By Charles B. “Chip” Hardwick, director of the PCUSA’s Theology, Worship and Education. Comings and Goings blog.
Yesterday (11/15/15) I had the chance to preach and teach at Southminster Presbyterian Church in my hometown of Dayton, OH. I was glad to spend some time with family between events at the church. (See picture below, left, of the creek in my dad’s yard…there is no place like home!) I preached about stewardship on Thank Offering Sunday, which supports ministry partners of the national Presbyterian Women organization.
What I want to write about today, though, is the presentation I gave in the afternoon to a group who have been spending six weeks covering issues of sexual integrity, in particular in respect to the LGBT community. They invited me to talk about gay marriage and ordination in the Presbyterian Church (USA). It gave me a chance to revisit an important paper that two of my colleagues from the Office of Theology and Worship (Charles Wiley and Barry Ensign-George) wrote after the denomination changed its standards on marriage from “a man and a woman” to “a couple, traditionally a man and a woman.” Click here to read this paper, called “Our Challenging Way.”
People often think about the PCUSA as an affirming denomination in terms of LBGT issues. In actuality, it is more complicated than that. What Charles and Barry talk about in the paper, and what we in the class discussed, is that as a denomination we have chosen to take out any condemnation of same gender relationships in our Book of Order and its authoritative interpretations, but we have not replaced them with affirmative statements.
That means that within the Presbyterian Church, it is a completely faithful position to believe that God calls same gender sexual relationships sinful. It is also a completely faithful position to believe that God blesses these relationships. Both are equally legitimate, …
[Editor’s note: The Presbyterian Lay Committee continues to adhere to, uphold and advocate the Christian worldview that fidelity in marriage between one man and one woman and chastity in singleness is God’s best for human beings. Our posting of articles and blogs containing different beliefs is a part of our ongoing effort to inform and equip Christians to understand and engage meaningfully in the issues of the day. Journalistic coverage should not be misunderstood as agreement with the views expressed herein.]
“Our Challenging Way” or “How to Be Disobedient to Scripture and Still Feel Good About It” – garbage!
This writing and the enclosed link are an affront to the Reformed tradition.
What a sad and pathetic blog post.
Hardwick writes: “Some churches choose traditional worship and others choose contemporary, and some select vibrant children’s ministries while others reach out to seniors, and some prefer local mission while others prefer international.”
His point is clear. Basic moral issues involving human sexuality, marriage, family, etc., are to be considered as if they were in the same moral category as issues involving one’s preferred style of music or particular emphasis in church education and mission. In other words, these moral issues convulsing western societies are not moral issues at all. They are only questions of personal style and preference, with one just as good as another.
This blog post is yet another in a long list of exhibits documenting the moral wasteland that the PCUSA has become, and the kind of morally vacuous people that the PCUSA chooses as leaders.
“Within the Presbyterian Church, it is a completely faithful position to believe that God calls same gender sexual relationships sinful. It is also a completely faithful position to believe that God blesses these relationships. Both are equally legitimate. … As I taught this yesterday, heads in the classroom nodded as they realized that this position has a sense of humility within it.”
This is an example of the Presbyterian Church (USA) holding truth and error on a par. Either God regards homosexuality as a sin and therefore subject to sin’s penalty (“Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God”; WSC Q.14; “For the wages of sin is death”; Rom. 6.23a), or He blesses it because He instituted it (“God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply’”; Gen. 28a). As we confess, “Neither is God the author of sin” (WCF III.1), nor is He “a God of confusion, but of peace” (I Cor. 14.33a).
Rev. Hardwick, in what appears to be a futile attempt to plug the hemorrhaging of Evangelicals from the Presbyterian Church (USA) would have us believe that holding these two mutually exclusive positions as “faithful” expressions of obedience unto the Law of God is “humility”. I am sorry, but it is not. It is humility to submit oneself to the authority of the written Word of God, which is not unclear on this issue, whereas it is the height of arrogance to presume to know better than the written Word of God while falsely claiming to be humble in saying that the Word of God equivocates on this matter (when it does not) and thereby using said false humility as an excuse to permit that which both Testaments declare is a serious sin for which those who impenitently commit it “will not inherit the Kingdom of God” (I Cor. 6.9-11).
