Monday, June 30, 2008

A Visitation

Last week as I sat meditating over my laptop...LO! The Angel of the Mac appeared before me and prophesied unto me, saying:

"See QG, the keyboard before you worketh not. For no matter how hard you press the "B" key, it speaketh not unto the hard drive. And behold, your password screweth up and the Angel of the Hard Drive will not let you pass all because of the worthless "B" key."

"Speak, O Angel of the Mac," I pleaded. "Speak and I will hear you. Tell me what I should do and I will obey you."

But the Angel of the Mac replied, " Try, QG, try the "T" key and see what it portends."

I pressed the "T" key and it stuck. And stuck. And stuck.

"QG, go thou unto thine utility drawer and seek a pointed stick that thou mayest release the "T" key from its captivity," quoth the Angel.

"The key is now released, O Angel," I responded. "But, pray, what does all this mean?"

"Behold, QG, is this not the self-same hard drive that crashed big-time yea only a few short months ago?"

" Yes, O Angel."

"Dost thou require being hit upside the head with mine flaming sword, QG? What think you ? Thine laptop has but a little while left before it will be recalled to its MacMaker. Hie thee hence unto the Apple Store and replace it before once again you loose your data because you did not heed this warning. Woe be unto you if you do not obey. Blessed be you if you have ears and hear for you will get an IPhone when the new version is sent down from on high."

Suddenly the Angel of the Mac vanished from the room. The Angel of the Hard Drive still would not let my password pass. Who am I to ignore the warnings of the Angel of the Mac? I hied myself to the Apple store and followed the Angel's advice.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. (Doing the happy dance and can't wait for the IPhone!)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Recovering From PresbyFest

Many thanks for the kind words and prayers regarding today's called presbytery meeting. It was designed to be an informational meeting and that goal was achieved. So, thankfully, no Tums was needed at the Moderator's podium.

Our commissioners gave their observations and opinions about various issues that were considered. Questions and comments offered by those in attendance were concerned, respectful, and probing. No action was taken, nor was any action expected at this time.

Casey Jones, the candidate for Stated Clerk from our presbytery (and came in second in the voting) got a standing ovation and much praise and appreciation from all sides for the outstanding way he conducted himself in the election.

Casey suggested the need for community prayer and our General Presbyter agreed, saying that the presbytery would schedule several opportunities for members of presbytery to pray together for God's help and guidance.

I'm done with GA for the moment. In the next few days I plan to intentionally NOT thinking, fretting, or analyzing what went on there and what may happen next and turn my attention elsewhere. Sometimes we need to clear our minds so the Holy Spirit will have room to work, don't you find?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Friday Evening GA Update

PresbyFriends, GA continued to meet until almost midnight last night. Here's my summary of significant actions taken in the evening session:

Definition of Marriage Not Changed--In the most contentious debate of the evening, the recommendation of the Church Polity Committee that an overture to redefine marriage as between "two people" be disapproved was adopted. Civil rights for same sex couples and "gracious response" to congregations departing the PCUSA were also adopted. Full story from PNS here.

Peace Making. Recommendations from the Peace and International Issues Committee were approved, including “responsibly” bringing the troops home from Iraq, continuing peacemaking in Israel and Palestine and supporting human rights in Zimbabwe, the Philippines, North Korea and Columbia. This was another lengthy and sometimes contentious debate, and I had to question why we would spend so much time on issues the GA has scant influence over and so little time on debating and taking actions that would help make new disciples, build new congregations and churches and re-develop struggling ones. But that's just me. Full story from PNS here.

New Social Creed Adopted-- From the Social Justice Issues Committee, this new social creed calls for equal pay for comparable work, protection from dangerous working conditions, criminal rehabilitation through restorative justice, an end to the death penalty, tax and budget policies that reduce disparities between rich and poor, affordable housing, sustainable use of resources and just immigration policies. Full story from PNS here.

