Check Your Pitch with This Hearing Test

November 30, 2011

In your sound-proof room, with earphones on, listen to these tones and tell me what you hear:

“ . . . mindful of its commitment to tend to the unity of the denomination. . . the [Covenant Network] Board has decided not to support or encourage overtures to the 2012 General Assembly to change the constitutional language regarding marriage.  The Covenant Network will, however, encourage overtures seeking Authoritative Interpretation to protect pastoral discretion to celebrate same-gender marriages where they are sanctioned by the civil authorities,” (from the Board’s letter of October 28).

Evangelical ears pick up some good news here: Oh, the Covenant Network is committed to “tending” the unity of the PCUSA; and therefore it will not be pushing its agenda on presbyteries by forcing a vote on a constitutional redefinition of marriage.

The bad news follows the “however”: We will bypass the presbyteries altogether by advocating for an authoritative interpretation from the General Assembly (GA) that gives pastors the freedom to marry same-gender couples.

What did you hear? Here’s what I picked up:

The Covenant Network is very careful about expressing its agenda in positive terms, or in those negative terms assumed to sound positive, like “we will not promote a change to the Book of Order.” In this case, the positive statement is the promise to “retain pastoral discretion,” which pastors certainly appreciate. They are given so little of it in the Book of Order. Basically, a pastor cannot be told what to preach or pray (W-1.4005a) nor whom to marry (W-4.9002b).

But in fact—and here is where we must go back to the Divine pitch-pipe—an authoritative interpretation allowing a pastor to conduct a same-sex wedding where it is legal to do so alters the definition of marriage as surely as a constitutional change to W-4.9000. Not only that, but such an action would by fiat create a disunity in the church on several levels: by adapting itself to cultural norms and state law, by creating different practices in different presbyteries (“local option”), by insulting a plain understanding of Scripture on the subject of marriage, and by doing all of this by action of only a few hundred presbyters at one GA rather than through its diverse presbyteries.

The Covenant Network used this same strategy—putting in the positive that which is a dismantling of Presbyterian faith and practice—in the passage of Amendment 10A. What was pitched in that debate? “We are joyfully submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ,” but then the language gutted the Book of Order of any specific standard by which individuals would be expected to show their submission to Christ. This strategy is deceptive and underhanded, and it worked for 10A.

Further, those who promoted the gay agenda expressed in debate the reassurance of local option. They said, no worries! A presbytery retains full control of its membership roster through the examination process and is never required to ordain someone it does not find suitable. But this guarantee was short-lived, as many predicted. In October, a first remedial case was filed in Los Ranchos Presbytery to challenge the presbytery’s right to define a manner of life for church officers, including fidelity in heterosexual marriage or chastity in singleness. The suit, with the full support of the Covenant Network, seeks now to deny the very “local option” that was its selling point before Amendment 10A was passed.  This is a dissonant note in the church’s harmony, and it will not promote “unity” unless it achieves a church-wide mandate that no presbytery may adopt a fidelity/chastity standard and every presbytery will be required to demonstrate that GLBT people have been considered for every church office.

I put “unity” in quotes above, because any attempt to adopt, promote, or affirm that which goes against God’s Word is actually the foundation for disharmony, not unity. We can only find true unity in Christ in our willingness to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Christ through obedience to God’s commands. Anything short of this is fake; it cannot sustain itself; and God will not bless us. Let us get our hearing checked before it is too late, so that when Jesus says, “Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches” (Revelation 3:6, 13, 22) we are in tune with him and ready to respond in joyful obedience.

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2 Responses to “Check Your Pitch with This Hearing Test”

  1. Jubilo Says:

    In July I decided to read Scripture all the way through again this year. I was struck by the condemnation of false prophets in Ezekiel who said “The Lord says…” when the Lord did NOT say. I thought about the issue of GLBT “rights” in the church. Clearly one side or the other is a false prophet. It is going to be a sad day for some when appearing before the Ultimate Judge if, as I expect, these condemnations still hold.

  2. David Stearns Says:

    My ears hear the sounds of dishonesty and trickery. This is an abuse of the AI process by changing our constitution without a constitutional vote. Maybe we need to start a new overture for an amendment to say that all AIs not originated by the GAPJC as the result of a remedial or disciplinary case require a 2/3 vote of the GA and shall not materially change the clear intent of the BOO.

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