Monday, November 7, 2011

The Presbyterian dilemma for the orthodox

Yes this post is about sexuality and it intentionally addresses LGBT issues. So what is the dilemma? The Christian is called to several ministry tasks. Among the tasks are bringing good news of healing to the broken, equipping the saints for ministry and keeping the wolves away from the sheep. But too many times the hurting are the wolves and the wolves are wolves because they are hurting. Carefully, one must walk in ministry to all.

This dilemma confronted me recently as I was reading a news articles on Presbyterian News. The article, “Great Ministry Practices: Using social media to broaden the reach of traditional ministries,” features several women in leadership who are using social media, blogging and Facebook to connect others in fellowship and ministry. The article provided links which I followed out of interest, after all I blog, I use Facebook and I am a member of Presbyterian Women’s All Women in the Church.

But one of the links I followed, and followed further, left me troubled. Part of the original article referred to two pastors who both blog and have created a Facebook page for those women who for various reasons cannot meet in the conventional circles of Presbyterian Women. The group is “Presbyterian Women Interest Group.” It is a private group. One of the pastors who started it, Katie Mulligan, has several blogs, and exploring I found this, “Inside/Outed:Mother/Pastor/Queer/Me.”

For October, Mulligan mostly wrote on intimate violence and she did a good job. She suffered as a child from sexual abuse and she has first-hand knowledge of her subject, plus she is a winsome and interesting writer. But then the dilemma, she is also a pastor; she oversees sheep, who can themselves be hurt. And she writes on her blog, Letters From Inside Out,  that in taking her vows of ordination she could not tell the truth. (Well she didn’t quite put it that way, but she didn't tell the truth.)

And then when writing of marriage and the push for same gender marriage, I'm Queer, I'm Here, and other such things, she writes, “There's a lot of folks seeking equality (however one measures that), and I'm glad the folks who want to marry are getting their chance. But that's not my goal. Part of the fun (yes, FUN) of claiming a queer identity is setting myself at odds with normative structures in this world.” Still, despite her desire to not confine her sexual practices to marriage she does offer to help those seeking same gender marriages.

So here is a woman who has found a way to defend herself against the past events which broke her body and soul; that is by defying “normative structures” in the world. I should add in the Church as well! But who will protect the sheep? Not the PC (U.S.A.) as an institution. And who will help her, out of love, learn of the transforming good news of Jesus Christ? Not the PC (U.S.A.) as an institution.

In fact the trajectory is going the other way. Another Presbyterian pastor, Adam J. Copeland, has written new curriculum for The Thoughtful , an ecumenical site hosted by the PC (U.S.A.). The curriculum is entitled, “Same Sex Marriage: for Better or for Worse?” It is written for youth and comes with multiple perspectives according to the question Copeland asks in his blurb, “Are you looking for a way to discuss same-sex marriage with youth, a way that gives credence to multiple perspectives and acknowledges that (no matter your personal view) Christians read the Bible in different ways?”

This is truly our dilemma. It is our nightmare and disaster. We are encouraging the sinner, not helping them. All of our sins will eventually multiply a thousand times over. All the hurt will come back to plague the already hurting.

So what must the orthodox do? Simply this. Learn to die the death that Christ calls the Christian to. “He who has found his life will lose it, and he has lost his life for my sake will find it (Matt 10:38). Learn to die for the sake of Christ so that others may find forgiveness, transformation and real love in Jesus. We cannot be afraid to say-“that is sin,” or “You need the transforming power of Jesus Christ,” or “You are causing the ones Christ died for to be hurt by your careless handling of sinful issues.”

The sinner who leads others astray needs to be admonished, but the same one needs to be enfolded as much as possible into the love of Jesus.


Anonymous said...


I am constantly offered the explanation that "there are different interpretations" as if that closes the matter. I explain that there may indeed be, but not all are admissible. We have devolved into a "my truth/your truth" mode that says in essence that there is none. That is the tide against which we must stand firm! John Kerr, Jacksonville, NC

Anonymous said...

