Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Belhar: the 'conservative' Reformed Church In America & the Christian Reformed Church

There is a long list of comments under the Belhar Confession on the Resource page of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) web site. Charles Wiley, Coordinator for the Office of Theology and Worship, has been very faithful to respond to the comments. And I have undoubtedly commented too often. But I saw a comment tonight I could not ignore. However I decided to post on my own blog.

Wiley believes that part of the proof that adopting Belhar will not lead to departures from the PCUSA is because it was first adopted by a conservative church in South Africa and is being considered by two denominations that are more conservative than the PCUSA. (One has adopted the confession.) He writes that they are, “the Reformed Church in America ( and the Christian Reformed Church in North America (” [1]

But the truth is both of those two denominations are struggling with the same issues as the PCUSA. Right after GA I wrote about coming home on a train with our particular car filled with CRC young people and their pastor. Toward the end of our journey together the pastor, hearing our conversations about GA, started asking us questions. He was very concerned about his church adding Belhar to their confessions. And well he should be.

Kate Kooyman, a member of the CRC and part of that denomination’s Justice Seekers Community, an official CRC organization, has pulled together many documents into one pdf file Kate Kooyman Becoming a Belhar-Confessing Church Ministry Manual ...for use by the more progressive members of her Church. In the introduction among other reasons for adopting Belhar, Kooyman writes, is the Spirit speaking in a unique way when confessed in North America. It became clear that the prophetic words of the Belhar would, if taken seriously and attempted to live out, challenge the RCA and the CRC into true (and painful transformation. It would call to question ecclesial structures which limit participation based on gender and sexual orientation. (Emphasis mine)

I have many articles on my blog about the Belhar Confession. I also have a feed where I, as well as others, can see the various places people visiting my blog are coming from and what they are looking for. The CRC is in both the United States and Canada. And everyday I see people coming from Canada to read about Belhar. Before the RCA voted to adopt Belhar I also had people from that denomination reading my Belhar material.

Both of these ‘conservative’ denominations have members just as concerned as many members of the PCUSA are about Belhar. It is a great error to believe that these two Reformed bodies are not enduring the same battles we are. One excellent article about Belhar was written by a RCA member, Kevin De Young. His article is “The Belhar Confession: Yea or Nay.”

That two less progressive denominations are seeking to adopt Belhar does not speak to its non-problematic content but rather to the battles our Reformed sisters and brothers have entered into and are sharing with us.

[1] I am not at all suggesting here that members should depart the PCUSA if Belhar is adopted.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Unhelpful connections: IPMN and Al Shabaka

The Presbyterian Israel/Palestine Mission Network has linked to the person who wrote the “Palestinian narrative” for their booklet, “Steadfast Hope.” Their Facebook site has this notice."Israel Palestine Mission Network A viewpoint from Nadia Hijab on the Peace Talks - Ms. Hijab provided the Palestinian narrative for IPMN's Steadfast Hope publication."[*]

Last year I posted several articles about the booklet because it has wildly contorted information in it such as the view that the Jewish Lobby controls the United States media. It also offers the same distorted belief that many ‘Christian Identity’ [1] groups hold that World War II European Jewish immigrants to Israel were not genetically related to the ancient Israelites.

The author of the Palestinian narrative, Nadia Hijab, in the article IPMN is linked to writes that if the peace talks in the Middle East succeed it would be a bad thing for the Palestinians as would a two state solution.When one reads Hijab’s article as well as several others connected to this site there is a complete disconnect from the official policies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) concerning Israel and Middle East problems.

The PCUSA’s position is to work for a two state solution, and not to push for both a complete boycott and divestment from Israel. In fact, at the 219th General Assembly of the PCUSA an overture claiming that Israel was an apartheid state was disapproved. There was no overture claiming that Zionism was racist.

And yet the site, Al Shabaka: The Palestinian policy network, where just such attempts at delegitimizing Israel as a Jewish State are advocated, is highlighted on the Facebook page of the Presbyterian organization IPMN.Hijab’s article is, “What if Peace Talks ‘Succeed?’ Strategies to Protect & Fulfill Palestinian Rights” Her concern is:

… next year is likely to see a grand ceremony where Palestinian leaders will sign away the right of return and other Palestinian rights in an agreement that would change little on the ground. The plan of the PA’s appointed prime minister, Salam Fayyad, to declare a Palestinian state in 2011 could unwittingly contribute to this outcome by providing the appearance of an “end of conflict” while the reality remains unchanged. If the rest of the world sees that the government of “Palestine” is satisfied with international recognition and a U.N. seat, they will be happy to move on to other problems leaving the Palestinians at Israel’s mercy.

Hijab explains her concerns laying out her foundation for judging the present and future needs of the Palestinians based on the original Palestinian National Charter. This is not different than her narrative in “Steadfast Hope.”Her goals are rooted in the continuing insistence that all of what has been referred to, before 1948, as Palestine is the actual place of Israel’s occupation. Within her section on goals for unifying the Palestinians, Hijab writes:

In the years since the Palestinian National Charter was recognized in 1968 as the common statement of Palestinian goals, there has been a loss of direction regarding the ultimate objective of the Palestinian struggle. .. The PLO gradually shifted from the objective of a secular, democratic state in all of Palestine to supporting the two-state solution. This was formalized after the Palestinian National Council accepted the two-state solution in 1988. It was also “understood,” although this was never formally stated, that the Palestinian right of return would have to be implemented within the Palestinian state for some of the Palestinian refugees with, at best, compensation for the rest.

Hijab’s paper is linked with others on the Palestinian policy site. One is by Ali Abunimah entitled, “Reclaiming Self-Determination.” As one reads through the paper it is clear that self-determinism means a one state solution which would not be a Jewish state. And it would mean that the Jewish people would have to defend their rights to be in any part of what is now Israel. Another paper connects the Palestinian issues to the socialist movement as it is evolving in the United States Social Forum.

That paper is Integrating Palestine into the Progressive Left by Noura Erakat. Erakat links the Palestinian movement, as it promotes the BDM movement (Boycott, Divestment Movement), with various socialist groups including the latest USSF gathering in Detroit this last June (2010). Erakat writes:

According to Kali Akuno, a Malcolm X Movement national organizer and co-founder of the alliance, United Against Racism chose to centralize Palestine in its anti-racist analysis because the alliance’s core activists and organizations “hold a common view that Palestine represents the barometer of the extent to which imperialism is willing to go to ensure that the capitalist system of oppression and exploitation continue unabated. There is a general understanding that the liberation of Palestine is a critical linchpin in the transformation of this system and the creation of a more humane global system.”(Emphasis mine.)

