Saturday, October 25th, 2014
The Layman Online > 2014 General Assembly (PCUSA) > Half way between G.A. meetings, PCUSA presbyteries approve of everything except ‘repentance of sin’

Half way between G.A. meetings, PCUSA presbyteries approve of everything except ‘repentance of sin’

pcusaThe 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) met in 2012 and forwarded to the 173 presbyteries for their affirmative or negative vote 11 proposed amendments to the denomination’s constitutional documents. A majority of presbyteries accepted the proposal to replace the Heidelberg catechism with a new translation.  A majority also accepted the requirement that any presbytery sending an overture to the 221st GA must now secure a second presbytery’s concurrence. Everything passed, except the amendment that would require those being ordained to repent of sin and make diligent use of the means of grace.

Only amendment 12-B which sought to clarify the ordination standards of the denomination was voted down by majority of presbyteries in the PCUSA. The current language of the Book of Order says that the life of the ordained “should be a demonstration of the Christian gospel in the church and in the world.” The amendment would have added a new sentence: “This includes repentance of sin and diligent use of the means of grace.”

What we choose to change and what we choose not to change says much about our mutual beliefs and expectations. What does it say about the PCUSA that a majority of presbyteries are willing to limit the minority voice of one presbytery by requiring concurrences for every overture but placing no limits on the business that might be generated by denominational agencies, entities and advocacy committees? What does it say about the PCUSA that a majority of presbyters voting in a majority of presbyteries do not believe that those being ordained should live lives marked by “repentance of sin and diligent use of the means of grace?”

As we turn our collective attention to the 221st General Assembly meeting of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to be held in Detroit, Mich. June 14-21, 2014, what the PCUSA professes to believe and what she practices in the living out of her common life are important questions to ask.

Marriage: The 220th GA also adopted a statement that “acknowledges that faithful Presbyterians earnestly seeking to follow Jesus Christ hold different views about what the Scriptures teach concerning the morality of committed, same-gender relationships” and that “the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) does not have one interpretation of Scripture in this matter.”  However, the constitution of the PCUSA in both parts, The Book of Confessions and The Book of Order, affirms that marriage is ordered by God in Creation, affirmed by Jesus Christ and sustained by the Holy Spirit. As ordered by the GA, the Office of Theology and Worship has prepared a study of marriage affirming those foundational truths.  Those standards will most certainly be challenged at the 221st GA where commissioners will be asked to redefine marriage accommodating the evermore confused sexual culture in which we live.

Moderator: There is one candidate already in the running for the office of Moderator, Heath Rada of Western North Carolina.

We can expect several reports with recommendations to emerge from special committees, task forces and a commission to the G.A. They include:

Overtures and other business already in the pipeline

Eight overtures have been received by the Office of the General Assembly for the 221st G.A.

Information received from the OGA confirms that “A Book of Order amendment that went into effect on July 7, 2013 states that overtures from presbyteries will require a concurrence from at least one other presbytery (see G-3.0302d) before being referred to the assembly. The overtures below, received before July 7, do not require a concurrence.”

Information received from the OGA indicates that “All future overtures from presbyteries will require a concurrence. The overture title will initially start with ‘NC’ to indicate that the overture needs a concurrence. Once a concurrence is received the ‘NC’ will be deleted and the concurring presbytery information will be added.”

While additional overtures are expected, the majority of business that comes to the G.A. originates with the advocacy committees, entities and agencies of the General Assembly itself. In addition to business expected from PMA, OGA, The Board of Pensions, Foundation, Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program,and  Presbyterian Publishing, there will also be business from the:

 

Calendaring toward Detroit

Working “back” from the start date of the 2014 PCUSA GA of June 14, 2014:

