So San Francisco Presbytery has approved Lisa Larges for ordination and allowed her to declare a scruple. This blog is about why scruples are a bad idea and why I don’t think the action that San Francisco Presbytery has taken will deal with the issue at hand.
It is no secret that I think scruples are a bad idea. I think they are a 250 year old band aid put on a 35 year old wound. The old band aid doesn’t promote healing and it is likely to cause infection.
Scruples were brought up by the PUP task force as the answer to the conflict over ordaining sexually active faithful homosexuals. It was an attempt to promote harmony by saying some sessions and presbyteries will allow scruples on G-6.0106b and some will not. Anyone who has followed the great homosexual ordination conflict in the PCUSA knew that there would be no harmony. The rigid stances of those on both sides made that clear. Frankly I think it would have created a bigger mess. How would someone ordained with a scruple in one presbytery be allowed to serve, say, a More Light congregation in another presbytery that would not allow the scruple? By a remedial case, what else?
The task force hoped that people could just sit down and talk and all get along as they had. But they had three or four years in closed rooms to learn to get along. The probability that others would form such groups voluntarily was and is fairly low. (I actually participated in one for two years and discovered I really rather liked and shared most theological convictions with those who disagreed with me. But no one changed their minds.) Such coming together in the PCUSA had and has about as much possibility of happening as Rodney King’s plea to
in mid riot that people all just get along. Los Angeles
And yes, a sad part of the problem is that we have been arguing about this for so long that most of the time we don’t even listen to each other anymore. We all have our programmed talking points and we say them no matter what the opponent says.
But the arguments used by the task force caused me great concern. I already didn’t like the idea in general but when two members of the task force, Barbara Wheeler and Mike Loudon argued that the GAPJC should have allowed Walter Kenyon a scruple about ordaining women back in 1975 I became more than a little concerned. I think ordaining women is an essential and am willing to back that up with theological argument. And no I don’t think presbyteries and sessions that currently don’t ordain women by stealth should just be given the ability to do so by an Authoritative Interpretation. I don’t think allowing Kenyon a scruple in 1975 would have caused less conflict. It would have caused more.
It seems that the GAPJC agreed with me as is evidenced by the Bush v Pittsburgh Presbytery decision.
I don’t think scruples are an adequate answer to the question of ordaining sexually active faithful homosexuals. If you believe homosexual feelings and marriages are gifts from God then having to declare a scruple about it is shameful. The right thing to do is work hard to remove G-6.0106b. If you believe homosexual feelings and marriages are not gifts from God then you are going to vote against such scruples and (yes) bring remedial cases. Which is about to happen again.
So now we are going to do the judicial dance again. I think that was foreordained. If Lisa Larges was allowed a scruple then others in the presbytery were going to file a remedial case. We all knew that was going to happen. (I’m not sure what would have happened if San Francisco Presbytery had not allowed the scruple. Maybe someone would have filed a remedial case!) Calling people names in either direction as is happening doesn’t help the situation. Frankly given the level of conflict I don’t think it hurts the situation either. It just is.
I think the GAPJC is going to make a narrow decision in this case as it did last week in both the
and San Francisco cases. Here are some possible narrow decisions: Twin Cities
- The GAPJC could declare that Lisa Larges is not allowed to declare a scruple but does not have to do so and may be ordained because she does not currently have a partner, which was in effect the decision in the Twin Cities case.
- The GAPJC could declare that Lisa Larges is not allowed to declare a scruple on a required prohibition in the Book of Order and therefore cannot be ordained overruling the AI made at the GA in 2008. Which of course allows GA 2010 to come up with another AI and we can go through it all again.
- The GAPJC could declare that Lisa Larges has not actually declared a scruple and therefore can be ordained. I know this sounds a bit far fetched but who among us thought that the GAPJC would say that doing a wedding for two people of the same sex and saying it was a wedding was not actually doing a wedding and because it was not a wedding no offense had occurred? That decision by the GAPJC still has my head spinning. If you believe God blesses lifelong same sex couples then you probably also find that decision of the GAPJC shameful.
- There are probably other options that I can’t think of at the moment.
So here we are. I suspect that GA 2010 will send an amendment to the presbyteries that either seeks to delete G-6.0106b or change it so that it doesn’t say what it says now. Whether the presbyteries will approve the change is up in the air. Personally I think they will turn such a change down again but I’ve been wrong before. Of course even if the amendment passes that would not prevent presbyteries from refusing ordination to homosexuals with same sex partners.
And it just may be that such an amendment will be approved by the presbyteries before the GAPJC rules in what will again be Naegeli et al v San Francisco Presbytery. Wouldn’t that be ironic?