Friday, March 9, 2012

Protected by 'powerful people' or the keeping power of Christ?

In some whys one could correctly say that some progressives in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have conspired to undo the biblical standards that Presbyterians held for most of their history. I have mentioned before how in my own presbytery the head of a commission sent to find out why two gay elders had been ordained in one church (before 10-A was passed) made fun of an evangelical teaching elder when he complained that they did nothing about the problem. But certainly a remark by a gay teaching elder in another presbytery points to the same problem. The Rev. Brett Webb-Mitchell wrote in his article Out and Ordained:

The reason no formal complaint was brought against me was because I was part of a Presbytery where powerful people protected me as an out gay pastor. There was an informal "underground railroad," where those in authority shielded us from prosecution but could not assure us employment.
There are conspiracy theories and then there are conspiracies. The first has to do with worldwide movements consisting of several hundred years and consist of fraudulent details and nameless people. They do not lead one to repentance but rather to suspicion and even hatred. The second has to do with real conspiracies confined to no more than a few years or less. It is usually possible to name the people and seek both confession and repentance. And looking at the biblical examples, where there is no repentance, there is often, eventually, God’s judgment.

Some biblical examples are Ahab and Jezebel conspiring against Naboth in order to gain his vineyard. Their plot ended in Naboth’s murder but also eventually in their own judgment. Another conspiracy was Rebecca and her son Jacob conspiring against Isaac (the father of Jacob and husband of Rebecca) to gain the family blessing for Jacob. It is a long story with a great deal of sorrow, but it finally ends with some reconciliation and redemption. There is also, in the book of Acts, the forty Jewish men who bound themselves to an oath, plotting to kill Paul. God protected him. And then there is Judas conspiring to betray Jesus. God’s will was accomplished.

But is there more? That is, do the schemes deepen? Webb-Mitchell writes:
In order to become more inclusive, there are many "next steps" to be taken in righting past wrongs. For example, as more states permit LGBTQ people to wed, churches will need to craft a theology of marriage that includes LGBTQ congregants. As ordained religious leaders, our health-care and retirement benefits will need to be inclusive of our families. In order that LGBTQ clergy will never be discriminated again in the Church, denominations will need to include LGBTQ people among those who are represented and protected as a minority group.
And where do orthodox believers stand in all of this—how will they face tomorrow? Should we be angry, in despair or fearful? When Jesus tells Peter that his Church will be built on the rock of Peter’s confession and that the gates of hell (Hades) would not overpower it (Matthew 16:18)-he was not referring to physical enemies, not even to Satan in particular but to death. The Church, the true Church, will not die. As R.T. France puts it, “To say that the powers of death (so RSV, correctly) shall not prevail against the community is thus to say that it will not die, and be shut in by the ‘gates of death.’ The Church is forever and our place in the hands of the Father will continue on ceaselessly. (John 10:25-30)

Clothed with the righteousness of Christ, loved by Father, Son and Holy Spirit we can love those who conspire and even bully their way into power. Strengthened by the word of God written and the living Word of God we can go on proclaiming, teaching, praying and serving. God has given a tremendous calling to his people.

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