Jul 13, 2011

Here I Stand...No Desire to Go From One Dying Denomination to Another One

There are some in the PC(USA) who are choosing to leave the PC(USA) because the church's recent decision over 10-A. (For those of you who are not PC(USA), 10-A effectively allows congregations and presbyteries to begin ordaining homosexuals).

They say that 10-A is the final straw that makes this denomination one which they can no longer be a part of. So they are choosing to go to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, or some other denominational body.

I can understand the frustration. I share similar concerns. I cannot understand how a church that affirms Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior can say homosexuality is now no longer sin.

But even though the PC(USA) has made this decision that I believe is contrary to scripture, I have no plans to leave the denomination at this point.

Here are my reasons for choosing to remain in the PC(USA) for the time being.

I grieve over the 10-A decision. As long as the Bible is God's word, I cannot say that homosexuality is no longer a sin before God.

Then how can I possibly stay in a denomination that is so impure? so wrong?

Because I am under no illusion that the PC(USA) was a "pure-er" church or a more "right" church prior to the 10-A decision. That somehow, if I can just relocate to a different denomination that isn't debating the homosexuality issue, everything is right and good before God's eyes.

I readily confess that the PC(USA) was a church and a denomination that was wrought with inconsistencies and impurities prior to the 10-A decision just as it is after the 10-A decision. The sexuality issues are not the only sins the Bible cares about.
  • As long as we continue to consume goods at the expense of others
  • As long as we turn a blind eye to rampant consumerism and greed in America
  • As long as we remain purposefully silent over gluttony
  • As long as we ignore the injustices of an economic system that keeps the poor people poor, while rewarding the wealthiest
  • As long as...the list goes on
All these sins are just as grievous and unacceptable before God.

The primary reason why I am choosing to stay for now is because I believe all current denominations are not much different when it comes to these issues. 

If I were to go to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, I may not be debating homosexuality any more, but I will be fighting over women's ordination. And while arguing over women's ordination, the EPC would remain blissfully ignorant and blind over these other issues. But at the same time thinking, "Thank God we're not like those PC(USA) messed up folk."

What would be the point of that? 

I have no desire to go from one blind, sinful, silent church to another.

I want to be a part of a church that is actually making a difference to the poor, to those suffering injustice, to those who are dying by the thousands unless the church wakes up and gets engaged.

I think there's something wrong when social agencies and humanitarian groups are ahead of the church when it comes to fighting injustice.

And I believe God is doing just that. 

God is at work to bring about a renewal and a revival of his church the likes of which history hasn't seen since the reformation. 

God is doing a new thing where the way we relate with one another and with a world that doesn't know God will be so radically different that those who are in Christendom institutional churches today won't even be able to recognize the new church God is ushering in. 

No one yet knows what this church will look like.

All they can do is to point toward a new compass heading. That new compass heading includes a church that is fighting the war against AIDS, that is making a difference against poverty, that is leading the way in fighting against injustices of all kinds, that is declaring Jesus Christ boldly, that is putting God's resources in areas that actually make a difference to those who don't know Christ. 

All that can be said at this point is that this new church will not look like our current existing denominational, institutional, Christendom churches. 

This is a new compass heading.

I will choose to be right where I am until God makes this new reality and this new church clear. 

I want to be a part of what God is doing.

I have no desire to leave one dying institutional, Christendom denomination for another.

I will be about Jesus Christ right where I am and work and live toward this new reality.


14 comments:

Sharon said...

Jim I wish I could agree with you on all points. But at the end of the day we agree on more than we disagree on. Your list of things that the Church is not doing is right on. I am glad you are staying for now. I hope that you will stay forever. Also let's work together on those things that we agree on particularly issues related to poverty in this country.

James Kim said...

Sharon, we do have more that we agree on than we disagree. If the good news of Jesus Christ isn't good news to people who do not know him yet, what is so good about it? The gospel should make a difference. I appreciate you. I know we haven't always agreed on everything. But that's okay. I still appreciate you and our common desire to see Christ making a difference.

James <><

Henry Chamberlain said...

