Shuck and Jive

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Right Wing and Clifton Kirkpatrick

It is interesting to see the right wing salivating now that stated clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick has decided not seek another term. To hear them, you'd think they had toppled Saddam. The IRD with its characteristic condescension "praised" Kirkpatrick for stepping down:
This announcement is a kindness. By pulling the plug on any potential incumbency now, Kirkpatrick is allowing other able leaders to step up to guide this denomination once again into greater biblical fidelity and increased effectiveness as a Christian body.
Here is a news story about Rev. Kirkpatrick's announcement and various responses. Here is my response to the right wing of the church:

1) Don't blame others for your ineptitude. The stated clerk has nothing to do with gains or losses in membership for the denomination. If your church is not growing why don't you get off your butt and do some evangelism?

2) You want a stated clerk who will "guide the denomination into greater biblical fidelity." Let me unpack that statement. According to the right wing, "biblical fidelity" means that you try to prove that the Bible (and therefore God) hates the same people you do, namely, THE GAY. The biggest criticism of our stated clerk is that he did not personally paddle every clergy and church the right wing thinks is behaving in a naughty fashion. We have a court system, not a pope.

3) Kirkpatrick spoke on behalf of the General Assembly in regards to social announcements. He didn't make it up. The General Assembly votes on positions. If you don't like the positions the GA takes, don't blame the messenger.

Now, an election for stated clerk will take place in 2008. It will be interesting to see if an evangelical is elected to office. It wouldn't matter. As soon as he or she made some kind of decision that didn't please the right wing, s/he would be demonized, just like the other evangelicals (Jack Haberer, Jack Rogers) who realized that to be a Presbyterian means you need to work across lines.

The right wing (Layman, IRD, New Whineskins) don't care. They simply want to blame others for not doing what they are unable to do. They will continue in their quest to tear down and foment schism.


  1. I agree, John. It's sad, esp. considering how much Clifton Kirkpatrick put of his heart and soul into the church, that some have to kick him in the butt on his way out. You're right about the next Stated Clerk--it'll be the same old crap from the right all over again. I offer another (sad) prediction. In the meantime, Joan Gray will become their punching bag as the woman who let the PUP pass as well as the vote to receive that heretical Trinity paper.

    On a slightly different point, I find it interesting (and slightly amusing) to look at the PFR website of late. All of a sudden, the Wineskins stuff is OFF the home page, replaced with all kinds of stuff about "why we need to stay in the PC(USA) and keep it from being taken over by Satan)". Methinks they realized exactly how many lawyers they will have to hire to foment a schism (or what will happen to PFR if their big donors move to the EPC).

  2. Nothing to do with lawyers, fly, just a healthy re-emerging of conservatism.

    Kirkpatrick's resignation is a welcome sign of renewal.

    As for gay hating people - not all conservatives are like that, John - you're guilty of over-generalising here. Seems to me like homophobic phobia.

  3. Stushie,

    From the news article I cited:

    "Kirkpatrick's critics, mainly from the right, say he could have used his "bully pulpit" to crack down on churches that were ordaining or marrying homosexuals in defiance of the church constitution."

    Isn't that why he is wrong and bad, because he didn't punish the gay lovers?

  4. John

    See my letter to the Layman among today's letters. While I haven't always agreed with Cliff I hardly think he can be blamed for the loss of members in the denomination. Also, if one takes a look at history, (always a good thing to do), evangelicals welcomed Cliff's election the first time around. He then was the director of the World Ministries Division and thought to be a supporter of the evangelical positions.

    Again, I disagree with some of his decisions, (particularly his statement supporting the PUP report because as the Stated Clerk he should have remained neutral), but believe he has been demonized.

  5. Thanks Bob, good letter.

    That is how I remembered it as well. Rev. Kirkpatrick is an evangelical. So it goes...

  6. Sad to see him go. He was a joy to converse with. A beautiful, Christlike open mind filled with unconditional love for his fellow man.

