Now is the time for a third force to emerge in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The phrase "third force" rather than "third way" is offered, because the third way, if it exists at all, is not yet in sight. A genuine third way through the political thicket in which we are caught will be biblically and confessionally rooted, and will represent the consensus of the faithful that God’s will for our time has been discerned and must be affirmed.
The church has always had factions — even as the American republic has always had factions. At the time of the founding of the New Nation, our forebears sought to create a political system which would ensure some kind of balance of power among various interests in society. Thus was erected a federal system with division of power between the federal government and the state governments, and a separation of powers in the federal government through the creation of three branches: legislative, executive and judicial. And the Bill of Rights — the first 10 amendments — erected a wall, since steadily strengthened, to safeguard individual liberties.
Writing recently in The Outlook, Editor Robert Bullock recognized that annual meetings of the PC(USA) General Assembly seem to be hurting the church and bringing unnecessary division. He wrote: "Annual meetings allow divisive issues to be brought up every year with the potential for win-lose votes at the meeting and in the presbyteries . . . . Dealing with divisive issues year after year through an annual meeting of the General Assembly has not been a plus for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).If an institution’s national gathering does more harm than good to the institution, shouldn’t the institution consider seriously having the meeting less often?"
Those of us who take the teachings of John Calvin as our theological base have always practiced -- or are supposed to practice -- a faith-based initiative toward the society in which we live. Calvin constantly emphasized the primacy of the community over the individual, teaching that we are bound together and must take responsibility for each other, not just in the church, but in the community at large.
The 35th anniversary of the Confession of 1967 falls this year. A few members remain, both of the committee that drafted the document, and of the committee that received and modified it somewhat in 1965, prior to its circulation in the presbyteries during 1966 and the first half of 1967.
It has come, its supporters say, from the grassroots – and it has grown fast enough that people wonder out loud whether the confessing church movement now is a force that must be reckoned with in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
In fewer than nine months, the sessions of more than 1,100 congregations – about 10 percent of all the PC(USA) churches – have signed confessional statements, most of them describing belief in the Lordship of Jesus, the authority of the Bible and the sanctity of marriage.
I was overjoyed when I read that one of the proposed amendments coming out of this year's General Assembly was aimed at simplifying and shortening Ch. 14 of the Form of Government. It has seemed for years that every edition of the Book of Order was bulkier than the last. Much of that bulk came from items better handled in a manual of operations. My delight turned to horror, however, when I found hidden in the midst of the revision of Chapter 14 a provision that would allow the interim pastor of a congregation to become its next installed pastor by a two-thirds vote of the presbytery.
We Presbyterian evangelicals like to appeal to the past in our ongoing debates with those who claim to have received "more light" on certain important subjects than was available to the biblical writers and the 16th-century Reformers. And rightly so. A defense of both biblical authority and the normative status of our confessional heritage has never been more urgent.
With the end of Christmas, the celebration of Epiphany – the gift of the gospel to all peoples and all nations – and the dawn of the second year of a new century and millennium, the issue of breaking the cycle of violence presents itself to us on many fronts.
On this subject more than usual a reader might wonder what possible insight I could possess.Until now, I have been quite content to recognize the mystery of feminine wilds without devoting any imaginative energy to reflection on what it must be to have them.Most likely this restriction comes from being told as a little boy that if you kissed your own elbow you would turn into a girl.