Wednesday, July 4, 2012

General Assembly (2012) #8

Ordination Standards

The Committee on Church Order, which included Presbytery of Carlisle commissioner Scott Penner, responded to a whole list of overtures concerning ordination standards by approving this statement. If approved by the whole General Assembly it is recommended that this statement be shared and considered by each Presbytery, but this is not a constitutional issue. This is not a change in the Book of Order. I believe this is a helpful action. I perceive this statement to have the tone of a pastoral letter, not a legislative decree. I hope this statement, if approved, may support and encourage our conversation around this difficult question of our ordination standards:

“•            Jesus taught that our highest ethical obligation is to ‘… love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself’ (Lk. 10:27); and this is how ‘everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’ (Jn. 13:35);
“•            having experienced Christ’s gracious love for us while we are yet sinners, we are called to ‘welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God’ (Rom. 15:7);
“•            we affirm the solemn commitments expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination, installation, and commissioning, including that we intend to fulfill our ministries ‘in obedience to Jesus Christ, under the authority of Scripture, and … continually guided by our confessions’; that that we will be friends among our colleagues in ministry; that we ‘seek to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, love [our] neighbors, and work for the reconciliation of the world’ (Book of Order, W-4.4003);
“•            ‘… we hold that interpretation of the Scripture to be orthodox and genuine which is gleaned from the Scriptures themselves (from the nature of the language in which they were written, likewise according to the circumstances in which they were set down, and expounded in the light of like and unlike passages and of many and clearer passages) and which agree with the rule of faith and love, and contributes much to the glory of God and man’s salvation’ (The Book of Confessions, Second Helvetic Confession, 5.010);
“•            the larger Catechism lifts up the duty of holding ‘… a charitable esteem of our neighbors,’ and forbids the sin of ‘… misconstruing intentions, words, and actions’ (The Book of Confessions, 7.254–.255).”
The 220th General Assembly (2012) acknowledges that faithful Presbyterians earnestly seeking to follow Jesus Christ hold different views about what the Scriptures teach concerning the morality of committed, same-gender relationships.
Therefore, while holding persons in ordered ministry to high standards of covenant fidelity in the exercise of their sexuality, as in all aspects of life, we decline to take an action that would have the effect of imposing on the whole Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) one interpretation of Scripture in this matter. We commit ourselves to continue respectful dialogue with those who hold differing convictions, to welcome one another for God’s glory, and not to vilify those whose convictions we believe to be in error. We call on all Presbyterians to join us in this commitment.

General Assembly (2012) #7

Rev. Juan Rodas: Ecumenical Representative from Honduras

                I am proud that our Presbytery in cooperation with our office of World Mission sponsored the participation of Rev. Juan Rodas with our General Assembly. Juan is the pastor of the Pena de Horeb Presbyterian Church in Tegucigalpa and a leader in the Presbyterian Church of Honduras. Our Presbytery has worked close with his congregation in our mission work in Tegucigalpa. Their congregation’s mission committee has organized the new home construction projects which we have been supporting. We have now contributed to the construction of six new homes for Presbyterian families from Juan’s congregation.  Juan is having a wonderful experience here this week. The ecumenical representatives from around the world have formed their own little community while here together.

                Juan is eager and excited that he has been invited to bring ecumenical greetings to the General Assembly when we convene in plenary session this evening at 7:00.

                Juan will be coming to the Presbytery of Carlisle after the General Assembly. He will be in worship with our Mechanicsburg Presbyterian Church this Sunday, July 8. Our mission committee is hosting a luncheon with Juan at noon on Monday, July 9 at our Presbytery office. 

General Assembly (2012) #6

The Church with broken wings.

“Rise up, church, with broken wings,
Fill this place with songs again
of our God who reigns on high;
by God’s grace again we’ll fly.
Shout to the north and the south;
Sing to the east and the west.
Jesus is Savior to all;
Lord of heaven and earth.”

            This verse is from a new praise song which will be included in “Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal.” I attended the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation breakfast today where their new hymnal was introduced, along with many of the other new books published this year. As part of our breakfast meeting, the special committee for the new hymnal led us in singing several of the new additions to the hymnal. The verse here is from “Men of Faith, Rise Up and Sing” which is a praise and worship song from Delirious?, an English Christian rock and worship band. The catchy, upbeat tune of this song and the image of the ‘church with broken wings’ spoke to me. Yes, maybe we are church with broken wings. It seems that our days of soaring high with vision and energy are past. Now, too much, contention and conflict, mistrust and a lack of collegiality burden us. Especially here at the General Assembly, we seem to bring out all our ‘issues’ again, replaying, rehashing and seeking a way forward. Often it feels like we are a ‘church with broken wings’. But this is not the message of this wonderful, new worship song. And this is not the truth that sings in my heart. I believe and I pray that “by God’s grace again we’ll fly.”

            I encourage you to check out our new hymnal at The full text and music for “Men of Faith, Rise Up and Sing” is available there along with other new samples. Information about pre-ordering is also now available. 

General Assembly (2012) #5

Gradye Parsons reelected as Stated Clerk

                In a remarkable expression of unity, the General Assembly reelected Grady Parsons to a second, four year term. Gradye ran unopposed, and was elected unanimously by a voice vote.  Gradye is known for often referencing the Bible story of Jesus and the disciples in the storm as a parable for the church today: “We are in the boat. There will be storms. We will not die.”