Monday, November 29, 2010

I want to scream, draw close to Jesus and get away from such monsters (Update)

James Wall, in his article, ,writes that my friend David Fischler and I are telling lies when we accuse him of being a writer for anti-Semitic web sites. And he defends one person whose site he writes for, “One US Presbyterian blogger, for example, has accused Debbie Menon, a blogger located in Dubai of linking to a ”horribly anti-Semitic site”, not mine in this case, but another blog, bringing back the old “guilt by association” line of attack.” That was my posting, Please share my anger: IPMN, James Wall & hanging Jewish people . [1]

Wall also writes, “The website Veterans Today is not a “sludge-bucket”. It is a progressive website that sees injustice and calls it for what it is, which explains why these days, I find myself more at home with my new friends at Veterans Today and My Catbird Seat than with any Presbyterian blogger who has failed to realize that the Israeli occupation is a moral evil which must be ended. Perhaps this is a new ecumenism of the faithful.”

This is an article just published at Veterans Today, “Dam of Lies.” It is written by J. Bruce Campbell, a staff writer for Veterans Today. Here are some of his thoughts from the article:
Disgrace and redemption. The disgrace is of course our acceptance of Jewish domination of our lives, thanks entirely to the mind control system of tax-exempt Christianity in which we are all immersed regardless of our piety, our agnosticism or our hard, heathen rejection. America is a Christian nation and that means that we have not been allowed to defend ourselves against Jews. Christianity protects Jews from being killed, which is its main purpose. That’s why it is tax-exempt.
Or this:

Jewish mind control isn’t limited to Christians, of course. It’s just based on Christianity, which is the necessary ingredient. If it weren’t for Christian gullibility there could be no Holocaust guilt and extortion racket. That is, if it weren’t for the Old Testament there could be no New Testament. Are we really expected to believe the crazy whoppers in the Old Testament? They’re as wild as the Holocaust whopper. The New Testament people are told to love the Old Testament people, whom the Jews pretend to be, even to themselves. This is the schizophrenic nature of Judeo-Christianity. Old Testament-New Testament.
And very sadly, this:

Germany was the good side. That’s the big bitter pill that Americans will someday have to swallow. Now that the vicious fairy tale known as the Holocaust has been shown to be a complete fabrication of the Jewish Allies (America, England and the Soviet Union) at Nuremberg, what exactly is there to dislike about Germany’s behavior before, during and after World War II? Those snappy uniforms? Hitler’s mustache? Rounding up Jewish declared enemies and trying to deport them?
I hope my readers are sick enough now to realize that James Wall’s connection to and defense of Veterans Today places him in the same category as Nazis. And it also places the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in the same category if they keep linking to Wall’s articles or to Veterans Today.

I amit, I want to scream all kinds of things! Draw closer to Jesus and get away from such monsters. Of course pray for them; they are walking in fire, preparing to burn down all the great blessings Christ has showered on his church. And yes I am writing about both James Wall and the IPMN.

This, below, is from Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. It is Bonhoeffer’s reaction when he heard about the burning of Jewish synagogues and businesses on what was called, Kristallnacht during the early Nazi years.

In the Bible that day or the next, Bonhoeffer was reading Psalm 74. This was the text he happened to be meditating upon. What he read startled him, and with his pencil he put a vertical line in the margin to mark it, with an exclamation point next to the line. He also underlined the second half of verse 8. ;Sie verbrennen alle Häuser Gottes im Lande’ (‘They burned all of God’s houses in the land.) Next to the verse he wrote: 9.11.38. Bonhoeffer saw this as an example of God speaking to him, and to the Christians in Germany. God was telling him something through his Word that day, and as he meditated and prayed, Bonhoeffer realized that the synagogues that had been burned in Germany were God’s own. This was when Bonhoeffer most clearly saw the connection: to lift one’s hand against the Jews was to lift one’s hand against God himself. The Nazis were attacking God by attacking his people. The Jews of Germany were not only not God’s enemies; they were his beloved children.” (316)

The author, Eric Metaxas, goes on to give more of the scripture that Bonhoeffer used and then to explain that this did not mean that Bonhoeffer as a Christian thought he was not to take the gospel to the Jews. No, on the contrary this was one more thing he had to fight for. But please remember “To lift one’s hand against the Jews was to lift one’s hand against God himself.”

[1]I tried writing a comment on Wall’s posting. He of course did not post it.

Update: On the comment section of James Wall's posting is a comment by Noushin Framke who is chair of the IPMN Communications group. Also the IPMN have linked to James Wall's article.
Noushin Framke
November 30, 2010 at 6:51 am
"Jim,Not all Presbyterians in the U.S. are blindly defending Israel as if it answers to an unearthly law. Israel, the nation, needs to be held to the same standards as we hold all other nations. Those who are working themselves into a lather about calls like yours to hold Israel accountable are just showing how effective your clarion call is. The more effective you are, the louder they get. Let them foam at the mouth and spin their wheels while defending egregious human rights violators. There are plenty of Presbyterians with you! see here:"

This is the comment that IPMN have placed with the link to Wall's article: "Israel Palestine Mission Network Americans who speak out against Israeli human rights violations are villified - please support Jim Wall's latest post on his site!"

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Please share my anger: IPMN, James Wall & hanging Jewish people

Eric Metaxas, author of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, writes of Bonhoeffer’s “holy anger” over the suffering of the Jews in Germany on Kristallnacht (night of the broken glass). That was the night when most of the synagogues and Jewish businesses in Germany were destroyed and burned. I hope the anger I am feeling at the moment has at least a tiny amount of holiness.

How do you feel when you read the statement below?

This is the way the world is, and this is Israel, the remorseless, unprincipled barbaric in the most and truest sense, of nations. I think the ruthless barbaric sense of superiority and invincibility Israel is, is in the myth of their “Nation” if not their blood, for there is no such thing as an ethnic or blood Jew or “people.” These God’s chosen people? My God!

