Tuesday, June 29, 2010

General Assembly Thus Far

1.) The human brain has a very hard time processing all the detailed arguments of committee meetings, at least this one does.

2.) GA is a hard place for introverts. I see people I'd love to meet in person, not to schmooze, but inherent shyness makes this difficult.

3.) I think some people unfairly trade off their prominence. I do not think all prominent people do this. God gave some people prominence, and they are generally good stewards of it. Others, not so much. I mean, does the president of the seminary really have to be the first person at the microphone to nominate a chairman? C'mon! I wonder if his evil plan is to take over the PCA --once he is elected to the SJC, his hegemonic power will be complete. Okay, this is tongue in cheek. Sort of.

4.) I am grateful to God to be debating the issues we debate, and not the issues most other churches have to debate. Our big issues are small, unlike those in more mainline denominations.

5.) Good time with friends old and new is a good part of General Assembly. It seems tragic, however, to walk by the Ryman Auditorium every day, and not be going to an Opry...

Quite obviously, my brain is frizzled from long hours in committee. Who ever decided that windowless rooms work well for meetings ought to be shot then hung.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Tim Keller nails it

If you are interested in the life and the story of the Presbyterian Church in America, you would do well to read this. It is 26 pages, and probably the best and most fair-minded analysis of the PCA, where it came from, and where it is.

At the very least, read from page 19 on.

I agree with Tim's historical analysis, and I am generally on board with this vision of each correcting the other. He says what I have tried to say for a long time, but not nearly as well.

And, I felt convicted.

And, I felt confused, because I feel like a meld of all 3 branches!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Marginalization and The Christ Party in Corinth (or of the PCA GA)

You know Corinth. It was a very messy church. It reminds us that the church has always had BIG problems. One of the problems was factions, each of whom claimed to follow a man: the Cephas party, the Paul party, the Apollos party (he was such a splendid orator!). And then there was the "Christ" party. I don't know, but I am willing to bet they were the most annoying of all. Kind of like the Church of Christ, who says on the radio here, "Are you tired of man-made creeds? Do you want a church that just follows the Bible? Yes, we're the New Testament church." Every church claims to follow the Bible, which is why we need creeds --but I digress.

Anyway, I stand on the cusp of our annual denominational bacchanal, the General Assembly. And, being of a sociological bent, I always find what people say both regarding and during GA interesting, for it is human nature on display. It is not always what is intended that is most interesting, but the subtext of words that I find interesting. Each of us wants to think that our own motives are pure (the purest!), our own positions are most consistent and well-reasoned, and therefore the other guy stinks.

Perhaps that is even true of me as I write this blog.

What so frustrates me about the PCA, other than our overweening pride, is just the way we marginalize those who disagree with us. If you are a member of the PCA, go and watch this video here. Tell me if you catch him marginalizing those with whom he disagrees. Here's a hint; it's about @ 1:30.

Note well, I do not think President Chapell INTENDS to marginalize. He simply assumes certain things, and his assumptions sneak into his choice of words.

Another example would be found here, paragraph 3. Those who think we need a new strategic plan genuinely believe, as Pastor Robertson does, that it is a needed next step in denominational development. I disagree, and that disagreement is fine. At least it is to me. According to Pastor Robertson, it is not. He writes, " Some are threatened by it as they are by anything new, but over all it is something we must adopt if we will continue to be a leading denomination for biblically faithful churches." To be against the plan, you see, is to be "threatened...by anything new," (and yes, I've written George about this).

Other examples can be found across the blogosphere. Conservatives in the PCA fit Jim Hunter's definition of disaffected groups, but those who devised the plan, are spirit-led and prayerful (Vintage73.com). I have no doubt the planners are prayerful and spirit-led, but could this not be equally true of those who dissent? Why must we marginalize?

So, what's the problem? I want to note that my problem is not with the "hungry progressives" because they are progressive. Though my own convictions fall on the conservative side, I do not think that everyone must agree with me. What I detest is marginalizing someone for dissenting: the "I count, you don't count" statement. I would hasten to add that conservatives can be just as guilty of this. It is just that the conservatives are not in power.

The powers that be are presenting a plan that will "unify," but in the process, it becomes apparent that by "unity" they mean "uniformity," or, perhaps, "leaving behind those who disagree." Suppression of dissent is, to my mind, a mark of insecurity.

Even if you're not PCA, and have no idea about the issues, it makes an important point. We each want to cast ourselves as the "Christ" party --above the fray, looking down at those insular, short-sighted, fractious nincompoops who don't understand how to behave in a gospel way. We, the enlightened, are above all this, and if others could just see it our way, they would understand. We are, after all, good men, entrusted with positions of leadership.

As I often point out, whether one is a good man or not is important, but not determinative. I have no doubt that there are many good men with whom I disagree. Being good (and truly there is none good but God, I know a bit of my own heart) and being right are not the same thing. I can be wrong; they can be wrong.

All of this is why my main fear for the PCA is not liberalism or even cultural capitulation. My main fear is that we are a proud lot, and I put myself and my conservative brothers right in the midst of that indictment.

At the same time, I am grateful for our leaders, past and present, who are anything but proud. I had the honor of working for Cortez Cooper, and of counting him as a friend and mentor. Corty was one of the most prominent and visible men in the PCA in his day. To this day, at almost 80, though he is not as visible at the denominational level, he continues to pastor. He has done interim work at churches of over 2000, and of churches of 20. He has labored in places as diverse as Greenwood, MS, St. Louis and Narrows, VA. He goes where he is called, preaches to presidents, stock car drivers, sturdy mountain folk and catfish farmers. He is a humble, godly man. I pray that many of our more prominent men might manifest the spirit of a Corty Cooper, and not think of themselves more highly than they ought.

Me included.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Of Cultures

This gem from James Davison Hunter's very intriguing latest title, To Change the World, p. 102:

Law increases as cultural consensus decreases.

True in society, but true in denominations too? Do we desire to tighten by means of verbiage what we cannot attain by means of consensus? And is such a project doomed to failure? Are we headed towards an ever more fragmented and litigious future in the PCA?