Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Blowing Things Out Of Proportion

On Saturday August 4th, an email written by Joan Gray (217th GA Moderator) was published in Presbyweb. I do not know the provenance of this email, but I suspect it was directed to a particular group of people, and not necessarily for the whole PC(USA). By Monday a flurry of letters to the editor appeared, nearly all of them condemning Moderator Gray's words and some of the Presbyterian blogs have also weighed in. Tuesday showed several more letters and they were more balanced.

The email begins:
"I feel led to address an opinion I have heard from several people in several places in my traveling around the country. The statement is usually made in response to my assertion that everyone who believes in Jesus as their savior is a brother or sister in Christ to every other believer. It goes something like this: “Gay and lesbian people are not my brothers and sisters; they can’t be Christians,” or “Gays and lesbians would not be allowed to join my (Presbyterian) church.” I am deeply grieved when I hear this opinion, and I believe it is not only wrong but deeply pernicious heresy for the following reasons...."
Please follow this link to read the full text of the email. If you are not a subscriber to Presbyweb, you can obtain a 30 day free trial, following which you can decide whether it is worth your while to subscribe. I recommend it highly.

Joan Gray then makes an excellent case, in my opinion, for demonstrating the perniciousness of the attitudes addressed in the first paragraph.

NOTE WELL -- her email addressed the PC(USA)'s requirements for membership, not ordination. All those who profess faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are (or should be) welcome in our fellowship. There are no arcane theological questions that members are required to answer. Ordination has a higher standard (as it should). Ordination is not an entitlement of membership. There are a number of constitutional questions, some relating to theology, some relating to polity, and they must all be answered in the affirmative with either "I do" or "I will". But for membership the only theological question that must be answered is "Who is your Lord and Savior?"

So what is this "pernicious heresy?" First of all, "pernicious" in modern usage suggests something that may not seem all that bad by itself, but undermines people, beliefs, or organizations. "Slippery slope", which Joan Gray also uses in her email, describes an effect of perniciousness.

In view of the fact that in our denomination, nothing unrelated to profession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour can be used to bar one from membership in the PC(USA), any additional conditions placed on members is a pernicious eroding of our membership requirements, whether it is done by a session or, more commonly, by fellow members who deny Christian fellowship with those of whom they disapprove.

I have to admit that I was a little jarred by Joan Gray's email when I read it Saturday, and I remember thinking that this may unleash a lot of ugliness. I wish I could say I was wrong.... I do not know what prompted her to write this, but I can speculate. I have also heard comments similar to what she heard. They, too, are our fellow Christians, and we ought to able to love, fellowship with, and even remonstrate with them from time to time without blowing things out of proportion.


Quotidian Grace said...

I like your response, Denis. I'm sad to see all the piling on the moderator on the internet, although like you I think she could have found a better way to raise the subject.

Denis Hancock said...

She could have taken a little more time with the subject, but I knew what she meant. And I agree with her comments. Even if she had gone into greater detail, I think there still would be people who would not be satisfied.

I expect to see partisanship in the US Congress. It has NO place in a community which confesses faith in the same Lord.

(I'm still a little perturbed by this -- especially when it comes from people I otherwise agree with on most other issues)