Nary An Unpublished Thought







December 4, 2007: A Case In Point

The substitute Form of Government faces a steep uphill battle -- that is, unless it can fly under the radar. The problem is that the Task Force put together a document for how things "should" be rather than addressing how things actually are.

The case in point is the recent newspaper article regarding the Rev. Jane Spahr. She was charged with performing "same-sex weddings" that are prohibited in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The Redwoods Presbytery refused to apply the constitution to her situation.

"If they want to rebuke her, they can, but we're not going to," says the Rev. Doug Huneke. Senior minister at Tiburon's Westminster Presbyterian Church and clerk of the commission that found Spahr acted within her rights, Huneke has worked with Spahr for 28 years and calls her a gay Gandhi. "Janie Spahr is the voice the church needs to hear if the church is going to enter the 21st century instead of the 14th. Why restrict God's blessing on same-gender people who are making a covenant as deep and sincere as any heterosexual couple makes?"

Here's the problem for the substitute FoG: the effort to make things more "flexible" will result in more brokenness, not less. If accountability and trustworthiness are not important, the connection among presbyteries and congregations is going to disintegrate faster. Mission will not be enhanced.

"If they want to rebuke her, they can, but we're not going to," is the polity equivalent of "What's the big deal about Jesus?" It says, "We know what the Constitution says and what we've agreed to support and abide by, but it does not matter because we do not want to and we will not. What are you going to do about it?"

Regardless the issue -- property, ordination, theology, mission, whatever -- the relationship among Presbyterians is destroyed as trust is destroyed. The Redwoods Presbytery, by its statements, is saying to the rest of the denomination, "We are not worthy of your trust. We will defy what we have promised to uphold." Assuming trust in this environment is misplaced. What is needed is a healthy dose of "come-to-Jesus" conversation about whether we are, in fact, connected to each other at all. Denial -- that is, not having that conversation -- is not healthy or helpful, and it will keep us on the road towards mutual self-destruction.

Thus, the only way the new substitute FoG will be successful (if approved) is if it is an "opt-in" system that leaves congregations and presbyteries free to "opt-out." Thus far, that is not the plan. Plan or not, it may be the result.

Procedurally, the newly-revised version is due out soon. You can notice by the links how I finally ran out of steam trying to critique the old version. This new version is the one that matters because it is the one that will be presented to the 218th General Assembly (2008) for approval.