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Princeton Seminary Cancels Award to Tim Keller After LGBT Complaint

(By Leonardo Blair, The Christian Post). A week after disgruntled Princeton Theological Seminary alumni complained that Tim Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, should not receive the school’s Kuyper Prize because of his church’s position on the ordination of women and LGBT individuals, the seminary decided Wednesday not to give the award this year.

“I have … had helpful conversations about this with the Chair of the Kuyper Committee, the Chair of the Board of Trustees, and Reverend Keller. In order to communicate that the invitation to speak at the upcoming conference does not imply an endorsement of the Presbyterian Church in America’s views about ordination, we have agreed not to award the Kuyper Prize this year,” M. Craig Barnes, president of Princeton Theological Seminarywrote in a statement Wednesday.

The Abraham Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Life is awarded each year to a scholar or community leader whose outstanding contribution to their chosen sphere reflects the ideas and values characteristic of the Neo-Calvinist vision of religious engagement in matters of social, political and cultural significance in one or more of the spheres of society. A condition of the prize is that the recipient deliver a lecture on a topic appropriate to the aims of the Abraham Kuyper Center for Public Theology.

Keller, 66, started Redeemer in 1989 with his wife, Kathy, and three young sons. For more than 20 years he led the diverse congregation of young professionals that has grown to a weekly attendance of more than 5,000. He also serves as chairman of Redeemer City to City, which starts new churches in New York and other global cities, and publishes books and resources for faith in an urban culture. In over 10 years, they have helped launch over 250 churches in 48 cities.

On April 6 at the Princeton Seminary campus in Miller Chapel, Keller was slated to collect the  Abraham Kuyper Prize and deliver a lecture on church planting.

About a week ago, however, Princeton Theological Seminary alumna Traci Smith complained in a blog post that she doesn’t believe Keller should be honored because of the Presbyterian Church in America’s position on the ordination of women and LGBT individuals.

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Listen to the comments Carmen Fowler LaBerge made on The Reconnect about the situation.

Related articles:

A Seminary Snubs a Presbyterian Pastor, By Case Thorp, the Wall Street Journal

What Exactly Is the “Toxic” Effect of Tim Keller’s Theology?, by Owen Strachan, Patheos

The gathered storm, the love of Jesus and Rev. Tim Keller, by Viola Larson, Naming His Grace blog

A Kuyper Prize?,  by William B. Evans, The Ecclesial Calvinist blog

Princeton Seminary Reverses Course, Won’t Award Tim Keller, by Mark Tooley, Juicy Ecumenism

Read Craig Barnes entire statement:

Update on the 2017 Kuyper Lecture and Prize

President Barnes addresses concerns raised within the Princeton Seminary community

March 22, 2017

Dear Members of the Seminary Community,

On March 10 I sent a letter to the seminary community addressing the emerging objections to the Kuyper Center’s invitation to the Reverend Timothy Keller to speak at their annual conference and receive the Kuyper Prize. Those who are concerned point to Reverend Keller’s leadership role in the Presbyterian Church in America, a denomination which prevents women and LGBTQ+ persons from full participation in the ordained Ministry of Word and Sacrament.

As I indicated in my previous letter, it is not my practice to censor the invitations to campus from any of our theological centers or student organizations. This commitment to academic freedom is vital to the critical inquiry and theological diversity of our community. In talking with those who are deeply concerned about Reverend Keller’s visit to campus, I find that most share this commitment to academic freedom. Yet many regard awarding the Kuyper Prize as an affirmation of Reverend Keller’s belief that women and LGBTQ+ persons should not be ordained. This conflicts with the stance of the Presbyterian Church (USA). And it is an important issue among the divided Reformed communions.

I have also had helpful conversations about this with the Chair of the Kuyper Committee, the Chair of the Board of Trustees, and Reverend Keller. In order to communicate that the invitation to speak at the upcoming conference does not imply an endorsement of the Presbyterian Church in America’s views about ordination, we have agreed not to award the Kuyper Prize this year.

However, the Kuyper Center’s invitation to Reverend Keller simply to lecture at their conference will stand, and he has graciously agreed to keep the commitment.  We are a community that does not silence voices in the church. In this spirit we are a school that can welcome a church leader to address one of its centers about his subject, even if we strongly disagree with his theology on ordination to ministry. Reverend Keller will be lecturing on Lesslie Newbigin and the mission of the church – not on ordination.

