Shuck and Jive

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Presbyterian Big Shots

On Groundhog's Day it appears as though some big steepled lads saw their shadow and in typical fearful fashion have posted yet another "Here we stand" letter.

This letter to the PCUSA signed by a bunch of disgruntled preacher MEN rehearses the same shizz we have heard for the past decade or more:

"To say the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is deathly ill is not editorializing but acknowledging reality."
Speak for yourselves. My church is quite healthy.
We believe the PC(USA) will not survive without drastic intervention, and stand ready to DO something different, to thrive as the Body of Christ.
Whatever you do fellas, leave the rest of us out of it.
We call others of like mind to envision a new future for congregations that share our Presbyterian, Reformed, Evangelical heritage. If the denomination has the ability and will to move in this new direction, we will rejoice. Regardless, a group of us will change course, forming a new way for our congregations to relate.
Good for you. What is it you need, the deed to the church property? As far as I am concerned, you can have it.
Homosexual ordination has been the flashpoint of controversy for the last 35 years. Yet, that issue – with endless, contentious “yes” and “no” votes – masks deeper, more important divisions within the PC(USA). Our divisions revolve around differing understandings of Scripture, authority, Christology, the extent of salvation amidst creeping universalism, and a broader set of moral issues.
Actually, no. The controversy is prejudice and you are losing. So far we have had a continuous "no" from you boys regarding justice, and this year it changes. "Don't Ask Don't Tell" is ending in the PCUSA and you can't handle it. All your phony excuses regarding Scripture and what all is a smokescreen for bigotry. Fewer Presbyterians are buying it.

While everyone wearies of battles over ordination...
Again, speak for yourselves. Those of us on my end never weary of doing justice.

Is it time to acknowledge that traditional denominations like the PC(USA) have served in their day but now must be radically transformed?
If you don't like us, there is always the door.
We need something new, characterized by...
Then the good old boys come up with a bunch of new schemes to reconfigure the church with new synods and presbyteries. Apparently, with each of them claiming his own kingdom?

The arrogance is astounding. As if these self-proclaimed big shots think they know both diagnosis and cure for the entire denomination. Maybe if they spent more time worrying over their own congregations, they could leave the rest of us be.


  1. So let me make sure I have this straight: the PCUSA should not allow ordain GLBT people as ministers of sacrament and word because the denomination is losing members?

    Is that what they're saying?

    Does that make sense to anyone? On the one hand, if the denomination is losing members, how does excluding millions of people solve that?

    But more importantly: does the PCUSA really want to be the denomination which takes its stand on issues of social justice, not based on what's right and how we interpret Scripture, but based on what they think will improve membership?

    Is that what they think Jesus was all about? Is that what the Reformation was all about?



  2. You got it, Beale. That is the argument. "Astounding" is right.

    On another note, Stacey Rector was superb! We had a great turnout for her and she was eloquent and passionate and made a big impact!

  3. So here's my proposal for church property in the shadow of schism, NOBODY GETS THE PROPERTY! Sell the whole thing. Donate the proceeds to a local organization or organizations that the church already supports like a local food bank.

    This way, if nobody gets the property then property is no longer the issue. Also in this proposal, the Presbytery doesn't just get the property either. NOBODY GETS IT! If all sides are so dad gummed right then let God provide as you go out into the world.

    Everyone freaks out about this, but I think Solomon would consider it an option.

  4. Oh, they also say that their "fellowship" doesn't have a name yet. I'm suggesting something like "Newer Wineskins."

  5. Enjoyed this; a good response to the "boys."

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Great post. My only contention is regarding property. If you want to leave the denomination, "transform" the denomination, or whatever, that's cool. Just don't forget to turn the lights out on your way out and leave the keys on the communion table. You can't throw a temper tantrum, leave, and then take the denominations stuff. If the progressives ever decided to leave it would never occur to us to keep the larger church's property. Just my 2 cents. Good post, John. Peace!

  8. I never quite understood the logic behind property. If a series of congregations would feel more comfortable outside of the union of the PC(USA), and if the issue of property is the only thing holding them in, then all that does is cause problems for the organization.

    I don't think people should feel coerced to stay. If people stay, I think it should be because they want to. Otherwise, the union becomes little more than a pretense of appearance. As long as a congregation doesn't have a debt to pay off to the presbytery, why should anyone care whether they take their buildings if they decide they don't feel like they belong any longer?

