Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Friday, April 11, 2008

So Long, Rev. Scott

Toby Brown posted an audio sermon by Elliot Scott, the minister of Heritage Presbyterian Church in Houston. The sermon is a conversation he has with his congregation as they move to another denomination. The PC(USA) isn't holy enough, so they want to switch to a fundamentalist one, the EPC.

Of course, they feel they are persecuted as the presbytery is not allowing them to take the church building with them for free.

This is really none of my business. The presbytery and this congregation will work it out one way or another. I thought I would comment since on his website is a sermon "Choices" that mentions me. Here is that part:


At First Presbyterian Church in Elizabethton, Tennessee John Shuck preaches his version of the faith. Here are some quotes taken from his own writings which you can find for yourself online:
“Conceiving of God as a personal being has become increasingly problematic. We may imagine God in personal terms in prayer, worship, or poetry, but even there the language we use does not fit the reality we see.” (“God as Creativity”, John Shuck, May 9, 2007 Available online at
http://shuckandjive.blogspot.com/2007/05/god-as-creativity.html )

“The preacher can no longer assume that just because a text is in the Bible that it is from God or is even valuable.” (“The Bible: Word of God?”, John Shuck, February 17, 2007 on Shuck and Jive, available online at http://shuckandjive.blogspot.com/2007/02/bible-word-of-god.html)

On Jesus’ resurrection of the dead he writes, “The resurrection of Christ to me is not about heaven in the sky when you die. It is not about believing in a resuscitated corpse. It is also not merely a metaphor, symbol, or subjective vision. To see the resurrected Jesus or the cosmic Christ is to glimpse in a person the summit of consciousness to which we are ascending.” In other words the resurrection is not something that happened to Jesus’ body. What does Pastor Shuck say happened to Jesus’ body? “I believe the remains of the historical Jesus decayed alike all human remains decay” (“What If We Found the Body of Jesus”, John Shuck, April 8, 2007 Available online at http://www.1stpreseliz.org/whatifwefoundbody.pdf )

So we have a pastor who denies that God is a person, denies the trustworthiness of the Scriptures, denies the bodily resurrection of Jesus. (There are plenty of other things in his writings that are problematic but we’ve only got so much time and you can go online and read them for yourselves.) Why are ministers like this allowed to remain leaders and teachers of churches? Someone wrote to the Executive Presbyter in John Shuck’s presbytery to express concern and this was the email response:

“John has appropriately and Constitutionally been examined by the Committee on Ministry, approved for membership in Holston Presbytery, and John has affirmed the Constitutional Questions required of ordination. I am not aware that John has acted contrary to Scripture or the Constitution of the PCUSA.” (Richard L Fifield, email available online at
http://grkndeacon.blogspot.com/2007/05/correspondence-on-discipline-and.html)

You see? The Book of Confessions is only a guide. No one has to subscribe to all of it. We handed out the resource a few weeks ago, the little blue sheet called the “Basics of Belief” that gave you a summary of differences between the PCUSA and the New Wineskins. Under the question “Who Is Jesus?” it says that the PCUSA answer is unclear. It also says that the PCUSA’s position on the authority of Scripture is unclear. And the presbytery sent a letter to you saying, “But our creeds and confessions in the Book of Confessions are clear about these issues.”

Yes, the Book of Confessions is clear, but no one has to subscribe to all the creeds and confessions. But there are plenty of people preaching in our pulpits, teaching in our seminaries, and administering on the staff of upper judicatories who don’t. There is no simple list of beliefs, no essential tenets of faith that we must subscribe to in order to serve as leaders. So it is quite fair to say that the PCUSA is unclear.

Why can’t the PCUSA have some essentials of the faith that are necessary in order to teach and lead in our denomination?


Here is the deal. A fundamentalist preacher somehow gets ordained in the PC(USA). Not hard to imagine, really. We are a denomination that does include the fundamentalists. But, because the denomination also includes those of us who embrace historical-critical scholarship, science, and Reformed Theology ("reformed and always being reformed"), he decides that he can't possibly be in the same denomination that would allow the likes of me (and others with whom he doesn't agree).

As far as I am concerned, he can preach his fundamentalism. He reaches people I do not. But the reverse is not true. He cannot accept that I may reach people he does not. Since the denomination doesn't boot me out, he feels persecuted. And he cries because the evil presbytery is looking out for the interests of the PC(USA) and its collective witness and ministry rather than his fundamentalist prejudices.

Rev. Scott asks:


Why can’t the PCUSA have some essentials of the faith that are necessary in order to teach and lead in our denomination?


Because the PC(USA) is not fundamentalist, that's why! We settled that in the 1920s!

So long, Rev. Scott. Godspeed.


68 comments:

  1. As far as I am concerned, he can preach his fundamentalism. He reaches people I do not. But the reverse is not true. He cannot accept that I may reach people he does not.

    Yes, there you have it. This is the contrast between the intolerance of certain people and the tolerance of others. Whereas the one group is willing to share their denomination with others of different perspectives, the other group is not.

    I think it is amazing that this guy devoted a huge chunk of a sermon towards tearing down another pastor in his denomination. This is what he thinks sermons are about??? Maybe he should look at the log in his own eye first. Oh wait, that would involve doing as Jesus taught. Oh well then, never mind.

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  2. Doubts the trustworthiness of scripture: Martin Luther

    Doesn't use bodily resurrection language: the Apostle Paul and the Gospel of Luke (the perishable cannot inherit the imperishable)

    Questions personal language about God: the vast majority of Christian thinkers over the last 2000 years from the mystics of the middle ages to Saint Anslem to Paul Tillich.

    Dang..John Shuck, you're such a heretic. How did they allow you in the church? Where did you get such crazy notions? *coughs*

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  3. John,

    Sorry, gotta ask.

    You said "as the presbytery is not allowing them to take the church building with them for free."

    I assume that you are in possession of evidence that the presbytery piad for the property, and just loaned it to that particular congregation. Otherwise your sentence should read. ...take the church building that they own with them.

    You should pay more attention, they did work it out. The majority of the congregation decided to transfer to the EPC (which I still believe we are allowed to do), they made no attempt to dispute the ruling of the presbytery that the minority should keep the property. No lawsuits, no appeals, just moving on.

    I do think it's great that these presbyteries are giving property to congregations that can't afford it. I assume that these presbyteries are going to be able to financially support these congregations.

    Just for the record, I agree with your proposal that the "b" and the trust clause be eliminated and that congregations can go where they feel most compatable. It's a gracious solution.

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  4. Dwight said it all far more eloquently than I planned to.

    So all that I will say is this- Apostate!

    You know I loves me that in a preacher man.

    Seriously though- I am always troubled by the intolerance factor. Do they not take that whole shake the dust from your sandals and go to the next house part literally?

