April 3, 2012 – Effective and Fruitful

I was reading in 2 Peter this morning. Sometimes things stand out a little more than normal — things I have seen but not seen; that I have read but never really considered.

“His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3. I tend to read right through stuff like this — kind of like, “Ok, yes, that’s good, that’s nice, that’s right.” But stop and think about it for a moment: we have everything we need for life and godliness. How often we think, “If only I had this, if only I could do that, then I would be able to be a good Christian.” I cannot count the number of times I have heard Presbyterians lament the lack of some quality or opportunity that is preventing them from sharing Jesus with others. It is a lie we tell ourselves. He has given us everything needed for life and godliness.

Then came the part that really hit me

For this very reason, you must make every effort to:

  • support your faith with goodness,
  • and goodness with knowledge,
  • and knowledge with self-control,
  • and self-control with endurance,
  • and endurance with godliness,
  • and godliness with mutual affection,
  • and mutual affection with love.

For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This exhortation is a description of the life of discipleship. It is a profound description of Jesus’ Passion.

Faith is the foundation and beginning of the life of discipleship. It is not the stopping point.

Faith must lead to goodness; that is, the choice to pursue that which God commands.

How do you know what God commands? Knowledge. The only way to gain knowledge is to be invested in the life of a community which is itself invested in the study of God’s word. The author of Hebrews chastised listeners/readers with this word, “Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the based elements of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food; for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:11-14)

Knowledge of God’s commands — not for our oppression, but for our liberation and freedom in holiness — frames our self-control. Self-control (sometimes patience, sometimes obedience, sometimes action, sometimes passive) requires endurance because self-control inevitably involves choosing to do the right thing and choosing not to do the wrong thing, and that’s not always easy. In fact, self-control is difficult because the wrong thing would be easier, more fun, instantly self-gratifying, etc. And the wrong thing does not just go away; it continues to present itself as a pleasing option which must be endured and resisted.

Endurance yields godliness. It is not a self-righteousness we seek; rather, we humbly praise God for giving us the strength to endure. Our priority is to worship God, to glorify God, and to enjoy God; endurance is, as Eugene Petersen once entitled a study of the Psalms, “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.”

Godliness is not its own end, either. Godliness does not isolate us from others, it draws us to others. The example of Christ illustrates the point: Jesus did not take his holiness as a reason to distance himself from others; he thrust himself into the midst of community after community in order to express God’s love for those who were lost. Mutual affection is what believers are called to express. We do not have to be Lone Rangers, we are called to partner in Christ’s service.

Mutual affection manifests love. This is more than Hallmark sentiment – violins playing – soft lighting kind of love — this is the kind of love that goes obediently to the cross in the midst of turmoil, controversy, and even betrayal. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

All of that is true and I can trace it through and I can still get to the place where I am thinking, “Ok, yes, that’s good, that’s nice, that’s right.”

But then comes the kicker: “For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

And I thought, “Wow, there it is.” God has given me everything needed for life and godliness; am I being effective and fruitful? Are we being effective and fruitful in the congregation I serve? In our presbytery? In the denomination?

Responding to those questions will be tomorrow’s reflection. Today, I just want to sit and dwell in the questions.

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April 2, 2012 – Post Palm Sunday Reflections

We had a marvelous Palm Sunday at Chula Vista Presbyterian Church.

Two things stood out to me: the marvel of answered prayer and the marvel of God’s redemption of brokenness. Hence, yesterday was marvelous.

Answered Prayer

The answered prayer relates to an ongoing, persistent prayer of this congregation: namely, to see more involvement of young families. Yesterday’s service included the presentation of a Music and Drama Camp that we held during the local school’s Spring break. During the course of the last week, eighteen (18) children learned about 20 minutes of songs and dialogue. Without scripts or music in front of them, they sang God’s praises and shared the gospel message joyously.

What made this more marvelous than simply being cute was the visual of the melting pot of boys and girls singing God’s praises — reminding me of the promise of the heavenly worship to come. It could not have been cast more perfectly, and God did the casting. Some were church kids, some were church familiar, and some had no prior experience hearing or singing the gospel. All were engaged, having fun, and manifest joy.

I hope someone shares a picture (there were plenty taken) so that I can link or post. A picture cannot capture the whole spirit.