Tomorrow there is a called presbytery meeting scheduled to hear the report from our New Covenant commissioners to GA. (For those of you in New Covenant who want to attend, that will be 3 pm at Pines Presbyterian Church, Houston.) We'll have a lot to talk about.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Ordination Standards to Go to Presbyteries

Ordination Standard Change to Go to Presbyteries for Vote:

From the Presbyterian Outlook:

"Commissioners to the 218th General Assembly have voted to change the denomination’s constitution to approve the ordination of gay and lesbian persons, a change that will require ratification by a majority of the 173 regional presbyteries over the next year.

Two other actions adopted by the assembly will take effect immediately.

First, the commissioners approved by a vote of 375 to 324 a proposal from the Presbytery of John Knox that allows ordination “examining bodies to give prayerful and careful consideration, on an individual, case-by-case basis, to any departure from an ordination standard in matters of belief or practice that a candidate may declare during examination.” This takes effect immediately.

Second, the commissioners voted to send to the presbyteries for ratification language to replace the present rules that requires those being ordained and/or installed into ordained office to live “in fidelity in a marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness.”
See the full story here.

I think this means that presbyteries now have local option on the issue of gay ordination and if the presbyteries then vote to delete the fidelity-chastity clause then the standard is removed and the issue of local option becomes moot. But I'm not sure, so if anyone can correct my interpretation, please let me know.

Stated Clerk Election

Well, it's not surprising, given the restrictive standing rules for the election of the Stated Clerk, that Rev. Gradye Parsons, the nominee of the Nominating Committee, won the election for Stated Clerk on the first ballot. My preferred candidate, Rev. Casey Jones, came in a distant second.

On the one hand, I regret Casey didn't win, because I think he would have been a wonderful leader for the church. On the other hand, selfishly, I'm happy he's not leaving us for Louisville.

May God bless and guide Rev. Parsons in his new responsibility.

Thursday GA Update

Here are some highlights from yesterday's General Assembly:

: The committee recommended the Form of Government Task Force report be referred to the presbyteries for study and discussion. Also, additional members will be added to the Task Force and they will be asked to review and revise it for the 2010 GA. The expanded FOG will be asked to take into account the comments from presbyteries.

The number of people added to the Task Force will depend on the number of the current members who agree to continue and will be appointed ONLY from the members of the committee that made the recommendation about the FOG Task Force report. This means that members of the New Covenant group that studied the FOG report and wrote an outstanding analysis of it are not eligible to be considered for the expanded Task Force, and neither is anyone else who may is not already on this GA committee. Folks, this sends the wrong message. Here's the PNS story.

FUNDING NCD'S AND CHURCH RE-DEVELOPMENTS: After descending into a parliamentary black hole--what with a reconsideration, an "arrest of the report", and confusion on the floor and on the podium, the original motion from the committee (08-15) passed after the arrested report was bailed out (pardon the pun!) and proposed amendments to it failed. I couldn't find a PNS story about this discussion, though.

MISSION INITIATIVE FUND: PNC pastor Rev. Dave Peterson, MDPC -Houston, addressed the GA to announce the Mission Initiative Fund raised $33 million in pledges for new church development. Dave is co-chair of the effort. Well done! Here's the full story from PNS.

GENERATIVE THINKING: And lastly, I pity the members of the Worship and Spiritual Renewal Committee that was required to use "generative thinking" as an alternative form of decision making instead of the traditional parliamentary committee format. The committee moderator reported that two members walked out of the committee in frustration and did not return and that the whole process was a "learning experience". I just bet it was! What a waste of time and effort -- the rules of parliamentary procedure help form the will of the majority while protecting the voice and input of the minority. "Generative thinking" strikes me as a New Age-y fad and I regret we burdened any of our commissioners with it. Here's the story from PNS on the subject. It seems to me the lesson to be learned is not to mess with this nonsense.

