Tuesday, February 26

RIP Larry Norman

Larry is one of those who was never afraid to call us to truth. Before there was emergent there was Larry. Take heart Presbys there are those who hold to One Way.

He was in chapel at Fuller Seminary and lambasted us for not being out in the streets talking to the world about Jesus instead of sitting in class. I remember feeling somewhat embarrassed for him and defensive for those us paying good money for our education. The truth was that he was probably much more right than I gave him credit for.

Loved his life, Loved his witness and Loved his music.


ER and Truth

If you haven't seen this video yet you've missed out. Take a look and ask what you hear, preach, think or believe.


Wednesday, February 13

Pastor Straton's Story

Saw this video at Sunset and hadn't found it till now. It's moving, telling and very, very true for us too. Take six and a half minutes and watch something that will change your life.


World Vision Aids Experience

Our little congregation is going to be fielding a number of volunteers to help Sunset Presbyterian Church host the World Vision Experience Aids this coming April. There are other areas where this will be hosted as well so check it out and attend one of these.

In the meantime check out this video:

Monday, February 11

Meth and Fox News

It's pretty much the same old news at 10:00 tonight. Vandalism, trials and a "breaking news" story. Along with "Fox's Most Wanted" we have our "Meth Watch" segment as I'm sure others do. My number 1 son put it all in perspective however when he said, "It's pretty sad when your news has it's own meth watch logo."

Couldn't have said it better my self kid.


Sunday, February 10


Nothing profound. Just wanted to thank Presbyterian Gal for the cat. It's cute. If only I knew enough to turn it into a calico I could have Callie* on my blog.


*when she's in one of her moods it's spelled KALI.

Saturday, February 9

The Trinity

The issue of the Trinity Paper is, as Charles Wiley says, "a sad irony". He admits the committee could have clearly shown the language used was part of "an ancient and medieval way of talking about God as Trinity". Yet that might be difficult since of the 12 statements of trinitarian formulas in lines 394-247 only two of them are referenced as being from "an ancient and medieval" period of time.

In fact, other than the references to John of Damascus and Augustine the only other references are to the Book of Common Worship and a 2004 work by Gail Ramshaw. Bible references are given but no other sources for trinitarian statements like, Compassionate Mother, God is Giver, Gift, and Giving; or Fire that Consumes, Sword that Divides, and Storm that Melts Mountains

I am afraid that many people who watch this video will never read the Trinity paper. That is a shame because I believe this video could have done more good addressing the concern about distinction between the revealed name of God and His actions. Although, Charles Wiley explains that these statements "Are to be understood as, are ways to enhance and deepen our understanding of the Trinity" this purpose doesn't seem to be found in the Trinity paper itself.

Instead the reports says, "The Trinity: God’s Love Overflowing” does not present an exhaustive or new doctrine of the Trinity. It aims to assist the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in reclaiming the doctrine of the Trinity in theology, worship, and life. Often the church takes up a theological issue only when there is great controversy—a time when a lack of consensus on an issue embroils the church in an intractable debate. The doctrine of the Trinity is a pressing issue for contemporary Presbyterians for precisely the opposite reason. Despite the remarkable renewal of Trinitarian theology in recent decades, this doctrine is widely neglected or poorly understood in many of our congregations. The task force is convinced that the doctrine of the Trinity is crucial to our faith, worship and service." emphasis mine [Lines 65-72]

This video, in fact the entire paper, could have been used to help counter the neglect and poor understanding. IMHO, as it stands this video, along with the received paper seems to have merely added to the ongoing debates in the PC(USA).


Monday, February 4

Essential Tenents

Continuing to comment on the video that has come from the powers-that-be* we move to a very short segment on Essential Tenets. If you scroll down the above link you can view just this portion. I've included the transcript of what is said below my comments. Please watch the video.

I feel like the whole question of essential tenets was swept under the carpet in this segment. What's worse it is at the very root of the current situation and crisis within the denomination. Watch the video because I believe some of the body language and vocalizations say a lot more than just the words.

It felt to me as if it were a throw away question. It was asked so when questioned by others the pob's (see * above) can say, "we dealt with that in a video segment already." I believe the force of this segment is to make essential tenets seem not all that important for leaders in the PC(USA).

  • Joe Small downplays the importance of the ordination question which asks: Do you sincerely receive and adopt the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as expressed in the confessions of our church as authentic and reliable expositions of what Scripture leads us to believe and do, and will you be instructed and led by those confessions as you lead the people of God (W-4.004d).
  • Contrary to Small's statement, ordinands (deacons, elders and ministers) are asked two questions, not several, about the confessions. In the above question our "essential tenets" are linked to and flow from our confessions. What our flavor of Christendom believes isn't rooted in Papal authority or one preacher's interpretation of the Bible. It has been adopted and refined over the course of the centuries and has proved to be Biblical and instructive for our faith and actions.
  • Small's dismissal of the language as coming from the 18th century seems to me disingenuous at best. I am sure he doesn't think that if it's old it should be ignored. If true then perhaps we should ignore our Constitution or the maybe even scripture itself. It is a historical
  • Essential tenets are about "Who God is? But if there we don't make a distinction between Islam's Allah and Starwars Force it seems we have a problem. If there is no clear starting point on our nature (are we naturally good or totally depraved) then how can our theology speak to the human condition. It is interesting that there has been little if any discussion about Jesus up to this point in the video. My LDS background seems to think that quite a few Bishops I know could agree so far with what's been said.
  • The "bullet list" which is dismiss, as "not being very helpful" is the sort of thing that establishes boundaries. It is the sort of thing that makes apparent the differences between the PC(USA) and the Latter Day Saints, People's Temple and Islam. I contend that the reason for not having a "bullet list" does not have it's roots in the 1920's but in the 1960's when everyone was encouraged to "do their own thing." I believe we've sowed the wind and we're reaping the whirlwind at this point in our denomination's life. I am worried that we're more concerned about upsetting this or that group, consistency, supporter, or the like than we are about upsetting God.
  • In the last section Small seems to use the Trinity as an example of why a bullet list isn't helpful. The implication I get is anyone can say they believe in the Trinity but what does Trinity really mean? I understand his emphasis on conversations between ordinand and the ordaining body. But the issue isn't just about key beliefs at the time of ordination. It's about a continuation in those beliefs after they've served on Session for the sixth time or served a congregation as pastor for 20 years.

