowledged as a state of brokenness that must be repented of, with healing and transformation as the goal.

· 06-15-Hierarchy of authority-see above

· 06-16-“ “ “ “

· 06-17-An appeal to God’s love-

Answer: God is love yet real love offers truth and discipline. See Hebrews 12

You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,
‘My son do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by him; for those whom the Lord loves he disciplines, and he scourges every son whom he receives
.’ (12:4-6)

Friday, June 4, 2010

An exchange of e-mails about item 08-09

I have been involved in an exchange of e-mails concerning item 08-09 with its horrendous attachment written by the Israel/Palestine Mission Network. You can read about that here. An overture filled with fury: anti-Semitism again. Not wanting to direct my first e-mail to Carol Hylkema, Moderator of IPMN, because of her past responses to my inquiry about information in the booklet Steadfast Hope, I wrote to the Executive Director of the GAMC, Linda Valentine.

Valentine’s Executive Secretary responded to let me know she was away. However, today, June, 4, 1910, Dr. Hunter Farrell sent a helpful e-mail which included a suggestion to write Carol Hylkema, and I have done so. Following are all of the correspondence in order. If Ms Hylkema responds I will post her e-mail as I believe all Presbyterian (U.S.A.) members are touched and affected in several ways by the words the IPMN wrote in the attachment.

My e-mail to Linda Valentine:

“Dear Linda,

Please forgive me for bothering you at this busy time in our denomination. I would not do it but once again I am so very upset with the Israel/Palestine Mission Network. This is about the paper they have written that is attached to item 08-09, “On Referring “Christian and Jews: People of God” and “Understanding Christian-Muslim Relations.” The paper attached is, 111 Refer Papers Attachment.pdf.

I understand that we can all differ on the Israel and Palestine issues, but to tell lies about the Jewish citizens of the United States is a black mark on our Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). This is part of the reason for my objections. The author’s state:

“By neglecting the reality on the ground, this report [the Jewish paper] 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 debate about Israel within and without the Jewish community.1 A report that confesses Christian guilt for the past and calls for changes in our theology and practice but neglects to mention the contribution of American synagogues to the oppression of Palestinians over the past six decades appears to us as inauthentic interfaith dialogue.” (Underline the authors of the paper [there was an underline where I have placed italics-there seems to be no way to do that on blogger])

Connected to the statement about threats is this footnote:

"1 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. This type of censorship and intimidation is so frequent that Jewish Voice for Peace has created a special website to document it. See "[I can find no such information about bombs or a church fire in Rochester on that site]

You will note that the package sent is undoubtedly the letter sent by a lone individual threatening to burn down churches. He was arrested. He was not connected to any Jewish organization. That is now documented. Many have searched for a record of the Rochester church fire and have not found it. There was a fire in a church close to Rochester in May of 2004. It was caused by lightening. See

So my question. What is going to be done about an organization that keeps slandering and lying about the Jewish people and that in our name? We cannot get to the real dilemmas of the Middle East situation because of the need to defend the Jewish people against IPMN. Please tell me what I and others can do about this. Please tell me what the GAMC will do about this. Please do not tell me it is not the business of the GAMC.

In the fellowship of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Viola Larson

Dr. Hunter Farrell’s e-mail to me:

Dear Ms. Larson,
Thank you for your letter to Linda Valentine in which you voiced concerns regarding some of the statements of the Israel/Palestine Mission Network. Linda has asked me to respond to your letter. Although the Network does not speak on behalf of the General Assembly or the General Assembly Mission Council, it is nonetheless very helpful to know of your concerns regarding what the Network does and says.

Please know that we are in ongoing conversation with the Network about its work and positions, and have raised questions with them about a number of issues and materials they have created or made available to the church at large. We are also revising our guidelines for all Mission Networks in ways that we hope will clarify the relationship between the work and communications of any network and the policies and standards of the General Assembly.

As you know well, we are a church of many different opinions, all members of the body of Christ. We remain open to listen to the differing voices among our members to discern what the Spirit may be saying to the Church. We believe that we owe respectful attention to what different groups are saying, whether we agree with them or not.

I would encourage you to be in contact with Carol Hylkema, who is the Moderator of the Israel/Palestine Mission Network, so that you can raise and discuss your concerns with the Network directly. She can be reached via

B. Hunter Farrell
Director, World Mission

cc: Linda Valentine, Carol Hylkema

My e-mail to Carol Hylkema:

Carol Hylkema
Israel/Palestine Mission Network
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Dear Carol,

Dr. Hunter Farrell has suggested I write to you. I have hesitated in doing so because of the response I got to my last inquiry about the booklet Steadfast Hope. But nevertheless, urged on by Farrell I will do so. I am extremely bothered by Israel/Palestine Mission Network's attachment to Item 08-09. That is
111 Refer Papers Attachment.pdf.

