Help for the Task Force

The views expressed in this article are my own, not those of the Task Force on Peace, Unity and Purity on which I serve. In successive editorials, Outlook editor Robert Bullock voices high hopes for the task force. His expression of confidence in the task force and his offer of prayers are most welcome.

Overtures Would Improve Amendment Process

An eagerness for peace lies at the heart of five overtures to the 214th General Assembly meeting this summer, each having to do with the denomination’s process for amending the Book of Order.

Olympia Presbytery sounds the concern plainly. As a rationale for proposing that the General Assembly vote on amendments to the Book of Order only every fifth year, Olympia writes, "The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has been in a constant battle over divisive constitutional issues for years and years and years."

Holmes Sweet Holmes

Teaching at a theological seminary has its fun moments, but it is mostly the serious business of trying to provide survival skills for the leadership of the church.  Presbyterians especially obey Our Lord's command to worship God with the mind (Mk 12:30; Mt 22:37; Lk 10:27).  Obviously we need first-rate institutions to nurture first-rate ministry.  I am truly grateful for my quarter century on a seminary faculty and the importance of the subjects I teach.

Thinking Outside the Box, Part 4: The Voice of ‘Progressive Traditionalists’

People who think outside the box threaten to become invisible. They do not fit within the conventional categories. In our situation, theological and political liberalism are usually linked. Theological and political conservatism are also linked. Few find this situation odd, even though a case could be made that, properly, theological liberalism tends toward political conservatism, and theological conservatism toward political liberalism.

Thinking Outside the Box, Part 2: On the “Plain Sense” of Holy Scripture

In our church we are constitutionally committed to a high view of the authority of Holy Scripture. This commitment reflects not only the Reformed tradition, but also (as ought not to be overlooked) the broad consensus of the entire ecumenical church. Although there are still significant differences in the ecumenical church about how to think in accord with Scripture, the day is long since gone when Reformation churches could assume that only they are the custodians of binding scriptural authority.

Thinking Outside the Box, Part 3: On ‘Responsible Discretion’ Toward Ordination Candidates

From its earliest period the ecumenical church has recognized that some forms of life are incompatible with faith in the gospel. Baptism meant not only being incorporated into the church as the body of Christ, but also breaking decisively with the ways of the world. Certain worldly occupations — like prostitution, acting in the salacious dramas of the theater and military service — were regarded as impermissible, especially in the first three centuries. Certain practices, moreover — like incest, drunkenness and the abuse of worldly power — were cause for at least provisional excommunication. Bishops, presbyters and deacons, as officers in the church, were expected especially to live lives worthy of the gospel.

Thinking Outside the Box, Part 1: Further Reflections on a Third Way for Our Church

I start with a basic intuition. Whenever a long and protracted debate rages in the church, chances are that it cannot be resolved because significant truth actually exists on both sides. In such cases neither side can discern the truth represented by its opponents. Nor can either accommodate the truth important to the other within its own, highly polarized modes of thought. Only by thinking outside the box can the controversy be resolved.

Redefining ‘Peace, Unity and Purity’ in the Church

When the General Assembly appointed a task force to explore what ails the church, the task force members decided to call their group the "Peace, Unity and Purity Task Force." These simple words have been in our ordination rubrics for decades: "Do you promise to further the póó, uóó and póó of the church?" Any minister and almost all officers can fill in the blanks. And yet, those three little words ensnare us in controversy when the going gets rough in the church. As it is now.

We Cannot Have It All

Common sense tells us that you canít have it all. A sign in a farm equipment dealerís repair shop states: "We do three types of jobs — Cheap, Quick and Good. You can have any two. A good quick job — wonít be cheap; a good job cheap — wonít be quick; a cheap job quick — wonít be good."

Anaconda Statement of Conscience

A Statement of Conscience

Respectfully submitted to the Presbytery of Yellowstone

By the Session of 1st Presbyterian Church

Anaconda, Montana

March 4, 2002

We, the Session of 1st Presbyterian Church of Anaconda, Montana, after careful study and prayerful reflection, respectfully inform the Presbytery of Yellowstone that we cannot in good conscience comply with any interpretation of Book of Order provision G-6.0106b that restricts the rights of governing bodies to discern the will of Christ in choosing leaders. Therefore, we declare: