Saturday, September 23, 2006

Cognitive Dissonance in the PC(USA)

When Donald Griffin's book Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11: A Call to Reflection and Action was published this last summer I shook my head, rolled my eyes and wondered just what the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation was thinking.

The PC(USA) seems to be a mass of cognitive dissonances ranging from the very clear statement on Christology, Hope in the Lord Jesus Christ standing in opposition to W. Eugene March's The Wide, Wide Circle of Divine Love: A Biblical Case For Religious Diversity; and our historical respect for education and inquiry standing against the publication of a book that makes claims that fly in the face of intellect and reason. Both books are published by Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Add to this mix our public stance that Mission is a key part of who we are as Presbyterians against the recent cuts in the number of mission personnel worldwide. It's almost as if the right hand is clueless as to what the left hand is doing.

Or perhaps one hand knows what the other is doing, and is powerless to do anything about it...

Mike Kruse has this to say regarding the relation of the PPC to the PC(USA):
"After two years on the General Assembly Council, I have come to a conclusion. It is time for the Presbyterian Church (USA) to sever its relationship with the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation (PPC) and take back the Presbyterian name. The PPC has effectively demonstrated that they are not capable of make sound decisions that honor the denomination. I will present two episodes to illustrate why I believe this to be the case. (Note: The Presbyterian Publishing Corporation is an entity of the General Assembly. No funds are provided to the PPC by the denomination and the denomination has no editorial authority over their publishing decisions. The institutional linkage is through the nomination and election of board members by the General Assembly.) ..."

-- Time to Drop "Presbyterian" from the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation

Previously I had assumed that the PPC was the publishing arm of the PC(USA), but it seems that they are an independent organization that neither is funded by the PC(USA), nor accepts any editorial control from the PC(USA).

To be perfectly honest, I have many books in my library bearing the "Geneva Press" or "Westminster John Knox" imprint, and I find them useful, edifying, and reasonably in line with what we Presbyterians say we believe. But I have the right to expect that -- especially from an organization that has Presbyterian in its name and uses the Presbyterian logo in its advertising and on its web site.

Quotidian Grace had a blog entry today that adds some more insight to Mike's analysis, and has an observation that hits close to her home regarding the aftermath of the Griffin book:
"...Publishing this book has real consequences for the life of the local church. This week we learned that one of our members is transferring to a near-by PCA church because the publication of this book by the denomination's publishing house was the "last straw". Since the PPC shows no regard for the destructive effects of its choice of publications on the denomination, then it should become in fact what it is in practice: an independent publishing company which does not represent the PCUSA. ..."

March's book probably never registered on very many radar screens outside the Presbyterian Church (Amazon sales rank today 323,933), but Griffin's book has had far wider exposure (Amazon sales rank today 2,228) and has been a topic of discussion in the mainstream news media.

Does the use of our name and logo in this regard redound to our credit? I think not.

Thanks to both Mike Kruse and Quotidian Grace for providing some good discussion points.


Quotidian Grace said...

Thanks, Denis, for providing putting this issue in the broader perspective of the "cognitive dissonance" in the PCUSA. Well said.

Michael W. Kruse said...

Thanks for the links, Denis. Great thoughts!

Denis Hancock said...

Some of these very thoughts were bandied about a week or so ago at a table in the Independence Barnes Noble Cafe...

I noticed a book by John McCain the other day that refuted the conspiracy theories that seem to grow up around 9/11.