I began this on my way to Georgia to see my daughter—it may be my last posting for a week or so.
I sensed two spirits at work in the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). One was certainly the Holy Spirit lifting up the Lord of the Church in such a way that he was evident to those who found Jesus the only haven in the midst of insult, insinuation and failure to lift up the his Lordship.
God was there allowing several surprise votes. Committee 13 gave the orthodox little hope that the denomination would hold on to biblical sexual standards. The last vestige of purity seemed to be on its way out as marriage was in the process if being redefined. And those who wanted to sustain good relationships with Israel while also helping the Palestinians were fearful of the call for divestment from committee 15. Yet the plenary voted, with close votes, to hold on to biblical marriage standards and to keep in dialogue with the Jewish people of both Israel and the United States. But still ….
Idolatry: From the beginning one felt the increase of ill will, manipulation and idolatry. I believe idolatry led all else. It always does-(Romans 1:18-32)
The idolatry began when, Landon Whitsitt, who is a pluralist, someone who believes that Christ is not the only means of salvation, read the prayer after communion. It included this:
Grant us the grace to recognize you wherever bread is broken,
wherever love is offered,
wherever compassion is shared.
Then our praise will be sincere,
And our thanksgiving holy.
Instead the bread that is broken is the body of Christ alone. The sacraments are meant for those who in faith have professed Jesus as Savior, and the broken bread is a symbol and sign of the continual nourishment Jesus provides to both individual believers and his whole Church in their union with him. Jesus is present in his meal. Bread broken in an act of fellowship and hospitality may be a part of this but sometimes bread is broken for the sake of sin—some love and compassion are worldly events that have nothing to do with the body of Christ.
But the idolatry grew and overpowered many faithful sensibilities. During one session of the plenary a Hindu priest offered prayer chants. He was Nagali Srinivasa who is a follower of ‘Lord’ Venkateswara who is a manifestation of the god Vishnu. Venkateswara is the Hindu god who destroys sin.
The priest also spoke of 'Lord' Jesus. For a Christian this is blasphemy because for a Hindu to say this is to name Jesus one of the manifestations of the one who is considered everything in monistic Hinduism. Jesus would simply be a greater manifestation of Vishnu perhaps equal to Venkateswara.
Idolatry, manipulation and ill will: Idolatry underlined the position of the progressive side of the denomination when first a play and then a gay ruling elder, Tony De La Rosa used a sermon to advocate for same gender marriage. Preceding the sermon the story of the man, who was paralyzed and put down through a hole in the roof, so that Jesus might heal him, was read. A play followed which was a parody of the text. It was creative, funny and extremely manipulative.
The main person was a session member who cared little for anyone; she had made a mat of welcome to help pull into the Church younger, rich, married couples. She allowed no one to stand on the mat accept such people. When the first richly dressed young couple came to check out the church, they said they were not married but friends. The session member told them they didn’t want anyone like that in the Church. She also did not want any who were poor or dirty.
Needless to say she fell paralyzed onto the mat and was carried down to the river to be healed by Jesus, who was portrayed as a young woman. Although I don’t think that all who were involved understood, this was simply a setup for the vote—one intended to leave the orthodox too embarrassed to say anything. The play was a double bind.
But if it was aimed at the orthodox who want to uphold biblical standards it was not truthful, because the orthodox care about the poor, the dirty and the sexually broken. And they care about their own sins. They also know that Jesus in his death on the cross, by the shedding of his blood offers forgiveness to the broken. Both the Scripture text, creativity, and the preaching of the word were misused.
Breaking vows: After resigning from her position as vice moderator, Tara Spuhler directed some very ugly words at those who were in disagreement with her signing of the marriage license of two lesbians. Later, during a question and answer time in a small forum there was a lively outburst from those who wanted to confess to having ordained LGBTQ persons before 10-A was adopted and who had also married same sex partners. The same outburst occurred during the debate on same gender marriage. The world is seeping into the denomination.
Anger: During one of the debates on an overture that would have allowed those leaving with their property some freedom by removing the trust clause there were several more outbursts directed toward the orthodox. Several commissioners stated that they were stealing property that belonged to the PC (U.S.A.).
But God: But I will not say that it is the progressives who are the other spirit. No, that spiteful spirit, who always hates the Lord of the Church and those who belong to him, is the other spirit. He is the one who goes about seeking those whom he might destroy. All that is holy, all that belongs to Christ Jesus, Satan seeks to either destroy or to harm. Like the Hindu priest he attempts to erase the uniqueness of Christ so that he may lead the Church away from her true Lord.
But God in the midst of unrighteousness protected his Church. Now in the midst of unrighteousness and with several more years of strife ahead, even in weariness, those who have seen his protection, felt his presence and experienced his surprises, must, if called, continue on making a prophetic stand. As the hymn states, we must be lifting high the cross of Christ. Only in Jesus Christ will this denomination survive the onslaught of the agenda of unrighteousness. The righteousness of Christ is the Church’s only defense.