Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Thoughts on GA: Belhar, the Word of God, and faithfulness

"This is so inspiring!! The Belhar Confession offers wonderful help to us in the PCUSA to move into the world of diversity which we say we want but do not quite know how to reach. And restoring the English of the Heidelberg Catechism is the Presbyterian thing to do. Joining our sister Reformed churches in one common translation is an added blessing. Thank you so much to the committee for its prayerful work. by Janet Edwards on 07/06/2010 a.m.31 09:36am" (This was on the PNS site that ChurchandWorld linked to yesterday for some reason it can not be seen when one goes straight there.)

By now I am sure everyone is aware that Belhar was approved in Committee. Here are some details. But first some thoughts on the testimonies that occurred during open hearings.

Various speakers are allowed a few minutes, sometimes only one or less, to speak on the different overtures or committee recommendations such as Belhar. Two speakers spoke against Sacramento’s overture which asks the General Assembly to not adopt Belhar. The first one to ask the committee to not approve Sacramento’s overture was
Janet Edwards the pastor who has been troubling the church by attempting to marry same sex couples.

She asked for disapproval so that instead Belhar would pass and gays and lesbians would have a confession that allows them to be ordained.
[1] The second person was Elizabeth Henson Hasty a member of ACWC. She wanted Sacramento’s overture to be disapproved but her main thought was not only to allow Belhar to pass but she wanted an inclusive edition on the PCUSA web. In the committee’s actions they both received their request.

The moderator of the committee was very fair. As overture advocate I was allowed to speak for five minutes after the Belhar committee spoke. I was also allowed to answer questions after they answered questions. This was a golden opportunity because several people asked some very unique questions. I was able to speak of how a confession is meant to confess Jesus Christ. Just because Sacramento’s overture did not pass in committee, and it was debated since it became a substitute motion, does not mean that all was lost. I was able to read the section from the Theological Declaration of Barmen that gives a clear understanding of how Jesus Christ is confessed:

“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)

God’s word will not return void-and it is here in this passage from Barmen. And of course Belhar will be voted on again in plenary.

So far there have been many disappointments in most of the committees. But God calls us to faithfulness; our victory is in the cross of Jesus not in winning against human adversaries but in overcoming the powers of darkness. That battle includes our own sinful nature. So while God might be judging a denomination that is disobedient to his Word and denying his transforming grace, Jesus, Lord of his Church, is undoubtedly longing for all of our hearts.

Because my heart is filled with sadness from hearing bad reports, phrases like, "We all have different opinions about whether God cares for fetal tissue," or the equation of God's word with oppression I want to hear words of praise for the eternal Son of the Father, Jesus:

For Robert A.
[1] On the PNS about the passage of Belhar, she made a comment which was much the same rejoicing over Belhar’s passage. But for some reason that has been removed.

1 comment:

Suzanne said...

Thank you Viola for the depth of your insight and your perseverance....God Bless you