Wednesday, April 29, 2009

just some little things...

So I was listening to NPR the other day, and heard a story about torture, and how some people are saying that the President should NOT have declassified the "torture memos" (which he said might as well be declassified since they'd all been in the media already) because, and I quote, "now we've told the enemy how far we're willing to go--we've shown them the line we're not willing to cross."

And this is a bad thing.


Isn't there a line we shouldn't be willing to cross?  And shouldn't people know what that line is?  Not because the "enemy" will know how to withstand all our interrogation, but because human beings should know that they will be treated as human beings even when they're in custody under suspicion.

Don't even get me started on the strange, illogical (to me) difference in the treatment of torture and of stem cell research. bizarre.

In other news, RCLPC is about to enter a season of dialogue in which we will talk about the Amendment B "issue" in the PCUSA and explore the possibility of becoming a member of the Covenant Network.  Voting to rewrite Amendment B has been going on throughout the PCUSA, and just last week failed.  While I sort of expected it to fail, I'm still disappointed.  But then again, it just shows how important talking about this is, how important the work of the Covenant Network is, and how important a step our congregation is taking by being open about our conversation.

For non-presby-speakers, Amendment B is the part of our PCUSA constitution that bars gay and lesbian people from serving in ordained offices in the church.  Well, that's it's purpose, really, and how it has been used.  It actually says (in addition to the famous fidelity-or-chastity clause) that "anyone who refuses to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin" (or something like that) can't serve in an ordained office.  Which, for the record, lets out probably 99% of pastors and elders and deacons currently serving.  Possibly more.

For the record, I believe that the current language of Amendment B is bad polity.  It's poorly written, it's unenforceable, and it's inconsistent with the rest of the constitution (including the highly esteemed first chapter or two of the book of order).  I also believe that the current language of Amendment B is bad theology.  The previous paragraph (6.0106a) and the ordination vows clear lay out the requirements for ordained officers, and they include things like faithfulness to God, effort to live a faithful life, and willingness to listen to God's call--all noticeably absent from G-6.0106b.  And our actual foundation (not the constitution, not even the book of confessions), scripture, has so many examples of unlikely people being called to do God's work, so many examples of the outcast being brought in, so many examples of human beings getting it wrong when it comes to leaders of the community.  And there's the whole business where the confessions say "councils err, don't assume these are the right words for all time" should probably also be a clue.  Last but not least, the pragmatic: I don't believe that I can exclude someone with obvious gifts and call from leadership on the basis that who they are is somehow inferior--am I more likely to be asked why I let people in or why I kept people out?

Also for the record: I took ordination vows in which I said I would uphold the constitution of the church (or something to that effect!).  That doesn't mean I won't work to change it when I think it's wrong.  

One last for the record: I don't believe in forcing people to think like me.  I also don't believe in other people forcing me to think like them. If you disagree with my thinking on this, I'm happy to hear from you and to talk.  But I'm not willing to accept treating of other people as less than human, less than made in the image of God, less than called, or more sinful than me or you. 

I don't know how this conversation is going to go in our congregation, but I'm excited to have it.  Our new mission statement calls the church "an ever-widening circle of grace" and I'm hopeful that we will have grace-filled dialogue as we consider our next steps.  I do believe there's room in the circle for people of differing opinion.  I do believe there's room in the circle for people of differing gifts.  I do believe there's room in the circle for all of us, in other words.  That's what an ever-widening circle is about, right?  

This season of dialogue includes two "classes," one movie night ("For The Bible Tells Me So") and one town-hall meeting.  It should be a good time.

See, just some little light things, right?

In other news, my cats are cute, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me by podcast is awesome, and I'm still reading that series about ancient Rome.

I think that's all for now...


  1. B is indeed terrible polity. And don't get me started on the theology. As I told every PNC who ever asked, It would not have passed in the first place if it was either
    A) Written as it is enforced
    B) Enforced as it is written

    As such, it is neither. It is merely fodder for argument and a huge pain in my butt

  2. Here's a dilemma I have about torture: Abortion is a medical procedure that tortures a child to death, and yet some opponents of torture are proponents of abortions.

  3. yes...but the Bears have Jay Cutler

  4. very well said. The argument that kept it from passing in our presbytery (by only freakin' 8 votes!) was less about the amendment itself and all about how if it passed the denomination would split and we just can't have that now can we. UGH!
    Cheese-so true! Like teri said, if enforced, we'd all pretty much be screwed!

  5. I had a conversation with a Covenant Network person who said that the argument about church unity is spurious because it's hard to be a unified church if we exclude a class of people from full participation--in other words, we only have unity on paper now, not in practice. Except she said it better than I did.

    We had our first dialogue last night. I think it went well, though there were no dissenters present (or if there were, they didn't speak up) so I'm not sure what that means.

    Stushie, I think you are right, at least about the type of abortion that could be construed as torture. But very very early, when an embryo isn't much more than a few cells? I disagree. But once we get to a level where there is a discernible human being who could live outside the mother's body, definitely--it's too late then, and that would be akin to torture.

  6. The trouble is very few abortions are carried out at an early stage.

    The website has a graphic video of an abortion. It is awful. If you are squeamish, you will not want to watch it, but if you are seriously against torture...