Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Presbyterians Today, a blog and the person of Jesus

Presbyterians Today a PC (U.S.A) magazine now has a blog. Diverse Presbyterians write there and the side bar is careful to explain that “Our opinions are ours alone; they do not represent the policies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) or Presbyterians Today.” But the blog, “One Church Many Voices” is published by a PC (U.S.A.) magazine. On their home site they call it “our blog.”
There are several evangelicals who write on the blog. David R. Collins, see SWELL, and Jodi Craiglow, see SIMPLICITY ON THE FAR SIDE OF COMPLEXITY, are two and they are excellent writers. A favorite of mine is Brandon Gaide, see POKING AT ELEPHANTS.
But there is a place where a line is crossed and the person of Jesus is misconstrued in an ungodly manner, which is saying a lot since Christians believe that name should be exulted above every name. Today, October the 27th, on the blog, Layton E. Williams, a teaching elder, who writes under the title PresbyHonest, posted “I love Jesus but sometimes I don’t like him.” [1]
Williams believes Jesus has some flaws. Although she believes “deeply in both the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection and the world-transforming power of his teachings about justice and mercy,” Williams opines that “1st-century Jesus is not nearly as inclusive and feminist as I would like.” She sees him as not believing in the equality of women and not supporting the LGBTQ community, and insists that Jesus participated in oppressive systems.
Williams writes:
Only by accepting this full humanity can we trust that Jesus’ full divinity has the power to enter into and transform those oppressive systems and us. Jesus’ full humanity also means that he grows and changes over the course of his life. His experience with the Syrophoenician woman, for example, challenged him to confront his own human prejudices and realign himself with the radically inclusive gospel he proclaimed (Mark 7:25–30, Matt. 15:21-28). His growth is a living testament to the transformative power of that gospel.”
In other words, according to Williams, Jesus like the rest of us was a sinner who had to be transformed.
Well, I could make this posting an apologetic showing that Jesus was sinless and that the LGBTQ community like the rest of us are sinners who Jesus can transform by his death and resurrection. It is the blood of Christ that washes us from our sinfulness. It is the righteousness of Jesus that we cling to for our salvation. And we are called to walk in purity away from our sinful desires.
And I could make this an apologetic about Jesus’ honoring the faith of the Syrophoenician woman, healing her daughter because of that faith. But she did not transform Jesus—He was the Son of David—the righteous One, the one who had already ministered to Gentiles and reflected on their faith. (See Matthew 8:5-13; 12: 38-42) And the woman recognized Jesus before the healing as the Son of David.
Still, what really troubles me is that so many believe that this kind of diversity is acceptable in a Christian denomination. It seems as though many believe that dialogue is a Christian virtue. Sometimes it is if one needs to witness about Jesus Christ. It is if the object is to bring about peace in a community fighting over non-essential items such as worship styles. But the person of Jesus Christ is not up for grabs, He is instead the Lord of the church. His authority, his word, the written word of God, the Bible, call for obedience.
Williams says she loves Jesus but she wants to change him; to go beyond him, to insist that he evolved beyond his own human self. And yet the word of God states, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13: 8)
And the leadership of the church allows Williams to influence the people of God on an official Presbyterian site.
The apostle Paul wrote of those within the church who would come and attempt to draw others after them into false teaching. He reminds the Ephesians that he admonished them with tears:
Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which he purchased with his own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparring the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after them. (Acts 20: 25-30)
It wasn’t dialogue aimed toward diversity Paul was concerned about but that the sheep should be protected.
[1] The posting by Williams can also be found this morning, Oct. 28th, on the Presbyterian News Service page- see side bar. https://www.pcusa.org/news/

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The witness of the church

This isn’t about teaching elder John Shuck or his progressive skepticism as he writes a reply to moderator Heath K Rada’s request for thoughts on how the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) can change to better meet the twenty-first century.

But Shuck’s words set off a train of thoughts that I want to write about. It was this paragraph written by Shuck in the Voices of Justice Fall Newsletter that prompted my writing:

“The world has changed and we need to talk about it. I can’t be sure exactly what “rapid and profound change” Moderator Rada has in mind, but I think it has to do with theology. I think our theology is still in the 17t century while we live in the 21st century. The dogmas of our religious heritage do not meet the challenges of the world presented to us by science and by social science. All of the beliefs we are supposed to affirm such as Creation, Virgin Birth, Resurrection of the body of Jesus, miracles, original sin, atonement, heaven and hell, and a supernatural interventionist god called God are metaphors. At least that’s what I think. I also think many church members and teaching elders think like I do even as for various reasons they are not able to say it clearly.”

