Monday, March 27, 2006

Deep problems

Deep problems:

Presbyterian Outlook (free registration required)
"The long-awaited Report of the Task Force on Peace, Unity and Purity (TFPUP) is in hand. Thanks and assessments have been offered. We’ve invested a great deal in this effort: good people who were called in recognition of their capacity for such work, thousands of dollars gathering them and broadcasting their work, precious time for their work. Clearly they have had a powerful experience, calling us now to follow the principles that guided them, seeking similar experiences for ourselves.

Of course, the TFPUP Report does more. It proposes actual changes to the structure of our life together. And it is here that incisive questions need to be asked...."
This Outlook Forum article by Barry Ensign-George, an Associate for Theology for the PC(USA), discusses the recent Task Force on the Peace, Unity and Purity recommendations and raises questions he feels that we need to consider. His reasoning is careful, and his conclusions are well-stated.

My initial response to the TFPUP report was that its theological sections were of great use and that, while one reading of the recommendations could lead one to believe it was suggesting "local option", it really wouldn't change things. "Local option" is already present whenever and wherever governing bodies avoid questioning in particular areas.

I have read the TFPUP report as well as the viewpoints of those individual members who chose to provide them to Presbyweb. I have read the comments from the Presbyterian Layman and the Witherspoon Society. It is easy to dismiss the latter two as representing the fringes of the PC(USA), but it is not so easy to dismiss well-reasoned discussions from persons in the center. I certainly plan to give more thought to this.

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4 comments:

Gruntled said...

I don't think the Task Force report calls for any real changes in the rules of the church. They don't really call for local option, they call for local application of national rules. They do call on ordaining bodies to make the judgment on which tenets are essential or not -- BUT, their judgments are still subject to review by higher governing bodies.

What the Task Force calls for is more trust.

Denis Hancock said...

I agree that the Task Force needs to be given a chance -- and that is one thing that the fringes have failed to do.

Since the report came out, I have been told by more than one person that "Authoritative Interpretations" carry the force of constitutional law (assuming the PJC follws them). Since they can be established by GA by a 50% vote + 1, and are not subject to review by presbyteries, I am a little nervous about new AIs.

I am not particularly optimistic about the chances of this GA giving the TTF recommendations a fair shake -- not when its publication was followed by a flurry of overtures that would do precisely what the TTF suggested NOT be done.

I agree that the local application of national standards is the way to go. I am not so certain that review by higher bodies will be consistent.

Pastor Lance said...

Gruntled said, "They do call on ordaining bodies to make the judgment on which tenets are essential or not -- BUT, their judgments are still subject to review by higher governing bodies." That is true... but only to a point. The "report" says that the process an ordaining body used can be looked at... not the outcome. Example: an ordaining body wants to ordain an elder that is married and having an affair with another woman at the same time. According to Book of Order directives, the election takes place at a congregational meeting and then the elder-elect is examined by the Session. The elder-elect is very honest with the Session and tells them about his marriage and on going affair. He plans to continue to have sex with both women. At the conclusion of the examination, the Session must decide if if the constitutiions definition of marriage, sin and adultry apply to this case. The session recognizes that such behavior is forbidden. Yet, recognizing the man's talents and gifts they decide that in this case the denominations rules are to "essential."

The Session's decision can be appealed. The appeal will look at their process. Their process followed the directions of the Task Force Report. There is nothing that a high governing body can do to overturn the Session's decision.

Pastor Lance at:
FullCourtPresby.blogspot.com

Denis Hancock said...

Isn't it true that the ordination can be stayed pending an appeal?

Unless the election, examination, and ordination are the same day, it seems that a complaint can be filed, and the next higher body would stay the outcome.