Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Letter to the Board of Pensions: an addition

Addition: Although I plead for relief of conscience in this letter there is not any real way it can be provided, the only real option is to not use the tithes and offerings of church members to fund pensions and health care for same gender partners. See 18-06

Andy Browne,
Corporate Secretary
Board of Pensions,
Presbyterian Church (USA)

Dear Andy,

As an Elder in the Presbyterian Church I am deeply troubled by the changes that may come to congregations in our denomination. The recent General Assembly voted to urge the Board of Pensions (BOP) of the PC(USA) to:

". . . extend eligibility for spousal and dependent benefits under the Plan to Benefits Plan members, their same-gender domestic partners, and the children of their same-gender domestic partners, on the same basis as, and equivalent to, benefits made available to Benefits Plan members, their spouses, and the children of their spouses. "

That is troubling because the action, although not an absolute mandate for the BOP is still a possibility. And it carries two significant and weighty outcomes for congregations. The first has to do with the cost to congregations since the money used for this action will come from the offerings and tithes of the people. I am told that one commissioner, a pastor, walked out of the plenary hall when this overture passed, saying “I will have to find a new church because now my congregation will no longer be able to afford me.”

But the other outcome is even more problematic because it goes to the very heart of the freedom of the people of God not to offend their conscience in anything that is contrary to the word of God. As both the Book of Order and the Westminster Confession of Faith state:

"That ‘God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in anything contrary to his Word, or beside it, in matters of faith or worship.’" G-1.0301 (a) & 6.109

It is my prayer, and the prayers of many others that if you decide to be mandated by the GA you will find a better way to fund the extra pensions and if not you will provide a means of relief for those who wish to continue holding to the apostolic faith of the Universal Church.

But our greatest prayer is that you will not become involved in actions that contradict the words of Scripture, the Book of Order or the Confessions of the Church.

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Viola Larson
Fremont Presbyterian Church


Jodie said...
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Presbyman said...


I think this has the potential to be far more damaging to the denomination's fragile (crumbling?) unity than even gay ordination and and marriage. With ordination and marriage, one can at least say to one self that "well, at least our church does not have to be involved with this." But if every church has to hand over another 1% of a pastor's effective salary to fund same sex spousal benefits, that implicates every single congregation. The effect on one's conscience is potentially devastating. And then there are churches that would have difficulty in supporting an increase from their limited resources in any event.

I just have the feeling that enough people at GA were listening only to themselves and patting themselves on the back for their sense of "compassion" and "justice" to really understand the ramifications of this vote.

Blessings to you,

John Erthein
Erie, PA

Viola Larson said...

John, I agree, unless the ordination item passes in the Presbyteries, (and I don't think it will) this is the big one. It is demanding that all of us contribute to the sin of others. That is harassment by overture.

John McNeese said...

Yes. By all means. Let us not allow compassion and justice to get in the way of our bigotry! Let their spouses and children eat cake!

John McNeese, member
FPC, Ponca City, OK

Viola Larson said...

John if that was what this was all about why wasn't it for all domestic partners? And why couldn't Churches that feel that way provide for their own employees? Why should those churches who are abiding by scripture and the Book of Order and the Confessions have to pay for what they consider to be sin?

Pastor Bob said...


It is my understanding that there is a conscience cause in what was recommended to the B of P.

John McNeese said...


We should cover all of our emplyees and their families including domestic partners, straight or gay. I would hope you are not considering applying ordination standards to our church employees too.

Viola Larson said...

First of all this is what the approved overture states:
Comment: That the Board of Pensions be highly urged to provide relief of conscience, to be implemented simultaneously with these actions, for those congregations for whom these actions cause a moral dilemma.

It’s not a done deal.

It’s like the relief of conscience for abortion, although funds are going elsewhere, nonetheless the money is being made up by equalizing what is paid in. I hope I said that right but I think you know what I mean. This is just one more reason for many to leave the denomination.

Viola Larson said...

It sounds like you want to totally throw out any marriage standards. I should be friends with all sinners, after all I am one. But I should not be asked to support their sin.

Reformed Catholic said...

FWIW ... bringing in the 'let the .. . children eat cake' argument is a red herring.

Any child who has a parent, (or someone having joint custody) who is covered by the BoP is also covered by the same health plan if they are enrolled.

Doesn't matter if they are straight or gay, if the parent is covered, the child is covered.

What the issue is covering someone who is not married in the sense that Christ defined marriage.

He said "Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' 5and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh' Matt 19:4-5

Jodie said...
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