Jul 26, 2012

Achilles Update

Did it again...

I was playing basketball and I ruptured and completely severed the achilles tendon on my left foot.

Did the same thing playing basketball 18 years ago, and while I was playing basketball this past Sunday did the same thing again.

The important thing is I was kicking butt when it happened.

I will be having surgery on the achilles Friday at 12:30pm. Prayers would be much appreciated. I'm not too worried. Compared to the open heart and quadruple bypass surgery, this is a walk in the park.

Because the rupture this time occurred right above the previous injury, the surgeon isn't sure if the tendon will be healthy enough to fix. If he determines that the tendon isn't healthy enough, he will take a tendon from either my big toe or my knee and grafted onto the achilles. My preference is definitely for the big toe if he has to take a tendon.
Kaleb's Drawing of Daddy Chillin'

All I know is that I am ready to get on with the healing process. Tired of hobbling around.

Talk to you all on the other side of a successful achilles tendon operation.

Thank you again for your prayers and for your well wishes.


James <><

Jul 21, 2012

Community - Not an Option

One of the things more common amongst some church folk today is to see personal involvement in a Christian community as being optional.

Many assert that they can get just as close to God out of going on a hike, or reading and reflecting, or going fishing etc.

Some assert that being involved in a local church sometimes is even more distracting and detriment to their experiencing God than going on a nature hike or fishing than they are at church.

I get it.

Being in church is not easy.

Trying to do church with people we may not agree with, people we may not like, people downright disagreeable is hard.

It really is difficult and painful to try to do church with folks in the church.

But that's just the thing.

That's where we're supposed to exercise and put to practice love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

It is there that we can demonstrate to a world that knows all about division and isolation that the people of God and the church really is different because of Jesus.

I readily admit up front that most expressions of the church fail miserably in this department, that we really are not at all different than what the world experiences. And there are too many examples of when the world does acceptance, peace, and welcome better than the church does.

Having said those things, one's engagement with a local community of believers is not an option in the Bible. That's why we are called the body of Christ. We need each other. We belong together.

You see, being involved with a body of believers is not about you experiencing God. Christianity is not about personal experience.

It's about being and doing what we have been called to be - the church. This is not an option. This is God's bidding. This is God's command.

Saying that one's involvement with a community of believers is optional is akin to saying that going home for married people is optional...you may be able to get away with this once in a while, but you won't stayed married long if that's the norm.

As difficult and painful the community life can be, that is exactly where we are to exercise our faith.

Jul 20, 2012

Best Hospital Visit in the History of Humankind!!!

I had one of the best hospital visits ever...perhaps in the history of humankind!!!

These are the types of visits that makes being pastor so awesome.

It didn't start that way.

You see, my week's been crazy busy.

Pastor Cheryl normally does the hospital visits.

So when there was a specific request that I come and not Pastor Cheryl, when my schedule was already packed, and I was running behind on tasks that needed to get done, it wasn't exactly at the top of the list of things I wanted to do.

But THANK GOD I went!!!

This was one of the best hospital visits ever...perhaps in the history of humankind!!!

The request for my visit came from a member I hardly knew. I only met her briefly a couple of times in the two and half years I've been at LCOP. She has been homebound due to her health issues.

She was recently diagnosed with cancer. That's all I knew.

I walked into her room, and she immediately lit up with a smile and welcomed me in and re-introduced herself to me.

She said, "Pastor, I asked you to come today because I'm dying."

Her cancer has metastasized and there is nothing the doctors can do.

She continued, "I've lived a good life. God has been more than good to me. I'm ready to go home. But I asked you to come because I'm kind of a control freak and I wanted to make sure you would do my memorial service right!"

"You see, I don't care what hymn you sing, what Bible verse you read. All I care is that you make the service about Jesus Christ and make it a joyous celebration. None of this mourning stuff. I am going to be with Jesus and I will be reunited with my love ones. I will be in a better place!"

How awesome is that?

I can do that!

What an amazing testimony of the goodness of Jesus Christ!

One of the best hospital visits ever...perhaps in the history of humankind!!!

It's ladies like that, that make being a pastor such an awesome joy and privilege.

