Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A letter to Jack Haberer the Editor of the Presbyterian Outlook

Dear Jack,

I have considered you a friend although we have perhaps too often sparred over issues in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). But now as I read your latest editorial, “… with those who weep,” I am reminded of a certain Anglican bishop, Thomas Cranmer; he was a man of God who brought a great deal of theological and reformation good to the Christian church during the English reformation. The Book of Common Prayer is but one of his many contributions. But he used his once steady and faithful pen to recant the important tenets of the reformation.
Under the assault of bloody Mary he at first denied his beliefs, but at his execution he repented and put that unfaithful hand, which held his mighty pen, into the flames, before it consumed his body.

You may disagree with brothers and sisters who look upon the affirmation of same gender marriage by the denomination as rejection of the authority of Scripture and denunciation of Christ’s Lordship, but you surely do not want to belittle their faith, struggle and work. But you have.
None of us in the renewal movement know where you got your small number six, when you wrote, “This year, the sum total of volunteers serving on the Renewal Network Team — representing Presbyterians for Renewal, The Fellowship of Presbyterians, Presbyterian Coalition, Presbyterian Elders in Prayer, Presbyterian Renewal Ministries International and other groups — was six.”  By the way, I was with the Presbyterian Coalition this year. Did you know that? Did you ask about numbers or workers. Dr. Martha Leatherman of Presbyterians Pro Life stated that they had 20 volunteers. And Marie Bowen, head of PPL backed her up with the words:

 And those 20 Presbyterians Pro-Life volunteers, most who came at their own expense to GA:

produced and handed out 5 issues of Daily Delivery,
gave a dozen testimonies in three different committees of the Assembly, staffed a booth in the exhibit hall and made 10 presentations there, provided a welcome reception and a hospitality suite for commissioners, met with commissioners every night to support and pray and assist them and held a service of witness to the resurrection remembering children who have died including the least ones--the unborn--the very little lives the GA refused to even reflect upon or pray for!

But that isn’t the biggest problem with your posting. You avoided lifting up those orthodox commissioners who struggled every day and into the night to stand up for the truth of the gospel. You didn’t know about the commissioner who wasn’t allowed to speak in committee after he stood up for the unborn. You didn’t know about the commissioner in another committee who said he felt like a puppet only being allowed to hear one side of a difficult and complex subject. As an evangelical whose pen has been and should be mighty you failed to cover the struggles of weeping brothers and sisters.
But there is something more. You wrote:

... let us acknowledge that the impetus behind most policy changes enacted at this GA — neighbor love and justice for all — is profoundly biblical. While one can contend that a specific action may have been misguided, the overall tenor was, “Do unto others what you would have done to you.” Instead of rejecting such actions — especially those dismissed as “party politics” — on closer study we may discover that they reflect a genuine effort to express the heart of Jesus.
Your words totally ignore two big problems. It was not neighbor love and justice that guided those who misused an authoritative interpretation to prevent presbyteries from voting on the most critical issue facing the PC (U.S.A.) at this time. Even some progressives, some with honesty and intelligence, have been deeply bothered by this action. This was not God’s will, but humanity’s conniving.  And you are implying that we should not reject the actions taken by this assembly although they were illegitimate and unbiblical.

Finally, your ending, where you use the biblical story of the Israelites in exile in Babylon, although not a bad example, combined with a religious cliché, “a remnant of the people found not just the serenity to accept what they could not change and the courage to change what they could but also the wisdom to know the difference,” seems trite.  

The Babylon Empire was not a part of the Jewish scripture text; nor were the Babylonians fellow believers. Believers were to live in the midst of a pagan society and pray for their well-being that they might themselves live in peace and flourish. And yes, we are to do the same.

But when the church is invaded by those who call sin a gift, Christians have a duty-to be prophetic and wise like serpents. While called to do no harm, (as doves) they are nonetheless called to stand against that which is damaging to the church and the believer. And here I am speaking of the church universal not the denomination.

