Shuck and Jive

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Doug Oldenburg on Amendment B

I received permission from former PC(USA) moderator, Doug Oldenburg, to share some of his thoughts regarding amendment B.

1) I happen to believe that the argument about dividing the church is the strongest argument against the amendment. I am deeply committed to the unity of the church and I don't want a church all like me or all like you or anyone else. I preached the morning of our presbytery meeting a sermon entitled, "Celebrating Diversity and Affirming Unity." Our GA said a few years ago that our diversity was our greatest asset in discerning the mind of Christ. I join others in fearing that we could encounter a schism in the church much as has happened in the Episcopal Church, and I would deeply regret that.

2) However, having said that, I am convinced that the arguments for passage of the amendment carry far more weight than our fear of division. I learned long ago that as Christians we cannot live our lives on the basis of fear or make decisions out of fear. Of course, we need to be realistic, but fear must not drive our decisions. To a large extent, we make our decisions on the basis of what we believe is Christ's will for the church and then trust that God's Spirit will hover over the fall-out.

3) I well remember that the same argument was used over and over again in the South years ago when debating racial issues. "We must not take a stand on racial issues for fear of losing members or members reducing their pledges." As you know, the argument of fear was used when debating the ordination of women - at least in the South. Yes, we did lose some members and some financial support over those issues, but no one regrets our taking a stand on what we clearly discerned to be the mind of Christ. At Columbia Seminary, my home church at Signal Mountain, Tennessee (I am a son of that church!) stopped giving the seminary $10K each year because I took a public stand on the ordination of gays and lesbians. Yes, we needed the money, but I never regretted the stand I took.

4) No one can be sure just what the fall-out will be if we pass the amendment, but I think those who use that argument often overstate their case. After our surprising vote in Charlotte Presbytery, I called a pastor friend who is very conservative (on the other side of this issue) just to express my pastoral concern for him and his colleagues and their churches. I knew he was hurting. He was in a group of about ten pastors that took out a full page ad in the newspaper some months ago expressing their deep regret about the direction of the Presbyterian Church (USA) over this issue. They did not explicitly threaten withdrawal from the denomination, but came close. When I called recently, he was very cordial and thanked me for my call and concern and assured me that neither he nor anyone else in his group has talked about leaving the denomination. Sometimes our fears are unwarranted.

5) As you know, the ultimate basis for making decisions is seeking to discern the mind of Christ as revealed in the whole of Scripture - not just a few selected passages. As I read the Gospels, Jesus was always reaching out to those on the margins, those who felt excluded (Samaritans, tax collectors, lepers, the adulterous woman). His strong bias was weighted toward inclusion, not exclusion. And so it must be our bias too!

6) As a child and young person, I thought that all gays were promiscuous and child molesters. One day a gay man confronted me with the question: "Why can't you understand that child molestation is as offensive to me as it is to you?" And "why can't you understand that I want the same kind of monogamous relationship of fidelity, "till death do us part" that you have with your wife, but I want it with another man." That was a turning point for me. It also became clear to me that none --- NONE -- of the passages in the Bible referring to same gender sex are referring to two people of the same gender in a monogamous, loving, faithful, life-long relationship. Instead, they are referring to prostitution, pederasty, and exploitative relationship. All of us are opposed to those relationships, be they heterosexual or homosexual.

Be of good cheer! "Be faithful unto death (not win every time!) and you shall receive the crown of life."

Doug Oldenburg

Good, good thoughts, Doug. Thank you!

Meanwhile, I was thinking about Lisa Larges and the ruling of the PJC that the presbytery did a premature scruple. Always a disappointment when that happens.

There will be a time to declare your scruple. To the tune of "Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley:"

You must go and state your scruple.
You must state it by yourself.
Ain't nobody else can scruple for ya,
You gotta scruple for yourself.


  1. The problem with the concerns over division is the failure to fully count those who are already excluded, disenfranchised, gone. The church divided back in 1978. The only difference was, those folks didn't have tall steeples and pricey properties. To not count them is to reinforce the idea that they are less-than... We need to make an already divided church whole again, by treating all equally.

  2. That is exactly right, Riled. I am glad you said that clearly. Very well stated.

  3. And remember folks if B fails, this is the proposed strategy of the Armies of Injustice, right from one of the horses' mouths:

    "Call upon all those within the church who cannot teach what we have repeatedly affirmed about sexuality in accordance with Scripture to cease their disobedience and be silent on this issue."

    Be silent on this issue? I'll give you a minute to either stop laughing, or read that a few more times. Yes, he's actually serious.

    First they deny us the opportunity to be ordained, now they want to force us to shut up.

    You see how easy it is, once you've decided that another human being is somehow less than human, to deny that person any basic rights or responsibilities: ordination, marriage ... and now free speech. One wonders what's next for these folks. Given how far they say they're willing to go, I would hate to speculate what else they have planned.

    This is not a joke. Not parody. Not out of context. Just one guy saying what we know they all think.

    Take note, folks.