Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Unless something totally unexpected happens Amendment 10-A will garner the necessary number of presbyteries voting in the affirmative to become a part of the Form of Government.  Here is the amendment with both deletions and additions:
Shall G-6.0106b be amended by striking the current text and inserting new text in its place as follows: [Text to be deleted is shown with a strike-through; text to be added is shown as italic.]
“b. Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness. Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament. Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G-1.0000). The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation (G.14.0240; G-14.0450) shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003).  Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.

The section with the strike-through was originally added to the Form of Government in 1997.  The section in italics will soon replace that section.  It is my opinion that both either are or have a section that is intended to garner votes from those in the middle of the denomination who needed to be fooled in order to vote in favor of the amendment.  It is also my opinion that both failed miserably in this attempt and in fact were not necessary.
The current G-6.0106b was approved by the 1996 General Assembly.  A large minority of the GAPJC the previous year had clearly implied that Authoritative Interpretations of the Constitution were no longer going to cut it if the denomination wanted to continue to deny ordination to (using the words of the time) "self affirming, practicing homosexuals."  To deny that ordination those who opposed it saw that they would have to amend the Form of Government in a way that would pass the General Assembly and a majority of the presbyteries. 
I may be a starry-eyed idealist but I believe that the writers of the amendment really intended that heterosexuals involved in sexual relationships outside the bonds of marriage and homosexuals involved in sexual relationships should be denied ordination.  It is also my opinion that they did not believe that such an amendment would pass the GA and the presbyteries if it only referred to sex.  Therefore the last line was added.  The last line gave the appearance of inclusion: that is inclusion of sins.  The last line was intended to say that the amendment was not just about sex, that amendment was equal opportunity.  If one sinned in any way and did not repent of that sin one could not be ordained.
I suggest that the last line fooled people as easily as the child who failed to see the emperor's new clothes.  Those who supported the amendment argued that the emperor (the amendment) was so clothed as to cover a multitude of sins.  Those opposed and those in "the broad middle of the church" (who are supposed to be ignorant and easily led around by the nose), were not fooled.  Everyone knew the primary purpose of the amendment was to deny ordination to self affirming, practicing homosexuals.  At that point in history a majority of the denomination opposed the ordination of a homosexual who was having sex with another homosexual.  It is my strong suspicion that the last sentence was not needed.  The only people who thought it was necessary to "fool" others were those who proposed the amendment.
14 years later, after voting on the issue several times the General Assembly of 2010 sent an amendment to the presbyteries, the lines in italics above.  An earlier attempt to simply remove the current wording had failed.  In 2010 the General Assembly proposed that the section of the Form of Government that denied ordination to self affirming, practicing homosexuals be replaced with a paragraph that requires stricter examinations for those seeking ordination and/or installation as  Ministers of Word and Sacrament, Elders or Deacons.
At the meeting of the Presbytery of Philadelphia today (the amendment passed 182-108) every single statement for or against the amendment was about ordination of self affirming, practicing homosexuals except one.  The exception was a short and clearly ignored speech by a wandering Don Quixote who tilted at the windmill of the amendment itself, namely me.  Again an amendment was dressed up in fine new clothes for the emperor (the amendment) and all the fine children noted that the emperor had no clothes and that the amendment was really about sex.  Each person voted on that basis, even this not so foolish Don Quixote.  It is my suspicion that an amendment to simply delete the current G-6.0106b would have passed this year.
All of which is to say that the "broad middle of the church," despite the opinions of those on the left and the right is not so easily fooled.  The whole denomination in both 1997 and 2011 knew what Amendment A (same letter both times!) knew what was at stake.  The amendments passed in 1997 and 2011 because both the denomination and the culture had changed.
And so I go back to tilting at windmills.  I hope that future amendments (which will not be about sex between persons of the same sex) will not be sent to the presbyteries by future General Assemblies with some idea that presbyters can and will be fooled.  Those who attend presbytery meetings are a rather canny bunch.  Let's just tell the truth and let the votes fall where they may.  Here I go, galloping toward that windmill.
Oh, and congratulations to those who have voted for and will vote for amendment 10-A.  To those who voted or will vote in opposition I say that Jesus is a tough guy and so is His Body.  The Church will endure, particularly if we stick together on the essentials (there, I said it: this issue not an essential!)  And to those who voted or will vote in the affirmative, let's go forward together doing the work of Christ.  I hope some of you will join me in tilting at windmills.  There are others that I think we all can agree should be knocked flat.

Friday, March 18, 2011


I'm 58 and have no desire to learn a new Form of Government!