I look beyond the 17th century to Christians who have faced and lived through dire circumstances in modern and post-modern eras. They include both Catholics and Protestants, men and women. None of the great heroes of faith were skeptics in the sense that they no longer believed the teachings of the Apostles.  Two groups in Germany during the Nazi era held faithful to the biblical teachings of the church. A Catholic group of mostly young people called the White Rose and the Confessing Church. Dietrich Bonhoeffer who went to his death as did members of the White Rose never laid aside his theology to accommodate the cultural immorality of society.

When Bonhoeffer knew that the officers who came for him, came to take him to his death, he told Payne Best another prisoner, “This is the end” “For me the beginning of life.”

I still remember when an Anglican, Archbishop Janani Luwum, in Uganda, was killed, because of his faith, by Idi Omin. Another Ugandan bishop wrote a small booklet, Why I love Idi Omin. His basis for love was that Omin needed Jesus; that Jesus died for him.

But there is no need to stay in the twentieth century, the twenty-first century is full of Christian Martyrs who did not toss away their faith. Old people and children who professed their faith despite the enemy’s promise of death. Little children who were beheaded because they love Jesus. They held on to the One who holds death in his hands and gives life to his saints. How poor and musty with the 19th century has the progressives become. God displays his faithful children before their eyes and they look away to find some new way to be a Christian.

Do not be afraid: I am the first and the last and the living One; and I was dead and behold, I am alive for evermore; and I have the keys of death and of Hades.”

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Returning to the Korean Presbyterian churches: A Sacramento Presbytery meeting

It was the most unusual presbytery meeting I have ever attended.[1] It was about the Korean churches in our Presbytery. The meeting was very small; most Sacramento PC (U.S.A.) churches, both orthodox and progressive, seem to have just given up and are allowing a few to plan the future. And those few are often very confused and troubled.

When we addressed the first item, which I wrote about earlier:

1.                          With the determination of the Presbytery Engagement Team (PET) appointed to the Capital Korean Presbyterian Church, El Dorado Hills, determining that there is a schism pursuant to the Book of Order (G-4.0207), that the presbytery take immediate action and appoint an administrative commission with original jurisdiction of the Capital Korean church, and continue the relationship with the PC(USA) in all means of its ministries

Which had as its explanation, ““The Presbytery Engagement Team of Capital Korean Presbyterian Church has become aware of members, pastor and session who are departing the church, and others who request maintaining their membership with the PC (USA).

I asked if some more information could be shared, for example, did the session vote, did all of the congregation leave. But no leader attending seemed to have any information. The chair of the Committee on Ministry, who presented the items, in fact tried to answer the question but said he didn’t have any information.

However, Dou Sub Lee, a teaching elder, but not at the moment the pastor of any church, spoke about Capital Korean Presbyterian Church. He suggested that there was a large enough group of people left that could make up the church, perhaps thirty to forty. And then later expanded the number. What bothered me was that he stated he was not a member of the church, and when I asked him afterwards he said he had not been a member for ten years.

The next item:

2.                         Whereas Zion Presbyterian Church announces its departure from the PCUSA, the Committee on Ministry requests that presbytery take immediate action and appoint an administrative commission with original jurisdiction of the church, including, but not limited to determining and completing the next steps of the church. 

And the explanation:

“Leadership and members of Zion Presbyterian Church, Sacramento, have declared their departure from the PC (USA) and from the property on 9501 Folsom Blvd.”

This item held some interesting conundrums. David Kim spoke saying that Zion had voted using a hand vote which was considered a 97% yes vote. He suggested they would have to vote again and could then expect a lower percentage.

One speaker said the church had a large debt. And several people including a lady from the church stated that the debt was for a loan to their church. It was 1.9 million dollars, but it was not borrowed from the PC (U.S.A.). Then an interesting discussion ensued. Who was responsible for the church debt and who owned the church?! So someone stated the PC (U.S.A.)’s name was not on the title implying that the denomination did not own the church so the presbytery was not responsible for the debt. Hmmm—so if a church owes money not borrowed from the PC (U.S.A.) they own the church and if they don’t the PC (U.S.A.) owns the church?

