Tuesday, June 18, 2013

How shall we name sin: an exchange between the Covenant Network & Dr. Walter L. Taylor

Dr. Walter L. Taylor, pastor at Oak Island PresbyterianChurch, North Carolina, wrote a comment on the Covenant Network of Presbyterians site concerning their article, “A Man and a Woman”:  A Look at the Presbyterian Confessions in Context.” That is the article I wrote about in, “A Man and a Woman”: are the words important to the Confessions.” Taylor’s comment was:
“So, since you are saying that the man-woman basis of marriage is no longer required, what about number? You have not addressed that, which it seems to me is directly connected to the man-woman union. So, are you advocating polygamy now, because you have just destroyed any basis not to? This is sophistry that is blasphemy as well.”

Rather than allow Taylor’s comment to be posted Rev. Brian Ellison, Executive Director of the Covenant Network, sent him this message:

“Mr. Taylor,
We received your comment in response to "A Confessional Affirmation on Christian Marriage" by Dr. Kenneth Cuthbertson. I'm writing to explain why we will not be posting it.
For one thing, we strive to post only thoughtful, well-reasoned comments,  that are appropriate responses to the article posted. While Rev. Cuthbertson's original post addresses gender and marriage, you do not. You do not explain how supporting marital rights for two people who love each other regardless of gender has anything to do with polygamy. (This, of course, is because it has nothing to do with polygamy.)

Second, we do not post remarks that are offensive. Connecting LGBTQ persons' making of covenantal, loving commitments to one another with the practice of polygamy is, as you are surely aware, patently offensive to many of your sisters and brothers in Christ. While invoking this fear-filled idea is all too common when these serious issues are being debated, and while the Old Testament may bless and even instruct polygamy in many cases, legal or ecclesiastical recognition of polygamous marriages has not been suggested by any LGBTQ advocates I know. We wish to save you from the public embarrassment of causing offense to your sisters and brothers in this manner as a result of your comments being posted at our website.
Thirdly, and finally, we ordinarily do not publish comments that have already been posted on another website. I noted that you have already posted your comments on the blog known as "Naming His Grace"; the audience they receive there will have to be sufficient.

I hope this is helpful as you consider submitting other comments to our website in the future. We would be glad to include your voice when appropriate.

The Rev. Brian D. Ellison, Executive Director
Covenant Network of Presbyterians
3210 Michigan Ave., Suite 300
Kansas City, MO 64109
816.605.1031 office

Taylor has responded to Ellison’s e-mail with this:
Mr. Ellison,

I posted my remarks on Naming His Grace because I anticipated the response that you provided me. For all the talk that folks on your side of these issues make, I have not experienced you all as gracious or open to serious dialogue. What I have found is a grab for power. I have found it intriguing how folks like yourself scream for all voices to be included, and yet then in the name of that same inclusion exclude orthodox Christians. You have met my expectations. It has shown many of us what the PC(USA) will become at the hands of people like the leadership of the Covenant Network, a tight, narrow, leftwing denomination, committed more to the sexual revolution than to anything resembling the Reformed faith.

As for the issue you refuse to address, there is a profound connection between marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and the number of people involved in a marital union. The fact that marriage is for two people is directly connected to the fact that marriage is the union of one man plus one woman, hence, 1+1=2. To redefine the former is to undermine the second. To advocate the redefinition of marriage, and yet still cling to the age-old requirement of limiting it to two people is nothing but an arbitrary use of power on your part.
Furthermore, your comment polygamous marriage has not been suggested by any LGBTQ advocates you know is laughable. In many places, those who are advocating same-sex marriage are also crossing the frontier of advocating polyamorous relationships, even within the so-called mainline Protestant world. That you will not face up to this strikes me as downright dishonest.

Finally, I honestly think that you are afraid to publish my remarks because you know that I have a point that you simply do not want to deal with.



Chuck Baily said...

