What Part Of “Go And Sin No More” Don’t They Understand?

We’re having our great Liberty Extravaganza at church and, given the insanity coming out of the Presbyterian General Assembly, I sent Tim a note letting him know that there were still some sane Presbyterians left in the world (he was dragged to my church last year after I rendered him insensible with the weightier part of a case of wine). He was kind enough to point me to this latest bit of insanity from the General Assembly

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The nation’s largest Presbyterian denomination on Friday (June 27) cracked open the door to ordaining non-celibate gay and lesbian clergy, though the decades-old fight is far from over.
Delegates at the Presbyterian Church (USA) meeting here voted 54 percent to 46 percent to remove a clause in their constitution that requires clergy to be either married and faithful or single and chaste.
…In a related move, delegates approved an “authoritative interpretation” of church rules on gay clergy, a move that was meant to piece back together a delicate compromise forged two years ago that was rejected by the church’s highest court.
Under the new interpretation, gay and lesbian clergy would be allowed to declare a conscientious objection to rules that would otherwise prohibit them. Local bodies could then choose to ordain them, or deny them access to the pulpit.

How come the G & L folks get special treatment? Why can’t I “declare a conscientious objection to rules” that, you know, might crimp my style or, even worse, perhaps cast my desires in a less-than-flattering light?
Last I heard people who declare a “conscientious objection” to God’s rules were called atheists, not clergy.
But I don’t get out much, and obviously times have changed.

Talking about this this morning with my Pastor, he pointed me to some recent letters concerning these latest GA actions, specifically this one from Mark Isaac:

I am not as discomforted at the actual decisions of the current General Assembly as I have been at the quoted justifications of several of the delegates. The following quote, assuming it is accurate, is representative of why we are in the mess we are in. The speaker is represented as being a supporter of the pro-gay-marriage language of one of the debates:
“Likewise, [name deleted], a youth advisory delegate from Winnebago Presbytery, said, ‘We’ve already made a giant leap toward full inclusion of all Presbyterians.’ She argued that the failure to give full privileges to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people ‘goes against our constitutional right to the pursuit of happiness.'”
It’s hard to know where to begin to respond to this quote. First, I’d ask which Constitution she is quoting. Certainly not the U.S. Constitution, which mentions things like life, liberty and property but not the “pursuit of happiness.” (Perhaps she is thinking of the Declaration of Independence). More to the point, our ultimate “Constitution” as Christians is Scripture, and a search for “pursuit of happiness” in a popular Biblical search engine has failed to produce any insightful texts on this “right.” What I see in this quote, and in so many others during the past several days, is an Assembly that includes a startling number of delegates who have ceased even to debate about what God wants from us and instead approach awesome decisions from the perspective of what our culture wants from God. “Inclusion,” “the pursuit of happiness” and so forth are now the theological starting points of the debate that trump all else.
I’ve been praying about these events for the past couple of days, and I’ve been moved to believe that what is called for is a radical reorientation of my relationship with the organized Presbyterian church in the USA. My life as a Christian can no longer simply be concerned with “church membership” – wrestling with the question, “Do I take my membership here or there?” The time for debating over the arrangement of the deck chairs to get a better view of the icebergs is over.
I’ve decided that Jesus doesn’t care about my church membership. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to feel called to be a missionary in some foreign land. Instead, I believe that the church in America has been so completely overwhelmed by modern culture that the only appropriate stance for me is to live my life as a missionary Christian – living in the modern church culture but not of it, teaching and (I pray) living the gospel among those who have been taught that God is the God of “the constitutional right to the pursuit of happiness.” (Lest we all get too comfortable, it would be very easy to find ways in which so-called “evangelical” Christians replace the Gospel with modern culture). Unless we can succeed in thus teaching and living the gospel in this culture, who controls which property and what overture changes which part of the Book of Order is nothing but a vanity.

“I’ve decided that Jesus doesn’t care about my church membership.” Completely true. The organized church is nothing but a human construct, and as such is fallen…as our GA goes out of its way to remind us every year.
Folks like Mr. Isaac are why membership in squishy mainline churches, such as what the GA evidently wants us to be, are declining. We are surrounded by relativism, by folks and institutions that go out of their way to be non-judgmental and accepting and affirming of basically everything lest they in some way offend our tender sensibilities by somehow perhaps kind of sorta implying that maybe something we’ve done is, er, wrong, which of course is an invitation for a lawsuit. If our church, and by its lead and implication Scripture, are now to go down that path then what pray tell is its purpose or use? We don’t need another venue to worship ourselves.
The young lady he quotes is sadly all too indicative of this prevalent and all-too-common mindset, and completely bass-ackwards. The church has no need to make a “giant leap towards full inclusion” (a phrase which to my aged ear sounds chillingly Maoist); God is all-inclusive already. However, he does have a few rules that we have to choose to follow, and this is where things evidently get dicey for folks these days. He makes the rules and we have to decide if we will follow them or not. Now, as we have all already decided not to follow them we have to go to Plan B and admit that we, not society, not George Bush, not Mom who didn’t buy us that puppy we wanted when we were 8, no, we are fallen, broken and at fault for much of the misery in our lives, for the mistakes we have made. We have to look in the mirror and declare “I am wrong;” heck, we have to publicly declare “I am wrong” by affirming our faith in church.
Otherwise church is just Oprah minus the couches.
As far as the rest of his letter, it’s interesting and obviously I agree with most of what he says but he starts to lose me when he talks about going off and “teaching” the Gospel; it seems he’s drifting perilously close to falling into the trap he’s trying to escape from, the personal interpretation of Scripture. Try to live the Gospel as best you can, ‘teach’ to some extant via your example, but I’m uncomfortable with someone anointing themselves a “teacher.” I much prefer someone to have training with the weight of history behind it.

5 Responses to “What Part Of “Go And Sin No More” Don’t They Understand?”

  1. nightfly says:

    You can always recross the Tiber if things get too squishy in your neck of the woods, Bings. 😉
    “Catholicism – Not Putting Up With Your Crap Since 30 A.D.”

  2. Ebola says:

    Far as I’m concerned Christianity went down the shitter as soon as people decided to call themselves “christian athletes.” Or maybe it just highlights the problem with religion as a whole. “Thank god we won” and “Thank god we lost and learned a lesson”….which of those two do you think are uttered more? I’m willing to bet the latter is never uttered. What’s that famous Carlin quote? “Jesus tripped me up behind third base!”

  3. Hahahaha, Diptera SCORES!!!

  4. The_Real_JeffS says:

    The organized church is nothing but a human construct, and as such is fallen…as our GA goes out of its way to remind us every year.
    The first part of this is why I’m a dedicated (but slightly off-center) agnostic, Mr. B. Although I embraced this aspect of faith well before non-judgmental ideology came into vogue within the US of A.
    The descent of organized religion (not necessarily churches) into political correctness and multicultural “diversity” merely confirms my original decision years ago.
    Not that I am happy to see this, mind you. Churches are a fantastic community asset, and have been for a long time. I’m glad to see that there are many churches who still stress a relationship with God, and not some reprint of Mao’s teachings.

  5. Kate P says:

    Well said (and the Oprah metaphor is painfully funny). I read Christopher Johnson at The MCJ every so often; he tries to keep a sense of humor about what goes on in the Episcopal Church. But there’s a lot of outrage and disappointment behind those words, and in the comboxes. I don’t think the current leadership understands that their “good intentions” should not be the final determinants of the direction of the church.

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