Friday, June 30, 2006

Friday Five Fourth

Every Friday the RevGalBlogPals webring hosts the "Friday Five" questions. I don't always participate, but who can resist the Friday Five Fourth?

1. Do you celebrate the 4th of July (or some other holiday representing independence--that's for the non-Americans in this international blogring)?

The Fourth of July, of course! I also celebrate March 2--Texas Independence Day.

2. When was the first time you felt independent, if ever?

When I got my driver's license at the tender age of 14. That was the OLD days...

3. If you're hosting a cookout, what's on the grill?

We are having a big cookout to introduce Portia's future in-laws to the whole Texas gang. Since we expect more than 25 people, I'm punting and getting brisket and sausage from a great BBQ place in my neighborhood rather than risking heat stroke while tending to the smoker. We are making all our own side dishes, though! Sort of a pot-luck.

4. Strawberry Shortcake--biscuit or sponge cake? Discuss.

Biscuits. Babs is taking over the kitchen to make desserts for our big party, but she isn't planning to make strawberry shortcake. Here's what's on her menu: Lime Meringue Pie, Peach-a-Berry Cobbler and Brownie Fudge Pie.

5. Fireworks--best and worst experience.

Best: In 1989 we were in Washington, DC for the Fourth of July, visiting friends. This was the 200th anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution, so there were extra-special fireworks and celebrations all over the area. The night of the Fourth we got to see the fireworks from the Washington offices of El Jefe's law firm, just across from the White House!

Worst: When I was growing up in San Antonio we always went to Fort Sam Houston on the Fourth of July for the fireworks display put on by the US Army. One year someone made a big mistake and all the fireworks went up at once in a brief, but glorious display.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Look Out, Annika

My brother-in-law is an avid golfer. He spends most weekends on the courses that abound in our area. Imagine the thrill he had when he saw one of his granddaughters fooling around with some play golf clubs and decided that she had a "natural" swing!

Kathryn loves sports of all kinds and is quite athletic, so of course "Opa" encouraged the idea of sending her to a summer golf camp for youngsters. He even bought her a set of her very own golf clubs to use.

The picture shows our five year old Annika wanna-be tee-ing off, hollering "fore"! The last day of golf camp, he served as her caddy for the big tournament, just busting his buttons with pride. Kathryn did very well, considering that she never played golf before that week, but she is also VERY competitive and not happy to settle for a ribbon instead of a trophy.

"If I had better clubs, I would have won the trophy," she informed him. Heh-heh. Be careful what you wish for, Opa!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Trust, But Check Your Thermometer

The more I think about the recent doings at Presbyfest, the more I am struck by the observation that both the right and left wings of the PCUSA were dismayed by the passage of the PUP report, including the controversial recommendation #5, as amended, even while differing on the reasons for their frustration. Reading the websites of the affinity groups and the blogs reveals a lot of anxiety preceded that vote and is still roiling the Presbyterian pot a week later.

When recommendation #5 was amended in committee, there was consternation on both sides of the church because of the anticipation that a decisive action on the report and the ordination controversy would be forthcoming from the General Assembly. Most observers agreed that the original recommendation #5 did create a local option. Those who supported it as written were disappointed because the amendment may have closed a loophole that would allow a "scruple" to 6.0106b to be recognized by presbyteries wanting to ordain them. Those who opposed that recommendation were prepared to denounce it as schismatic--and then were stopped short by the confusion created by the amendment.

Bloggers Denis Hancock and Beau Weston interpreted the amendment and vote as an affirmation of the moderate, centrist point of view by this General Assembly. And maybe this is true, but I can't imagine that most centrists welcome a muddled decision either. Or was this vote just another step along the road to incremental change that will be taken further in 2008?

I think activists on both sides of the denomination were expecting a clear cut decision by the GA that would trigger planned responses. On the pro-gay ordination side, that would mean a flurry of well-publicized ordinations of non-celibate gays without fear of legal challenge. On the conservative side, that would mean a ratcheting up of moves such as attempting to orchestrate a recall of the GA for the purpose of voting again on the PUP report (bad idea-- likely to cause a big-time backlash), calling for the establishment of non-geographic presbyteries for evangelical churches to join, or organizing a widespread and coordinated withdrawal from the denomination of a large number of disaffected congregations.

Four years of time, effort and money went into the writing of the PUP report and its recommendations. People on both sides of the ordination issue are frustrated that the GA's actions were not decisive, but are still being debated, and worse--are likely to be litigated through a heirarchy of church courts which have not been willing to act consistently and decisively either.

The denomination reminds me of the frog in the kettle who doesn't realize that the heat is gradually increasing and expires because it didn't know when to get out of the pot. There's been a lot of blather about the need for "trust". President Reagan advised, "Trust, but verify." I say to those of us still in the pot, "Trust, but check your thermometer."

Monday, June 26, 2006

Of Presbyfest, Books, Drought and Tuxedo Shoes...

I'm still trying to clear the cobwebs from my brain after last week's PresbyFest. I've resolved to wait a little longer and watch developments before posting any of my own conclusions. Not that the world is waiting with baited breath for them!

Fortunately Babs arrived yesterday for a week's break from her summer school schedule. She brought along with her a large shopping bag of books she had finished reading for me. Hooray! This is really just what the doctor ordered. Think I'll start with French Women Don't Get Fat...