This exchange was somewhat helpful. However, we need to do better. These gentlemen are smart men and I appreciate the fact that they aren't just sitting on the sidelines like many in our churches. But we have to move beyond the typical left / right method of "dialogue" that we see played out almost daily by our politicians.
Ideally, I'd like these two gentlemen to call each other on the phone and first have a conversation. Part of their agenda needs to be listening to each other and asking good questions that demonstrate a desire to learn something more about the other’s opinions. Part needs to include prayer. And part should be some conversation on how they can better frame their own questions and their positions in a way that demonstrates more love and respect.
They won't end up agreeing on the ordination issue or even the issue of sin. But I hope both can recognize that their opinions are grounded in their convictions about the way we need to be living as obedient Christians. I think we all could learn from them if they start over and allow us to watch. If they aren't able, perhaps some other readers can step in and give it a shot.
It's just that these men now have an opportunity (and a platform here) to demonstrate a better model that will serve us all, as well as Christ and His church.
This is one of the key issues that the entire globe is going to continue to wrestle with over the next few decades. We have an important historical heritage and legacy in the PCUSA that has mostly been lost. Yet we all still aspire individually and collectively to be Christ's ambassadors and ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5).
If we begin to better model the Spirit of Christ himself in our methods, God might just use the gay issue to give us and our congregations a unique opportunity to do just that. Let's commit to this and encourage our colleagues to do the same.
No, in the end many of us won’t have changed our convictions. I am not asking for some kind of compromise there, but instead a “compromise” on our methods and our attitudes toward one another. Guided by love as expressed by Jesus in John 17:26, and by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, we at least can make this debate part of our witness to our peers, our kids, our grandkids, and a watching world. And aren't we all getting pretty weary of the other way?

Viola Larson said...

Thank you for a comment where you thought a great deal about what really should be said between those who disagree. But I want to push back a little on your comment.

Taylor wasn't, at first, commenting on what Ellison said, but on what Cuthbertson wrote and the Covenant Network posted. Taylor wanted to give a public response to a public posting. (And by the way it isn’t about ordination but same sex marriage.)

And this isn't just a right/left political dialogue, it is a matter that is tearing the church apart-because it concerns the faith of the church universal. Human lives and their value are at stake here because the authority of scripture, the transformation of persons and the promises of God are at stake. That is the promise that God forgives and makes new the repentant and forgiven sinner.

While I believe that good dialogue is important what we really need models of are those who will uphold the good news of the Bible, that Jesus lived, died and was resurrected that we might have a new life in him.

Anonymous said...

Dr Taylors comments were offensive and rude due to the nature of the comparison he made.

when he learns to ask serious questions and not insult and bait others, then they will post his questions.

his question was not relevant to the discussion at hand, but a "slipper slop" non argument, and it was right and appropriate for the covenant network not to post it.

You make some excellent points Mr. Baily, but for discussion to happen, honest and decent questions must be asked as a start. Mr. Taylor opened with an insult, and that is never a way for a discussion to begin, and it never will be.

As per the sad argument that some GLBT people are "pushing for polygamy", well a few conservatives are pushing for criminalization of GLBT people, and even exclusion of them from their denominations, but it is as unfair to say these people represent most conservatives in the PCUSA as it is to say the outliers on the extreme represent the vast majority of those in the PCUSA who are gay welcoming and affirming.

In brief, don't insult us, and you will find we are happy to talk to you. Just common sense.


Viola Larson said...

Taylor is making a comparison between the basis for marriage, not between sins-that is not between same gender marriage and polygamy. He is suggesting that if gender difference between marriage partners does not count numbers might not either. He is doing this because Cuthbertson has attempted to totally dissolve the reference to man & woman in the confessions, as through they have no purpose at all.

Anonymous said...

I understand that Mrs Larson.

But, again, as it was pointed out, the very question is 1) one, a straw man, for no one is suggesting it but conservatives trying to conflate the issues 2) very (hugely) offensive to the vast, vast majority GLBT Presbyterians and other Christians. It reminds me of an atheist I once saw, after having the catholic concept of communion (real presence) explained to him, then ask "then, is there a chance you would substitute some other humans flesh for the communion wafer before you serve it?"

At best, he was being disrespectful (out of ignorance or anti catholic malice) and at worst he was just being hurtful.

When polygamy, polyory and yes (sigh) worse pairings (I cannot bring myself to even write them) are used with the "but if this then why not...." straw man arguments are brought up, we are right to be insulted.

Mr Taylor should ask questions about the issue at hand. I am sure he will get an honest response. It was by such honest conversations, and real world experience of the lives and faith and theology that a majority of voters in presbyteries had their minds changed during the last vote after all. Conversations are wanted, even needed. When enough people talk, change and understanding happens. We have seen this in the PCUSA, many other denominations and congregations even in otherwise theologically conservative denominations. Even in groups like the now disbanding Exodus International.