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  5. Oh I forgot to add this from Alan Watts...

    "Thus, in much of the English-speaking world, the King James Bible is a rigid idol, all the more deceptive for being translated into the most melodious English and for being an anthology of ancient literature that contains sublime wisdom along with barbaric histories and the war songs of tribes on the rampage. All this is taken as the literal Word and counsel of God, as it is by fundamentalist Baptists, Jesus freaks, Jehovah’s Witnesses and comparable sects, which by and large know nothing of the history of the Bible, of how it was edited and put together. So we have with us the social menace of a huge population of intellectually and morally irresponsible people. Take a ruler and measure the listings under "Churches" in the Yellow Pages of the phone directory. You will find that the fundamentalists have by far the most space. And under what pressure do most hotels and motels place Gideon Bibles by the bedside Bibles with clearly fundamentalist introductory material, taking their name Gideon from one of the more ferocious military leaders of the ancient Israelites?"

    Now how freaky is this- my verification word (i swear it on the bible) is ibles!

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  6. Seeker--exactly. This is the real definition of fundamentalism. It is not just beliefs, nor even that these beliefs are the correct beliefs, but that we can't play with anyone else who doesn't hold them.

    Dwight--good stuff there. I also liked your quote from Calvin on your latest post!

    Fran--you are the best.

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  7. I think the Fundamentalists are cursed to forever re-enact the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican.

    It must be a curse. How else to you explain it.

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  8. Is this really about fundamentalism, though? I would consider a fundamentalist someone who holds very strongly to something like the inerrancy of Scripture, or a literal interpretation of Genesis, and even more feels that these are church dividing issues.

    There is a difference between fundamentalism, and just basic Christian orthodoxy. It seems to me that this is a dispute concerning even deeper issues of Christian faith relating to things like the person and work of Christ, the reality of the incarnation.

    How can folks have spiritual fellowship and unity together if there is not agreement relating to the very center of Christian faith, or agreement in the gospel?

    I don't feel that it's narrow or mean-spirited to realize this. We need to be honest with each other.

    I'm honestly considering affilitating with the PCUSA or the Piskies, and I"m feeling that I need to really search this out. Where does the denomination actually stand concerning these deeper issues.

    John, are you ok with me referring to your blog, and some comments here in general or not in all this?

    Please let me know.

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  9. Grace,

    You are welcome to comment anytime. Glad you are here. The PC(USA) has a Book of Confessions and a Book of Order. These books make up our constitution. Oddly, many parts contradict each other as they are a collection of works from different time periods.

    Those who are called to ordained office are called to be guided by our confessions, not to subscribe to them or to particular sentences within them.

    We do not have a list of essentials or fundamentals or whatever. We are part of a tradition that is living and moving.

    Folks who want a list of beliefs are not necessarily happy with the PC(USA) because we don't have them.

    However, folks who have their own list beliefs are welcome. It is just that they will find themselves in communion with folks who do not have a list, or even the same list.

    Fundamentalism is the insistence that one's list should be everyone's list.

    To that the PC(USA) has said (so far at least), no thanks.

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  10. Thanks, John. :)

    The official website of the PCUSA seems to indicate very differently. (Check it out.)

    For instance, it argues very strongly for affimation of the physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus, and against the presuppositions of the Jesus Seminar.

    God have mercy! Little wonder there is so much confusion in the churches.

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  11. Where is that on the PC(USA) website? I am not doubting you, just curious.

    Why is confusion bad?

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  12. Wish I could link you, but I"m internet challenged. :)

    But, go to the Presbyterian USA official website. Then click on "Our Beliefs and Practices." After that go to "What Presbys Believe." There are a variety of topics listed. Click on The Resurrection of Jesus.

    I'll be interested to hear your opinion. What do you think?

    I don't feel confusion and uncertainty are always bad. It depends on the issue and context, I think. God honors honest doubt and sincere questioning.

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  13. Hey Grace,

    Well how about that. Here is the link which is a reflection by Mark Achtemeier.

    Yup, I would say Mark needs to read up a little more on the methods of the Jesus Seminar and the method of historical inquiry into early Christian origins.

    But, that is what Mark believes at least when he wrote that article. He is in the PCUSA and I am glad to have him.

    I don't see it that way, and who knows, maybe he and I can discuss it some day.

    That is what is cool about being Presbyterian. He and I can disagree over serious matters, and by gum, we are both still here.

    Not only that, but we can learn from each other.

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  14. Hey John, I know you are a busy dude, but come on by if you can. The last two posts have been real doozies, but things I would love for you to read if you have a moment.

    Peace out brother.

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  15. I do feel sorry for these folks, the fundamentalists who somehow got confused about what being a Presbyterian means at some point. I don't know if it was poor Sunday School teaching, poor Seminary training, or where they got the idea that the PCUSA was a fundamentalist denomination, but clearly that's the idea they've got. Too bad, all this could have been avoided had they simply realized that Reformed Christianity is not the same thing as fundamentalism at all.

    Craig, sorry, but your understanding of PCUSA polity is incorrect. We are not a congregational denomination, and church property is owned by each Presbytery. Yet another bit of PCUSA polity that, it seems, about which these folks were woefully uninformed, it seems.

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  16. Alan,

    As usual you seem to be responding based on what you think I said rather than what I said.

    First, I am well aware of what how the "trust clause" is interpreted by the PCUSA. As John is so fond of saying, the great thing about the PCUSA is that we can don't have to agree on everything. So we don't agree on this.

    Second, my concern is that the presbyteries who are asserting their ownership claims, and awarding property to the minorities in these cases, are dooming these "congregations' to failure. In the case of Heartland (which would be on the road to bankruptcy if it were a buisness or individual)they "gave" the propery of 1st Paola to a group of less that 100 people. That particular property carries a @$900,000 mortgage. Is Heartland going to help pay the bills of 1st Paola? (leaving aside that Heartland cosigned the mortgage, so it is responsible) Ultimately, the question revolves around good stewardship. Heartland, and it sounds like the presbytery in Houston, have put these congregations in a position that is much more difficult that it needs to be.

    I'm well aware of the polity issues. If you are arguing that the polity should be enforced, then I agree, if it is applied consistantly. As you are no doubt aware, these presbyteries are not required to assert their ownership claims. In facy some presbyteries have negotiated graceful seperations of congregations to other reformed bodies.

    Back to my post, my point was that the majority of Heritage chose to take the high road and submit to the descision of their presbytery. Hoowever, the decision of the presbytery is goig to have some downstream repercussions for the minority and the presbytery. Time will tell if positive or negative.

    Finally, I agree with John, that there is a way to work this out in a manner that, in theory, is graceful and much healthier for all involved.

    Hope this clarifies things for you.

