Faith in Jesus Christ is all about suspending our normal (read sinful) way of being and doing. By that I mean that in Christ we are called to figure out different ways of living. At times I have thought to myself how much easier it would be as a Pastor if everyone agreed. Thankfully, this dream fades quickly since it would make for a very boring time.
At Christ Presbyterian Church we are blessed with having a congregation that has many viewpoints, both spiritually and politically. This could be a stumbling point for building community. After all, our normal response to people with divergent views is to argue and to try and change their mindset. I feel extremely blessed that we are able to seek our points of connection and agreement more frequently than our differences.
I know that many of you have been through church conflict both at Christ Presbyterian and in other congregations. I have listened to stories of hurt and disappointment that were brought on by a sense that the battle to win an argument became more important than the spiritual connections of a community. It is a true testament to the redemptive work of God that we are able to overcome those estrangements and reestablish trust and love.
Our denomination has struggled with differences since its inception. Battles have raged over virgin birth, slavery, woman in ministry, and most recently, homosexuality. I have tried to take a discerning position in the recent discussion of homosexuality. Rather than focusing on the issue and making it an identifying subject, I have sought to listen to what God is saying. Our presbytery recently voted in favor of changing the Book of Order’s statement on ordination. The most recent results from other presbyteries point to the change being passed. Many see this change as an endorsement of allowing homosexual, bisexual and transgendered individuals serve in ordained positions.
Some see this as a serious breach of Scriptural authority, while others believe that this is an affirmation of the liberating love of God. I would be lying if I said that I have this one figured out. I continue to struggle with the various interpretations of Scripture on this issue. I am also convinced that immoral heterosexuals have done more damage to the Church than we would choose to admit.
the main concern I have now is that we don’t allow our differences to divide our communities. We shouldn’t shy away from talking about this or other issues where we have differing opinions or even interpretation of Scripture. We also must not allow these points of contention to separate our fellowships.
The new wording which follows my article affirms the same principles that have been in place for what I believe is the beginning of the Reformed/Presbyterian tradition. The Sessions of our churches are to take serious the task of leadership selection. This is true for Elders, Deacons, and Ministers of Word and Sacrament. Churches won’t suddenly be forced to have officers that they don’t feel are qualified for whatever reason.
I pray that both Christ Presbyterian Church and our sister Churches can build stronger community and spiritual fellowship through a positive and loving response to this and other places of departure. One thing I am convinced of is that moments like this aren’t times to “take your toys and go home.” If we have real spiritual fellowship, it is in times such as this that we must intensify our expressions of love. That is the story that we just heard on Easter. Even though God had a serious dispute with us, He chose to not only continue relationship but to make it even closer.
May God’s love abound in our lives as a congregation, a denomination and the Church universal.
The change to the book or order would be to strike the bold paragraph and substitute the italicized paragraph.
“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.”