Sunday, October 9, 2011

Wasting money or upholding the faith?

On the 8th of October, undoubtedly while dealing with the complicated issues surrounding non-geographic presbyteries and whether to continue with synods, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Vice-Moderator, Landon Whitsitt, stated a provocative yet forthright opinion about a different subject. That is, Parnell et al v. San Francisco which, as most know, has to do with whether Lisa Larges, an unrepentant lesbian, should be ordained.

Whitsitt after reading an article in the layman on the appealing of the decision of the Synod of the Pacific’s Permanent Judicial Commission regarding biblical and confessional standards and the ordination of Lisa Larges, wrote on Twitter:

This is ridiculous. #ga219 and a majority of presbyteries have settled this. Quit wasting church money, please.
The SPJC ruled that since there were disagreements on how to interpret the biblical texts surrounding the issues of homosexuality, San Francisco Presbytery’s decision to ordain Larges was theologically acceptable. Yet my friend Mary Naegeli, who not only is a PC (U.S.A.) Teaching Elder and a teacher for Fuller Theological Seminary, but also the lead attorney in the case, stated on October the 8th, on her blog, “Bringing the Word to Life”:
The SPJC decision in the Parnell case, if permitted to stand, is a declaration to Presbyterians and the world that the PCUSA is no longer anchored in the Scriptures as “the only rule of faith and manners” (F-3.0107). Cut loose from our scriptural mooring, we become a church “tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14), a church with “itching ears, accumulating for [our]selves teachers to suit [our] own desires” (2Tim 4:3). And thus, adrift, having relinquished our moral authority, which the denomination possesses only when its laws and decisions are founded upon the revealed will of God (F-3.0107), we can no longer offer spiritual refuge to a lost and hurting world.
I do not understand why we so readily want to succumb to the secular culture of our day. And why appealing a case that is fraught with so much damage to our own souls is wasting the denomination’s money. Discipleship is a part of the calling of the Church and leading followers of Christ into holy lifestyles is a part of that calling.

This particular case is no small thing. At its depths lie all of the foundational truths of Christianity. Using the same argument the SPJC used, a high court of the denomination could cite several differing interpretations of the biblical truth that Jesus is God, bringing forward some heretical views that insist Jesus is not God, and say that any view is acceptable because differing scholars have differing views.

And that is so for all Christian doctrine such as the Trinity, Christ’s redemption, even the being of God. Just at this time, all biblical and confessional truths have counter views knocking at the door of the domination asking to be acknowledged. This case sets a precedent which if allowed to stand would be unbearable.

The case must be fought and won for the sake of the Church universal. When the PCUSA sinks inward before the hardness of its own baals, as it will if the appeal is not won, a very small corner of Christianity will be gone. And a candle that was meant to glow beautifully in the night warming the heart of the broken with the good news of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, will instead become a part of the night.


Doug Hagler said...

"I do not understand why we so readily want to succumb to the secular culture of our day."

I think the confusion comes because it is clearly unfathomable to you that a person might read scripture and disagree with you about homosexuality. Given that huge blind-spot, I'm not surprised that you don't understand. If I thought it was impossible for you to read scripture and disagree with me, I'd be pretty baffled too.

For the, I don't know, hundred trillionth time - this is not a question of whether we will hold to scripture or fall to the 'secular culture of the day'. It never has been. It never will be. As long as you characterize it that way, you will never understand, and you will never be able to communicate with those who disagree with you, much less be heard by them. By me.

Anonymous said...

Doug, I could believe what you contend if there were even one good BIBLICAL reason to support homosexual behavior. This whole subject has been argued from your side entirely with anecdotes, sociology, psychology, and politics, NOT with biblical theology. I am amazed that now, after the fact, you claim biblical authority for this devious deviation from God's truth.

There is not one "biblical" argument for homosexual behavior that can stand up against solid scholarship, such as the withering fire by Robert Gagnon. He can tell you not only one or two reasons why your contention is untrue and poor scholarship; he can usually give you a dozen or more, and each of his arguments alone OUGHT to make you fold your flimsy theological tent and go home from any more of that kind of biblical debate. But rather than effectively dispute Gagnon, you simply avoid him or attempt to ridicule him. But the biblical case for the permissibility of homosexual behavior simply doesn't hold water.

Better stick to teary stories and praise of being conformed to this world. That's your strength, not biblical arguments. Not biblical arguments at all!

Jim Berkley
Roslyn, WA

Anonymous said...