Today the election for Stated Clerk is scheduled. My presbytery's own Rev. Casey Jones is one of the candidates. Casey would be a wonderful Stated Clerk. I'll be watching this later this morning on the streaming video. This is the most important election of the GA.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Musings of a Virtual Presby-Fester

Except for attending my study group and a quick trip to the gym to work on that bum knee, I've spent the day in virtual attendance at GA. The house is very quiet today--just me and the dog since El Jefe is at work and is taking the kids to the baseball game. And that's a good thing since I'm the point person for my presbytery's GA Newsblog as well as my usual stuff here.

First of all, the virtual streaming is working really well for me. Last GA it kept choking out and buffering and timing out. This time it is smooth as glass. The camera work is good. Generally the screen projections have worked well, but just now "Angela" can't seem to find the liturgy they are using for the commissioning of Clif Kirkpatrick as "Stated Clerk Emeritus."

The big debate this afternoon was on the FOG report. Commissioners pulled out a variety of parliamentary moves, but in the end the committee's recommendation was passed. The FOG will go to the presbyteries for comment and the Task Force will be enlarged and asked to revise the report in light of those comments for action at the 2010 GA.

There was a lot of debate about whether and how the FOG report would enable the PCUSA to become more "missional". As one wag pointed out, the entire debate certainly focused the group inward rather than outward. But that is the nature of polity debates, isn't it?

I don't see how the BOO will ever make us any more missional than the Great Commission, which is a whole lot shorter.

They just took a 10 minute break, so I will take advantage of it to get in my jammies, avail myself of a glass of restorative vino, and offer a quick prayer for the work that remains before the group before returning to the virtual PresbyFest.

With a two hour time difference between California and Texas, it isn't likely I will make it through the evening session. But one does what one can!

UPDATE: Now I'm watching my own pastor, Dave Peterson (MDPC, Houston) speak to the GA about the Hearts and Hands Campaign. Go Dave!

Wednesday GA Round-Up

The General Assembly took the following actions yesterday:

Overture to Provide Habilitative Services for Children in the Pension Plan: Presbytery of New Covenant co-sponsored this overture which was initiated by the presbytery of Nebraska. The overture was approved. Here's the full story from the PNS.

Christian/ Muslim Relations: The General Assembly approved with amendments a resolution “On Calling for Tolerance and Peaceful Relations Between the Christian and Muslim Communities.” The most significant amendment involved removing a statement that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. There was extensive discussion on this item. PNS story is here.

Sexuality Curriculum: The GA approved, with comment, the overture to produce an "adolescent development curriculum", including human sexuality. Debate centered on the proposed human sexuality curriculum, and amendments that were offered which would have included specific instructions to the prospective curriculum writers were defeated. PNS story is here--scroll down because this article summarizes several other actions of the GA as well.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

GA Committee Reports

Here's a round-up of actions taken by GA committees in the past couple of days, as reported by the Presbyterian News Service (cross posted with the GA Newsblog):

New Covenant Overture Approved: By a 67-4 margin, the Social Justice Issues committee voted to approve the PNC overture to urge Congress and the President not to saddle future generations with any more debt. The overture asks the GA to “declare that federal government practices and policies that create ever-increasing debt and unfunded or underfunded obligations for future generations of Americans are a grave moral concern as well as a clear danger to the republic” and calls upon public leaders “to have the courage to address this economic and moral crisis while there is still time.”

Revision of the Authoritative Interpretation Regarding "Scrupling" Ordination Standards: The General Assembly Committee on Church Orders and Ministry has voted to recommend that the 218th General Assembly adopt a supplementary authoritative interpretation of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) constitution that applies the historical practice of “scrupling” — the declaration of conscientious objection by candidates for ordination coupled with discernment by the ordaining body whether the declared objection is disqualifying — equally to all ordination standards of the denomination. See the full story here.

Fidelity and Chastity: The GA Committee on Church Orders and Ministry voted to recommend the deletion of 6.0106b of the Book of Order. Here's the link to the story.

Definition of Marriage: The GA Committee on Church Polity rejected an overture from the Baltimore Presbytery to define marriage as between "two people". Read the full report here.

