The PCUSA website has a statement about the G.A. meeting that reminds me of the guy who shot an arrow at a barn, drew a circle around it, and then said, “Bull’s eye!” Where’s Vince Lombardi when you need him telling this distracted bunch to keep the main thing the main thing? Here is another symptom of a management culture, tinkering at a great distance from men and women faithfully leading congregations across the country. It is an abomination that so many activists approach our democratic structure as a scaffold for pet projects–with unsuspecting commissioners dependent upon information they are fed.
For example, the discussions about Rec. 5 of the PUP Report never addressed the elephant in the living room. Good leadership casts vision with clear, compelling statements about a preferable future. It does not merely imply the real issue or hint at direction.
PUP resource people were indirect about the underlying issue and some decision-makers did not seem to recognize what was really at stake. In the ecclesiology committee, any testimony that outlined the true subject was usually followed by some confusing, disconnected response. This is no way to conduct business, and it is certainly no way to handle the sacred trust of leadership in the church. The PUP framers are responsible for this confusion.
However, since no member of the task force was willing to state clearly how Rec. #5 could be applied, the committee moderators ought to have brought definition. Then they should have led a clear and open discussion about whether God was leading them to do that, period.
What does the new A.I. actually do? It tacitly invites test cases regarding ordination, and it effectively shifts the decision from the legislative branch of government to the judicial branch. Question: since we have heard repeatedly through our legislative process about ordination standards, how could shifting the decision to the judiciary promote peace, unity, and purity?
The committee needed to address that question. Instead, commissioners played ‘cat and mouse’ with each other according to bias, allowing silent rules to remain unchallenged. The main rule was to ignore potential consequences of approving Rec. 5, letting the process dictate an outcome. How passive.
Too many people at the assembly putter around these meetings with one oar in the water, presuming that that the Holy Spirit only works through “Holy Indifference,” a term used many times in the committee that discussed the PUP Report. True leadership is not indifferent–and there is nothing holy about assuming that godly direction emerges when we unplug from common sense, history, and scripture. This “holy indifference” is nothing short of pluralism.
1) Commissioners were not clear about what approval of Rec. 5 would actually do. Even the task force could not state clearly what exactly was being proposed. The big contradiction was their claim that Rec. #5 made no change, yet they were urgent about how much the church needed it. (Huh?!)
2) With no clarity about the consequences of approval, no measured, intentional decision for the church was possible.
Actually, the new Authoritative Interpretation does do something: it broadens the concept of scruples to include not only belief but also conduct (if the courts validate this implied change). So, it is really an amendment masquerading as an A.I. Amendments require the vote of presbyteries, and that is exactly what we need to demand. This business is dishonest in its subtlety, and we must bring it to review. If this action was not an intentional strategy to turn the 747 ever so slightly so as not to spill anyone’s Coke, then it must have been incompetence.
Yet, here is an opportunity to call for new leadership. Perhaps renewal leaders might even speak with one voice, bringing the system to account. No taking the football and running home. Nor is it enough to say, “Well, it’s a dysfunctional system, but it’s ours and always will be.” No half-hearted effort will do.
Wake up friends. Write some letters. Get in the game. If you want the Presbyterian church to remain one church, demand that this ruling be held to account.