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.
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