Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Tumult and The Shouting Dies

The tumult and the shouting dies
The Captains and the Kings Depart
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice
An humble and an upright heart
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet
Lest we forget, lest we forget
--Rudyard Kipling

At the end of last night's plenary session, the General Assembly approved 381 to 117 a shift in the denomination's abortion policy, declaring that:
viable unborn babies - those well-developed enough to survive outside the womb if delivered - ought to be preserved and cared for and not aborted.
That seems self-evident to me, and I'm glad it did to the GA commissioners. Denis Hancock, Andy Moye and Tracy Johnson each wrote a thorough summary of this along with the all other Wednesday evening actions. I missed some of this last part of Presbyfest because it got to be WAY past my bedtime.

Will Spotts, of the Truth in Love Network, points out that the Presbyterian News Service report on the anti-divestment vote mis-states the effect of the GA's action and wonders if this is deliberate. My local paper and every other media story I've seen on it correctly characterized it as a recission of the previous policy--why didn't the PNS?

The New Wineskins Initiative issued a press release today saying:
"By adopting recommendation five of the Theological Task Force report, the 217th General Assembly of the PC(USA) has forsaken its constitutional covenant, abandoned its Presbyterian heritage and opened the door to the blatant disregard of Biblical standards, paving the way for a climate in which 'each does what is right in his own eyes..."
They issued an invitation to anyone interested in joining them at their second annual convocation July 22 in Tulsa, Oklahoma at Kirk o' the Hills Church.

Terry Davis files a last report before leaving Birmingham, concentrating on the social justice issues addressed yesterday. Apostle John posted his evaluation of the Moderator, Joan Gray.

Russell Smith, Presbyterian minister who blogs at The Eagle and The Child, is extending an invitation to join in Monday fasting and prayer in response to the adoption of the PUP report. Pastor Lance, blogger at Full Court Presbyterian, will ask his church to engage in a season of fasting, prayer and Bible study to seek God's will for their future. Tom Gray, the pastor of Kirk o' the Hills Church in Tulsa, says that we have a crisis in polity and points to the differing reactions of the liberal and conservative groups in the church to the PUP vote.

The QG award for best-illustrated (Heironymus Bosch pics) and cleverly written post goes to Noel Anderson's Wednesday post "Fear and Loathing in Birmingham". Here's an excerpt:
It was once said long ago that the Presbyterian Church could be described as the "Republican Party at prayer." Now the only way to describe us would be "the Green
Party at chant."
Today he wrote "The Casket Closed But Not Nailed"--also a must read for those of conservative bent.

Beau Weston issues a challenge to the loyalists--get involved with the examination committees of sessions and presbyteries to insure that we will promote purity at the local level. We all need to take this very seriously, thank you for reminding us, Beau.

Everyone is on their way home now. The convention center is empty and being cleaned and readied for the next event. But General Assembly 2006 is not over until it's over. I don't think it's over for the conservative/evangelical wing of the church, judging by the blogs I've been reading since the passage of the PUP report.

Nonetheless, it's been a blessing to read the first-hand accounts of all the blogging commissioners, whether liberal or conservative. I hope these blog summaries have been helpful to the church at large as well. Thanks to all of you who commented, you kept me going!

Now it's time for QG to return to seeking grace in everyday life. My eyes are weary and my trusty Mac is running out of juice. Come back and visit, because I'll be checking back in on the bloggers I read this week and from time to time will report on how the events of the 216th GA are affecting them and their churches and presbyteries.

Lord God of Hosts be with us yet
Lest we forget, lest we forget.

That Jesus Christ is the head of the church.


jim said...

Amen!!! I was a TSAD (theological student advisory delegate) on the health issues committee at the last general assembly.

Many of us on that committee worked long and hard to craft language to move the denomination in exactly this direction only to have our work defeated by the acceptance of a minority report on the floor of the assembly.