I tire of this charade, and it is time someone began calling these shenanigans, what it is, spades are spades, and naming Zionist Israelis for what they are and, not simply calling them to account, but going to their house, knocking on their door, dragging them out, holding their feet to the fire and calling them to account… at the end of a figurative rope if necessary, and virtual ropes if at all possible!

The quote is by Debbie Menon, writing on a site that is a blog connected to Veterans Today, the horribly anti-Semitic site I wrote about several days ago. The site, My Catbird Seat, has many of the same writers that Veterans Today has including VT’s Senior Editor, Gordon Duff, who pushes the theory that Israel conspired to down the twin Towers on 9-11. My Catbird Seat has a list of their contributing writers. At the bottom of the list the name James M Wall is listed.

James Wall, once the Editor and Publisher of The Christian Century and now a contributing editor, is a writer often used by the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) In fact; they have several of his articles on their web page. And on their Facebook page they just recently linked to one of his article from his blog Wall Writings, “US Offers Bibi 20 F-35 Fighters, The Jordan Valley and a Free UN Pass.”

Pastor David Fischler at Reformed Pastor has just written about Wall’s article, James Wall: Sewer Dweller (UPDATED). Fischler points out that Wall in his article was using resources from Veterans Today. He also raises some great questions and suggests that The Christian Century, for the sake of their own integrity, needs to rid themselves of any connection with Wall. “He [James Wall] has inextricably linked and identified himself with them through the sites he writes for and uses as sources. He is a blot on the Christian Century, and on the mainline churches that have looked to him for journalistic wisdom.”

I believe the same question needs to be asked of the Israel/Palestine Mission Network as well as the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Rarely does the IPMN miss linking to Wall’s articles if they are about the Middle East. If they realize that he is connected to such extreme groups will they disconnect from him? Will the PCUSA ever understand that they have an organization, the IPMN, with too many connections by linkage, to radical anti-Semitic groups?

The truth is, after looking at many of the posts on My Catbird Seat, I realize that their articles and links are not that much different then the ones posted at IPMN. Only those that have to do with 9-11 conspiracy theories and rabid ant-Semitism are missing form the IPMN site. Other wise the articles and authors are mostly the same. And the continuous rant about Israel and Jewish people and organizations in the United States are also the same.

I am angry. It is almost Thanksgiving, I have a review to write, pies to bake, great grandchildren to read to, but still I am angry. I will go to the mountains for dinner with my oldest son and his wife, and I will go angry. I will carry this anger with me not from hate but from love. Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, has called us to peace and truth. He is truth; how can we hold such dishonesty in our hearts. How can we use information and organizations that tell lies about those God chose to bless the world with his great grace, Jesus Christ? How can we in any way be connected to those who wish to use “virtual ropes” on the Jewish people? Please share my anger.

Monday, November 22, 2010

IPMN, the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Movement and its many hoaxes...UPDATE...and now a correction

[2] A correction see below.

UPDATE: I just received this (Nov. 24) from Mr. Lawler at DePaul; please read the rest of the posting, if you have not, to see what it is about:

"Hello again Ms. Larson:

Here is an updated statement on the hummus issue at DePaul:

DePaul University has asked its food services vendor to reinstate the sale of Sabra hummus on its Chicago campuses. Last week, university personnel asked them to temporarily suspend the sale of Sabra hummus following a request to do so from a campus student group on political grounds. It is policy when the university receives such a request, to first forward it to its internal Fair Business Practices Committee for thorough review and consideration before taking any action. The student group’s request has now been forwarded to that committee.

The primary purpose of DePaul’s Fair Business Practices Committee is to protect the integrity of the University's mission and values with regard to DePaul's contracts and contractors. The Fair Business Practices Committee receives and examines complaints and makes recommendations to the president consistent with the University's mission and values.

Communications Specialist"

Several articles about supposed successful divestment from companies doing business with Israel have been linked to on the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s Israel/Palestine Mission Network site. At least one of them, an important one, isn’t true and another is in the decision process. Perhaps the reading public would like to help with that decision.

The first and biggest story was that a major Dutch Pension fund had divested from Israel. That was not the case. The link was to the E-Magazine, The Electronic Intifada. The article, “Major Dutch pension fund divests from occupation” by Adri Nieuwhof and Guus Hoelen begins:

The major Dutch pension fund Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn (PFZW), which has investments totaling 97 billion euros, has informed The Electronic Intifada that it has divested from almost all the Israeli companies in its portfolio.

PGGM, the manager of the major Dutch pension fund PFZW, has adopted a new guideline for socially responsible investment in companies which operate in conflict zones.

In addition, PFZM has also entered into discussions with Motorola, Veolia and Alstom to raise its concerns about human rights issues. All three companies have actively supported and profited from Israel's occupation of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip.

But a different article in the Huffington Post, “Another Israel Divestment Hoax,” by Ben S Cohen, begins:

When I read this report on the Electronic Intifada website claiming that the largest pension fund in The Netherlands had divested from the Israeli companies in its
portfolio, it struck me that the campaign to subject Israel to a regime of Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions - BDS for short - had hit a milestone. No longer, I said to myself, is this a matter of campus gesture politics. The long-awaited South Africa effect is finally manifesting.

Then it occurred to me that the story might not be true. I contacted the fund's managers, the Dutch company PGGM, and they confirmed my suspicions.

Cohen goes on to explain:

Back in May, Israel's economic vibrancy secured its admission into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD,) which gathers together the world's developed countries. As a result, funds focused upon emerging markets were obliged to withdraw their investments from Israeli companies, who'd moved to the different benchmark for developed markets. Bottom line: this had absolutely nothing to do with politically-motivated divestment.
Cohen then explores some other hoaxes perpetrated by the BDS movement. And there are many: Hampshire College, Motorola hoax and like the hoax above, Harvard University. Cohen writes, "The University has not divested from Israel,’ a spokesman calmly explained. “’Israel was moved from the MSCI, our benchmark in emerging markets, to the EAFE index in May due to its successful growth. Our emerging markets holdings were rebalanced accordingly.’”