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  17. "As usual you seem to be responding based on what you think I said rather than what I said."

    Nope, just responding to your comment: "Otherwise your sentence should read. ...take the church building that they own with them." That is, in fact, what you wrote, not just what I think you wrote. ;)

    There are ways for churches to leave under the BoO. I agree that there should be better and more creative ways of dealing with these situations and I certainly hope that they're used in the future. And of course, no one should be under the impression that they cannot leave the PCUSA anytime they want. All they have to do is request a letter of transfer from their Clerk of Session.

    Hope this clarifies things for you.

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  18. John, you're singing my song.

    Grace, this is very very very very very important. What you see on the PC(USA) website about "What Presbyterians Believe" is presented as a collection of articles providing a collection of different perspectives from prominent Presbyterians. That's important. Our doctrinal standards are set out in the Book of Confessions, part I of our constitution. Part II, the Book of Order says clearly that while these are standards, they are subordinate standards. Even the tough-as-nails double-predestination Westminster Confession allows for this in the famous "God alone is Lord of the conscience" and the note that "synods and councils...may err" including the people who wrote Westminster.

    I hate to rehash this particular history lesson, but it does bear repeating. Grace, Presbyterians invented the term "fundamentalist". In the 1920s, conservative firebrands tried to issue a list of Five Fundamentals, five statements any candidate for church office would have to swear to. This was outside the Northern church's constitution, and it finally came to a head when the church eventually saw the departures of those conservatives, now called "Fundamentalists", to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. They are too conservative even for today's Presbyterian Fundamentalists.

    The idea of every member being handed a list of things to believe is antithetical to us. We have historically, going back to John Knox, treasured our commitment to scholarship and the freedom to ask questions. I may or may not agree with what John Shuck says, but the appropriate response is dialogue, not demonization. Was anyone else disgusted by Scott's use of a private letter addressed to someone else in such a public manner? The ironic thing is that if anyone complained to Scott's Executive Presbyter about his advocating things contrary to Presbyterian polity, they'd get a similar response?

    When a Presbyterian asks, "Why can’t the PCUSA have some essentials of the faith that are necessary in order to teach and lead in our denomination?" they are in fact bringing up this 80-year-old controversy for one last battle.

    The answer for us has and always will be that the only real answer is that we have one "essential", one that we share with the believers of every time and place: the confession that "Jesus is Lord!"

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  19. For those interested in how the presbytery and this congregation dealt with this issue, the presbytery has published its relationship with the congregation through this process.

    Go here.

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  20. "Was anyone else disgusted by Scott's use of a private letter addressed to someone else in such a public manner?"

    Me. My EP as well. My EP (and I) were disgusted the first time his private e-mail was posted on a public blog.

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  21. "Was anyone else disgusted by Scott's use of a private letter addressed to someone else in such a public manner? "

    Disgusted, yes. Surprised? Not any more. These folks have shown again and again that they have no problem saying anything, doing anything. So much for "decent and in order."

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  22. It's nice to know people are at least reading what you write, I guess. As for the morality of fundamentalism...well...people do strange things when they worship an idol.

    Do you have an RSS feed, John? I can't find that happy little logo anywhere here...probably just my own ineptitude...

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  23. Fly,

    I"m on board with everyone agreeing that Jesus is Lord. But, see, what does this statement mean?

    If it is taken to mean that Jesus is Lord in the sense that He provides a good moral example that we should all universally follow, this is different than affirming that Jesus is also truly God, the ruler of creation, and Savior of the world.

    Conceivably, an atheist could make the statement that Jesus is Lord depending on how we all give these words meaning and context.

    Fly and Alan, are all Presbyterian clergy expected to affirm the reality of the incarnation, the unique divinity of Jesus Christ. This is part of what I mean when I'm affirming that "Jesus is Lord."

    This is important to me, and I really need to know.

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  24. Alan,

    When I said "own" I meant own in the sense of paid for, or to have title to. In most cases the presbytery has not done either. Hope this clarifies my esoteric use of the word own.

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  25. "Fly and Alan, are all Presbyterian clergy expected to affirm the reality of the incarnation, the unique divinity of Jesus Christ. This is part of what I mean when I'm affirming that "Jesus is Lord.""

    Fly and Alan!? What don't I get to play?! Especially since I am the "clergy" in question? I feel snubbed.

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  26. Grace,

    Even though you didn't ask me, I will answer anyway.

    The PC(USA) allows real jerks like me to be ministers. And I am not even the worst of them.

    I would say
    ...stay away
    ...from the PCUSA

    It will be very bad for you. Try the EPC or PCA or any of the other places. They are very clear in what they believe, lists and everything.

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  27. Well, of course, you can respond.. It's your blog, for heaven's sake. I just asked Fly since he shared about Jesus as Lord.

    There is this conundrum that I'm in. The incarnation means everything to me. I think it's the very center of Christian faith. (I'm not at all unitarian.)

    But, you see, I'm affirming of gay and lesbian inclusion in the church, and am totally on board with woman's ordination, and peace and justice issues.

    So, I can't picture myself in a fundamentalist denomination.

    Hey, I can disagree with folks about everything from the nature of Scripture, the interpretation of Genesis, any political issue under the sun.

    But, John, apart from the divinity of Jesus Christ, the incarnation, I truly don't feel we are all speaking of the same faith at all.

    And, you're right, if the PCUSA takes no definitive position in this, it isn't the right denomination for me.

    Truly, I am strongly leaning toward the Piskies. I'm sorry if I offended you here. But, I'm being honest about this. And, I appreciate you allowing me to share and ask questions.

    I guess I've gotten an answer. But, I don't think you're a jerk, ((John))

    Sincerely,
    Grace.

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  28. No Grace,

    The Pixies aren't going to help you. They have Bishop Spong and worse (yes worse than him!) They are real jerks.

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  29. John,

    You're feeling hurt. Hear me out. This isn't about lists. I don't think anyone here is a jerk, or intentionally trying to cause harm. I think you're a wonderful, caring person.

    We are all fallen, and see through a glass darkly. I'm not thinking some folks are better or worse. Jesus died for everyone.

    But, for me church is about the fellowship and worship of Jesus Christ. I want to be real. There is no point in trying to pretend a real spiritual unity is there, or we are on the same page with the gospel if we're not.

    Don't take me wrong. I wouldn't see anyone ditched from the church or ministry. But, if I met Bishop Spong, I would express my total sorrow and concern to him, not pretend that things were fine spiritually because we could all just recite "Jesus is Lord," or work together in peace and justice issues.

    It is heartbreaking to me that a bishop of the church has completely abandoned the Christian faith.

