Evangelicals Are in a Pickle: BOP and Personal Conscience

March 9, 2012

Evangelicals in the PCUSA are in a pickle. One week ago the Board of Pensions announced its decision to expand Benefits coverage to same-sex partners of Plan members. A lot of soul-searching has ensued, if my mailbox is any indication, and I have attempted to work through the issue for my own benefit here on this blog. My “research” has included correspondence or conversation with the Corporate Secretary of the BOP, Andrew Browne; Rev. John Huffman, a member of the subcommittee that took up the question; and with various “renewal network” folks watching the situation. I have also read the full report put out by the Board of Pensions.

With this background, I have put together a “decision tree” on the subject, in order to help individuals and congregations discern what recourse they might take if they are troubled by the Board’s new policy. If the Board’s decision posed no issue for you, then you’re done and you can continue your participation in the Plan without any further discussion. But if the Board’s new policy did raise issues for you, read on and trace your course through the decision-tree.

My conscience is bothered:

1. by the idea that my Benefits Plan contributions pay for benefits to same-sex partners –> proceed to 1A below.
2. by participating in the Plan altogether (producing guilt by association), because it supports same-sex partnerships –> proceed to 2A below.
3. to such a degree and scope that no economic recourse could possibly calm it –> proceed to 3A below.

1A. Option 1: Support passage of a Commissioner’s Resolution to add a “Relief of Conscience” provision to the BOP policy.
1B. Option 2: Reduce payment of my Plan dues by .6% [actual figure unknown], essentially “withholding” that portion that would flow to same-sex couples. And then see what happens. The practical reality is that this withholding would not reduce the amount of money available specifically for same-sex beneficiaries, but only reduce the total amount in the fund. [I cannot guess what the consequences of this approach might be, and by mentioning it as a possibility, I am not recommending it, if your intent is to keep your Benefits intact.]

2A. Option 1: Support Overture 36 (Stockton) at the upcoming GA, which would allow a minister member to opt out of the Benefits Plan, if conscience dictates.
2B. Option 2 (a long shot): Change call status from “installed” (G-2.0504a) to “temporary” (G-2.0504b) and thus avoid terms of call mandating participation in the Benefits Plan. The risks here, of course, revolve around the necessity of presbytery confirming one’s temporary call every twelve months. In some presbyteries, this alone could be an inordinate risk.
2C. Option 3: Leave the position that requires participation in the Benefits Plan.

3A. While holding to my belief and witness to the truth from a biblical/theological perspective, make no claim for “relief of conscience” and thus belie the concept that mathematical manipulations could actually assuage my conscience.

Some of the ideas here are wacky, even by my standards, but logical in a certain sense. Others—especially the road leading from Idea 3—offer a new way of looking at the situation. For this reason, in my next post, I will expand on Idea 3 and the biblical/theological rationale for it.



One Response to “Evangelicals Are in a Pickle: BOP and Personal Conscience”

  1. Ed Boyce Says:

    I wonder how many Progressive Presbyterians will support Evangelicals who refuse to abide by the Book of Order requirements mentioned above? I suspect it will be no where near as many who supported those who refused to abide by the Fidelity and Chastity requirements. Thank you Board of Pensions for not providing for a relief of conscience option. (sarcasm intended) You might have just pushed a large number of congregations over the edge. Where is the Peace, Purity, and Unity of the church in this decision?

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