Thank God for faithful witnesses like that!

Jul 19, 2012

A Good Reminder for Busybodies Everywhere

Things have been so hectic lately I haven't even had a chance to catch my breath.

In my daily reflections, came across a fantastic reminder for all of us busy types.

"Temporary" by William C. Martin

Your role as a pastor
and your congregation's life as a church
will both come to an end.

Only the Word is without end.

Therefore be aware of the temporary
and never give it too much importance.

If people gave less attention to the multitude of things
and more attention to the One thing
there would be room in their hearts
for the writing of the Word
and there would be no more need to teach
for all would know.

Jul 13, 2012

The Little Chap Who Follows Me

I am a daddy to four amazing and wonderful kids. They are truly a blessing from God.

Here's a poem I came across in John Maxwell's book that is a wonderful reminder to all dads.

"The Little Chap Who Follows Me"

A careful man I want to be,
A little fellow follows me;
I do not dare to go astray
For fear he'll go the self-same way.

I cannot once escape his eyes.
Whate'er he sees me do he tries
Like ME he says he's going to be -
That little chap who follows me.

I must remember as I go
Through summer suns and winter snows,
I am building for the years to be -
That little chap who follows me.

What Happened to My Blog?

I don't know what happened to my blog.

The setting and the layout is all messed up.

Don't even know how I did it.

For now, I'm going to try out this new look.

If you know how to get my blog back to what it used to look like, let me know.

Jul 12, 2012

Medicines Work If You Take the Medicines

Normally, one has to call the doctor to make an appointment.

When the doctor calls you to make an appointment it's never good.

It's so simple. I had a feeling my doctors would call.

You see, I am supposed to be taking 13 pills a day.


They regulate my blood pressure, insulin levels, cholesterol, triglycerides, liver, kidneys, my heart, etc.

And the most amazing thing is that if one takes their medicine, the medicines work.

But I haven't been taking my meds.

I have tons excuses.

Some of them are really good.

Some of them are legitimate.

When I took my last blood test, I knew the numbers would be bad. I kind of expected both the cardiologist and the endocrinologist to call after they saw the numbers.

Sure enough, I'm trouble with all my doctors.

I have no one to blame but myself. I was the one who knowingly didn't take my meds.

So here's the lesson - the meds work, but only if you take the meds.

It doesn't matter if you have the meds in your medicine cabinet.

It doesn't matter if you intended to take the meds.

It doesn't even matter if you believe in the meds.

The meds only work if you take the meds.

Simple right?

The reason why I confess my stupidity with the medicines is because we do this all the time with the Bible and our relationship with Jesus Christ.

The Bible works only if you will read and take to heart and put into action what we read.

It doesn't matter if you have a Bible.

It doesn't matter if you believe in the Bible.

It doesn't matter if you have the best of intentions to do what the Bible says.

The Bible works only if you read it and apply what it says.

So here's the deal.

I'll take my meds and read my Bible.

And you, you do your part in reading and applying what the Bible says to your life.

Together, we'll all be healthy!

Sounds like a deal to me.

Jul 11, 2012

What Happens When there are Fractures in the Foundations?

The Bible is the foundation upon which we build our faith. The Bible is our main authority to teach us about who God is and what his purpose for our world is.

The next layer of authority is the Book of Confessions. It is the Book of Confessions that helps us to understand how we are to read and understand the Bible.

The Book of Order stands alongside the Book of Confessions as our guide in how we are to live out our lives together as Christians and presbyterians.

This is how we have historically understood what it means to be presbyterian. The Book of Confessions (What we believe) and the Book of Order (How we live out our beliefs) are what made us presbyterians and not Baptists or Methodists, or Catholics, etc. 

This is our connectional nature. Our vows to uphold our constitution is what connects together.

But what happens when our vows to our constitution are no longer in place? What happens to our connectional nature?

What happens when a good percentage of the church views particular sections of our constitution as ungodly, unjust, wrong?

So unjust and wrong that what is being sought is not just a reversal and correction of the current constitution, but a overt rejection of the constitution by a public willful disobedience to that constitution?

What does that do to our connectional nature?

If it is not our common bond in what we believe and how we live out our beliefs, what else is there to hold us together in a connectional system?