    One huge problem, from my perspective that I can see in the more fundamentalist churches is that they seem utterly unable to discern between matters that are essential, and at the center of our faith such as the divinity of Jesus Christ, the reality of the incarnation, and issues which are truly out there on the periphery like the nature of Scripture, the interpretation of Genesis or the book or Revelation.

    They've elevated disagreement concerning this sexuality issue to the same level as a difference relating to the Nicene Creed. It's unbelievable!

    And, although this isn't true across the board, many times they do seem to come across with a very unloving, and legalistic kind of spirit.

    But, I would hear your advice, John.

    Would do you feel I should do relating to my concerns, and church membership?

    Appreciate your input. We need to be praying for each other.

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  30. "When I said "own" I meant own in the sense of paid for, or to have title to. In most cases the presbytery has not done either. Hope this clarifies my esoteric use of the word own."

    Craig, yeah, I get that. Unfortunately you apparently don't understand that Jesus owns the Church. Nor do you apparently understand the trust clause. Hope that clarifies things.
    -----
    Grace,

    To be honest, I find it curious that you're so concerned with what others believe.

    I can stand up with the other members of our congregation on any given Sunday, and without any winking or irony, recite the Apostle's Creed (the old version, gotta love the phrase "the quick and the dead"). Now I actually do believe in phrases we say like "the resurrection of the body" and "born of the Virgin Mary", etc., but I also know that others in our congregation do not take those phrases quite so literally.

    So what?

    Why should I care?

    What is it any of my business? Seems to me that's between God and them.

    I'm afraid in today's Oprah culture we all believe these days that we have a right to be fussbudgets and busybodies and know what everyone else thinks and believes, sticking our noses in each other's lives, and telling them how to live them. But seriously, why on Earth (or Heaven) should it matter to me if Helen literally believes in the Virgin birth, or Jeff thinks the resurrection was more metaphorical than I do? It clearly doesn't matter to them that I think about these things in different ways than they do. Because these two folks, like every other member of our congregation understands the true meaning of the word "gracious."

    Every member of our congregation has proclaimed their faith when they became members of the church. There are no lists of 3884940 things they must believe in order to join. (As an aside, the problem with making these lists, is that it is impossible to know when to stop, eh? Why only 5 things on the list? Can you make a logical argument from scripture for 6? How about 7? How about 300?) They're Godly people and God has led them to our little church and he uses them all the time to enrich each other's lives, nurture and care for each other, live out the Good News, and to teach and preach the Gospel.

    If all that's good enough for God, it seems a bit ungracious to refuse it, no?

    As much as it troubles the fundies out there, the PCUSA is not monolithic. There are 3 PCUSA churches in our town, our very liberal one, the moderate big steeple church, and a little conservative one. And even in our liberal church, there is an entire spectrum of belief. Yet, we all seem to live well enough with each other.

    What is essential for the PCUSA? That Jesus is Lord. (I find it interesting that in these Postmodern times, it's the *fundies* who feel a need to parse that statement down to the last jot and tittle, as if they're trying to create their own Clintonian definition of the word "is". We liberals on the other hand seem far more able to accept the statement at face value.) What is essential for you? Well that's a different list, apparently, and that's fine. That doesn't mean there's a contradiction. But if you need a denomination to have such lists for some reason (and I'd really spend some time thinking about why that is) then the PCUSA is probably not for you.

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  31. Grace,

    I am not hurt, just being a smart mouth. I have to say this argument is exhausting. Who is in, who is out, who is a real Christian---God have mercy!

    My evaluation of Spong is very different from yours. I think he has done a great thing for the church.

    And it isn't because of his personality--he comes off as kind of a jerk. : )

    It isn't because of all of his specific theories (most won't last the test of time).

    It is because he has been trying, however fallibly, to articulate a faith for our modern world.

    Furthermore, he has challenged the church on important things such as dignity for gay people.

    I would call Bishop Spong more of a follower of Jesus than those who believe those things you think clergy are supposed to believe but don't live them.

    For me, he has taken these theological abstractions that you want him to believe in and made them real--incarnated them--in his scholarship and practice.

    That is what I try to do.

    You write this about those churches who have their beliefs correct:

    "They've elevated disagreement concerning this sexuality issue to the same level as a difference relating to the Nicene Creed. It's unbelievable!"

    I don't think they would see it that way. But it comes across that way. That is what happens when belief in theological abstraction becomes more important than incarnational engagement.

    To push you a bit Grace, I think you are not consistent with your lists and their importance. That is what I like about you.

    The first one is that you are leaning toward the Episcopal Church (USA) which is what I assume you mean by Piscies. They are far more liberal than the PC(USA). Many of them are members of the Jesus Seminar. Marcus Borg is one-- Matthew Fox for crying out loud is an Episcopalian!

    The second inconsistency is that you want the church and its clergy to affirm essential things. You write:

    "One huge problem, from my perspective that I can see in the more fundamentalist churches is that they seem utterly unable to discern between matters that are essential, and at the center of our faith such as the divinity of Jesus Christ, the reality of the incarnation, and issues which are truly out there on the periphery like the nature of Scripture, the interpretation of Genesis or the book or Revelation."

    The EPC or the Anglican breakoffs now in the United States require a great deal more subscription to the essentials as you describe them. If those are truly your essentials, the other issues shouldn't matter whether they elevate them or not.

    Why would you even flirt with the Episcopal Church or the PC(USA) which allows its clergy to question what is so essential to you?

    My hunch is that you do care about these peripheral issues, so much so in fact, that you are willing to be a part of a denomination that makes more sense to you on the peripheral issues even though they are murky on the essential ones.

    That is what Rev. Scott is about. His sermon about me is that I miss the essential thing. He needs to be in a denomination that doesn't have any gray area on that.

    It sounds like the EPC would be the perfect denomination for you. They have your essentials right.

    But you and I both know that that isn't what you seek. Maybe that is why you keep coming back to Shuck and Jive.

    Maybe what you think are peripheral issues are more essential than you say (ie. acceptance of gays, freedom to question, etc.)

    That is where you are inconsistent as I see it, and I love you for it. You would rather be in a denomination that may allow its clergy to have its beliefs wrong yet follows Christ than a denomination that requires its clergy to have their beliefs right but persecutes Christ.

    One final thing. What does "Jesus is Lord" mean? Packed within those three words are 2000 years of meaning making, tradition, experience, guns and butter. To articulate what that affirmation means is to pull but one subjective strand out of that tightly packed ball of yarn. That meaning may be true, but it has no incarnation outside of the rest of that ball. So it is in essence not true, because it claims that its meaning of the phrase is more important than the affirmation itself. And is more important than the whole tradition of saints past and present who have contributed to incarnating that affirmation.

    But articulate we must. Yet we must do so with the grace that our articulation is but one strand of that great ball.