Despite what you've been reading last week about rain in the Houston area, our corner of the metro is pretty dry and parched. It's amazing how the storms can be so localized and yet so heavy. I thought of Mindy and Rach over the weekend (blogging buddies who live in West Texas) when we saw a big dust storm on tv news north of Lubbock that caused a lot of havoc on the highway.

Dutch (my father-in-law) regaled us with tales of dust storms of yore over lunch on Sunday. It seems that one time his father got caught in a sudden dust storm that made it impossible for him to get the short distance from the barn to the house. It was so black he couldn't see a thing. So he took the eggs from his bucket and threw them in different directions until he heard them THWACK against a wall--then he kept throwing eggs and heading for the sound until he reached the house.

El Jefe just emailed that he needs me to look for black patent leather shoes in his size on the internet for Portia's wedding. I'd better stop and go do that before I forget.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

GA--Looking Better Already

Presbyfest readers and friends from my congregation: I've been reading a series of posts by Dr. Mark D. Roberts, a Presbyterian pastor in California, on the subject of whether it is time for evangelicals to leave the PCUSA. Short answer: NO. I commend to you if you haven't already found it. Also Will Spotts is finding much good came out of the recent General Assembly.

Note to longtime QG readers: I decided it was time to come out from behind my bluebonnets and post my real picture--for better or worse--on the sidebar. Now if I go to a gathering where there are bloggers, you may be able to find me! And yes, those are the glasses I bought replacements for yesterday. Babs will be happy about that.

Friday, June 23, 2006

I Can See Clearly Now...

The mind reels and the eyes sting after surfing the weblogs this last week for news and reactions to Presbyfest. So, what to do to clear the cobwebs from the brain and restore perspective? After a careful examination of my glasses, I decided that one of the reasons for the crossed eyes is the lenses in my glasses were scratched. A shopping excursion was in order!

I only meant to replace the lenses...but...there was this totally cute pair of frames...and Babs has been telling me I'm wearing "old lady" style glasses...and when I tried them on everyone in the store gathered around to oooh and ahhh...So-Yes- I bought them!

Then I had a call that the Mother of the Bride dress arrived. Then the wedding stamps came in. Then Portia and Babs reported on the fittings for the wedding dress and maid of honor dress. And the flower girl/junior bridesmaid dresses came in and are beautiful and fit all the little girls perfectly!

And we got word that Roger Clemens is pitching on July 3 when we are hosting Portia's fiance's parents for a visit which will include an outing to see the Astros. Perfect!

Ah. Back to real life. Thank you, Jesus.

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.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

$150 Million Gift to PCUSA Questioned

The opening of the PCUSA General Assembly in Birmingham was electrified by the news that a man from Denver was giving $150 million to the church for new church development. Today the Denver Post reported that Stanley Anderson is in serious financial trouble--he owes hundreds of thousands of dollars to creditors and his assets have been frozen by legal judgments.

Guess we'd better not start planning to spend that money. Good grief.

Anti-Divestment Recommendation Approved

The recommendation of Committee 11 to change the divestment policy approved at the 2004 GA by removing the phased selective divestment in multi-national corporations operating in Israel passed by a vote of 283-28-1 late this afternoon. Denis Hancock has a post describing the different parliamentary moves surrounding it. Thank you, Denis, yours is the only narrative I could find as of this writing.

The Day After PUP: More Bloggers Respond

UPDATE: The links should all be working now!

This afternoon I've collected more responses from Presbybloggers to yesterday's approval of the PUP report at GA. And the PresbyBlogosphere is just as divided as the GA on this issue, with negative comments outnumbering the positive among the blogs I read today.

Denis Hancock believes that this vote shows that this GA more closely resembles the PCUSA as a whole than in recent years. Jan Edmiston was impressed by former Moderator Marge Carpenter's statement supporting PUP. Rebel Without a Pew makes some fearless predictions about what will happen next and concludes that daily life for average Presbyterians will not change much as a result of the vote. Maynard Pittendreigh agrees with the GA leadership that the church has been given a gift in the passage of PUP. NYAPC Elder and Dave Colby are also pleased with the acceptance of the report. Terry Davis reports that the strategy of the Covenant Network and the Witherspoon Society was successful in getting controversial recommendation #5 passed.

But Apostle John reports that Parker Williamson (of The Layman) and other renewal leaders are starting a process to split the church. I read the statementon The Layman (click on the "Renewal Leaders Call PUP a Profound Deviation" link) which seems to me to show that these folks are not yet united on their course of action--just on their opposition to this decision. Tracy Johnson writes that on further reflection, nothing has changed until the GA Permanent Judicial Commission decides it and the Authoritative Interpretation has been tested.

Michael Kruse
sees the vote as a "dissent" into chaos. Pastor Lance is questioning whether or not to remain in the PCUSA because of this vote. Noel Anderson is frustrated by his failure to be called on to speak in support of the motion to refer recommendation # 5. He also thinks the result is "local option" and wonders "if God wants me to shake the dust off my feet."

Russell Smith filed his official dissent from the decision and fears that the PCUSA may be irrevocably broken. And finally, Tom Gray says that Sola Scriptura has become "Via Vulgaris." He invites those who are concerned to join the New Wineskins meeting at Kirk 'o the Hills Church in Tulsa--which is the church he pastors.