The Palestinian groups which became a part of this summer's USSF, the one Erakat, is writing about, published a resolution, among other things, calling Zionism racist. The leaders write: “The National Synthesis People’s Movement Assembly resolution, adopted by the entire Social Forum, recognized Zionism as a form of racism and endorsed Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against apartheid Israel on Saturday, June 26, 2010!”

I’m not presenting any of this to go into a detailed posting on the papers as problematic as they all are. But to make this point, the IPMN keeps stepping beyond the bounds of acceptable and official Presbyterian policy. They do this by a continuing connection to persons, groups, networks and organizations that are in fact uncommitted to the peace making goals of the church. And since they constantly push a one-sided agenda they are also working beyond any biblical encouragement to hold righteousness, truth and kindness in balance.

[*] I should note that eventually this link will disappear as IPMN moves on with their news & article links.

[1] 'Christian Identity' refers to extreme far right groups that believe the white races are the true Israelites. Some of them are connected to neo-Nazi groups.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Gianna Jessen Abortion Survivor in Australia Part 1 & 2

Here is a simply fantastic video of a young woman who survived a late term saline abortion. She gives the glory to Jesus Christ. She has some extremely important things to say. Please listen to it all.

This is the blurb that goes with this: "Part 1 of 2 Gianna Jessen, abortion survivor speaks at Queen's Hall, Parliament House, Victoria. Australia - on the eve of the debate to decriminalize abortion in Victoria. Gianna's visit was sponsored by the Ad Hoc Interfaith Committee."

Hat Tip to Jack Sharpe and John Wamsley friends from Facebook-also Robert Austell for finding it on You Tube for me.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Only one safe place

In the small space of two weeks two of my daughters have faced scary situations. Both situations were crimes. One daughter was robbed at gun point as she covered the customer counter at Safeway. The other had just returned home with her school aged children when she surprised a man in her garage. He was standing in his boxers stuffing his laundry into her washer. He had managed to get into the garage and the back screened in porch where he had used a child’s table to take crack.

The police caught the man, put him in their police car but said they couldn’t take him in because he hadn’t stolen anything. This reminded all of us of how vulnerable we are when even our homes are not safe.

But there is a darker place, a place where many of us existed in years past. We may not have realized at the time how lonely and lost we were but the King of creation knew. He is that safe place that exists even in the darkest night.

In one of C.S. Lewis’s stories, “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” the passengers, including the children who have slipped into Narnia via a picture on a wall, have come to an island of nightmares. There is no safety at all. Everything turns into just another bad dream. And then Lucy, one of the children who had slipped into Narnia, cries out to Aslan the great lion who is a picture of Jesus. “Aslan, Aslan, if ever you loved us at all, send us help now.”

And then Lewis writes this:

Lucy looked along the beam and presently saw something on it. At first it looked like a cross, then it looked like an aeroplane, then it looked like a kite, and at last with a whirring of wings it was right overhead and was an albatross. It circled three times round the mast and then perched for an instant on the crest of the gilded dragon at the prow. It called in a strong sweet voice what seemed to be words though no one understood them. After that it spread its wings, rose, and began to fly slowly ahead bearing a little to starboard, Drinian steered after it not doubting that it offered good guidance. But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her ‘Courage dear heart’ and the voice, she felt sure was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.”

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dead or alive: The Unbound Church Conference? Update

See update at the bottom:

Jack Haberer of the Presbyterian Outlook has a small news item up entitled, “Church gets call of Lazarus.” It is about a Presbyterian “Church Unbound conference.” It is evidently meant as a way of releasing the church from its apostolic foundations. I say this because of the speakers and the fact that, as Haberer puts it:

Worship leaders Liz Kaznak and Jud Hendricks, both pastors from Louisville, Ky., explained that it was time to bury the church — the church we have known. Like Lazarus, the church can be unbound only after it gets resurrected. And it can be resurrected only after it dies. So a black cave on the stage awaited the presentation of conferees’ burial of the dead church, the “entity” that had wounded them, had killed their hopes, had transacted and promoted death. The cave also invited attendees to present their fears, such as the fear of “all things new,” and the fear of losing one’s privileges or confronting one’s prejudices, that would need to die and be buried there.

I wrote a blog posting on Jud Hendrixs two years ago. The name of it was Something mystical this way comes: A new syncretism in the Presbyterian Church USA. It should probably have been titled “Something New Age this way comes.” Here are some quotes from Hendrixs taken from the posting. The first one is about Jesus discovering who he is!

Something about Jesus wakes and he becomes the Christ. The metaphor of becoming enlightened or becoming into his own and at this point he somehow realizes who he is, the beloved, and he is united with God, all of creation and all of men.

And a quote from a sermon on the baptism of Jesus:
A person wakes up, Jesus a human person … wakes up to the reality that all is sacred, that he is God … He somehow becomes the channel for truth and grace… somehow with this new moment there is a new potential for the human experience.” … “There is new opportunity for all of history for us to wake up and realize who we are … we are god present in time and space.

So perhaps we are suppose to bury the biblical truth that Jesus Christ is the unique Son of the Father. That he alone is eternally one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. We are the adopted sons and daughters of God, bought by the precious blood of Jesus Christ.

Many, but not all, of the other speakers are those who are helping in the attempt to change our ordination standards, such as Margaret Aymer. And the emergent movement was certainly represented with Brian McLaren as guest.

There is a real image of death here. It is not a death that rises in resurrection but a death that grows into a great stench. And it is a death that causes sorrow, not a sorrow unto repentance because the members are looking for ways to bury what the Bible and the Church has always upheld. The church can only be bound by disbelief, heresy and rejection of her Lord.

When we open the door, even a crack, to one kind of darkness all other wretchedness follows because the father of lies encourages more lies.

Jud Hendrixs once e-mailed me about my posting; he wrote: “You have not miss quoted me or miss represented my views. But what good comes of your public critique. I am not going to change what I believe or how I practice my faith because you or others disagree. I do not see the "good" in this type of critical engagement.”

He is right, in a sense; my writing will not change his or any other person’s views. But it is a warning to the church that you cannot mix light with darkness. If the Church is to be unbound it will be in faithful submission to the Lord of the Church, Jesus Christ. And it will mean submission to the authority of his word the Bible.

