a time to weep… a time to search….

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

 
 

The writer in Ecclesiastes 3 writes that “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” While some may feel otherwise, for me and others among us in the Presbyterian Church (USA), it is “a time to weep… [and] a time to search,” praying before the throne of grace for the wisdom of God concerning how we may move forward in faith from this point on.

 

As Presbyterians For Renewal (PFR) has stated in a recent pastoral letter to fellow Presbyterians:  

Amendment 10-A has now been approved by a majority of the presbyteries within the PC(USA).  While the ongoing voting in remaining presbyteries is important, both as a means of faithful witness and for the sake of understanding the state of our divisions, the biblical standard of fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman and chastity in singleness will soon be removed as an explicit denominational standard for ordination and/or installation of church officers. 

 
 

Amendment 10-A is a change in the language of the Book of Order proposed by the 2010 General Assembly.  It calls for the removal of paragraph G-6.0106b:


“Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness. Persons refusing to re-pent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament.”



and replaces it with:


“Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G-1.0000). The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation (G.14.0240; G-14.0450) shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003).  Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.”


Proponents of the changed wording will argue that the passage of Amendment 10-A, in and of itself, changes nothing for those who remain committed to upholding historic orthodox teaching. Technically they are correct.  Explicit language will be removed from the Book of Order that, for the vast majority of Jesus’ followers around the globe and for many who are still within the PC(USA), remains implicit.  


Passage of this amendment does not mandate the ordination of practicing gay and lesbian deacons, elders, and ministers, although some people within the PC(USA) and the majority of people outside the denomination will read it as though it does.  

 

In view of recent events in the continuing voting by presbyteries in the PC(USA) on various proposed amendments issued from last year’s General Assembly, it is important to take note of the following.

First, we must affirm what has not changed:

  • Jesus Christ is Lord-this has not changed and never will!  Remember Jesus’ words, “I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
  • The ultimate victory of Jesus Christ over sin and death has not been compromised!  No action taken by the PC(USA) can threaten our Lord’s redemptive purpose.
  • Scripture still clearly teaches that God intends the gift of sexual intimacy to be expressed within a lifelong covenant of marriage between a man and a woman.  No vote by the PC(USA) can change God’s truth.

Within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), other important realities have not changed: 

  • Congregations and presbyteries have the right and the responsibility to examine and elect Deacons, Elders, and Ministers of the Word and Sacrament. 
  • The new constitutional language, though lacking the clear expression of “fidelity/chastity,” does not require us to violate our understanding of biblical standards. 
  • Our Book of Order can be amended again.  We who oppose this decay in ordination standards are still free to work to restore the clarity that has been lost and even to raise the level of accountability.

This is not a time for panic or for ill-considered actions that could potentially damage our mission and witness even more than the passage of Amendment 10-A.  Neither is it a time for pretending that we can continue to “do church” as we have before.  Instead, this is the time for:

  • focused prayer on repentance for our own unfaithfulness and wisdom for the future;
  • new covenanted fellowships within and perhaps beyond the PC(USA) based on closer theological agreement, which will support continued biblical faithfulness, and;
  • sober assessments of the options we have for ministry with integrity.

A pastoral letter from several former Moderators of the General Assembly of the PC (USA) was also recently issued stating:

Jesus Christ is Head of the Church, and continues to guide and direct it.  The decision to adopt Amendment 10-A does not bind the conscience of any Presbyterian, nor does it create a mandate for ordaining particular individuals. Instead it directs each congregation and presbytery to prayerfully discern the gifts and call of each candidate for ordination, guided by Scripture and the confessions. And it calls all ordained officers to “submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”

 

In 1 Chronicles 12:32, Scripture tells us that at a critical time in the life of the people of Israel, the tribe of Issachar “understood the times and knew what Israel should do.”

 

Your elected Elders on Session and I are seeking wisdom and discernment as we prayerfully consider our options with the leading and direction of God’s Word and Spirit. Please pray along with us that we might more fully understand the times we are in and know what we should do as a people of God in this place.

 

Seeking the heart and mind of Christ, with you, I am

 

Pastor Rex

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~ by rexespiritu on May 19, 2011.

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