Thanks to each of you for sharing your thoughtful comments with the rest of us.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Tuesday Night PUP bloggery

As you have probably already read elsewhere, the PUP report passed, as amended by the Ecclesiology Committee, with all its recommendations intact -- including controversial recommendation #5. The vote was 298 for, 221 against. Not exactly a show of unity, but in the PCUSA the majority rules.

PUP Reactions from Presbybloggers so far today:

Michael Kruse believes that what once were constitutional mandates are now optional if a presbytery or session believes they are not an "essential tenet" of the Reformed Faith--and notes that the PCUSA has never defined essential tenets. Tracey Johnson agrees with him, saying it throws us into a "chaos of disunity" and adds that the report should be called the "Pieces, Unitarian and Plurality" report.

Andy Moye gives a detailed account of the debate, which he attended, and concludes that there are just too many "if's" to worry about. He sounds really tired and I would be, too. Will Spotts thinks the action is a fluke.

Denis Hancock doesn't think it will be "the tectonic shift that some think", and believes the amendment in committee helped clarify that. But he also says it remains to be seen how recommendation #5 will be applied in practice. This morning Beau Weston had a post predicting the passage of PUP and analyzing what he saw as the missteps of those opposing it. He gets the Prophetic Voice award for today.

As for me, I really regret the acceptance of recommendation #5. Even though the committee amended it in an attempt to assure opponents that it was not an invitation to "local option" on the ordination of gays in violation of 6.106b, I think that those who saw the original recommendation as local option will not be dissuaded by the new language. Then we will see whether the constitution will be enforced. Don't bet on it. In recent years, churches, presbyteries and synods have found ways to interpret the plain language of the BOO to suit their own purposes. For example, in the past year the Presbytery of Redwoods ruled that a minister who presided over same-sex weddings did not violate the Reformed understanding of marriage. So what's to stop them from ordaining non-celibate homosexual candidates saying that they have a "scruple" against the fidelity and chastity standards of the BOO?

In short, I think this compromise will not work because the denomination does not have the will to define its essential tenents and enforce them. Mission Presbytery is having trouble insisting on the fundamental premise that membership requires a profession of faith in God. That's even more foundational to faith than ordination standards, for heaven's sake!

Well, it's almost time to go back to the evening's plenary session. On a lighter note, you can join me and my blogging buddy Reverendmother for a little drinking game during tonight's Presbyfest. Take a swig every time you hear one of the following:

A new way to be the church
We need to trust each other
XYZ will leave the church if...
A folksy anecdote from a commissioner
A commissioner asks for clarification of what they're voting on
commissioners, you have been advised
prophetic voices
Biblical standards
How diverse the Task Force was
A YAD with a Valley Girl accent

Reverendmother and I recommend margaritas. But if you're like my husband, El Jefe (whose dire prediction was that if PUP rec.#5 passed, the commissioners should just pass around the hemlock)--I recommend taking your hemlock frozen, with lime and salt. And have a piece of Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake for the Apocalypse to go with it. Pass your plate!

Baking and Blogging

I watched the streaming video from the GA this morning. What was up with all the nominations from the floor that delayed the vote on PUP until this afternoon? I recognized a couple of the commissioners who made floor nominations and so concluded that it looked like the conservatives were methodically contesting all those nominations. Or maybe that happens at all GA's? It almost never happens in my church or presbytery, so I'm just wondering. Hopefully one of the Presbybloggers attending will enlighten me later.

Now it's almost time for the afternoon session to open, which I'm going to watch on streaming video while baking two Texas Chocolate Sheet Cakes for the Apocalypse which I promised to make for tomorrow night's congregational dinner. Baking relieves stress and so does chocolate! Just call me Martha.....

Monday, June 19, 2006

Monday Night Presbyblogging

The evening session of GA is still convened as I write this, but none of the "hot" issues appear to be on tonight's docket, so here is my survey of reports from our Presbybloggers both attending GA and observing and writing from their home base.

PUP Report:
Beau Weston highlights a change made in recommendation #5 of the PUP report that seems to strengthen it and concludes that several actions of this GA show its centrist character. Andy Moye has more details about this amendment and the instruction that will go with it to the floor of GA tomorrow morning. Andy and Beau are giving more information than I found on the PCUSA website, so read their reports. Tom Gray shares the doings at the Presbyterian Coalition dinner last night.

The Trinity Paper:
Russell Smith explains why he voted against the Trinity Paper from the Committee on Theology and Worship. Tracy Johnson files a detailed report of this morning's plenary, concentrating on issues surrounding the Trinity Paper. He notes a change in the translation of the phrase "ecclesia reformata semper reformanda" from " The church reformed and always reforming" to "The church reformed and always to be reformed." Will this be significant?

Sexuality Curriculum: Who Knew?
Sometimes the guy at home has the time to noodle out committee actions that aren't being widely reported, but are important. Denis Hancock reports on the Shenango Presbytery Overture on Sexuality Curriculum that passed the GA plenary session this morning. I didn't know that was on the radar screen of GA at all, did you? Good catch, Denis!

Will Spotts provides this link to a story on the PCUSA and divestment published on the blog Powerline as well as a comprehensive analysis and account of all the divestment proceedings. You won't find a better report on this subject than the one Will wrote here.Those of us who advocated overtures seeking to overturn the 2004 GA policy will be generally pleased with the committee's recomendations. The issue is currently set on Wednesday afternoon's agenda.

