Friday, October 4, 2013

More Light Presbyterians and Covenant Network GA strategy: leaving behind Reformed polity, theology and compassion: Update

Paula R. .Kincaid, a Layman reporter, with her article “Same-Sex marriage advocates outline plans for 2014 General Assembly,” has truly opened our eyes to the damage that may pile on top of an already hurting denomination. The article clarifies the direction the two PCUSA organizations, advocating for same sex marriage, are headed as they ignore what it means to be Reformed. Both the More Light Presbyterians and The Covenant Network are willing, in their strategy to change the denomination, to leave behind reformed polity, reformed theology and reformed compassion. I will look at each of these departures.

Leaving behind reformed polity:
According to Kincaid, Brian Ellison, executive director of the Covenant Network stated that “it is absolutely essential” for GA to pass an authoritative interpretation. That would be an AI which allows same sex marriage and protects pastors who wish to perform such marriages. But is this how an AI is supposed to be used. The Presbyterian Book of Order states:

“The General Assembly may provide authoritative interpretation of the Book of Order,which shall be binding on the councils of the church when rendered in the manner described in this section or through a decision of the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission in a remedial or disciplinary case.” (G-6.02)

An AI is meant for a time when there is confusion about the meaning of a Book of Order statement. But such an interpretation for the issue of so called same sex marriage would mean reinterpreting a section of the Book of Order, and even reinterpreting the clear meaning of the English language, since all educated people clearly understand what the words man and woman mean. That is, when one reads in the Book of Order “Marriage is a civil contract between a man and a woman.” & “For Christians marriage is a covenant through which a man and a woman are called to live out together before God their lives of discipleship (W-4.9000),” one does not need an interpretation to know the meaning of a woman and man. Nothing could be clearer.

So what is happening is a desire by same gender marriage advocates to bypass the constitutional rights of Presbyteries to vote on any change to the PCUSA' constitution.

Evidently Ellison has insisted that there is no place in the Book of Order where same sex marriage is addressed. (So it most be addressed?) But that is simply doublespeak; if the Book of Order states that marriage is between a man and a woman it has already addressed any new definition of marriage. Ellison, the Covenant Network and More Light Presbyterians are simply trying to bypass the reformed polity of voting by Presbyteries.

Leaving behind reformed theology:
As far as an amendment goes, Heidi A. Peterson, co-moderator of More Light, according to Kincaid, stated,“We didn’t look at what was in the book and think about how to change it … We thought about what is marriage in the Reformed tradition? Is it about gender identity or is marriage in our faith tradition about covenant, abiding love and commitment?”

Here theology gets fairly well flattened. Yes marriage in the Reformed tradition is about covenant and commitment. It isn't always about abiding love, at least not romantic love. Only that kind of love that sticks even when one is not sure of love, but that is another article. But marriage in the Reformed tradition is also about gender identity. It is about Jesus' love for the church reflected by the love a man and a woman have for each other. (Eph. 5:23-30) It is God's love pictured in the life of a man who rescued a sex slave and although marrying her forgoes sexual relations with her in order to bring her life into conformity with God's will. (Hosea 3)

It is Jesus reminding his questioners that God created them male and female so that the husband might cleave to his wife. (Matthew 19:3-6 & Genesis 2:18-25) It is the confessions of the church referring to marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman. The whole definition in the Book of Order and the Book of Confessions cannot be changed to fit a smaller, shallow definition that leads to sin. It is covenant, commitment and gender—a man and a woman. Anything else leads away from Reformed theology. Anything else is not Reformed theology.

Leaving behind Reformed compassion:
There are two areas where both More Light Presbyterians and the Covenant Network lack the kind of compassion that are marks of Reformed teaching. One is about transformation. Jesus lived, died and was resurrected that we might be both redeemed and transformed. The later is called sanctification. We are led in our new life to live out the life of Christ. That is transforming. As the apostle Paul puts it after naming prevailing sins which included homosexuality:

Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified I the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor. 9:11)

But those advocating for same sex marriage are encouraging others to come to the birth, but stay broken as they cling to their old life. God wants to change and transform all of us through Christ. If we do not long for newness for the other we lack, in that area, compassion.