Redeemed Brokenness

Later in the day we had our Adoracion service, our Spanish language worship time.

This service is filled with singing and praise. My Spanish is embarrassingly limited; but I am able to understand more than I can speak. Further, I am culturally about as Anglo as you can find so I am highly attuned to what is going on around me so as to try to avoid being a distraction by unintentional faux pas.

One of the songs was a confession of sin and brokenness. I watched as the people singing experienced the profound sense of alienation from God through their rebellion and sin — tearful and humble people beseeching God for forgiveness and mercy.

As I describe it, I think it is important to note that I observed these things but they were not done as a show f0r my benefit or to impress me. Moreover, it does not happen every time in worship. There are corporate prayers of confession and times for personal confession during the liturgy — and those do not trigger highly emotional responses.

The assurance of pardon was received with relief and joy. There was a perceivable lightness to those who had gone through the process.

It caused me to think about how lightly I take confession. I do not take sin lightly, but I realized how quickly I cling to the assurance of pardon. I come into confession with the expectation of forgiveness. On the one hand, it is nice to know God calls me to confession, is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and is gracious and merciful. On the other hand, I wonder how complete is my repentance if I fail to contemplate the scope and significance of the consequences of my sin. Perhaps I was more attuned because we are approaching Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

How awesome is our God who deals with the totality of my sin.

When I ponder how God saw fit to have me serve in a border ministry,  these kinds of things reveal some of the ways I have been blessed.

Update: here are the pictures.

From the first service:


From the second:

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March 22, 2012 – Stated Clerk

Yesterday, the Presbyterian News Service posted an article about Gradye Parsons being the first unchallenged incumbent Stated Clerk since the 1983 reunion. The Stated Clerk is the chief constitutional officer of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Congratulations to Gradye.

What does it mean that this election went uncontested?

Although it is probably unfair to Gradye to ask, I am left wondering why he went unchallenged. The obvious surface answer would be: he is doing such a good job, no one felt it necessary to challenge his re-election.

If that were accurate, it would be a remarkable moment of unity in a dividing denomination.

It may be telling that God did not raise up anyone else who discerned a call to stand for election. I was not one of the five who requested an application packet from the Stated Clerk Nominating Committee. There were five who did, and none of them submitted. Why not?

I do not think Gradye’s job performance was the determinative factor.  I think it is probably more accurate to infer that no one else was willing to offer to put the time, energy, or effort into trying to right the denomination’s direction. It is not worth it. Things are in such disarray — congregations petitioning for dismissal, no uniform standards, no uniform mission, no uniform confession — the position of Stated Clerk is no longer a ministry to which anyone (other than the person currently serving) would aspire.

If I were looking for reasons to be hopeful for the ongoing existence of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), I would point to the “unanimous affirmation” as an illustration of a step forward. However, in light of the “issues and tensions across the denomination,” the lack of a challenge seems more a statement of indifference. It is a collective, “meh.” It is an indication of several things:

  • the diminished expectation that the national denomination matters,
  •  the increasing expectation that major realigning and restructuring is likely, and,
  • those involved in institutional ministry are not going to be the decision-makers they once were.

It will be interesting to see how this is feels to commissioners to the 220th General Assembly (2012). The way this will play out is described in Standing Rule H.2.a-c.:

(a) Within forty-eight hours of the convening of the assembly, the Stated Clerk Nomination Committee shall place in nomination a single nominee.

Gradye Parsons’ name will be placed in nomination at some point the Saturday the Assembly convenes or no-later-than Sunday. It will not extend beyond that point because the committees need to get started working.

(b) The Moderator shall then invite other nominations from those who have completed the nomination process. Only one speech, made by a commissioner or a member of the Stated Clerk Nomination Committee not to exceed five minutes in length, shall be made to nominate each nominee. There shall be no speech seconding any nomination. Each person nominated from the floor shall reaffirm a willingness to serve as Stated Clerk, if elected.

This will be like a congregational meeting where the floor is open, there is a declaration that no one else has completed the nomination process and, thus, there can be no other nominations. Nominations will be closed.

(c) In the event there are no other nominations, the election shall proceed immediately as follows:

(i) The nominee for Stated Clerk shall be given an opportunity to address the assembly for a time not to exceed five minutes, expressing the nominee’s views regarding the functions and work of the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly.