  • 120 days is February 14 (yes, also Valentine’s day) – this is the deadline for “reports” (which come the assembly from special committees, task forces, advocacy committees as well as the six agencies of the GA). This is also the deadline for overtures that seek to change the Constitution. This year, those overtures must be submitted by two presbyteries which pushes the timeline “up” for the originating presbytery because they will need another presbytery’s support prior to the 120 day deadline.
  • 60 days prior is April 15 (also tax day and the Tuesday of Holy Week) – this is the deadline for overtures with financial implications. This year, those overtures must be submitted by two presbyteries which pushes the timeline “up” for the originating presbytery because they will need another presbytery’s support prior to the 60 day deadline.
  • 45 days prior is April 30 – this is the deadline for “communications” (which may be directed to the G.A. from several sources, must be postmarked to the Stated Clerk by the 45-day deadline but this form of business may not be known to commissioners prior to the Assembly). This is also the deadline for overtures with no financial implications and that do not seek to amend the Constitution. This year, those overtures must be submitted by two presbyteries which pushes the timeline “up” for the originating presbytery because they will need another presbytery’s support prior to the 45-day deadline.

Now is the time to:

  1. Familiarize yourself with resources from the Office of the General Assembly and  PC-Biz.
  2. Familiarize yourself with and participate in your presbytery’s process for electing commissioners.
  3. Download and familiarize yourself with the Standing Rules, Guidelines and Policies, and Organization for Mission for the 2014th G.A.
  4. Consider overture(s) that your session might forward to your presbytery. Also, consider concurring with overture(s) from other presbyteries as all overtures now require the support of presbyteries to be heard by G.A.
  5. Become equipped to participate by utilizing sites like: www.gahelp.net
  6. Pray ardently, regularly and specifically for the 221st meeting of the General Assembly.

 

About the author: Carmen Fowler LaBerge

Carmen Fowler LaBerge heads the ministry of the Presbyterian Lay Committee as its President and Executive Editor of its publications, including The Layman.

17 comments

  1. Eric Wells says:

    My fear remains the spiritual victory of departing churches will prove short lived; as their places of refuge are denominations outside of the NAPARC. Any and all hope for true renewal and strengthening of our faith clearly lies there.

  2. Dave Moody says:

    Terribly, terribly sad. As one who has recently departed the PC(USA), my prayer is for exactly what has been rejected- repentance- that healing might come.

    My question, in looking over the overtures which have come down (or up, telling that..) from the presbyteries. Is 004, paying one lump sum to all vested members who have left for EPC, ECO, etc… even legal? Isn’t that a civil/corporate thing?

    Thanks for keeping us all informed!
    dm

  3. Woody says:

    I, and my family, are coming to the crossroad. Having so many years served in the church it is a painful choice. But we are called to be faithful. We cannot claim to be faithful to our Lord and Savior while, at the same time, we are being informed by our culture. And we know our culture is absolutely in opposition to the teachings that we have found to be true. We are called to “stand” rather than to “go along to get along”. “As for me and my house . . . “

  4. Carmen Fowler LaBerge says:

    Portends of other things to come at 2014 PCUSA GA, I expect to see a call for divestment of stock holdings in companies related to fossil fuels. The United Church of Christ (UCC) has begun that process and I would expect there to be calls for the PCUSA to follow suit.

    • Don says:

      Carmen, the anti-fossil fuel stance is, of course, part of a much bigger picture. For a long time, I’ve been asking the rhetorical question: Is there ANY political or social issue on which the leadership of the PCUSA takes a position different from that of the secular left in the U.S.? Any at all? This despite the fact that, according to the 2008 Presbyterian Panel Survey, the political affiliation of PCUSA members is 42% Republican, 28% Democrat, and the rest “Other”. There are two striking facts: First, that the leadership of the denomination is taking it in a forcefully liberal direction, when a plurality of rank and file members are conservative; and second, that the denomination has become almost indistinguishable from any secular liberal organization. Meetings of PCUSA leadership are essentially meetings of the Democrat party, with some prayers thrown in.

      • Art Hunt says:

        Are we not called to be stewards of God’s creation – to temper our individual desire for personal gain regardless of the impact on the common good? When did protecting the health and welfare of all and promoting the common good become a liberal/democratic position and not a spiritual, Christian, God centered position?