Form of Government Task Force: The FOG report will be revised by an expanded task force, which will be instructed to take the comments received so far into consideration in making its revisions. Then the revised FOG will go to presbyteries for a period of discussion and consideration. PNC formed its own study group this year which produced a very thorough analysis of the present FOG proposal, which was distributed at the last presbytery meeting. Go here for the full story from the GA.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Calvin Bobbleheads

Yes, your eyes do not deceive you. It's a John Calvin bobblehead doll. Apparently they are being sold at PresbyFest in San Jose (a/k/a General Assembly). I SO want one for the dashboard of my car. Wouldn't that be cool? Much better than a plastic Jesus. Won't one of our New Covenanters bring one back for me? Please?

(Photo by Joseph Williams of GA News)

Monday, June 23, 2008

GA Blogging Week

This week QG will be pre-occupied as editor of Presbytery of New Covenant's General Assembly Newsblog, so blogging here at QG may be light on non-existent. Fellow PresbyPolityGeeks, check out the GANewsblog.

Congratulations to fellow PresbyBlogger Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow on his election as Moderator of the PCUSA for the next two years.

The most important election for the denomination comes at the end of the assembly when the new Stated Clerk will be elected. Rev. Winfield ("Casey") Jones, of New Covenant Presbytery, is one of the candidates for this post. Our presbytery commended him to the commissioners for their consideration. (Full Disclosure: Casey is a friend and colleague and I serve on his advisory committee.)

Rev. Debbie Cenko placed his name in nomination at the GA on Sunday evening (see photo, courtesy of PNC's Stated Clerk, Rev. Diane Prevary). I'll be following this election very carefully. The rules of the election are very restrictive, and frankly favor the choice of the Nominating Committee. However, in deference to them, I will just state for the record that if Casey Jones became our next Stated Clerk, I would be profoundly encouraged about the future of the PCUSA.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Book Review: Under The Banner of Heaven

This is another one of the books my brother recently recommended to me. Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer is an investigative report about the shadowy obscure world of Mormon fundamentalism as practiced in remote areas of the mountain West.

Taking a particularly horrific double murder in one of these communities as the central theme of the book, Krakauer skillfully weaves in a well-researched history of the Mormon church and analysis of the modern-day schismatics who cling to the polygamist practices that the LDS renounced more than a century ago.

The expansion of one of these sects into Texas in the last few years as the Yearning for Zion ranch was established in west Texas resulted in the recent raid on the ranch and the removal of the minor children there after child protection authorities received a phone call allegedly from one of the minor girls saying she was being abused. The caller turned out to be bogus, but the concerns about the treatment of the children remained and the state of Texas is still involved in the case although some of the children have been returned to their parents. As a former prosecutor of child abuse cases, I had followed this story with a lot of interest and had many questions about how these sects developed and why they were allowed to continue their polygamist practices with regard to underage girls.

Under the Banner of Heaven gives a thorough background for those interested in trying to understand the origin and appeal of these fundamentalist Mormon sects and to answer the question of why authorities in the western states tend to leave them alone. I recommend it if you are interested in the subject.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Set Your Bookmarks for GA

As General Assembly is approaching, PresbyPolityGeeks may want to check out the list of websites I posted on the PNC GA Newsblog.

Friends, set your bookmarks and let's get to blogging!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

2008 GA Theme Song

~with apologies to Dionne Warwick~

Can you pray your way to San Jose?
Two years passed since the last GA
That’s when the PUP came out to play
Who will moderate the GA in San Jose
Shoemaker, Teng, Mazza or Reyes-Chow?
GA could bring understanding, brotherhood or
Just another PresbyRow
Newbie commissioners just come and go
But the Stated Clerk stays on the roster
Will it be Tarbell, Jones, Parsons or Koster?
At the end of the week--they’ll vote on the Clerk
And then go home and tell the folks about the days they spent at GA.
Wo oh oh oh
And wonder how they got to San Jose
Wo oh oh oh
Will you pray their way to San Jose?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Father of the Year

From time to time I have referred to our good friend Dr. O and his family. Dr. O has long been an inspiration to the entire extended QG family and we were all thrilled to see him profiled for Father's Day in a local magazine.