These are the questions the PC(USA) must answer.

Folks calling on the changes of our constitution to fully recognize same gender marriages because it is a issue of justice are set in their views. 

Folks who see such change as an unacceptable compromise of the integrity of the scriptures are set in their views.

So as long as the language remains as is, those who advocate for same gender marriages will have to oppose and violate the constitution of the PC(USA) in order to maintain their theological conscience. 

In the same way, should the language change in the constitution, those who see that as an unacceptable change cannot help but perceive that change as a serious violation of their theological convictions.

So, where does that leave us?

What is the basis of our connectionism?

What is our understanding of our ecclesiology?

In my humble option, until the PC(USA) answers and deals with these questions, we will not find any helpful ways out of our currently divided and contentious times. 

Jul 10, 2012

My Reflections of the 220th General Assembly of the PCUSA

I've been home for four days now since the General Assembly in Pittsburgh.

I am not sure if I've fully recovered from GA.

I am still trying to process what I experienced and what I sense God doing in my life and in the life of his church.

By now, we know that the GA did not redefine marriage, and did not divest from Caterpillar, HP, and Motorola.

Also the GA did not give the recommendations from the Mid Council Commissions even the light of day before voting them down in committee and in plenary.

Going into this GA, if someone would have asked me to define what a good result for GA would be, it would be exactly what the GA did in both the issues of marriage and Israel/Palestine.

What would have put it over the top would have been serious considerations of both the Mid Council Commissions recommendations and for a genuine conversation around the trust clause.

Why is it then that I am not jubilant over the results of the 220th General Assembly?

Some of the things that are clear from our days together in Pittsburgh:

  • We are an incredibly divided church. It's not just about marriage or Israel/Palestine. What is really at the core that divides us is how we understand ourselves as Christians and Presbyterians in relationship to God and the Bible. 
  • The changes in the definition of marriage is a matter of when, not a matter of if. The only reason why this GA did not approve such changes now is because many were cognizant that such a change would be the final straw for many congregations and for our mission partners around the world.
  • Our institutional church is not ready to really engage in conversations about the radical nature of adaptive changes that are before us. The GA is fine with the idea of change, but when it gets down to the actual implications of change, the GA was not even prepared to discuss those realities.
  • Ultimately, I am still left wondering how does what GA's do further the cause of Christ?
So, four days removed, I find myself still quite ambivalent about the 220th General Assembly. 

Can God bring about renewal and revive this dying denomination to be vibrant and growing? Can God use the PC(USA) to be all about bring people to Jesus Christ?

Of course God can.

Will that happen?

I am not sure. 

I sure hope so.

I would love to see it so.

But here's the thing. I have very little control over what any future GA's will do. 

But I can do something about what my local church will be about. 

I want to lead my church in such a way that we be all about bringing people to Jesus Christ. I want to spend my life sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and helping people become faithful followers of Jesus Christ. 

I will do everything I can to pastor and lead my congregation to live into this vision.

I pray that our GA would one day recognize the reality that ministry is done at the local level. Therefore, structures beyond the local church - presbyteries, synods (we still have them), and GA's - exist to serve and enable local congregations to do their ministry more effectively and not the other way around.

Structures ought not get in the way of local churches doing their ministry. 

This adaptive change will happen.

Whether the PC(USA) wants to be a part of that change...that's all up to the PC(USA). 

Jul 9, 2012

Sermon from General Assembly in Pittsburgh

Many have asked for the text of the sermon from GA so I am posting it here. 

Also, if you want to see the video, you can find it here. The sermon begins at about the 53rd minute. 

Here's the sermon.

Let me start with an illustration told by John Ortberg.

Think about the entire sweep of scripture, all of God’s revelation, and try to answer this question. 

“When in the Bible does God call someone just to give them an easy job?  When in the Bible does God interrupt someone’s life and hand them an assignment, and it turns out to be relatively low risk and effort free?”

And of course, He never does.

