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!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Make No Vow

The amendments to the Book of Order are listed on the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) site in pdf. The one that will generate the most conversation is Amendment B. I plan to vote for it, of course. See the sidebar for resources regarding it.

I plan to vote for all of the amendments (except Amendment A). This is the "vows for membership" addition to G-5.0200:

“2. Membership Vows
“After new members are examined, affirming their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and are received by the session, whether by profession of faith, certificate of transfer, or reaffirmation of faith, they shall be presented to and welcomed by the congregation during a service of worship where they shall make a public profession of their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, as do confirmands (W-4.2003a, b, and c).”

Granted, the original proposal considered by the General Assembly was more restrictive. I posted about it here, Making Certain Fewer People Can Join Your Church.

As I posted earlier, this amendment started when a congregation was taken to church court for admitting to membership an individual who I would describe as progressive. He had legitimate questions about theological language.

This "vow" amendment is to make sure his kind don't darken the doors of any church.

Conservative churches can and do make all kinds of rules about who will join their congregations. I don't particularly care. So why do they care when progressive congregations welcome people into their congregations?

Answer: because they are controlling and have antiquated theological views to which they demand everyone subscribes.

I hear a common theme among those who come to my congregation. It goes something like this:

"I would never go to any church, but I like yours because you don't tell me how I have to believe."

We appeal to those who don't want to be forced to repeat theological language that lacks meaning. This "vow" amendment is designed to keep progressive congregations from growing. It is a bullying amendment.

Check this article in the Pew Forum, "Unaffiliated" Show Biggest Change Among U.S. Faith Groups.

Americans who aren't part of a religious organization or who identify as an atheist or an agnostic represent the biggest change among U.S. religious groups, according to a study released Monday (Feb. 25) by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey estimates that about 16 percent of America's 225 million adults are unaffiliated with a religion.

When "childhood religion" is compared against "current religion," the unaffiliated show a net increase of 8.8 percentage points, compared to a 7.5 point loss among Catholics, for example, or a 2.6 percent loss among Protestants.

The study, however, also makes it clear that the "unaffiliated" aren't necessarily living out a strictly secular life.

"There is a sizeable number of Americans who are not affiliated with any particular religious group but who nonetheless have religious beliefs or engage in a variety of religious practices," the study said.

Among the "unaffiliated," only about a quarter identified themselves as non-believers (atheists or agnostics). The remaining three-quarters were those who reported "nothing in particular" when asked about their religious affiliation.

Barry Kosmin, director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture in Hartford, Conn., said many Americans are unaffiliated simply because they are dissatisfied with the current religious offerings. (Read More)

Presbyterians, like most mainline congregations, lose their young people not to fundamentalist mega-churches as much as to nothing. These open-minded people don't like to be told what and how to believe.

St. Andrews Presbyterian (the congregation taken to church court) is one of many progressive congregations that is reaching the unaffiliated. We do too. You don't reach this group with dogma and the forced recitation of theological slogans.

I hope that you moderates, even though you may disagree with me on theological issues, will vote against this amendment. You don't have to reach this population if you don't want to do so. Please don't hinder us from reaching them.