Update: There has been a misunderstanding: I didn’t mean to say that Jack Haberer said that the conference was a way of releasing the church from its apostolic foundations. If that is what my readers think I said I am sorry. Rather, I meant that Jud Hendrixs, who explained that the church needed to die and be resurrected and put up the display to be used, might will have meant that. I say that because he believes Jesus’ only realized he was God through enlightenment and that it is possible for humanity to become gods in the same way. I also say that because many leaders at the conference want to change our ordination standards.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Faith and Works: Rich Mullins

Rich Mullin died in a car accident thirteen years ago today. He was a musician who came just at the end of the Jesus Movement. And so he was somebody I did not know about until my daughters, Jenny and Penny, started playing his music and talking about him when we visited each other. He is a reminder to me that for a Christian works grow out of faith and the two do not exist without each other. In the righteousness that Jesus gives to us there is also that plan for the good works that God planned for each redeemed soul.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and not that of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Eph 2:8-10)

Rich cared and labored for the poor and needy, but his was an evangelical orthodox faith not a progressive one. It stood through and against the kind of winds that are and will continue to buffet our post-modern age. There is a fullness and richness about a faith that stands its ground on the rock Jesus Christ while ministering in his name.

It is not a sterile faith that never touches the dirty parts of the world, and yet it is not a faith divorced from the historical incarnation. It is not focused on a vague spirituality which gathers dusty utopian dreams nor does it sink beneath a nihilistic ugliness that cannot conceive of real life. Instead it gathers life and grows more life even after the saint goes home to dwell forever with God.

Here is a memorial video to the memory of Rich. One of the musicians talking, Jim Abegg, is an old friend whom I haven’t seen for years. There is even richness in the telling:

And then here, standing on the rock, is my favorite video of Rich, singing the Doxology:

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Guidelines for Communal Discernment: A Critique

Reading the Guidelines for Communal Discernment, a resource for the 218 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), I am reminded of C.S. Lewis's Narnia book, The Silver Chair. In that story Prince Rilian, Jill, Scrubb and the Marsh-Wiggle, Puddleglum, face the witch-queen of the Underland.

The Scene is set. With a bit of magic powder, the queen provides a sweet and drowsy smell from the fire. She takes “a musical instrument rather like a mandolin,” and begins to “play with her fingers-a steady, monotonous thrumming,” that will become unnoticeable after awhile. The queen uses “a soothing voice,” as though she is “humoring a child…”

Only the Puddleglum can change the situation by stepping on the fire so the whole room will be filled with the smell of burnt Marsh-wiggle. It's hard to manipulate the outcome of a situation with burnt Marsh-wiggle waking everyone up, but in the real world of Presbyterian decision making understanding the difference between “communal discernment” and parliamentary procedures will help. So will knowledge of how spirituality can be used to manipulate people.

The booklet, Guidelines for Communal Discernment, written by Victoria G. Curtiss, is meant as a guide to be used with or instead of the normal parliamentary procedures in some General Assembly committees as well as other official meetings of the PCUSA. Communal discernment in its most basic and simplified form consists of discussion about and discernment of an issue until a particular group arrives at a decision.

Voting is usually not a part of the process although it may be. Communal discernment does not follow parliamentary procedures instead a facilitator guides the discernment conversation using various techniques to help the members reach a decision. The facilitator or another member eventuality offers what Curtiss calls a `trial balloon,' which is, “a summary statement based on group input that expresses where the Holy Spirit seems to be leading the body.” (8) Various non-voting methods are suggested to find out if the members of the group agree with the trial balloon.

Although Curtiss does not define communal discernment as consensus decision making she does define consensus decision making in the context of such discernment, and the two concepts are basically the same thing. I want to look at three problems with this kind of discernment as it is offered in this document.

First I will look at the author's definition of communal discernment and consensus decisions. The definitions are themselves manipulative. Next I will look at the manipulative qualities of some of the communal discernment concepts and how they lead to the loss of commissioner's rights. Third I will look at the biblical and theological problems, in particular the author's use of spirituality as a control mechanism related to her views of the Holy Spirit. It should be noted that most of the problems will overlap.

Definitions of communal discernment and consensus as manipulation: Under the sub-title, “What is Communal Discernment?,” Curtiss gives many definitions and many of them, in this section, could also be applied to parliamentary procedures. For instance, she writes, “Communal discernment engages a group of people to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. It involves prayer, a humble surrendering of control, reflection on Scripture, and listening carefully to one another as together we seek to hear God's voice.”(4)

Yet, in the gathered Body of Christ any kind of action involving decision making, when not used manipulatively, could possess these same qualities. A presbytery that worships before addressing motions and then offers time through parliamentary procedures for members to speak to a motion is also encouraging them to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Surrendering control, reflecting on Scripture and listening carefully to one another is always a matter of the individual's attitude toward Christ and other Christians and has nothing to do with the procedure used.

Curtiss also writes, “Discernment seeks more than group agreement. The goal is to recognize when `it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us' (Acts 15:28).” But this is also a goal of parliamentary procedure. The difference here between the two is that the author suggests some rather subjective ways of knowing if a decision is the will of the Holy Spirit. Such subjective feelings and emotions as “God's presence settling over the group in silence,” and a “joyous convergence of direction that brings a sense of peace and rightness,” are her indicators for a final decision. (4)

On the other hand, the use of parliamentary procedures offers a concrete vote. This is not to say that the vote is always the will of the Lord, but at least it is outside the bounds of spiritual manipulation. And it is important to note, as Marianne L. Wolfe, author of the booklet, Parliamentary Procedures in the Presbyterian Church (USA) states:

"Majority rule is not a mystical or arbitrary concept. It is highly pragmatic, reflecting the reality that the whole church, as it acts, can do only that which most of the church is willing to do. Hence, the majority vote is a function of unity. Decisions taken by majority vote do not reflect “truth” but, rather, the search for truth." (4-5)

Wolfe, goes on to explain that consensus decision making “at its worst” is “manipulative and overpowering to the rights of the minority because it compels the minority to `break the unity of the body' in order to disagree.” But Curtiss, in her booklet on communal discernment, seems unaware of the problem that consensus decision making holds for the minority. Compounding the problem she writes:

Consensus as used in this booklet does not mean unanimity. It refers to a shared sense of God's presence as manifest through the group's work together and through the decision reached. Members of the group affirm that they have been heard and are willing to move ahead in a common direction that most, if not all, have sensed to be the leading of the Holy Spirit. (Emphasis mine)(8)

So it is not about consensus toward the decision but consensus about sensing the presence of God. That means that the decisions, although not the consensus of the group, are, once again, based on nothing but subjective feelings. This is a dangerous move because now to be in ardent disagreement as a minority means not only breaking the unity of the body but denying the felt presence of God in the work and decision.

At the back of Curtiss' booklet on page 20, she makes a comparison between, “Debate,” “Dialogue,” and “Discernment.” It would take up too much space to cover each point but needless to say it is slanted toward discernment. Here are a few examples between debate and discernment.

Debate uses, “hard data to get to answers to problems; reasoning is made explicit.” Discernment uses “intellect/reason and affect/intuition: mind and spirit experience.” But, contrary to Curtiss' view, the Christian, in debate, not only uses the Book of Order but also Scripture and the Confessions of the Church, and that is where the Church finds her final authority for decision making. (G-1.0100 c. & G-2.0100 a.) So instead of a contrast between hard data and a mind and spirit experience is the foundational authority of the Church versus mind and spirit experience.