I return to Cranmer. He is remembered for his writings, but he is also remembered because he denied his own beliefs in a compromise and then truly repented. Jack at least acknowledge that there is more to the story then you have written. Your orthodox brothers and sisters have labored long and hard in God’s vineyard. Beyond that I pray you acknowledge that denying the word of God about marriage is more than a trivial issue.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Some pictures and a Bible story update

My daughter Penny who lives in Georgia is visiting this week with her family, so I won’t be blogging a lot, but I do have some pictures to share and a short biblical story to think about.  I have written before about my granddaughter Melissa and her husband Spencer who are now living on a mini farm while he works at a raw milk dairy. They now have, besides two kids (goats), a calf and many chickens, a baby pig. Here is a picture of one of my great granddaughters, Adele, with the pig:

My daughter Penny stopped at the mini farm for a day before heading to Sacramento.  This morning she got up early and went out into the yard to look around. This is what she saw several feet away from her:


So not only rattlesnakes and camel spiders but also bobcats inhabit this small portion of rural California.
But Penny doesn't just take pictures of bobcats but of the beautiful birds of Georgia:


Interesting, God’s creatures, some full of beauty and some that cause great fear. Just today I read the story of the man of God from Judah that went into Israel to speak God’s judgment to king Jeroboam because he made false gods and allowed whoever wanted, to be a priest, rather than those who were Levites.  (There is an animal in the story.)

 The man of God was told not to stay and eat; he refused the king’s table, but he allowed another man, an old prophet to give him dinner, while he was still in the land of the ten tribes. He believed the lie of the old prophet rather than the words of God. (It is too often easier to see blatant evil but not evil hidden in what is supposed to be a godly life.

That is perhaps because we forget that it is only the goodness and righteousness of Jesus that counts for anything. It is only the power of the risen Lord that lifts God's people out of the chaos.
On his way home a lion killed the man of God. What is amazing is that when the old prophet heard of the man of God’s death he went looking for him, and the lion was still standing there, beside the man and his donkey. He hadn’t eaten the man nor his donkey. God’s judgment goes as far as he wants it to go and no further. This is a mysterious story but it certainly is enclosed in the providence and purposes of God.
Whether a rebellious king or a person of God we are all called to obedience but in the midst of God’s grace. The beauty of an eastern blue bird, the poison of a rattlesnake, the cunning of a bobcat, the strength of a lion, they all bow to the purposes of God and so must his people.  
The text of chapter 13 of 1 Kings, after all of these events, says:
After this event Jeroboam did not return from his evil way, but again he made the priests of the high places from among all the people; any who would be ordained to be priests of the high places. The event became sin to the house of Jeroboam, even to blot it out and destroy it from off the face of the earth.  

First picture by Spencer Tregilgas, the other two pictures by Penny Juncker  
 Update: I am told that the bobcat was eating a coyote and came back last night to finish.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Two interesting sites in Israel: about rockets, about their origin (Update)

Two interesting bits of technology coming out of Israel. One is a clock that shows how long Israel has been free from rockets. As I write this it has been 30 minutes and 1 second. The clock was designed by two Israeli citizens, Aaron Friedman and Yehonatan Tsirolnik. You can see it here,, and read about it here, Site shows frequency of Hamas rockets.
The other is a digital map showing where rockets are coming from. It was designed by an Arab and a Jew, Samuel Lespes Cardillo and Farid el-Nasire. You can read about it here: Where’d that rocket come from? New site shows you.  And you can see the new site here: Israel Under Attack.

The latter article begins:

“A new tool to help protect Israeli civilians from Hamas rockets is the fruit of a joint effort by two Israelis–one a Jew and the other an Arab. While the government’s vaunted “Red Color” system sets off sirens where rockets are aimed, the new program can also tell you from where in Gaza the terrorists launched it.
The tool, called Israel Under Attack, was authored by Samuel Lespes Cardillo and Farid el-Nasire. The map is designed, Nasire said in a Facebook post, to allow people ‘to visualize the rocket’s trajectory, hopefully one day saving at least one life.’”

It is now 49 minutes and 41 seconds since a rocket has landed in Israel. May there be no more rockets so that Israel may also cease its defense.

Update: I think we have some competition going now. Israel Under Attack now has how much time has elapsed since a rocket was fired from Gaza on their site. Really just an improvement.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The 221st GA-my final thoughts and advice to the orthodox

Putting away the event of the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church would probably be the best of all worlds as far as my emotions go, but neither my emotions nor those seeking information will allow that. I woke up this Sunday morning thinking about the letter from the Palestinian Business Committee addressed to Kristine—a commissioner who was a member of the committee on Middle East Issues. It was handed to her as she began participation in the consensus part of plenary, the part having to do with divestment. My thought, as I awoke, was it had to be a staff person or GA helper, who handed her the letter because no one else was allowed in the area.[1]
And then as I entered our courtyard at church this morning a friend asked about my perceptions of General Assembly. So let me lay it out in a more structured way than I have in other postings.