So now the minor divestment story. The IPMN linked several days ago to this story: “DePaul divests from Israeli hummus product.” This is a blog with postings by Sami Kishawi. He begins:

Today marks another win for the global boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) movement against corporations that profit from severe human rights violations. Chicago’s very own DePaul University just announced that their dining services will be discontinuing the sale of hummus manufactured by Sabra, an Israeli brand known for its vocal and material support of Israeli Defense Forces. The administration has temporarily suspended the sale of Sabra products and will likely move towards permanently banning the brand from campus.
And this is not different from another article not linked to by IPMN, The Hudson Valley Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Movement: to end Israeli Apartheid. They begin:

Today marks another win for the global boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) movement against corporations that profit from severe human rights violations. Chicago’s very own DePaul University just announced that their dining services will be discontinuing the sale of hummus manufactured by Sabra, an Israeli brand known for its vocal and material support of Israeli Defense Forces. The administration has temporarily suspended the sale of Sabra products and will likely move towards permanently banning the brand from campus.
Both the blogger and the BDS group insist that, “The ultimate success of this modest divestment campaign isn’t that it resulted in the removal of a product from campus cafeteria shelves but, rather, that it has undoubtedly set the framework for future campaigns in college campuses throughout the United States.”

This statement is being handed out by some larger organization and it is only half true. Here is the statement sent to me by DePaul's Communications Specialist, Edmund Lawler:

“Hello Ms. Larson:

Here is the official statement issued by DePaul today:

DePaul University’s Dining Services has temporarily stopped the sale of Sabra hummus pending a review by the university’s Fair Business Practices Committee. The temporary suspension of the sale of the Sabra product was prompted by a request by the Students for Justice in Palestine at DePaul. The organization expressed concern that the company that makes the product has been a voice of support for the ongoing Israeli occupation. In the meantime, Chartwells, DePaul’s dining services vendor, will make hummus and serve it in the dining halls."[1]

This is not finished and hopefully, though a small matter the DePaul College will understand that most of the BDS movement is calling for the destruction of Israel as a Jewish State and will not bend to a small group of people who are seemingly returning to the early days of the 1930’s.

[1]Mr Lawler asked me to not include his information in my posting.
[2] Kishawi is the person who wrote the first announcement and he corrected his statement on the 22nd. However IPMN never connected to his correction. Now as far as I can tell no one is announcing that the boycott failed, which it did.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The PC (U.S.A.) slipping into the dark world of extreme anti-Semitism ... UPdate

Without a glance over their shoulder, with memories of a past that embraced Presbyterian fairness, goodness and the righteousness of Christ’s kingdom, the Israel/Palestine Mission Network is moving the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) into the dark world of extreme anti-Semitism. On their Facebook page they are now featuring an article from a site titled, Veterans Today.

The site is full of radical anti-Semitic statements, even ones that blame the Jews for 9-11. For instance this from one article:

Anyone still dumb enough to pay Jewish income taxes should examine the back of his canceled check to the IRS. It will say, “Pay to the order of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.” Why do you suppose it doesn’t designate the IRS or Treasury Department? Why does your tax money go to a private, profit-making English corporation owned by Jews?

The (first) Bank of the United States lost its charter in 1811. Due to our second war with England in thirty-six years, the War of 1812, it was not possible to charter a second Bank of the United States – owned by the Bank of England! – until 1819, when another twenty-year charter was granted. In 1833, President Jackson cut
off its funds and this private British-Jewish company calling itself the Bank of the United States died six years before its charter would have expired.

People were a lot smarter or more educated in the 19th Century and they would not allow the Congress to create another private, foreign-owned central bank that would profit by lending us our own currency at interest. By 1913, however, the persistence of the Jews finally paid off when Paul Warburg of Germany bribed and manipulated American politicians to pass the Federal Reserve Act, which gave us our third and current private central bank.

Paul Warburg’s brother, Max, was Germany’s chief financial advisor to the Kaiser as well as the head of the German espionage service during World War I, while Paul was on the board of the Federal Reserve – while Germany and America were at war! Only Jews can get away with such wild criminality. (Italics Mine)

This article, JB CAMPBELL: DEFENSE AGAINST ZIONIST AGGRESSION has a warning that it is a “highly controversial document and is only posted for the information. (I guess we all need false slanderous information.) It was posted by Gordon Duff who is the Senior Editor at Veterans Today.

He also posted and wrote this GORDON DUFF: DEAR GERALDO RIVERA, 9/11 MURDER IS NOT A JOKE (3 videos), which has this:

Covering up 9/11 is key to Israel’s foreign policy. If they are blamed, America will turn on them as journalist Franklin Lamb warned this week. Rivera, an Israeli citizen, has reason to have an agenda especially since he works for Fox News, owned by Rupert Murdoch, another Israeli citizen. Rivera? Murdoch?

Simply put, if 9/11 was an inside job, Israel was there every step of the way and so was Fox News. Now they are trying to “spin” the story, control it, make murder a joke.

The article the Israel/Palestine Mission Network highlighted is, ERIC CANTOR AND THE PROVOKING OF AMERICAN ANTI-SEMITISM : Veterans Today, is by Dr. Lawrence Davidson. It was posted by Debbie Menon who according to Veterans Today among other things, “is committed to exposing Israel Lobbies control of ‘U.S. Middle East Policy. Control’ which amounts to treason by the Zionist lobbies in America and its stooges in Congress, and that guarantees there can never be a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, only catastrophe for all, in the region and the world.”

The article itself insists that Eric Cantor committed treason when “He [Cantor] made clear that the Republican majority understands the special relationship between Israel and the United States, and that the security of each nation is reliant upon the other.”

You will need to read the rest of the article to see how the author managed to come to his conclusion about treason. But I have seen this statement linked to in articles on the IPMN site several places. It is simply an opinion and it not different than other accusations against Jews in other countries particularly during the Nazi years.

That Presbyterian leaders are allowing one of their networks to link, as something worthwhile, to sites like Veterans Today speaks volumes to the lack of care, discipline and concern for Christ’s kingdom. We have lost our way, may Christ guide us back to a place of integrity.

