Before the presbyteries for a vote, as the new year begins, is the issue of Amendment O. Narrowly passed last summer by the 212th General Assembly, Amendment O proposes an addition to the PC(USA) Directory of Worship to the effect that church property shall not be used for, nor shall any church officer "take part in conducting any ceremony or event that pronounces blessing or gives approval of the church or invokes the blessing of God upon any relationship that is inconsistent with God's intention" of monogamous marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness.
The litany of Presbyterian woes gets tiresome. In the New Year we should covenant to cultivate a more positive spirit, not because of what we can do, but because the church belongs to God, not us, and God's strength is always made perfect in our weakness.
Nothing is clearer, as we go through yet another around of decision-making about sexuality in the presbyteries, than that the Presbyterian Church is in the grip of legalism, which seems not to trust the gospel. We are trying to order our affairs as a church by the book, and the book is really not very helpful right now.
In recent issues, the topic of Jesus Christ has been addressed in this column: Who is he? What has he done for us and our salvation? The claim has been put forward that this is the decisive question facing the church today.
Who is Jesus Christ? is the central issue facing the church today, or so I have claimed in the last four columns of this series titled "An Apology," "A Testimony," "Confession" and "Life." This claim has been related to Scripture, the gospel and the Christian life. This final part relates the claim to the issues that so deeply divide the church today and whose resolution seems nowhere to be in sight.
In the Oct. 9 issue the claim was made that Christology is the most important issue facing today's church. In the Oct. 16 issue a companion claim was made that our understanding of the authority of Scripture and its role in the life of the Christian community is critical since it is primarily through Scripture, aided by the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit, that we know who Jesus is for us and the world.
Christology -- the church's doctrine of the person and work of Jesus Christ -- underlies many, if not most, of the controversies facing the church today. That was the claim made last week in this column.
The English word, "apology" has two quite distinct meanings. The first involves the defense of a foundational conviction; the second is an expression of regret for it. The urgent question before the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) today is whether to defend the historic Christian faith in Jesus Christ or apologize to the world that Christians ever believed that he was the real and only Lord and Savior of the world.
Is the center -- the 75-80 percent of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) between the theological/ideological ends of the spectrum -- finally finding its voice? The actions of the 212th General Assembly which recently concluded in Long Beach, Calif., indicate a new self-consciousness on the part of the great majority of Presbyterians and new possibilities for moving forward in faithfulness to our calling.