Friday, June 27, 2008

The Way from San Jose

It is with joy and humility that we receive the news, via streaming video, that the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has just voted (54%-46%) to send to the Presbyteries an amendment to the Book of Order, the church's constitution, that will replace G-6.0106b with this language:
Those who are called to ordained service in the church, by their assent to the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003), pledge themselves to live lives obedient to Jesus Christ the Head of the Church, striving to follow where he leads through the witness of the Scriptures, and to understand the Scriptures through the instruction of the Confessions. In so doing, they declare their fidelity to the standards of the Church. Each governing body charged with examination for ordination and/or installation (G-14.0240 and G-14.0450) establishes the candidate's sincere efforts to adhere to these standards.
This language is essentially the same as that recommended by our session last fall. The proposed amendment now returns to the Presbyteries for voting. If it is approved by a majority of the Presbyteries, then G-6.0106b will no longer stand as a stumbling block to the ordination of faithful gay and lesbian brothers and sisters called to ordained ministry in our denomination.
As GA Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow prayed at the close of the vote this morning in San Jose, "open our hearts and minds to each other that we might be drawn closer to You."

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Not just for Geeks

I am either a total GA geek, weird church geek, or, perhaps, simple a "L" loser, but here it is 10:30 p.m., and I'm happily sitting at the kitchen table with cheese, crackers and a glass of white wine waiting for the 10:30 e.d.t. beginning of the evening plenary session of the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to go live on streaming video! It's like I'm waiting for tip-off of a West Coast playoff basketball game or something.
I'll either wear the geek label proudly or suggest that this is not just for geeks. True, you have to sift -- and sit -- through a lot of long and boring stretches to find the nuggets of profound faithfulness, but they are there and there are many of them.
Last evening I tuned in long enough to hear greetings from His Eminence Avak Asadourian, Primate of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Iraq. He spoke of the profound difficulties facing the Christian community in Iraq, and pleaded, "whatever promises were made at the time of the invasion must be kept."
Peacemaking for Iraq at this point includes more than merely withdrawing American combat troops; it requires of us that we honor promises made to the Iraqi people and it requires that we be in relationship with them as we work to see that promises are kept.
This stuff comes up at GA. The Spirit moves. God acts. And sometimes, at its best, the church becomes the vessel for that movement and action.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Dobson and Obama

You can count on empire's defender to be lousy theologians. The spat between Pat Dobson and Barack Obama is a case in point. Whatever your politics, this is a classic case of imperial "Christianity" speaking in support of empire and, not surprisingly, getting its Biblical citations confused as well.

Don’t get me wrong here. I am not suggesting that Sen. Obama brings some profoundly anti-imperial perspective to the table, but rather that he was not only right from the perspective of the U.S. Constitution in suggesting that a government based solely on Christian scripture might be problematic in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society of 300 million, but he was also right Biblically about issues such as slavery while Mr. Dobson missed the boat by a long shot in suggesting that Obama was attributing to Christian scripture passages from the Old Testament. Never mind that we Christians are supposed to wrestle with all of scripture, but, in point of fact, approval of slavery is not confined to the first Testament. Indeed, “slaves obey your masters” comes from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the young Ephesian church and is repeated in the letter to the Colossians, in the same Christian New Testament that instructs wives to be subject to their husbands and women to keep silent in the assembly.

So Mr. Dobson gets his scripture wrong – which is forgivable, even for one who claims as much familiarity and authority as he does – but what is more important is how wrong he gets his core theology.

What bothers me most in all of this is that nowhere have I seen a member of the mainstream media call Dobson to account. They merely serve as scribes for both sides.

Moreover, I don't see Obama offering to repeat what he said about the Sermon on the Mount, either. In the present context, "loving enemies" is probably not a good electoral strategy -- even if it is, well, pretty Biblical.

I would be well to remember, above all, that we are, in fact, electing a president, not a pastor-in-chief or resident theologian. Thanks be to God.