But, conversations among Christians (or anyone) cannot happen if the opening question is an unrelated and "loaded" one. Chuck was right about the need for civility. But conservatives (and sometimes progressives) need to realize that some of their very questions are insulting and hurtful, and also to realize that some of the assumptions they take for granted are not shared, or even the dominant theological understandings now. Once that is understood, both sides can talk and hopefully learn how to share the Church in the most effective and pleasing to God manner. That is what is most important, after all.


Baiting and insulting questions, are not.

Viola Larson said...

Gene I know all of your complaints, but it doesn't change the fact that if "a man & woman" are deleted as the definition of marriage, for the sake of "rights" all doors are open no matter who is for or against various combinations.

Saying that is simply telling the truth. And by the way I would like to have the last response on this posting.

Anonymous said...

I thought that the above remark is very interesting: "But conservatives (and sometimes progressives) need to realize that some of their very questions are insulting and hurtful, and also to realize that some of the assumptions they take for granted are not shared, or even the dominant theological understandings now."

Perhaps the Covenant Network needs to put out a list of questions that conservatives are allowed to ask, in their brave new world...

This is just one more step to the denominational censorship they desire. It seems to me that he refuses to deal with the question I asked because it is too uncomfortable for him, hits too close to home for the GLBTQQIA agenda, and not very "politic" at present, to deal with it. He "doth protest too much."

Walter L. Taylor

Viola Larson said...

This is a link John Erthein placed on my Facebook site confirming your thoughts Walter.

Anonymous said...

Oh, common.

It's the "have you stopped beating your wife?" type questions that everybody keeps asking that are so offensive.

It's not censorship to to say they are inflammatory questions.

How can the Church be a proper witness to Jesus Christ when it can't show even the minimum diplomatic civility to its own kind?

Anonymous said...

the last "anonymous" posting was not from me (but he is quite correct in what he says).

Mrs. Larson, you make reference an article on your facebook someone wrote about pleural marriage.

I am not on facebook (never will be) but, what is your point? Was the author even a Presbyterian? Even if they were, who did they claim to speak for? I wrote in my earlier post that there are people on the extremes who should not be seen (if looking fairly) as representative.

I wont quite Gary DeMar, the freaky dominionist Presbyterian (albeit only PCA, but still proudly holding the Presbyterian name) elder who has called for a legal system in which GLBT people face the Death Penalty (!) and say he represents most conservatives or the mainstream of conservative thought, for that would be an unfair disparagement of conservatives, most of whom would never think such vile viciousness. It is only fair to ask you not to quote someone calling for pleural marriage and imply it somehow represents the progressives in the PCUSA or anyone I know in the Covenant Network.

Mr. Taylor, there is no need to ask the Covenant network for such a list. Just use this rule of thumb; If I said it at the office, would my HR officer "ask me in for a talk" afterwards? If I said it to a fellow solder and a superior officer heard me, would I get in trouble? Would I say it in polite society and be shocked if I offended? And lastly, how does my question help the discussion and is it relevant, or just a fear based "if that happens what prevents...non related issue? Will it be seen as loving and sincere, or as a "bait" question?

The gentlemen at the Covenant Network correctly saw it as insulting. If, after you read this, you really don't understand me, or why he did, find someone in your congregation or circle of associates who works in HR or a similar field, and they will tell you I (nor the man at the Covenant Network) are being overly sensitive.

There are some things that must be discussed in a certain way that in all honesty probably would not have been the case 30 years ago, but will be going forward (not temporarily) and some things that now are just beyond the pale, and it is not 'avioding' to refuse to address them. As the earlier poster said, it's was a "when did you stop beating your wife" sort of question. simple as that.


Viola Larson said...

Another aspect of this that no was is considering was pushed in an article by More Light Presbyterians at http://www.mlp.org/2013/05/24/in-laws-and-out-laws/ The author Donna Riley is pushing for the rights for unmarried couples She writes, among other things:

"When Massachusetts legalized same-gender marriage nine years ago, feminist Jewish theologian Judith Plaskow and her partner Martha Ackelsberg clearly articulated the justice issues at stake in their decision not to be married after being together for two (now nearly three) decades. Are we a movement that values all families, as our bumper stickers once said, or do we only value legally married ones? This question is pertinent to the LGBT movement as a whole, but especially important in our More Light movement as we work out the role of the Church in changing marriage and family life.

That paragraph is loaded with all kinds of issues that will destroy marriage and this is by a Presbyterian organization that advocates for same sex marriage and that is a big group of LGBTQ people.

Presbyman said...

