14 May 2011

another barrier falls

This past week, while our presbytery (Geneva) was meeting and listening to Phyllis Tickle, the news came that the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area had approved Amendment 10-A, which gave it the needed majority to become part of our Book of Order.  Our presbytery had already approved it two months earlier. 

It replaces this language:  “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, 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.” 

…with this:  Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life.  The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office.  The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation. Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.” 

A frequent complaint of those opposed to the change is that it waters down the standards for ordination.  I realize that this amendment is usually framed as being about ordaining people who are gay (and on that point, I do support it).  Still, when I voted for it, I found the text to be far from watered down.  To me, submitting “joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life” is very powerful language.  I see it as an even higher standard.  I understand that some people will choose to interpret that in whatever way they want, but then, the same thing happens with the Bible.

I can’t ignore the scriptures that portray homosexuality in a bad light.  At the same time, there are also scriptures that tolerate—or even command—oppression of women, denigration of those with physical deformities, slavery, and genocide!  I love the Bible, but I also recognize how it demonstrates the ongoing revelation of God’s light and love.  We see that within its pages, as the Hebrew prophets yearned for a deeper faith than that found at the level of sacrificing animals.  We see Jesus and the apostles finding “clean” what before had been considered “unclean.” 

And for the faithful far removed from that time, the Spirit continues to give new insights into the written word.  Relying on the Living Word, the scriptures again come to life.  We have to learn, over and over again, the difficult path of love.

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