Another example is seeing debate resolving issues “by defeating or persuading” the “opposing side,” or finding a “synthesis of opposites” versus seeing discernment as uncovering “a decision rather than [making] it” and discovering “what is most life-giving and loving by listening to [the] wisdom of the Holy Spirit and all voices.” But, isn't the Christian who stands before her presbytery, committee or the General Assembly, while speaking to a motion or an overture, listening for the Holy Spirit, remembering the words of Scripture and thinking about what others have said?

Using such a spiritual dichotomy between these two actions is manipulative.

Communal discernment concepts and loss of rights: Nevertheless, there is a true dichotomy between communal discernment and parliamentary procedures. It has nothing to do with the devotional attitudes of commissioners or the presence of God, but rather with methodology and the rights of the commissioners. Wolfe explains the rights of individuals in parliamentary principles. She writes:

"Parliamentary principles attempt to balance the expression of individual conscience with the will of the majority. In so doing, these principles take very seriously the following rights of individuals in the body. "(3)

Wolfe then lists, “The Right to Know,” “The Right to Speak,” “The Right to Vote,” and “The Right to Hold Office,” connecting these to various procedures and rules in Parliamentary governance. On first reading this list one sees immediately that communal discernment generally takes away the right to vote. But there are several other losses.

For instance, the right to know is downgraded in communal discernment. And this happens in several ways. Under the subtitle, `Who Uses a Communal Discernment Process?” Curtiss suggests that groups larger then twenty persons should be divided into smaller groups. This means that the committees at GA who use this method will be divided into smaller groups each with a facilitator. Because of that division each small group will not hear the whole committee's comments.

Those who find themselves in the minority in a small group will undoubtedly be alone and perhaps afraid to express their true feelings. Lacking the full committee, the minority person will experience the loss of hearing those with whom they agree. The majority people will miss hearing the thoughts of the minority people who fail to speak out of timidity or even fear.

Another problem along this same line is found under the subtitle “The Community listens to the Holy Spirit.” Curtiss writes “Participants need to practice the grace to lay aside ego, preconceived notions, biases, and predetermined conclusions that may limit openness to God in order to reach “holy indifference.”(7) While it is true that we all need to learn to lay aside ego the rest of this list is questionable. But the important point here is that we will fail to speak out our diverse opinions if we do not speak our biases and conclusions. And those who hear us will be cheated out of knowing what we truly believe, who we are and what we know.

Another suggestion under this subtitle is:

"Before a large group considers an issue, it is usually helpful for a subgroup, preferably consisting of persons with a variety of perspectives on the matter, to meet first to consider what information the larger body needs. It is helpful to distribute, in advance of the meeting, written material that defines the issue and provides background information as well as the rationale for a particular proposal, if there is one. Such material does not preclude the consideration of other options, but brings the whole body on board with the reflection previously done by a few persons. (Emphasis mine)

Although other material may be looked at this leaves the larger group under the tyranny of a few, limits the focus of the group and severely limits information. The right to know is once again neglected.

I will address the loss of the right to speak in the next section, although I have already looked at several of Curtiss' suggestions that affect that right.

The Holy Spirit and spirituality as a control mechanism: When debating and voting using parliamentary procedures one follows definite rules. On the other hand, Curtiss, in her booklet, offers multiple rules to choose from and anchors them to subjective spiritual feelings as well as spiritual practices meant for far different settings. She also misuses the work and person of the Holy Spirit in an unhelpful manner.

Under “What is Communal Discernment?,” Curtiss states that the Holy Spirit's “movement” “cannot be predicted or packaged.” Under, “Why Does the Church Engage in Communal Discernment?” Curtiss gives three theological principles for discernment. She, rightly, explains that Jesus Christ is head of the Church, and then she paraphrases several texts that deal with the work of the Holy Spirit including John 14:16, 26; 16:13, writing “God sends us the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth, to teach us everything, and to remind us of all that Jesus Christ said.” (4)

Curtiss' words about the Holy Spirit's movement are less than biblical and need to be reconciled with the scriptures she has paraphrased. A Christian reading scripture can know what the will and movement of the Spirit is like because every truth and movement of the Holy Spirit comes from and belongs to Jesus Christ. Biblically one can know that the Holy Spirit's leading will never go beyond scripture or the person of Jesus Christ.

Calvin, writing of John 16:13, connects the truth which the Holy Spirit guides the Church into with Jesus Christ and the New Testament. He writes, “The same Spirit led them [the apostles] into `all truth' when they wrote down the substance of their teaching.” (Emphasis the Editors) Likewise, Calvin writing on John 14:26 explains, “But observe what all these things are which he [Jesus] promises the Spirit will teach. He `will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (Emphasis Editors) Commenting further, Calvin writes:

"But the spirit that introduces any new idea apart from the Gospel is a deceiving spirit, and not the Spirit of Christ. Christ promises the Spirit who will confirm the Gospel teaching as if he were signing it."

Curtiss description of the Holy Spirit as unpredictable shapes a lot of her guidelines for communal discernment. When something or someone is unpredictable there is a need to find a way to follow and be open to the unexpected and the new.

An example of influencing commissioner's thinking about guidance because of her own views about the Holy Spirit is Curtiss' many exhortations to remain open to the Holy Spirit and possible new ideas. She also offers spiritual technologies to guide them toward openness. Curtiss, in fact, states that “there are spiritual practices that can enable us to be more receptive and attentive to God and one another and help us discern the mind of Christ.” (4) One of the practices she suggests is Lectio Divina.

Although Lectio Divina is a helpful devotional practice for individuals and groups, it is not particularly helpful for group decisions among people who are in disagreement. That is because, once again, it can be used as a control mechanism. First several scriptures are looked at, individually or corporately, prior to the meeting, in the meeting one scripture passage is focused on and questions are asked between each reading of the same scripture, such as “What one word or phrase leaps out at you from the passage.” (6, 7, 17)

To understand how this is not helpful think of a Christian who is visited by two Jehovah's Witnesses. There is a discussion about the Trinity or the Lordship of Jesus Christ. (These two topics have been debated in recent General Assemblies)The Jehovah's Witnesses are taught to stay with just certain scriptures when discussing one of their beliefs. They want the Christian to focus on just a few words and their meaning. That is control; but the Christian knows they will not get a true picture of the biblical view from just one verse or word.

If the Witnesses pick just one verse, the Christian suggests that they read the whole chapter to get a better understanding of the text. (Explaining as she reads.) Or the Christian might suggest several different sections of Scripture on the same subject. The point is, in decision making, Christians should allow the Holy Spirit to use the whole text not just a phrase or a word. God's word is not a magical mantra to use for discernment.