I want to thank all who have communicated with the administration of the seminary as this important conversation has unfolded on campus. We have heard many heartfelt perspectives from both sides of the debate. It has been a hard conversation, but one that a theologically diverse community can handle.

In the grace and love of Jesus Christ, we strive to be a community that can engage with generosity and respect those with whom we disagree about important issues.

Sincerely,

Craig Barnes

M. Craig Barnes
President
Princeton Theological Seminary

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PMAB and COGA to Meet in San Juan This Week

(By Leslie Scanlon, The Presbyterian Outlook). Both the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board and the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly are meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico this week – accepting an invitation from the Presbytery of San Juan.

Over the past year, Presbyterian leadership has been highlighting justice concerns in Puerto Rico – with J. Herbert Nelson, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA), along with Tony De La Rosa, interim executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, and Denise Anderson and Jan Edmiston, co-moderators of the 2016 General Assembly, sending a letter to President Donald Trump and congressional leaders in February regarding the Puerto Rican economic crisis.

That was done in response to an action of the 2016 General Assembly. The letter states in part:

“Puerto Rico’s unsustainable debt, which is more than two-thirds the amount of its GDP, cannot possibly be repaid simply by using spending cuts and tax increases, since those measures will inevitably accelerate the exodus of capital and labor and shrink the economy further. More importantly, this would result in even greater distress on people who are already in dire straits—more than half of the children now live below the poverty line and many families and individuals already struggle to survive.”

The two meetings in San Juan will overlap a bit – with one joint plenary session to discuss the “way forward” and a shared worship service – but for the most part the two groups have separate agendas.

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Tim Keller to Receive Princeton Seminary Award but Some Alumni Are Unhappy

(By Leonard Blair, Christian Post). Tim Keller, founding pastor of the multi-campus Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York Cityis set to receive the 2017 Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Witness at Princeton Theological Seminary next month but some alumni are disgruntled because of his church’s position on women and LGBT individuals in ministry.

The Abraham Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Life is awarded each year to a scholar or community leader whose outstanding contribution to their chosen sphere reflects the ideas and values characteristic of the Neo-Calvinist vision of religious engagement in matters of social, political and cultural significance in one or more of the spheres of society. A condition of the prize is that the recipient deliver a lecture on a topic appropriate to the aims of the Abraham Kuyper Center for Public Theology.

On April 6 at the Princeton Seminary campus in Miller Chapel, Keller is expected to collect the  Abraham Kuyper Prize and deliver a lecture on church planting.

Despite expressing respect for Keller as a Christian leader and man of faith, Princeton Theological Seminary alumna Traci Smith argued in a blog post that she doesn’t believe Keller should be honored because of the Presbyterian Church in America’s position on the ordination of women and LGBT individuals.

“Rev. Keller is arguably the most influential pastor of a denomination that is very clear in its assertion that women should not be ordained to ministry. He (and the denomination he serves) is also very clear in its exclusion of LGBT people,” Smith argued.

“My personal soapbox … boils down to this: an institution designed to train men and women for ministry shouldn’t be awarding fancy prizes to someone who believes half the student body (or is it more than half?) has no business leading churches. It’s offensive and, as I have taught my four and five year olds to express, it hurts my feelings,” she said.

“… (the reason he shouldn’t have been invited to give this lecture and receive this prize) is that this isn’t some minor thing. This is a giant lecture with a giant whoop-de-doo factor,” she opined. “There’s a place for common ground, but unless Rev. Tim Keller is prepared to argue for the ordination of all the women students of Princeton Theological Seminary, the The Abraham Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Life is not that place in my opinion.”

Princeton alumnus, W. Travis McMaken, associate professor of religion and chair of the interdisciplinary studies program in the School of Humanities at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri, said he was disappointed in his alma mater as well.

“Very disappointed with my alma mater, @ptseminary, for awarding the Kuyper prize to Tim Keller who denies the full equality of women and men,” he wrote on Twitter. “It’s hard to see this move by @ptseminary as anything other than pandering to conservatives in hope of generating enrollment. Disappointing. I hope that the @ptseminary faculty will not give Keller an easy time of it, at least, and thereby retain some dignity.”