  5. Donald Fultz says:

    Karen God does not wink at sin. God ‘ s word is very clear, Leviticus 20:13 says when a man lay’s with a man, it is an abomination. Read also Romans 1:23–32.
    Hebrews 10:26 For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sin. if we go by feelings rather than The Word of God we will error.

    • Karen says:

      Donald,
      Have you eaten shrimp lately? How about a cheeseburger? Worn mixed fiber clothing? These are all sinful as well if read literally. As for the Romans text, our society makes idols of all sorts of things, there are some I have to be careful of as well. But when relationships are focused on God, draws people closer to God, is it possible that God is speaking in a new way? I am not advocating to go by feelings, because yes, we will bend all to our own wills.

      As for sin, we participate in systemic sin willingly many times a day. It is too wide spread to avoid. We still buy clothes made by sweatshop workers and produce made harvested by underpaid workers. Sin is very real when we turn away from God and look for our own gains and find worldly things of more importance.

      Read Galatians 5. This is how we know if people live by the Spirit. You know when you are in the presence of one living by the Spirit. I have met many of them within the Presbyterian Church and no, I don’t agree with all of these people either. God’s grace works in ways I don’t understand, but they are not mine to understand. Thanks be to God, for God’s grace and mercy and abundant love!

      • Eric Wells says:

        There is a huge difference between the Purity Laws that have already been fulfilled and the very plenary admonition against abominations which defy the very natural order; pursuant to procreation.

  6. Karen says:

    We have become a divided church, but as one who speaks from another point of view, I have grown weary of being demonized. Yes, I interpret Scripture differently, but it does not make me any less faithful nor obedient.

    “The current language of the Book of Order says that the life of the ordained “should be a demonstration of the Christian gospel in the church and in the world.” For me this is a statement about living one’s life as a model for radical hospitality and inclusiveness. To show a Gospel that heals instead of something that is judgmental and abusive.

    And as for marriage, we no longer have multiple wives and concubines as the model, the definition has changed. I feel that a loving relationship where two people are committed to faithful living not only to one another but to God is pleasing to God, no matter the gender of themselves, or who they love.

    • Loren Golden says:

      Karen,

      I would challenge your notion that you are being faithful and obedient by your “interpret(ing) Scripture differently”.

      First of all, how you treated Scripture in your July 14 and July 15 posts evidences a profound lack of understanding of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. You are evidently aware that the Old Testament Law forbade eating “anything in the seas or the rivers that has not fins and scales, of the swarming creatures in the waters and of the living creatures that are in the waters” (Lev. 11.10-12), but you do not evidence any understanding of the Biblical principles of why this restriction no longer applies. You are aware that the Old Testament Law forbade “wear(ing) a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material” (Lev. 19.19), but you show no appreciation for understanding what principle that the Lord was instilling by it in including it in His Law, nor again of the Biblical principles of why this restriction also no longer applies. You are evidently aware that the kings of Israel and Judah had multiple wives and concubines, but you show no appreciation of the fact that this was contrary to the established Law (Dt. 17.17), and indeed, of the one flesh principle of marriage that the Lord established in Eden (Gen. 2.18,21-25, Mt. 19.4-6). That polygamy, like divorce (Dt. 24.1-4), was regulated under the Old Testament Law should not be interpreted as if the Scriptures were advocating it. But rather, just as “Moses allowed (the Jews) to divorce their wives … because of (their) hardness of heart” (Mt. 19.8), so, too, did He allow them to multply wives, despite the one flesh principle that He had established in Eden, and despite the fact that there is not one example of polygamous marriage found anywhere in Scripture that is set forth as an example that we should follow. And for that matter, those who hold ordained office in the Church of Jesus Christ are required to be “the husband of one wife” (I Tim. 3.2,12, Tit. 1.6), which indicates that Elders, Deacons, and Ministers of Word and Sacrament, like the Ancient Israelite kings, are “not (to) acquire many wives for (themselves)” (Dt. 17.17; and with respect to the ordination of women not being Scriptural, I will simply refer the reader to my blog, where I addressed that in length, rather than rehash that argument here, especially since Karen did not raise the issue).