The use of Lectio Divina is one way commissioners could lose their right to speak since this method only allows them to respond to someone else's question rather then speak from their own thought processes. There are other ways a misunderstanding of the Holy Spirit leads to the loss of the right to speak.

I have already addressed Curtiss' insistence that members of committees and assemblies lay aside” their biases and predetermined conclusions.” But she also suggests that participants “may be invited to write on an index card anything that he or she is aware of that may block `holy indifference.” (7)

In another place, in a suggested covenant for groups, Curtiss writes, “Lay aside all biases and blocks to the Holy Spirit, leaving the outcome to God's direction, being willing to consider new ideas, and being obedient to the results.” Still later in her comparisons between debate and discernment, in rather gnostic terms, Curtiss writes that debate “defends a viewpoint” while discernment “offers `holy indifference' to all but God's will.” The commissioner, reading this could be intimated, thinking that somehow debating a subject is unholy, while practicing discernment is holy. Feeling this way he loses his right to speak what is in his heart and mind. This can only curtail his faithfulness to the other commissioners and to Jesus Christ.

Conclusion: There are numerous control mechanisms in Guidelines for Communal Discernment. They move from constant checking of the feelings and emotions of the participants to the use of silence to refocus the group to the actual use of a monitor who observes “the dynamics and interaction among group members, reminding the group of its norms and values, helping pace the process by tracking the time allotted, and recommending breaks or times out.” (10)

The decision making in communal discernment is complicated and even confusing. For example, the trial balloon, mentioned above, must be accepted or rejected, so in an attempt to not vote several ideas are suggested. One is the five finger method going from five fingers, “I am fully supportive,” to one finger, “I cannot support this at this time.” If a decision is not reached several suggestions for resolving the dilemma are given including “appoint a smaller group or a person to make the decision,” thus moving the church a very long way from Presbyterian polity.
For a church such as the PCUSA, a denomination racked by significant disagreements over vital doctrine and polity, a church filled with distrust and lack of unity, Guidelines for Communal Discernment is simply another match to add to an already burning bonfire. It takes away rights, misuses spirituality as a means of control and does all of this under the guise of creating good will and unity in the Body of Christ. Parliamentary Procedures may not sound particularly spiritual but the Lord of the Church generally works through the mundane rather than the ultra spiritual. The glory, after all, belongs to Jesus Christ.

1.Calvin, John. John. The Crossway Classic Commentaries. Editors, Alister McGrath &
J.I. Packer. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1994.
2.Curtiss, Victoria. Guidelines for Communal Discernment. Presbyterian Peacemaking Program/Presbyterian Distribution Service.
3.Wolfe, Marianne L. Parliamentary Procedures in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Friday, September 17, 2010

My problem: MSAWest's missing pages

Here is my problem. I posted an article, “Divesting from Israel: extreme Islam, Presbyterians and Socialism all in California, on the 13th of September. I checked my links tonight because I wanted to write some more about the resources offered by The Muslim Student Association West who are a part of the campaign.. I found that all of my links are messed up. The one linking to a petition drive in California to divest from Israel doesn’t seem to stay connected to the endorsement list. But that is okay because readers can simply click on endorsements after going to the page on that link.

But the bigger problem is the links to the resources on the MSA West site. They have been wiped out. The news, which is a complaint against the FBI, is there. Their own links are still there. But all of their information about Islam, women’s rights, human rights, etc. is not there.
So although I have quotes from my original posting, I suppose I should have been a better reporter or researcher and copied out everything. But who would have guessed it would disappear that soon. And it would have been a huge amount of paper.

Now it is possible that something is wrong with their server. But then it is peculiar that just the dogmatic material is missing, including the material from Saudi Arabia? But then all of what I quoted is everywhere on the web and in at least one place attributed to MSA at USC. So this:

“Islam is the name of a way of life which the Creator wants us to follow. We avoid the word religion because in many non-Islamic societies, there is a separation of "religion and state." This separation is not recognized at all in Islam: the Creator is very much concerned with all that we do, including the political, social, economic, and other aspects of our society. Hence, Islam is a complete way of life.”

And this:

“From this verse, it is clear that the state's obligation of obedience to the Creator is as important as the obedience of the individual. Hence, the Islamic state must derive its law from the Qur'an and Sunnah. This principle excludes certain choices from the Islamic state's options for political and economic systems, such as a pure democracy, unrestricted capitalism, communism, socialism, etc. For example, a pure democracy places the people above the Qur'an and Sunnah, and this is disobedience to the Creator. However, the best alternative to a pure democracy is a democracy that implements and enforces the Shari'ah (Islamic Law).”

And all that goes with that part is still on the web.

Some manuals are still on the web; if the cached edition is clicked on one can see that the Action Manual began with ways that Muslim students could protect themselves right after 9-11 and that is a good idea. An important idea. But further on in the manual, which I cannot get to print, there is the process of forming the Muslim students into groups aligned with other ‘progressive groups’ and staging rallies that will promote the idea that it was the United States fault that we were attacked.

I would suggest that anyone interested read the cached manual as it will possibly be removed also.

Anyway, that is my problem. And maybe a lot of other peoples too. Or perhaps I am wrong and all of the links will work in the middle of the day.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A contradictory and dishonest letter on the IPMN site

The Israel /Palestine Mission Network have placed a letter on their site by Mary Alice Bivens. It is contradictory and dishonest. At first Bivens derides a Presbyterian church for not participating in the political process of explaining the problems in the Middle East to their members. She was appalled that the pastors left it to [their] members to explore or advocate on this and other issues at an individual level.”

On the other hand she is upset that a group of Presbyterians were so motivated to help bring peace to the Middle East that they formed a group, Presbyterians for Middle East Peace. And the dishonest part is that she states:

“I was greatly dismayed, however, to read the list of Presbyterians who are members of churches in my home state who differed with the conduct of the study [The Middle East Study Committee’s Breaking Down the Walls] and the conclusions reached. I have since learned that many who signed the opposing report produced by Presbyterians for Middle East Peace never read the report and only did so based upon incorrect information; and, have since changed their minds.”[1]

Why is this dishonest? Placing such a statement on an official Presbyterian site without the numbers of who did not read the report and were sorry they had signed and without the names to confirm its truth is dishonest. And what was the incorrect information? I am unaware of any incorrect information.

This is particularly heinous coming from a person who disagrees with the Presbyterians for Middle East Peace position which is to be concerned with the issues troubling both sides.
Bivens goes on in her letter to write about the way activist were treated while helping to plant olive trees for Palestinian farmers. But she uses someone else’s letter rather than telling her own story. And once again there is no name.

