Shuck and Jive

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

What the Church Could Learn from Robert Ingersoll

Robert Ingersoll's (1833-1899) father was a congregational minister. Here is what Ingersoll said of him:

"After having received a certificate to the effect that he understood the mysteries of orthodoxy, and was able to show that the infinite love of god was perfectly consistent with the damnation of the whole human race, he started in search of employment." Read More

He also wrote this about the Bible:

Too great praise challenges attention, and often brings to light a thousand faults that otherwise the general eye would never see. Were we allowed to read the Bible as we do all other books, we would admire its beauties, treasure its worthy thoughts, and account for all its absurd, grotesque and cruel things, by saying that its authors lived in rude, barbaric times. But we are told that it was written by inspired men; that it contains the will of God; that it is perfect, pure and true in all its parts; the source and standard of all religious truth; that it is the star and anchor of all human hope; the only guide for man, the only torch in Nature's night. These claims are so at variance with every known recorded fact, so palpably absurd, that every free, unbiased soul is forced to raise the standards of revolt.

--Robert Ingersoll, Some Mistakes of Moses,1879 (This quote was published in Robert M. Price's A Reason Driven Life (great book!)

Unlike Ingersoll, I am a stubborn believer, a partaker in the covenant. But that does not make me blind to the ignorance of church and of creed, especially as the church has worshiped the Bible to the destruction of many. Ingersoll did a great favor for the church, if we would only receive it.


  1. "Support Legislation Against Hate Crimes"

    I saw this bit on your website and figured I'd ask you a big question - is the Presbyterian church of America affiliated with the one in Canada? If so, how?

    Secondly, would you be able to delve into history of the Pres Church and see how much residential schools they ran in Canadian territory - specifically aimed at Aboriginal people?

    Like you - i am trying to solve some 'hate crimes' also.

  2. Hi Jason,

    That is a question that someone else could answer better than I. Let me see if I have this much correct. The Presbyterian Church in Canada opted out of becoming part of the United Church of Canada. The Presbyterian Church in Canada is more conservative in that sense.

    In the United States, I am a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA). There are breakoffs including the Presbyterian Church of America, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, The Evangelical Presbyterian Church, and a bunch of others. They are all more conservative than the PCUSA. Although there are churches in the PCUSA that have more in common with those other denominations in many respects than the one in which they are a part. That is part of our contest.

    I doubt very much that the PCUSA is connected in any formal way with the Presbyterian Church in Canada, although it is possible that some individual congregations are.

    I would say that the PCUSA has more in common with the United Church of Canada, although I am not aware of a formal relationship.

    Is that what you are looking for?

  3. Oops. Made a mistake already. Most of the former Presbyterians in Canada united with the Uniting Church. The Presbyterians that did not unite became the Presbyterian Church in Canada.

  4. My significant other is a theology student in Vancouver, so I know a little about this.

    The UCC is a union church of Canadian Methodists, Congregationalists and most of the Presbyterians. It governs itself through roughly the same with local Sessions, regional Presbyteries and a national General Council that meets every 3 years.

    The PCC was formed by a group of 30% of the Presbyterians at the time. It was supposedly over some doctrinal issues that the hardcore Calvinists wouldn't budge on. The PCC does not officially ordain openly gay ministers and does not perform same-gender weddings (which are legal in Canada), unlike the UCC.

    The Vancouver School of Theology is affiliated with both the UCC and PCC, and both the PC(USA) and United Methodist Church will ordain graduates. The UCC will ordain someone who graduates from the Candler School of Theology (Emory University, affiliated more closely with the UMC), and I am reasonably certain they will accept a graduate of Columbia Theological Seminary (the big PC(USA) seminary here). My pastor has preached at several PCC churches, and I think it's an amicable relationship.

    Theologically, the PCC is remarkably close to the PC(USA). The subordinate standards are the Apostle's and Nicene Creeds, the Westminster Confession & Cathechisms, a Basis for Union, a mission statement, a Declaration of Faith Concerning Church & Nation (which says a lot of the same things as the Barmen Declaration), and a 1984 document called Living Faith (which says a lot of the same things, albeit in more detail and less artsy, as the Brief Statement of Faith).