      And then, on the basis of your observation that the Church no longer practices or observes these things, you reject (not interpret differently, but reject) the Scriptures that forbid two people of the same gender from engaging in sexual intercourse with one another (Lev. 18.22, 20.13, Rom. 1.24-27, I Cor. 6.9-11, I Tim. 1.9-10). Please read these Scriptures in the context in which they were written, and not in the context of what the world is saying, for the world twists and distorts what the Bible says. For example, in writing the Book of Leviticus, the Lord through Moses established certain behaviors and conditions that were not moral, but were regarded as ceremonially unclean; that is, the Israelites who did those things or had those conditions were forbidden from offering sacrifices to atone for their sin (Lev. 11-15), for those who practiced these bahaviors or who had such conditions would be regarded as profaning the Lord’s holy Sanctuary if they were to approach to offer the required sacrifices (Lev. 1-7). Then, the Lord used the language of uncleanness and abomination to relate to moral actions, especially sexual sins (Lev. 18 & some parts of Lev. 19, which were punishable by death under the Judicial Law, Lev. 20). The proscription against practicing homosexuality was given in the context of Leviticus 18, in which the Lord said that He was driving out the Canaanites from the Promised Land for committing certain sins (vv. 3,24-30). So then, the Lord did not bring judgment upon the Canaanites because they ate shrimp, or because they wore garments made from two different kinds of material (e.g., wool and cotton), or even because they multiplied wives (which they undoubtedly did). Rather, it was because they committed incest, approached women who were menstruating (which is a deliberate, moral sin, as opposed to the man who was engaged with sexual intercourse with his wife when her menstrual period started, which made him unclean for seven days according to the Ceremonial Law; Lev. 15.24), adultery, sacrificing one’s children to an idol, engaging in homosexual intercourse, and engaging in sexual intercourse with animals (Lev. 18.6-23).

      Now, you did say that “sin is very real when we turn away from God and look for our own gains and find worldly things of more importance”, and this is true as far as it goes. But it is also true that we sin when we turn away from God and cherish worldly ideas more than His Word, such as when we cite Scripture’s commands to love our neighbor as ourselves (Lev. 19.18, Mt. 22.39, Mk. 12.31) and then adopt (in whole or in part) the world’s ideas of what love means. Certainly, it is not sin to love other members of the same gender as oneself; but it is sin to engage in sexual intercourse with them. The world sees the sexual love between two people of the same gender and says that it is the result of their “sexual orientation” toward homosexuality. Now, sexual desire is a part of God’s good creation that He established before the Fall in order that husbands and wives should “hold fast” to one another and partake of sexual intercourse freely. But as with all things ordained by God, our sin nature distorts sexual desire, such that some individuals sexually desire members of the same gender as themselves. It is not a sin to be tempted to engage in homosexual intercourse, but it is a sin to give in to that temptation. Same-gender sexual desire does not justify homosexual intercourse, despite what the world, in its wisdom, says, for the world, in its wisdom, does not know God (I Cor. 1.21). It is God, not the world, who defines what sin is, and as He said through the author of Hebrews, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” (Heb. 13.4) Do not believe the world; it is telling you lies and half-truths. Read, understand, and believe the Bible, for it, and not the doctrines and commandments of men, is the Word of God (II Tim. 3.15-17, II Pet. 1.19-21).

      Now, I have suggested that you are rejecting Scripture rather than interpreting it differently, as you claim. So then, please accept my invitation to interpret the following controverted texts in a manner that does them justice and does not reject them, and thus prove my suggestion wrong:

      “Jesus said to (Thomas), ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (Jn. 14.6)

      “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4.12)

      “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality (Gk: arsenokoitai and malakoi; the active and passive partners in male homosexual intercourse), nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (I Cor. 6.9-11)

      “And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (II Pet. 1.19-21)

      Note: All Scriptures are quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.