God comes to Noah, says that the level of violence and corruption on earth is so high I want to start the human story all over again with you. I want you to gather your family and some animals and build an ark and start it all over from scratch.  But, but, you won’t be alone. I’m going to make a covenant with you.  I’ll be your God and you’ll be my people.  And I’ll give you a sign - a rainbow. And every time you see it, remember, I’m with you always and I’m enough. 

So Noah does.

But the human race drifts and God has to begin again. 

He comes to a man named Abram, later to be called Abraham, and says, “I want you to leave everything familiar to you. I want you to take your wife and leave your home, your country, your culture, your security and go far away to a place you don’t even know. I’ll show you when you get there. But you won’t be alone. I’ll make a covenant with you. I’ll be your God and you’ll be my people. And I’ll give you a sign of our covenant. The sign will be circumcision.

Abraham said, “Circum what? Noah got the rainbow…Couldn’t we do like a secret handshake or something?”

Friends, God never said being and living into the church of Jesus Christ with people we may not agree with, people who are down right disagreeable, people we may not like would be easy.

But here’s the thing. God chose them, just like God chose you. God chose each and every person who has surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ.


We have already experienced many ups and downs, joys and great disappointments, and even some tears.

As we experience the real painful divisions, divisions so think and oppressive you could cut with a knife, a lack of trust, the clear disagreements in the life of the PC(USA), we can’t help but wonder, God where are you in this thing?

We seem to have hit one snag and one paralysis after another.

But please, don’t quit. Don’t quit just because it’s hard, because it’s painful.

Don’t you quit believing that this church is bigger than the conservatives, or the liberals, or the moderates, or any particular agenda.

Don’t you quit believing that this church - you, me, us - has always been, is still now, and will always be God’s church and that it is this sovereign God of the universe who has called, set apart, and commissioned each and every one of you to be about the work and ministry of Jesus Christ through this assembly.

Don’t you quit.

Because as difficult and painful and impossible our differences may be, the reality is that we are first and foremost children of God, brothers and sisters.

And we have to figure out how to do and be the church because what’s at stake is a world who doesn’t yet know God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that whosoever should believe in him will have everlasting life.

We have to believe and remember that the God who is the Lord of tearing down barriers, breaking down differences, destroying the spirit of paralysis IS at work in this place through you.

Some men came, we are told, bringing to Jesus a paralyzed man, carried by four of them.

These four un-named men came bringing a paralyzed man, not because they had nothing better to do, not because they needed some way to be physically and emotionally exhausted, but simply because they knew that there was no one else who has the power to bring healing over paralysis.

They had to bring him to Jesus.

But there was a problem.

There were faced with an obstacle they had not expected. There were too many people crowding Jesus that they couldn’t get to Jesus.

At this point they could have quit. And no one would have blamed them for it. They’d already done so much. They’d already demonstrated so much faith.

They could have said, “We’ve done everything we can to bring you to Jesus. But as you can clearly see, there’s no way we can get you to Jesus.”

But that wasn’t true was it.

They did what was totally and truly ridiculous.

They tore up some poor dude’s house!

They crazy!

Who does that? Who does that…

Those crazy and foolish and faithful enough to know that there is no one else who has the power to bring healing over the oppression paralysis and therefore resolve that nothing on heaven or earth will stand in the way from bringing the paralyzed to Jesus Christ.

They had to get this man to Jesus.

They had to get this man to Jesus, even if it meant seeking totally outside the box, totally radical solutions to do whatever it takes to bring people in need of healing to Jesus.

Friends, it’s going to take more than our best efforts and our best hopes to find a way out of the paralysis that the PC(USA) finds herself in.

It will take an absolute conviction that we have been called to do whatever it takes to get people to Jesus Christ. Only then will we be able to find solutions that are bigger than our agendas, bigger than our problems, and bigger than our paralysis.

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”


Run that by me again? Jesus said what? “Your sins are forgiven?”

I didn’t do all this so you could forgive the guy. The guy’s paralyzed!

And you see, this is the biggest miracle of all.

Forgiveness leads to healing. Forgiveness leads to healing.

I believe that as our God sees us struggling and discussing, and making motions and substitute motions, what our church needs is not more declarations or statements, but the faithful actions of those whose singular conviction is to bring people to Jesus Christ.