General Postings:
Jim Berkley is following the Open Meetings controversy.Pastor Terry posted a moving and detailed account of his experiences in worship, prayer and committee meetings yesterday. Andy Moye is disturbed by some of the proceedings in his committee which had responsibility for the Montreat Historical Society recommendations which passed the GA today, and is set for the Wednesday afternoon GA plenary session.

Many thanks to all the Presbybloggers out there! I'll be checking again tomorrow for new posts and will post another roundup then, so keep on writing, praying and working. May the Holy Spirit guide and inspire those of you who are commissioners, and comfort those of us observing and blogging back home.

And thank you to my regular QG readers, who don't usually get such a dose of Presbypolity, for your patience with my focus on GA this week. QG will return to "normal" after GA....

Recommended Reading: The Sad Irony of the PUP Recommendations

Michael Kruse, a blogger who is also a member of the PCUSA's General Council, posted a perceptive analysis of what's wrong with the PUP Task Force Recommendations in a post entitled: The Sad Irony of the PUP Recommendations. I commend it to you.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

GA Bloggers Roundup: Sunday night

Several important committees recommendations are in now, while a few continue their work today. Of particular interest are the following:

PUP Matters: It looks like the PUP report will not be changed in the Ecclesiology Committee as motions to delete controversial recommendation #5 (" local option") and other proposed amendments to the report failed to pass. (Link requires registration to read.)

Blogger Tom Gray, a commissioner and minister of Kirk o' the Hills in Tulsa, posted concerns about the process in his entry titled " When Process Is More Important Than Truth."

Blogger Beau Weston has a different opinion of the hearings and predicts that the PUP report will pass the Ecclesiology Committee, and the conservatives will file a minority report. He further predicts that the majority recommendation from the committee will pass the GA and the PUP report, including recommendation #5, will be adopted without change.

Tracy Johnson, another blogger attending GA, supports the probable minority report to PUP which would send the report to the presbyteries for 2 more years of discernment so it would not be up for a vote until the 2008 GA. NYAPC Elder, a member of this committee, posted his analysis of the day of hearings.

Ordination Requirements: By a narrow 30-28 vote, the Church Orders committee recommended leaving the "fidelity-chastity" ordination requirement in the book of Order.

Related to the Ordination Controversies: The Church Polity committee rejected an overture that would have allowed churches that leave the denomination to take their property with them. Link is here and requires registration.

Divestment Controversy: The Peacemaking Committee voted to change the controversial language calling for divestment approved by the 2004 GA. Details of the new language can be found here. Blogger Noel Anderson, a member of this committee, posted his first-hand account of the meeting. Check Will Spotts' blog later this evening or tomorrow morning for his analysis of the recommendation and more on what's next for the divestment issue.

Proposal to Close Montreat Historical Society-- Pastor Terry is on the committee that heard the overtures on this subject and posted a detailed account of the hearings which resulted in concurring with the recommendation to close the facility. Andy Moye is also on the committee and says the PCUSA website report on the subject is fairly accurate.

Presbyweb, which is a subscription site, has a nice list of Presbyterian bloggers, but is not summarizing their posts in a comprehensive way. So I am trying to collect posts from blogging commissioners and observers at GA so that those who are interested can link to first-hand accounts. If I missed you, and you are at GA, please leave a comment and I'll try to keep up with your blog the rest of the week. Also, please note that Denis Hancock at The Reformed Angler, is doing a very nice job of collecting links to news about GA as it happens from his home base, so visit his site for regular updates.

Thanks to each of you who are sharing your experience at General Assembly with all of us. Our prayers continue for you and all at the General Assembly.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

GA Bloggers' Roundup--Saturday night

Although there were no big decisions made today at the PCUSA General Assembly, a number of bloggers who are attending posted perceptive and interesting reports on what they have observed and experienced.

Will Spotts filed a detailed report of the proceedings before the committee hearing the pro and anti-divestment overtures, which is a must read for anyone interested in this issue. Apostle John also filed his observations about debate on this subject. .

Russell Smith has a fascinating take on the difference he perceives in this year's commissioners' attitude towards staff reports and direction. He says that while the attitude is properly respectful, it is clear that they understand "Clifton Kirkpatrick is our employee and not the pope." Russell reports that the official staff is not getting its way in several committees--as well as the one he serves on that did not approve the proposed Per Capita overture and the proposal to close the Montreat Historical Center. Speaking of the Per Capita overture, Andy Moye also posted a fine report on this turn of events.

Keep these bloggers and the commissioners in your prayers as they continue to try to do God's will on behalf of all of us. Soli Deo Gloria!

Friday, June 16, 2006


It's time for a break from the serious business of following Presbyfest (also known as the General Assembly meeting) and turn our attention to Father's Day, which will be observed this coming Sunday.

In honor of Father's Day, I'm posting my favorite "Daddy-isms" collected over a lifetime with my father, father-in-law, my neighbor The Old Marine, and El Jefe the father of my children. Daddy-isms are those sayings which a father repeated so many times that you can't think of him without remembering them.

Here are some examples, with translations where needed.

From my father:

-- I would snickety-snort and hope to giggle. (That meant he was delighted.)
-- Happy as a dead pig in the sunshine.
-- Happy as a jackass eating briars.
-- I'm off, he cried, as he shook his wooden leg. (That meant he was leaving to go somewhere.)
-- It's all zosky-splotz. (It's a mess.)