"The Christian is called to several ministry tasks. Among the tasks are bringing good news of healing to the broken, equipping the saints for ministry and keeping the wolves away from the sheep."

I don't remember keeping wolves away from sheep being one of them, see Mat 10:16, but I would add the oldest:

"you shall be a blessing;
... in you all the families of the earth will be blessed" Gen 12:2-3

Anonymous said...

If you were really an orthodox Christian you would leave the PCUSA. Did not the Apostle Paul teach that we should flee sexual immorality and have nothing to do with the brother / sister who insists on continuing in sexual sin.

Viola Larson said...

John I believe the real difference in interpretation is that one begins from human experience and places that over the text. The other allows the text to make a judgment on our experience. The first places humanity above God. That is wrong. Yes, we must stand firm.

Pastor Dennis said...

The imagery of the Bible agrees with you about wolves, and you are graciously more than charitable toward them. I love your advice at the end to the orthodox. And sometimes I wonder, as a pastor who seeks to be always orthodox and follow the traditional patterns of the Chritian life, whether I do not sometimes wound the people within my flock, and how far will the ripples roll? There we also have to die with Christ and rise.

smw said...

What is with the sneering and implications of misdeeds? You could have done this as simply admiring women of faith. You could have simply mentioned the disagreements between the orthodox and the more liberal members of the faith.
This type of indirect attack leaves a bad taste in my mouth...somehow it makes me doubt the faith and veracity of the author rather than that of the person being highlited.

Viola Larson said...

And I don't know if you (2 & 3)are the same person or not. About wolves- when Paul tells the Ephesians goodbye he warns them that wolves would arise among themselves and then he writes: "Therefore be on the alert remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears." (Acts 20:31)

And in fact much of the N.T. letters were written as a means of protecting the sheep from wolves. The pseudo-Gnostics in 1 John, the circumcise party in Galatians, the practitioners’ of sensuality in Jude. It never ends. But it will someday.
I take the blessing in Genesis to be for the Jews as they would bless all of us with our Savior. But perhaps it could be expanded.
As for the other comment, when God says go I will go. And I believe there are many in the PCUSA who need conversion.
Please leave your name, city and state.

Viola Larson said...

Yes Dennis, I worry about wounding and waited and prayed before writing this posting.

Viola Larson said...

Sorry about your bad taste SMW, but I wasn't writing about women of faith, I was writing about a dilemma that the orthodox in the PCUSA face. It calls for both love and courage to tell the truth.

Next time you post please leave your full name, city and state.

John McNeese said...


From reading this posting, it seems to me that two of the traits shared by the orthodox are as follows:

A preoccupation with with sin, mostly the sins of others, and always sexual sins.

A willingness, or is it a lust, to point out the wolves among us who do not measure up to your version of the truth delivered to us in the scriptures.

Please consider this an admonishment, knowing that you are "enfolded as much as possible into the love of Jesus."  

Viola Larson said...

John McNeese,
In the N.T. when the followers of Jesus were being attacked over certain issues that is where the writers of the epistles focused their letters. Sexual sin is that area today and from that position all other important doctrines such as the authority of Scripture are being attacked. The orthodox did not pick the issue the progressive side did. As a case in point some of you never comment on my postings unless I write about LGBT issues.

John McNeese said...

I do post on other issues, Viola. Palestine / Israel cones to mind, for one. You are wrong on that too.

And yes, it is all our fault that the orthodox must confront those uncomfortable, not to mention embarrassing and messy issues like homosexuality.

Viola Larson said...

Yes John, you do have two issues- but I post on many issues and put up some good music sometimes too: )

Jodie said...
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John McNeese said...

Yes you do, Viola. I particularly liked the Ruwe Stormen video you posted awhile back. I liked stories about your daughter's ceramics, son-in law's theater experience and your husband's piano tuning work. (This is from memory, I hope I got that right). My differences with you are theological.

Viola Larson said...

You got it all right except it is my granddaughter not my daughter who is the artist. And my grand-son-in-law, her husband who is the actor. I am glad you liked those posts.

Jodie said...
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