  9. Southern Beale,

    It's actually worse than that.

    Their real argument is that the PCUSA should take a stand. And this is argument they believe in so much that they make it anonymously.


    They're so sure they're right about this that they don't even dare to sign their names.

    In an amusing twist of fate, they're getting called out in the Letters to the Editor section of the LayMAN as the cowards they are.

    LGBT people in the church have the courage of our convictions to come out and make this issue real. The busybodies, fusspots, tattletales, scolds, and abject wussy cowards take their potshots anonymously. The comparison between people who have stood up for their convictions at the peril of their livelihood, personal reputation, and friendships and these pathetic, rank malcontents couldn't be clearer.

    As the difference between right and wrong in the PCUSA becomes clearer and clearer, we edge ever closer to justice. When the cowards can't even show their faces, I think it is clear evidence that we've won and they're too embarrassed to even be seen on the other side.

    Actually, the only evidence that they have any shame whatsoever is that they're so ashamed of what they wrote that they won't sign their names.

    This will go nowhere and isn't worth more electrons to even discuss. They're trolls. Anonymous, cowardly trolls.

  10. This is one of those moments that makes me appreciate Presbyterian polity. No matter how much noise these gentlemen make, their votes will never count any more than mine.

  11. The timing of this "movement" is the key. Just when we see the tide turning in favor of amendment A, they try the same scare tactic. They want to scare the moderates and have them say to themselves:

    "The big important Presbyterian churches will leave if we vote for ordination equality."

    They think they are important. They are just punks in suits.

  12. Thanks for taking a stand against these tall steeple people. I know you could do nothing else. Thanks for noting that they are not only all Ministers but also all men. How many are people of color? The geographical representation seems heavily weighted to a few states. Can you say Texas, California and Florida?

  13. Well, I was going to leave a comment like, "at least the bigots in the Presbyterian Church are focused on the PCUSA and not on the rest of the nation. Wait 'til they turn their attention to rolling back the health care bill state-by-state and reinstating DADT in the military."

    Then I saw my old friend John Edward Harris at the end of the thread and got distracted.

    HI JOHN!

  14. @John Shuck:

    Glad Stacy was a big hit. I really miss her at Second in Nashville. It just wasn't the same after she left, but I am so glad she is pursuing the cause of justice with TADP. She is really changing the world. I love her to death.

  15. Geez, SB - couldn't you just love her for life without parole, instead?

  16. And now for something completely different...

    @John Edward Harris
    I went to subscribe to your blog, "Presbyterian Voices for Justice." However, I quickly noticed that something was missing: the words.

    Is that a new blog that has yet to have anything added to it, or is it just dangling there in the wind for no good reason other than to taunt me and make me wonder if that is a new blog that has yet to have anything added to it?

  17. All these pastors are saying is that it's time to chart a way forward. With this schism the PC(USA) will be 'inclusive' in the way you desire. Why would you not want that?

  18. In an increasingly advanced, high-tech, and tolerant nation, the Layboys apparently want to... double down on a pre-modern and intolerant worldview. I don't quite see how that is good or helpful.

  19. We don't need what they are pushing. We already have a structure. They are advocating a power grab to benefit themselves.

    There is no "schism" except whatever you all want to make.

  20. So why not throw a party that we sense it's time to go?! The PC(USA) will be exactly what you want it to be!!

  21. @Mooney

    You "have been sensing its time to go" for years. No one is stopping you. The threat of leaving has been used to bully at least since I entered the ministry.

    These big baby boys don't really to leave. They want to boss. In our system they don't get anymore votes than anyone else.

    I will throw a party when we pass amendment A and remove the discriminatory boundaries. All are invited including you and the boys.

  22. Well let's both hope we mean it this time!

  23. Here's a question... How long have these signatories been ordained in the PC(USA) or its predecessor denominations? I looked up two of them and found 30 years of pastoral ministry each. So if the denomination has been in a 35-45 year decline (by their reckoning), and they've been around for most of it, why again should they be followed?

  24. Indeed one of them (Bill Teng) stood for moderator some time back.

    And now he's a secessionist. Looks like we dodged that bullet.

    No one is going anywhere, proving once again that these guys are only in it for the pension. These pastors are Lucy, their followers are Charlie Brown, and their "plan" is the football.

    Once everyone's forgotten about this, next year there will be another Even Newer Whine Skins, now with Blue Crystals! (tm) Plus if you act now you get a free set of steak knives.