From my father-in-law:

-- A man who takes good care of his car will take good care of his wife.
-- It's the worst kind of rain. ( A light drizzle on top of a dusty road, making the surface slick).
-- Don't look for a wife in a bar, look in a church.

From The Old Marine:

-- It's the 10 Commandments, not the 10 Suggestions.
-- You can't make a 'ho into a housewife.

From El Jefe:

-- The most important decision you make in life is who you marry.
-- When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
-- You need to play heads-up ball.

Everyone has some Daddy-isms! Share yours in the comments.

Link to "Turn Left at the Presbyterian Church"

The full text of yesterday's op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal is that I quoted from in a post yesterday is available here.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Apostle John Called It--Joan Gray is Moderator

Fellow blogger Apostle John called it: Joan Gray from Atlanta was elected Moderator of the General Assembly on the third ballot tonight. I was impressed with her presentation and answering of questions, which I watched on the streaming video.

I'm happy because I agree with her opposition to changing ordination standards and the PUP recommendation #5. No one asked about the divestment controversy, unfortunately, during the question and answer session. Joan Gray seems to be more conservative than our current Moderator. My impression is that she is someone who will be able to handle the job with fairness to all sides.

All of the candidates were well-spoken and attractive pastors who seem to be a credit to the denomination. I've never seen the election of a Moderator before, but thanks to the miracle of the internet I saw it tonight.

May God be with our new Moderator as she presides over the rest of the GA proceedings!

Gift Challenges PCUSA To Reverse Decline

Today the PCUSA was given a wonderful gift—and a challenge. Stan Anderson, a Presbyterian businessman from Denver, gave $ 150 million to the church to create The Loaves and Fishes Fund which will give grants to presbyteries for church growth, theological education and mission. Between $250,000 to $1 million can be awarded in a single grant. Presbyteries will have to match part of the money for their project.

What a wonderful gesture of confidence in the ability of the denomination to use this money to renew itself and halt the relentless loss of members that we have seen in the last couple of decades!

I’m pleased that the donor gave us this gift with this designation. The past year those of us serving on the General Council of New Covenant presbytery struggled to define a vision for our presbytery that would lead us to growth in membership and in churches. Like the PCUSA, we received a significant unexpected gift that will enable us to make major progress towards fulfilling that goal.

If this gift mobilizes the faithful members, elders and ministers of the PCUSA to unite behind an effort to plant new churches across the country, then we may see a real peace, unity and purity in the church. I’m sure that we’ll be writing up a grant request from New Covenant Presbytery PDQ as soon as we figure out how to go about it.

Today there was an outstanding op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal. “Turn Left at the Presbyterian Church” by Jim Roberts, the chairman of the Committee to End Divestment Now. You have to be a subscriber to the Journal to access this article online, so I am not linking it here. But here is the most cogent observation Mr. Roberts made, in my opinion:
“ The vast majority of Presbyterians long for our church to return to its core purpose: to help nourish a closer relationship with our Savior. Instead, the leadership is forcing many of us to spend countless hours trying to rescue the church from those who hew to terrorist liberation politics.”

He closes by stating, “ This year, Presbyterian commissioners voting at General Assembly can steer the Presbyterian ship back on a prudent path, which begins with reversing the divestment course charted two years ago."
God willing, this gift will galvanize the church to seize the opportunity to return not only to a prudent path, and to reverse the divestment course, but to unite behind a vision of growth and purpose.

Anti-Divestment Overtures and Moderator Election

One of the benefits of blogging is expanding your circle of acquaintance into a much wider world. It just occurred to me that because of QG, I will get to read the responses and reports of a bunch of fellow Presbyterians that I would never have known about--but for the blog.

So a big shout-out goes to Cheesehead,and St. Cassarole ,(who are rooming together!) Russell Smith (of The Eagle and The Child), and Will Spotts (of The Truth In Love Network). Say hi to my commissioners from New Covenant Presbytery if you see them at General Assembly. Look for Rev. Wendy Bailey of My Backyard, who is attending as an observer. I'm looking forward to reading your on-the-scene reports, if you are able to post!

There are so many things on the agenda, that you can't follow them all. My particular interests are the PUP report and the overtures on the divestment issue. I mentioned the PUP report in yesterday's post, and it is probably the number one focus of concern for most Presbyterians.

My interest in the anti-divestment movement comes from the fact that a number of people from New Covenant Presbytery who I respect, traveled to Israel, listened and talked to Israelis and Palestinians alike, and returned home with a well-reasoned overture to reverse the anti-Israel divestment policy of the 2004 General Assembly. It was passed overwhelmingly and will be acted on during the GA.

The text of the overture is available here--see pages 16 to 19 of the pdf file.

The goal is to turn the denomination from a punitive approach against the Israelis to seeking investments in the area that would either increase job opportunities for both Israelis and Palestinians, develop more social and health care infrastructures, rebuild homes, businesses destroyed by conflict and fund collaborative ventures between the two groups. There are a number of other overtures on this subject on both sides of the issue that will be considered by the committee in charge of deciding what to report out to the GA for a vote.

The divestment policy passed at the last GA must be changed--it has had, and will have, no positive outcome for anyone. It angered many, many faithful Presbyterians who cannot imagine why their church would side against Israel and with the anti-American, anti-Christian forces of the Palestinian extremists. Most Presbyterians are sympathetic to Israel. This policy is seen by them as anti-American, anti-capitalist, and anti-democratic.