The Genesis reference in para. 2 should be Gen. 1.28a, not Gen. 28a.
Based on Rev. Hardwick’s remarks, PCUSA doesn’t know whether it is coming or going in regards to Christian theology, worship, or education in my humble opinion. May the Lord reach those deceived by the deceiver. Mr. Golden remarks are on target.
“Watch out that no one misleads you. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will mislead many.” (Matthew 24:4-5)
But false prophets arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. These false teachers will infiltrate your midst with destructive heresies, even to the point of denying the Master who bought them. As a result, they will bring swift destruction on themselves. 2 And many will follow their debauched lifestyles. Because of these false teachers, the way of truth will be slandered. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with deceptive words. Their condemnation pronounced long ago is not sitting idly by; their destruction is not asleep.(II Peter 2:1-3)
18 Children, it is the last hour, and just as you heard that the antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have appeared. We know from this that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us, because if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But they went out from us to demonstrate that all of them do not belong to us. (I John 2:18-19)
4 Jesus answered them, “Watch out that no one misleads you. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will mislead many. (Matthew 24:4-5)
But false prophets arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. These false teachers will infiltrate your midst with destructive heresies, even to the point of denying the Master who bought them. As a result, they will bring swift destruction on themselves. 2 And many will follow their debauched lifestyles. Because of these false teachers, the way of truth will be slandered. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with deceptive words. Their condemnation pronounced long ago is not sitting idly by; their destruction is not asleep.
It is, but it isn’t. Double speak or double talk worthy of the finest politician.
Likewise “Authentic Interpretation.”
I think the “Reformed Presbyterian Church USA” needs a Reformation.
Everyday, with statement in this same vein coming from various PCUSA officials, I see no hope. The ship has already sailed. HOWEVER, it’s gonna cost us to leave the Titanic and save ourselves.
Last month, I visited with friends 1100 miles away. Like me, they recently walked away. Like me, the last straw was what they called “weird” or “bizarre” sermons. The last one I heard had to do with creation. Is this just a coincidence? Like me, this couple is hard working conservative business owners. I am wondering, how common are these “in your face” revisionist sermons? Are they coming from a central source, pre written? Are they aimed at continuing to drive the faithful away before they might start having ideas of getting themselves organized? Weird or bizarre sermons that leave people shaking their heads in disbelief.
So…let’s see…right is right and wrong is also right. Everybody understand that? As Yakov Smirnoff might say….”what a ….denomination!”
Interesting comments. I have left several sermons scratching my head only to later find very similar messages coming from other PCUSA sources. I think there is coordination.
Yes – I agree, sermons all over the PCUSA are being supplied by the back channels from the Louisville Sluggers – coordinated efforts to indoctrinate the party line out in the field. Probably not long until pastors will have required weekly sermon topics!
First thing about the contemporary PCUSA to understand is that as a post-Christian entity it operates not so much as a traditional religious denomination, but as a information and policy hub for various left and hard left causes and policies. And with that structure of course is the inherent chaos, flux, instability of the organization, with its attendant institutional pathologies for all to see, witness Covenant Network.
The LGBT lobby prior to 2000 knew full well that to pass or institutionalize full inclusion into the what existed at that time as PCUSA polity was not possible. So they embarked on a systemic, planned, programmed and intentional process to deconstruct the denomination and smash the polity structure of the church to attain their goals. Which was a process carried out at various GAs, and use of AI’s 1996-present. nFOG and AI was not by chance or accident.
