Thursday, August 12, 2010

The ACSWP on our tolerant youth and Belhar: yes it's about sex!

The Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy and their adviser Chris Iosso has published their latest Salt & Light. It is their Post General Assembly issue. The paper is a free on line subscription and a friend sent me his on-line copy. I have now subscribed. There are several items that need to be addressed including the Middle East.[1] But the subject I want to address in this posting concerns the Belhar Confession. The author writes:

“And adding the Belhar Confession to the Book of Confessions was strongly supported and will now also go to the presbyteries. (One overture opposing Belhar [the Sacramento Overture] cited its possible application to GLBT issues, where categories or limited definitions of people can be used to exclude, as racial categories did during apartheid). The issue in the presbyteries will then be partly generational: does the church want to oppose the current generation’s increasing tolerance?”

So now supposedly the debate about Belhar turns on age versus youth because supposedly youth are more tolerant then older people. And supposedly, in the Church, the ordination of gays and lesbians as well as same gender marriage has to do with competing levels of tolerance rather than Scripture or the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Everywhere one turns in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) there is a drive to pass Belhar for the sake of, not differing ethnic groups, but for the purpose of turning the Book of Confessions into an avenue that allows, even blesses, sin. Belhar was never intended as a document to use in that manner but it will be used that way in the PCUSA.

I seem to be constantly turning to Bonhoeffer as a way of pointing out truth but on both youth and sexual ethics Bonhoeffer has some important corrections to make to the ACSWP’s newsletter. I have written before about the confession he wrote for the Confessing Church of Nazi Germany in his book Ethics. That was a book he wrote in the midst of horrors.

On the sexual issues plaguing Germany’s society and church he wrote:

"The Church confesses that she has found no word of advice and assistance in the face of the dissolution of all order in the relation between the sexes. She has found no strong and effective answer to the contempt for chastity and to the proclamation of sexual libertinism. All she has achieved has been an occasional expression of moral indignation.[2] She has thus rendered herself guilty of the loss of the purity and soundness of youth. She has failed to proclaim with sufficient emphasis that our bodies belong to the Body of Christ." (114-15)

On youth Bonhoeffer wrote:

The Church confesses herself guilty of the collapse of parental authority. She offered no resistance to contempt for age and idolization of youth, for she was afraid of losing youth, and with it the future. As though her future belonged to youth. She has not dared to proclaim divine authority and dignity of parenthood in the face of the revolution of youth, and in a very earthly way she has tried ‘to keep up with the young.’ She has thus rendered herself guilty of the breakup of countless families, the betrayal of fathers by their children, the self-deification of youth, and the abandonment of youth to the apostasy from Christ.” (114)

There is not much more on these two subjects one can say about our post-modern Presbyterian denomination than the confession that Bonhoeffer offered the Church of the Nazi era. Do we as members want to encourage a tolerance among youth that is anti-Christian? Are we so afraid of losing them that we will allow them to apostatize from Christ? Even if we lose, even, as Barth once said, even if we are “thinned down till it be a tiny group and go into the catacombs,” we need to keep teaching and proclaiming to them and to ourselves the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the authority of his word.

[1] I will write on the Middle East in another posting, but it should be noted that the Newsletter makes a connection between Belhar and the Middle East.
[2] The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), in her higher offices, at this moment is failing to offer even an expression of moral indignation.


will spotts said...

Wow - Bonhoeffer's comments on youth describe our society very well.

Fear of age, illness, death, and irrelevance seem to drive the culture, and attempts to keep up with youth (almost pathetic as they are immediately outdated) seem to be the prime motivators.

I find it interesting that one would imagine that (youth versus age) would have any bearing on the truth at all. I always believed truth to be truth no matter who opposed it or who endorsed it.

And isn't there something oddly circular about using this rationale in a self-proclaimed attempt to REMOVE categories or limited definitions of people? Aren't youth and age, or this generation and the next just such categories or limited definitions? Isn't one being held to be worth more than another?

Viola Larson said...

I should have had your brain working with me on this one. I really have to laugh out loud now. Of course that is an absurdity. Two groups pitted against each other for the sake of unity. But I have to tell you this newsletter has more ...

will spotts said...

I saw the section on the Middle East.

I'll be interested in your take on this.

But, consider the source and the record of the ACSWP over quite a few years as a font from which anti-Jewish bigotry has spread in the PC(USA).

Timothy F Simpson said...

I think you are inferring something from the ACSWP that it does not say. Describing the demographic reality of who is for or against gay ordination and how the result will be interpreted by a given demographic group is not the same thing as offering that statistic as the rationale for why it should happen. Your post seems to confuse this.

Viola Larson said...

Timothy I suggest you read the posting above, where in the same document the authors state, “Let us hope that the church-wide discussion of the Belhar confession does seek to apply it to other matters of concern, and not simply to Israel/Palestine.”

While aiming Belhar at Israel & Palestine is strang nontheless they are hoping Belhar will be used for other issues.

Cammie Novara said...

"There are several items that need to be addressed including the Middle East." I agree fully. There's a really fascinating debate that I thought would be of interest on evolution vs. intelligent design going on at