There's no way that relatively small amount of investment that the PCUSA has in any company that some activists are targeting makes any difference to those corporations. It's another example of the arrogance of some of our denominational leadership who insist on dragging the church into the international political arena to make a controversial symbolic stand. The church does not need any more of this pointless divisiveness.

Will Spotts, of Truth in Love Network, is focusing on the anti-divestment overtures. He is observing GA as a member of The End Divestment Now Committee. If this issue is important to you, check his blog for updates this week. Will has spent a lot of time, energy, research and travel on this issue and is far more knowledgable about it than me. I'm just reporting the person-in-the-pew response that I am hearing in my part of the world.

Meanwhile, the big order of business today is the election of a new Moderator, who will serve for the next 2 years. Apostle John predicts the election of Joan Gray, of Atlanta. Tonight we'll see how good a pundit he is!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Church's One Foundation

Tomorrow the General Assembly of the PCUSA begins meeting in Birmingham, Alabama.

I have a friend who attended a GA several years ago. He came back shell-shocked from the experience. "There was nothing there that seemed anything like my church back home," he told me. " I told my wife I felt that God had left the PCUSA and was hanging out at the Starbucks on the corner across from the hotel. " He felt mobbed on all sides by special interest groups and besieged like a Congressman running the gauntlet of aggressive lobbyists, as he struggled with his responsibility as a commissioner.

I pray that his experience will not be repeated by our commissioners from New Covenant Presbytery, but I fear that it will be. If the PUP report is approved, with its recommendation for "local option" intact, then a serious schism in the church will develop and the decline of the PCUSA will accelerate. If that recommendation doesn't pass, and none of the overtures seeking to eliminate the Book of Order's current ordination standard are approved, then there will still be no peace. Those favoring a change in the ordination standard will continue to raise the issue in the next GA in some form or another.

A few months after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita I signed a letter along with two other Presbyterian members of the RevGalBlogPals webring suggesting that the church set aside these debates for a couple of years and concentrate on assisting the Gulf Coast area churches and communities to rebuild their buildings and their lives. The letter was duly published in several denominational magazines and newsletters, but the idea got absolutely no traction. No one even bothered to criticize it, a sure sign that it wasn't going to go anywhere.

I still think it was a good idea to try to get fighting church factions to lay down their arguments for a while and work together on something they could agree on. Wouldn't it have been wonderful if all the commissioners had met in work camps on the Gulf Coast this week, showing the love of Christ as they helped their neighbors rebuild their communities?

The recent brou-ha-ha in Mission Presbytery over the admission to church membership of an avowed atheist by an Austin area church is sobering and certainly adds to the tension in the air. This episode shows that the church is divided over more than the issue of ordination of gays, but also seems to be divided over the meaning of what it means to be a Christian. A startling 114 members of the presbytery voted not to approve the recommendation of its Committee on Ministry that the atheist be removed from the church membership rolls. That is just astounding to me. Will this be the issue that roils the PCUSA at the next GA, or the one after that?

When that happens, you can stick a fork in the PCUSA--it's done. If we don't have the will to enforce the Rules of Discipline to take remedial action against a pastor and session who think that being a church member is about affiliating with an activist political community group and not about confessing belief in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, then all the heated arguments about ordination standards, divestment, administrative reorganization Blah-Blah-Blah and whatever, become irrelevant because the PCUSA will no longer be recognizably Christian.

In the words of one of my favorite hymns: The Church's One Foundation is Jesus Christ Her Lord. That is the meaning of being a Christian. If Presbyterians can unite on that point, then there is hope that we can work out our other differences and stay together, or part peaceably. If we can't, then we're not worth shooting, as we say in Texas. I'm praying that the Holy Spirit will be at work during the General Assembly, guiding the commissioners in all that they say and do-- and NOT hanging out at Starbucks.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Don't Mess With ... Gretel

* Tune of Little Bunny Fu-Fu*

Giant Rabbit Fu-Fu
You know that I had warned you.
Gretel may be aged, but
She hasn't lost her snap.

Gretel found your warren
In the neighbor's front yard.
Brought a bunny to El Jefe
And put it in his lap.

Darnit, Rabbit Fu-Fu,
Hopping to the suburbs
Will not protect bunnies
From dogs waking from a nap.

Sorry, Giant Rabbit.
Gretel's still a hunteress.
She's bred to catch the rabbits
She's cunning as a trap.

Late Afternoon Update: Gretel 2 Bunnies 0

Early Evening Update: Make that Gretel 3 Bunnies 0

Uhm. How many bunnies can Giant Rabbit have? Jeez.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Link to More Details on Previous Post

For those of you interested in reading a first person account of the Mission Presbytery meeting updated in the previous post, see Classical Presbyterian's thoughtful summary here.

Last Minute Tricks at Mission Presbytery?

From the It May Be Legal But Is It Right Department:

Presbyweb reported late this weekend that Mission Presbytery ordered a stay of enforcement of the order directing St. Andrews Presbyterian Church to move the name of atheist Robert Jensen from the "membership" roll to the "baptised" roll. ( I didn't link Presbyweb because it is a subscription site.)

Classical Presbyterian, who attended the Mission Presbytery meeting as a minister member, raises questions about how this was done here.

