Shuck and Jive

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Witherspoon on General Assembly

Eugene TeSelle has written a thorough analysis of the the actions of the General Assembly of the PC (U.S.A.), A Special Report to Witherspoon Society Members and Friends. I urge you to read it carefully. Especially interesting to me were his comments on the right wing of the church and their strategies because of the GA's amendment regarding G-6.0106b. Gene writes:

Presbyterians for Renewal declared that Presbyterians "can no longer assume a common framework of conversation." The organization promised to work to defeat the proposed amendment in the presbyteries and to bring a new AI regarding homosexual practice to the next GA; to pursue a revision of the property provisions, to allow congregations to depart with their property without the lawsuits that are "a disgrace to God's mission in the world"; to encourage congregations to contribute to ministries "beyond the current forms of the PCUSA"; to pursue missional partnerships "within and beyond the PCUSA"; and in the meantime to reshape the denomination so that a formal split will not be necessary, including non-geographic "missional" presbyteries and synods.

I agree that the lawsuits are a disgrace. But who has been initiating them? Gene also wrote about the property issue:

The Presbytery of Northern New England has been engaged in litigation with the Londonderry, NH, church, running up costs that are more than 50 percent over its total budget. A Commissioners' Resolution asked the GA to set up a voluntary $2 million fund (an Extra Commitment Opportunity, not part of the GA budget) "for the purpose of sharing the costs of legal fees defending our Constitution against the New Wineskins non-geographic presbytery of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church." As many as forty presbyteries currently face lawsuits of this sort.

Commissioners from the presbyteries of Greater Atlanta, Western North Carolina, and Pittsburgh explained that 33 of the 39 current lawsuits had been instigated not by presbyteries seeking to retain property but by departing churches, usually without any discussion with their presbyteries.

I don't think it is going to work this time. I think the great middle of the church is on to the right wing and their fear-mongering. That is why the right is so desperate and so apocalyptic. Belittling gays as a theological and political weapon is old, tired news. The threat of putting a gun to the denomination's head if we ordain gays is less fearful than it was a few years ago.

This General Assembly has shown that Presbyterians are not afraid this time. People will vote with their conscience. As for those who cannot possibly remain Presbyterian if we ordain gays, well, there is the door. But you are not going to take the denomination down with you on your way out.

Changing G-6.0106b has an excellent chance to pass in the presbyteries. The new paragraph is far superior theologically to the old. I think people are going to get that.


  1. I think it is just sad to consider the money wasted on endeavors such as this. What good it could do in the world rather than having to fight law suits that should never have been brought because they have no standing in God's Church as we know it was revealed by the Christ who told us to "sell what we have and give it to the poor."

  2. Thanks, Jay. This is all over one vote. One vote on one issue. They want to rip apart or threaten to do so our common life together because one social issue didn't go their way.

    The rhetoric is appalling: "Presbyterians can no longer assume a common framework of conversation."

    I mean, really.

  3. Jay, I think your opinion is reflective of the Great Silent Majority in the church that increasingly doesn't give the proverbial rat's ass about this same old argument that gets dragged out every year (or two years now). It's become such a distraction from mission that most folks without a dog in this particular fight (though they increasingly now know gay people personally and realize they are not monsters) are sick of it and ready to move on.