Shuck and Jive

Friday, July 04, 2008

The Bible or Cultural Prejudice?

If you take time to read the blogs and the statements of advocacy groups of the Presbyterian Right, you will hear the mantra that the General Assembly of the PC (U.S.A.) has abandoned the Bible and embraced North American cultural prejudices. Here is an example from Presbyterians For Renewal:

Having lost sight of her clear, Christ-centered identity, the PC(USA) has continued to embrace our culture’s beliefs and morals.

That statement is mild compared to other statements that are far more harsh regarding the actions of the commissioners.

These statements are in response to one issue, the place of sexual and gender minorities in the church. The General Assembly did not address only one issue. They deliberated, debated, and decided on a number of issues that I have already highlighted on this blog including healthcare, war, torture, inter-faith relations, and the adoption of a new social creed. There are more to come. Anyone can go to PC-Biz, log on, click "committees" and get the exact language of what the GA did.

In all of these actions, the commissioners wrestled with what it meant to follow Christ and to interpret the witness of scripture in our time and place. Far from throwing out the Bible, they sought to follow it. When we do that, we will disagree, and disagree strongly at times.

We could interpret the actions of the right as emotional knee-jerk hyperbole. I, too, get emotional when votes don't go my way. Nevertheless, statements that bear false witness to the motivations and integrity of fellow Christians need to be addressed, and that includes those that I make as well.

Whether you agree or disagree with some or all of the actions of the General Assembly, the commissioners did seek to follow Christ and the biblical witness. In my opinion, and it is only my opinion, the General Assembly was faithful and prophetic regarding many issues including the actions regarding sexual and gender minorities.

You don't have to agree with me or the General Assembly. You can justly say that the commissioners were in error as they interpreted the Bible and Christ. But to say as a matter of fact and intention that they threw out the Bible in favor of cultural prejudices is to bear false witness.


  1. John,

    This is one of your best statements in recent days for its modesty and honesty - in addition to being plain right. Indeed, it is false witness which is continually levelled against the opposing side in this debate to allege that one side and only one side is attempting to be faithful to biblical witness.

  2. John,

    An excellent post. Having been a Commissioner to GA several years ago, comments such as yours are greatly appreciated and show a level of understanding that many don't have an awareness of. It is so insulting to have a faction of our denomination convinced that you're on a political powertrip, when you are truly trying to look at your work with an open heart and mind.

  3. Thanks Aric and St. And thank you, belatedly, ST, for serving as a commissioner to whichever GA you served!

  4. “Having lost sight of her clear, Christ-centered identity, the PC(USA) has continued to embrace our culture’s beliefs and morals.”

    I find it interesting that these same people regularly throw up God’s canopy to legitimize every foreign adventure taken by our government. This part of our culture must be OK?

  5. Once again -- as has happened after the last several GAs -- I'm struck by the statements that some conservatives make about our GA Commissioners.

    These Commissioners (not representatives, but people Commissioned by the whole Church for this important work) are (according to the conservative bloggers we all know and love) nothing but mindless sheep. They apparently were snowed by liberals into doing whatever they were asked to do. I haven't yet seen the charge of apostasy thrown around yet, but I have no doubt that the shrieking hyperbole will inevitably reach that hysterical level, as it has in the past.

    Disagree with the outcomes of this GA? Fine. But these constant insults of the people we *all* send to GA -- the people who represent the Church and are not part of some imagined vast left-wing conspiracy -- only shows the pitiable state of the so-called conservative movement in the PCUSA. They've become a mockery of themselves.

    We are always blessed to have such able, wise, discerning and compassionate Commissioners, even when we disagree with their actions.

  6. Well, they're mindless sheep except for the GA that passed Amendment B, apparently.

  7. "Well, they're mindless sheep except for the GA that passed Amendment B, apparently."

    Well, obviously not those folks. ;)