Sunday, June 25, 2006

Overall, GA 2006 Was a Centrist Assembly

From the Moderator's election to the final "amen," the Presbyterian General Assembly of 2006 was largely a triumph for the loyalist center.

I know that publicly some conservatives are saying the Assembly broke trust with Presbyterianism, and the newspapers claim that now congregations can ordain gay ministers if they wish. And I am sure that privately some liberals are lamenting that they didn't get "chastity and fidelity" out of the constitution and God the Mother in. But, overall, I would say that the center of the church rose to the occasion of both kinds of challenges and chose a path that would best preserve the Presbyterian Church.

All of the moderator candidates ran as centrists, and the winner, our Moderator Joan Gray, is an ambivalent conservative who stands on the constitution. That might be a summary of where most Presbyterians stand.

The traditional language of the Trinity was affirmed, and the Assembly made it mandatory in baptism.

The Assembly overwhelmingly turned back an attempt to take G 6.0106b, the chastity and fidelity provision, out of the constitution.

The GA came out for the birth of all viable babies, and promoted material as well as pastoral support for them and their mothers.

The GA came out against torture and suicide bombing (I am surprised that there were any negative votes on this one, but at least the center clearly held).

The church corrected an imbalanced critique of businesses supporting violence and oppression in Israel and Palestine.

Most importantly, the General Assembly adopted the Peace, Unity, and Purity report. This means that we should all trust the locals more to apply the constitution – without changing the constitution. The ban on unrepentant homosexual practitioners is still there, along with the ban on unrepentant adulterers and usurers and all the other kinds of sinners named by the confessions. And where the original report was unclear that the higher governing bodies could review both the procedure and the substance of ordination examinations, the Assembly fixed the language.

The sound constitution of the church was preserved and strengthened by the 2006 General Assembly meeting in Birmingham. Now we need to apply it.


Quotidian Grace said...

Here are a couple of good signs out there-- Mark D. Roberts is running a series on his blog urging conservatives to stay in the fold and the pastor of First Church Houston (about 4,000 members) sent an email to his congregation basically saying the same. And that is a VERY conservative congregation.

Gruntled said...

I will be very interested to see what happens at the New Wineskins meeting. My prediction is that all the "line in the sand" talk will lead to a maximum of 40 congregations leaving.

Anonymous said...

You're right: There will be no mass exodus. The trickle will continue instead.

The conservative/traditional Presbyterians will continue doing what we have done for 30 years, complain and go on complaining, while the march of 40,000 a year lost continues.

Neither side 'won' this one. But the progressive side does not have to 'win' any one vote and they know it, because they already have the institutions of the church firmly in their grasp.

Louisville, the seminaries and the conference centers, will remain as they are--in the hands of those who will not rest until the church is remade in the image of this age.

This is just one more small step in the direction of disintegration.

Gruntled said...

One problem that they have had in Louisville is convincing evangelicals to come work in the Presbyterian Center. Would you be willing to go?

Anonymous said...

Ok, Gruntled, I'll bite!

Would I go work in Louisville? Only if called!

(Insert Jonah and Nineveh illustration here)

Would working at Louisville be for a Presbyterian like me more like the belly of the whale or Nineveh itself....

Gruntled said...

Hey, the Ninevites repented.

Seriously, though, they just gave up on the evangelism position because they couldn't get any evangelicals to fill it after Gary Demarest, and he caught hell from other evangelicals for even consorting with Presbyterian Center types.