We first met Dr. O more than 20 years ago at church. Doc is one of Dr. O's protege's and he came up to NYC for the big wedding last weekend along with the rest of the gang from Houston.

Dr. O's daughters Valerie and Jessica were Portia and Babs' good friends growing up--Valerie sang at Portia's wedding and Jessica was a reader at the service.

A book would be needed to do justice to the subject of Dr. O's life, though. (Maybe someday I will write it.) The article is pretty good--as far as it goes. You can read it here, click on the 8th photo on the far left sidebar to get the first page of the article.

By the way, Dr. O is a Presbyterian elder. He is a loyal Presbyterian because of the missionaries to Nigeria who ran the schools that educated him, and the Presbyterian church in Columbia, SC that sponsored him as an undergraduate and medical student. Sometimes we do things really really right!

Anyone who is interested in the missional church would do well to emulate Dr. O. He is a blessing to his family, his friends, his church, his community and the world.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Beatrice Blogs: Port Alto Goes To The Dogs

WOOF! This is a photo Mom took of me at Port Alto a few weeks ago. I'm sitting on her lap on the front porch overlooking the bay at Port Alto.

I've been wondering when I would get to go back and she says we're going tomorrow. Must be a reward for bunking at the Animal Inn with Olivia. She snores, you know.

But she doesn't snore as badly as Duchess, SIL's bulldog, who will probably be down there with her. Plus my cousins Dolley and James could be there with Mom's niece, Aunt Sissy, and her daughters.

Port Alto=Freedom from Invisible Fences, leashes, and Real Fences at home. A dog can run around the yards, down the pier and if she's lucky, get invited for a ride on a boat (with a doggie life vest, of course). FREEDOM FREEDOM FREEDOM!

I'm thinking us dogs can take over! We can take on those big dogs across the way if we stick together. A couple of chesty growls from old Duchess would make anyone turn tail and run. Then we can get everyone up as soon as the sun comes up with our own BarkFest! Heh-Heh. That would be fun! Then we can run in circles, sniff up a storm, and have naps until lunch.

Duchess will have to eat the puppy food Mom keeps for me and Olivia down there unless she brings her own. What an embarrassment! All the Big Dog Food in the world won't help her if I decide to run around her in circles and then scoot between her legs and make her fall down. Hah! Just kidding. Sorta.

James and Dolley are Dachsies like me. Last time we were down there I met another Dachsie who lives down the street. That's four dachsies, one bulldog. Dachshunds Rule! Bulldogs Drool!

Uh-oh, I hear Mom coming. TTFN.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Hermeneutics Quiz

Here's an interesting quiz that assesses how you interpret the Bible. I scored a 50, which is conservative, but almost moderate. The "conservative" range is 20 to 52.

Hmm. I would have scored myself as conservatively moderate (in the 52 to 60 range), rather than progressively conservative. But for an internet quiz, that's not too bad a result.

Hat tip: Presbyweb.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Dancing the Cotton-Eyed Joe in NYC

We're back from Queenie and Doc's wedding in New York. ( Aside for new readers: Doc is my nephew and Queenie is Portia's college roommate who met Doc almost 2 years ago when she came to Texas to be a bridesmaid in Portia and DK's wedding.)

Here's a quick wrap up of an unforgettable weekend:
  • The QG family became fast fans of Jet Blue after our first round trip flight on that airline. It flies out of the airport closest to our home in the Houston area and had beaucoups of leg room. It's the first time El Jefe and I can ever remember actually being comfortable for three plus hours in a plane.
  • When we arrived, the weather was perfect. Then a big heat-wave hit the area and it was actually cooler back home. The locals joked we brought the Texas summer with us. Sorry!
  • Queenie's family are part of the local Italian-Croatian community and could not have been more hospitable and friendly to everyone.
  • The reception was so awesome--at a beautiful club on Long Island Sound with panoramic views of the ocean.
  • Music at the reception was a country-western/Croatian mix. The Texans taught the Croatians to dance the Cotton-Eyed Joe! My feet still hurt.

