Thursday, March 19, 2015

On the PC(USA) and Ammendment 14f

Although I've been an Anglican since my entry into the Reformed Episcopal Church, in which I was ordained deacon in 2001 and priest in 2003, I was born and baptized into and joined the Presbyterian Church in the United States, the old "Southern Presbyterian Church" which ceased to exist in 1983 when it participated in the merger that resulted in the creation of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) . At least one line of my family tree has Presbyterian roots going back directly to Scotland with a number of other ancestors having stopped off in Ulster before coming to the New World. My great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, John Makemie Wilson, was a scrappy Scotch-Irish kid from the Waxhaws (he had a boyhood friend named Andy Jackson you may have heard of) who entered the Presbyterian ministry and served as the Minister of Rocky River Presbyterian Church in Concord, North Carolina, for 30 years, where he also had a classical school where he taught some of the men who went on to found Davidson College; he and his wife had several sons enter the ministry including one who perished as a medical missionary. When to no one's surprise more than my own I began to discern a call to the ordained ministry I took the initial steps to do so in the Presbytery of New Harmony with the intention of attending Columbia Theological Seminary because, well, that's where the Presbyterian ministers whom I knew had pretty much gone -- I knew I'd tend toward the evangelical wing of the PC(USA) but honestly, with all of the vigor of an early twentysomething with a sense of vocation figured that things could be turned around, something that an interview with the then-admissions officer made pretty clear wasn't welcome (it was pretty much made clear that she'd rather not have my kind there) and resulted in my departure for the Associate Reformed Presbyterians and going to Erskine Theological Seminary instead. Despite not being a member of the PC(USA) since 1993 and not even being a Presbyterian any more I follow events there because many of my family and quite a few friends still in that body.

For that reason I was disappointed but not surprised when I learned that sufficient presbyteries had ratified Amendment 14f to their Book of Order which neutralized the definition of marriage to allow for same-sex unions. I had known it was coming as they trends were clear that that portion of the Church was following cultural trends rather than being grounded in Scripture and Sacred Tradition in standing against the culture (something that was made clear in a local news story where the Rev'd Deane Kemper, Stated Clerk of Charleston-Atlantic Presbytery, commented that the church had to follow the state in how it conducted marriage ceremonies and used a very simplistic example drawn from the Latter Day Saints' abandonment of polygamy in order to gain Utah's statehood [in point to fact some "Mormons," the term that Kemper used retained the practice]). The Church is called to bear witness to culture and transform it through the preaching of the Word, evangelism, discipleship, and works of charity, it is not called upon to follow the whims of culture and when it has done so the results have been negative.

I suspect that many in the leadership of the PC(USA) have vastly underestimated the fallout that they will experience from this. Although my father was raised in the Presbyterian Church he is only an occasional attender and doesn't really follow church news, When I spoke with him today he brought it up and noted that he might withhold any contributions from his own congregation as a result -- if he is sitting up and taking notice then I'm sure others are as well and with the recent South Carolina court decision regarding the ownership of property in The Episcopal Church (about which I wrote here), South Carolina presbyteries may find that they no longer can intimidate those congregations seeking to depart. Look for more conservative Presbyterian bodies like the Presbyterian Church in America, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and especially two options that allow for women officers (a practice long accepted in the PC[USA] and entrenched in most congregations at this point) -- the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and the Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians to make substantial gains in light of this.

Decisive times are no doubt ahead.

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