Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Juggernaut against religious freedom & the Stated Clerk of the PC (U.S.A.)

Stated Clerk, Gradye Parsons,’ communication about Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, published on the Presbyterian News Service reinforced my belief that a damaging cultural storm is pushing aside safety mechanisms that Christianity, as well as other faiths, enjoy in the United States. A mainline denomination with secular media and big businesses behind it all bearing down on freedom of religion reminds me of a juggernaut. As Merriam-Webster puts it:

“… a massive inexorable force, campaign, movement, or object that crushes whatever is in its path …”

And because progressive religion is attaching itself to the secular, the origin of the word, which is religious, fits perfectly. Webster states this: “Hindi Jagannāth, literally, lord of the world, title of Vishnu,” while Encyclopædia Britannica expands it to explain about the festivals of the god:

“… The image is placed in a wagon so heavy that the efforts of hundreds of devotees are required to move it, and it is dragged through deep sand to the country house of the god. The journey takes several days, and thousands of pilgrims participate. Reports of these processions in the past have been much exaggerated, although accidents are common and occasionally a frenzied pilgrim attempts to throw himself under the wagon. The English word juggernaut, with its connotation of a force crushing whatever is in its path, is derived from this festival.”

Parson’s posting, “PC(USA) anxiously awaits proposed revision to Indiana RFRA law,” picks up the false assumptions secular media keep reporting. For instance, he writes, “We are deeply alarmed about the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA) recently signed into law by Indiana Governor Mike Pence, and are concerned that its current wording could provide a legal excuse for individuals and corporations to use religious conviction as a reason to discriminate.”

There are so many cases of Christian florists, bakers and photographers losing their livelihoods and vocations because they felt they could not participate in a same gender wedding and yet there have been no words of comfort coming from leadership in the PC (U.S.A.). No communication to those in the PC (U.S.A.) about remaining faithful to Scripture. No understanding that these artists and businesspeople did not discriminate but simply refused to be part of a ritual they believe to be sinful.  

How comforting it must be to be in a church where those who must take risks for the sake of Christ are nourished and prayed for by their shepherds even at the higher levels of the church. But instead there is a threat embedded in Parsons’ communication:

 “The PC (USA) affirms religious freedom and engages in ministry widely throughout the state of Indiana. Youth Triennium has been held for decades at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Over the next several weeks plans for the 2016 Triennium will be evaluated.” (Italics mine.)

PC (U.S.A.) pastors are already worried about being sued by same gender couples for refusing to perform same gender weddings. Their worry is that their presbyteries and other PC (U.S.A.) leaders will not defend them. The gods of sexuality are riding high on their festival wagons now, and politicians, big business, government officials, the media and progressive denominations are in the procession. The wheels are heavy and will grind the innocent beneath them. When sexual gods become the dominant idol their demands can and will overshadow all freedom.


Andy Vloedman said...

Viola I must be missing something. Leaving aside the substance of Parson's comments, my question is by what authority does he make them on behalf of the PCUSA. The BOO states clearly "This church shall be governed by Presbyters...ruling elders and teaching elders" who " shall come together in councils" the "General Assembly ..shall consist of equal numbers of ruling elders and teaching elders elected by the presbyteries and reflective of the diversity within their bounds" It's clear the Office of the General Assembly is not the GA as defined by the BOO. The stated clerk shall "record the transactions of the council, keep it's rolls of attendance and membership including the rolls of all Certified Christian Educators...preserve its records and furnish extracts from them when required by another council..." "Powers not mentioned in this Constitution are reserved to the presbyteries" By what authority does Parsons speak on behalf of the PCUSA?

Viola Larson said...

Isn't it amazing that he has taken on the role of a high church bishop and not from a faith position, but from a political position. This is exactly what the Nazi's wanted in a bishop-someone who would agree with the powers that ruled in Germany. That is not to say he is acting within that sphere of evil, but that his way of seeing his office is the same.

Andy Vloedman said...

Parson's appears to have embraced Robert Funk's definition of leadership "find a parade and get in front of it" disregarding Paul's admonition to "be not conformed to this world"

Anonymous said...

It's been a long time since I've actively pursued GA procedures, but to answer Andy's question: The manual of the General Assembly describes roles or prerogatives for the Stated Clerk that go beyond the BoO. Also, most of the recommendations that come to GA through ACSWP usually authorize the SC to make a statement on some topic. When the recommendation is passed by the commissioners it gives OGA a lot of license to pontificate. (Every possible pun intended) I don't know about the warrant for this particular case, however.


Terrye McAnally
Sevierville, TN

Viola Larson said...

Thank you Terrye, I'm sure that that is the answer I should have given.

Anonymous said...

A pizza parlor has already been forced to close because its owners dared to say they would not cater a same-sex wedding ceremony, although they affirmed (contrary to initial media reports) that they would serve anyone pizza, whether gay or straight. They were thoroughly vilified on social media as a result, and the harassment became so vicious that they closed their doors.