Remember, friends, it's not over until it's over. And it's not over yet by a long shot.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Presbytery Votes to Remove Atheist from Membership

Mission Presbytery met on Friday and voted to approve the recommendation of its Listening Team that avowed atheist Robert Jensen be removed from the membership roll of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas. The vote was 158 for, 115 against as reported by Classical Presbyterian, who attended the meeting and says he will post a more detailed description of the proceedings tomorrow.

Friday, June 09, 2006

CongressMom is Back

CongressMom has been busy this week trying to talk some sense into the lamebrains in the Texas legislature, but now she's back home and ready to take names and kick behinds that need it. In a maternal, loving, good-for-you way, of course.

Some of you Congresspersons have just been trying to "get one started", in the inimitable words of my father, by calling for a vote on a proposed Constitutional amendment that you knew would not pass just for the purpose of stirring up the voters on both sides of the issue. That is not playing nice in the Congressional backyard. You can't make friends and work together if you spend your time making each other mad. What?? Don't tell me : " Congress is so BORING, Mom, we just wanted something to do."

You think it was boring? I'll give you boring. Go to your rooms right now. No, your press agent and aides can't come with you! No, hand over that Blackberry right now. You're grounded from the phone and the computer for a day. Yeah, I know I'm the meanest Mom in the world.

You're going to stay there until you've finished reading All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten and written a report for me on what you learned. Here's the book. Pay special attention to the chapter on "hold hands and stick together." Our country needs to do that.

Quitcherwhining. You'll thank me for this when you grow up!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Blackberry Detox Program Finally Offered!

At last--there's help out there for the Blackberry Addict in your life. I'm calling now to sign El Jefe up for this hotel's Blackberry Detoxification Program.

Thanks to my good friend Zorra, for the tip!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Texification of Evgeny

Evgeny Zakov is a young lawyer from Russia who is working with El Jefe for a year in the Houston office of El Jefe's law firm before returning to Moscow to work in their Moscow office. He is here to get experience with the US capital markets and stock and bond offerings and then will be working with the firm's oil and gas clients who are exploring and drilling in Russia.

He is blogging periodically about his experiences in Texas. You will be charmed by the way he describes getting settled in Houston, going to the Houston Rodeo, visiting the Gulf of Mexico, getting his first car ("because Texas is larger than France") and his first cowboy hat. That's the picture I posted here from his blog of him with "Jack", the good ol' boy who sold him the hat. His post about his conversation with Jack is priceless. Here's the link.

Evgeny, we have a saying down here: You may not have been born in Texas--but you got here as fast as you could! Now that you have a Cowboy Hat and a car you're a Texan now. Keep blogging, and we hope you will have many fond memories of your year with us.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Today the media is going 6-crazy. While driving to the church this morning a local talk show host was stirring up the paranoids in the audience encouraging them to call in with their signs of the End Times. Since today is June 6, 2006 and all. (6-6-6 -- the sign of the Beast in Revelation).

I was not listening to a religious station, by the way, but a normal news station.

So here is what I heard:

~ The Mayan calendar ends in 2012. They must know something because their calendar was very accurate. So on 6-6-6 we only have 6 more years before the world comes to an end.

~ According to Revelation, Russia, Iran and Iraq will band together to try to destroy Israel just before the End Times and that is what Iran is trying to put together now.

~ Houston has a professional soccer team: a sure sign the end is nigh.

~ In Ezekiel, God found some dry bones and made Israel and since then the prophecies have held so beware 6-6-6. (Uh-huh.)

I heard all that in about 5 minutes before turning it off. Then I decided that anyone can play this game.

Here are QG's signs of the Apocalypse:

~ Having our Texas Republican Governor and Legislature pass significant tax increases and try to tell us that they CUT our taxes. Yeah, verily, it is written:
Behold, thy horses and property are not safe when the Texas Legislature is in session. I say unto you that the Texas Consitution should have provided that it meet once every 100 years for 2 days instead of once every 2 years for 100 days.
Book of Billy Bob, chapter 3, verses 14-17
~ While I'm on the subject of our Governor, he wants to implement a plan to put cameras on the Texas-Mexico border so we can all watch people illegally enter the country on the internet. Oh, that's brilliant. Our Governor Peter-Principled out when he attained the position of Aggie Yell Leader.

~ Acceptance of an atheist into membership of a Presbyterian Church in Austin. But I've mentioned this before. 'Nuff said.

~One million dollars is being offered for pictures of "Branjelina's" baby.

~ Al Gore is back on the campaign trail.

So how about you? Feel like playing along with the 6 crazies today? Add your signs of the End in the comments.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Defense to Atheist Church Member by Rev. Rigby

Classical Presbyterian posted the response of Rev. Jim Rigby, pastor of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas, to the report of the COM of Mission Presbytery regarding that church's admission to membership of avowed atheist Robert Jensen. Click here to read Rigby's response.

I am not impressed. All you have to do is read Jensen's avowal of his own atheism which he wrote and had published in the Houston Chronicle and elsewhere on the internet to understand that Jensen made no profession of Christian faith under any definition.

Jensen invited the attention of the wider church, and the nation on his membership. He is a professor of journalism who knows very well how to get the attention of the press. Rev. Rigby bewails the attention focused on his session members who were asked to meet with the presbytery's "Listening Team". To the extent that they were not aware of the requirements of the Book of Order and of our polity, Rev. Rigby has only himself to blame as he is charged with training elders prior to their installation.