    We (and I) affirm Jesus is Lord. Then, we spend our lives trying to figure out what we are saying, but more than even figuring it out, trying to embody it in our lives.

    That to me is the church.

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  32. Wow, I just sent my comment then found Alan's which articulated some of things I was trying to say.

    There is a God...

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  33. I've been thinking about and finally decided, inspired by our Alan, to go for it. I will raise questions about the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds (cue the "Dean Scream" sound effect).

    These were and are fairly radical theological statements. The arguably anti-Trinitarian phrasing in the Nicene Creed ("We believe in the Holy Spirit...who proceeds from the Father and the Son") directly lead to the Great Schism between the Roman (and by extension Protestant) Church and the Orthodox Church. As the Book of Confessions diplomatically puts it, "this issue remains unresolved in the ecumenical dialogue."

    There are other controversial bits in both confessional statements (and they are just that--confessional statements). The "descended into Hell" has an asterisk next to it in The Presbyterian Hymnal and its predecessors, noting "Some churches omit this". The Methodists leave it out entirely, and the ELCA tries to soften it by saying "He descended to the dead" (with an asterisk noting the alternate reading "into Hell" for the traditionalists).

    My pastor was on the committee that wrote the 1991 "Brief Statement of Faith", and she notes the intentional parallels between it and earlier confessional statements (including the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds). Where the "Brief Statement" explicitly acknowledges the divinity and humanity of Christ ("We believe in Jesus Christ, fully human, fully God."), the Apostles creed does not. Rather, it makes an argument to defend a claim it doesn't explicitly mention ("I believe...in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried...."). It hopes that the reader gets the point. More scandalously, it does not make an explicit statement about atonement. Jesus is conceived, born, suffers, dies, descends, ascends and sitteth, but it doesn't say why other than "from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead". "The forgiveness of sins" and "the resurrection of the body" and "the communion of Saints" only gets thrown in at the end, again with no direct link to the bits about Jesus.

    The Nicene Creed does a better job with the Christology bit ("eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made...", then "became truly human"), and does acknowledge part of the reason for the suffering and crucifixion, but it's a nebulous "for our sake" and ends with "He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end." Again, forgiveness of sin and resurrection of the dead are divorced from the Jesus narrative.

    Confessional statements are not necessarily meant to be exhaustive (in fact, an argument I once got into with an OPC minister was that he thought the "Brief Statement" was a mere "listing of values"). I'd argue that you'd have a very difficult time starting tabula rasa with a Protestant Bible and the two creeds and coming up with something recognizable to modern Christians.

    If you want a comprehensive confessional statement that leaves little room for argument (but leave it up to us to find that room), see the Westminster Confession of Faith and its Larger and Shorter Catechisms. Completed in 1646, it was designed to be the confessional standard of the Church of England, and became the confessional standard of the Church of Scotland and the various English-speaking Reformed churches. Until 1967, it was the sole confessional standard of American Presbyterianism.

    There is plenty to object to in Westminster (in fact, the principle of "scruples" was first conceived as a means for American Presbyterians to declare a conscientious objection to a clause in WCF--such as the controversial bits about obeying the king as the magistrate selected by God--and allow the rest of the church leadership to decide whether or not it was a departure from the intentionally undefined "essentials"), but you could argue that there is stuff to object to in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds.

    As Westminster puts it, "God alone is Lord of the conscience".

    Thank God for that.

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  34. I have to say, I have always loved the Nicene creed's little bit about Jesus: "eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one Being with the Father..." I laugh every time we say that.

    Doesn't it sound like something written by a lawyer? To me it sounds like this:

    "You grant to XXXX. and their affiliated, related and associated entities, contractors and partners (whether affiliated or not) and each of their assigns and successors (collectively, the “Sponsors"), the non-exclusive and royalty-free right and license, (but not the obligation), in perpetuity, throughout the world, in any and all media now known or hereafter devised, to communicate to the public by way of unlimited public broadcast use of your Content (excluding the Chapter) or any part thereof, on the following (each a "Licensed Site"): (i) each and every internet web page located on any website, domain name, sub-domain or URL owned, operated or controlled by the Sponsors now existing or to be created (including, without limitation, internet web pages located at the domain names XXXX.com; YYYY.com; ZZZZ.com; or their successor websites) and however configured for any electronic distribution platform or device (whether now known or to be devised and including, without limitation, phones, pdas', pagers and other wireline and wireless enabled devices and applications); and (ii) each and every television station and/or radio station owned, operated, programmed and/or controlled by XXXX in whole or in part (each a "Licensed Station"). You grant these rights to the Sponsors free of charge."

    LOL

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  35. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  36. Piscies = "Episcopalians"
    Pixies = Boston-based post-punk rock band.

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  37. Well, ok, Alan, but would it be a problem for you if your own minister could not affirm the incarnation, and was preaching another gospel??

    Of course, we can't know the heart and mind of every person in the church. And, I think there's an issue with conducting witchunts and looking for heretics behind every bush.

    But, I think what we think about Jesus Christ, and the content of the gospel together is pretty darn important. Our whole reason for being, and essential mission is at stake. We should love people enough to care about where they're at spiritually. (How in God's name can someone be truly, and wholly following Jesus while rejecting the work of the cross at the sametime? Surely this is a spiritual deception, an oxymoron.)

    And, why do you think that the Nicene Creed goes to such lengths to articulate the divinity of Jesus? I mean to our modern ears, it does sound like overkill. But, the framers of this creed knew what was at stake, and wanted to be certain that there was no misunderstanding or ambiguity there at all.

    Hey, just count me in there with old Athanasius. I feel just as strongly about the incarnation, too.

    John, I feel so strongly about inclusion and justice for my gay brothers and sisters, and evangelical outreach to the gay and lesbian community. I would never make it in a really conservative denomination.

    On top of that, I haven't mentioned my husband..Although, evangelical, he's also strongly universalist, believing that all will eventually be "saved" by Christ. The man can't abide any mention of Hell. We both would be booted out of the church.

    Well, as I've mentioned on another blog. Enough of this stewing around. I need to take a leap of faith, trust God, and come to a decision.

    All prayers appreciated.

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  38. "Well, ok, Alan, but would it be a problem for you if your own minister could not affirm the incarnation, and was preaching another gospel??"

    You know, I have to admit, people say this "preaching another gospel" thing and I never have any idea what it is supposed to mean. Maybe it's some sort of evangelical jargon I just never encountered at Calvin. Is this supposed to mean Mormons or Muslims or something?