This is what happens when a presbytery writes a “gracious” dismissal policy a great part of which was written by a lawyer in a manner that is impossible for an ethnic group, whose second language is English, to understand. In fact, it seemed to me that most members at the meeting, whose first language is English, were confused and needed answers to some very important questions.[2]

The dismissal policy does not answer some of the questions that were being asked and although it starts out with words of grace most of the text is pure heartless legalism and incredibly confusing. Within a Christian biblical context grace must prevail. Here are some biblical answers that do not come from the dismissal policy but ought to give clues about how to treat the Korean Christians. All of them:

Although it is nice having a building—the church is not a building. (A building often helps with fruitful ministry.) Still, it is those who belong to Jesus Christ, who have been washed by his blood and are gathered in fellowship under his Lordship that are the church. Here I am speaking of the Church universal, not just of the PC (U.S.A.) or any other reformed body. That means that we must care for the ministry that flows out of other gathered fellowships.

Several years ago the Presbytery met at Capital Korean Presbyterian Church. The pastor preached a sermon that was excellent and many members of Presbytery asked that the sermon be placed on the Presbytery’s web site. Also a video of CKPC ministries was shown. I remember that they had a ministry to Native Americans in Nevada. I was deeply touched by this. This is ministry that flows from the universal church.

I believe that Sacramento Presbytery needs to put aside its dismissal policy and return to the authority of Scripture. The confusion and mess looming among the churches can only be answered by the wisdom, grace and authority of Scripture.

Several years ago when I, with a motion, tried to get the Presbytery to give at least half of the money back that the Synod of the Pacific had demanded of Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church and Roseville Presbyterian church[3], some of the members cursed at me and others. I could not hear this but at the end of the meeting a young pastor, new to the presbytery, disappointed, got up and complained that those around him were cursing those who spoke.

God calls us to love:

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:5-10)

This is where it must begin, confession, truth and fellowship with all who are His.

[1] . I wrote about the Korean Presbyterian churches that are leaving the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in an earlier posting We are chasing them away: Presbyterian Koreans looking for a faithful place.
[3] It was around 2 million dollars, at the time a huge amount. It is no longer—the greed of some in the denomination grows. For instance, Menlo Park’s payment of almost 10 million to San Francisco’s Presbytery.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Guns, Hitler, rattlesnakes and Ben Carson

An article, They Really Hate Ben Carson, ChurchandWorld linked to, started a long string of thoughts in my mind about guns, honesty and bravery.  This posting includes a lot of stories, some history. But it is also about me sorting out my thoughts on guns. The article was written by Dennis Prager and he was showing how the secular media distorted statements by presidential candidate Ben Carson.

One statement was his answer to a question, in reference to the shootings in Roseburg, Oregon, about what he would do if someone stuck a gun to his head and asked him what his religion was. Prager wrote that Carson had stated “… not only would I probably not cooperate with him, I would not just stand there and let him shoot me. I would say, ‘Hey, guys, everybody attack him. He may shoot me, but he can’t get us all.'”

Because of this statement Carson has been accused of blaming the Oregon students because they were victims of a mass shooting. He has also been criticized for suggesting that Hitler would not have totally succeeded with his genocide “if the people had been armed.”

So first of all my position. I am a democrat who generally votes Republican because there are few Democrats who stand against abortion or for the traditional definition of marriage. I’m not sure at all who I will vote for this time so this is not meant as an endorsement of Carson.

As far as guns go. I have a lot of stories to tell but first I do believe in regulating the selling of guns. There should be complete background checks. And as far as gun shows go I think they should be outlawed unless they are meant simply as shows and not to sell. They are not required to do gun checks and over twenty years ago when I did my research for an article, Christian Identity: A “Christian” Religion for White Racists, I was writing for Christian Research Journal, I discovered a lot of the racists hung out at the gun shows. But I am not for total gun removal.

Here are my stories and then I want to write about what Carson said.

My mother was about to complete high school when the great depression occurred. She had to quit. Her father, to make up for her loss gave her the family rifle and allowed her to go squirrel hunting as often as she pleased. My father had a gun and as my sisters and I left home he tried to get us to buy one for protection. I never wanted to, and I confess when he shot himself in the foot, (and he was generally good with guns and careful) we felt bad but sort of had that “see what can happen attitude!”

Later my husband bought two guns so that he could go out plinking with a friend. Now a granddaughter and her husband own one of the guns. After killing two rattlesnakes with a hoe she felt a gun might work better. The rattlesnakes, not on the same day, were under the children’s swing and headed toward the chicken coop.

