Wednesday, August 21, 2013

An indistinct sound: the bugles of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle. (1 cor. 14:8)

Paul, in 1 Corinthians, writes about speaking in tongues and the need for clarity in the message that is given. He upholds as a better means of clarity, revelation, knowledge, prophecy and teaching. I would like to say that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is speaking in tongues. The messages are truly indistinct. Here are several examples.

On Twitter, World Mission Director, Hunter Farrell linked to a letter from Rev. Refat Fathy, the General Secretary of the Evangelical Presbytery Church in Egypt. Fathy explains the situation including the reality that the gatherings of the Muslim Brotherhood “included armed banditry that terrorized citizens and showed contempt for the law, and defied the authority of the state.” He went on to explain the violence that happened to churches and Christian businesses and gave a complete outline of how Christians must act in the midst of the turmoil.

I contrast this with the prayer Stated Clerk, Gradye Parsons offered. Neither Parsons or anyone else from the office of the General Assembly have acknowledged the great suffering of the Christians of Egypt. The one exception I have seen is Farrell's Twitter link. A formal prayer which fails to address the pain of brothers and sisters in Christ is a disconnect from reality and is definitely, when contrasted with the letter on the PCUSA mission page, a garbled and indistinct sound. What are the feelings of the PC (U.S.A.) leadership toward the Christians of Egypt? Why hasn't the Presbyterian News Service offered any news about the destruction of churches in Egypt?

Another example is the contrast between various new worshiping communities. They all resound with care and compassion but their foundations are quite different. Recently I watched a video on the front page of the PC (U.S.A.) web site. It was about two churches that had merged, sold their buildings, which they could no longer afford, and started a new church in a train station. The new name is Friendship Presbyterian.

The train station caught my attention-I have several family members who are extremely fond of trains. I looked up the church. The people are genuinely friendly and creative. But on their affiliation page I found only More Light Presbyterians and the Chicago Coalition of Welcoming Churches. And in their “about” statement I found little about the redemptive purposes of Jesus, rather it is full of welcome words, service and human hope. That is not a bad thing it just isn't the core of Christian faith. This is a bugle call to grow the church progressively and from human experience. A clarity that gets blurred in the contrast of another video.

The other video is part of the 1001 new worshiping communities. It is about Hope for life Chapel. I will place the video at the end of this posting. It will give hope, a hope that begins with Jesus. 

And yet the confusion remains, the message is indistinct when all of the new worshiping communities are seen. I write this because one can explore and end up here, on Level Ground, a member of the 1001 worshiping communities, whose main purpose is to arrange for LGBTQ films for both progressives and the orthodox. It is supposedly all about dialogue but the films only affirm the LGBTQ lifestyle.

Level Ground grew out of “One Table” the new LGBTQ dialogue group at Fuller Theological Seminary. But it is problematic to see them as a new worshiping community. The indistinct call of the PC (U.S.A.)'s bugle is building, alongside of the new communities, a mass of confusion. Every statement by one group or person can be countered by a different group or person. Without the authority of God's word or the Lordship of Jesus Christ this confusion will continue. Faith will simply dribble into general sentimentality. The scripture text is right—the question is exact: “who will prepare himself for battle?”

But there is hope:

Picture by Ethan McHenry
Video HT to Marie Bowen & others


Presbyman said...

In my experience of PCUSA pronouncements, specific Christian concerns or hardships in the Middle East are most likely to be mentioned if Israel can be blamed for them. Since that is manifestly not the case in Egypt, a generic prayer will suffice.

John Erthein
DeFuniak Springs, FL

Presbyman said...

(I should have said, in my experience of reading PCUSA pronouncements ...)