    I'm a little fuzzier on the UCC. Its doctrine is officially set out in its Basis of Union, but is restated in statements of faith in 1940 and 1968, and just this past year issued a new confession called Song of Faith (which is remarkably similar to the Brief Statement but much longer).

    Both ordain women and treat the sacraments pretty much the same way the PC(USA) does.

    As far as formal ties, both the UCC and PCC are members of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, along with the PC(USA), the Korean PC, the EPC (surprisingly) and the Cumberland churches (the more conservative OPC/PCA are not in WARC).

  5. Thanks guys for the info and history of the PCUSA and PCC (and even the UCC) - interesting to say the least. If they are all affiliated - is there a head person in the religion (akin to the Pope in Roman Catholicism)?

  6. But are you also telling me that the United church and the Presbyterian church have delved into one another's history (as in worked together)?

  7. All three churches (PC(USA), PCC and UCC) have a "presbyterian" form of government, meaning that we elect our leadership.

    To put it very succinctly (I'll use the PC(USA)'s terminology as that's what I'm most familiar with):

    This is the local church made up of its members. Periodic congregational meetings are held for matters of budgets, nomination and election of elders and deacons, "calling" (i.e., employing) ministers, and other purposes.

    A board of Elders (elected and ordained, though don't perform sacraments) that carries out administrative functions of the church. The Session technically is in charge of the local church. If the local church does not have a separate Board of Deacons (also ordained but don't perform sacraments), then the Session has responsibility with the minister for providing pastoral care. The senior pastor moderates the meetings. The Session elects representatives to go to Presbytery meetings.

    A regional governing body comprised of representatives from each church in the area (the larger the church, the more votes it has). In the PC(USA), it is the presbytery that technically owns the local churches' property (for example, the deed to the buildings at my church is in the name of the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta). The Presbytery has the task of examining seminary graduates who want to become ministers and approving them for ordination. Each presbytery sends commissioners to the Synod and General Assembly.

    Acting as an intermediate body between the presbytery and General Assembly, the Synod is composed of 50% ministers and 50% elders. Synods are large (mine, Synod of the South Atlantic, covers Georgia, Florida and South Carolina).

    Meets every two years (every 3 in UCC, I think annually in the PCC) in a different city each time. Commissioners (50% are ministers, 50% are elders) from presbyteries all over the country debate and vote on "overtures" (similar to bills in Congress or Parliament) submitted by individual presbyteries, on budget matters, etc. There are usually large, moving worship services and a lot of arguing at all other times. Each General Assembly elects a Moderator (voting in rounds until someone gets a majority).

    The titular head of the Presbyterian Church. She (Joan Gray this year), as the name implies, moderates the GA meeting, but after the meeting adjourns, she spends the remaining time until the next GA being the face of the PC(USA), acting in a leadership capacity as the items approved by the GA get implemented.

    Elected to four-year terms, head of the Office of the General Assembly. He (right now, Clifton Kirkpatrick) is responsible for "preserve and defending the church's constitution" and carrying out the will of the General Assembly in daily tasks.

    I've probably gotten some of this wrong (what the moderator and Stated Clerk actually do is a question for the ages), but essentially, we elect our leadership, and the "pope" is elected and stays in office only two years.

  8. As to your second question, I'm a little confused. I've been using the following acronyms to cut down on confusion:

    PC(USA) = Presbyterian Church (USA), the largest Presbyterian denomination in the United States

    UCC = United Church of Canada, the Presbyterian church that joined with the Canadian Methodists and Congregationalists.

    PCC = Presbyterian Church of Canada, formed by splintering off from the UCC.

    In Canada, there was one Presbyterian church, which for all intents and purposes split into two bodies, the UCC and PCC.

    There are small splinters (I don't have numbers handy, but I think they're all smaller than the PCC) in the US, mostly conservative. We in the PC(USA), outside of foreign mission work, basically concentrate on churches within the 50 US states and its territories. We see the PCC and UCC as "sister" denominations, with similar theology, governance and history, and we consider ourselves the North American cousins of the Church of Scotland, but there is not an official international governing body like the Anglican Communion.

  9. Hey thanks for the info - when it comes to church governance - i have no clue how that hierarchy looked - this will be noted.