Shuck and Jive

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Extra Innings in Jersey

Here are the results from mid-week voting on Amendment A. A weird day. West Jersey ended with a tie (Every Vote Count?). Normally, a tie means no. But the by-laws in this presbytery are like baseball and a tie score means extra innings. Those in favor of equality get another chance to bat when the presbytery votes on it again in May! We got lucky.

Here are the results from yesterday.

  • Seattle No, 103-126-4 (much closer margin)
  • Nevada No, 13-63
  • West Jersey, Tie 67-67
Two losses and no yeses. The presbytery tally on the way to 87 is 67-48.

Presbyteries to vote on Saturday (with their votes from 08-09) include:

  • Donegal (no 63-87)
  • Newark (yes 42-8)
  • Northern Plains (no 21-33)
  • Northumberland (no 20-58)
  • Utah (yes 28-25)
  • Whitewater Valley (yes 108-106)
We have some close votes this weekend. We need to hold Whitewater Valley, Utah, and Newark, and flip Donegal, Northern Plains and Northumberland. Any of them could go either way.

The good news is that people have changed their minds and some of those changes have been because of the speeches on the floor of presbytery.

Nothing, however, beats conversation and contacts beforehand.

Check out this excellent speech by Rev. Debra Avery of Phoenix before the vote in Grand Canyon Presbytery:

I speak in favor of the amendment. I don’t have a radical conversion story or an encyclopedic knowledge of scripture and our confessions. What I have is a journey of faith-filled hoping and some obedient steps in the direction I believe God is calling me to go. There are two questions that I believe we need to ask ourselves before we vote: What are we hoping for and what are we afraid of?

1. Some here might be hoping that the church will win the culture wars, either by restoring a culture of orthodoxy or by fostering a culture of openness and inclusion.
I wonder if we might find hope in our confessional tradition that calls us to a culture of reconciliation, forgiveness, and humility as we trust that the Holy Spirit will work in and through the messiness even when we don’t have it all figured out.
2. Some here might be hoping for the return of a biblical worldview. But I worry that it will be a worldview like the one held by some Christians who told me I needed to stay in a broken marriage with an addict because divorce is an abomination; or the one taught by some of my extended family to advise me to give up seminary and my call because women are to remain silent in the congregation.
I wonder if we might consider the biblical truth that says tithe: sell all that you have and give it away and then follow me; or the one that says that the body of Christ must be diverse, for if the whole body is an eye, where would the hearing be?
3. Finally, some of us are afraid: Afraid that a yes vote will cause a complete rupture of the denomination; that it might cause us to be rejected by family members, colleagues, members of our congregation, by God.
I cling every day to sola gratia—trusting in God’s grace alone to know that nothing stands in the way of God’s love. More and more I am afraid that we might be like the rich man who for years told Lazarus “no” only to find that he suffered eternally for refusing to offer a welcome to that man who lay just outside the gate.
By the way, if you are not going to be voting but you support equality in the PC(USA), you might consider a donation to Covenant Network of Presbyterians or More Light Presbyterians right now as they make contacts, calls, and provide resources to each presbytery down this final stretch. I know for a fact that the work of MLP and CovNet have made the difference in many presbyteries between a YES and a no. This could come down to one vote in one presbytery.

This is not as big of a deal as the earthquake in Japan. So if your charitable dollar would go to earthquake relief or to this cause, go for the earthquake. However, if you can give something for this work, too, it will be put to important use.


  1. @ John: The bylaw (I suspect it would be called that) in West Jersey Presbytery that allows a tie vote on an issue to be retaken is not legal according to the Book of Order. G-9.0302 says

    "Meetings of governing bodies, commissions, and committees
    shall be conducted in accordance with the most recent edition of
    Robert’s Rules of Order, except in those cases where this
    Constitution provides otherwise."

    The Constitution does not have any otherwise on the issue.

    Robert's Rules says this on tie votes:

    "On a tie vote the motion is lost, and the chair, if a member of the assembly, may vote to make it a tie unless the vote is by ballot. The chair cannot, however, vote twice, first to make a tie and then give the casting vote."

    I think the by law (or whatever they call it) is out of order according to the Book of Order given its reference to Robert's Rules.

    However I suspect no one is going to listen to me.

  2. @Bob

    You have just posted on Shuck and Jive so the Presbyterian world is watching and listening! : )

    I, too, wonder about this. I am secretly regarding West Jersey a "no" and hoping we will have reached 87 before May so it won't matter.

  3. "I wonder if we might find hope in our confessional tradition that calls us to a culture of reconciliation, forgiveness, and humility..."

    I've noticed that many in the mainline churches upset over Amendment A insist that the reconciliation be with them, to keep them in. But isn't Amendment A all about working to reconcile and ask forgiveness of those who have been excluded all this time?

    Shouldn't they come first for once? Then, if those mainliners still feel left out (and if they do, it will be their own doing), isn't that the time to talk about reconciling with them?