UPdate: Another post by David Fischler on this subject with information I did not have:
IPMN: Into the Sewer
Hat-tip to David Fischler at the Reformed Pastor, see USCEIO + Veterans Today: Down the Memory Hole and USCEIO: Friend and Ally of Anti-Semites (UPDATED).

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Let the people go!

At the last Sacramento Presbytery meeting, November the 16th, we attempted again to release the Fair Oaks and Roseville Congregations from our Presbytery. Our motion was voted to be postponed until Feb. This is perhaps the first time in Christian and Jewish history that a people have been set free, found their promised land, but are still captive.1

At least on our records they are captives. And of course that keeps Sacramento’s place among growing Presbyteries strong. But it isn’t truthful.

I believe we have a duty as keepers of God’s people to be honest, caring and loving Christians, not only to people in the world but also to our own brothers and sisters. I went away from last night's meeting severely depressed; I still am. I deleted my last posting because it seemed too heartless in a world that is brimming with sorrow. What is it that John writes?

“For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.

Do not be surprised, brethren if the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. … We know we love by this that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
But whoever has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. (1 John 3: 11-18)

[1]What many do not seem to understand is that negotiations between Roseville and the Synod have broken down, and I can't believe that Fair Oaks and the Synod's is very satisfactory.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Prime Minister of Canada on anti-Semitism and Israel

Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada, speaking this last week Nov. 8, 2010, on anti-Semitism. An excellent speech.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Giants in the land ...

Edward Terry, reporter for The Presbyterian Layman, in a news posting, “Kirkpatrick predicts end of PCUSA’s fidelity-chastity standard,” writes that at the Covenant Network Conference, former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Clifton Kirkpatrick “said that God is calling on Christians to cooperate, break down barriers to find ways that different gifts can complement one another. He also called on the church to repent for exclusions based on injustice.

‘We are in the process of what God is calling us to be … an open community,” he said. “Our only intolerance should be an intolerance of efforts to exclude those who are different.’ Terry, in a different article, “Former PCUSA pastor challenges Covenant Network to ‘circle back’” writes of a former Presbyterian, Rev. Katie Morrison, who in her sermon given at the same conference stated, “she hopes the PCUSA can one day have a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” once it changes its position on LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) issues.”

Dr. Jim Berkley writing for The Layman, Let no faithful disciple go unpunished? includes Morrison’s words with those of the recent confessions of sin propagated by the now apostate Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Some newly written prayers of confession placed biblical Christians in the position of having to repent of the sin of intolerance because of their faithful stance against the ordination of unrepentant homosexuals. Berkley quotes two of the confessions including this one:

In San Francisco: “Our church of the Reformation has been too long captive to bias and misinformation. … We have not respected the gift of sexuality. … We have betrayed fellow members of the body of Christ because of cultural prejudice. We have misused Scripture as a tool of discrimination. We have forced celibacy upon too many. … We have promoted invisibility and dishonesty. … We have intimidated and disciplined, censured and expelled.”

These various pastors and leaders have one thing in common with such pastors as John Shuck who does not believe in a personal creator or in a resurrected future for those who belong to Jesus. They are like the giant, Goliath; standing in defiance of the living God in the sense that they are taunting the faithful with a possible bleak future should those pushing for new sexual standards get their own way.

But God’s future includes the faithful. His promises are unbreakable, his presence with his people unending. For what or who can separate us from Christ:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew, he also predestined to become conformed to the image of his Son, so that he would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom he predestined he also called and those whom he called, he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things?

If God is for us who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but delivered him over for us all, how will he not also with him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? (Romans 828-34a)

There are two promises here I want to point out. First, we are to be conformed to the image of God’s Son. God’s adopted sons and daughters are destined for transformation. We may kick and scream as the Holy Spirit does his work, but we will be conformed. The process may hurt sometimes, but it is his work.

The process is not unlike the story of Eustace in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Because of his crankiness, greed and general awfulness Eustace becomes a dragon. And it is only Aslan the great Lion who can change him back into a boy, and a better boy, at that.

C.S. Lewis has Eustace say, as he tells of his experience:
The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You—know if you’re ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.
Aslan goes on to wash and dress Eustace as Christ does us, washing away our sin by his blood, regenerating us by his Holy Spirit and dressing us with his righteousness. And there is that part, in the above verse, that reminds the believer that no one can bring a charge against God’s elect. No one. As F.F. Bruce puts it in his commentary on Romans:
In the forensic language of this passage we catch an unmistakable echo of the challenge of the Servant of the Lord in Isaiah 50:8-9, ‘He who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let him come near to me. Behold the Lord God helps me; who will declare me guilty? When God enters into judgment, the outlook for the opposing side is bleak (Rom. 3-4); but if God takes the side of the defendant, no amount of evidence for the prosecution can procure an adverse verdict. A good Old Testament illustration is the silence of Satan, chief prosecutor in the heavenly court, when God declares his acceptance of Joshua the high priest (Zc. 3:1-5).
Conformed to his image, walking in obedience the Church must just keep walking straight ahead proclaiming Christ’s redeeming, transforming life, death and resurrection.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Doug Hagler & Aric Clark on baptism, the priesthood of the believer and LGBTQ ordination: my thoughts from an Evangelical Reformed position

Doug Hagler and Aric Clark of Two Friars and a Fool have written a paper entitled, "Answering Common Arguments Against LGBTQ Ordination and Making Our Own in Favor of Inclusion." Dr. Tom Hobson followed with an excellent rebuttal, "Answering [Hagler and Clark's] 'LGBTQ Ordination Resource.'" However since Clark and I have already, several years ago, had some debate over a couple of his points I will place my focus on those same issues, baptism, ordination and the priesthood of the believer.[1]

Clark and Hagler use two theological positions as a means to advocate for LGBTQ people for ordination. They write:

Our first and most important ordination is in baptism
Our first and most important ordination is in Baptism, where we are adopted into Jesus Christ and given the ministry of every disciple. Ordination to a specific ministry in the church, whether of an Elder, Deacon, or Minister of Word and Sacrament does not confer any ontological change, override, supersede, or even amend the prior ordination into the ministry of the baptised. The distinction we make in the offices of the church is one of function and not of holiness. By saying that a baptised, called, and gifted individual is ineligible for a particular ministry by virtue of supposed insufficient holiness we are denying their Baptism. If one’s Baptism can be annulled by supposed sin, or is dependent on our effort and perfection, then we are all doomed.