James,

One way of speaking against greed is speaking in favor of giving generously, like God does. I do not proclaim that giving 10 percent is a law and giving less is sin, but I do encourage people to give 10 percent to the Lord, as a start. In the weekly prayer of dedication I use phrases such as, "make us as generous as you are," and "everything we are and everything we have is your gift to us, to enjoy and to be a blessing to others". I also tell stories about how wealthy we are compared to our grandparents, and most people in the world.
When people respond to this, they will probably drive less expensive or older cars, think twice about buying the latest I-fad, and teach their kids about giving.

Just a thought. Blessings!

Rev. Walter L. Taylor said...

Rev. Kim,
My question to you is how far can the PC(USA) (or any denmoination go) before it ceases to be a part of the "holy catholic church" we confess in the Creeds? Is there no limit to how far the church, as an institution, can go in rejecting the Word of God before it reaches the Revelation 2:5 breaking point? This is the issue many are dealing with, and not whether we are in a perfectly pure denomination. The issue is at what point does being in the PC(USA) become so destructive to the faith, witness, and life of the Christian that believers and congregations need to leave?

Viola Larson said...

James,
I find your comments interesting-not the ones about staying or leaving but a new thing God is going to do with the church? That is a little troubling. Are you saying that God is creating a church that will be different than any historical church has been?

The way I see the church from a biblical and historical perspective is holy (the universal church) in the eyes of God because of Jesus Christ but always full of sinners until the coming of Christ.

Can you please explain a little fuller what you are writing about?

James Kim said...

Henry, thank you for your thoughtful and generous response. Yes, I agree wholeheartedly, that the answer to greed is generosity. I don't think God is asking us to sell everything and give to the poor at the expense of not taking care of ourselves and families, but I do think most of us can do more.

Blessings!

James Kim said...

Rev. Taylor,

Those are excellent questions.

I struggle with those same questions myself.

I think there are many areas in which we can have a wide scope of differences and interpretation:
- baptism: immersion, pouring, sprinkling,
- communion: is it a symbol, or is it actually the body and blood?
- how we order the life of the church: elders, bishops, deacons, etc.

And there's a host of other areas which folks can disagree.

However, I think there are some issues that are non-negotiable. For if we were to have differences on these issues, we cease to be who we are. These deal with core primary issues.
- Jesus is Lord. That can't ever change
- That Jesus is the only way to God.
- The Bible is God's authoritative word

I do not think the PC(USA) as a denomination has crossed that line.

But those are some of the lines that I would identify.

Thank you for your thoughtful posts on presbyweb. I appreciate your posts.

James <><

James Kim said...

Viola, I will try to articulate what I am referring to in regards to the new things God is doing. I know I won't be able to do so adequately on a comment response. Give me a few days and let me try to respond on a future blog. Thanks!

James <><

Anonymous said...

Wow, James. There was way too much in what you wrote that vigorously waves red flags. I hadn't realized that you had swallowed the social gospel hook, line, and sinker. Dang!

But you also wrote about your nonnegotiables:

"These deal with core primary issues.
- Jesus is Lord. That can't ever change
- That Jesus is the only way to God.
- The Bible is God's authoritative word."

They're great, but a strong, difinitive argument could be made that the leadership structure and tide of the PCUSA have crossed every one of those lines. Those three elements could be exactly the reason why one ought to soberly question remaining in the PCUSA.

--For many, JESUS isn't Lord at all. Their own sense of what seems right will trump Jesus every time. "Jesus" is their sock puppet that they conveniently use to tell them what they want to hear. They are lord of their own life, and won't let the real Jesus anywhere near lordship. No one tells them what to do. No one.

--Jesus being the ONE WAY is being lost at a rapid pace. Presbyterians are now worshipping diversity, and diversity champions many ways that all lead to the same place. Presbyterians hold joint worship services not with fellow denominations, but with entirely different religions. They feel content to worship a generic non-god, precisely because to them, it would be cultural imperialism to say that Jesus is the one way.

