Ambiguity: the Heart of the Presbyterian Church USA
In a decision that is being touted by so-called conservatives within the denomination and at first glance seems to affirm biblical ethics, in fact undermines the Christian faith almost in its entirety. What began in the 1926 General Assembly, comes to full flower in 2008. In 1926, the General Assembly abandoned the requirement that ordained ministers affirm essentials of belief, but are only asked to receive and adopt some vague idea of essentials of the reformed faith that are embodied in our confessions, yet no one could define those essentials, and purposely would no longer do so.
A cursory reading of the Book of Order and subsequent rulings of church courts would indicate that one can believe and affirm literally anything and still hold ordained office within the PCUSA (as the most recent ruling clearly indicates). Rulings and declarations from “on high” clearly indicate that the only essentials are ones of action – as long as ordained persons promise to abide in life practice by three major (practice not belief) essentials: those being faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness, inclusion of women in all levels of leadership within the church and property held in trust for the Presbyteries. The first of these orthopraxy essentials is what is debated ad nauseam.
What is lost in all these debates to most bible-believing Christians is that the battle was lost 80 years ago, when orthodoxy was abandoned. Receiving and adopting unspecified essentials, is not the same as believing as essential clear and unadulterated historic Christian doctrines. What the GAPJC affirms now is exactly this. Freedom of conscience allows ordaining bodies to overlook anything a person believes, while still making them affirm the above orthopraxy (right action). Right belief (orthodoxy) no longer exists within the PCUSA as is evidenced by repeated and incontrovertible heresies that are over and over again affirmed as being acceptable within a broadly inclusive denomination.
While conservatives PCUSA loyalists highlight a small, temporary GAPJC victory, the drum continues to beat on as overtures move toward this year’s General Assembly that would either enforce PUP recommendation 5 over the GAPJC ruling, remove G.60106b (the fidelity chastity requirement), or reword the fidelity chastity requirement so that it no longer excludes homosexuals from leadership. When orthodoxy is lost, what is left to fight over is orthopraxy. Yet, the heart of the Christian faith, is just that…faith. Faith begins with believing certain objective truths, which we consider orthodoxy (right belief). Faith is worked out in orthopraxy (right conduct) under the strength and power of the Holy Spirit working in us. When orthodoxy is abandoned, orthopraxy soon will be abandoned as well. While some small victories might delay the loss of orthopraxy, there will be no lasting victory without orthodoxy.
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