Citing the concerns raised about Keller, Princeton Theological Seminary President, M. Craig Barnes explained the reasons for Keller’s selection in an email to the seminary community cited by Smith.

“While my office issues the official invitations to campus, I don’t practice censorship over the choices of these organizations, even when I or the seminary disagree with some of the convictions of these speakers,” he wrote.

“It is also a core conviction of our seminary to be a serious academic institution that will sometimes bring controversial speakers to campus because we refuse to exclude voices within the Church. Diversity of theological thought and practice has long been a hallmark of our school. And so we have had a wide variety of featured speakers on campus including others who come from traditions that do not ordain women or LGBTQ+ individuals, such as many wings of the Protestant Church, and bishops of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic communions,” he continued.

“My hope is that we will receive Rev. Keller in a spirit of grace and academic freedom, realizing we can listen to someone with whom many, including me, strongly disagree about this critical issue of justice,” he ended.

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First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem Members Urged to Reconcile by PCUSA Stated Clerk

(By Daryl Nerl, The Morning Call). The highest elected leader of the mainline Presbyterian denomination in the United States urged worshipers on Sunday to seek reconciliation in a schism that has fractured the First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem, PA.

“Have two people go out to a home and sit and have a discussion,” the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson told church members during a question-and-answer session that followed a worship service he led.

“You have been in a relationship with these folks for years, and you are still in relationships with many of them,” he continued. “Remind them of the times that you have all been together and what it’s meant in the life of this church to be a part of the fold.”

In June, the majority of the 2,600-member congregation voted to leave the mainline denomination to join the more conservative denomination called ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians. That decision was contested by the Lehigh Presbytery and the national organization Nelson leads, setting off a legal battle for control of the church building and the 31.5-acre campus.

Nelson, the stated clerk for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), led the worship service for Presbyterians for Unity, the portion of the congregation that wishes to remain with the mainline denomination.

He told them that memories of shared history, stories and longstanding friendships might enable the congregation to heal its rift.

“Help them to understand that you need them, not simply for the growing and the development of the church, but in the continuation of a community of people that have been in and out of each other’s homes and each other’s lives, who bear secrets and hold stories of each other and have been on trips together and worked together,” Nelson said.

Contacted afterward, the Rev. Marnie Crumpler, senior pastor at First Presbyterian, had a different view of reconciliation.

“I think there are longtime friendships between people in both groups and, so as far reconciling friendships, I think that’s important,” Crumpler said. “But I think if reconciling means coming back together as one church, I think we’re already an ECO church, and we’ve already made a decision to be an ECO church.”

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Turkish PM Considers Speeding Up Trial of Jailed American Pastor

(By Oren Dorell, USA Today). Turkey will consider speeding up the trial for American pastor Andrew Brunson, swept up in a crackdown after an attempted military coup last July, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Thursday.

“What we can do at this stage is accelerate the trial” for Andrew Brunson, who was detained on Oct. 7 for allegedly threatening national security, Yildirim told a group of American journalists visiting Turkey’s capital. “As you will appreciate, judiciary matters are not directly controlled by us.”

Brunson, who has lived in Turkey with his family for 23 years, has yet to be provided evidence to support the charge, said CeCe Heil, a lawyer for the American Center for Law and Justice, which is assisting with his legal defense. The North Carolina native is pastor of Izmir Resurrection Church in Turkey.

When asked about Brunson, Yildirim expressed frustration that the United States has not extradited to Turkey exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is accused by the government here of orchestrating the coup attempt. Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, has denied any involvement in the uprising.

The Obama administration did not turn Gulen over to Turkish authorities, saying he must go through a judicial process and Turkey must provide clear evidence of his involvement in the coup plot.

“I’m not establishing a connection between the two cases, but such an incident of a large scale was not taken seriously by the Obama administration,” Yildirim said, speaking through a translator. “They stalled for time, yet we had hundreds killed and thousands injured” in the coup attempt.

In a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the law center representing Brunson said Turkey’s arrest of tens of thousands of suspected coup sympathizers “swept up innocent religious minorities, especially Christians, in an ever-widening dragnet.”

