“Resistance Is Futile”—Huh?

June 29, 2012

A Complaint was filed with the Synod of Southern California and Hawaii in response to the action of Santa Barbara Presbytery on June 2 to identify itself as a union presbytery (co-membership in PCUSA and ECO). This “local matter” may seem a bit off-topic as I reflect on General Assembly here in Pittsburgh, but the Complaint is germane because it reveals a strategy for attempting to make the ordination of practicing GLBTQ people mandatory across the church. I am quite sure we will see these arguments come forward in discussions and debates in the coming week.

The Complaint cites “reforms,” that is, the accumulation of actions in recent years that the Complainants categorize as “restoring freedom of conscience.” Hold that thought, for I will demonstrate that this case seeks to replace one conscience for another just as definitively as evangelicals have sought obedience to the Word of God in sexuality matters. The question will be, “Do not ordained officers of the PCUSA voluntarily bind their consciences to the Word of God?”

A cascade of bad decisions started with the passage of the Peace, Unity, and Purity Report (PUP) in 2006, the dismantling of our church-wide definitive guidance on sexuality (by means of the Knox Overture) in 2008, the passage of Amendment 10-A which removed the fidelity/chastity standard from the Book of Order, the extension of medical and pension coverage to gay partners, and the Parnell v. San Francisco GAPJC decision that said the Bible cannot guide us in ordination decisions because we can’t agree on how to interpret the biblical witness on sexuality.

Complainants charge that Santa Barbara Presbytery, by virtue of its consistent opposition to the above-mentioned changes, has “resisted corporate judgment of the whole church and denied mutual accountability. . .” The Complaint’s opening statement of the issues:

“The presbytery has adopted measures that undermine its connectional responsibilities to the whole church, frustrate the church’s discernment in the establishment of ordination standards, and are antithetical to our identity as a Reformed body of faith.”

So now the tables are turned. For decades, people like the complainants have been undermining connectional responsibilities by openly defying ordination standards properly affirmed by the church and promoting the concept of “local option by presbytery.” In those days, they were appealing to freedom of conscience to justify their disorderly and illegal resistance to the church’s rule. They did not wait for the rules to change; they openly defied church law in protest to apply pressure on the church to change. So now, when a presbytery conducts an orderly process (yes, St. Andrew’s has contested its orderliness) to accomplish a relief of conscience by constitutional means, it is “resisting.” Bad, bad Presbytery! Sort of reminds me of the old sci-fi movies: the disembodied voice of a cosmic enemy declares, “We have you in our clutches; it is futile to resist.”

Regarding “frustrating the church’s discernment,” all I can say is this: by disobeying God over the years, factions of the PCUSA have frustrated the church’s discernment of God’s will for decades, and our current reality does not demonstrate obedience to God’s Word. The story of wise Solomon’s gradual drift away from God (1 Kings 10-11) is an example of what happens when a person is in open defiance against God: his or her moral authority is completely undermined and God’s blessing is lost.

What is emerging here is the Left’s attempt to make the ordination of GLBTQ people mandatory in every presbytery. St. Andrew’s v Santa Barbara begins the legal process toward this end, along with the remedial case pending in another conservative presbytery, Los Ranchos. It is a real shame, under the current conditions, that those who have cried, “Honor our consciences!” are the very same folks who would deny a creative relief of conscience measure that is intended to enable folks to remain in PCUSA fellowship while achieving a differentiation that takes them out of the day-to-day fray. These folks may want us to believe that resistance is futile, but in this case, it’s their turn to honor the consciences of the vast majority of their presbytery colleagues and support the other creative measures (like porous-bordered presbyteries) to allow congregations to transfer presbyteries. If they deny evangelical/conservative congregations any differentiation, which I believe is their intent, then they are acting like bullies to chase those congregations out. What is orderly, connectional, and Presbyterian about that?




9 Responses to ““Resistance Is Futile”—Huh?”

  1. Steven N. Says:

    Mary: I remember watching the Star Trek: Next Generation. While the Borg argued resistence is futile, the Enterprise proved, that altough it is difficult and painful, resistence is not always futile!

  2. This action is not at all surprising. Look back in history, it happens all the time. A group fights for something, then finally wins that something only to turn around lord it over the “losers”. Case in point in Swiss history: the Swiss valiantly fought for freedom from the unjust Habsburgs, only to set up a similar feudal system once they could claim independence from said overlords.

    What is happening in the PC(USA) is no different and I expected it.

  3. Jodie Says:

    I don’t think that a church that fails to be authoritarian and disciplinarian on Monday is suddenly going to become autocratic authoritarian on Tuesday.

    It’s just not in its nature.

  4. John Kerr Says:

    Once again, the progressives show their convictions: the end justifies the means, and what they bring in as optional they will soon make mandatory. We conservatives do not seem to have the same rights to our consciences as do our progressive counterparts.

  5. Jodie Says:

    But John,

    The conservatives keep complaining how nothing is mandatory anymore. If that is true, then why do you fear that something you don’t like is about to become mandatory? Which is it?

    Maybe this is the source of all our confusion. The conservatives assume doctrine is mandatory, and think the PCUSA has become apostate because it won’t enforce conservative doctrine. But its lack of enforcement does not mean it has abandoned the faith, merely that it refuses to enforce it. It would no more enforce liberal doctrine than it would enforce conservative ideology.

    You have nothing to fear except fear itself.

    • Steven N. Says:

      If the liberals really would not enforce liberal doctrine, then they would not have had any problems with the Santa Barbara Presbytery’s actions. It has become extremely clear that the liberals are not interested in biblical fidelity, but merely in political correctness. This complaint is nothing more than an attempt to enforce political correctness (instead of biblical correctness) on all.

  6. Paul Says:

    It’s like what one of the Wise Old Men from PFR advised me many years ago: one needs to understand the balance between unity and diversity in the PCUSA. Where liberals control the policy positions, the church must present a united witness; where conservatives control the policy positions, the church must embrace diversity. So, when conservatives controlled ordination standards, it was an opportunity to embrace diversity. Now that the liberals control ordination standards, the church must speak with one voice to avoid confusing the prophetic witness.

  7. Rick Kline Says:

    Why do those advocating that everyone should be open to all livesyle (gay ministers) so opposed to another ministry lifestyle (Union Presbytery)? Relativism is not relative of you disagree with the moral relativist.

  8. Collin Says:

    Mary, thank you for sharing your reflections on this. Recent events notwithstanding, I don’t want to believe that all liberals are closed-minded.

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