Gradye will have the opportunity to give a five minute speech.

(ii) The Moderator shall inquire of commissioners whether there are questions to be asked of the Stated Clerk Nomination Committee. Time allocated shall not exceed fifteen minutes. The Moderator shall inquire of commissioners whether there are questions to be asked of the nominee for Stated Clerk. The time allocated should not exceed fifteen minutes, after which the voting shall take place. 

What would you ask? What kind of answer would you expect? What difference would it make?

No disrespect meant to Gradye here, but if I were a commissioner, this process would leave me with an empty feeling. It would be like there is a hole somewhere and some important decision I was supposed to make was made elsewhere.

I am not sure this unchallenged election is good news for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

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March 21, 2012 – Psalm 136

“O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” That’s the beginning of Psalm 136 (NRSV).

The last half of that — “for his steadfast love endures forever” is repeated in this Psalm twenty-six times. Yes, it is the chorus of a call and response; but reading it out loud, I could not miss the emphasis that God’s steadfast love endures forever.

God’s love is steadfast. Rock. Solid. Actually, it is even more than rock solid. God’s love is impenetrable and unbreakable.

God’s love endures. It is not subject to erosion. It does not fade. It does not fluctuate or waver.

God’s love is forever. It exists before time, through time, and beyond time. There is nothing in all of creation that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Psalm recounts God’s steadfast love enduring forever in the midst of creation, in the affliction of his people, in the victories that have been won, and in his provision for all the earth. The chorus is repeated twenty-six times. For me, at about the twelfth, it began to sink in that the Psalmist was making a point.

Now is included in forever. God’s love is enduring even now. I can count on it as I look forward. I can see it as I look back. I can trust in it now. There is tremendous comfort in dwelling in the richness of that love. It is an encouragement of hope; that my limitations, flaws and failings do not disqualify me from God’s love.

God’s love:

  1. does call me to repentance and to seek his mercy and forgiveness,
  2. is the standard by which all is measured, and
  3. is deeper than all the depths I will ever be able to plumb.

So, today, I am remembering. I am remembering the blessing of God’s word, “O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

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March 20, 2012 – NextWave

I serve on San Diego Presbytery’s NextWave Administrative Commission. This commission has been handling congregation requests to transfer to San Diego Presbytery.

We had a meeting this morning. We spent a great deal of time talking about leadership; and reflecting how the current structure of our denomination not only does not — but cannot — develop leaders who will be able to guide adaptation into a healthy, growing community of faith.

Our structures are designed to preserve the status quo. They function to squelch initiative. We talked about how innovation and experimentation in congregations are thwarted by the emphasis on committees. We talked about how the culture many people experience in their own congregation plays out at presbytery; the regular turnover of people assigned with the responsibility of administering institutional forms of ministry — many of whom who dread the thought of more meetings. We talked about how the General Assembly is ill equipped and ill designed to produce a meaningful community of congregations acting in concert to spread the gospel.

Now, it is easy to throw stones. We also talked about how much work it has been to engage our own presbytery in conversations relevant to our missional life together. We have all participated in conversations that begin, “The presbytery ought to…” without recognizing that weare the presbytery. The presbytery is not someone else, somewhere else, doing something else for us.

The upshot of this conversation today was that we will be asking the presbytery for this administrative commission or its successor to have authority to function as a culture-creator; that is, we would like to facilitate the conversation and relationships going forward. The goal is to be intentional about presenting the presbytery with options we (not it) need to engage in order to pursue the call to be ambassadors for Christ where God has sent us to serve. We have the sense that there is an unstated mandate to fulfill this role based upon a recent pre-presbytery meeting where our work was discussed.

Exercising leadership involves helping people move through a time of change, to address a challenge at hand. It often involves getting them to let go of things they hold dear — habits, patterns, loyalties, and part of their identity. The unspoken hurdle of leadership is addressing and managing loss. It is why “new” things seem so much easier; there are fewer things that need letting go.

The goal for this new time is to build and deepen the connections that already exist here in San Diego Presbytery. We have taken a number of steps over the last years in order to move in this direction: declaring our Essential Tenets and Reformed Distinctives, as kind of an identity creating piece; and, acting to change from a governing body to a mission sending agency in which we understand Jesus’ charge to “be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” This is still a change in progress, but that is the change upon which we are looking to build.

