John Knox Presbytery threatens to do business in secret
2/17/2010 2:38:37 PM
Blog Update, 2-18-10
A member of John Knox presbytery e-mailed me regarding Scott Anderson’s ordination, “he laid that aside years ago when our General Assembly ruled that homosexual practice was incompatible with ordained ministry. Now that the General Assembly has set aside that ruling and allowed for a more presbytery-directed process, he entered the candidate process from the beginning, and is now ready to be examined for ordination.”
I assume the writer is referring to actions taken by the General Assembly in 2008 with the passage of the PUP report recommendation to nullify the 1978 Authoritative Interpretation regarding homosexual practice. That action will be reconsidered at the General Assembly meeting this year as Overture #1 from San Diego Presbytery with concurrences from many other presbyteries across the country. The standards of G-6.0106b, requiring all those who are ordained to live either in fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness has not changed. That too will be up for debate again at this year’s General Assembly meeting in July.
Again, from the member of John Knox Presbytery who wrote to me concerning this matter, “the purpose of a closed meeting (executive session) is to prevent half truths from being published from the meeting. Unfortunately, The Layman is well known for its editorial practice in reporting that bends the facts to fit its own version of the truth … In an executive session, such sound bytes are not public and therefore not available for such misuse.”
We are sending a reporter to cover a presbytery whose business is the business of the entire denomination. What is planned is not an editorial or commentary, but an objective news article.
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Isaiah 45:18-19 says, “For this is what the LORD says – He who created the heavens, He is God; He who fashioned and made the earth, He founded it; He did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited – He says: ‘I am the LORD, and there is no other. I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob’s descendants, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I, the LORD, speak the truth; I declare what is right.’”
We worship a God of revelation – One who reveals the truth. One who speaks openly, not in secret. God does not do His business behind closed doors, but in the light for all to see.
You might think of it as transparency. Civil governments call them “sunshine laws.” Presbyterians call it “open meetings” policy. The point is, we do things in the light, in the public eye, proving ourselves to be above reproach by opening our deliberations to reporting by the press and scrutiny by our fellow believers.
But threats of closed doors and business done in secret loom.
We all know that John Knox Presbytery is considering re-instating the ordination of Scott Anderson to validated ministry with the Wisconsin Council of Churches on Saturday, Feb. 20. Anderson’s “departure” from G-6.0106b is well documented. His sexual practices are not secret, he has been quite public and open about his life.
So, why, when The Layman informed the executive presbyter of John Knox that it is our intent to have a reporter present for the meeting were we told essentially not to bother because that part of the meeting was likely to be closed?
Robert’s Rules says, “an executive session is simply any meeting or part of a meeting where the proceedings are to be secret.”1 So, a presbytery certainly has the privilege of voting to enter executive session, but why would it? If what its members are doing is on the up-and-up, if what they’re doing is within the bounds of our Presbyterian constitution, if what they’re doing isn’t shadowy or dark, why close the door? What might be said that they would not want others to hear? What might be done that if held up to the light would be found specious?
Closing the doors only breeds suspicion. What have you got planned that you’re ashamed for others to witness? What’s going to happen in the dark that you don’t want revealed by the light? If you shut out the public, all that remains is imagination (which can run wild).
II Corinthians 4:1-2 says, “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the Word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”
So, my fellow presbyters, work to defeat any attempt to close your presbytery meetings. Specifically, members of John Knox Presbytery, live into your own bylaws2, which state that you “are a people whose story is formed through God’s action in Jesus Christ;” including your “style of interaction with one another; willingness to discuss issues; (and) manner of making decisions.” Indeed, as you say, “God’s love story is a never ending story.” One that continues to “undergo subtle and radical changes in plot and in the characters.” We want to keep up with that storyline and in order to do so, your witness must remain “open to the public.”
Footnotes: Robert’s Rules of Order, Article VIII, Section 43, paragraph 6.