  25. (I see, BTW, that after getting a thorough smack-down from their allies at the LayMEN these guys finally decided to sign their screed.)

    And now we know they're all rich, tall steeple men.

    Perhaps they were right in the first place, they probably should have kept that a secret.

  26. I didn't seen one woman in that list. That's telling.

    So they're going to set up their own new Reformed thing that will be 'permeable' with the old one (whatever that means).

    Now you know at some point they'd then start arguing about whose baptism is more effective, appropriate, etc. :-) Maybe they should go read their Bibles some more.

  27. There is nothing they cannot do now in our current structure.

    If they wish to feed the hungry, they can now.

    If they want to pass out Bibles to Canadians, they can now.

    If they want to keep gays from serving as leaders in their churches, they can now and they can when amendment A passes.

    What they cannot do is boss everyone in the church. Mr. Big Shot's vote at presbytery counts no more than mine. They can't handle that. They can't handle being in the same presbytery as a church down the street that has gay cooties.

    There is a solution to that for the big baby boys. They can leave. In fact, they could probably make a deal in which they could purchase the property very, very cheaply from the presbytery (basically at a steal) and set up their own fundie kingdom. But they won't. They want it all.

    My hunch is that why this group of baby boys doesn't sign on with the whineskins is because of power fights with them.

    They are all James and John fighting for their spots on the right and left hands of Jesus.

  28. Therefore you have no excuse, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you . . . are doing the very same things.

  29. Finally getting to respond to my commenters:

    @Time I like "Nobody Gets the Property" very, very much

    @James Thanks!

    @Rev J I hear you. I do think many presbyteries are doing well making a fair deal and process for all concerned. I think we should avoid civil courts.

    @Irreverence a reason for the property clause has to do with our ancestors who provided the property and to prevent upstart clergy from taking it over. The idea that denominational identity is larger than congregational identity. But there is a process for congregations who want to leave to do so.

    @Alan Big Boy BFTSs

    @Mary Exactly. Democracy is too inefficient when you want to run your own kingdom

    @John Harris I am predictable! We all have our roles to play and mine is to be the id. Now the nicer people are commenting!

    @Sea see John. John see Sea.

    @Michael The good old boys want the good old days. Women and the help keep quiet until summoned.

    The clincher in all of this is that they see themselves as victims, really.

  30. This sentence by Katie says it all: "But I do not have words for my sorrow at your clear contempt for who I am and my ministry."

  31. Joh 13:35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

  32. Nice to see the boys coming over to quote scripture. Those with power and wealth (ie. boys with big churches) and who exercise that power and wealth against minorities (ie. gays) cover their actions with the language of piety and victimhood. They quote scripture in attempt to shame those who call them out on their actions. It's an old trick, fellas. It won't work here.

    If you really want to be pious, you could start with your ordination vows.

    When you publish a letter and sign your name to it and send it around to all the media saying that if the church doesn't do what you want, that you will go your own way, do you think that is promoting the "peace, unity, and purity of the church" or is being "governed by your Church's polity"?

    I don't know. Just asking.

    In the meantime, those of us who are working for change to the constitution are doing it through constitutional means and will continue to do so.

  33. I belong to one of those little steeple Presbyterian Churches and we have grown in the past 5 years from 10 to 20 as an average attendance. Our pastor is anti 10A, the congregation is pro. It isn't splitting out church, we are all God's children.

  34. Thanks Gail! Sounds like your community could be a model for the rest of the church.

  35. Here's their response to criticism:

    "Maybe the critics of this newly released paper are folks who are not among the Biblically orthodox in our denomination and, thus, do not fully understand the viewpoint being expressed in this document. "

    So, if you criticize this paper, it is because you're not orthodox anyway; criticism of this paper is heresy.

    "If you have attempted to address these problems, thanks for your efforts but don't criticize others who are simply trying to do the same."

    Or, more simply put, do not dare criticize the ol' boys network.

  36. Critics "don't understand the viewpoint being put forth in this document."

    I think their viewpoint is clear. The denomination is "deathly ill" because it has gays in it, or as Viola lovingly put today: "demons of hell...cavorting about."

    That is what they think. They think their viewpoint is Jehovah's viewpoint that He put forth in his Word.

    They think their churches would grow much more quickly if it weren't for these gay demons.

    Critics get it. It couldn't be more clear.