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.


Peter Larson said...

Thanks for posting Viola, although I am quite certain your eloquent and truthful words will fall on deaf ears. Ever since he served on the a PUP committee Jack drank the progressive koolade and has become a shill for their immoral and ungodly agenda.

Martha Leatherman said...

Thank you, Viola. I don't know where Mr. Haberer got his numbers, either. What I do know is that I was at GA, and I stopped by the Outlook booth multiple times on my way in and out of the exhibit hall. I was probably at the Presbyterians Pro-Life booth 60% of the time, and I never saw Mr. Haberer. I was surprised that, in his position with The Outlook, he never stopped to interview any of us or the One by One team. I think Peter Larson is right. He is a shill. He is interested in the advertising revenues from The Outlook and not much else. He has to be accepted by those who can pay his publication--like the despicable advertising insert disguised as something The Outlook had produced--and now his advertisers are the progressives. This editorial was cruel, misguided, poorly researched, inaccurate, and a grievous insult. Further, progressives look at The Outlook as "balanced." If this is an example of "balance," then the orthodox among us have no voice there at all.

Many have criticized him in the past, and many of his friends have defended him. I have given him the benefit of the doubt. No more.

Viola Larson said...

Peter and Martha, you know I care a great deal about you both and value your input, but I was attempting to avoid name calling. I believe misguided might be the better choice rather than 'shill.'

Yes, I am very disappointed that Jack did not give more care and work to his posting and his sisters and brothers.

Anonymous said...

Viola, if an opponents words matter, no, you did not name call in this post, and well avoided it.

it was nice to see you refer to someone with whom your disagree as "you may disagree with brothers and sisters...". I must say your post over the years have NOT (either personally, or I gather from discussing it with others) made me (or the others I refer to) feel the sense of brother/sisterhood with you, despite the Church we share.

As per the motivations behind the decisions made, and how they were made, I know of no one whom I have discussed it with on the progressive side who felt it was inappropriately done. some may of course, but, I have certainly not met them.

We fought for what we did because we know it to be what God has called us to do. A hard thing, not the easy thing. which would have just been to go along with the status quo. it was a majority of heterosexuals who voted as they did after all. 70+% of the commissioners were not Gay after all.

Have you read Rev. Achtemeiers' article today in the Huffington Post? Its worth reading. He, like myself (not that I compare myself to him, a scholar and seminary professor) was, as you no doubt know, a staunch conservative on these issues. But, his understandings changed when he approached them with an open mind and a willingness to do the painful work of letting go of ideas that he was COMFORTABLE with in the face of good scholarship and seeing the real lives of the GLBT people called to serve God in His church. He was far from alone on this difficult and tiring journey. Thus, the GA we just witnessed.

Please think of that when you imply that the actions of the GA were illigitimate, or somehow done without proper motivation.

I am sorry to hear of anyone's voice being silences, such as you describe in your post. I can speak from personal hurts. I know many pastors, deacons, PIP's whose voices, even careers were silenced for years and decades, and their service to God hampered or stopped. some (PIPs mainly) being silenced in every way and feeling they had no church home, just...quit faith. That said, two wrongs do not make a right.

We may disagree, but we are your brothers and sisters in this Church we share after all, and are working to fulfill its mission and work.




Linda Lee said...

I agree with Rev. Peter Larson,
Jack has consistently given a point of view that
believes evangelicals should agree with the emphasis of PUP.
There are many who are having a hard time believing that conviction, conscience and interpretation of Scripture
binds evangelicals to a different calling. That calling means separation from unity with unbelief,
immorality, and lawlessness put out by this GA.
The one who is crying is Jack!
Yet, he fails to see how the actions of the PUP committee are directly responsible for the down ward spiral and diminishment of the evangelical voice and influence on the denomination. His justification of the
actions of the GA only reveal that he is no longer what I consider evangelical. And there, are others who will be just as bewildered when they see the further movement of this denomination toward
wrong agendas.
Thanks for voicing a response to Jack's bewilderment.
I appreciate your ministry.

Al Sandalow said...

>Have you read Rev. Achtemeiers' article today in the Huffington Post? …he approached them with an open mind and a willingness to do the painful work of letting go of ideas that he was COMFORTABLE with in the face of good scholarship and seeing the real lives of the GLBT people called to serve God in His church.

Gean, I did read Achtemeire’s article. There is nothing new in it, just a retread of the same song and dance we’ve heard from him since the PUP report.

I know that behind your question is the underlying belief that intelligent, compassionate people could not think differently than you do unless they were misinformed or unthinkingly clinging to primitive belief. We read that as “only stupid, informed people think like you do” and enlightened people agree with me.

It may shock you to consider that lots of intelligent, compassionate, well informed Christians have studied the issues surrounding human sexuality with honesty and diligence and still believe the Biblical account of God’s design for human sexuality should hold sway in the church and, as much as possible, in the societies we live in and contribute too. I suppose “good scholarship” is defined as scholarship that agrees with your side of the argument.

And while I congratulate you (and others) on the perseverance involved in your takeover of the PCUSA and the fulfillment of long held agendas, all you have won as a dying denomination that will probably no longer be able to function as it has sometime in the next 20 years.

Finally, if there is someone to teach us evangelicals about sexuality, it will not be Mark Achtemeier. Many of us how he carefully concealed his change of heart when on the PUP task force; how meetings were closed to the public so that this change would not become known to the evangelicals who were led to believe he was there to represent their side of the debate. We may be easily fooled, but not easily fooled twice.

Al Sandalow

Viola Larson said...

Gene the authoritative interpretation was illegitimate because it did not clarify but instead redefined. Even the ACC said so in their comment on the item, they just back tracked on the assembly floor which leads many of us to believe that something extremely political was going on.

To read a liberal view which disagreed with the way the AI was used go here and scroll down to the comment by Ed Koster.

Viola Larson said...

Thanks Al, you saved me the trouble of reading Mark Achtemeier's paper. I have already written on two of them and so far I see that he simply ignores part of the text. Yes, God did not think that man should be alone, but he also created a woman to be his companion.

Viola Larson said...

Linda Lee,
It was the use of shrill that bothered me. Yes, I do believe, unwittingly Jack is used by the other side. It is his constant attempt to keep the peace and get everybody to be friends. There comes a time when that does not work anymore. If the world enters into the church or even into our own self we cannot make friends with it. We must keep loving others but that does not mean bowing to their desire to continue on in sin.