A Corrupt Signal Has Been Broadcast

October 4, 2011

My husband and I are having a recurring problem with our digital cable. While watching television, the broadcast will be interrupted by “tiling” and freezing: little squares appear over portions of the picture, obscuring faces and blipping out the sound. We’ve had baseball games freeze at critical moments, which have passed by the time the cable signal catches up with itself. The technician explained that tiling is the result of a corrupt signal that literally loses binary 1s and 0s into cyber-heaven, never to be seen again. This is caused by “noise on the line,” and past that memorable image I am out of my technical depth. But the bottom line: the viewer realizes, “We didn’t get the whole picture.”

The signals given by the Synod PJC decision in the matter of Parnell et al v. San Francisco Presbytery bear a resemblance to our cable signal:

The decision of the Synod was corrupt. The outcome of the most recent judicial evaluation was corrupted by noise on the Presbyterian/Reformed line. Somehow, in its deliberations, the commission’s spiritual discernment was compromised by malfunctioning exegesis, political rhetoric, and misapplied principles. Portions of Scripture, principles of church order, and confessional statements dropped out of the picture in key places. What was presented as a “decision and order” was so corrupted, in this sense, as to be indecisive and disorderly.

The decision was indecisive. Yes, the SPJC finally came out and said in its conclusion that the Presbytery of San Francisco did not err in doctrine or process by approving the ordination of a candidate who refused to abide by the biblical injunction against homosexual behavior. But the rationale for this conclusion was more mind-bending than a Wonderland tale: because the church supposedly has not agreed on the meaning of the texts in question (such as Leviticus 18:22 and 1 Cor 6:9f), a direct application of them in the church cannot be viewed as “an essential of Reformed faith and polity.” That is, the alleged indecisiveness of the church (evidenced by open debate and disagreement) was proof that indecision is its decision. Huh? Approving San Francisco Presbytery’s ordination decision sanctioned “local option.” This sends a mixed signal to other presbyteries. Can they do the same thing with impunity? Or not? When presented with a “creative” statement of faith, is a presbytery free (or even obligated) to allow a denial of, say, Christ’s blood atoning and reconciling work on the Cross? What would the GAPJC say to that?

The decision was disorderly. In the guise of going by the book (the Form of Government), the SPJC was highly selective in its citations and applications of Presbyterian polity. According to the commission, freedom of conscience trumps any limitations to behavior or belief; mutual forbearance trumps any truth claim or discipline if truth is disregarded.  Those “tiles” —conscience defined and limited by the Word of God, and forbearance in non-essential theological issues — have dropped out, leaving a blank screen dominated by unbridled individual freedom and the powerlessness of the church to discipline errant members.

Because we did not get the whole picture with this SPJC ruling, the higher-level technicians must be called in to correct the problem. The GAPJC will have its chance to get the Presbyterian/Reformed signal straight:  1) our denomination considers straight-up proscriptions in Scripture to be binding upon the church and its officers; 2) one’s personal conscience can be honored only so far as it conforms to the Word of God; 3) essentials of belief and practice still exist in the PCUSA; and 4) mutual forbearance goes both ways: toward those who need the Body’s patience while their repentance catches up to their reception of the gospel, and toward those who need the Body’s patience while their hunger and thirst for righteousness is satisfied.

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3 Responses to “A Corrupt Signal Has Been Broadcast”


  1. cor·rupt (k-rpt)
    adj.
    1. Marked by immorality and perversion; depraved.
    2. Venal; dishonest: a corrupt mayor.
    3. Containing errors or alterations, as a text: a corrupt translation.
    4. Archaic Tainted; putrid.

  2. William L. Goff Says:

    This is very inflamatory language.
    – Bill Goff

  3. Steve Niccolls Says:

    Once again Mary, your analogies are spot on! Keep up the good work.

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