Monday, March 16, 2009

Presbytery meeting on Saturday, March 14

This past Saturday I attended our Presbytery meeting at Faith Presbyterian Church in Minnetonka. I arrived early at the meeting as one of my main intentions was to sign people up as prayer partners for our Chain of Lakes new church. One of my goals for our new church is to have the Presbytery invested in our success. I can see this happening by having people in our churches praying daily for the ministry and mission of our New Church Development. John Ivers came up with a brochure about our ministry and a pledge card for people to indicate their interest in being a prayer partner.
So I felt like a carnival barker exhorting people who walked by our table to sign a pledge card. The folks who stopped to talk were willing to do this, some did view us with a bit of suspicion, and most gave us the benefit of the doubt. We came away with about 25 pledge cards signed.
The meeting was packed. I came into the sanctuary late because of my work at the table and could hardly find a seat. I mentioned that I was a bit surprised by the size of the crowd to a colleague. I asked if the large number had to do with the Amendments to the Book of Order we would be voting on. My colleague rolled his eyes and said, “you think.”
Soon we got into the business of the day. The Amendments that attracted most attention were the ones to change to vows of membership (amending Book of Order item G-5.0200) and replacing G-6.0106b, commonly known as Amendment B.
I didn’t quite understand the debate to change the vows of membership. There seemed to be some reluctance to have people coming into a Presbyterian church to be examined by the Session. The Bills and Overtures Committee did not make a recommendation on that Amendment—the Presbytery ultimately voted “no.” I voted “yes.”
But the show of the day was the debate to replace Amendment B. Jin Kim started out the debate by making a motion to record the Presbytery as abstaining. This made sense to me. He remarked that there wasn’t even a microphone set up to let people voice their desire for a no action vote. The problem with Jin’s argument was a no action vote would really be a “no” vote. For this Amendment to pass a certain number of Presbyteries have to vote “yes.” To take “no action” wouldn’t add to the “yes” column thus making our action the same as a “no” vote.
I liked the spirit of Jin’s suggestion. I’m tired of these debates on human sexuality in the church. They have consumed much of our time, energy, and passion the past 15 years. I can hardly remember a time following a General Assembly where some action by the Presbyterys on an issue of human sexuality wasn’t required.
I am against Amendment B. My reasoning does not come out of my views on human sexuality. I don’t like that the Amendment makes obedience to Scripture and conformity to the confessional standards as our highest aim of living the Christian life. Even though the attempt is to legalize in a sense what it means to follow Jesus, I don’t think anything can take precedence over our following of Jesus. Though I have some problems with the wording that would replace Amendment B, I do like the intent. In the new Amendment officers of the church assent to the constitutional questions pledging themselves to live lives obedient to Jesus Christ, striving to follow where he leads through the witness of the Scriptures, and to understand the Scriptures through the instruction of the Confession. I like that order of priority—first Jesus, then the Scriptures, then the Confessions.
The Presbytery ultimately voted not to record a “no action” vote. Not surprisingly the Presbytery voted for the change to Amendment “B.”
The process was tiresome. People lined up to talk at separate “yes” and “no” microphones. I felt like I knew what each person would say before the person talked. I doubt if any person’s mind was changed in the process.
In a way we all want to be prophets—we want to have our votes recorded—to be on record about where we stand on the issues of the day. But when we record our votes some people end up being winners and some end up being losers. The losers become upset with the winners—and vice versa, of course. We focus on what divides us and not what unites us. I don’t think that is the way.
I think it would have been cool if the people at the microphones had paired up with a person representing an opposing view and gone into a room to pray in a twosome. Not to change the other person’s views or to understand how the person came to his or her own views. But until we pray for the people with whom we disagree I don’t think the world is going to take notice of our faith.
I’m more interested in praying with people than arguing about what divides us.
I was touched to be commissioned for ministry along side Joo H. Kim. He is the new Designated pastor at Knox Presbyterian Church in St. Paul. He came to Knox from church of all Nations in Columbia Heights.
Which leads me to my final point of this fairly long, first blog. Prayer partners. I would like every church in our Presbytery to have someone who will pray for the mission and ministry of Chain of Lakes Presbyterian Church. I am planning on sending out a bi-weekly prayer guide to assist people in their prayers. I want all churches—notwithstanding their views on changing Amendment B to be prayer partners for our fledgling ministry.

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