Andrew Sullivan, not a fringe figure (or at least he wasn't before his bout of "Trig Trutherism) also advocated for "open marriages" in his book "Virtually Normal," written way back in 1996. He complained that the traditional model of marriage, limited to two people, was too constraining, and that our larger society could benefit from a different model. For Sullivan, at least, the goal was not for gays to be married as heterosexuals are married, but to transform society's understanding of marriage.

John Erthein
DeFuniak Springs, FL

Viola Larson said...

Yes, and I have to say that that last line by Riley, " This question is pertinent to the LGBT movement as a whole, but especially important in our More Light movement as we work out the role of the Church in changing marriage and family life," is unbelievable. The More Light people will work out the role of the church in changing marriage and family life.

What arrogance! And what a misunderstanding of what the Church is and who the Lord of the Church is. I tremble for those who treat the Church or the Lord in this manner.

Polygamy, fornication, same sex marriage-how sad for our society and what a morass the true church in the West must now live within.

Anonymous said...

Andrew Sullivan is as fringy as it gets. He is a writer of books and intentionally makes controversial statements that get attention. And sell books.

He is no Presbyterian, and MOST certainly does not represent the Covenant Network or the vase majority of its members or Presbyterians who support gay rights and marriage equality.

The comparison to Gary DeMar and extremist conservatives stands. He is a single Presbyterian with a viewpoint. He writes a lot. So is the feminist woman you quoted Mrs. Larson. Neither speaks for the majority of their fellows in their respective movements.

If you note, after reading her artice, I see that she asked "Can we...?" "will we..?" in reference to recognizing the rights of unmarried couples in her article. As far I am aware, no one has been beating a path to her door to say "yeah, we can". Not on anyone's radar any more than even the PCA is picking up on DeMars nastiness.

In any case, there was no reason for Mr. Taylor to be insulting, which he was.

As "anonymous" pointed out, don't ask a "bait" question, and you will get a conversation. Ask one, you will get the response he got.

Among all people, but one would especially hope among Presbyterians discussing among themselves, a little manners and decency can go a long way after all.

We are talking about marriage equality for the many gay and lesbian couples in the PCUSA. Asking about other issues is just a ruse to conflate unpopular (and un proposed in any serious way, save by a few gad flys like Sullivan) and hurt out cause, which, of course, we are fully aware of.


Viola Larson said...


Riley is a writer for MLP-they write this about her:

A life-long Presbyterian, ordained deacon, and bisexual woman, Donna Riley served as the first webspinner for Presbyterians for Lesbian and Gay Concerns starting in 1995, as a member of the national boards of PLGC and MLP from 1997-2005, and as Co-Moderator of MLP from 2003-2005. She has been a member of Sixth Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh, PA, Jan Hus Presbyterian Church in New York City, and Treasurer of the Western Massachusetts House Church. Since 2001 her day job has been teaching engineering at Smith College, the first US women’s college to house an engineering program. She will be spending the next year in Washington DC and looks forward to reconnecting with the Open Doors chapter and More Light churches in the area."

Are you saying that MLP is a minor movement among the LGBT community and more radical? And also Open Doors and Jan Hus Presbyterian Church etc.?

Anonymous said...

I had read that also. I have met her in fact.

I am pointing out that she has her opinions, and they are not the official policy of the MLP, and that while I value her and her input/writings, she is an outlier, and her QUESTIONS ( capitalized to point out she is asking will the MLP do a thing..a thing they have shown no indication of doing) is not the same as saying that is the majority opinion, much less policy, and most certainly no more fair to bring up during the discussion of how the PCUSA will recognize the marriages of its members who are gay or lesbian than it is to bring up some of the more outlandish comments made by Gagnon to discredit a reasonable conservative argument (a thing I have seen done over and over I should add, quite effectively, but that's beside the point).

she has an opinion. she writes for the MLP. It was a "could we perhaps..?". NO one is saying yes, and you are acting like this is some massive movement among progressive Presbyterians for polygamy and non married couples rights.

It's not an accurate depiction of the MLP, I am merely pointing that out, as well as, once again, reminding Mr. Taylor that if discussion seldom starts with an insult or conflation of two issues in an attempt to discredit one of them.


Viola Larson said...

As usual you are repeating your self. You have answered my question and it is your opinion which you certainly have a right to.

C0-moderator and now writer for MLP, that is hardly a minor position. Anyway, I believe this is as far as the conversation should go and I am closing it.