The priesthood is composed of all believers
In the Reformed tradition, from the very beginning, it was understood that every believer is responsible as part of the priesthood -that priesthood was not a special ontological status conferred by the church, but was rather a general calling conferred by the grace of God on all baptised believers. The fact is that every LGBTQ Christian is already called to ministry.
The following is my Reply:

Clark and Hagler rest part of their argument that the Church should ordain LGBT people on their belief that baptism is ordination. Connected to this view is their understanding that baptism is regenerative. This is why in the statement on baptism they write that other ordinations do not confer any ontological change on the individual. They believe that baptism does.[2]

Yet, in neither the Bible, the Confessions or the Book of Order, from a Reformed position, is baptism considered the point at which a person is made new in Jesus Christ. John Calvin has a great deal to say on all of these matters; he gives Reformed answers to Hagler’s and Clark’s statements.

John Calvin is very clear about the difference between regeneration and baptism. When writing of baptism he insists that it is a sign of what God has already done and should not be administered to adults unless they already have faith. Of both adults and infants Calvin writes:

Those who, in adult age, embrace the faith of Christ, having hitherto been aliens from the covenant, are not to receive the sign of baptism without previous faith and repentance. These alone can give them access to the fellowship of the covenant, whereas children, deriving their origins from Christians, as they are immediately on their birth received by God as heirs of the covenant, are also to be admitted to baptism. [3] (Chapter XVI; Paragraph 24)
Calvin ties regeneration only to the work of Christ on the cross both for adults and infants and believes that “children are baptized for future repentance and faith. Though these are not yet formed in them, yet the seed of both lies hid in them by the secret operation of the Spirit.” (Paragraphs 17-20)

There is no doubt that the gift of baptism to the believer is meant as a sign of what God has already done in the believer. It is as Calvin reminds us the evidence that Jesus Christ has already washed us in his blood. “Calvin writing that the believer’ “may thereby assure themselves of that sole and perpetual ablution which we have in the blood of Christ,’ once again states that the sinner who is distressed by his sins should remember his baptism.”[4]

And as the Westminster Confession states:

5. Although it be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordnance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it as that no person can be regenerated or saved without it or that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated. (6.158)
Besides resting part of their case against G-6.0106b on baptismal regeneration Clark and Hagler write, “By saying that a baptised, called, and gifted individual is ineligible for a particular ministry by virtue of supposed insufficient holiness we are denying their Baptism.” It would seem that they are also pleading the case for antinomianism. That is they are suggesting that once a person is baptized there is no accounting for their actions. A Christian’s manner of living seemingly has no bearing on Church leadership.

So a problem arises out of insisting that baptism is ordination and that a sinful lifestyle among leaders cannot be called into question because of such baptism. But the real problem is the theological confusion going on behind these statements.

Although I am uncertain that this is the case with Clark and Hagler, sometimes progressive Christians equate the anointing of the Holy Spirit at Jesus’ baptism with the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life. But this is not the same thing as Jesus’ anointing as the Christ. Some contemporary theologians maintain that the man Jesus was baptized with the Holy Spirit becoming Christ, and that now the whole body is Christ, in the same manner, because of their baptism. This would set all aside for ministry by a form of anointing or ordination.

For instance, feminist Elizabeth A. Johnson, author of She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse, a book Clark has recommended, holds the above position. She writes:

Challenging a naïve physicalism that would collapse the totality of the Christ into the human man Jesus, biblical metaphors such as the Pauline body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12-27) and the Johanne branches abiding in the vine (Jn 15:1-11) expand the reality of Christ to include potentially all of redeemed humanity, sisters and brothers, still on the way. (161-62) [5]
This understanding fails to account for the believer’s union with the bodily resurrected Jesus Christ. It is that unity with the resurrected Jesus by each member of the Church which causes Paul to speak of the Church as the body of Christ. But none of this has anything to do with ordination.

As to the offices of the Church, that is those ordained, Calvin using Eph 4:4-16 as a helpful text, writes of the care the church must exert to properly maintain such ministry. Seeing such ordained offices as providing unity, safety, renewal and edification to the body of Christ, Calvin writes:

Whoever, therefore, studies to abolish this order and kind of government of which we speak, or disparages it as of minor importance, plots the devastation, or rather the ruin and destruction, of the Church. For neither are the light and heat of the sun, nor meat and drink, so necessary to sustain and cherish the present life, as is the apostolical and pastoral offices to preserve a Church in the earth. (Book 4; Chap 111 (2))
Clark and Hagler also tie the priesthood of the believer to ordination. And they of course rest this on the belief that baptism equals regeneration. So first, from the above, one must understand that the priesthood of the believer rests with Jesus’ regeneration of the believer. But is the priesthood of the believer connected to ordination?

Rather the priesthood of the believer has to do with the believer’s privilege of coming to the Father in prayer because of the sacrifice made by our great High Priest Jesus Christ. As the writer of Hebrews states, “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Heb 7:25) and:

Therefore brethren since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which he inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, his flesh and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Heb 9:19-22)
In Calvin’s words, “Christ now bears the office of priest, not only that by the eternal law of reconciliation he may render the Father favourable and propitious to us, but also admit us into this most honourable alliance. For we, though in ourselves polluted, in him being priests (Rev. i. 6), offer ourselves and our all to God, and freely enter the heavenly sanctuary, so that the sacrifices of prayer and praise which we present are grateful and of sweet odor to him.” (Book 11; Chap XV; (6))

Also the Second Helvetic Confession, as it refutes the Roman Catholic priesthood, states:

To be sure, Christ’s apostles call all who believe in Christ “priests,” but not on account of an office, but because, all the faithful having been made kings and priests we are able to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God though Christ(Ex. 19:6; 1 Peter 2:9; Rev.1:6.). Therefore the priesthood and the ministry are very different from one another. For the priesthood, as we have just said, is common to all Christians, not so the ministry. (5.153a)
Certainly all believers are called into a priestly relationship with God. That is, united to Jesus Christ, they are called to intersession for both the body of Christ and the world. But this is not a calling to an office of the Church. And furthermore all believers have been claimed by Jesus Christ, washed in his blood, made new and given the gift of baptism as a sign and seal of what Jesus Christ has already done. But none of this has anything to do with ordination.