So what about Carson’s remarks. Well part of me wishes he had said “I would have said I love Jesus, so go ahead and shoot.” But he’s not wrong or evil because of what he said. Remember plane 93 on 9.11 2001. Most of the passengers had an agreement to rush the radical Moslems who had taken over the plane. They knew that some or all of them would probably die, but they undoubtedly saved the lives of many in Washington D.C. And about Hitler, well that is much more complex but Carson has made a good point, as Prager wrote:

“…while “greatly diminished” [The Jew’s deaths] is debatable, the general view strikes me as simple common sense: Why wouldn’t it have been a good thing if many Jews in 1930s Europe had had weapons? Of course it would not have prevented the Holocaust, but it might have saved some lives; and just as important, it would have enabled armed Jews to die fighting rather than to die unarmed and with no ability to fight …”

We tend to forget that Dietrich Bonhoeffer, some of his family members and some officers in the German army tried twice to kill Hitler with a bomb. If they could have done it with a gun they probably would have. And there is this other story.

Several years ago PBS ran a documentary on the underground in Holland during World War II.  The name of the documentary is Hidden Heroes - Dutch Resistance, and one of the stories that has stayed with me was told by an elderly woman who had been part of the underground. She secretly carried a gun. The woman passed by a crowd of people at a train station just as a Nazi officer pulled a baby from a Jewish couples arms. He smashed the baby’s head against a wall. The woman said without thinking, and putting herself at great risk, she pulled out her gun and shot the officer. And then she found herself being pushed backwards through the crowd until she had escaped completely from view.   

As a Christian who loves Jesus I don’t think I could trust in a gun for defense but I cannot condemn Carson; his is a call for justice, there is no real reason to aim such hatred at him.

But we who belong to Christ have a defense that is good and sure.

I say to you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the one who after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you fear Him! Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear, you are more valuable than many sparrows.” (Luke 12 4-7)

Monday, October 5, 2015

We are chasing them away: Presbyterian Koreans looking for a faithful place

Capital Korean Presbyterian Church, Sacramento
We are chasing them away with our heretical ideals. (Jesus is not the only Lord, the Bible is not his word and sexual immorality is acceptable.) And there is so much control and disregard for Christian graciousness in our new “gracious” dismissal policy that they are willing to go without their property. They are too busy with the gospel to be bothered with fighting such a time consuming process, so they are leaving all behind to follow Jesus in the way they believe he is leading. They are Koreans but the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has forgotten their true mission and so they are going away.

The Presbytery of Sacramento has called a special meeting because of what will potentially be empty buildings. (At least that is my thought.) These are the two motions to be voted on:

1.              With the determination of the Presbytery Engagement Team (PET) appointed to the Capital Korean Presbyterian Church, El Dorado Hills, determining that there is a schism pursuant to the Book of Order (G-4.0207), that the presbytery take immediate action and appoint an administrative commission with original jurisdiction of the Capital Korean church, and continue the relationship with the PC(USA) in all means of its ministries.

The explanation is: “The Presbytery Engagement Team of Capital Korean Presbyterian Church has become aware of members, pastor and session who are departing the church, and others who request maintaining their membership with the PC(USA).

The other:

2.             Whereas Zion Presbyterian Church announces its departure from the PCUSA, the Committee on Ministry requests that presbytery take immediate action and appoint an administrative commission with original jurisdiction of the church, including, but not limited to determining and completing the next steps of the church. 

The explanation for this is: “Leadership and members of Zion Presbyterian Church, Sacramento, have declared their departure from the PC(USA) and from the property on 9501 Folsom Blvd.”

There is one more motion that may or may not be addressed having to do with filling empty positions before the November presbytery meeting.

Some of this loss is of course the General Assembly’s and the denomination’s fault. Unfaithfulness always leads to confusion and demands a reaction by those who wish to stand as faithful as possible. And the unfaithfulness simply continues in all kinds of ways including the recent appointment of a gay ruling elder, Luis Antonio (Tony) De La Rosas (who has a partner) as interim executive director over the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

It is also the fault of the Presbytery of Sacramento’s recently rewritten Gracious Policy for Reconciliation or Dismissal of Congregations . It is totalitarian in many of its decrees. I can imagine how hard this must be for those whose first and main language is not English. The first part of the policy is gracious in language but the second and larger part seems to be written by a lawyer who cares little for the language of grace. It is bureaucratic, complicated and self-serving in tone.

Presbyterians, especially those who are progressive, love to quote Micah 6:8. “He has told you O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Well, I and many others, who are not progressive love it too. It is after all God’s words as is all of the Scriptures. And all of us, myself in particular, have a long ways to go as far as walking humbly with our God. But God does call for kindness, humbleness and justice. What a move of the Holy Spirit it would be to see these two congregations move to the denomination they desire and at the same time still possess the buildings they have used for faithful ministry.