And now for the Ave Maria review: it went very well indeed. Let me just say that one of the groomsmen told me afterwards that I "really nailed it" and many in Queenie's family went out of their way to tell me how much it meant to them. I'm sure your thoughts and prayers helped me a lot, too!

I do have a question about the ceremony that some of you may be able to answer. The officiant was a "deacon" and not a priest of the Catholic church. I'm sure the church has given him the power to conduct weddings, but I'm not familiar with this position in the Catholic tradition--it is clearly different from a Presbyterian deacon! Queenie and her family are Catholic and members of the church where the wedding was held, but Doc has not become a Catholic. Mass was not celebrated at the service, either, so a priest was not needed for that.

What authority does a deacon have in the Catholic church? Or can it vary by diocese?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Getting To Know God

This summer I'm participating in a group study of Knowing God by J. I. Packer at church. Members of the group will be leaders for the upcoming BSD study of the same name. The study is not a study of this book, but a theme Bible study: the idea is that the book will be a good preparation and supplement for the leaders.

Today is the first meeting, so I finished reading the first two chapters and answering the questions in the study guide. It is often said that the best way to learn about the Bible is to actually READ the Bible itself and not what other people write about what the Bible says. (What a concept!) The goal of this study is to help you go beyond reading about God -- to develop a relationship and understanding of who He is through prayer and meditation.

I'm looking forward to what I hope will be a real growth experience.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

"Idol" For Classical Music Fans

Last night while playing with my remote control I stumbled across Bathroom Divas.

There are several short videos from the show on You Tube, so here is one of them for those of you interested in checking it out.

Divas is a reality show in which aspiring opera singers go to an "opera boot camp" and then are judged on how much they have improved week to week. The prize is the chance to sing with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. So I can't call it the Classical American Idol because it is a Canadian production (although apparently by the American reality network Bravo which brings us Project Runway and Top Chef). It's on a network called Ovation, which I don't remember seeing before.

Bathroom Divas has the usual drawbacks of a reality show, although I thought the episode I saw had much less feigned drama than Top Chef and Project Runway. The remarks of the vocal coaches were fascinating to me as an avid amateur classical singer myself. I got interested in it because one of the young women in the competition chose to learn the incredibly difficult aria of the Queen of the Night from Mozart's Magic Flute. What a gutsy move! And she did a creditable job and moved on to the next round.

Playing around with the You Tube videos, I learned that the first season winner was the guy who was a country-western singer! Do you love it?

Classical music fans, check it out!

Monday, June 02, 2008

W Week

This week is being brought to me by the letter W.

Wedding preparations for Doc and Queenie are the focus of the week as we all prepare to go to NYC for their nuptials next weekend.

Worry about whether or not I have spent sufficient time learning to sing the Ave Maria for the service is starting to set in. Also the fact that I don't have a copy of "On Eagles Wings" to take with me is making me antsy. Note to self: take care of that tomorrow.

Wonder about whether Portia's bridesmaid dress, El Jefe's tux and my formal for the service and reception will be less wrinkled if packed in a hanging bag or a suitcase is pre-occupying my mind.

W, my brother, was released from the hospital and is at home following serious spinal fusion surgery and faces a lengthy recovery. Also one of Dutch's (El Jefe's elderly father) caregivers was diagnosed with a return of leukemia. Prayers appreciated!

Will Beatrice and Olivia (Portia and DK's dog) enjoy their stay at the Animal Inn while we're all away? Gretel always did, but this will be their first time not to stay with a family member. They will get to stay in the same "suite", though.

Where is my "to-do" list? There's a lot on it for today since I've got meetings later this week--gotta go!