The second lack of compassion is compassion for the unity of Christ's body. Our denomination is already terribly broken—I experience that deeply in my own presbytery. If an AI passes or an amendment to the Book of Order passes which allows sin to enter our constitution the exodus from our denomination will be like that of the children of Israel from Egypt, and rightly so. Fellowship around the world, and fellowship at home will be broken, it must be so.

Jesus in his high priestly prayer prays not only for the unity of his body, he also prays that his disciples will be sanctified in truth which is the word of God. “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:18.) If the truth is taken away as the word is dismissed for the sake of living a LGBTQ lifestyle there will be no unity. Who can minister where sin is embraced and transformation is checked. Reformed compassion will fall away as the sheep scatter.

Update: Here is a link to the MLP & CN statement for the upcoming GA:

Picture by Ethan McHenry


Jeff Winter said...

Amen. These organizations do not understand that the Holy Spirit can change one's sexual affections. They preach and teach about an impotent God

Anonymous said...

Viola, when I consider the tactics and aims of the Covenant Network and More Light Presbyterians, and their impact on the PC(USA), I am unavoidably reminded of this quote from Tacitus: "They made a desert and called it peace."

Blessings to you,

John Erthein
DeFuniak Springs, FL

Anonymous said...
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Viola Larson said...

If you had not put that last comment up, "(Will re enter it if necessary)," I would have left your comment, but that is a threat and I simply will not allow it.

Anonymous said...
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Timothy F Simpson said...

Viola, not to put too fine of a point on it, but there is no such thing as "Reformed polity." There are Reformed groups who have adopted polities very different from our own Presbyterian variety.

Viola Larson said...

I am referring to the understanding that in most Presbyterian and reformed bodies decisions that change our theology are usually voted on by presbyteries. If something needs to be clarified then an IA does that. But big issues are decided by elected representatives. In this case nothing needs to be clarified.

Chas Jay said...

Viola, I wonder how Brian would feel about an AI to protect the congregations that choose to leave the denomination, that they be able to do so freely without having to pay any money.
Seems like all the reasons to disobey are a matter of conscience but the congregations choosing to leave to be in obedience to I Corinthians 5 and other scriptural reasons are denied such freedom of conscience.

Viola Larson said...

Agreed Chas Jay.
John E. A great quote in this context.
Jeff, they do preach and teach about an impotent God. With such teaching I am reminded of the salt that has lost its power to preserve.

Anonymous said...

"when one reads in the Book of Order “Marriage is a civil contract between a man and a woman.” & “For Christians marriage is a covenant through which a man and a woman are called to live out together before God their lives of discipleship (W-4.9000),” one does not need an interpretation to know the meaning of a woman and man. Nothing could be clearer."

Well, not so much.

The accent on these statements should be on the words 'civil contract' and between Christians, a 'covenant' 'to live out together before God ... lives of discipleship'.

Since the Word of God appropriates the term 'marriage' to describe the relationship between Christ and the Church, then clearly it is not limited to describing the union of 'only' a man and woman, but it can be extended to describe other unions, including the union of all of humanity as one gender and Christ the other.

However, since folks seem to take their ideologies as more important than following the "Way of Love", perhaps the Church should just agree to disagree and stop fighting over this topic for, say, 40 years. Enough time for everybody who is now fighting over this topic to die of old age.

I am sure if the Lord every said that gay marriage was an abomination, He would be willing to look the other way if we just promised to stop fighting over it agreed to live in loving harmony for a change.

Jodie Gallo
Los Angeles, CA

PS the text I am supposed to type in to prove I am not a robot is "rterians" If that is not a sign from the Holy Spirit, I don't know what is. Maybe we have all become 'r-terians'. People obsessed with the rs of others, instead of Grace-terians, obsessed with God's Grace.

You should see and hear what the African churches are finding the Grace to forgive in each other. It makes all of this really petty and insignificant.

Viola Larson said...

I will respond but remember I will not have a long conversation with you. Since when is there a rule that the accent of the statements should be on certain words and not the whole statement? Who made that rule?

The idea about Jesus' relationship to the church reflecting marriage is a picture of Christ as husband and the church as the bride of Christ. I don't believe that could be construed to move beyond a man and a woman.

Following the way of love includes caring for the other who is in bondage because of their unrepentant sin.

"My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins." (James 5:19-20)

Lance said...