So any behavior for which there is no biblical support is to be forbidden?

Is the converse to be followed as well? If there is biblical support for a certain behavior, is it to be allowed?

Is this really the standard and measure you are proclaiming to live by?


Viola Larson said...

Jodie, you seem very confused. There is prohibition against homosexual practice in Scripture, there are no texts which allow it. That is why Jim can say what he says. But you are not allowed to post here again because of how you insult other people. So don't

Viola Larson said...

Doug it was pointed out at the Fellowship gathering that it isn't so much a question of the progressive side not using scripture but rather it is a matter of exegesis. Even Mark Achtemeier, who has in the past upheld Christology with such good biblical scholarship, uses his own experience to explain what the Bible has to say about homosexuality. Experience must not inform the text, but the text should shape our experience. When one uses experience with the text, the cultural norm of the day begins to be the scriptural norm.

Anonymous said...

I love it when self-described post-modernists lecture about the right and wrong way to characterize an issue.

It's kind of like when Christian Scientists take to the streets to demand better health care.

Bruce Byrne
Concord, Ca

Reformed Catholic said...

What I love about our Vice-Moderator's tweet

This is ridiculous. #ga219 and a majority of presbyteries have settled this. Quit wasting church money, please.

is complete ingenuousness in the way he posted it.

Can you imagine the howls from the liberals if someone had said that when the same type of overture kept showing up at the General Assemblies for 20 or so years.

Think of the protests that would occur if someone complained about the amount of money some Presbyteries spent on legal fees trying to keep the property of departing churches.

Or the uproar that would happen if someone tried to bring up the total lack of Stewardship that some Presbyteries did show after getting the property, then trying to prop a rump congregation, and eventually having to sell he property at a loss.

Yeah .. right. Move along, nothing to see here ..

chaplain jeff said...

Thank you Viola and Jim for your defense of the faith. I continue to be completely dumbfounded by comments such as those offered by Doug and Jodie. Emotional arguments are hardly ever rational, as exemplified by both responses. Yet the emotional argument is all that can be offered by those led the charge to defeat G 6.0106-b. Paul's words to Timothy could not be truer: "For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth..." (2 Timothy 4:3,4a)

Whit said...

This blog was linked just above Mark Achtemeier's sermon at the ordination of Scott Anderson. His sermon is totally devoid of any Scriptural argument for discarding the Biblical prohibitions against same-sex behaviors. It's just that he, and those who agree with him, "see something different" from Scripture. But Scripture is authority, not poetry - and must be read as such. If it can mean anything to anyone, it means nothing and cannot serve as authority.

So while it is a matter of exegesis, the difference in exegesis is so profound, and the differences in interpretation so broad, that in a way we are no longer reading the same Bible.

John McNeese said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John McNeese said...

Your comments  regularly indicate a  slavish devotion to right belief or orthodoxy which always comes at the expense of grace.  Common sense, reason, and intellectual advances have made many of these ancient texts about homosexuality unpalatable, especially young people. 

See the Barma  Group's  "You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church and Rethinking Faith," a new book by Barna president David Kinnaman. The project included a study of 1,296 young adults who were current or former Christians.

  The world has changed. Hurrah for Lisa and Scott.  

Viola Larson said...

all you are saying proves my point about how progressives are interpreting scripture and succumbing to the culture.

Anonymous said...

After reading this post, I sent a reply to Landon Whitsitt via Twitter. I said, "Gee whiz, where has your wisdom been during the previous votes on this matter? Thought we had it settled, too. Look it up!"

He replied that I was using an ad hominem attack, and that it was not very helpful to advance the discussion.

Truthfully, I didn't intend a personal attack. I just pointed out the irony of how now, according to some, it is all settled. The vote at GA did it. Why talk further?

I further tweeted that we have some distance to go in figuring out what "to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life" will look like in the life of our church.

Rev. Whitsitt really believes the matter has been "clearly" settled in the PCUSA. The 10-A vote proved it!

Ah, if GA decisions really did settle the matter then the last 30+ years of flagrant disobedience to our standards and the divisive GA re-votes would never have happened!

Sincerely Frustrated,
Rev. Cameron Smith
Salem, VA

Viola Larson said...

Oh my, Rev. Cameron Smith- I just went over and looked and this by LW-
"I know I did. My point is that the line has now clearly shifted and this case is someone whining because they don't like it."

What an attitude by someone who is suppose to be the VM for everyone. I'm frustrated too.

Debbie said...