The list of people who signed can be found here. Petition Either those on the list or Bivens can say which ones are sorry they signed and what was untrue about what they signed.

This is a letter offered by a group who is supposed to be representing me and all other Presbyterians. That is truly too bad.

[1] I signed the petition and read the whole, long, awful report. And wrote on it too.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

John Shuck asked an honest question: our answer?

John Shuck asked an honest question. In the comment section on his posting Paul Thompson and The Jersey Girls he wrote:

“I do find it interesting that this question [about the collapse of the towers on 9-11] could put me over the edge into kookdum when saying that I don't believe Jesus rose from the dead apparently doesn't.

Which sin is worse?

In my 20 or so years of ministry, I could pretty much say whatever I wanted about Jesus and would ruffle a feather here and there.

But when I make claims about the U.S.'s imperial activities ... it is blasphemy.”

Well, of course the sin of denying the resurrection is sin. But the sin of saying whatever you please about Jesus Christ and then claiming to be a Christian minister is, well, Paul the apostle would call it beastly. And like Paul, the great theologian Karl Barth would call John a wolf since he named those troubled with the words of the Apostle’s Creed in just such a manner:

“This inveighing against so-called 'orthodoxy' is just a 'wolf's snarl', which an educated man should have nothing to do with.”

There are so many hurting, needy and yes, kooky people that need Jesus Christ and his redeeming love. Jesus asks and answers some questions about the needs of people. In one place in the scriptures he likens God’s love to that of a parent who would not give bad things to their child.

“Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish, he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If then, being evil, you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” (Luke 11:12-13)

But the Church? Are we inviting the needy and hurting to hear about the cross of Jesus Christ. Or are we inviting them to set and listen to those who have no good news, who do not love our Lord Jesus Christ, who deny his gift to us.

John’s question should be answered by the whole church, even his Presbytery. Kookiness is nothing, Jesus is everything.

And it isn't just John and his careless disregard for his vows. John says his comments about Jesus have only ruffled a few feathers. It's all of us who don’t care about the little ones. May the Holy Spirit blow against us with such mighty power and persistence that all feathers are trembling. And may there be holy fear, concern and repentance in abundance.

May many souls enter the Kingdom of our Lord to his glory:

Monday, September 13, 2010

Divesting from Israel: extreme Islam, Presbyterians and Socialism all in California

Reading a news item on Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Israel/Palestine Facebook, "Noushin Framke, Israel Palestine Mission Network: a divestment ballot initiative for California," I discovered there is a campaign to put an initiative on the ballot in California to require that “California's public retirement systems, the State Teachers' Retirement System (STRS) and the Public Employees' Retirement System (PERS),” “sell stocks held in companies that support Israeli settlements or provide military equipment and services to the State of Israel.”

The paper linked to by the IPMN is a weird alternative news paper, The Smirking Chimp, and it seems obsessive for a Presbyterian Middle East organization to link to such an outlet. However, the link does bring up multiple issues such as questions about where such funds really go. But the bigger problem I see is the list of individuals and organizations that are attempting to put the divestment initiative on the ballot.

The list of individuals includes at least six ministers. Three of them are Presbyterian. There is at least one Rabbi. But what I find somewhat offensive is the many Islamic organizations backing this campaign. Several of them are quite practical and helpful to both the Muslim community and probably the larger community. But one in particular bothers me immensely. The Muslim Student Associations of the West offers resources about Islam, some from Saudi Arabia.

Writing about the misconceptions about Islam MCA states:

“Islam is the name of a way of life which the Creator wants us to follow. We avoid the word religion because in many non-Islamic societies, there is a separation of "religion and state." This separation is not recognized at all in Islam: the Creator is very much concerned with all that we do, including the political, social, economic, and other aspects of our society. Hence, Islam is a complete way of life.”

In writing of human rights they refer to 4:59 in the Qur’an and then write:

“From this verse, it is clear that the state's obligation of obedience to the Creator is as important as the obedience of the individual. Hence, the Islamic state must derive its law from the Qur'an and Sunnah. This principle excludes certain choices from the Islamic state's options for political and economic systems, such as a pure democracy, unrestricted capitalism, communism, socialism, etc. For example, a pure democracy places the people above the Qur'an and Sunnah, and this is disobedience to the Creator. However, the best alternative to a pure democracy is a democracy that implements and enforces the Shari'ah (Islamic Law).”

I left the links in the above paragraph since they refer to the government of an Islamic state and show how violence is considered an acceptable way to spread Islam.

On the list, aligned with this type of Islamic organization, are many other organizations that are involved in extreme socialism. No novelist could imagine a more diverse alliance of potential enemies, potential enemies to each other that is. But then one thinks of the past and an emperor who was supposed to be god matched with a failed painter who imagined that he would begin an empire that would last a thousand years (they didn’t like the Jewish people either) and one sees that history is often full of evil/ tragic characters.

Even in California, I believe this push to divest from Israel will fail. God forgive us if it does not.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

No pretense or no darkness: for the Lord's Day

No pretense or no darkness. One is a human problem the other is an eternal state. Wisdom is an attribute of God. Jesus Christ is the eternal Son.

I have loved, for many years, the hymn "I want to Walk as a Child of the Light." This was done by the Fisher Folk in the early seventies. I lost my tape of it in Mexico. Several times I have looked on the web for the song to post. The Redeemer Episcopal Church in Morris Town New Jersey has a video of the song. But this is how they have written the first verse:

"1) I want to walk as a child of the light; I want to follow Wisdom. God set the stars to give light to the world; the star of my life is Wisdom. In her there is no pretense at all; the night and the day are both alike. For she is the light of the city of God: shine in my heart, O Wisdom."

But the first verse is really:

I want to walk as a child of the light;
I want to follow Jesus.
God set the stars to give light to the world;
the star of my life is Jesus.

In him there is no darkness at all;
the night and the day are both alike.
The Lamb is the light of the city of God:
Shine in my heart Lord Jesus.

The hymn writers name is listed, Kathleen Thomerson, I wonder how she would feel about the new words. The song is not ancient. It was written in 1966. But the revised words seem to place the song within some ancient gnostic sect.

For the Lord's Day:



My nephew Duane Andersen, who is a film producer, put this video together for 9-11. I thought it was one of the best that I have seen so I am placing it here for today.

Friday, September 10, 2010

God's goodness

For those who have been following my posts, you know my husband had a heart attack several weeks ago and later bypass surgery. He has been home for almost a week now and we walked about four blocks today. We are both looking forward to several months of enjoying each other’s un-interrupted company and we are both thanking God for his goodness to us.

