Presbyterian Promise News

  1 September 2010 -- via email. [We are always happy to share news and corrections or clarifications.]
To Whom It May Concern:

The following excerpt from the Presbyterian Promise News Link for 1 May 2010 came to my attention yesterday:

"COM co-chair Webster also prepared the report presented to the Presbytery.  His co-chair pointed out that the committee had not approved the report, and that it did not reflect the thinking of all members of the committee."
I'm afraid some may infer from this wording that I had negatively implied John Webster had somehow acted inappropriately, which was not my intent at all.  John labored long and hard to present a fair, balanced, thorough yet concise report, which was no small feat.  He had sent me a copy for review a week or so in advance of the May 1 meeting, which I had indeed reviewed and approved.  John prepared this report with his characteristic thoroughness and above-board integrity.  However, in preparation for Presbytery (amidst a too-full week at my church) I subsequently read and re-read the report, and realized late Friday I should have addressed with John the second half of one sentence of the report ... this is what I took the floor to address during the meeting.

I honestly can't remember my exact wording on the floor, but I do remember I read aloud the full sentence in question: "No one, regardless of how they voted, seemed totally comfortable with their vote because they could see the strengths of the other options."  I then clarified I agreed with my colleague that no one seemed totally comfortable, but not for the reason stated.   I explained I was uncomfortable (both as an individual and as co-chair)  because COM was discussing potentially breaking faith with the denomination by recommending what amounted to a disregard of our constitution, and that I believed in our final recommendation as a committee we were, in fact, choosing to be functionally illiterate, claiming inability to understand the plain meaning of rather simple words. 

Thank you for your kind attention to this matter.


Stephen L. Clark
Co-Chair, Committee on Ministry
Presbytery of Southern New England

27 August 2010 -- The 27th issue of Presbyterian Promise News is mailed! This issue is devoted to the before during and after of the PC USA general Assembly.

1 May 2010 -- Stamford, CT. The Presbytery of Southern New England today voted 81 to 23 to continue its validation of the Rev. John Merz's ministry as Executive Director of the Connecticut AIDS Resource Coalition. The issue arose because Merz's same gender marriage, legal under Connecticut law, was seen as possibly being in violation of Presbyterian polity. The Presbytery's action may be the first to address this issue. Read more, including some background documents, here>

12 March 2010 -- New Haven, CT.
Presbyterian Promise's website moved to a new location today. It's now As an added benefit, the hosting site uses wind power to run its servers.

Our old site will no longer be available by the end of this month.

6 March 2010  -- New Haven, CT.
Presbyterian Promise's board met today. Dan Bender was welcomed to the board. Dick Hasbany and Lois Maxwell were elected as co-moderators. Anne Fuhrmeister and Jane Hindenlang were continued as secretary and treasurer, respectively. Discussion included plans for participation in the CT PRIDE and RI PRIDE events this June and support for the Inquirers and Candidates retreat.

31 January 2010 -- Waterford, CT.
Presbyterian Promise's ninth annual meeting took place at the Crossroads Church here today. Beginning with worship led by Rev. Anne Fuhrmeister, the meeting continued with brief reports and the election of board members. A panel discussion followed that on the topic: At A Crossroads? Presbyterian Promise at 10, PSNE at 33, and the state of the struggle in personal, collegial and prophetic terms. Following this, our hosts provided a gracious repast. The full report is here>.