Mob justice wins. Decency and mutual forbearance loses.

John Erthein
DeFuniak Springs, FL

Jodie said...


I wish you understood how much you trivialize the horrors of World War 2 when you invoke the 'N' word to describe something going on in church. It's really just an incomprehensible level of insensitive hyperbole.

Jodie Gallo
Los Angeles, CA

PJ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PJ said...

I suspect, Jodie, if you understood more about how National Socialism took root in Germany in the 1920s and 30s, you would appreciate Viola's comments. A good place to start would be Robert Ericksen's Theologians Under Hitler, published by Yale University Press.
From their catalogue description: "What led so many German Protestant theologians to welcome the Nazi regime and its policies of racism and anti-Semitism? In this provocative book, Robert P. Ericksen examines the work and attitudes of three distinguished, scholarly, and influential theologians who greeted the rise of Hitler with enthusiasm and support. In so doing, he shows how National Socialism could appeal to well-meaning and intelligent people in Germany and why the German university and church were so silent about the excesses and evil that confronted them."
The three theologians are Gerhard Kittle, Paul Althaus, and Emanuel Hirsch -- familiar names to anyone who studied continental liberal theology in seminary. Studying this history gave me a deep appreciation for just what the Barmen Declaration really meant and what they were really standing for. If you knew and appreciated this history, you would realize Viola's comments are not hyperbolic.

Anonymous said...

any pastor "afraid" of being sued by a same gender couple is a fool. it wont happen. people want to be married by a decent and loving pastor, not a bigot.

When are you leaving the PCUSA Viola? we will be a better church when someone of your character is not longer a part of our church.



Anonymous said...

Nothing like being graceful when you win, huh Gene? Don't worry, I forgive you for your pettiness.

John Erthein
DeFuniak Springs, FL

Andy Vloedman said...

Don't be alarmed folks the sound you hear is the big tent of the inclusive welcoming progressive church shrinking. No sir we can't have people with that kind of character in our church can we Gene?

Viola Larson said...


Jodie said...


I am enough of a WW2 buff that I think I get why National Socialism took root in Germany, and how the death cult of its leaders snuck up on them. But the idea that liberal theology had anything to do with its acceptance among the German Protestants, perhaps the kindest thing to say of that analysis is that it confuses correlation with causality.

Suffice it to say that if being liberal had been the cause, and if they only had been conservative enough they would have resisted or at least questioned their rulers, then the Conservative Evangelicals in America would never have embraced and supported George W Bush's invasion of Iraq. They would have risen up as one and opposed it. Or at least demanded the proof that the whole rest of the world was asking for and never got. They would have at least questioned it.

But instead they rose as one in support of it. Many even to this day. Bush got Billy Graham to say it was a “just war”, and that was all they needed to join the march. God and Country. Hitler at least needed apologists and assassins. Bush did not need either. The Conservative Evangelicals were completely and totally hoodwinked.

So you see, there is no correlation between one’s theology being liberal or conservative and one's propensity for swearing blind allegiance to false doctrine and misguided national leaders who lead a nation to war.

However, if we should learn one thing from the experience of the German church it is this: Whenever someone demonizes another human being for belonging to an other class of people, a "them", any "them", and especially if they ask us to join in and do the same, that is the moment our instinct should be to respond with a firm NO. That is when we should put our foot down, and start asking some very hard and annoying questions.

Jodie Gallo
Los Angeles, CA

will spotts said...

Gene - Fear (of being sued or other eventualities) is not an appropriate response. We, individual human beings, are autonomous: no one but God can make us do or think anything. The mob, an unwise government, employers, the courts, and others can cause great personal harm to us if they so desire. And there are people who will cheer if they do.

You dismiss that concern, but your dismissal is flawed. (You may dismiss it solely because you strongly disagree with the people involved - but that's not the rationale you give.)

It *is* true that normal human beings would not want to be married by someone who didn't want to perform the ceremony. But there are also a fair number of people who do not want anyone to be allowed to decline. The motivator would not be desire for the person to provide the service; it would be anger that the person did not want to provide the service.

It's akin to the wedding cake phenomenon. Only an idiot would want to actually eat food prepared for him by someone who didn't want to make it. If you had a celebration would you want food prepared not as an act of love or kindness ... or even of ordinary commerce ... but of compulsion?

Of course not ... yet there are still legal actions.

Greg Scandlen said...

Oh, Jodie, stop. Just stop. Bush had every reason to believe Iraq was an imminent threat, and most of the rest of the world agreed -- including btw Mr. Clinton. Plus Saddam was committing genocide against the Kurds. Perhaps you were not bothered by that.

Meanwhile, I hope you are as active on Progressive sites that demonize Christians as "the other." But I doubt it, since you yourself seem to regard the Tea Party and "right wingers" as "the other." Don't forget the log in your own eye, my friend.

Greg Scandlen
Waynesboro, PA