Given the day, (9-11-)I know there are still many who mourn, may they find comfort in Christ. The video is for those who find their haven in Him.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mutuality or redemptive love: a biblical theme for marriage

More Light Presbyterians have posted two articles on marriage. One is by Dr. Janet Edwards asking the question, “What is Marriage?”, the other is “Standing on the Side of Love: Marriage in Church & State” put together by the National Board of Directors and staff of MLP. What struck me about these two articles was an attempt to move, as Christians, beyond the biblical meaning of marriage by means of subterfuge.

The Edward’s article first states that: “From start to finish, the Biblical norm for human marriage is patriarchal dominance by the husband/father -- a far cry from the mutual love between equals that most American Christians value in marriage.” But she goes on to refer to a different biblical model which is supposedly seen in a mutual love relationship between God and “God’s people.”

The second piece, the statement by the MLP Board, lifts up a statement by the Presbytery of the Red Wood Permanent Judicial Commission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). That is:

“We call upon the church to reexamine our own fear and ignorance that continues to reject the inclusiveness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.(G3.0401c) We say this believing that we have in our own Book of Order conflicting and even contradictory rules and regulations that are against the Gospel. In this particular case, in W4.9001 we have inclusive and broad descriptive language about marriage, “Marriage is a gift God has given to all humankind for the wellbeing of the entire human family.” This sentence is followed immediately by “Marriage is a civil contract between a woman and a man.” The language of the second statement draws on our cultural understanding today of marriage that is rooted in equality. But it is not faithful to the Biblical witness in which marriage was a case of property transfer because women were property. Nor does it specifically address same gender marriage.” (Spahr vs. Redwoods Presbytery (pdf), August 24, 2010).

But note the latter part of the statement and its failure to involve the complete meaning of marriage. Biblical marriage is not defined by women as property. Instead there is a biblical theme that lifts up the Creator and his purposes.

Both Edwards and the MLP staff and Directors have failed to understand a significant part of the biblical view of marriage. That is, its picture of the redemptive love and purposes of God. Edwards comes close in that she references “Hosea 1-3:5, Ephesians 5:22-25, Revelation 21:2-3.” But these are not pictures of mutual love but rather of redemptive love. And the sides are not even. That is, on one side is gracious healing love. On the other side is a sought for soul bought back and redeemed at cost.

For instance, Boaz’s words to Ruth are not property exchange words but words of gracious favor and redemptive need and care. (There is also some choice in this that has nothing to do with property) Boaz speaks:

“May you be blessed of the Lord, my daughter. You have shown your last kindness to be better than first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich. Now my daughter, do not fear I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people know that you are a woman of excellence.” (Ruth 310-11)

As this is a beautiful picture of the beginning of an intimate relationship between a man and a woman; it is also a beautiful picture of the redemptive work of the Lord of the Church. Arthur E Cundall & Leon Morris in their commentary on Ruth quote G.A.F. Knight:

“Knight reminds us that this action of Boaz in redeeming the helpless Ruth has implications for the author’s view of God. We must ask ourselves, he says, ‘What reading did the author put in this act of redemption by Boaz? Did he realize that if a mere man, a creature of God, could behave in the manner described, and had indeed by his action exhibited the power to redeem an outcast and bring her into fellowship with the living God, then two things could be said of the Creator of Boaz/- (1) God must feel at least as compassionate towards all the Ruths of Moab and of Babylon and of every other land as his creature Boaz felt towards Ruth; (2) God must actually be a God of redemption, with the desire and the power to redeem all outcasts into fellowship with himself.’”

And this is not ‘a man is the redeemer, woman is the redeemed’ theme. Instead it is simply a redemption theme which belongs to God seen in the beautiful union of man and woman. The Church is the redeemed, (both men and women), Christ is the redeemer who washes her clean.
So those who enter Christian marriage must come as sinners who have been redeemed.

Adulterers who do not repent tear apart their marriage. And same gender marriage, biblically, is sin because it rejects the redemptive and transforming act of God. It turns aside the suffering of Jesus on the cross. There is no such marriage in Scripture but instead a call to repentance.

Biblically speaking it is neither a matter of hierarchy nor mutuality when speaking of same gender marriage. It certainly must not be a matter of conforming to society. That is forbidden. But instead marriage must conform to scripture and confessions. We must obey the one who at great cost redeemed his people. It is a matter of blood, the blood of Christ, the kinsman redeemer.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Evil as light, charity and social justice: forgetting the cross

“The great masquerade of evil has played havoc with all our ethical concepts. For evil to appear disguised as light, charity, historical necessity, or social justice is quite bewildering to anyone brought up on our traditional ethical concepts, while for the Christian who bases his life on the Bible it merely confirms the fundamental wickedness of evil.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The list here of evil masquerading as good sounds familiar. It isn’t all the same. It comes from a time and a place when extreme nationalism and anti-semitism were wedded to liberalism. Jesus as human was turned into the noble hero who did not die for sins. Suffering, redemptive love, transforming grace were all political and theological blight.

Abortion for healthy babes in German wombs was a definite no-no. Abortion along with experimentation for Jewish babies was insisted on, as was death for disabled babies and people, German or Jewish. Eugenics, which was big in the United States in the late 19th century and early 20th caught on and with an ugly bloom exploded in Germany masquerading as charity and social justice.

I could go on. Thinking of the news in France, Roma people were not cared for then either. And any ethnic group except those who were Anglo-Germanic who existed in Nazi lands fitted into the category of those unfit to live.

Regarding Christianity, half of God’s word was dismissed as problematic (too Jewish) and the other half carefully used so that only a positive veneer would affect the listener. But it seems to me that the redemptive act of Jesus Christ and the bodily resurrection of our Lord is that part of Christianity severed and replaced by the lie of a fake charity (love) and social justice in our day.

No, I am not writing that feeding the hungry, caring for the oppressed and suffering is evil disguised as light and charity. Remember Paul’s words when writing of the differences in the ministry of Peter and James to the Jews and his and others to the Gentiles? Paul in speaking of that in Galatians writes, “They only asked us to remember the poor—the very thing I was also eager to do.” (2:10) And remembrance and care for the poor is throughout the Bible.

But encouragement to sin, disregard for fallen brothers and sisters caught in sexual immorality, is hidden under the hue and cry of light, charity and social justice. And that kind of false light and charity possesses some of the same bent toward a positive Christianity that infected the German Christians.

I was struck by the words of one writer on the “That All May Freely Serve” GA blog site. She wrote about the different groups whose representatives spoke to the Young Adult Advisory Delegates during GA. Her conclusion, “Anyway, the point is, we [TAMFS] really engaged the YAADs. Even though some of them might have disagreed with our mission, they couldn't disagree that we were interesting and funny and happy, unlike Mr. Pro-Life and Mr. Traditional (both of whom were sort of sad) or Voices [for Justice](who was kind of angry)…” (Bold author’s)

We can never forget that Jesus is not only King of all kings. He is the suffering servant of the Old Testament. He is the “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah 53:3) He was sad; sad enough to die for all of our sins. Sad enough to suffer for our everlasting joy.