IMHO it seems obvious from recent actions in Presbyteries around our nation, that there is a flawed understanding of what are and are not essentials. That would be a very egotistical judgment if it came from just me. It is the Larger Church; the Body of Christ around the world, our sisters and brothers in India, Africa, Latin and South America who continues to disagree with our pronouncements. It is they who call ours and other denominations to repentance and distances themselves from us and others until we do so.


Essential Tenets:

One of the questions people have asked a great deal about is the core of what we believe. Sometimes they phrase it in terms of essential tenets. What is really at the essence of what we believe, I take it that's what they're asking.

Joe Small:

The language of essential tenets comes to us from one our ordination questions. In several of the questions we are asked to indicate our willingness to be led and instructed and guided by the confessions of the church. And at one point we're asked if we can sincerely receive and adopt the essential tenets of the Reformed Faith.

This is language that comes to us from the 18th century. And what is expressed in that, essentially tenets of the Reformed faith, is trying to indicate the core beliefs --what we believe about who God is, who we are and how we are to live in the world. To come up with a list of essential tenets; bullet point list of essential tenets seems to me to be not very helpful.

We can say that the trinity is an essential tenet. But the real question is what do we believe about the trinity. And that's best determined in conversations between those who are candidates for ordination to elder, deacon or minister of the Word and sacrament and the ordaining body whether a Presbytery or Session.

Friday, February 1

What is a denomination?

With movement happening in Peace River and Cascades Presbytery I thought it might be a good time to go through what we're hearing from Louisville. This is the first in a series of responses to the recently released video.

With more than a few congregations looking at withdrawing and headed another direction I found it sort of interesting that this apologetic started around the question of, "What is a denomination anyway?"

The reason for this starting place is to place what follows within the context of history and to show the rich, varied and unified past that we share as Presbyterians. Joe Small, Director Theology, Worship and Education, talk of the denomination as "give us by our mothers and fathers" and of being "bequeathed to us." He speaks of faith worship and mission as "shared" but not "identical" then explains sharing actually means "broadly shared convictions". He totally ignored the fact that our current denomination was formed in 1983 and that even then there was an escape clause for those from the Southern branch to leave the "family".

Here's my question, just when do "broadly shared convictions" become too thin to be convictions at all? When do convictions merely become ideas, thoughts, theories and nice stories?

  • Is visiting with a terrorist government or calling our troops in Iraq war criminals part of this richness of our shared convictions or an insult to those serving in our military and believe Israel has a right to exist? [This from one who is NOT in the Israel is always right camp].
  • Is ignoring or downplaying our constitutional ban on same-sex weddings part of these "broadly shared convictions" or a denial of ordination vows?
  • Is word play, Ms. Morrison told a San Francisco Examiner reporter, "It says 'chastity,' not 'celibacy'" central to our "broadly held convictions" or simply a step away from orthodox practice?

Charles Wiley, Coordinator Office of Theology and Worship, couches his answer in terms of Baptism and the Apostles Creed. Whereas Small's answers promotes the "common-ground" theme or "sound-bite theology" Wiley's wants to root to the wonderful past seen in our creedal standards.

One complaint since PUP is that we no longer are a confessional church since the declaration of a Session or Presbytery and set aside those items which are essential.

Give him his do, Wiley rightly says, "The Apostle's Creed expresses the church's faith throughout the centuries and is there for a guide to the church's common faith." Unfortunately he seems to think every pastor and member who reads, recites or responds with the Apostle's Creed actually believe it and have a uniform understanding of what it means. Think about how the LDS church and Christians use the same language and mean totally different things.

Joe Small says the confessions are, "Not a doctrinal rulebook". They are a "conversation that's carried on between us and those who lived and died the faith before us". Immediately following this he says, "So that, in the BOC [Book of Confessions] we give full expression to what we confess in the Apostles Creed, the communion of saints."

Now does his statement mean the Apostles Creed in preeminent in our Book of Confessions or that only in the area of the communion of saints it's preeminent? The last conversation in this part of the video has Wiley back pedaling from the "theological work" done by groups under the supervision of GA and Presbyteries and the "theological policy of the church". He says, "The church has only one theological policy and that is the BOC [Book of Confessions]. A book that is subordinate to the Scriptures yet is the constitutional embodiment of our theological standards."

I wish that were the case but it's not. Whether Small or Wiley want to admit it or not the PUP report, a theology that promotes and encourages beliefs and actions in violation of our confessions is a much stronger witness to the real "theological policy" of the PCUSA than any spin the powers-that-be can put on it.