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Reflections of the Day – March 19, 2012

“I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”

I came across this in 3 John this morning. It stopped me because I realized just how true it is. It is something I cannot take for granted. It is humbling and awesome.

To hear that my children are walking in the truth is an affirmation that prayers have been answered. First, they know the truth. More than an intellectual understanding, they have a personal relationship with the LORD. As much as I love them, I rejoice they know the love of the Jesus. Second, all my flaws, all my errors, all my stubborn pride have not been a distraction or a stumbling block for them — or, at least, not a determinative stumbling block.

It also raises for me the awareness of how difficult is the walk. The challenges I face, they face. The world in which they live discourages their walking in the truth. They face the temptation to buy into the empty promises of security in wealth, in fitting in, and self-fulfillment. Putting their trust in God — loving God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength; and loving their neighbor as themselves — has given them a peace that I admire.

They are not perfect. They have flaws and errors, too. They have episodes of pride. Yet, with the confidence of those who are forgiven and are made righteous by the blood of Jesus shed for them, they know joy. Their joy in Jesus Christ is my great joy.

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Following up on the “change in plans” note. I don’t know if anyone will still be reading here, but it seemed like the right thing to post an epilogue to the GA series — particularly how I left it.

Today was surgery for my wife, Jennifer. According to the surgeons, everything went as expected and without complications. The sentinel lymph node was negative. We will wait for pathology on the remaining nodes that were removed; that will be the indication for what course of treatment she follows from here out. She does not feel particularly good tonight, but all the news was very good. Her prognosis is exceptional.

I am relieved. And thankful. And tired.

This is one of those days I am grateful for being a Presbyterian. At 5:30 this morning as we were checking into the hospital, I was greeted by Tom Theriault, an associate pastor at Solana Beach Presbyterian. He was actually there to visit a member of that congregation and happened upon me, but it was incredibly encouraging to be ministered to by a brother in Christ at that moment. Throughout the day, I received e-mail, notes and texts of prayers and blessing from all over the country. I cannot begin to express my thanks for the love, care and support we have received. Please know that we cherish this experience of being the recipients of grace.

I am resisting the temptation to try to have this experience “put the GA in proper perspective.” To do so would be unfair to both experiences; the only commonality is that God meets us in the midst.

So, on behalf of my family: thank you all. May God grant us eyes to see every day the blessings he has given us in each other.

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Change in plans

One of the realities of General Assemblies is that they never unfold like you expect. There is always a change in plans.

For me, the change comes before the Assembly itself.

I will not be coming to Minneapolis for the 219th General Assembly.

There is bad news and then good. Two weeks ago, we received a call that a biopsy done on my wife during ultrasound — following up on an annual mammogram — revealed “infiltrating ductal carcinoma.” That’s breast cancer. That’s the bad news. We have spent most of the last two weeks going back and forth from medical appointments; back and forth about whether I would be able to come to Minneapolis. We did not have any solid answers until today (Thursday) when all the test results came back. Now we do.

The good news is that it looks like it was caught early. (Let me use this opportunity to highlight the importance of regular screening — she has been getting mammograms since age 35. It was spotted as a change to prior films.) Today we were informed that the cancer appears to be of the slow growing variety. There was a second site discovered during testing that was not cancer, but was a radial scar susceptible to becoming cancerous. We have a surgery date for July 20 and another several medical appointments during the weeks between. We held out hope until today that I would still be able to come, but the scope of the illness combined with the additional appointments made it impossible. Please know how much I wanted to be with you all, but it really was not a close call.

So, may God bless your work. Know you will be in my prayers. I thank you for all of yours. We are surrounded here by friends and a church family who are very supportive and encouraging.

Your brother in Christ,

Bob Davis

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Assembly Committee #19: Health Issues

Last, but not least, is the committee to which I have been assigned: Assembly Committee #19, Health Issues.

There are six – SIX! – items for our consideration. I’m not really sure how we’re going to have time to handle it all. Let’s take a look:

19-01 – On Designating May 1 Every Year as a Day of Prayer for Healing.

Hmmm… prepare for an extended debate on whether May 1 is the optimum time to pray for healing.

19-02 – On Encouraging all Presbyterians to Know Their HIV Status.

OK,  I did not see this one coming. ACSWP is recommending disapproval.

