Jack Haberer has answered his critics in the comment section of his posting, “… with those who weep.” He did give praise to Presbyterians Pro Life and One by One for which I am very grateful. He also places his faith squarely with the Evangelicals. For that I am thankfulHaberer then gives a history of some of the work of the Presbyterian Coalition and Presbyterians for Renewal. The Presbyterian Forum makes it into the history with its founders Rev. Bob Dooling and Rev. Bob Davis. They, according to Haberer, corrected an error he had made which was basically failing to continue with the political arm of renewal, an arm that he says is now missing in most of the renewal groups.
He is right about the latter, but there is a reason and I believe a better answer then he gives. I will write about that at the end of this posting.
I did not enter renewal work until around 1999-2000; I am not quite sure of the dating but Haberer’s history is new to me. However there is a history that I know very well and it leads me to believe that it was not an absence of renewal people or their politics and votes that began the downward spiral but rather the work of the ‘Peace, Unity, and Purity’ Report,’ the so called Louisville papers, and the failure of the PCUSA courts to properly uphold the constitution. It was also the work of those who manipulated the process.
I know the history of my own presbytery and I am convinced that other presbyteries in some part followed Sacramento’s journey. I had just become a commissioner from Fremont Presbyterian Church for Sacramento Presbytery as the PUP report began to affect churches and presbyteries. Although the committee insisted it was not local option it worked that way in our presbytery.
First of all Sacramento voted in several guidelines which would have preserved our obedience to the authority of Scripture and helped the churches continue as connected bodies. A minister filed a complaint and the PJC of the Synod of the Pacific ruled against the Presbytery.
The same pastor who filed the complaint, David Thompson of Westminster Presbyterian Church, then ordained two practicing gay men as ruling elders. And remember this was after PUP but before any overture had been passed at either the General Assembly or in the presbyteries to ordain LGBT persons. When the presbytery asked a committee to look into the matter they ended up apologizing to the church and Thompson. And made fun of those on the floor of the presbytery who were upset over the church’s action.
At the 219th General Assembly, one of the gay elders went as a commissioner and he was also the speaker during the presbytery meeting when we voted for the overture that would defeat the fidelity and chastity passage in the Book of Order. His argument for the day was not about the need for LGBT equality but for those older people who found it too expensive to be married, who he believed should be allowed to live together and still be elders in the church. For the first time, with the help of PUP, Sacramento voted yes against fidelity in marriage between a man and woman and chastity in singleness.
Somewhat earlier, 2006, but after the PUP report, the new moderator of the PC (U.S.A.), Joan Grey, came to speak to our presbytery. At the time the Layman had revealed some secret papers about church property put together by the Office of the General Assembly. They were draconian proposals meant to keep any church from leaving with their property. During question and answer time one of the pastors of a large church in our presbytery got up and asked her what she thought of the Louisville Papers. She said she had not read them, that she didn’t think they were important.
Grey did not see, but I saw the pastor’s face as he turned away, it was white and grim. This was a church that cared for many young candidates for ministry, guiding them with care, both spiritual and financial care. This was a church that participated in the work of the Presbytery, with four pastors, two women and two men, their questions to young candidates desiring to enter the ministry were always biblical, kind and helpful.
And as they attempted to leave, alongside another large church, with a gracious exit, once again David Thompson filed a complaint against the presbytery for allowing the gracious exit. And Louisville guided the process, through lawyers, in an unseemly way. PUP and the Louisville papers created the damage. In the long run even the Presbytery would suffer.
What I am attempting to point out is that it was not failure on the part of the orthodox of Sacramento presbytery, rather it was the consistent push and manipulation of people to live unbiblical lives. It was a persistent intention of some to compromise over issues that biblically cannot be compromised. And it was dirty politics that only God can fix.
Above all it was a spiritual battle that God was allowing, not to compromise the gospel, but to clarify it. When one carries the righteousness of Christ one continuously puts aside, with the help of the Holy Spirit, the false morality of the world. The denomination and the world need to see that, even in the suffering of the saints.
Haberer believes the renewal groups and the orthodox in general need to keep a four legged stool. Not only do they need prayer, praise and worship, and proclamation, they need politics. I say no, it is too late for that. And it is certainly wrong to live in peace with those who push a sinful lifestyle as righteousness. In such a compromised denomination, one must live prophetically proclaiming the Lordship of Jesus, the authority of God’s word, the call of redemption and transformation, the need to walk in humbleness and holiness.
The need is to insist, gently and kindly, that one will not bless or ordain those who call sin righteousness but instead love with the kind of love Jesus modeled; love but keep stating even to ourselves, “go and sin no more.”
David Thompson, under an administrative commission, which had nothing to do with the above history, renounced jurisdiction, founding a religious organization that allowed all beliefs or no-beliefs. He went his own way.
Whether we go with the PC (USA) or to another part of Jesus’ Church, may we go in the only way there is, Jesus Christ, Lord.