The wickedness of evil, as Bonhoeffer put it, seems redundant, yet the descriptive words eliminate the glamour of evil that sometimes occur in an age such as ours. The confused must be fed the life giving illuminating word. The gracious, forgiving love of Jesus Christ shines very bright in such darkness. The redemptive work of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit will undergird the Church as we face the future.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The darkness pervading the corners of our denomination.

Sometimes those who will not believe the word of God do believe the strange words of humanity. Sometimes this happens on a sophisticated level, like rejecting the Lordship of Jesus Christ while holding on to the ethics and lifestyle of Buddha. But sometimes, and this is happening far too much in contemporary America, all the sludge of the shadows begins surfacing above the unbelief. And some start hanging around, in their minds, with devils. Metaphorically speaking.

Oh they don’t think of them as devils, but rather as heroes. They are considered the answerers to humanity’s problems. But one posting, War, Drugs, Collapse, the Usual, leads to another blog, I Run My Own Damn Thinktank, (Twelfth Bough) which has these words written as truth:

“It would be very useful for people to understand the wide variety of brutal and unethical practices explicitly approved by the Talmud. When we say that someone like Michael Chertoff, for instance, is a Talmudic Jew, that means he has been formally instructed through religious indoctrination to lie to, deceive, steal from and kill non-Jews: approximately 97% of the population of the United States. Attorney General Mike Mukasey -- same thing. It's not like the difference between Episcopalians and Catholics; it's the difference between following a religion or following a secret plan for murderous racism.”[1]

There are other references to the Jewish people and Israel with this kind of awfulness-but this statement sums it up. Now the Presbyterian pastor who linked to “I Run My on Damn Thinktank” of course didn’t know this man was a rabid anti-Semite. But he liked the posting he pointed to because it accused United States leaders of being at war for the sake of drugs and profit. And he found that part of the article was written by Michel Chossudovsky whom he also likes.

And if you check out Chossudovsky you will find that he is a truther, as is the pastor. And Chossudovsky also has huge amounts of other kinds of conspiracy theories by many different writers on his web page. A truther is someone who believes that leaders of the United States government arranged for the destruction of the towers on 9-11. The pastor has another web site on his blog, 9-11

Why am I pointing this out? Go back to the beginning of this posting. The sludge keeps building up. For the pastor it seemingly began with a conspiracy theory about 9-11 and went on to pull in an anti-Semite. But truthfully it began with a rejection of God, and redemption, and the blessedness of the resurrection. It began with the Lord of the Church standing outside a heart, a church, a presbytery, knocking to come in.

The darkness beginning to pervade the corners of our denomination is frightening. And it is happening because we have rejected God’s word, our Confessions and the Lordship of Christ. Conspiracy theories and anti-Semitism are just a beginning, if we do not turn our hearts back to the Lord of the Church.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Israel/Palestine Mission Network and my anniversary

September 2nd is my 49th wedding anniversary. I should be posting a wedding picture and red roses or something like them. I will instead be visiting my husband in the hospital, where he is doing exceptionally well after a heart operation. I am also posting these thoughts about the Presbyterian Israel/Palestine Mission Network which seems to not understand that I also belong to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and they are misrepresenting me and thousands of other PCUSA members.

IPMN has now posted a letter to the Editor of the New York Times. The Times article is “In Israel, Settling for Less” by Gadi Taub. It is about the difference between religious Zionism and secular Zionism. The latter kind of Zionism was the earlier version of Zionism, but that is not my concern. My concern is with Walter T. Davis’ letter to the editor, in which he not only perpetrates some untruths but he does it in my name because he signs his letter as Chair of the Education Committee of the IPMN.

If the Israel/Palestine Mission Network was not a Presbyterian organization I would not care. It would be their business. But it is my business now, and the business of all Presbyterians who care. And there are several items we should care about.

First is this statement in the letter. “From the beginning, political Zionism carried seeds of its own destruction. Religious Zionism merely calls attention to the tragic flaw in both ideologies: the conviction that Jews and non-Jews can never live together in peace.”

This is a denunciation of all Zionism. That is anti-Semitic and outrageous. The Presbyterian Church has never denounced (Jewish) Zionism and certainly not secular Zionism. It was such Zionism that gave birth to the State of Israel and gave the Jewish people a safe homeland after the Nazi's atrocities.

Second is this statement: Israel’s leaders have demonstrated this conviction by ongoing policies of "transfer.” As Ben Gurion put it in 1937, "The Arabs will have to go, but one needs an opportune moment for making it happen, such as a war." This statement attributed to Ben Gurion is a fabrication.

For a clarification see this e-mail by Benny Morris the Jewish Historian that many one-sided historians and church people such as Davis like to quote. Morris is responding to an article written by Johann Hari he writes:

"Hari quotes David Ben-Gurion as saying in 1937: ‘I support compulsory transfer ... The Arabs will have to go, but one needs an opportune moment for making it happen, such as a war.’ The first part of the quote (‘I support compulsory transfer’) is genuine; the rest (‘The Arabs will have to go ... such as a war’) is an invention, pure and simple, either by Hari or by whomever he is quoting (Ilan Pappe?) It is true that Ben-Gurion in 1937-38 supported the transfer of the Arabs out of the area of the Jewish state-to-be – which was precisely the recommendation of the British Royal (Peel) Commission from July 1937, which investigated the Palestine problem. The commission concluded that the only fair settlement was by way of partition, with the Jews receiving less than 20 per cent of Palestine, but that, for it to be viable, the 20 per cent should be cleared of potentially hostile, disloyal Arabs. (Britain, incidentally, at the end of World War II supported the expulsion to Germany of the German Sudeten minority, which had helped Hitler destroy and occupy Czechoslovakia – for precisely the same reasons.) The Arabs, then and later, rejected the principle of partition as well as the specific Peel proposals.

Neither Ben-Gurion nor the Zionist movement ‘planned’ the displacement of the 700,000-odd Arabs who moved or were removed from their homes in 1948. There was no such plan or blanket policy. Transfer was never adopted by the Zionist movement as part of its platform; on the contrary, the movement always accepted that the Jewish state that arose would contain a sizeable Arab minority." 1.

What right does Davis or the IPMN have to include all of us in their one-sided views. His connection to the IPMN should not have been noted in his letter. And why don’t we have two organizations dealing with the Middle East so that all of us might be represented? I know of a very good organization that would be fair to all sides. Presbyterians for Middle East Peace.

1. While on this site go to their information page about the Roma. What is happening in France is awful, to say the least. See Reflections on Roma