While testing of any person who falls in an at-risk category is warranted, the demographics of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) officers do not represent the demographic at behavioral risk of infection, and thus universal testing of church officers is not warranted and would not represent good stewardship of medical resources.

ACSWP is concerned about stewardship?! Pot, meet kettle.

19-03 – On Making a Statement Regarding Violence Against Pregnant Women.

I am not really sure how this qualifies as a “health issue” per se (as opposed to social justice?); however, there it is.

ACSWP is weighing in against this one, too. (Committee 17 listening, anyone?) They have recommended complete elimination of the language of the overture and have provided their own substitute affirming “women’s moral right and moral capacity to responsibly determine their reproductive lives.”

I find it really disheartening to see a denominational entity — exemplified here by ACSWP — so completely distrusts the people of the church that it cannot abide with language condemning violence against pregnant women. It is no wonder the denomination’s budget is plummeting; who wants to be treated this way?  ACSWP is to Boise Presbytery as Kanye West is to Taylor Swift.

19-04 – The Presbytery of Prospect Hill overtures the 219th General Assembly (2010) of the PC(USA) to declare that we stand with all women against the injustice of any forced or coerced abortions. (That’s the whole thing.)

Simple enough, right?

ACSWP – “Answer with our response to 19-03.” Apparently, the people of Prospect Hill Presbytery are so naive and so out of touch and so irresponsible that they need ACSWP to nuance a straight-forward declaration against injustice, forced or coerced abortions. We can’t just be against injustice. (And the Advocacy Committee on Women’s Concerns agrees with ACSWP.)

19-05 – Becoming an HIV and AIDS Competent Church: Prophetic Witness and Compassionate Action.

From where? ACSWP.

That couldn’t be the same ACSWP that opposed encouraging all Presbyterians to know their HIV status, could it? Why, yes, it is.

This action item is seeking money. ACSWP wants $10,000 to develop

(1) denominational standards defining the marks of HIV and AIDS competent congregations and ministries, in accordance with PC(USA) policies and in collaboration with ecumenical partners in HIV and AIDS ministries; and

(2) a study guide that provides pastors, church educators, elders, deacons, mission workers, youth and young adults, and lay persons with practical examples of how to discuss and thoughtfully examine, with cultural proficiency and sensitivity, HIV and AIDS issues, including the role of social structures examined in this report, as well as the role of responsible sexual behaviors, through Bible studies, worship, liturgy, preaching, pastoral care, and social justice advocacy.

They also want $163,374 in 2011, $8,235 in 2012 (and, no, that’s not a typo), for the

Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) to critically assess the profit margins of drug companies that develop drugs for treating HIV and AIDS and include in its report to the General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC) a recommendation on appropriate percent margins the church may want to consider when investing its resources with companies that profit from drugs designed to treat HIV and AIDS.

In other words, ACSWP wants the GA to approve new spending of more than $170,000 of  mission money of the Presbyterian Church for MRTI to critically assess profit margins of drug companies? Remember: ACSWP is all about stewardship. From the rationale:

Our foundational values compel us to make the HIV and AIDS pandemic one of our highest priorities as a denomination. In our recommendations, not only do we lift up and ask to continue the excellent work that has been carried out in our existing PC(USA) social witness policy, but we prophetically also extend it to take much more seriously the social, institutional, and economic factors that come more fully under the ethical scrutiny of the gospel. This includes more rigorously pursuing the underlying issues of poverty. We must continue to advocate that discrimination on the bases of gender, race, class, and/or sexual orientation be highlighted as antithetical to the gospel witness and that programs that challenge these discriminatory forces be well-funded, especially in the context of HIV and AIDS education. We cannot ignore the structural problems that exacerbate HIV and AIDS among the underreported and those who are incarcerated. It means evaluating drug company profits as they affect access to treatment for persons living with HIV and AIDS.

That must be a new paraphrase of Matthew 28.

Item 19-06 - On Full Access to HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment Services in U.S. Correctional Facilities.

At this point, why not? It has a $36,000 price tag. It asks for a letter to the President, a letter to the governors of all the states, and some money for the Washington Office to hold a conference.

That’s it. I’m done. That’s the last of the committees. I hope this has been helpful.

