Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Covenant Network seeking unity

10-A, the overture that has allowed some to ordain LGBT persons, has passed; what is coming next?[1] The Covenant Network, an affinity group connected to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), has agreed that it is too divisive to endorse overtures asking that the Book of Order be changed to allow same sex marriage. They will not support such overtures at the 2012 General Assembly.

The group, whose main focus has been to change the constitution to allow for LGBT ordination, states, “Given that there are many in the PC (USA) who are troubled by the change in ordination standards, the Board of Directors lifts up this effort mindful of its commitment to tend to the unity of the denomination.” Instead they will lift up and endorse overtures, “seeking Authoritative Interpretation to protect pastoral discretion to celebrate same-gender marriages where they are sanctioned by the civil authorities.”

Two troubling issues arise with this decision. The first is the issue of unity; the second is the issue of aligning morality with the prevailing culture. Both are, however, alike; they put aside biblical teaching in order to pull the cultural milieu within the denomination. The world seeks for unity as well as diversity but not a unity founded on Holy Scripture and the Lordship of Christ.

But unity has already been broken; it cannot be so easily fixed by withholding support from overtures seeking to change the Book of Order. The truth is the Covenant Network, surely unintentionally, is seeking a worldly kind of unity which has nothing to do with the faith. Instead it is seeking after a unity that would mix biblical authority with experience, sin with righteousness and cultural norms with biblical mandates. It isn’t real. There is no such unity. But the seeking has taken a different turn.

The decision to uphold Authoritative Interpretations that would allow ministers to marry same gender couples in a state where it is legal is an attempt at alignment with a worldly culture. And this is where we must remember that the Kingdom of God is not the kingdoms of this world.

Some are standing in the wilderness with Jesus and Satan is pleading worship me and I will give you the kingdoms of the world. Jesus quoted God’s word back to him and Satan, the Scripture text states, “left him until an opportune time.” And Satan did come back. And he keeps coming back to the Church. This is not the first time that the Church has been tempted to lift up sexual immorality for the sake of its life in the world.

I am reading a book mentioned by Dr. Richard Mouw, The Lord as Their Portion: The Story of the Religious Orders and How They Shaped Our World by Elizabeth Rapley. Over and over the Church and the monasteries became a part of the world by choosing worldly riches, power and sexual immorality. Over and over they needed reformation. And still today, the same temptations involve the Church in seeking to conform to the sinful positions and laws of secular governments. And it is in many ways as much a temptation for power as it is for conformity.

This places the faithful in a dire position which has nothing at all to do with unity and everything to do with submitting to the Lord of the Church and his written word. There will be no unity when those in the PCUSA align with secular power while their brothers and sisters take the more humbling seat of refusing to walk with the culture.

[1] This is still to be settled in a court appeals case- see- An Appeal Will Be Filed


pastormattferg said...

I, for one, will file a church case against any ordained leader who is in a sexual relationship----be it opposite gender or same gender--- outside of marriage---which is between a man and woman, as defined in God's Word (the Bible) and by Jesus (the Word of God). If they want to ordained those in same gender sexual relationships they must redefine marriage to allow for it. They either need to fish or cut bait and we should not allow them to try to have it both ways.
Matt Ferguson
Hillsboro, IL

Whit Brisky said...


Unfortunately it is highly unlikely that course would be useful. Under the current state of the law, it is virtually impossible to get a conviction without pictures, or an admission of an actual sexual relationship. And if an acquittal is the result at trial, due to recent amendments, the prosecution cannot initiate an appeal. Lastly, it is far from clear that the GA would even find this to be an offense given the removal of 6.0106B from the Constitution.

I think the season of litigation, at least by evangelicals, is just about over, and has failed. The next season of litigation will be by the other side, with evangelicals, at least evangelicals who won't get with the program, the target.

Whit Brisky

Anonymous said...


You name two sound reasons why the Covenant Network (CN) decision is not as sweet as they would want it to sound. There is also a third reason.

The third reason is this: CN is endorsing a tactic that relies on an Authoritative Interpretation (AI) for success. Shrewd as CN is, it knows that getting a constitutional amendment by 173 presbyteries would be a monumental task, perhaps "a bridge too far." Thus, CN is cleverly opting for an AI, which passed only by a single General Assembly.

CN can very likely get a General Assembly to do its bidding. The General Assembly voting commissioners are a skewed bunch, far different in opinions and beliefs from Presbyterians as a whole. CN can play them like a violin and GET its AI passed without breaking a sweat. The AI would allow for same-sex marriages. Mission accomplished.

Had CN opted to go the whole nine yards and try for a constitutional amendment to allow same-sex marriages, it would need to amend the Book of Order, the Directory for Worship, and several confessions. It would take approval by two General Assemblies, plus approval from two thirds of the presbyteries (for the confession amendments) in order to pass.

That would be a big order, and quite likely the CN would fail. Then it would have to deal with defeat. So CN takes the easy route with an AI. It does the job--albeit illegitimately, but it works.

What's more, CN comes across as such nice folks, such reasonable diplomats for not disturbing the waters with yet another constitutional amendment. But that is as phony as a $3 bill. If CN truly wanted peace, it would not use oily stealth to get what it wants, at the expense of denominational peace, unity, and, most of all, purity.

The Covenant Network is clever and effective. However, it is not and probably never will be a true statesman in the life of the PCUSA. Don't anyone be fooled by its gesture with the false appearance of kindness and good sense.

Jim Berkley
Roslyn, WA

Viola Larson said...

Jim thank you,
That should have been the top thought on my posting. So now, you will need to-SHOULD-write a blog posting on your blog!

Please do.