And could it be possible that, not in our statements, not in our declarations, but as Jesus sees the faith of Presbyterians doing whatever it takes to bring people to Jesus that God would declare unto all within the PC(USA), “Your sins are forgiven?”

And that through this forgiveness that the 220th General Assembly would become an instrument to bring healing to our church and our world?

It’s all about Jesus.

But what I find fascinating about this statement is that there is not a single description of what Jesus looked like in all of the gospels.
  • We don't know if he was tall or short. 
  •  We don't know what kind of hair he had. 
  •  We don't know what his face looked like. 
  • We don't know a single thing about his physical appearance. 

Isn't that strange?

It's all about Jesus and yet, we have no clue what he looked like.

When we try to tell someone about a person they haven't met, we always say something about what they look like.
  • He's a short, middle-age, bald, goatee, handsome Asian dude - hey! That's me.
  • She's a beautiful, long straight-haired, slim lady - That wouldn’t be me.

But there is not one description in the Bible.

The only things that are recorded are what Jesus did, what Jesus said.

Maybe that's because, when it comes to Christianity, how tall or short, how handsome or ugly, what color or race, how much or little education, how rich or poor, etc. - none of these things matter!

I love that about Jesus.

It doesn't matter who you are, what you look like, what nationality, what color, what race, what your education level, or anything else...the only thing that matters when it comes to Jesus is how we resemble Jesus.

That's why in Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, free or slave, male or female. All are invited to live like Christ.

My prayer and challenge to you is to pray, discuss, discern, and decide in such a way that what would be said of this 220th General Assembly of the PC(USA) is not look at all that they’ve declared and stated.

But what would be said of the 220th General Assembly is that they so committed themselves bringing people to Jesus that the Spirit of God fell upon that assembly to slay the spirit of paralysis, division, and distrust precisely because of how radically they loved, forgave, and led the PC(USA) to be like Jesus Christ.

Jul 3, 2012

Day 4 - Committee on Civil Union and Marriage Issues Votes to Redefine Marriage

Committee 13 - Civil Union and Marriage Issues.

The committee spent the entire day and early evening discussing whether they would recommend a study on issues on marriage for the next 2 years or 4 years.

The committee did not consider the validity of any of the overtures until 8:30pm EST.

The committee eventually voted to recommend a study of two years on the Christian understanding of marriage.

The day and the confusion that the committee faced with the decisions before it can be summed up by the following.

  • The committee's moderator's ruling was challenged three times by committee members. Challenging the moderator's ruling is pretty rare. To see it happen three times? I cannot remember the last time I've seen that.
  • On another occasion after the committee moderator ruled that a substitute motion to maintain traditional understanding of marriage 15-07 was ruled out of order by the committee moderator, maker of the motion appealed to the Stated Clerk to bring a ruling. 
  • I've rarely seen such a quagmire of parliamentary procedure as I witnessed in this committee.
When the committee finally got to dealing with the actual overtures, a motion was brought to affirm 13-05 on Issuing an Authoritative Interpretation of W-4.9000 to Ensure Pastoral Discretion from the Presbytery of Genesee Valley.

This overture states: 

Teaching elders and commissioned ruling elders authorized to conduct services of marriage, may, at their sole discretion, following the discussion required in W-4.9002a, officiate at a service of Christian marriage for two persons who meet the legal requirements of the state and whom the elder determines demonstrate sufficient commitment, responsibility, maturity, and Christian understanding. Sessions may permit the use of church property for such services. Teaching elders and commissioned ruling elders may decline to conduct such services, and sessions may decline to permit the use of church property for such purposes (emphasis mine).

This particular overture is problematic and dangerous for several reasons. 
  1. An Authoritative Interpretation is an act of the General Assembly. It does not need ratification by the presbyteries. The 600 or so commissioners at a GA can, at their discretion, make a decision that impacts the entire denomination without the presbytery's input. 
  2. This Authoritative Interpretation would change our church's practice of Christian marriage without changing the actual Book of Order or the Confessions which still declares that marriage is between a man and woman. 
  3. The result would be a practice which violates our own polity and constitution.
This overture was defeated by the committee by a vote of 24 (for) -26 (against) -2 (abstentions). 

