This is an archive of the old Stones Cry Out site. For the current site, click here.

« An Inconvenient Truth for Al Gore | Main | Kim Jong Il's Countdown Clock is Ticking »

June 19, 2006

PCUSA Identity Crisis

The Presbyterian Church USA is having an identity crisis on multiple fronts. First there's the question of homosexual clergy.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), severely split over homosexuality, would maintain its ban on gay clergy but allow some leeway in enforcing it under a proposal headed to a national assembly vote on Tuesday.

A key committee, which divided 30-28, proposed keeping on the books a church law mandating that lay officeholders as well as all clergy restrict sexual activity to heterosexual marriage.

But another bill would give local congregations and regional "presbyteries" leeway on whether to require that rule in all cases.

A committee minority plans to propose an alternate to that proposal. Ten conservative Presbyterian groups have warned jointly that approval of what they call "local option" would "promote schism by permitting the disregard of clear standards of Scripture."

Facing seemingly endless acrimony on gays and other issues, a special task force spent four years pondering how the denomination could remain united. Its report to this assembly included the compromise plan to keep the sexual law intact but allow local flexibility in applying it.

Liberal caucuses protest that this will leave injustice in place. Conservatives call it an illicit means for the national assembly to rewrite church law.

Second, there's the issue of male vs neutral wording.
Another bill that could prompt intense debate would encourage gender- neutral worship language for the divine Trinity _ for instance "Mother, Child and Womb" _ alongside the traditional "Father, Son and Holy Spirit."

(I guess here, the identity crisis is a question of God's identity. How would the Spirit be a "Womb", exactly?)

Third is the issue of financially supporting Israel.

The delegates also will consider a proposal to soften the 2004 assembly's decision to selectively pull Presbyterian investments from corporations involved with Israel.

I don't think that we as Christians are required to support every single action taken by the political rulers of Israel. Heck, I don't think Jews should. But divesting money from Israeli companies or companies that do business there seems rather counter- or non-productive, regarding either how the government acts or regarding the special place Israel holds in the Christian faith.

The thought is that the PCUSA may split over these issues.

UPDATE: Solomonia has more information on the divestment policy, including accounts of the recent discussions.

UPDATE: Further information can be found at the Truth In Love network blog, including a post on details of the Trinity name issue.

Posted by Doug at June 19, 2006 12:45 PM

Trackback Pings


By a vote of 56% to 42% with 2% abstaining, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA has officially adopted " "Mother, Child and Womb"" as examples of names that can be substituted for Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!!!!!

This happened minutes ago.

Posted by: Larry at June 19, 2006 01:54 PM

I've been a Presbyterian all of my 35 years. I'm planning to start looking for a new church immediately. 150 BILLION dollars can't help the Presbyterian church. I won't be attending or tithing anymore of my resources unless the church returns to a basis in scripture.

Posted by: Presbyterain Walking at June 19, 2006 03:05 PM

I'm not Presbyterian at all but I do rather enjoy the book and movie, A River Runs Through It and truly dig the Christianity as put forth in that story.

Our church has called God by many names, just as God has been called by many names throughout all of time and all throughout the Bible. Including Mother. This is a problem? Where in the Bible does it say one must refer to God as only "Father, Son, Holy Spirit"? Answer: It doesn't (in fact, it would be unbiblical to suggest so).

Don't get your knickers knotted over the small stuff.

Posted by: Dan Trabue at June 19, 2006 05:17 PM

Many names, yes. Not different genders, however. True, this is not a huge issue, but I think God may have had a reason for always referring to Himself with the male pronoun. I believe it has something to do with the idea that the marriage covenant being a picture of the church's relationship to Christ. If we are the bride of Christ, he's a he, no?

Unless homosexual marriage is no biggie for you as well, which is another one of the issues they're wrestling with, and which you glossed entirely over. These issues, taken as a whole, don't speak well, in my opinion, about where the PCUSA is headed. It's the general direction that they're going that I think is the larger, and rather important, issue.