--And surely you can't think that the PCUSA is operating as if the Bible is God's AUTHORITATIVE Word! We as a denomination rankle about having ANYTHING authoritative over the sovereign us. It's all opinion now, and the central progressive tactic is to say that there are so many interpretations of Scripture that none can be held. The nFOG gave Scripture a major downgrade, so that where once we were to obey Scripture, now we need merely be GUIDED by Scripture, if it isn't too inconvenient to glance its way occasionally, maybe out of nostalgia. We've totally lost the authority of Scripture in the PCUSA. If you don't believe me, hold up your Bible and read the most appropos Scripture text during a presbytery or GA debate, and listen to the hissing, hear the sighs of contempt, and watch the rolling of eyes.

James, the PCUSA institutionally has already crossed your three lines. I'm stunned that you somehow have missed it! What am I misunderstanding about what you're writing?

Jim Berkley
Bellevue, WA

Alan said...

Having been a PC(USA)er since Angela Davis and the old UP I believe totally with what you said about no church being pure(er) than another. Total Depravity proves that wrong.

However, I have moved to the EPC because remaining in the PC(USA) with the change to the BOO and the removal of all the previous AI's means my ordination vows, to be a friend among my colleagues would be a lie. I hope you will be able to figure that one out as you continue to stand for Christ.

However, let me take exception with you on the point you made re: the EPC. There is no argument over the ordination of women.

I also take umbrage at the way you linked the paragraph above with the next one that starts, "I want to be a part of a church that is actually making a difference to the poor, to those suffering injustice, to those who are dying by the thousand..."

I'm certain it was not your intention to paint the EPC with such a brush, but that is how it seems.

BTW the reason "social agencies and humanitarian groups are ahead of the church when it comes to fighting injustice" is twofold.
1. They are often publicly funded via tax dollars.
2. They are focused on one or two issues only.
These are luxuries [and that's the word to use] congregations, presbyteries and denominations cannot and will not have.

Peace, brother and may your ministry and work where God has placed you be blessed and reap mighty fruit.

Alan Wilkerson
Portland

James Kim said...

Jim, appreciate you commenting on the blog.

What you call the social gospel, I call gospel. I cannot see how the good words of Jesus can ever be separated from the good deeds of Jesus. One must lead to the other. They cannot be separated for in doing so, it ceases to be good news.

I think you and I have huge areas of agreement, but I don't think you and I will ever see face to face on all issues. And that's okay with me. I hope that's okay with you.

Your friend,
James <><

James Kim said...

Alan,

Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I apologize for making generalizations about the EPC. I did not intend to mean that folks in the EPC don't care about social or justice issues. There are God-loving folk in both our denominations.

I do wrestle with what it means to be a part of a church that holds all ordination to be the ordination of the whole when there are certain ordinations which I cannot see myself a part of.

We're all trying to do God's will. We're all trying to hear and discern his voice.

One day, it will be clear.

James <><

Anonymous said...

James,

Indeed we can disagree and will disagree. But I am sorry that you ducked the heart of what I wrote by writing it off. Your response sounded so very much like something Janet Edwards would say when pinned against a wall without a good theological defense to offer.

Jim Berkley
Bellevue, WA

Anonymous said...

One more thing--on the social gospel: Indeed we need to walk our talk and care deeply for others. The problem comes when the social gospel replaces the Good News of Jesus Christ--which it tries so hard to do and has so often succeeded in doing.

Further, the social gospel advances political and, frankly, socialistic remedies for so many real evils. The so-called remedies often would cause a negative effect rather than the desired good effect. They are recipes for failure and disappointment, but that doesn't keep them from being proposed over and over by a proud church that thinks it has all the answers.

Some of the least effective and least active people in hands-on caring are those who protest the loudest for social-gospel causes. And some of the most caring and most effective people are those who roll up their sleeves and actually DO something to help, rather than pronounce much about something they only faintly understand.

A thousand years ago, the Pope wanted to be Emperor, and the Emperor wanted to be Pope. Now, the PCUSA--so terribly ineffective as a Christian church--wants to tell the government what to do in areas in which is has zero expertise, and negative credibility. Once again, church leaders want political power. It's an old problem, but the social gospel just keeps reviving it.

Jim Berkley
Bellevue, WA