This is exactly what kind of twisted logic is being used to argue this point. If God didn't intend for "marriage to be between a man and a woman", then why on Earth did He go to the trouble of having Joseph marry Mary when she conceived Jesus? I mean, come on! You suggest "Jesus might look the other way" if we would all just get along. I don't think that's how it works. First of all, why would you even suggest such an idea? That said, God "looks away" when something is so vile to Him he can't stand it. Like when they crucified His son.
As "rterians" comment and it being somehow the Holy Spirit? What in the world are you thinking? What Bible do you read? The code I'm to type says: "icried" and I want to.

Lance said...

I forgot to say how much I appreciate this site. Everyone should remember that God uses individuals to speak to us. However, it would never be a message from God that would conflict with what scripture says. Viola, it is so significant that you base everything you write upon scripture--which we already to know to be God's word. When you respond, it is with authority of scripture. You have been anointed especially for this very time and situation. Your articulation and delivery are excellent. You will likely endure persecution, but you're prepared! Me too. God bless you!

Viola Larson said...

Thank you Lance; our Lord and his word is enough.

Anonymous said...


I base my opinion on over 55 years of prayer, bible study, a richly rewarding spiritual life for which I am immensely grateful, and the privilege the Holy Spirit has granted me to witness and occasionally participate in his work in the lives of other brothers and sister in Christ.

I have a different opinion than yours. But I do believe it to be consistent with the Scriptures and the teachings of the Holy Spirit.

I would chide you for suggesting that my logic is "twisted" but I can't, for in truth I share the same opinion about yours.

But if we fight with each other over this difference of opinion and do not watch lest we devour each other, we do more harm than good to the Gospel and to the Church. That is my opinion, but I think I have the Spirit of our Lord when I affirm it.

Viola, again it is as a matter of opinion that I say what I say about where the accent is regarding those passages in the Book of Order. I base my opinion of the fact that the glory of marriage that is the basis for the analogy for the relationship between Christ and the Church is most obviously not the gender or the sexual orientation of either parties in a marriage, or else neither Jesus nor Paul would have used it that way. Both the institution of marriage and the relationship between
Christ and the Church is about something different and something much greater than the gender of both parties. Surely you can see that. I don't delete the gender clause, but I believe I am justified is saying that at least as a matter of accent, those passages are being miss-used.

And I re-iterate, since this is a matter of opinion and interpretation, it should be no basis for us to bring shame on the Gospel by indiscriminate fighting. As Jesus points out in the parable of the wheat and the tares, it is not up to the servants to decide before the harvest what is wheat and what is tare, and even at the harvest time, it is not the servants who will separate one from the other. Ours is to plant and to nurture, side by side, that which we think is good and that which we think is bad, because our Lord has told us that we cannot tell the difference. We might still have our differing opinions, but what we do with those opinions should be moderated by the warnings Jesus gave us. Surely we agree on as much?

Jodie Gallo
Los Angeles, CA

Viola Larson said...

A Bible lesson for you. You are undoubtedly referring to Matthew 13:24-30 when writing of the tares. The slaves of the landowner recognized that there were tares in the wheat because they are the ones who asked the landowner why there were tares among the wheat.

The reason that they were not to tear out the tares, was not because they didn't know the difference, they did, but in their pulling they might tear out good plants.

And this remark, "And I re-iterate, since this is a matter of opinion and interpretation, it should be no basis for us to bring shame on the Gospel by indiscriminate fighting;" it is not a matter of opinion and interpretation. The word of God is very clear, same gender sex is sin. We do not bring shame on the gospel when we stand for the truth of the gospel, but rather when we attempt to twist the scripture to our own desires.

And you are the person who started the disagreement on my blog. That is a double bind to argue against what I wrote and then basically tell me that in defending my position I am bringing shame on the gospel.

Jodie said...


The question you may want to ask in the parable or the wheat and the tares is where do you place yourself in the parable? Where do you think Jesus would place you?

Regarding opinion and interpretation of Scripture, in my opinion you do your own fair share of twisting it to your desires, but in the grand scheme of things, those twists are really just your opinions. I may not agree with all of them, but I believe you have the same right to them as I have to mine.

I do not think, however, that in defending our respective positions it is inevitable for us to bring shame to the Gospel. To the contrary, the whole point of my comment is to suggest that we should search for and use those methods that do not. I think that fits within the common ground we share and I don't see either of us being in a double bind in doing so.

Jodie Gallo
Los Angeles, CA