[1] Part of my response comes from a letter I sent during the earlier debate to the Editor of CHURCHandWORLD (Presbyweb).
[2] Aric held this view of baptism when he was interviewed for scrupling G-6.0106b. I wrote about that: “He was interviewed by More Light Presbyterian, Heather Reichgott about his scrupling. Clark, when asked the question, “So why was the ordination of gays and lesbians the thing you declared a scruple on?” answered in part “The ontological change of a person from the old creation to the new happens in baptism.”

[3](Institutes of the Christian Religion, Henry Beveridge, trans., John Murray, Intro., (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing 1989).
[4] Viola Larson, John Calvin on the Sacraments: A Summary, Sep/Oct 2007, p. 1 , Theology Matters.
[5] Aric Clark in a comment on my blog posting Using History to Understand Evangelicals stated, “Read some Elizabeth Johnson she is really an extraordinarily good interpreter of scripture, a solid academic in dialogue with all the great theologians, and rightfully calling the Church to its true vocation in the manner of all true reformers.”

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

King of Kings and Lord of Lords

This reminds me just a bit of what the second coming will be like. Being busy and then all at once Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Some are stunned into silence, others are praising. This is wonderful to watch.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

An article on Israelis and Palestinians from a different point of view

Every so often friends send me articles on Israel and the Palestinians. I am very glad they do, I would not be able to keep up with everything that is going on in that part of the world if they did not. I can always go over to the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and read one-sided information. And some of that is helpful, but it is one-sided and sometimes because of the complex issues untrue.

One article that was sent me was a pleasure to read. It told two sides, but also it is engaging because of its descriptive language, the author’s obvious love of people and his sense of integrity toward the people he writes about. He does not give out information that would put people in harm’s way. The article is “Lattes, beach barbecues (and dodging missiles) in the world's biggest prison camp.”

The author, Peter Hitchens, has written the article for Mail Online. Here are some excerpts from the article. The first is about how complicated the issues are:

There are dispiriting slums that should have been cleared decades ago, people living on the edge of subsistence. There is danger. And most of the people cannot get out.

But it is a lot more complicated, and a lot more interesting, than that. In fact, the true state of the Gaza Strip, and of the West Bank of the Jordan, is so full of paradoxes and surprises that most news coverage of the Middle East finds it easier to concentrate on the obvious, and leave out the awkward bits.

Which is why, in my view, politicians and public alike have been herded down a dead end that serves only propagandists and cynics, and leaves the people of this beautiful, important part of the world suffering needlessly.

For instance, our Prime Minister, David Cameron, recently fawned on his Islamist hosts in Turkey by stating Gaza was a 'prison camp'. This phrase is the official line of the well-funded Arab and Muslim lobby, who want to make sure Israel is seen by the world as a villainous oppressor.

Well, Israeli soldiers can and do act with crude brutality. Israeli settlers can and do steal Arab water and drive Arabs off their land. Israeli politicians are often coarse and insensitive.

The treatment of Israel's Arab citizens is one of the great missed opportunities of history, needlessly mean and short-sighted. The seizure of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 were blunders, made worse by later folly.

But if you think Israel is the only problem, or that Israelis are the only oppressors hereabouts, think again. Realise, for a start, that Israel no longer rules Gaza. Its settlements are ruins.

No Israelis can be found inside its borders. And, before you say 'but Israel controls the Gaza border', look at a map. The strip's southern frontier – almost as hard to cross as the Israeli boundary – is with Egypt. And Cairo is as anxious as Israel to seal in the Muslim militants of Hamas.

Gaza was bombed on the day I arrived in retaliation for a series of rocket strikes on Israel, made by Arab militants. Those militants knew this would happen, but they launched their rockets anyway. Many Gazans hate them for this.

And then there is this about the refuges:

What about Gaza's 'refugee camps'. The expression is misleading. Most of those who live in them are not refugees, but the children and grandchildren of those who fled Israel in the war of 1948.

All the other refugees from that era – in India and Pakistan, the Germans driven from Poland and the Czech lands, not to mention the Jews expelled from the Arab world – were long ago resettled.

Unbelievably, these people are still stuck in insanitary townships, hostages in a vast struggle kept going by politicians who claim to care about them. These places are not much different from the poorer urban districts of Cairo, about which nobody, in the Arab world or the West, has much to say.

It is not idle to say that these 'camps' should have been pulled down years ago, and their inhabitants rehoused. It can be done. The United Arab Emirates, to their lasting credit, have paid for a smart new housing estate with a view of the Mediterranean.

It shows what could happen if the Arab world cared as much as it says it does about Gaza. Everyone in Gaza could live in such places, at a cost that would be no more than small change in the oil-rich Arab world's pocket.

But the propagandists, who insist that one day the refugees will return to their lost homes, regard such improvements as acceptance that Israel is permanent – and so they prefer the squalor, for other people.

And just one more thing about Christians:

One – which I feel all of us should be aware of – is the plight of Christian Arabs under the rule of the Palestinian Authority. More than once I heard them say: 'Life was better for us under Israeli rule.'

One young man, lamenting the refusal of the Muslim-dominated courts to help him in a property dispute with squatters, burst out: 'We are so alone! All of us Christians feel so lonely in this country.'

This conversation took place about a mile from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, where tourists are given the impression that the Christian religion is respected. Not really.