7 January 2010 -- Old Saybrook, CT. 
The Presbytery of Southern New England today distributed the Call to its February 6th Stated Meeting. In it, we find that three churches -- Crossroads, New Haven and Stamford -- are asking the Presbytery to approve an overture to the coming General Assembly that would replace the present paragraph G-6.0106b in our Constitution. That overture reads:


The following sessions of the Presbytery of Southern New England 

First Presbyterian Church, New Haven, Connecticut;
First Presbyterian Church of Stamford, Stamford, Connecticut; and
Crossroads Presbyterian Church, Waterford, Connecticut; 
Request the Presbytery of Southern New England to send the following overture to the 219th General Assembly:
The Presbytery of Southern New England respectfully overtures the 219th General Assembly (2010) to send the following proposed amendment to the presbyteries for their affirmative or negative votes:

Shall the present paragraph G-6.0106b 

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 the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness. Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament.
be replaced in its entirety with:
Jesus, the Head of the Church, has established standards for church officers. (G-6.0101) These standards are contained in the Scriptures rightly understood in the light of the Confessions, and expressed in The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church, USA. The constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003) shall guide those responsible for examination as they discern with an individual that person's calling, gifts and preparation and their willingness to adhere to church standards. Those seeking office shall demonstrate their understanding of and affirm their willingness to adhere to church standards.

     It is appropriate for the Book of Order chapter on the church and its officers to discuss the standards for holders of church office. The Presbyterian Church has considered these standards with care on several occasions and each time has decided in favor of our tradition's rich complexity rather than a specific list of “standards.” Indeed, the decision to adopt a Book of Confessions epitomizes this affirmation of the richness and diversity of our reformed tradition's self awareness. It also acknowledges that the times and places where people of faith attempt to articulate their beliefs modify their expression.
     The constitutional questions for ordination and installation are not in themselves a standard or a list of standards. They are questions that direct the attention of individuals considering church office and of the governing bodies charged with examining them to the full diversity of belief and practice that is the Presbyterian Church USA. The questions encourage, and can guide, discernment of the appropriateness of the person to particular church office by the individual, the calling organization and those responsible for the individual's preparation and examination.
     All would agree that Jesus, the head of the church, establishes the standards. While this is said in G-6.0101, its absence from G-6.0106b has caused considerable theological controversy. Whatever we may say about standards must be based on Jesus' leading. Much of our polity, and much of the history of its development, is concerned with learning to listen to Jesus' leading. That is why we have come to rely on the decisions of the larger bodies of the church in matters of controversy. It is through our connectional effort to discern where Jesus is leading us that we have developed our polity and its practical expression of the way we participate in the true church. 
     Our standards have never been successfully expressed as a few simple ideas or behaviors. As Calvin understood, Scripture contains the word of God, but it is not the word of God. The result is that we depend on our confessions to inform the way we approach, read, understand and interpret scripture. Likewise, Scripture and our polity contain our standards, but are not our standards. We continually engage them as we seek to faithfully apply our standards to particular people and callings. 
     The diversity that arises from our efforts at understanding and the diversity of individuals and of callings demands careful consideration of each person being considered for ordained church office. Those considerations rightly include the responsibility to apply the standards determined by the whole church to the particular situation. This is challenging work. That is why there is a process for review. That is why our reformed tradition looks to the wisdom of governing bodies to make these determinations. But it also depends on the willingness of governing bodies to trust the effort and good will of the decisions made on behalf of the whole church by other governing bodies.
     Sessions and presbyteries are responsible for both the preparation and examination of people considering service as church officers. These responsibilities are best carried out in a spirit of mutual discernment that is only possible in an atmosphere of trust and love. The  language presently in G-6.0106b is an impediment to this work. It creates an unnecessarily adversarial relationship compromised by suspicion. The people who desire to serve the church are conscientious and willing to give generously of their time, talents (especially when it comes to paying for a theological education) and lives. They deserve gratitude and support from their church. Even when the discernment that accompanies the process of preparation directs them to a different understanding of their call, they deserve our thanks and encouragement, not our suspicions. 
     Presbyteries and their committees on preparation do not need the language of the present G-6.0106b as they carry out their responsibilities. They have other, more gracious and more effective means for recognizing those cases where a call to ministry is inappropriate. Sessions likewise know the people they are preparing for church office and are not helped by the present language.
     We need to replace the present paragraph 'b.' It has brought much strife and little peace, unity or purity to our church. We offer this proposed amendment as language that we can all agree to and apply to everyone being considered for church office.

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