Shuck and Jive

Thursday, December 11, 2008

As for me and my house, we will serve the turkey

Rev. Fred scored 100 on his Bible quiz. You might want to congratulate him on that. This was one of the quiz questions:
33. Joshua said, "As for me and my house, we will serve the _____."
a) turkey
b) establishment
c) wine
d) Lord
The best answer is c. The correct answer is d. The Theology and Worship unit of the PCUSA would like us to answer b. That is the only reason I can see why they published Beau Weston's paper, Rebuilding the Presbyterian Establishment, that I commented on earlier (Let us Worship the Tall Steeple Pastor).

His paper has received some attention.
Doug King of Witherspoon provided his own critique here. Then, over thirty faculty members and theological educators responded in a collective critique. Thanks to Doug at Witherspoon for reporting this.

I think the reason people seem to care about this is that his paper is more than an opinion of one individual, it is a document published by the Theology and Worship unit of the denomination.

I am not criticizing T & W for publishing it. I think it is swell that T & W publishes heresy. Maybe someday they will publish something of mine.
Maybe the Theology and Worship unit could publish something about what the church ought to be doing in light of our looming planetary crises.

The critique from the 30 theological educators has five summary points:

1) The author does not provide qualitative or quantitative data to support his assertion that increasingly inclusive leadership in the structures of the PCUSA has led to its decline.

2) The argument to “rebuild the Presbyterian Establishment” is rooted in a model of ecclesiological power and authority rooted in a hierarchical rule that has clearly been rejected by the PCUSA as oppressive and unbiblical.

3) The proposal for “rebuilding the Presbyterian establishment” fails to respond to the needs of the church in the 21st century.

4) The proposal that “tall-steeple” pastors, who Weston claims are the “natural leaders of the church,” should provide the primary leadership of the denomination will reestablish a denomination led almost exclusively by white, male pastors.

5) The claim that we no longer need structures of inclusivity fails to recognize the deeply pernicious nature of structures of racism and sexism in our culture and our church and contradict the Book of Order.
Our moderator, Bruce Reyes-Chow, had an internet conversation with Beau Weston. You can link to it and read about it on Bruce's blog. There is also a Facebook discussion. One person on the Facebook page wrote:
I also chaired the Presbytery's Nom. Comm. for a year, and found it difficult, but exciting when we searched for persons to make up a diversity we needed on a particular group - folks we never thought of before, who turned out to be wonderful leaders! The same thing is happening at our transforming multicultural church. The old white establishment has a hard time seeing the young racial/ethnic members as equipped for ministry, but they often have a deep faith as a result of their experiences which gives them much insight into missions and relationships.
It is good to see the discussion. Maybe this will inspire us to talk about other things rather than the survival of the institution of the PC(USA). I am becoming more convinced that the human experiment is facing its greatest crises. Life twenty years from now could be massively different than life today. What is the church when things fall apart?

The church is going to need to be a lifeboat, a social network, and a font of creativity and spiritual strength. We need some truth telling to prepare for that, now. I think truth telling is coming from the diversity of our human relationships more than from the tall steeple.


  1. Well, at least the paper provided a basis for discussion, even if it's just to bash the paper for its weaknesses.

    The professors' response, particularly point 1, was great. It's a bit disappointing when a sociologist doesn't know that simple demographic factors explain about 75% of the decline in the mainline -- even more disappointing that a sociologist doesn't get that but a chemist does. :)

    (Frankly, I would think that sociology already gets a bad enough rap as being pseudosciencey without having dilettantes making completely unsubstantiated claims and calling it "sociology.")

    And I don't just like the professors' response because three of the five points were my own response to the paper in your previous post on it. But since they agree with me, they're probably right. ;)

  2. A healthy tree sheds its old leaves in order to make room for new ones that will grow and in return nourish the tree. Even evergreens do this. In many cases, this process is facilitated by strong winds that seem to shake the very foundations of the tree.

    A healthy tree will withstand those winds. An unhealthy tree will fall, decompose, and provide the soil with the necessary nutrients to allow a new tree to grow.

    The PC(USA) can choose to remain a healthy tree or not.

  3. Three of five! Not bad, Alan!

    Poetic Snad. Thanks!