Mission Presbytery is meeting Friday and Rigby is asking that the presbytery refuse to accept the recommendations of the COM. Pray that the commissioners will uphold the requirements of the Book of Order and require St. Andrews to remove Robert Jensen from their membership roll and implement membership procedures that comply with the Book of Order.

Again I say if the pastor and session of St. Andrews cannot abide by the Book of Order, then they should withdraw from the Presbyterian Church and go their own way.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

QG Takes One for the Team

Today El Jefe and I, along with a couple of good friends, were at Minute Maid Park watching our beloved Astros play the Cincinnati Reds when suddenly a foul ball off the bat of one of the Reds flew into our section and hit me on the knee.

Fortunately, it didn't hit very hard. But I am already getting a little bruise there. If El Jefe hadn't been SO preoccupied with emailing on his Blackberry, he could have caught it. But he's just wild with work right now and was lucky to be at the game at all since he had to attend a client's meeting at 9 am this morning. Yes, on a Sunday! That's what $70/barrel oil does to your life when you are a lawyer who specializes in corporate financing and you are in Houston where most of your clients are in the oil and gas business. This makes life pretty stressful Chez Grace right now.

I don't mind taking a little ding for the team--but the Astros haven't been playing well for a couple of weeks. We went on Friday night and had to invoke the 10 run rule and leave once our team fell 10 runs behind. That was B-A-D. Today they went to extra innings, but still lost. Razzlefraczit. We can always hope that the return of The Rocket (Roger Clements) to the pitching rotation in a couple of weeks will turn it all around.

Until then, I'm off to ice my knee!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Atheist Church Member Update

This is turning out to be a very busy blogging week for your humble correspondent. The Mission Presbytery Committee charged with investigating the admission to church membership of atheist Robert Jensen by St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas has completed its work and filed its report which you can read here in full. My thanks to Classical Presbyterian for the tip.

The bottom line is that the committee recommends that Mission Presbytery:

1) Declare that the reception of Robert Jensen into active membership was “irregular”and thus void.

2) Direct the St. Andrew’s session to move Robert Jensen to the “Baptized” Role. (Jensen was apparently baptised in a Presbyterian Church as a youngster.)

3) Direct the session of St. Andrew’s to work with representatives of COM to create a constitutionally appropriate process for receiving members.

4) Encourage the session of St. Andrew’s, if it so chooses, to re-examine Robert Jensen, if he so desires, according to the process developed by the session and representatives of COM.

The investigation contained several jaw-dropping findings, including:

-- Robert Jensen PREACHED at this church.

QG: What the @#$!!

-- The church's bulletin contains the following statement:
“We are an inclusive, progressive church. As an affiliate of the Center for Progressive Christianity, we define Progressive Christians as ones who.....Invite all people to participate in our community and worship life without insisting that they become like us in order to be acceptable; including but not limited to: believers and agnostics, conventional Christians and questioning skeptics, women and men, those of all sexual orientations and gender identities, those of all races and cultures, those of all classes and abilities, those who hope for a better world and those who have lost hope.”
QG: So St. Andrews is Progressive rather than Christian?

-- One of the session members told the investigators that the question asked prospective new members is "Are you able in your own way to affirm Christ is central to your life?" and added "We recognize that everyone is on a different path."

QG: Do you really think this is a statement of belief in Christ as your Lord and Savior?

--Another said, " We don't use the word 'Lord', we don't believe in that. We adopted a policy five or six years ago that we use inclusive language. We don't recite creeds."

QG: Oh, pardon poor benighted me--you don't use the word "Lord", do you? And you want to be a Presbyterian church, which is a denomination that emphasizes the importance of reciting creeds and confessions in worship--WHY?

-- Jensen is quoted as saying: "I do not believe in God as an external agent. If you ask me if I believe in God as a mystery like the sun coming up every morning is a mystery, then I believe in God."

QG: ~singing~ "I believe that for every drop of rain that falls a flower grows, I believe that in the darkest night, a candle glows..."

I get it! You believe in Frank Sinatra! So change the name of the church to St. Sinatra's Center for Progressive Community Activists and then have the integrity to withdraw from the PCUSA so you can be the progressive, non-creedal, inclusive, community of different paths that you want to be, without the intrusion of the presbytery that wants to make you follow the Book of Order.

Seeing the Signs of the Spirit

Rebel Without A Pew asked a compelling and important question on her blog today: What are the signs of a Spirit-fillled Church?

Last Sunday evening I attended our session meeting. Our new class of elders and deacons were being examined that evening. Our senior pastor asked each of them to give a brief statement about their faith journey. I was blown away by this group's responses!

Several in the group said that they had fallen away from their faith but were pulled back to church after 9/11. There were three who have lost a spouse and testified about the importance of their faith and the love and support of the congregation in helping them cope with that loss. Most of them related that when they first visited our church, they never visited anywhere else, they just "knew" this was where God wanted them to be. (An experience that El Jefe and I share with them).

Different ministries of the church were singled out for their importance in the spiritual development of these folks--our Church's School (preschool to fifth grade); Bible in 90 Days program; various adult study groups; mission projects; worship and music.

These folks are not "the frozen chosen." Tears, laughter, and emotion were displayed by everyone in the room as we heard how God was working in their lives.

Isn't this testimony the sign of a Spirit-filled church?