By Jeff Gissing, jeffgissing.com
In a recent post, The Layman has characterized my earlier article on the defrocking of Joseph Rightmyer as “defending” the presbytery (read it here):
The condemnation of Grace Presbytery’s defrocking of Joe Rightmyer on Jan. 7 has been virtually uniform. Even those, like Jeff Gissing, who seem to “defend” the decision of the presbytery’s Permanent Judicial Commission, acknowledge that it is “another instance of placing procedural fidelity before theological fidelity.”
I question strongly the characterization of my article as in any way defending the Rightmyer verdict or the censure imposed by the Permanent Judicial Commission of Grace Presbytery.
The goal of my post was not to issue a polemic–that will come later–but instead to understand the decision:
In this post I simply try to make sense of the decision and what it means. My editorializing will be limited since it’s important first to note what actually happened and why before opining. You can read the Decision of the Permanent Judicial Commission of Grace Presbytery here.
In the article I pointed out that had the Chair of the Committee on Ministry note filed disciplinary charges against Rev. Rightmyer someone else would have and I further pointed out that neither Highland Park nor Rightmyer played by the rules as established in the presbytery’s gracious dismissal policy. This led me to conclude that there was a case to answer by Rev. Rightmyer. I didn’t offer an opinion as to the nature of the case or the nature of a censure.
After reading the decision it seems pretty clear cut. The good Reverend may be a great guy; but he disobeyed and one of the vows of ordination is to be subject to the government and discipline of the church.
Thanks to Jeff Gissing for the clarifying article.
The selection of Jews for transport from the ghettoes were done according to the law and policies established by the Nuremburg racial purity laws of 1932. It was a legal act in accordance with all doctrine of National Socialist Party. As the Presbyterian purges and heresy trials of the 1930s were done in accordance in the polity of that time. The presence or lack thereof of laws, rules, procedures and processes does not render such laws or policies morally or ethically good or right. Alabama and Mississippi were very much in their legal rights by state laws, to impose literacy and Pole taxes until about 1963, I think they made a movie about that not too long ago. Dr. King made it very clear that the written law or policy, even when supported by a super-majority does not make such good or right. That dog will not hunt.
The PCUSA can say and do as they desire and claim all was in ‘good order and discipline”. Does not make such behaviors Godly or even Christian in any broad sense. Old Pastor can try to out put lipstick on this pig, its still a pig. And everybody knows it.
The PCUSA has had a habit of changing the rules when it suits them, the more churches that want to leave the more they tighten the screws on them, that was the case here, sour grapes, where are all the complaints against hereitical pastors in this presbytery? We all know they’re there, but since they’re “company” men and women they get a pass.
The presbytery got what they wanted, $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$, this was a spiteful and vindictive action to send a message, that if you cross us, this is your furture. I cannot wait until the First Pres Houston case goes to court, and then one and for all it’s settled, and then the great Presbyterian divorce can begin, and I mean without the parting churches paying alimony!
To compare the presbytery to Nazi Germany is despicable. It is beyond the bounds of decency. It is sophistry of the first order.
Godwin’s Law, Reductio ad Hitlerum
It is absolutely stunning to me how the PC(USA) chooses to selectively enforce its own rules. If a liberal violates the book of order and says “it is a justice issue” then she is engaged in civil disobedience as a conscientious objector. If a conservative does the same thing then he is heretical and schismatic. All this serves to prove that conservatives and liberals will never be able to meaningfully and peacefully co-exist in the PC(USA).
There isn’t enough info in the decision to make an assessment of its merit
Some are lemmings to legalism and some are liberated by the Gospel.
Matthew 15 and 23 come to mind.
It may be the difference between an existential and eternal perspective.
If we really believe we are going to spend a lot longer time with Jesus than anybody/anything else, aren’t priorities in time a no-brainer?
Baaaaaaa! Baaaaaaa! Baaaaaaa!
Joe’s conversion between PFR and HPPC still requires clarification for those remaining faithfully and those entertaining exiting faithfully.
Grace (sic) Presbytery? Puuuuuuuhhhhlease!
What’s that song from Cabaret?
Sorry, another metaphor from the…
Not if you consider the bigger point: procedural correctness is not the same thing as fair, reasonable, and just.
Prayer is in order so the Justice of God will have its way.
And yet these rules that somehow deserve an analogy with practices of the Third Reich: Mr. Rightmyer, Mr. Gregory, and Mr. Gissing all stood before a congregation and agreed to be subject to them. If you change your mind about that, then resigning would not be such a bad thing. But at least one should not whinge about being called out when one’s actions are contrary to one’s vows.
btw it is a “poll” tax not a “Pole” tax. You seem to be totally ignorant.
Whatever I can do to spread a little joy and happiness is what I am all about.
Laws, vows, oaths, pledges, covenants are indeed an obligation and too be fulfilled with honor and integrity. Too bad the organization I took such with in 1982 no longer exists.
Well, hmmm, according to his vow, “Do you promise to further the peace, unity, and purity of the church?”, it seems to me he was acting well on this vow. For the peace, unity, and the purity of the church in the PCUSA are at an all time low. Why? We now have a book of order which contradicts our confessions. We have sodomy being declared good by a majority of those who voted at GA. Many ministers now teach that sodomy glorifies God. Mr. Rightmyer indeed had the peace, unity, and purity of the church in mind and heart. It is the advocates of sodomy who are tearing our church apart today – not Mr. Rightmyer. Will we defrock every minister who pretends to marry two males or two females? For God alone can combine two into one flesh. He does this because from the beginning He created them male and female, as He says. Oh man, who are you who pretend to be God? It is the height of arrogance; and to me, every minister who pretends to marry those of unatural lusts, should be dismissed from the PCUSA himself. On what charge? Well, the confessions tell us that marriage is between one man and one woman. We take a vow to further the purity of the church. And the essential tenets of the confessions? Oh, I see ………… This definition of marriage between one man and one woman is not essential? Oh, I see, we can just decide what we adhere to and what not. But the Bible states clearly what is sin, and our confessions do indeed declare what we believe the Bible tells us. And we cannot pick and choose.
Patrick Hamilton a young Scotsman and Reformer was convicted and tried and found guilty of 13 charges by a council of Bishops in 1528 in Scotland when Scotland was still controlled by the Catholic Church. He was found guilty of teaching the doctrines of Martin Luther. The Bishops would say they only acted by the letter of the law. But Mr. Hamilton stood by his beliefs and was tried and convicted. He was burned at the stake. Burning at the stake is a much more severe penalty than defrocking. But the messages are similar. A presbytery today has defrocked a man who was a threat to them.
Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result is the pcusa.