    Anyway, if by preaching "another gospel" you mean she or he is preaching "Jesus is NOT Lord" then yeah, I think I've made it abundantly clear I'd have a problem with that, as would most Presbyterians. But if somehow it did happen that in some Presbyterian church somewhere some minister was preaching that "Jesus is NOT Lord", then I'd be unlikely to go to that church in the first place. I would just shake the dust off my Birkenstocks and move on. No one forces any of us to attend any particular church. The PCUSA doesn't assign us churches, thank God. As I pointed out, I've got the choice of attending 3 very different PCUSA churches just in Ann Arbor, which is only a moderately sized city, and there are several more in the surrounding area. I go where I feel called, literally called, by God (He put an ad in the campus newspaper, believe it or not ... it's a long story.)

    Now, I don't agree with our Minister on everything. Heck I don't agree with anyone about everything. I don't even agree with myself on everything all the time. (Do I contradict myself? Well then I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes. -- W.Whitman)

    I don't have to agree with people in order to be in communion with them.

    Personally I find that my disagreement with my husband about the appropriate way to make brownies (with nuts or without? frosting or no?) has a much greater real impact on my life (and his) than the fact that we have different ideas about the Virgin Birth. But even though he's clearly wrong on both topics, I can't say I loose a lot of sleep over it. (If you were to ask him if he's wrong on both topics, I'm sure his answer would be, "I absolutely agree 100% that Alan thinks I'm clearly wrong on both topics." Not only is that a smart*ss answer to the question; it's also a great answer, gracious even, in a smart*ss sort of way.)

    So, instead of constantly berating him about the One True way to make brownies, I just make them myself. As it turns out, I've learned that few people are likely to complain about brownies they didn't have to make themselves, regardless of how they're made: my side frosted with nuts, his side (the abomination) no frosting, no nuts. Somehow we both survive. It's called compromise, and unlike keeping score, it actually helps people live together. ;)

    "But, I think what we think about Jesus Christ, and the content of the gospel together is pretty darn important. Our whole reason for being, and essential mission is at stake."

    I'd say if you go to a Church where someone tells you it is wrong for you to believe that, you should leave immediately. I also think that what we think about Christ and the content of the Gospel is pretty darned important. But I'm frankly not in the mood to enforce my ideas on the particular details of those notions on someone else.

    "We should love people enough to care about where they're at spiritually. "

    And even more than that, we should love people enough to treat them like rational, reasonable, faithful, real-live-grown-up adults. What is more loving: 1) treating a grown adult like a 2 year old, or worse a dog who needs constant correction with a leash, OR 2) treating people with respect, love and graciousness -- like grown-ups? Care about their spiritual life and happiness, certainly! But trust them and even more trust God to do the good work in them.

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  39. The problem with reliance on the Nicene Creed is its almost total avoidance of atonement. This is a pretty essential part of Protestant Christianity, and the thing doesn't even mention it.

    I'll say it again: if you sat down, with no preconceptions or foreknowledge, with a Protestant Bible and the Nicene Creed, you'd come up with something that looks nothing like Christianity today.


    I do think we've gotten ourselves into a big circle. I think most Presbyterians would read what Alan wrote and nod. We like being in a faith tradition that tells us to study all we can and try to work it out. The idea of a list of things to believe (beyond the confession that "Jesus is Lord") is antithetical to us.

    Grace, God bless you for your open mind and open heart regarding gay folks. I'm sad to tell you, however, that openmindedness and openheartedness in one area of faith may require some openmindedness and openheartedness in others. Molly Ivins once quoted a lesbian friend who said she hated the term "tolerance", because of its connotation of "I deign your right to exist". But that's kind of what it is. It's loving someone enough to know that there are differences (and not ignoring them), but deciding that those differences aren't that consequential.

    It's a line that's hard to draw. And we learned not without much stürm und drang that it's best to draw that line on the side of freedom of conscience.

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  40. Personally, I think the real problem with the Nicene Creed is its almost total ignoring of the 30-some years of Jesus's life between his supposedly miraculous birth and his execution.

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  41. Who wants to read a story about gangly teenage Jesus awkwardly taking his date to the Nazareth High School Prom? Or that time he broke his ankle doing a wine-keg stand at his Teit Cheit Zayin frat house? Or the innumerable mix tapes he made while dating any number of young women for whom he was just a trial boyfriend until they found a nice Jewish doctor?

    I've often figured that, like most people, Jesus's teens and 20's were best left forgotten. :)

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  42. I'm not talking about Jesus's dating life. I'm talking about his public ministry. You know, the things he said and did that got him executed. The Nicene Creed jumps right from his birth to his execution. The idea that this definition of faith that people are supposed to affirm about Jesus doesn't really even mention anything he did during his entire life on earth really illustrates, in my view, a hugely fundamental problem with that creed.

    This is what the 381 version, according to Wikipedia, says about his life:

    was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; he was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried.

    Whoa. We go right from his birth to his crucifiction. Nothing about what he taught, about his values, his teachings, his life. Nothing about what it was during his time on earth that inspired people, or what got him crucified under Pilate. Nada. Zip.

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  43. Hey, Grace -

    You said: "There is this conundrum that I'm in. The incarnation means everything to me. I think it's the very center of Christian faith. (I'm not at all unitarian.)"

    To me it all comes down to this, Grace: does worshiping at a church where this isn't made as important as you think it should be going to reduce your faith? Oppose that with going to a church where they make it as important as you do, but don't want you or anyone else to live a life that respects and treats with justice all people.

    Do you really think you will find a church that answers both needs? I don't. But then again, I'm a heathen. Even though I'm pretty strong in the empathy department, I may not be able to go where you are on this. As a matter of fact, I'm probably about the opposite of you: I have no need for the "God incarnate" stuff, but I find the community at this church (John's) deeply rewarding.

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  44. Mystical,

    I'm with you on the puzzle of the confessions leaving the "in-between" stuff out. The only thing I can say for it is that it smells like the church answering a question.

    And we are missing the question.

    But think about it. Today's church seems to have lost the ability to answer questions. Or more to the point, I think it has lost the ability to listen to questions. It keeps answering questions nobody is asking, and not answering the ones that are being asked.

    The confessions give me hope that from time to time, the Church does have the ability to listen, and then to answer.

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  45. I actually can sympathize with what Grace is going through. She hasn't found a church that quite meets her needs; neither have I. She has completely different needs than I do, and the kind of church that she and I are looking for are almost certainly incompatible with one another.

    Many of us are not exact fits for any of the existing churches that we can find. So then we have to make compromises, or at least figure out which compromises matter to us and which ones do not.

    In reality, there are churches out there that would accept me despite my heterodoxy; I've been to some of them, and in some cases have been to them often enough to have developed an ongoing relationship with the pastor. So the problem isn't who or what would accept me, but rather one where I feel at home. Not sure that for such a place actually exists.

    In my case, it isn't that I reject certain churches because I think they are deviating from God's certain truth as handed down from on high. It is just that I am looking for a good fit where I can feel my own spirituality flourishing and where it can be nourished.

