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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

I Voted

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Last night the presbytery to which I belong (a presbytery is a regional body of Presbyterian ministers and elders) voted on the controversial amendment to the church's constitution that would remove the requirement of ordained officers to "live lives of obedience to scripture and conformity to the historic confessional standards" of the church, among which are said to be "fidelity within the covenant of marriage between and a man and a woman or chastity in singleness." Last summer, the church's national assembly approved replacement language requiring "obedience to Jesus Christ" who is the head of the church. Nothing about fidelity or chastity.

This is not the first time presbyteries have had this debate and voted on such an amendment. In fact, the current language was only added in 1987, and at least two attempts have been made since then to remove it. Interestingly enough, the standards in question originated in this presbytery.

Long story short, the amendment was defeated, which surprised no one. What was surprising (and very disheartening to those championing the amendment) was the margin. 63% of ballots cast were in opposition to the amendment, and only 37% were in support. That's worse than the last time. As I heard one supporter say on her way out of the meeting, "We didn't gain any ground on this one."

Two trends caught my attention during the debate. First, the vast majority of the bible-quoting being done was being done by those favoring the amendment. Those opposing it made repeated appeal to what "the bible teaches" or what "the bible says," but the pro side repeatedly read excerpts from the biblical texts to make their argument that the standard ought to be changed. In fact, only one opponent of the amendment quoted the Bible, and that was Romans 1.

The second trend that you couldn't help but notice was that most of those speaking against the amendment were from the presbytery's racial/ethnic churches. Appeal was made more than once to "The worldwide church" and its opposition to such a change. The racial difference, once noted, made me very uncomfortable.

I'm not impartial. Yet the arguments in favor of the amendment were theologically grounded and scripturally supported. In the end, I fear the arguments don't matter.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 7:31 AM


Thanks for your feedback. I wasn't sure if you had seen, but I posted mine too: http://kairosblog.com/blog/2009/03/09/summary-of-heartlands-called-meeting-on-amendments/

Part of my point there about appeal to personal relationship is that, too often, the arguments themselves don't matter until something jostles us to consider them more seriously--like having someone we love personally affected by our theology, in a negative way.

Keep up the good bloggin'
commented by Anonymous kairos, 6:22 PM  

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