The end result being the polity is broken, trust shattered, the church in free-fall and systemic institutional collapse as people and brains, flee the entity. To those liberals and institutional apologists that I tend to infuriate. May I suggest that liberals need to support and rally to the institution, both in money and time, well liberally. They need you now, more than ever.
Yes, post Christian. Christianity and the Bible are relegated to tools in their toolbox so that they can bring them out for purposes of leverage or sanctity whenever they feel the need to do so.
As to the money…that group, for the most part, always has something for somebody else to do but nothing – or very little for themselves. You will NOT see that group turn around the financial situation of the PCUSA. PCUSA is really a hijacked vehicle for their own self expression.
Funny, I do not recall getting that memo. Maybe it was in the One Great Hour of Sharing or Joy Offering packet they continue to send out.
I am sure you are on the list to not send anything related to the Louisville Sluggers party line to. You are not with the program – right? No per capita or Presbytery support? Have you spoken out about key issues (sexual orientation) at meetings? I bey you are on the list to bypass…
Gotta love it…”People often think about the PCUSA as an affirming denomination in terms of LBGT issues. In actuality, it is more complicated than that.” Seriously? More complicated than that? What part of the cross is complicated?
In response to Red Dirt’s comment, “Are they aimed at continuing to drive the faithful away?” The aim is to keep those without faith…faithless. And it is not their aim.
In the Reformed circle the church law [e.g., the Book of Order] must follow from its theology, not vice versa. (Of course, the theology is to be reformed according to the Scripture as J. Moltmann taught.) Otherwise the visible church or an organized denomination loses itself any real Scriptural foundation and thus is discarding its Head and Savior. The Department of Theology should have first produced a theology in support, or at least not to condemn, the non-confessional and non-Scriptural lifestyle. Could it be that the PC (USA) has reduced itself to be a legal community from a confessional church or a “Scriptural society” [Calvin’s term] when the General Assembly chose “to take out any condemnation of same gender relationships in our Book of Order and its authoritative interpretations”?
As water will always find its lowest center of gravity, as applies to physics, applies to organizations. In the deconstruction of the entity post PUP in 2006, the PCUSA has devolved from a “connectional” church to an organization held together by two strands, property in trust, as a legal construct, and Board of Pensions as a practical construct for its clergy.
As to the former in the post-Christian organization, once that clause is taken out for a review, in the legal light of day, the results for the PCUSA in a civil sense is mixed and merkey at best. As the latter, the demographic profile of the plan from a risk-balance, liability perspective is catastrophic moving forward. If anybody doubts that its all smooth sailing for future and current retirees need to reference the ELCA pension plan and retirees getting a 50% haircut.
The take away is that the glue holding the entity together is rather brittle, worn, fragile at best. When I sat in polity class close to 40 years ago, we learned the core of Presbyterian/Reformed governance is rule of majority, protection of due process, rights of the minority, all under the rubric of “good order and discipline”. That’s out the window now, its the law of the jungle and each for themselves. That’s the end result and the price the liberals paid to achieve their holy grail of the LGBT agenda. That’s on them, they own the process and the system, and the results. As my mother would say, you make your bed, and you lie in it.
Enjoy the great decline.
Red_Dirt, I doubt there’s actual sermon fodder or outlines being produced and disseminated. However, remember that in PCUSA seminaries, PCUSA candidates are trained to preach through the common lectionary. There are MANY guides to preaching the lectionary through particular theological lenses (feminist, liberation, progressive, etc). There are also websites that publish sermon outlines and even entire sermons for use by pastors who are too busy with other matters to adequately study the text and prepare a faithful message on what has become for many “the relentless return of the Sabbath.” That may sound cynical but its an honest reflection of what you hear from many pastors in the PCUSA. Search the terms “pastor” and “burnout” and you’ll see what I mean. The good news is that there are MANY Christian pastors today delivering thoughtful and faithful, theologically Reformed sermons today – sadly, few of them are doing so in PCUSA pulpits.