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Assembly Committee #18: Board of Pensions, Foundation, Presbyterian Publishing

There is really only one hot issue in Assembly Committee #18: two overtures (Items 18-01 and 18-06) to have the Board of Pensions extend benefits to same-gender “spouses” and domestic partners. There is one item that has interest probably only to me: Item 18-09 regarding the Restricted Funds Resolution Committee.

Extending Benefits

First, the hot issue. It is important to remember: simply because a presbytery (or two) overtures to have the General Assembly do something, it is not bound to do it if it would disrupt the peace, unity and purity of the church. Extending Board of Pension benefits to same-gender “spouses” and domestic partners would disrupt the peace, disrupt the unity, and disrupt the purity of the church.

It would disrupt the peace because it would require every congregation in the denomination to participate — without relief of conscience — in financially underwriting behavior contrary to Scripture. There are no provisions for congregations and/or presbyteries to opt out. This is different than even abortion, which does have a relief of conscience opportunity.

It would disrupt the unity because it would hasten the “devolution” described by the Stated Clerk. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is declining precisely because it does not have integrity to the very process it claims to uphold. As noted in the Board of Pension comment, G-6.0106b is the constitutional standard for officers of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

With this constitutional mandate in mind, and absent contradictory direction from the General Assembly, the Board would exclude all ministers of the Word and Sacrament from eligibility to enroll a same-gender spouse or same-gender domestic partner.

Three quick notes about that BoP comment:

  1. I would suggest that the Board of Pensions does not even state it strongly enough: the General Assembly does not have the unilateral authority to vacate a mandate of the Constitution. The “contradictory direction” would have to come as the result of a constitutional amendment approved by an affirmative vote of a majority of the presbyteries.
  2. Even assuming, arguendo, the General Assembly could direct BoP to the contrary, extending such benefits would open the door to disciplinary action against every officer who applied for benefits. It would be Exhibit A that the officer was engaging in prohibited behavior and, if unwilling to cease, be cause for he governing body to determine that the officer had renounced the jurisdiction of the church.
  3. Even assuming further, arguendo, that the General Assembly could direct BoP to the contrary AND assuming that it would not be evidence for disciplinary cases, the BoP request for a 1% increase to cover the costs would be low because it did not anticipate including the individuals who would be considered eligible under the officers’ policies. Thus, it would be MORE than 1% additional.

Approving this overture would disrupt the purity of the church. The church is not the world. The church has standards set by God, revealed in Scripture, with guidance provided in the Book of Confessions, framed out for application in our context in the Book of Order. Has the potter no right over the clay? Who indeed are we, human beings, to argue with God? How can we argue that our desire for insurance trumps the moral imperatives of God’s sovereignty revealed in Scripture?

Approving this overture would be a bad idea for so many reasons.

  • It would financially underwrite behavior contrary to Scripture.
  • It would financially underwrite behavior contrary to the Book of Confessions.
  • It would financially underwrite behavior contrary to the standards set in the Book of Order.
  • It is contrary to the conscience of a majority of Presbyterians who have consistently upheld the Biblical view that homosexual behavior is contrary to God’s purpose and design for humankind.
  • It makes it at least 1% more difficult for small churches to be able to afford a pastor. Given that we have so many congregations without pastoral leadership, doesn’t it make more sense to try to alleviate the financial burden rather than add to it?)
  • It fails to provide any kind of valid definition or limits, requiring BoP to come up with something or be subject to unlimited liability. (Seriously, does a napkin agreement after a week count as a “covenant long-term relationship”? Right now, it does.)

The Board of Pensions has proposed a substitute motion that is intended to provide more precise language, but it is careful to note that their proposal is NOT an endorsement of the idea.

Frankly, this is one of the “actions of the 219th General Assembly” that would make middle governing bodies request the COGA commission authorize a split.

Restricted Funds Resolution Committee

In contrast to the hot button issue, it gives me great pleasure to note that the Restricted Funds Resolution Committee is a non-issue. Because it is interesting to no one but me is an indication that it was a success.

As a commissioner to the 218th General Assembly, I was assigned to Mission Coordination and Budgets. There was tension between two of the General Assembly entities: specifically, the General Assembly Mission Council and the Foundation. The RFRC was a mechanism designed by commissioners on the fly to allow room and space for the disagreements to be resolved. Without having to resort to using this tool, its existence has facilitated better communication and an environment of trust.

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