  4. @Snad, I'm the author of the speech, so I'll try to say what I meant as I agree with you and want to be clear.

    I was hoping to speak to the middle - the undecided folks - to help them see that there is more to consider than the traditional polarities that have been the focus of all debates. What I've seen is that unfortunately, the argument for justice doesn't sway them - neither does the argument which focuses on love the sinner hate the sin. My hope is that we get everyone to think about all the things we DON'T focus on when everyone fights from their corners.

  5. Hi, Debra -

    I apologize. I was in no way suggesting that you were in error for what you said. I meant only that I hear too much from people who have had it good all along complaining about not getting their way, particularly when "getting their way" means continued injustice, and NOT getting their way means restored justice.

    They don't see that they have nothing to lose.

  6. To Robert's comment: You are correct in your interpretation of Robert's Rules. However, the Book of Order and GA rules do give leeway to presbyteries in how they vote on overtures. The controlling rule is the deadline for reporting their results. Robert's rules would only come into play when both the BoO and presbytery standing rules were silent. At least that is the argument I would make on the issue. A broad reading of G-11.0103v gives the presbytery the authority to establish its own structure (and by extention, rules) to carry out its mission and ministry. As to the part about the chair's vote, here too Robert's Rules would be overruled to a degree by the BoO. The moderator's vote by ballot would not be limited because there is no provision to disenfranchise the moderator in the BoO. In practice most probably do not vote, but their vote, whether forcing a tie or breaking a tie, would have to be counted. Nothing like a little Ppolity geed moment in the middle of the week!

  7. And voting Tuesday:

    Carlisle, Monmouth, and Philadelphia.

    In 08-09

    Carlisle no 71-74
    Monmouth yes 72-41
    Philadelphia yes 153-139

    We need to hold Monmouth and Philadelphia and flip Carlisle.

    So, Bob (of Philadelphia): Since you think it is a done deal and we need to move on and live into the new reality of a changed G-6.0106b, why don't you join us and be on the side for this historic change?

  8. Yeah, Bob! Join us! We let anyone in! ;^D

  9. @John and Snad: I plan to do something during the 10-A debate that I almost never do at presbytery. That is keep my big mouth shut. John will remember that I had at least 2 opinions on every issue before a presbytery. :)

  10. Snad wrote, "But isn't Amendment A all about working to reconcile and ask forgiveness of those who have been excluded all this time? "

    I'd be happy enough if folks on either side simply realized they can work together in spite of these differences on this issue.

    When my husband spoke as one of the proponents of 10-, he pointed out that these differences in opinion didn't stop one of the chief opponents of 10-A from moderating the Session of our church on which he served as Clerk.

    It didn't stop another opponent whom I served with as commissioner to GA from stopping afterward and giving me a big hug and acknowledging our differences on this issue are minor compared to the things we agree on.

    Unfortunately some, mostly on the other side, have for so long drawn this as the line in the sand that defines people they simply will not work with that perhaps some moderates believe that's reality, instead of the spin, rhetoric, and just plain old childish tantrums of a small number of so-called "conservatives."

  11. 2 Robert Lowry

    G-11.0103v refers to powers that a presbytery may turn over to a council or a committee like the COM. It doesn't say anything about different rules on voting on amendments.

    There is nothing, BTW in Chapter 18, the chapter on amendments that allows for other rules than Robert's Rules for voting on amendments.

    The only way the presbytery could vote again on the amendment is if someone who voted against the amendment move that the amendment be reconsidered and the body would then vote on that motion. I understand that there was a vote to vote again in West Jersey but I don't know who made the motion. What I hear from people I know in West Jersey is that they think the Stated Clerk erred in his ruling.

  12. @Bob I am confused. On more than one occasion when I make a post about Amendment A, you comment, perhaps resignedly, that it is going to pass, what's the point of fighting it: "we need to move on."

    But then you get all technical about West Jersey, reporting on conversations with folks there, etc.

    Nothing wrong with that. I certainly am doing everything I can to pass this amendment. So what do you want?

    I kind of enjoy the excitement of it all. If it doesn't pass, we do it all again next time. If it passes this year, it might be a bit of a let down. : )

  13. Well, John, if you're looking for excitement, if 10-A passes this year, there will still be marriage amendments to fight about next year! :)

  14. That's good! I like to keep the sidebar filled with cool stuff!

  15. @John

    The West Jersey stuff interests me because I'm a polity weenie. I know that makes me weird, but what can I say? One of the reasons that I'm against the nFOG is that I will have to learn a whole new Form of Government at age 58!

    I'm not so much resigned as tired of it all. This all started my first year in seminary. It would really be nice to argue about something else after 36 years than about homosexual sex or sex at all. (Anybody have good ideas for new arguments?)

    Having said that, I'm with Alan's husband. At the end of it all I'm not going away, am still going to be friends with the folks I've disagreed with about all this and will keep doing ministry. Maybe at the end of it all those who continue to get along will have learned something about love and grace. And those who try and take their ball and go home will not.