Even so people were encouraged by the fact that the majority position even made it out of the committee, so it's great to see the swing in this direction! The Lord does seem to move in mysterious ways sometimes.

reverendmother said...

"The Green Party at chant?"


I know Green Party folks. I'm related to Green Party folks. Green Party folks are friends of mine. Anyone who thinks that this GA has been part and parcel with the Green Party has never met anyone from the Green Party! :-)

That said, while people have the right to say whatever they please, I must say I'm disappointed in your praise of that particular blog. I have read most if not all of your links. I've felt the anger and the hurt and I've learned much. My heart goes out to those who feel they've lost their spiritual home. I'm sure some will hear smugness in that simple statement--it's the God's honest truth. I'm not dancing with glee today. Perhaps some people are, but nobody I've talked to is.

The blogs have by and large been thoughtful even as they have been pointed and impassioned. This one had its moments, but I feel it went over the line, and why? In the name of cleverness.

We take an oath to further the peace, unity and purity of the church. And while many people are lamenting the death of the PCUSA, I'm pretty sure that oath applies to the Church of Jesus Christ, and that church lives on. I'm saddened.

I suppose my comment opens me up to "politically correct liberals can't even take a joke?!?!" Sigh. I'm weary of all this.

Quotidian Grace said...


I really regret that you were offended by my singling out Noel Anderson's blog post in the summary. I didn't take it seriously, but saw it as satirical and often clever--both in writing and in the use of pictures and layout. I see your point that it was over the top, but I didn't find it offensive. I always value your opinion, so I am sorry if I was insensitive to you and to others who see it similarly.

I am deeply concerned about the events of the week. If that were not so, I wouldn't have spent so much time on the GA these past several days. I expect these decisions may well affect me personally, professionally and as a member and officer of the church. I am going to have to sit with all of it a while and watch what happens across the denomination. I pray that those who say the PUP report didn't change our ordination standards will be proven correct over time, so that schism can be avoided. It doesn't help my mood that I spent the morning reviewing a proposed procedure for our presbytery to deal with churches wanting to withdraw from the denomination. I am acutely aware of this possiblity.

But at the end of the day, I agree with you that the church of Jesus Christ will survive, even if the PCUSA in its present form does not. And I, too, am weary of it and need to get my mind on something else for a while so I don't loose perspective.

reverendmother said...

Nerves are certainly shot all the way around. On a different day, in different circumstances, I might have read it differently. Today, however, I heard a real "de-Christianizing" (demonizing?) of people with whom the writer disagreed, an impugning of motives (of people the writer didn't even know personally) in a way that seemed willfully mean-spirited. There were also misquotes and some other issues.

I guess what it highlighted for me is that, while there are people on all sides who have demonized the other viewpoint, my experience in my common ground group makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for me to do so. And I think the other members of my group who reside "across the aisle" would say the same.

That's part of what makes the PUP report such a powerful thing for me--it's an ethos, a parable, perhaps, for how things can be. I realize that parables are maddeningly vague as policy. And perhaps they aren't meant to be policy anyway. But I've seen the beginnings of a different way with my group and I want that for others.

It doesn't seem possible for our church, for various reasons. That's why I implied on my blog the other day that if I'd been there and known that the vote would be so close, I might have changed my vote to no. We don't have a mandate. And without a mandate, and good faith, this experiment won't work.

I share your trepidation on a personal and professional level--if schism happens, it's going to take quite some time for the dust to clear.

There has been unexpected fruit to this--reading the blog in question has helped me reflect on humor in writing, and I'm realizing it's a very complex thing. What makes for successful satire? Righteous indignation certainly drives good satire. I personally find myself drawn to humor that, while pointed and direct, is also fundamentally inclusive. If you ever saw Stephen Colbert do "This Week in God" on the Daily Show, it was clear to me that he himself was a person of faith in the way he came across--deeply funny, pointing out some of the ridiculousness in religion, but from a basic place of gentleness towards the adherents of those religions. (Most of the time. Sometimes he blew it.)