    As for Grace, I couldn't possibly say what would work for her. Different people have different needs when it comes to finding a spiritual home.

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  46. Alan,

    I've always heard the Church is the Bride of Christ. That He came and laid down His life for his Church. Now you're telling me that He just bought a bunch of property. How dissapointing.

    Seriously, when I was used the term church, I was referring to the building/property, that is purchased/owned by the local congregation which is a subset of the Church (read kingdom of God).

    I'm quite sure you will find something else to parse

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  47. Well, Snad and Mystical,

    Here's my idea. I'm heading down to what I've heard is the most inclusive, and justice oriented church around. I'm going to pray like crazy that the dear minister in charge is not going to feel offended.. or think I'm "over the edge."

    I'll ask her what she thinks about the incarnation, and what Jesus Christ means in her life. Hope for the very best, and trust God...

    Sound like a plan. :)

    It's takin the bull by the horns.

    Snad, the truth is that a church that doesn't strongly witness to the incarnation, and the work of the cross, will not be able to really accept me.

    The folks would soon find my views intolerant, and narrow, not understanding the depth of Christian conviction that's in all this. I can see this just from sharing and having conversation on various progressive blogs.

    Sadly,
    Grace.

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  48. I'd like to know where all these churches are that don't believe in "the incarnation" and "the work of the cross" (whatever that means). Where I live in San Francisco, supposedly a home for all things progressive, I'm just not seeing much of that.

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  49. "Seriously, when I was used the term church, I was referring to the building/property, that is purchased/owned by the local congregation which is a subset of the Church (read kingdom of God)."

    Yup, that's what I was referring to. Paid for by the first-fruits of our offerings to God. If you open your Bible you'll see that those tithes and offerings belong to God already, we're just giving them back. In this case, to build a church. Keep trying, though. LOL

    I guess I'm just a die-hard Kuyperian. (That would be Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch Calvinist theologian who led the Doleantie, for those of you who didn't go to Calvin.) LOL You remember his famous quote, right? "In the total expanse of human life there is not a single square inch [literally in Dutch, "thumbprint"] of which the Christ, who alone is sovereign, does not declare, 'That is mine!'

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  50. And I'm the one who gets accused of confusing the PC(USA) with the Church Universal....

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  51. "The folks would soon find my views intolerant, and narrow, not understanding the depth of Christian conviction that's in all this. I can see this just from sharing and having conversation on various progressive blogs."

    Grace, good for you, going out and looking for a place where God is calling you!

    But I really hope you give folks a chance and don't just automatically make assumptions about them based on experiences with blogs. If I went by my experiences on blogs, then I be forced to conclude that every conservative is an angry, snotty, fool who has no love in their heart (and probably not even a heart, but a small black crusty thing that pumps icky oily goo.) That's based on a LOT of time watching so-called conservatives on their blogs -- and those are just the ones who are Pastors! LOL

    Yet fortunately I know a great many real conservatives in the real world who are actually lovely people.

    Seriously, Grace. Blogs are NOT real life.

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  52. Well, you have a point Alan, and Mystical. Will keep you posted in a few weeks. :)

    Mystical, what prevents you from just getting involved in the most progressive church around. I mean if you're having on these conversations on the blog with church folks. Might as well have the community, and sharing in real life.

    And, hey, you've put up with me, Myst. You're not likely to find anyone more conservative in these progressive churches.

    Pax.

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  53. Alan,

    Thanks for making my point, The church belongs to God, not the presbytery. Unless of course you are assuming the the PCUSA and its governing bodies are the ony avenue through we expereience the kingdom of God.

    Nice try yourself, though.

    BTW, in the case of the trust clause/property ownership issue we are really talking about the corperation side of the PCUSA not the ecclesiastical.

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  54. "Thanks for making my point, The church belongs to God, not the presbytery."

    Um...that would mean it doesn't belong to the church either. ROFL. Thanks for admitting I'm right. I am always please to see someone learn something in these blog conversations.

    But since in these matters, we have to go by the secular laws of the land, the trust clause applies -- a little wrinkle you have yet to finesse your way out of. It's not like the trust clause was unknown prior to the secessionists trying to weasel their way out of the church. It isn't as if this clause was invented yesterday. Tough to get around that FACT isn't it? ;)

    Oh, and as I've said repeatedly, anyone can leave the PCUSA at any time they wish. Getting a letter of transfer to another denomination is a piece of cake. I suppose though you'd like folks who do so to be able to take with them a water well in Africa they may have paid for with mission money they gave to the PCUSA? How about food they may have contributed to a PCUSA food kitchen? Blankets from babies they may have paid for?

    If you're going to be legalistic about this, at least take it all the way. :)

    Keep trying, I'm sure you'll convince me eventually. ;)

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  55. Alan,

    I'm glad you have changed you mind about the presbyteries owning the churches.

    Again you show your lack of information on these matters. You are correct that we have to apply by the secular law of the land in these matters. I have no need to finesse my way out of this, the court cases are happening and the trust clause is going to be decided in that forum. You you keep changing the direction of the conversation. My original point was that presbteries are not required to follow the trust clause, and some are not. Those that choose not to follow the trust clause are exhibiting more grace and love than those who are. Those who are, are burdening the "remnant" with physical property they cannot afford to maintain in many cases.

    I know there is no way to convince to break through the narrow lagalistic boundaries you have erected, and I'm not trying to convince you. You are much too closed minded to be convinced.

    We are talking about two different things here. You are talking about law, and I'm talking about grace. It is (arguably, at the present time) for presbyteries to assert their claims under the trust clause. I am saying that a graceful situation would reflect better on the Church as a whole, and do less harm to those who whish to stay in the PCUSA. I feel sorry for those who must use coercion in order to maintain their power. I was under the impression that the leadership modeled/taught by Christ was that of a servant. I'm not seeing this from our denominational leadership.

    Personally, I would encourage every congregation that is leaving to follow the model of Heritage and Paola. Give the leadership what it so clearly wants.

    Heritage took the high road, they submitted to the presbytery. Why are people so upset with them. Other churches have chosen to take the road you suggest and take the matter to the coury system. We'll see how that works. But by all means, let's not let congregations and presbyteries work out a mutually acceptable grace filled solution.

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  56. Craig,

    thanks, but you clearly have no idea what I've been saying. Assume the worst if you must, but it's too bad you can't deal with others using the same grace you suggest Presbyteries should follow. ;)

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  57. Alan,

    You ahve been abundantly clear about your fundamental. We disagree. I apologize if I have appeared to be ungracious, it was not my intent.

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  58. "I apologize if I have appeared to be ungracious, it was not my intent."