After this vote, 13-04 on Amending W-4.9000, Marriage from the Presbytery of Hudson River was moved. 

Overture 13-04 seeks to change the language of the Book of Order to state that a marriage is between two persons rather than between a man and woman. The difference between this overture and the previous 13-05 is that it is asking for a Book of Order change and not an Authoritative Interpretation. 

This overture to change the language between a man and woman to two persons in the Book of Order passed by a vote of 28-24-0 in committee. 

The committee then voted to answer all remaining overtures with the committee's action on 13-04. 

This overture would still need to be approved by a majority of the presbyteries even if the plenary votes to move this to the presbyteries for vote.

The plenary can still defeat this recommendation from committee 13. 

There will be a minority report that will seek to maintain traditional understanding of marriage.

The problem with this overture is: 
  • Just after the PC(USA) adopted a major revision of the Form of Government and changed its standards on ordaining homosexuals just two years ago, 
  • While those evangelical congregations that have not already left the denomination are doing their best to hold their people together, 
  • While the PC(USA) finds herself hanging by a thread, 
  • Asking congregations and presbyteries to go through another round of painful voting may just be the thing that makes it simply no longer possible for many, if not majority, of evangelicals to stay in the PC(USA).
The redefinition of marriage is a line in the sand many evangelicals and our world mission partners may not be able to cross. 

It is indeed a time for much prayer and discernment for evangelicals who are, for now, still in the PC(USA).

Living into a Post-Denominational Reality - A New Denominational Paradigm

Bill Teague, asks a fantastic question: "What might evangelical participation in a post-constitutional, post-biblical, post-denominational association look like?"

That is one of the most important questions facing the PC(USA) today.

The connectional church as we have known it is hanging by a thread.

As we continue to move into a post-denominational world, we need new paradigms in how we can understand our relationship to denomination.

The way we have traditionally understood our relationship is as follows.

  • First, our ultimate commitment is to Jesus Christ
  • Secondarily, that ultimate commitment to Jesus Christ is expressed primarily in our denominational connections.
  • Lastly, local churches and members are members live out their commitment to Jesus Christ through these congregations of which they are a part of the larger denomination. 
In this paradigm, it is the denomination that sets priorities and policies based on particular confessions that denomination holds as essential. And it is because of our affiliation within that particular denomination that many people on either sides of issues become saddened and angry because the denomination does something contrary to what they believe as congregations and as individuals.

The question I would like to pose is what would things look like if we flipped the last two?
  • First, our ultimate commitment is to Jesus Christ
  • Secondly, we live out our ultimate commitment to Christ by primarily living out the mission of Jesus Christ through a local congregation
  • Lastly, within local congregations there may be more than one denominational affiliation such that there could be, as an example, a joint witness of PC(USA) and ECO in the same church.
The way we live as Americans is helpful.

Just as there are Americans who democrats, republicans, and independents in the US, what would it be lik if we understood our living out the mission of Jesus Christ through the local church as our primary commitment (being American) before we are democrats, republicans, or independents (different presbyterian and reformed denomination expressions)? 

What if in our congregations, we made it possible for a joint witness of more than one denomination as long as they agreed to a reformed and presbyterian way of doing church?

The thing that will continue to hold presbyterians together is how we do church. 
  • There are elders, not bishops or popes. 
  • That we will continue to interpret the scriptures through the lens of the reformed theological perspective? 
The denominations would continue to do what they do: working on policies and positions on issues facing the life of the church. 

But the difference would be that in particular congregations, people's commitment to Jesus Christ would be lived out primarily through the local church, of which there could be multiple expressions of reformed presbyterian denominational affiliations?

Would love feedback.

Jul 2, 2012

Day 3 at GA - Committee on Civil Union and Marriage Issues

All the commissioners to the 220th GA spent the day in their respective committees.

The committee I spent the most of my time was in Committee 13 - Civil Union and Marriage Issues.

Coming into this year's GA, I was pretty discouraged for I believed that the GA would redefine marriage. But today something amazing happened as I was sitting in Committee 13.

There were five overture advocates who asked the committee to maintain traditional understanding of marriage to be between a man and a woman, and there were fifteen overture advocates who asked the committee to redefine marriage.