    It figures that the Snake Handler types in the church would be elated.
    Fundis always love it when someone that actually believes in Jesus' teachings falls.
    He'll be missed as a voice of reason in an increasingly unreasonable time.

    Great point about the GA, John. They're the "Deciders". :)
    I am disappointed that Clifton will not be able to fulfill the GA's orders to lobby the White house for the legalization of Medical Marijuana.

    Don't worry though, I sent a letter volunteering for the job last week. ;)
    Now the rest of us have a duty to protest any Right Wing hypocrite that tries to fill those very big shoes.
    PCUSA cannot be allowed to fall victim to the influence of evil men the way PCA has.

  7. I don't see this as any great victory for "conservatives". If anything, it has shown that with enough smearing and vitriol, a man dedicated to his church can be hounded from office by fellow Christians. Stushie, what have you won exactly?


    Like I said, the PFR/Layman/IRD types are going to need a new "leeeeeeberal" punching bag. While there are many things with which I do not agree with Joan Gray, I respect her and am going to hate the treatment she's about to endure.

  8. fly

    I was at GA. The evangelicals supported Joan. She wouldn't have won without their votes. She took a hit recently for a letter she wrote but for the most part I hear from evangelicals that they like her.

    The real truth about moderators, that unfortunately no one believes, is that after the GA meeting is over he/she has almost no power. The moderator travels around the country and the world being the friendly face of the PCUSA. Anything the moderator says at this point is her opinion and hers alone.

    Of course you actually have to have studied polity to know that and we know most people don't actually know how the PCUSA works . . .

  9. Bob, reread what I said carefully. It doesn't have to do with the ACTUAL constitutional powers of the Stated Clerk or Moderator, but with the PERCEIVED power. Fahed abu-Akel was a favorite punching bag, as was (to a lesser extent) Rick Ufford Chase. The Layman needs a scapegoat, and by gum, they're gonna find one.

  10. fly

    Interesting. I only remember one issue about which abu-Akel was criticized: his and Cliff's handling of the call for a special GA meeting. Now let me say first that I thought calling a special GA meeting was a stupid idea partly because a new GA was going to meet in 3 months. Cheap Scot that I am I thought the special meeting was a waste of money. I don't even remember the reason for the call of the meeting. I do remember that at the time I wrote a letter to Presbyweb that said the call for the special meeting was out of order because it did not clearly state an action for the GA to take. Special meetings always have to have a clearly stated purpose. I think Cliff should have ruled the call for the meeting out of order. And boy would that have gotten him in trouble!

    Having said that, I think abu-Akel and Kirkpatrick should not have asked those who signed the petition if they really wanted to have a meeting but should have simply asked them if they had in fact signed the petition. I think in asking the question they did they overstepped the bounds.

    Also please don't group all the evangelical organizations together. They use different tactics and take different positions. Curiously they often disagree among themselves. On the other end of the spectrum, it would be like saying that the Witherspoon Society, That All May Freely Serve, the Covenant Network and Voices of Sophia always agree. If I remember correctly the Covenant Network and That All May Freely Serve disagreed on tactics at the last GA over the PUP report. The Covenant Network supported the report as presented as a step toward their goal. That All May Freely Serve believed that recommendation 6 of the PUP report should be defeated saying justice delayed is justice denied.

    In any case I hope you are wrong about Joan Gray. I like her too. I don't agree with everything she says but hey, I'm here talking with John!

  11. Um, Bob, I wasn't lumping evangelicals together. I was referring to specific groups and individuals.

    And I think it's disingenuous to imply that the only thing Fahed Abu-Akel was criticized for was his scheduling technique. There was a LOT of very nasty things said about him and he became a symbol in the Layman for all the perceived sins of the PC(USA).

  12. fly

    I didn't imply anything about Fahed Abu-Akel. I said was all I remember is the flap about the special GA meeting. There may have been more and probably was. After all no matter what you do or say in the PCUSA these days someone is going to be upset. I just don't remember anything else.