    No problem, you know how us "Shuckite" acolytes behave. Usually as "maroons", apparently. We just have different definitions of "gracious". ;) I just assumed you were again "tweaking" us Shuckites. LOL

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  59. And now for something totally irrelevant:

    I went to high school in Butte, MT. We were the Butte Central Maroons.

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  60. Well, if the schismatics are "taking the high road" in Craig's view, then I'm pleased to be on the low road of Peace, Unity and Purity.

    Even if to some it seems like, in the immortal words of AC/DC, "the hiiiiiiiighwaaaaay to hell!"

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  61. Fly,

    Yes, most people would define submitting to the desires of the presbytery and leaving as the high road.

    You sure do have a strange definition of peace, unity, and purity though.

    Hey, John wants to make me establish a blog in order to comment here, then I can be as irreverent as I want. Because, none of you would ever call anyone you disagree with names, would you. No you're much too gracious.

    But of course, I'm always happy to tweak you "Shuckites".

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  62. "Because, none of you would ever call anyone you disagree with names, would you. No you're much too gracious."

    Indeed. Thanks for noticing. :)

    "But of course, I'm always happy to tweak you "Shuckites"."

    Which is why I, for one, always give your comments all the serious consideration they deserve, as you've no doubt noticed by now. :)

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  63. Craig, explain to me why leaving a church in a huff over its unwillingness to accommodate your personal bigotry and demanding a refund on all your offering checks on the way out is the "high road"? Strange definitions, indeed.

    I won't rehash the details again, but in brief, my family had been deeply involved in our church. My dad was on the Session for close to 20 years, my mom was Sunday School Superintendent, and my sister and I grew up, active, in the church. As soon as the senior pastor found out I was gay and my parents had no intention of giving me electroshock therapy to make me straight, we were advised to "go be pastored to somewhere else". It stung, but I eventually did, and I could not be happier at church now. My parents joined my church and ditto for them. The silence from our old church--pastors, Session, congregation--speaks volumes. Yet, as much time, effort, treasure and talent as we put into that church, we never demanded our money back.

    Why should it be different when the people who are leaving happen to be conservative?

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  64. Fly,

    Your snide comment about my personal bigotry aside. It may suprise you that it is possible for people to vehemently disagree on these issues without any bigotry involved at all.

    I'm not sure how your situation equates to 80%+ of a congreagtion deciding that they would like to petition their presbytery to be allowed to reaffiliate with a correspondending denomination. As we have seen, there have been three responses to these requests.
    1) The presbytery, negotiates some sort of settlement with the congregation allowing them to leave on gracefully.
    2)The presbytery, chooses not to negotiate with the congregation, which results is legal action.
    3)The congregation walks away leaving the property to the "remnant".

    My contention during this whole discussion is that #1 is the scenario that is preferable. And that #3 puts the remnant in a poor position. That's it no more, no less.

    If you are aware of an instance of a congregation or individual "demanding a refund on all your offering checks on the way out" I would be interested to hear about it.

    I'm glad you managed to find a place where you are happier. Why would you deny others the same opportunity.

    Alan,

    Yes I have noticed the consideration (read condesention) you give my comments. As I have said before I must be some kind of masochist to keep commenting here.

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  65. "Yes I have noticed the consideration (read condesention) you give my comments. As I have said before I must be some kind of masochist to keep commenting here."

    Perhaps. It's as good an explanation as any I suppose.

    Anytime you're interested in commenting without the added weight of that enormous chip on your shoulder, I'll be happy to take your comments more seriously. Though it would also be nice if you didn't simultaneously attempt to have a "serious" discussion here, and then make snide comments about "Shuckites" over on your own blog.

    As I remember, you came storming over here, failed to understand the conversation that was happening in a particular comment thread (which had been continued from about 3 comment threads
    prior to that) and started getting confused about what people were talking about. Then you got all bent out of shape about it, and appear to still be ticked off about it (and apparently also ticked off to have to go through the exceedingly laborious and expensive process of making a free blog profile with which to comment here.) Now why someone would take blog comments that seriously I don't know. Oh well, hat's your business, not mine. But, just a piece of advice, it's often best to lurk for a while before commenting on a blog, so that you get the gist of what's going on and don't get offended by conversations you don't have the context to understand. :)

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  66. I'm glad you managed to find a place where you are happier. Why would you deny others the same opportunity.

    That's my point. We left without a thing to show for the money we put into that church. We didn't get to take a consolation prize. We didn't get the deed to the new fellowship hall that my dad chaired the building committee for. We left that church with the dust on our sandals, which we promptly shook off.

    What you're advocating is no different than demanding refunds on offerings:

    When I said "own" I meant own in the sense of paid for, or to have title to. In most cases the presbytery has not done either.

    Seriously, when I was used the term church, I was referring to the building/property, that is purchased/owned by the local congregation

    I could expand further, but will not do so at this time.

    Basically, you're saying that he who donated to pay for the building should get the building for free, even if he leaves the church that actually owns it.

    Bullpuckey.

    And yes, this is entirely about personal bigotries. If there was no argument over ordaining icky gay people, do you think Heritage would be trying so desperately to leave the PC(USA)?

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  67. Once again, anyone can leave any church at any time. All they need is a letter of transfer from their Clerk of Session.

    If one does that, Craig, do you suggest they submit an invoice to the church for their pledges over the course of their membership, and one to their presbytery for that portion of their pledges that went to apportionment?

    If it isn't reasonable for one person to do it, it is no more reasonable for a whole group.

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  68. Alan and Fly,

    Let's get this straight.

    I commended Heritage for choosing to submit to the wishes of their presbytery and leave the physical property to the "remnant"

    I suggested that this situation will place a significant burden on the "remnant" that will make it more difficult for them to continue with their ministry.

    I said that the presbyteries that negotiated a "settlement" with churches that want to depart was probably the most gracious way to resolve the situation.

    Somehow from that you have concluded that I believe that it is reasonable for someone leaving a church to ask for their pledges back. Please show me where I have advocated this?

    Somehow you have concluded that these congregations want the property for "free". Please show me where I have said that?

    Some how you have concluded that I personally have some sort of bigotry against the "icky gay people". Please show me where I have exhibited bigotry against gay people? Please show me how you are able to determine my personal bigotries/

    Somehow you have concluded that I personally feel that gay ordination is the single issue that would lead a church to leave the PCUSA. Please show me where I have said that.

    Finally, we are seeing that this may be a moot point as the trust clause is not fairing too well in court. We are also seeing more presbyteries choosing negotiation.

    My personal opinion is that congregations that wish to leave should do as Alan suggests, and Fly did ( also like Heritage and 1st Paola) and move on. Because the PCUSA (and heartland presbytery in particular) could always use a few more comgragations that cannot afford to call full time pastors, and upkeep on their property. That $900,000 mortagage that heartland picked up when Paola left should put them in great shape

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