  7. Eric, while I respect your reasons for leaving the PC(USA) and joining the OPC, you need to let bygones be bygones. Using blanket statements like “apostate” to describe the entire denomination, lumps us all— together, even those of us who preach the Word and adhere to the Confessions.

    Some of us find ourselves in challenging situations. To leave my congregation would be to abandon one of the small handful of places in Northern New England which holds true to the Word and the Confessions. I very much feel that God still calls me to be their pastor, and when I have contemplated leaving, the Holy Spirit made it abundantly clear I am to remain.

    By staying, your position is that I tacitly endorse what the majority of current PC(USA) ruling and teaching elders commissioners and PJC members are doing in regard to the Word and the Confessions. But this is far from the truth.

    Every opportunity I find, I go on record in our Presbytery to speak against the tidal-bore of ignoring scripture and the confessions. I did so in the past by using the logic of our documents, which until July 2011 supported each other. Unfortunately, the Form of Government has now seemingly been elevated to a place higher than scripture and confessions.

    One leg of the logical three legged stool has been hacked off. :(

    • Eric Wells says:

      Dear Pastor Merrill,

      Letting “bygones be bygones” , to employ your verbiage, is the very error that has proven mortal to our faith tradition in the mainstream. Are the elect not called to perpetual vigilance? ……”On the other hand, we must be vigilant lest while the pious snore the wicked gain ground and do harm to the Church”. (Second Helvetic Confession 17:5).

      Your decision to remain and rail for reform from within will prove a fruitless endeavor, I absolutely guarantee it. You have and will continue to be responded to with the same kind of epistemological gymnastics and moral relativism that has led the once great PCUSA to its current state of irrelevance. Face it, you’re behind enemy lines AND THAT’S ALL THERE IS TO IT. Your penchant for dialogue with the revisionists ignores the admonition of Christ (Matthew 7:6), de facto.

      Do you honestly think that by waving a “Machen-like” torch at presbytery, it will somehow jar the predilections of that haven of Guevarist harlots toward epiphany, contrition and repentance? I once thought that too….as did J Gresham Machen, D James Kennedy and countless others. As you indicated in your final paragraph, the enactment of nFOG has led to a bureaucratic maladroitness that makes your objective all the more prohibitively insurmountable.

      NFOG WAS DESIGNED FOR THAT VERY PURPOSE and the same Bible, Westminster standards and Dordrecht considerations you say you champion dictate that the time has long since passed for you to do what an average of 281 people a day are TRULY led by the Holy Spirit to do!

      I’ll leave you with a final thought….You take umbrage with being “lumped together”. I do that not to offend, but to awaken. That fact is that you are and will be judged by the core ethos of whatever ornithological heading you stand under. Case in point, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Sting, CM Punk, Triple H and John Cena are thought of as “professional wrestlers” and WHETHER THEY LIKE IT OR NOT is neither here nor there.

      Don’t think about it, pray about it and let the Holy Spirit, not misplaced idealism, guide your path.

      In Christ’s love and peace, Eric

  8. Eric Wells says:

    I still cannot believe I stayed in that apostate denomination as long as I did. (Editor: part of this comment has been removed)

  9. And at the very end of the article: member at Grace Covenant Pres in Asheville, NC (the San Francisco of the East) This congregation has embraced all the GA course changes sought by the LGBTQ crowd. I have no documented evidence but they are generally known in Western NC as extremely sympathetic to all LGBTQ goals. Like I said, I am not in a position to offer proof but if it quacks like a duck ………. it’s kinda like being in Jeremiah Wrights church for decades and not wearing his teachings..

    • Hugh P. Taylor says:

      You are correct about the Grace Covenant Pres. in Asheville. It all started in the 60′s with the call of Rev. Busey as the senior pastor.

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