I believe your organization has, in this document, lied about the Jewish organizations in the United States. This is part of what I wrote to Linda Valentine in an e-mail that Dr. Farrell has responded to. I am sending this quote so you will understand what I am referring to.

"I understand that we can all differ on the Israel and Palestine issues, but to tell lies about the Jewish citizens of the United States is a black mark on our Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). This is part of the reason for my objections. The author’s state:

“By neglecting the reality on the ground, this report [the Jewish paper] 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 debate about Israel within and without the Jewish community.1 A report that confesses Christian guilt for the past and calls for changes in our theology and practice but neglects to mention the contribution of American synagogues to the oppression of Palestinians over the past six decades appears to us as inauthentic interfaith dialogue.”

Connected to the statement about threats is this footnote:

"1 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. This type of censorship and intimidation is so frequent that Jewish Voice for Peace has created a special website to document it. See "[I can find no such information about bombs or a church fire in Rochester on that site]

You will note that the package sent is undoubtedly the letter sent by a lone individual threatening to burn down churches. He was arrested. He was not connected to any Jewish organization. That is now documented. Many have searched for a record of the Rochester church fire and have not found it. There was a fire in a church close to Rochester in May of 2004. It was caused by lightening . See "

I am asking you, as the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)Israel/Palestine Mission Network, on behalf of your organization, to either produce evidence of your accusations or apologize to both the Jewish organizations which you have slandered and the Presbyterian members whose names you have blackened.

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Viola Larson

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Speaking to darkness for the sake of the lost

I want to say thanks to a Christian pastor who is also an artist. But it isn’t just his beautiful pictures that I appreciate it is his willingness to speak truth to darkness and take the ugliness that follows.
John Stuart, (Stushie,) is a Scottish pastor in Tennessee. You can see his art at Presbyterian Bloggers and at one of his own sites Stushie's Art. He has a host of other sites; you can find them by looking at his profile page.

But the subject I was writing about is his sometimes visit to John Shuck’s site. One of the last times he commented he pointed out the darkness that Shuck was leading others into. And one of those commenting there made the usual case that Stushie must be a heretic because he is deciding who will go to heaven and who won’t –so, so much for God’s electing grace was the thought.

But does God’s electing grace mean that those who have been claimed by Jesus Christ will go on practicing sin; not repenting of hurting their Lord? What about Bonhoeffer’s term costly grace? “What does the word of God say?

But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found sinners, is Christ then a minster of sin? May it never be! For if I should rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the Law I died to the law so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:17-20)

God’s word has plenty of warnings for those who practice such duplicity, but he also has mercy stored up for his children. The believer is daily transformed, being made like Christ. We are not without sin, but the Holy Spirit works in us. We grieve because of our sin and hopefully listen to the admonition of brothers and sisters.

God does give the gift of discernment. Paul used it, “But Saul who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze on him [Elymas the magician] and said, ‘You who are full of deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you son of all unrighteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord?” (Acts 13:9-10)

And through the Holy Spirit, a gift of comfort is given: “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matt. 5: 11-12)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Interesting sites & events:

Dr. Byron Shafer Of the Middle East Study Team at the PMEP Breakfast and Will Spotts on The Principle of Universal Jurisdiction

I want to once again recommend some excellent sources for help and information on the coming Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly. These are sites I have recommended before but they have moved on with excellent material, help and suggestions.

The First is Presbyterians for Middle East Peace. This site now has articles on overtures and the Middle East Study recommendation as well as a video and information about a Breakfast event at GA.

One of the committee members, Dr. Byron Shafer, of the Middle East Study team will be speaking at the Presbyterians for Middle East Peace’s Breakfast. And the details for two Webinars can be found here.

The other site is Will Spotts’ “The PC(USA) on Israel and Palestine.” This site is now loaded with excellent postings. One of the more provocative issues that I had not noticed before is his pointing out that among the Middle East Study Team’s recommendations is their appeal to the Declaration of Human Rights which includes what is called THE PRINCIPLE OF UNIVERSAL JURISDICTION.

This is how Spotts describes this issue:

“This last phrase “universal jurisdiction”, sounds innocuous enough, but I seriously doubt that most Presbyterians are that familiar with the concept. The principle of universal jurisdiction allows nations to prosecute alleged crimes that were committed outside the boundaries of that nation. A person might easily wonder why this is included in recommendations focused almost exclusively on Israel and Palestine. What is not said is that this concept is currently being strategically used among fashionable anti-Israel activists to to justify attempts to try alleged Israeli war criminals in Belgium, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Norway, and Spain. Its potential for prosecutions that are motivated more from a desire for political theater than from any idea of the rule of law or actual justice is being widely realized. The goal of this strategy is to reinforce the status of Israel as a pariah state whose government officials cannot travel to a variety of countries without risk of imprisonment and/or trial.”

Go here to read it all.
The PC(USA)’s Middle East Study Committee Recommendations.