I was told, in whispers, of the unprintable desecration of this shrine by Palestinian gunmen when they seized the church in 2002 – 'world opinion' was exclusively directed against Israel. I will not name the people who told me these things.

I have also decided not to name another leading Christian Arab who told me of how his efforts to maintain Christian culture in the West Bank had met with official thuggery and intimidation.

Oh and the descriptive language:

Human beings will always strive for some sort of normal life. They do this even when bombs are falling and demagogues raging. Even when, as in Gaza, there is no way out and morality patrols sweep through restaurants in search of illicit beer and women smoking in public or otherwise affronting the 14th Century values of Hamas.

So I won't give the name of the rather pleasant establishment where young women, Islamic butterflies mocking the fanatics' strict dress code with bright make-up and colourful silken hijabs, chattered as they inhaled apple-scented smoke from their water-pipes.

Their menfolk, nearby, watched football on huge, flat-screen televisions. Nor will I say where I saw the Gazan young gathering for beach barbecues beneath palm-leaf umbrellas.

This is an excellent article with pictures and map—please read the rest: “Lattes, beach barbecues (and dodging missiles) in the world's biggest prison camp.”

Hat Tip to Drs KC & DW

Friday, November 5, 2010

Oppression, occupation, injustice or simply persecution?

The Presbyterian News posted a news article by Ecumenical News International entitled Christian and Muslims to mobilize joint crisis group. The article states that global Christian and Muslim leaders have called for the formation of a group that will intervene whenever a crisis occurs that involves a conflict between Christians and Muslims. The leaders stated, “Religion is often invoked in conflict creation, even when other factors, such as unfair resource allocation, oppression, occupation and injustice, are the real roots of conflict.”

Those groups sponsoring the meeting held at “the Geneva’s Ecumenical Center,” are, according to the article, “the WCC, the Libyan-based World Islamic Call Society, the Jordanian-based Royal Aal al Bayt Institute and the Consortium of “A Common Word,” a group that includes Muslim scholars from around the world.”

WICS was founded by Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi, and is now headed by Dr. Mohammed Ahmed Al-Sharif. He is listed in an article on the Christian Post, “Christians, Muslims Condemn 'Inhumane' Attack on Baghdad Church.”

The World Islamic People’s Leadership & the WICS are connected and pull together many Muslim organizations from all over the world. In December of 2009 “Dr. Ibrahim Rabu, Deputy Assistant to Dr. Mohammed Sharif, General Secretary of the World Islamic People's Leadership, and head of the World Islamic Call Society (WICS) of Libya visited” Louis Farrakhan, the black racist leader of the Nation of Islam. Rabu acknowledged that Farrakhan had attended the 5th General Conference of the WIPL.

There are articles on the WICS site that might be surprising even to some of the participants of the ecumenical crisis group. Probably the most troubling one is entitled. “WIPL Leader addressing Balkan Muslim activists.”This was posted 2010. This is a news article with some of the statements made by the leader of the World Islamic Peoples leader, who is actually Gaddafi, himself:

The Leader stressed, in his speech, that Muslims have no other option, but to unite so as to confront this western onslaught, underlining that it's the Zionists who are spreading evil on earth, suffice it to look at their atrocious measures. He claimed that they will someday be destroyed by Allah, the Almighty, by the hands of tough Muslim warriors.

[Gaddafi goes on to say:]
Now with Turkey, the Balkan States and Albania joining the European Union, Europe would no longer be a Christian continent as it used to be and Islam will become stronger in the European continent in terms of land and population. The Leader indicated that we are waiting for the day Turkey joins the EU to be like the Trojan Horse of modern history.

One wonders if those in the middle of forming a group to prevent religious crises are not in the midst of a crisis themselves.

Voice of the Christian Martyrs gives this information on religious freedom in Libya.

With Qadhafi's strict control of the country, evangelism is difficult and any Christian literature must be smuggled into the country. There are few Libyan believers; almost all Christians (three percent of the population) are foreign workers and their meetings are strictly monitored by the government.

These expatriate Christians in Libya worship openly in the few churches allowed to them. Conversion to Christianity is forbidden and there are few native Libyan believers. In 2002, 14 university students were arrested for converting from Islam and turning to Christ. It was feared that even if they were freed they would be killed by their families. Despite reports that the students had been sentenced to death, they were eventually released but have reportedly lost contact with the Christian community.

Perhaps the thought expressed by the ecumenical crisis group that “Religion is often invoked in conflict creation, even when other factors, such as unfair resource allocation, oppression, occupation and injustice, are the real roots of conflict,” should be better analyzed. Sometimes, often, lack of true religious freedom is the cause of suffering, sorrow and crisis. Until religious persecution of Christians in Islamic lands is addressed by Muslims, and Christians, the crises will not end.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The blessings of the Lord

Tonight around 9:20, in our home, in the apartment where one of my granddaughters and her husband live, a third great grandchild, the third girl, and their second child, was born. Praise the Lord. Two midwives helped with the birth. My home is truly blessed. She has not been weighed or named yet. But she has had her first meal: )

Her name may be Adele, we are not sure yet.

An unsettling article: reading Dr. Mark Achtemeier

A good friend recently asked if I had read Dr. Mark Achtemeier’s two papers “And Grace Will Lead Me Home: Inclusion and Evangelical Conscience” and “Unsettling Questions.” My friend, a pastor, is beginning to lean toward the ordination of LGBT people and was influenced by Achtemeier’s papers. He wondered what I thought of the papers. Because I had already read “And Grace will Lead me Home,” and told him my thoughts on that paper I decided to read “Unsettling Questions,” a paper presented at the 2007 President’s Colloquium at Austin Theological Seminary.

I believe the arguments for LGBT ordination in this paper can be divided into three sections and I will address those in order. However Achtemeier’s main concern is that the Church be aware of the lack of pastoral care being shown to LGBT people. I will comment on that at the end of this critique.