“Here we have a NATO ally and they pride themselves for having the rule of law and religious freedom,” Heil said.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee wrote a letter signed by 36 other senators and 41 members of the House of Representatives urging Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to consider Brunson’s case. Brunson’s treatment “places significant strain not only on him and his family, but also on the robust bilateral relationship between the United States and Turkey,” Corker wrote.

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An Evangelical Pastor On Reaching The Religiously Unaffiliated

Rev. Timothy Keller spent nearly 30 years reaching out to skeptics in New York City. Here’s what he’s learned.

(By Carol Kuruvilla, The Huffington Post.) After nearly 30 years at the helm of New York City’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Rev. Timothy Keller announced last week that he will be stepping down from the role of senior pastor at his church.

Keller, a New York Times bestselling author, is an influential voice within evangelical Christianity. His church grew from a 15-person prayer group on the Upper East Side to a community of more than 5,000 that holds multiple Sunday services at three Manhattan branches, and is affiliated with over 300 congregations around the world.

As the leader of a conservative congregation in the middle of a big city that tends to swing liberal, Keller has years of experience trying to bridge the gap between those two world views. And he’s become known for his outreach to the religiously unaffiliatedthe growing number of Americans who identify as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular.”

In The Reason for God, published in 2008, Keller makes the case that Christianity is a rational belief system by tackling a few of the doubts that skeptics, both non-believers and those who question Christianity in particular, have about God. In one of his latest books, Making Sense of God, Keller steps further back and addresses questions that skeptics have about faith itself ― and whether any version of religion makes sense or has any relevance to modern life.

Keller told The Huffington Post that the job of an evangelist isn’t necessarily any harder than when he started Redeemer many decades ago ― but it’s different. 

“Nowadays, I think the difficulty isn’t just the hostility; it’s also that we as a society are ill-equipped to really respect, dialogue and learn from each other when we disagree or have different political or religious views,” Keller told The Huffington Post. “I think many people want a pluralism that’s healthy and honoring of each other’s differences but we -– both the religious and the non-religious –- don’t know how to do this well.”

The Huffington Post caught up with Keller to speak about his upcoming career transition and about what he’s learned about the religiously unaffiliated during his 28 years of ministry at Redeemer.

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Leader of PCUSA to Visit Divided Bethlehem Church on Sunday

(By Sarah M. Wojcik, The Morning Call, Bethlehem, PA). The First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem is getting the strongest show of solidarity yet from the national denomination with a Sunday visit from the highest elected leader in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson will lead the 11:30 a.m. service for the Presbyterians for Unity, the portion of the church’s congregation seeking to stay under the umbrella of the mainline denomination. His visit will mark the first time a sitting stated clerk of the general assembly has led a service in the region overseen by the Lehigh Presbytery in memory, according to Presbytery Teaching Elder Rev. David Duquette. He called the stop “unprecedented.”

Nelson, speaking during a Thursday interview between his cross-country travels, said his goal is ensure the Presbyterians for Unity feel the support of the rest of the denomination.

“They are not alone in this struggle,” Nelson said. “They’re certainly setting a tone and an example for others looking at similar struggles.”

In June, the majority of the 2,600-member congregation voted to leave the Presbyterian Church (USA) and join a more conservative denomination, the Covenant Order of Evangelical, or ECO, which is said to better reflect the group’s theological views.

But the Presbyterian Church (USA) said the vote violated church rules on how such separations should take place, setting off a contentious legal battle over which side will keep the 31.5-acre Center Street property.

Northampton County President Judge Stephen Baratta is hearing the case and could decide to hold a full trial before issuing a ruling. In the meantime, Baratta ordered both congregations to coexist within the church, holding separate services if they desired.

At a fall conference in Louisville, Ky., where the denomination is based, Duquette told national officials that a visit from leadership could lift morale. Duquette said he was told “help is coming.”

“Having him there will be an incredible boost,” Duquette said. “And I think it really shows… that the Presbyterian Church (USA) has a vision of being a church that’s opening and welcoming and not restrictive and judgmental. This is a tremendous affirmation for us.”

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PCUSA Groups, Leaders Support Transgender Student in Supreme Court Case

An amicus curiae brief, filed with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of a transgender teen wishing to use the school bathroom of his gender identity, included references to Presbyterian Church (USA) policy and was signed by two PCUSA affinity groups and approximately 191 Presbyterians.

