Issue Number 14
Western New York
Why are these meetings critical?We must make a unified witness. The Presbyterian Promise annual meeting is the only opportunity to pray, think and plan before presbytery meets. Our denomination's policy continues to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. With two (or more) options before us, the progressive witness could easily be lost in internal debate. We need your faithful wisdom at both meetings.
There are good arguments for both Western New York and Baltimore. The texts follow in this newsletter.
Baltimore would simply delete 'b'. That's a clear statement of justice and affirmation. But as the Theological Task Force has not reported, there is little reason to expect GA to approve it or even seriously consider it.
Western New York revises 'b' to permit ordination of people in "committed relationships." In so doing it challenges us to think more clearly. Will churches call and install LGBT pastors in unclarified relationships? Would the removal of 'b' just reveal a de facto discrimination of practice?
About our meetingWe will:
Please join us.
The session of Third Presbyterian Church, Rochester
NY has unanimously moved to request that the Presbytery of Genesee Valley
concur with 04-1. Genesee Valley should debate and vote at their
Overture 04-1. On Amending G-6.0106b Regarding Gifts and Requirements for Officers—From the Presbytery of Western New York.
The Presbytery of Western New York respectfully overtures the 216th General Assembly (2004) to direct the Stated Clerk to send the following proposed amendment to the Book of Order, Section G-6.0106(b), to the presbyteries for their affirmative or negative votes:
Shall G-6.0106(b) be amended as follows: [Text to be deleted is shown with a strike-through; text to be added or inserted is shown as italic.]
“b. Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life
in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional
standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to live
either in fidelity within
Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, preached a gospel of love toward all the people of the earth (John 3:16); and therefore all people should be equally welcomed in the church, remembering that it is in the spirit of Christ to reach out most of all to those who have been persecuted and shunned by society.
We acknowledge that passages of Scripture have led to the condemnation of sexual intimacy between two people of the same sex; yet after long and intense discussion, prayer, and study of the Scriptures as a whole, we do not believe it was, or is now, Christ’s own desire to condemn sexual intimacy between people of the same sex as inherently bad. Sexual intimacy is a gift of God intended for sealing the most committed relationships that one person can have with another.
Our Lord’s gospel of love was also accompanied by high standards of self-discipline that he set for his followers, even that we should love our enemies.
In accord with our Lord’s teachings, we believe all people should be guided by the same principles of sexual behavior regardless of sexual orientation, summarized as chastity in singleness and fidelity in a covenanted relationship before God with one other person where a lifetime commitment is intended.
We also acknowledge that there continue to be strong differences of opinion among our members and churches over these matters, and that contrary opinions may be held in good faith with the backing of historical precedent; yet we believe Christ wants us to move forward here.
An Overture From The Presbytery of Baltimore
The Presbytery of Baltimore overtures the 216th
General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to:
The peace, unity, and purity of the PC (USA) has been ruptured by the presence of G-6.0106b in our Book of Order. Rather than solving the issue of ordination standards, this addition has created a hostile and divisive environment in our Church that is contrary to God's reconciling love. Numerous judicial cases have been brought to governing bodies over issues of ordination from individuals who are unaware of the calls and gifts of ministry of those against whom they file complaints. These judicial actions have cost individuals, congregations, and governing bodies untold time and money to defend those who have been accused. There is no longer any possibility of honest and open dialogue on this issue without fear of retribution. Section G-6.0106b does serious harm to our church by forcing the appearance of consensus and depriving the church of the benefit of discussion.
The wisdom expressed in G-60106a is sufficient in setting standards for ordination. The strength of the PC (USA) lies in its ability to hold freedom of conscience and church order in tension, and its trust of the governing body closest to those it ordains (G-6.0108b). Sessions and presbyteries have the responsibility to weigh the confessions, to determine which segments reflect essential tenets of the faith, and to judge the gifts and qualifications of those candidates who come before them.
The effects of G-6.0106b are contrary to our Constitutional call to "seek the grace of openness in extending the fellowship of Christ to all persons" (G-5.0103). Instead it has the explicit and implicit effect of targeting one category of people, defined as "self-affirming, practicing homosexual persons", and of denying to them the full rights and privileges of active membership within the PC(USA) (G-5.0202). Through this constitutional ban, G-6.0106b disregards the fact that a pluralism of methods of biblical and theological interpretation currently exists within the PC(USA) concerning homosexuality. Among these methods is the strongly held belief among many conscientious Presbyterians that homosexual practice is not a sin per se and that both heterosexual and homosexual relationships are capable of being either faithful and life-affirming or sinful and destructive. G-6.0106b, and its predecessor "definitive guidance" and subsequent affirmations, delineates human sexuality in categories more narrowly defined than the scriptures seek to claim. For example, while Christians disagree on the interpretation of the limited biblical references to homosexuality, most acknowledge that the Bible is silent on the issue of life long faithful homosexual partnerships. In contrast, the Bible is clear in its themes of covenant: the covenant between God and humanity, and the human covenants made before God. Removal of G-6.0106b from our Constitution would allow presbyteries and sessions to follow their understanding of the Holy Spirit's leading in making decisions about candidates for ordination/installation by the application of a common ethic of faithfulness and fidelity within human covenantal relationships. This return to a mutual trust in each ordaining/installing presbytery's or session's ability to make individual judgments concerning the fitness of a candidate for ordination/installation would restore to the presbyteries and sessions their traditional duty and prerogative to approve, ordain, and install persons whom, after due examination, they deem gifted, worthy, and called by God through the voice of the people.
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