The committee spent all morning and afternoon listening then spent the first part of the evening discussing with one another in table groups about what they heard and what they think they are being asked to decide.

There were several telling moments about the life of the church.

  1. Listening to the overture advocates, it was extremely clear to everyone that those who advocated for maintaining traditional understanding of marriage were all about quoting scripture and what the Bible has to say on the matter. On the other hand, those who advocated for a change in the definition of marriage were all about telling stories of relationships. Several of the groups mentioned this very vast difference.
  2. Listening to the overture advocates, it was clear that their relationship to the Bible was the reason why they stand so far apart from each other.
    • For the conservatives the mere reading of scripture is enough because we stand under the authority of scripture.
    • For the liberals, the scriptures stand alongside personal experiences and cultural realities. The reason why we ought to change the church's definition of marriage is because there are many faithful gay people in our churches and they want to get married. One of the overture advocates said, that the Bible was descriptive of ancient times but it is certainly not prescriptive for all times. 
    • The difference between these two perspectives is profound and it has everything to do with  where the PC(USA) finds herself today. 
    • The main question is do we stand under the scriptures and its authority or do we stand alongside scriptures so that the scriptures must conform to our and our culture's experiential reality?
  3. When the committee gathered after dinner, they broke up into small groups to talk with each other then they were to report back to the entire committee what they discussed. And this part was quite shocking. Every single group reporting back spoke about how this decision was so big that it needs more time, more prayer, and more study. And most importantly that this may not be the right time to act. 

I would have never expected this after listening to the overture advocates. 

I am optimistic that the committee will defer answering the overtures to redefine marriage by a recommendation for further study or something similar.

The questions before us are:
  • Is this a God thing? Is God moving in the PC(USA) to give us more time to better discern together how we might live together?
  • Or is this merely be a "now is not the time because it would be too explosive so let's wait until a future time to when this decision would be more palatable?"
As I was wrestling with this question, I was reminded by a colleague, "If this is what this committee discerns to do, it is the right thing because it is the right thing and we ought to celebrate that." 

I believe Carmen is right.

This is the right thing because it is the right thing. 

I do trust that God is in this. 

I believe this is a God thing.

Day 2 at GA - Confirmation of the Vice Moderator

Sunday at the General Assembly was fairly a light day.

Commissioners and guests to the GA spent the morning in presbyterian congregations throughout the Pittsburgh area.

The afternoon was supposed to be pretty laid back as the GA rubber stamps the moderator's choice for vice moderator with a voice vote, but that didn't happen. And what happened next I think speaks volumes about where we are as a church.

There was a question from the floor of GA by a commissioner who asked whether it was possible to vote "no" for the confirmation of the moderator's choice for vice moderator and what the procedure for that would be.

The reason for the question is because the Rev. Tara Spuhler McCabe recently conducted a wedding ceremony of a lesbian couple in Washington, DC where same gender marriage is legal.

However, by doing so, Tara Spuhler McCabe openly and knowingly violated the church's constitution.

Then there was a motion to suspend the standing rules so that there could be some discussion about McCabe's confirmation. That vote to suspend the standing rules would need two-thirds majority vote of the assembly. But by a vote of 344-273 (55% to 44%) that motion was defeated.

The assembly then quickly moved to confirm McCabe's appointment by a vote of 388-240 (60%).

What is interesting about this is that I've never seen such controversy in all my years of attending GA's.

If this were to be a congregational vote about a pastoral candidate, and the vote came down to a 60-40 vote, very few pastors would take a call with such a split.

One of the questions I am wrestling with is what does our connectionism mean when...
  • Redwoods Presbytery rejects and ignores the ruling of a PJC with impunity 
  • when the GA elects a vice moderator who openly and knowingly violated the church's own constitution
  • when in many of our presbyteries, we know that there are teaching elders who no longer can affirm the necessity of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, or the exclusive nature of the salvation of Jesus Christ and thereby reject our confessions with impunity 
What does our connectionism mean again?

I know that there is much good still in the PC(USA). But decisions like this make me wonder about my place in this denomination where vows and words to our constitution and confessions no longer mean what it once meant.