The Covenant Network of Presbyterians and More Light Presbyterians, were among the 15 religious organizations and approximately 1,800 people who signed on to the brief filed in the case of Gloucester County School Board vs. G.G.

The case involves a high school senior – Gavin Grimm of Virginia – who was born female, but now identifies as male. He was seeking the right from the court to use the boys’ bathroom in his school.

On Monday, the United States Supreme Court sent the case back to the court of appeals, (FoxNews article; CNN article) citing the Trump Administration’s reversal of federal guidance issued by the Obama administration which required public schools to allow students to use the bathrooms/locker rooms matching their gender identity.

Those from the PCUSA signing the brief in support of Grimm included the Co-Moderators of the PCUSA, Rev. Jan Edmiston and Rev. Denise Anderson; two PCUSA related seminary presidents, Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson, president of Auburn Theological Seminary and Rev. Dr. James McDonald, president of San Francisco Theological Seminary; several seminary professors; and a host of PCUSA pastors and elders.

Merrian-Webster defines an amicus curiae as a brief filed in a court case by a person or organization that is not a party to the litigation but that is permitted by the court to advise it in respect to some matter of law that directly affects the case in question.

The argument

The brief states that is comes from “faiths that have approached issues related to gender identity in different ways over the years, but are united in believing that the fundamental human dignity shared by all persons requires treating transgender students like Respondent Gavin Grimm (‘Gavin’) in a manner consistent with their gender identity. [They] also believe that, in our diverse and pluralistic society, the civil rights of transgender persons must be addressed according to religiously neutral principles of equal protection under the law.”

It continues that “Faiths embracing the fundamental dignity of transgender persons participate in the mainstream of American religious observance. They include denominations such as the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the Presbyterian Church, the Unitarian Universalist Association, and the United Church of Christ; portions of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers); Judaism’s Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Reform movements; and countless individual religious believers from faiths ranging from Roman Catholicism to Islam who today celebrate and embrace equal dignity for transgender persons.”

The brief includes denominational statements which it believes bolster its case:

  • The Unitarian Universalist Church “which long as proclaimed a ‘commitment to the inherent worth and dignity of every human being, including … transgender individuals.’”
  • The Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies “affirmed in an open letter to their church ‘the civil rights and God-given dignity of transgender people.’”
  • United Church of Christ “publicly reaffirmed its own longstanding commitment to transgender inclusion.”
  • The United Methodist Church “deplore[s] acts of hate or violence against groups or persons based on … gender identity.”
  • The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America “also has urged respect for gender identity difference.”
  • The Presbyterian Church (USA) “asserted over a decade ago that ‘the love of God is not confined to the people … of one gender or gender orientation.’”
  • One Meeting (among others) of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) has formally stated its “understand[ing] that God, who loves all people unconditionally, is leading the Meeting to honor the gender identity of each person, as that person determines it.”
  • Muslims: “… On the basis of the Quranic teaching that ‘God enjoins justice, kindness and generosity toward one’s fellow humankind’ (Qur’an 16:90), Muslims for Progressive Values advocates for ‘a future where Islam is understood as a source of dignity, justice, compassion and love for all humanity and the world,’ and ‘affirm[s] the equal worth of all human beings, regardless of … sex, gender, [or] gender identification.’”

The brief mentioned a study by the University of Cambridge which confirmed how “a growing number of Christian denominations, particularly within Protestant traditions[] are … embracing trans people as congregants and ministers,” with “[m]uch of the progress ha[ving] taken place in the United States.” The study highlighted that, in 1996, Presbyterian Rev. Erin Swenson of Greater Atlanta became the first religious leader of a mainline Christian denomination to retain her post following her gender transition. Since then groups such as the Presbyterian Church USA (in 2010/11) and the Episcopal Church (in 2012) have removed barriers to ordained ministry of transgender persons.”

It also cited the PCUSA’s San Francisco Theological Seminary, founded in the late 19th century, which “abides by a Statement of NonDiscrimination that includes protections on the basis of gender identity.”

Another amicus curiae brief was filed on behalf of the Gloucester County School Board by U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations; National Association of Evangelicals; Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod; and Christian Legal Society.

A list of Presbyterians signing the amicus curiae brief filed in support of transgender student Gavin Grimm can be found here.

