Time For Truth

A place to grow in the Grace & Knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ

Presbyterian Church USA: The Church of non-essentials

As St. Augustine put it 1500 years ago, “when regard for truth has been broken down or even slightly weakened, all things will remain doubtful.”

I was fascinated to read the Moderator of the PCUSA, Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow’s comments today posted on Presbyweb, following the vote of the Presbyteries not to ratify the changes pushed forward by the General Assembly, which would have made it even easier for this once great, soon to be obscure denomination, to ignore clear unambiguous biblical ethics and ordain openly unrepentant homosexuals to the offices of elders and deacons. Instead of affirming the decision of the Presbyteries and appealing to progressive congregations not to continuously put forth divisive, unbiblical and clearly heretical overtures, he instead makes this statement:

I think about our hopes for humanity – for those close to us, those who oppose us, those we love, those we call stranger, and those we may never meet face-to-face. Do we really want them to grow into who God intends, or do we want them to grow into who we think they should be? Too often, we want to strictly define and control God for the other, rather than trust that we can each listen to God well enough to be guided and molded into God’s vision and reality here on Earth.

Sometimes, to allow others to grow into whom God intends, we have to allow room for them to discover God on their own – even at the risk of them making choices we would not make. As a parent and pastor, I find this difficult because I want to guide my children and the community I serve in a particular direction.

His statement has a certain pious sound. But what precisely might be meant by, “…too often, we want to strictly define and control God for the other, rather than trust that we can each listen to God well enough to be guided and molded into God’s vision and reality here on earth”? So let me see if I understand things. The Presbyteries have once again affirmed as essential that those ordained to ministry must abide by the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage of a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness. In response to this, the moderator calls for us not to “define & control God for the other”. In essence he is affirming that fidelity in marriage as defined between one man and one woman or chastity in singleness is not an essential, and by defining it as such, we are defining and controlling God for the other.

There are few ethical positions in scripture that are more clear than these basic truths on marriage. Yet, moderator Reyes-Chow reveals his bias on the issue by dishonoring the re-affirmation of the Presbyteries. His statement is even more troubling than this. What other essential of the faith might Rev. Reyes-Chow view as strictly defining and controlling God for the other? By definition an essential of the faith is strictly defining what we believe to be true about God and reality. To say that we believe that Jesus rose physically and bodily from the dead and that the tomb was empty is an essential of the faith and is strictly defining what we believe to be an absolute historically verifiable objective fact. I know that even this is much too narrow for many ordained leaders in this denomination, but to deny this is to deny the faith and to deny Jesus Christ. The moderators statement, which is made with no caveats, clearly indicates that to state something as essential is to strictly define and control God for others. It might be best to think of the PCUSA now as the church of the non-essential middle-way.


May 8, 2009 - Posted by | Mainline Heresy, Presbyterian, Theology


  1. […] Presbyterian Church USA: The Church of non-essentials « Time For Truth […]

    Pingback by United Secession Church : Young Cassidy | May 9, 2009

  2. The only problem with your post is that the quote from Bruce Reyes-Chow that you say was written in response to the vote of presbyteries, was not in fact written then. It was written before the vote was even taken, in an entirely different context (parenting). So, you might want to get your facts straight before you post.

    Comment by Jean | May 15, 2009

  3. I believe the moderator was speaking out against subscriptionism which the pcusa constitution considers a heresy. This is clearly about keeping people’s conscious unbound by the likes of any who would silence God’s voice in others.

    No one can control whom the Holy Spirit descends upon… not even the presbyteries 🙂

    Peace and tranquility *is* with you.

    Comment by David | May 15, 2009

  4. Jean,

    Look at the date. Follow the link to Presbyweb. This is clearly in response to the G.60106b vote.

    Comment by Adel | May 15, 2009

  5. David,

    How would you define subscriptionism in relation to my comments on the rejection of essentials? How do you distinguish from holding to essentials and subscriptionism?

    Comment by Adel | May 15, 2009

  6. David,

    Another question. Is not a rejection of subscriptionism self-defeating.
    For can it not in effect be put this way:
    I subscribe to non-subcriptionism.
    It is essential that we be non-subscriptionist.

    Comment by Adel | May 15, 2009

  7. “What this country needs is more free speech worth listening to.” – Hansell B. Duckett

    Comment by Jill | May 15, 2009

  8. Adel – While I do most often try to avoid actually commenting on posts that are dealing with me, felt moved this AM to do so.

    I will certainly be coming out with a statement at the end of the month after the vote deadline has passed. While I did participate in a joint statement with Gradye, you have got to give me a LITTLE credit that I do NOT hide my opinions about such things. It is well documented on my blog, in publications and during the question and answer time at General Assembly about where I have stood on these issues in the past. I do hold my commitment to being honest and transparent in high regard. And REALLY, this was written before the threshold had been reached and was wholeheartedly generated by my father’s heart on my daughter’s birthday and my tiring body as I turned 40.

    Still . . . as I have said in some responses to your post on FB, it is my job to listen to the WHOLE church and as I have done, I continue to lift up the great breadth of what the church is feeling and experiences disagreements, pain, anger, righteous indignation, despair, death, hope, new life, joy, excitement, etc. And while some may disagree with any of the reasons behind these feelings, as moderator, much of my job is to speak back to the church what I am hearing.

    Again, I usually refrain from commenting on posts such as this, but for some reason have felt called to do so this time as I have seen your name pop up on other blogs that I frequent. I have no expectations from this comment, only felt called to respond in this particular case.


    Comment by Bruce Reyes-Chow | May 15, 2009

  9. Bruce,

    Welcome and thank you for your comment.

    I do appreciate the balance that one must walk as leader in such a diverse denomination. I also understand that you have been open about being on the more progressive end of this issue.

    I do not believe I have mis-represented your position, and you have not attempted to deny what I have said.

    If I have misconstrued something that you have written, I would be happy to receive correction.

    I have simply pointed out that your statement coming right at the end of the voting, carries a certain weight.

    Your statement written to the whole church, admittedly prefaced with some comments about your daughter, carries weight among those who have little real understanding of the issues at stake.

    The statement of not defining God for the other, without any qualifications is completely offensive to me, especially when discussing parenting and raising our children within our churches.

    Do we not define God regularly for our children when we talk about God being Triune? Do we not define God when we speak of God’s love? Do we not define God when we speak of sin and being born in sin? Do we not define God when we speak of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross? Do we not define God when we urge our children to trust Jesus, his cross, and his physical bodily resurrection for salvation? Are we not called to raise our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord? Are we not to train our children in the essentials of the gospel?

    Whether or not we like it, we define God for our children and for our church all the time, in both word and deeds.

    Your statement at best is an urging to hold all belief statement lightly, and to consider no belief as essential. Your statement at worst can easily be understood as universalist/pluralist in nature. I preferred to give the benefit of the doubt.

    If I have somehow misunderstood, you are welcome to clarify, retract, or correct the record in whatever way you see fit.

    Thank you for your comments, and you are welcome any time.

    Comment by Adel | May 16, 2009

  10. […] by Adel under Uncategorized No Comments  A short while ago I wrote a blog post commenting on Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow’s letter published on Presbyweb.  Rev. Reyes-Chow then graciously commented on my blog and I responded again, mostly asking […]

    Pingback by A non-essential church: a very brief blog discussion with the moderator « Time For Truth | May 19, 2009

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