Friday, July 09, 2010

GA 219: Mixed Results

Yesterday's GA voted to send a change in 6.0106b of the Book of Order which would, in effect, permit the ordination of non-celibate gays, to the presbyteries for approval. The vote was relatively close-- 53% in favor and 46% opposed.

Then late last night the GA voted to accept BOTH the majority and the minority reports on Marriage and Civil Union and commend them for study by the presbyteries and churches and not to take any action on the recommendations that came from that committee. That means presbyteries will not be asked to vote on changing the definition of Christian marriage in our BOO from a man and a woman to "two people." This passed by a narrow margin--about 51%.

This morning's Twittersphere is full of tweets speculating about whether a motion to reconsider yesterday's vote on the Marriage and Civil Union report will be brought to the floor today. So maybe the issue will come up again? Stay tuned.

Other business yesterday included a lot of "social justice" debate which makes the church resemble the caucus of the Democratic party in Congress. Once again we divide the church along secular political lines instead of using the GA to find ways to strengthen its gospel mission in this country and the world.

And there will be more of that today as the controversial Middle East Report comes to the floor of the assembly.

Where is the discussion about addressing decline in membership, strengthening our churches, planting new churches in growing areas, renewing our missionary efforts around the world and spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ?


Presbyterian Gal said...

Amen and Amen to your last question!

Rev Kim said...

After watching hours of live-streaming yesterday, I heard arguments on both sides using the issue of declining membership to make their case - "If you do/don't pass this, then the church will continue to decline." But yeah, I didn't hear a whole lot in reference to your other questions!

Do you remember the GA vote on the ordination standards two years ago, and was it as close as this one? I'm thinking it seems closer this time.

Quotidian Grace said...

Rev Kim--
The vote was almost exactly the same last time. I think that shows little movement on the subject despite all the sound and fury.

The argument that really gets my goat (re: changing the definition of marriage) is that pastors in states that have legalized gay marriage in the civil courts need guidance about what to do.

This from the same group that would stidently separate church and state when it doesn't suit their agenda.

The guidance is clear--the PCUSA Book of Order does not permit pastors to marry same sex couples regardless of secular law.

~rant off~

Reformed Catholic said...

Good News ... the vote to reconsider failed 60% to 40%.

I went and checked PC-BIZ for last years vote: 380-325. This years: 373-323.

What is interesting is that there are the same number of abstentions: 4 ?

I'm wondering who the 4 are ??

Lucy F said...

How is social justice NOT part of our gospel message? Isn't our attention to the "least of these" exactly what we are called to?

IMO one of the reasons for the decline in membership is our inwardness. We have great Bible studies and fellowship times and music and preaching. VBS and Sunday school for us. And man, can we discuss theology. But we don't have much mission work going on. What mission we do have is more like dabbling - a day here, a morning there. Or when we're really adventurous we'll have a "workation" in a far-off land. I think that more intentional continuous mission and outreach would increase our membership and strengthen our churches and, of course, spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. When we do mission, it's usually about social justice. So why don't we take just one of the "Democratic...secular political" concepts that we can identify as a need in our particular community and use it to spread the good news of Jesus' love for ALL people.

Our missionary efforts around the world? The rest of the world is sending missionaries HERE!

Barb said...

Lucy - that's exactly what the sermon on Saturday at GA touched on - us presbyterians are great at digging well but not telling the gospel. Out view of social justice has become myopic, imho. we need to get back to the purpose of the church - go and make disciples of all nations!

Quotidian Grace said...

People are drawn to the church because they need a relationship with Jesus Christ. Out of that relationship they will be drawn into mission work of various kinds-- spreading the gospel, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry,and healing the sick as the Holy Spirit leads each believer.

I disagree with Lucy--my church does an excellent job of mission work in our city, state and around the world. But the reason it is one of the largest Presbyterian churches in the country is its emphasis on growing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That's what the denomination needs more of.

ellbee said...

I was at GA last week as a Seminary Advisory Delegate, and I heard the same cries for more talk about local church mission, etc. The thing is, GA talks about those things that are sent to it from the local churches and presbyteries. The overtures come from the ground up. The reports come as a result of another GA commissioning a study in response to an overture from... yep, a presbytery (or a few, depending on how many sign on). It was a joy to consider things like Collegiate Ministry and YAV and PHEWA and other work that truly supports the breadth of work churches are doing in their communities.

There were actually many conversations and celebrations of churches living out the mission of God (that first paragraph in the nFOG) and the Great Commission. Sadly, they get overshadowed by the more scintillating news about votes on issues relating to human sexuality.

Hearing first hand from hundreds of presbys about their passion for God and for our part of the church universal brings me great hope, even though we don't all agree about Israel, Caterpillar, Belhar, Civil Unions and YAAD voice & vote.

God will continue to work in, among, through and sometimes even in spite of us to redeem and transform the world. The key to our being part of that great work will be in paying more attention to God than to those things that distract us.

Quotidian Grace said...

Its true that the GA works off overtures, but it's also true that overtures have to be recommended by a committee in order to get any action on them.

And the committees tend to be more interested in commissioning study reports on divisive political issues like Middle East peace than on commissioning studies to address declining membership.

Julie said...

All overtures submitted to the General Assembly must be acted on by the GA. The Committees recommend whether to approve or disapprove an overture with or without amendment. The entire Assembly can either follow a Committee's recommendation on a particular issue, act in opposition to the recommendation, or amend it. Sometimes the studies are a response to an overture. The Committees do not have the option of ignoring or dismissing an overture but must pass it on with recommendation to the entire body.

No Committee can initiate an action (like a study) without it being in response to business which has been presented to it - either through an overture, a commissioners' resolution, a referral from a previous Assembly, or a report from a committee or agency of the General Assembly.

How about starting work on an overture to the next GA concerning declining membership?

Anonymous said...

I agree with both Lucy and QG. Some folks are seeking a personal/deeper relationship with Jesus and that is why they are drawn to congregations that emphasize developing that relationship and striving to be the kind of person that Jesus identifies as a friend. The love of Jesus then prompts a desire for and call to mission. Some folks are passionate about social justice issues and so they are drawn to congregations that emphasize doing what Jesus did - mission work. The mission work draws them further into community with other believers and with Jesus, fostering development of that personal relationship. We are different and we "work" in different ways. That doesn't mean that one is right and the other wrong. So maybe there's more than one way to grow a denomination?