  16. Here's an idea: stop talking about homosexual sex, because it isn't about that at all! Allow people the equality they rightfully deserve and get on with things. It's up to people like you, Bob, to make that happen. It has been all along.

  17. @Bob I hear you.

    I share your hope about learning something of love and grace.

    My quibble with your last comment is that I don't think it is about "sex" homosexual or otherwise.

    I really don't tire of this (even though I roll my eyes and yawn loudly about the same arguments going past one another.

    The reason I don't tire of it is because I am honored to have made friendships with the people whom I share this struggle and a common hope.

    And if it weren't for this struggle, you and I might not have shared a conversation (and friendship) for so long.

  18. Well we could start an argument in the PCUSA about TULIP but first we would have to explain what it means to too many people including MWSs.

  19. Or we could try to figure out how to convince people of the church's relevancy in this century, for example by discussing the importance of real communities instead of digital ones, actual human interaction verses digital ephemera, etc. Rather than going with the flow in a digital sense as many now propose, I think real communities have significant real benefits over the pretend friendships people think they have online.

    But in an age when even the Catholics are selling confession iPhone apps, it might be a tough sell.

    In a desperate search to try to be cool, people have forgotten what makes the church distinctive.

  20. Oh TULIP! I like that one. Let's get it on.

    My Grandfather raised hybrid tulips in his Green House in Rutledge, Pa. He won awards for it at the Philadelphia Flower Show. :-)

    Oh, he was also a Presbyterian Elder. We've traced his family line back to Presbyterian Elders in Northern Ireland. Good Scotts Irish I presume.

  21. Interesting point, Bob. Do people in the more conservative side of the PC(USA) still consider original sin a reality?

    I don't know why that would be a bone of contention, though, since, if they do, then everyone is afflicted with it, and so the question of equality is moot. Unless, of course, there is an exclusive table with much better food at the potluck for those who have convinced themselves that they've overcome it. ;^D

  22. What kills me is that 10-A might actually pass, and then get snatched away.

    I'm going to vote for it, and my Presbytery (National Capital) will almost certainly vote to approve.

    But then if nFOG passes, as it seems on track to do, the 10-A vote seems sorta pointless, because nFOG 2.0104(b) contains the same flawed and divisive language as G.6-0106(b).

    Yeah, with 10-A the church has amended the Form of Government, but we've amended the *old* Form of Government.

    Being Presbyterian makes my head hurt sometimes.

  23. @Beloved Spear,

    Not quite. The wording of 10-A will move into nFOG if both pass. that was made clear in the accompanying literature. The same is true of the other ammendments as well.

  24. Or, Pastor Bob, we could discuss the relative merits of the scorched earth strategies suggested by "evangelicals" like this guy:

    Is there anything more embarrassing than seeing a grown adult throw a public childish temper tantrum?

  25. Kattie is right. This is a big misconception. 10-A will be incorporated into the nFOG if 10-A and nFOG both pass.

    However, the fact that the whole point of the nFOG was to get past these arguments, yet the committee didn't (for some reason) take out G-6.0106B or touch the property clause, is yet another reason I'll be voting against it.

  26. @Alan,
    I saw Anderson's rant on the Layman earlier, and I was embarrassed for him.

    I got thrown of Ms V's blog (today, once again) for apparently insulting Evangelicals. She’s so touchy. It doesn’t matter what they say about anyone else apparently.

  27. @ Kattie: Thanks for that clarification! It wasn't evident in much of the material I'd read...up until about 10 minutes ago, when I found the OGA advisory on the matter.

    My head hurts much less now. ;)

  28. " It doesn’t matter what they say about anyone else apparently."

    Well, when people appoint themselves the mouthpieces of God, they can say whatever they want.

  29. @ Alan I'm with ya on the face to face community stuff. For one thing it would clear up the confusion of online communication because we could hear tone of voice and facial/body posture. Maybe more important is something that Robert Heinlein says: we humans are monkey people we need face to face community, to be in the same room. I'm not sure if Heinlein also thinks we need to pick bugs off of each other or not. :)

  30. @Alan Anderson didn't say anything new.

  31. @Alan,


    And depending on the audience, you might even see two faces.

    “And for DeYoe to put this piece up in the midst of our concerns-well I can't even say it. “


    “DeYoe of IPMN wrote a stupid article”...

    @Robert (Bob)
    I think Heinlein has it right, but which face you get depends upon honesty and true relationship.

  32. We can pick bugs off one another, but I prefer not to eat them, Bob.

  33. @snad: haven't you heard of John the Baptist's breakfast cereal? Locusts n Honey. ;)

  34. Results so far today:

    Donegal YES 83-80-1 (FLIP!)
    Newark YES 34-21
    Utah YES 30-25
    Whitewater Valley YES 124-89

    Northern Plains No 32-34

    The tally is 71-49.