This GA was lawless and chaotic and here are the reasons:

Marriage: As so many have already written, the GA voted on an Authoritative Interpretation that should never have been voted on because rather than being an interpretation it was a redefinition of the Directory of Worship’s definition of marriage. It contradicted not only the Directory of Worship but also the Book of Confessions which alongside of the Book of Order is our constitution. That makes the action unlawful.
What caused it to be chaotic is the fact that the item was addressed before the assembly with this recommendation by the Advisory Committee on the Constitution:

“This overture proposes an authoritative interpretation which would allow the exercise of pastoral discretion and freedom of conscience in conducting a marriage service for any couple as permitted by the “laws of the place where the couple seeks to be married.” It suggests an interpretation contrary to the clear statement of W-4.9000.

Section W-4.9001 and related citations (W-4.9002a, W-4.9004, W-4.9006) limit marriage to couples who are “a woman and a man.” Because these statements are clear and unambiguous, they can not be interpreted in a manner that is inconsistent with their plain and ordinary meaning.

The Book of Order is not based upon state and civil law, but the church’s understanding of Scripture and Reformed theology. As noted in Southard v Presbytery of Boston (GAPJC 2012, 220-02), “While the PCUSA is free to amend its definition of marriage, a change in state law does not amend the Book of Order.”

Freedom of conscience is a foundational principle of the PC(USA) (G-2.0105) but must be exercised within certain bounds. The exercise of freedom of conscience in and of itself is not necessarily a violation of polity or an obstruction of constitutional governance. Such freedom of conscience, however, is not freedom of action. All persons in ordered ministry have a duty to fulfill constitutionally mandated responsibilities.

If it is the will of the assembly to change the definition of marriage, such a change is better accomplished by amendment of W-4.9000 rather than by authoritative interpretation.”

But when the ACC was asked in plenary to explain why the AI was not an acceptable answer for what the GA was trying to do, they gave a different answer. And when they were asked why their advice on the item 10-03 did not match their advice on the floor they ignored the question. Leadership in this GA was so focused on moving the PC (U.S.A.) into a position that would conform to postmodern western values rather than biblical values that they were willing to lay aside proper procedure even to the point of telling commissioners that it was up to them to fix the contradictions they were voting on.

 Divestment and Israel: I have already written a considerable amount on this subject. The committee members were manipulated and controlled.[2] They were never given the other side of the story. They were even addressed by a Palestinian who inferred that a Jewish State of Israel from its beginning was an illegitimate state. This was Rifat Odeh Kassis who spoke to both the committee and the plenary before the vote on divestment. He also inferred that the first Christians were Arabs and not Jews.  
And I have written about how the vice moderator of the Middle East Committee, in her supposed devotional, stated that Jesus was not afraid to tell the Jews when they were wrong with the inference that the committee members should not be afraid either. [3] It never entered her head that positive investment with the goal of peace was as much a Christian value as any other decision. It never occurred to her that she was not placed in the committee to influence them.

Actions on Middle East issues were more than illegitimate, they were imposed by outside organizations[4] who from the very beginning menaced the committee with their complaints that the original moderator of the committee was unsuitable because he had traveled to Israel via funds by a local branch of the Jewish federation and had attended an interfaith Seder. They failed to note that he had also visited Palestinian refugee camps.
Commissioners in the ME committee pleaded to hear the other side and were ignored or lied to.

Life Issues: One of the saddest outcomes of this GA was their rejection of an overture that would have protected infants aborted alive. The committee not only rejected care for the unborn, they rejected care for those babies who survive abortions agreeing with those abortionists who commit such acts of murder as snipping the spinal cords of babies surviving botched abortions.
Item 09-02 was disapproved both in committee and plenary. This is the first two recommendations of that item:

"1.    Call for the Presbyterian Mission Agency and member congregations to enter a two-year season of reflection upon the plight of children unwanted by human society, both born and not-yet born, and to purposefully seek to enter the pure worship of God by offering aid, comfort, and the Gospel to those responsible for the care of our most desperate orphans (including those who survive abortion procedures): parents, siblings, church and community leaders, and the medical profession.