Now that I've written a book on your comments, I'll sign off.

Quotidian Grace said...

Dear RM-- you can write a book in my comments anytime. Wish we could get together over margaritas, queso and chips.

Sue said...

I've been following the developments at GA, and frankly have had a hard time keeping up with the language and particulars of the vote. A fellow blogger helped me out in that regard.

Many of the links you have provided through the week QG have struck me as being very sad. There is so much fear...

At our General Council of 1988, the UCCan was exactly where the PC(USA) is today. The church accepted the report on Ministry and Human Sexuality, agreeing that GLBT individuals are eligible for ordination in the UCC, leaving call and appointment decisions in the hands of each congregation.

People were fearful that the church would die, or that the UCC would suddenly be dealing with crowds of GLBT individuals wanting to be ordained. None of the fears have come to pass. Some congregations and individuals left the denomination and are now serving in their ministries where they are more at home. That is unfortunate. I think if they had stayed, they would have found that the most profound change in the church is that it is more aware of justice issues than ever before.

I am proud to be a part of the first mainline denomination to ordain women (1936) and the first to ordain gay and lesbian people.

I think what I most want to say is that gay and lesbian people are no different than you or I in terms of their ministry. They feel called by God to serve in Jesus' name. None of the GLBT's that I know have a "lifestyle", they have a life, and they have hopes and dreams like all of us do. 18 years after General Council 1988, I can assure you that the ministries of my GLBT colleagues have richly blessed God's church.

Russell Smith said...

Just a quick clarifier on my call to fasting and prayer -- it wasn't motivated solely by the PUPS adoption. For me it was the cumulative effect of the week -- the trinity report, the full court press from the powers that be against the Montreat Historical Society (which I didn't comment on too much), PUPS, the dizzying array of bizzare social witness pies into which we have put our fingers -- That we even had to spend time debating whether or not to call suicide bombing a crime against humanity. I'm sorry I didn't make it all clear.

There were many bright points, and I tried to focus on them on the Eagle and Child. Thanks for your generous linkage -- I do think the blogosphere is bringing Presbyterians together in different ways.


Gruntled said...

Perhaps if evangelicals routinely participated in the examination of candidates, they would feel more confidence that the church really does still have standards.

jledmiston said...

Is there a place to share comments with Noel Anderson? Much of what he said seemed extreme. I serve a church that is a lovely blend of Reagan Republicans (members of his administration who are very conservative Presbyterians) and more liberal types. They haven't left. They don't seem interested in leaving, and it's not because they are indifferent towards GA policies.

I've read especially harsh comments about Mark Achtemeier (sp?). Part of following Jesus seems to be treating even our enemies with respect and grace. Why is this not happening? To me, this is what the PUP Task Force was all about.

Quotidian Grace said...


Thanks for expanding your thoughts on the call for fasting and prayer. I think that there are lots of Presbyterians of good will, both liberals and conservatives, who return from GA shocked from watching the sausage get made.

It's a tough process, but as you say there WERE many bright points which I think will become more obvious in the next few weeks.

I didn't see any way to share comments with Noel Anderson--it's a blog written on iWeb which doesn't seem to have a comment feature. If there is an email link, I didn't find it.

I'm glad to hear about the loyalty in your church. I think PCIT will be proven correct in her prediction that this GA will have little effect on the most churches once the press attention dies off.

There is at least one church in my presbytery that we know explored leaving before GA and we were able to persuade them to remain. I think once everyone calms down, the events at GA should keep them in the fold and give us a chance to re-involve them in the life of the presbytery.

SingingOwl said...

I've been reading some of this with concern and prayer. What matters in the Presbyterian Church, and in the Episcopalian Church and in any other church affects all of us in some way. "We are not divided...all one Body we..." I still love Onward Christian Soldiers because I think we ARE in a spiritual battle. My prayers are with you.
In the end, some way, may God receive glory and may the Kingdom of God increase.