Posted by: Doug Payton at June 19, 2006 08:52 PM

Actually, God IS referred to as both male and female in the Bible. Isaiah 49, for instance, which says, "But Zion said, The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee." Or as God says in Isaiah 42, "I have looked away, and kept silence, I have said nothing, holding myself in; But now, I cry out as a woman in labor, gasping and panting."

Or even as a mother hen, as Jesus said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not."

You get my point. God is, as I'm sure you'll acknowledge, genderless. Having neither male nor female genitalia, to put it bluntly. This notion that we must refer to God as male is extrabiblical. You want to call God, "father"? fine. Just don't suggest that the Bible says we can only limit expressions of God to one gender or one series of expressions. God is not a tame God, as CS Lewis suggested. He/she doesn't play well in boxes.

Posted by: Dan Trabue at June 20, 2006 12:07 AM

In none of your examples is God referred to using a female pronoun. Those are metaphors, word pictures. C'mon Dan, surely you realize this. These are not names, they are comparisons.

Jesus never referred to God by name as "Mother Hen" or any other female name. It was always "the Father", "He", "Him". Many of God's names are indeed gender-neutral ("I Am" as one of many examples). But when speaking to Him or referring specifically to Him, it was always male. I'm not putting Him in a box; I'm using His own precedents, following His own examples.

And as I said, I think there's a purpose behind that usage. Not that God has a gender, but that there is a parallel to the institution of marriage and the roles God intended for man and woman; an idea that is bent and rendered meaningless when we get extrabiblical in referring to Him.

And again, I think the far larger point is that, once these sorts of little things are introduced, the tendency is to then continue in this vein and to reinterpret the Bible according to our "modern sensibilities". Not a good direction to be going.

The update on the main post points to a guy who was there for the discussions on divestment. I think it's unfortunate to see how arrogance seems to be creeping in.

Posted by: Doug Payton at June 20, 2006 09:30 AM

My points would be that:

All references to God are metaphors. God is not a father, nor a spirit (in Jesus, God was a son, of course). But rather, God is like a father to us. Or a mother at times.

The fact that "She" is never used to refer to God does not say nor even imply that there's anything AT ALL wrong with doing so. It would be entirely extrabiblical to say that it is wrong to refer to God in the feminine.

That's all I'm saying. Well, that, and the fact that it's interesting how worked up some folk get by hearing someone pray to "God our Mother."

And this is one Christian who's glad that they're divesting money from Israel and think it's exactly the correct way to go. Divestment is one peaceable way to effect change, as we did in South Africa. Blessed are the peacemakers, y'all.

Posted by: Dan Trabue at June 21, 2006 01:31 AM

Israel is the same as South Africa? The change that you will bring is not the one that you want, I hope. It might be logical if the same effort to punish economically was also brought to bear on those that want Israel destroyed but the fact that the one country in this world that the Church targets for economic destruction is the most(not perfect) democratic government in that region. Do they push for economic isolation of North Korea? Sudan? China? Iran? Egypt? Saudi Arabia? All of these countries have far worse Human Rights records then Israel and they also have repressive attitudes to Christianity or religion in general. Yet the Church decided it can bully Israel so it reserves it's economic muscle in a selective and smug fashion. Israel, for all it's faults, has shown that it will give up land and make peace if the goal of destroying it's government will be abandoned. Hamas, and many of the governments in the region continue to openly call for the destruction of Israel yet the Church isolates Israel as the bad agent of the area. Hamas calls for war and yet the left calls for aid and continued international aid for these "peacemakers" and targets Israel for destruction. Sadly, the Church will repeat the mistake of the Episcopalian Church, invite schism, and it will fade just as the Church in Europe has. The march towards leftist politics and empty churches has begun.

Posted by: kevin peters at June 21, 2006 02:19 PM

To their credit, the PCUSA is now getting aggressive about negative church growth.

Posted by: John at June 21, 2006 07:19 PM

"The march towards leftist politics and empty churches has begun."

What you call "leftist politics" is what I call, "faithful adherence to God's word."

Tomayto, tomahto?

Posted by: Dan Trabue at June 22, 2006 03:07 AM

Very interesting and professional site! Good luck! nokia6630

Posted by: sonia at July 1, 2006 01:08 PM