2.    Direct the Moderator of the General Assembly and the Stated Clerk to issue statements that denounce the practice of killing babies born live following an abortion procedure, such as was revealed in the Dr. Kermit Gosnell clinic in Philadelphia."
One of the commissioners, an evangelical teaching elder, privately stated that once he spoke up for the unborn he was no longer allowed to speak in the committee. Some will be angry with me for using this analogy but an analogy is not wrong when it is right. This clearly aligns the PC (U.S.A.) with the German Christians of the Nazi era. They do not care for the life of the weakest of humanity.[5]

My recommendations to the orthodox in the denomination (and please, this is my own personal opinions)  

The 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has proven itself lawless. By this I mean those directing the assembly, those organizations offering official advice, and those setting the rules, which in many cases were not legitimate rules, paid little attention to proper policy or even human decency as they led and advised.  
It isn’t just that the GA illegitimately voted for an AI that immediately opened the door to same sex marriage, it isn’t just that they voted for divestment from three companies doing business with Israel, it isn’t just that they ignored the plight of the baby who survives an abortion, it is that they manipulated, broke standard policy and lied, that is the biggest problem. And they did this because they call good evil, and evil good. They did it because they have rejected the word of the Lord of the Church.

I believe there needs to be several reactions here:
There are some churches that are in conservative presbyteries. They are in safe places. Unless they feel called to leave they should stay. The denomination needs to hear their voices. Broken people in the PC (U.S.A.) need to hear, over and over, God’s good news of salvation and transformation in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I believe that the Fellowship of Presbyterians will provide an open door and a safe place for these churches. And for equipping those who stay the Presbyterian Layman and Theology Matters are providing excellent material.
There are some churches that are in hard progressive presbyteries. It may be hard to leave but unless the Holy Spirit is calling on them to stay and be the voice of Christ they should probably go. Presbyteries need to understand that those among them who are orthodox are weary and want to serve God without giving time and money to questionable causes. They can’t serve on Presbytery committees that wink at apostasy and false doctrine. They can’t bless candidates who will not affirm biblical truths. They can’t be a part of conferences where false teachers offer a false gospel.

There are some people who are called to a prophetic ministry in the PC (U.S.A). They are called to keep speaking God’s truth until they are no longer allowed to speak. They are called to speak as the insults pile up and their voices grow hoarse. And they must obey the Lord.

And then there are those who are in circumstances that we may not know about or understand, personal circumstances that change the direction they intended to go. This is why we must not judge each other about staying or leaving. God is the sovereign Lord over all of our decisions.  He may stop some of us when we did not intend to be stopped. He may turn some of us aside when we did not intend to turn. May he, the Lord of our life, have mercy on all of his sheep.


[1] The letter in the second paragraph begins: “As you begin deliberations on a number of overtures related to divestment from those companies complicit with ongoing occupation, we would sincerely offer our insights into the best ways to support economic growth and development in Palestine.”
The letter goes on in bold letters to state “Our primary message to you is that the greatest constraint on our economy and economic development is NOT capital but the occupation.” Then there is a whole list of ways the “occupation” hurts Palestine.
[4] While it was undoubtedly Presbyterians who complained all of those who are pro-Palestinian only are connected to and influenced by both Christian and Muslim Palestinian groups outside of the PC (U.S.A.).
[5] I would recommend the book The Nazi Doctors: Medical killing and the Psychology of Genocide by Jay Lifton

Friday, July 11, 2014

A feast because we hear of Jesus

Jack Haberer, editor of the Presbyterian Outlook posted a small article, Evangelicals cast new hope, about a small gathering at Montreat Conference Center. He wrote that it was “three days of worship, prayer, fellowship and Bible study featuring Andrew Purves.” Since it was about hope, and since I believe Andrew Purves is one of the gifts God has given to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), I tried to find a video of him speaking at Montreat.
I could not find it but, instead, I found Purves speaking at Beeson Divinity School, Samford University. He is speaking on Christ in ministry.