The first argument deals with Genesis 1 & 2. Achtemeier writes:
Remember how God creates the world in six days, and declares all of it “very good.” But there is one aspect of the original creation that the Lord declares “not good”—do you remember what it is? Genesis 2:18, “Then the Lord God said, It is not good that the human being should be alone; I will make a helper corresponding to him.” (Italics mine)
Achtemeier goes on to explain how the desire for intimate communion is an innate part of humanity built in at creation. As he puts it, “This creation for nuptial fellowship is not a choice that can be simply unmade or undone. It is deeply inscribed in our nature as the good gift of our creator.”

But Achtemeier too quickly passes over the whole text of the scripture he has pointed the reader/listener to. Genesis1 embraces the creation of male and female as that which God calls good. God’s pronouncement of goodness over the original creation includes the coupling of Adam and Eve, a man and a woman.

So although it may be that there is an innate desire for nuptial fellowship, still that desire is meant to be toward the opposite gender. It should not be a surprise that the goodness of God’s creation is reversed in the fall. But God promises mercy at the very beginning of the fall and it meets each contradiction of God’s good creation caused by the fall.

Achtemeier’s next step is the usual insistence that those biblical texts that condemn homosexuality are not referring to those kinds of committed same gender relationships the modern and postmodern world knows. To speak to this I refer to an article, my good friend Dr. Tom Hobson recently wrote on the Presbyterian Outlook blog. Entitled “A progressive myth,” Hobson lists with many quotes the evidence for just such homosexual relationships in the ancient world. For instance:
During Roman times, Callicratidas makes a speech worthy of "Brokeback Mountain," where he pledges lifelong undying love for his male lover, and calls for their ashes to be mixed together after death:
“I pray that it for ever be my lot to sit opposite my dear one and hear close to me his sweet voice, to go out when he goes out and share every activity with him. But, if … illness should lay its hold on him, I shall ail with him when he is weak, and, when he puts out to sea through stormy waves, I shall sail with him. And, should a violent tyrant bind him in chains, I shall put the same fetters around myself. … Should I see bandits or foemen rushing upon him, I would arm myself even beyond my strength, and if he dies, I shall not bear to live. I shall give final instructions to those I love next best after him to pile up a common tomb for both of us, to unite my bones with his and not keep even our dumb ashes apart from each other” (Pseudo-Lucian, Erōtēs 46.4–10).
Beyond that, as I have stated in another post, “Lev 18: 22 and Lev 20:13 are set in the midst of texts that deal with sexual immorality within family relationships and also murderous idolatry that involve families.” And I added, “all of the sexual sins are exploitive simply in the sense that families, individuals and communities are brought to ruin.” Jesus is also addressing family issues when he refers back to Genesis and marriage between a man and a woman. (Matt 19: 3-6)

Third, Achtemeier, using Calvin’s reasoning about allowing interest from investments although the Bible forbids the use of usury refers to Calvin’s manner of interpreting scripture, stating:
Calvin argues that it is not enough to judge this matter simply ‘in accordance with a few passages of Scripture.’ Rather, Calvin believes that in order to arrive at an accurate understanding of the biblical commandments, we must go beyond a mere surface reading of the texts and consider instead the intention of the Lawgiver. Its not enough to focus simply on what the commandments say; to interpret the biblical commands faithfully we have to think about what God is trying to accomplish in giving them.(Italics the author’s)
Although, according to Achtemeier, the information about usury is in Calvin’s Ecclesiastical Advice he refers to Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion when explaining biblical interpretation. And here, in the Institutes we find that Calvin is not throwing out the commonsense meaning of the word but instead is filling it with its full meaning and demand upon our lives.

Calvin writes:
… there is always more in the requirements and prohibitions of the law than is preserved in words. This, however, must be understood so as not to convert it into a kind of Lesbian code [The term is undoubtedly not to be understood as a reference to any kind of homosexuality but rather to some kind of extravagant code coming from the island of Lesbos.] and thus, by licentiously wrestling the Scriptures, make then assume any meaning that we please. By taking this excessive liberty with Scriptures, its authority is lowered with some, and all hope of understanding it abandoned by others. (Book II, chap viii, 8)
Calvin then goes on as Achtemeier has suggested explaining how to grasp God’s meaning of the text. But this does not mean that the full prohibition or demand of the text is dropped but instead enlarged or filled out. As Calvin explains using the first commandment:
The principle of the first commandment is, that God only is to be worshipped. The sum of the commandment, therefore is, that true piety, in other words the worship of the Deity, is acceptable, and impiety is an abomination to him. So in each of the commandments we must first look to the matter of which it treats , and then consider its end, until we discover what it properly is that the lawgiver declares to be pleasing or displeasing to him. Only we must reason from the precept to its contrary in this way: if it pleases God, its opposite displeases; if that displeases, its opposite pleases: if God commands this, he forbids the opposite; if he forbids that, he commands the opposite. (Book II, Chap viii, 8)
An even better example of Calvin’s interpretation method is his explanation of “Thou shalt not kill,” where he fills in with a positive, “we are to aid our neighbor's life by every means in our power.”(9) And perhaps this is as good a place as any to look at Achtemeier’s plea for pastoral ministry for the homosexual community.

He lists all of the prevailing problems. The long term committed relationships, the feelings of inferiority or discrimination experienced by those who are not eligible for ordination, the utter despair of not being able to put aside their orientation. And yes the church must deal with these feelings, and must minister through the love of Christ to the needs expressed by the gay community. “We are to aid our neighbor’s life by every means in our power” “We must not kill.”

And that is perhaps the hardest calling the Western Church is given today. Because in this case we must love but speak truth. We must encircle and show hospitality but speak truth. We must stand while stooping to wash the sinner’s still dirty feet, as Jude puts it, “on some have mercy with fear.” Achtemeier speaks referring to human experience, but God in the cross of Jesus Christ offers the church a transforming power that is greater than human experience. God offers a love, unbelievable in terms of human experience, that is deep, powerful, redemptive and transforming. That is the church’s message; it cannot be changed. That is the church’s ministry she cannot disengage.