Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Two Storms & Margaret J. Thomas' paper

Friday my husband and I will drive to Chico where the Sacramento Presbytery will be meeting both Friday evening and Saturday morning. The Presbytery will be voting on all three important issues, Belhar, nFOG and removing our standards on sexuality from our Book of Order. Two storms are headed our way. One may actually bring snow down to sea level. (An unusual event in this part of California) That will undoubtedly affect our driving. The other storm will be a blast against the Church. That is not an unusual event in the history of the Church. Perhaps it will affect our circumstances but it will not affect the faithfulness of the Lord.

In the space of two days I have seen some discouraging news in two places. One is today’s news stating that President Obama has decided that the Defense of the Marriage Act is unconstitutional. I read this after reading, on the Voices for Justice web site, a paper by Margaret J. Thomas, entitled “Are we Deathly Ill?: Governance in a time of ferment.” And that is another rant against the fellowships’ White Paper and invitation; one which tends to see the strength of the denomination in its polity rather than its faith.

Because of the type of paper it is I don’t wish to go into any kind of analysis except to look at some of Thomas’s thoughts toward the end of the paper. And that is where the two pieces of bad news converge. Thomas lists, under the question, “So why can’t they be comfortable in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) as it is evolving,” all of her conjectures about the pastors and their churches and congregations.

Some of her thoughts are almost laughable-for instance, “Do they not understand that one of the primary roles of larger congregations in the Reformed tradition is to help provide the supportive services and resources that only a more inclusive governing body can provide?” But there are two questions that truly bothered me:
Are they afraid that if they and their congregations remain identified with the PC (U.S.A.) when homosexual practice is no longer a barrier to ordination and same sex unions/weddings are permitted, they will lose members and financial resources? (Yes, they probably will even if they try to mitigate the transition by reminding members that a Foundational principle of Presbyterian governance is the right to elect their own leaders. If they respond with God’s grace, they will also attract new members and resources.)

Are they ill prepared to lead their congregations into a future where neither society nor the church condones the exclusion of GLBT people from the responsibilities inherent in citizenship or membership respectively?
Thomas’ questions and concluding words are troubling because she has already set the orthodox aside and concluded that ‘they are on the wrong side of history,” and are reactionaries. She suggests that the progressives should react to the orthodox by offering to “help them prepare their own hearts and their congregations for the changes that are coming.”

But there is already one who has prepared his people to walk with him through dark times. The Lord of the church suffered for the church, guides the church and through the Holy Spirit unites his people to himself. He is the sufficient Lord who never changes but is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Heb 13:8) He alone transforms and saves his people.

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you leaving you an example for you to follow in his footsteps who committed no sin nor was any deceit found in his mouth; and while being reviled, he did not revile in return; while suffering, he uttered no threats, but kept entrusting himself to him who judges righteously; and he himself bore our sins in his body on the cross so that we might die to sin and live in righteousness; for by his wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. (1 Peter 2:21-25)


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