I was thinking the same as you, Cameron. Why, when several GA's and presbytery votes went in favor of retaining G-60106a, wasn't it settled then? Why weren't the new overtures trying to again remove it, after those votes, in past years a waste of money? Whitsitt is either stupid or duplicitous not to see that.

Debbie Berkley
Bellevue, WA

Debbie said...

I meant b, not a.

Viola Larson said...

John McNeese,
I have been thinking about this comment you made,
"Your comments regularly indicate a slavish devotion to right belief or orthodoxy which always comes at the expense of grace.'

If it is about grace, and it is, it must never be about cheap grace. Allowing someone to sin with out saying this is not the way Christ calls you to live since he has redeemed you is cheap grace. Cheap grace cares little for the souls neither of others nor for the body of Christ. Christ died for sinners not so that we could stay locked into our habitual sin, but so that we might be released from our bondage.

Remember the woman taken in
adultery. Christ forgave her and told her to go and sin no more. But if you think about it the story is larger than that. The man is not there, he too was an adulterer. If he could have been led to Christ he might have also been forgiven and changed.

Viola Larson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Viola Larson said...

Debbie and others I am trying hard not to call anyone names. That wasn't my purpose. But going further than that I think Whitsitt is heading off the wrong direction. After all this case isn't about changing standards but clarifying standards.

There is nothing in the new Book of Order that says there are to be no sexuality standards; there is nothing there at all. And the candidates still have to uphold the confessions and the Book of Order as well as Scripture. The appeal is about clarifying that which the SPJC did not do. Their only rule was if there is disagreement anything is okay. What Whitsitt is saying has nothing to do with the subject.

I invite correction if I am wrong, but this is how I see the appeal.

Craig said...

So when a presbytery continues to appeal or sues in another jurisdiction it seems as though they should just accept the descision made by the court and stop wasting money.

Anonymous said...


I expressed my own reservations about pursuing this case because of my belief that the GAPJC is incapable of rendering a clear, Biblically-based decision.

Having said that, I am naive enough to expect that someone in a position of leadership in this denomination, including the GA Vice Moderator, might avoid making partisan statements on an issue in litigation. Oh well.

John Erthein
DeFuniak Springs, FL

Jodie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Debbie said...

You're right, I used kind of strong language about Whitsitt, and should have been kinder.

Debbie Berkley
Bellevue, WA

Todd Bensel said...

Just a short comment - Paul wrote that we are to commit the truth to faithful people who are able to each others also. He did not say that we are to appoint, elect, ordain, or install our cronies, cohorts, or comrades with the same idealogical viewpoint. This diminishing brand of Presbyterianism is completely disobedient to that exhortation, otherwise we would not have an LW in the position that he is!

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Berkley

None of us who have read your, or your husbands, writings, expect you to sound or to be kind. This is not a problem. We are long ago used to it.

Indeed, the tone you both use, and the lack of ability to listen to those with whom you disagree with, as well as inability to show respect for others, on both your parts has been of unimagionable usefullness to those of us who disagree with you as we have quoted them in debate after debate, and presbytery vote after presbytery vote.

Just an honest assessment. No need to shoot the messenger. Although, I have found that when Mrs. Larson is presented with facts she does not like, she proclaims the person with the audacity to say the unliked thing "rude", and asks them not to post here again, and the post disappears or such.

Well, it is her blog afterall. Yet, the lack of willingness to endure painful truths and just declare the speaker "out of line" says so, so much.

Gene in Atlanta (I am not registered on any of these sites, and I DO fully respect Mrs. Larsons requirement that we each identify ourselves. Only fair I must agree)

Viola Larson said...

Anonymous ... I must say you are making no sense at all- "Gene in Atlanta (I am not registered on any of these sites, and I DO fully respect Mrs. Larsons requirement that we each identify ourselves. Only fair I must agree)" ??

Anonymous said...

Hello Mrs. Larson.

I signed off with my name (Gene) and my location (Atlanta) as you have in the past said we should all do. I don't have a google account (or ID, or whatever it would be called) and open ID, webpage, etc. I was just trying to follow your rules (which seem sensible enough, and it is your page in any case, so you can set such rules, sensible or not) and identify myself in my comment. I made it in reference to Mrs. Berkley, who had made a comment earlier that she should have been kinder in her choice of words.

An observation that a LOT of people had come to a long, long time ago.

Viola Larson said...

Gene, I misunderstood. I thought the person who wrote the comment, who appears to be you: ), was instead addressing you.