 

 

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A Community of Grace for the Sexually Broken

How Can the Church Be Welcoming and Biblically Faithful?

(By Megan Fowler, byFaith Online Magazine). Sexual identity and behavior often dominate our cultural conversation. It’s also a subject that leaves many Christians wondering how to respond. A purely cultural understanding of sexuality leads some to conclude, “Who am I to judge?” while believers who have a better understanding of God’s design for sexuality sometimes keep quiet for fear of offending others. But these hands-off approaches are at odds with Scripture.

With this tension in mind, last year’s General Assembly [Presbyterian Church in America] offered two seminars on sexual sin. In a seminar titled “Sexual Confusion in the Church: Becoming a Welcoming Church While Remaining Biblical,” Tim Geiger, Harvest USA executive director, presented practical ways the church can respond to sexual brokenness. Geiger also participated in a panel discussion with David Strain and Allan Edwards called “Sexual Brokenness in a Fallen World.” Strain is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi; Edwards pastors Kiski Valley Presbyterian Church near Pittsburgh.

Both Geiger and Edwards have dealt with same-sex attraction personally, and both have learned to walk in repentance. Strain grew up in an unbelieving household with a brother who identifies as gay.

Disordered Heart Desires

While it isn’t clear how many believers wrestle with same-sex attraction and other sexual sins, it is clear that sexual brokenness is pervasive, even in the church. A question, then, addressed in both seminars, was: How can the church be a nurturing place for the sexually broken without compromising the truth of the Gospel?

It starts with a biblical understanding of God’s purpose for sex, Geiger says. Which, to be fulfilled, requires that sex be between a man and a woman in the bonds of marriage. As Geiger pointed out, sexual sin — including same-sex attraction, improper heterosexual attraction, and pornography — is rooted in something deeper than sex. It is a selfishness problem. Disordered desires, then, always lead people to pursue good things the wrong way, he said. For example, our culture celebrates the lie that sexual desires are merely biological, and that acting on them has no outside consequences.

There are, in reality, serious consequences. And for believers to accommodate the culture’s view, they, like so many of their contemporaries, must view others as nothing more than a means to an end: “a way for me to get what I want,” Geiger said. The Apostle Paul warns against this in Galatians 5:15: “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.”

“We do damage to God’s intention when we say that [sexual desires] are merely biological,” said Geiger. “The Lord tells us there is no way we can engage in sin and not damage our ability to understand God and be in relationship with Him and others.” Disordered sexual desires thus subvert the truth about God, man, and Scripture. Ultimately, they are a way for humans to declare autonomy from God.

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PCUSA Tackling Low Bible Test Scores Among Seminary Students

(By Michael Gryboski, The Christian Post). The Presbyterian Church (USA) is looking into ways to handle an apparent drop in satisfactory rates in Bible test scores among people preparing for ministry within the Mainline denomination.

Earlier this month, a task force created by the executive committee of the Committee on Theological Education released a statement on the Bible Content Examinations and a trend of lower than average evaluation rates that began in the summer of 2015.

The task force recommended that candidates take the BCE after a they’ve had a full year of education in theology, that the COTE convene a group of scholars to create a study guide for the BCE and other resources for the BCE, and that the questions be released following their use in the exam.

The Rev. Timothy B. Cargal, assistant stated clerk for preparation for ministry in the PCUSA Office of the General Assembly, told The Christian Post that the issue was less about lower scores and more specifically about lower “satisfactory rates.”

“Because a satisfactory evaluation requires a score of 70 percent or higher and the median scores fell below that level in summer 2015 and winter 2016, majorities of those who took the BCE during those administrations did not receive satisfactory evaluations,” explained Cargal.

“For the summer 2016 and winter 2017 BCE administrations, the median scores were within satisfactory range, and so majorities of those taking those administrations did satisfy the requirement, though the majorities remained below levels typically seen in the recent past.”

Cargal also told CP that he believed the “precipitating factor” for the lower satisfactory rates was the Presbyteries’ Cooperative Committee on Examinations for Candidates’ decision to quit using questions from past exams that were publicly released before 2009.

“The BCE has always and continues to use some questions from previous exams as a means for working toward a similar overall difficulty of the test from one administration to the next,” continued Cargal.

 

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