Monday, November 13, 2006

Presbyterian Outlook: From confusion to clarity

Presbyterian Outlook: From confusion to clarity:
Presbyterian Outlook requires registration to read the full articles, but it is free.
by Jack Haberer

"...As a former member of the Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity, and Purity of the Church (TTF), I have been distressed to see so many Presbyterian friends troubled, perplexed, and even angered by the actions taken by the 217th Birmingham General Assembly in response to the Task Force’s recommendations. ..."

Not much has truly changed with the passing of the PUP recommendations. Judicatories that previously chose to ignore constitutional provisions in making ordination decisions will continue to ignore the Book of Order when it finds its provisions inconvenient. Judicatories that carried out their responsibilities with integrity are free to continue to do so, and many have made it crystal clear that they intend to do so.

What has changed is that a practice has been brought back of permitting "scruples" to be declared and allowing the judicatory to determine whether such scruples place the candidate outside the "essential tenets" of the reformed faith. The Task Force failed to clarify what the essentials are, and we go on as before without any clear understanding of what they are, and without such clarification the job of promoting Peace, Purity, and Unity is going to be very difficult.

I am still willing to give it a fair chance, since the recommendations appeared to strengthen the judicial review of such decisions -- but not enough time has elapsed to see the effect of such reviews.

People seem to be divided in four groups when it comes to the Task Force on Peace, Purity, and Unity recommendations:
  • Those who are in accord with the PUP recommendations.
  • Those who are willing to give them a chance, but have some reservations.
  • Those who are opposed to the recommendations based on a study of the issues.
  • Those who never really intended to consider fairly the recommendations and are using it as a wedge issue to further their own agendas.
The preceding four categories do not account for all Presbyterians, and my gut feeling is that they do not even comprise a majority. We need to recognize that there are those who simply do not understand what is going on because it never really has been clearly or honestly explained by either the supporters or the detractors of the PUP report.

Jack Haberer has much personally invested in the PUP report and recommendations, and I respect his opinions, but the fact that there are so many people out there who are confused suggests very strongly that the Task Force needed to do a much better job of interpretation of their report to the membership.
"...Then again, we Presbyterians are pretty insistent that the sovereign God reigns. And given that God is not the author of confusion (I Cor. 14:33), the people of God listening for the voice of God ought to be able to find their way through a season of confusion into greater clarity. This edition of The Presbyterian Outlook is dedicated to helping us all to listen better, to discern more clearly, and to follow our Lord more faithfully."

This injunction should be heeded by all sides, not only in this dispute, but in all disputes that prevent us from heeding our individual and corporate calling to follow Jesus Christ.

God is not the author of confusion; we are.

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