Having had Professor James Torrance as a teacher, loving the works of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, thinking highly of Karl Barth and the writings of Athanasius I couldn’t help but be drawn into Purves' lecture. Starting out with the words “preaching is principally about who is preached,” Purves catches the listeners immediately. And speaking of James Torrance’s insistence of the who question over the how question and wedding that to Bonhoeffer's words in Christ the Center—well this video is a feast as Purves dwells on the person of Jesus. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A new blog: The School of Life

My son-in-law, Derek McHenry, besides providing me with six wonderful grandchildren and seven lovely great granddaughters, has given me another wonderful blog to add to my list of blogs. Derek’s blog, The School of Life, is a great blog for thinking and learning about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
Derek goes to Fremont Presbyterian Church in Sacramento and is a ruling elder. He also works as a librarian and has been one since high school. He is also trained to be a pastor in the Assemblies of God but chose to become a Presbyterian, along with his wife, my daughter Jenny. What I am trying to say with all of this is that Derek’s words will be uplifting and helpful since he is writing about the Christian life and how his own life mirrors discipleship.

I, just a few moments ago, read his last posting and found that he has expressed something I have prayed about sharing because it will certainly shape and undoubtedly change my future. The posting is: True Courage.
It begins:
"Skeletal, dressed in a big black hooded-robe, and carrying a large scythe…that is the classic American image of Death. Death is the great equalizer; young and old, sick or healthy, rich or poor, death is the last great enemy of us all. This ultimate foe is the thing that the vast majority of humanity is the most scared of in this life; the Final Great Unknown. There are some, however, who do not fear the grim reaper."

But please read all of Derek’s posts; they are excellent.

Picture of Derek and his son Joshua off for an adventure- and no, someone else was flying the plane.


It isn't about "Heteronormativity" it is about a life lived in Jesus Christ

Donna Riley, a member of More Light Presbyterians, has written, “Heteronormativity and the Book of Order.” Looking toward the coming vote to replace “a man and a woman’ with ‘two people,” Riley is unhappy, although this will allow same gender marriage in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The unhappiness is caused by a strategic move to add the phrase, “traditionally one man and one woman,” to the words, “between two people.” Riley finds this “deeply problematic language to enshrine in our constitution.”
Riley, who identifies as bi-sexual, had, in an earlier posting, written about the need to queer the traditional understanding of marriage. There seems to be a fear among LGBTQ people of losing their identity, which they seemingly find in sexuality, and being forced to conform to the traditional aspects of marriage even when it is redefined as being between any two persons.

Riley points back to another person’s article, “We didn’t queer the institution of marriage. It straightened us.” The author of the article, Hugh Ryan, quotes the original organization that formed from the Stonewall riot. That is, the Gay Liberation Front:

We are a revolutionary group of men and women formed with the realization that complete sexual liberation for all people cannot come about unless existing social institutions are abolished.
All of these people are missing a profound truth. And Riley, who writes for an organization whose members call themselves by a religious name, is above all missing the truth. All Christians are called by Jesus, through his word, to be conformed, not to the sinful standards of this world, but to the person of their Lord. The LGBTQ community and their need for uniqueness are staring at an answer which has nothing at all to do with sexuality but has to do with the person of Jesus Christ who is the Holy One of God.

The homosexual community will find, eventually, the sameness and dullness that plagues those who constantly set their standards to match the prevailing culture. It doesn’t really matter whether it is outlandish costumes in a parade or a hamburger wrapped in rainbow paper, boredom will eventually prevail. The rainbows will eventually fade into the darkness of an empty soul whose only identity is wrapped in sexuality.
But life lived under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, though it is for many of the peoples of the world harsh and painful, is filled with joy, peace and the knowledge that they are united with the Glory of God which never fades.

Jesus offers to the sinner, to all of us, forgiveness, his own righteousness, his presence and transformation into his likeness.
Sure, walking with Jesus means dying to self, dying to our own lusts and desires, putting aside our plans for tomorrow in order to follow the one who came to be crucified. But to be allowed to walk in the love of the One who created us and died for us is an amazing gift. And while it does mean for some, Christian marriage between only a man and a woman and for all others singleness with chastity, it is, either way, a holy calling. A blessed calling.

Therefore I urge you brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

For the day-the kingly Lamb who has redeemed us

I looked for a patriotic song for the day. But at Beanscot’s YouTube site I found the song that fits my mood and probably many of you feel the same way. The culture of our country may shift and turn in adverse or promising directions. A victory here, a loss there, but as the Scripture states, “Jesus Christ, is the same, yesterday, today and forever.” And in that sameness, he is ever the redeeming lamb, always by our side, always his presence is with us:







by Eden's Bridge from their "Celtic Worship" album.

Thanks to Beanscot for posting the words.