“For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.” (Hosea 8:7)
For fifty years we have been sowing the winds of shoddy and increasingly sub-Christian theology in the PCUSA, and now at this General Assembly we are reaping the whirlwinds of darkness disguised as light and evil disguised as good. Let me share with you a few examples.
Last night, a youth delegate stood during debate over whether to approve a new Form of Government for our church. The immediate issue being debated was an underlying theology of universal salvation inherent in numerous statements of the document, including its opening lines. This young lady, with all her 18 or so years of experience and theological knowledge, declared authoritatively that there in nothing in the Scriptures which opposes universalism, even after a pastor just before her outlined five or six ways in which such a universalism ignores central teachings of the New Testament. If this young lady represents the typical product of our churches’ Sunday School programs and youth groups, then the PCUSA is definitely shipwrecked.
Yesterday, at an ecumenical worship service hosted by our GA, the preacher of the day, executive director of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, declared that membership in the church of Jesus Christ does not depend on “anything we do or do not do,” and it is not based on “sameness or agreement.” All that matters is that you want to call yourself a Christian, and that you have been baptized. Then, “you are part of one body, and we are family.” Such community, she opines, is “based on a transcendent relationship in the midst of our diversity.” The problem with this is that one can’t find any core beliefs which clearly define who it is that unites us in the midst of our diversity. In our denomination now we are losing common language for how to address God, we are losing a common understanding of what constitutes godly morality, and perhaps worst of all we are losing a common authority resident in the Bible as the Word of God, and that leads ultimately to wildly divergent visions of God’s Kingdom purposes. Rarely is Scripture consulted in debates on decisions before delegates.
The biblical Trinitarian names “Father” and “Son” are increasingly absent from prayers and liturgy in favor of Creator and Redeemer, or are placed alongside terms such as “Mother” or “Child.” The cross of Christ seems strangely absent. Business still to be voted on before the GA commissioners includes well-supported recommendations from GA committees to strip Book of Order ordination language of fidelity and chastity language in terms of how elders and deacons live, to redefine marriage as a covenant relationship between “two people” rather than “one man and one woman,” to approve papers on Christian-Muslim relations and Christian-Jewish relations which are vague and almost apologetic about the biblical call to evangelism, while at the same time our GA leadership mouths the commitment “to grow the church deep and wide.” Apparently the PCUSA is wanting to reach, in theory anyway, our secular neighbors, but not to proclaim the saving name of Jesus to millions of Jews and 1.5 billion Muslims. Not too deep, and definitely not too wide….
Perhaps I’m interpreting things wrongly, being too close to what’s happening to be able to see the big picture clearly, but it seems to me that General Assembly meetings reflect the increasing polarization of two groups, with a fast-shrinking silent minority between them. The polarization is almost complete, and the question is how or whether these two incompatible groups can remain together in any meaningful way. If all that ties us together in our irreconcilable diversities is some “transcendent relationship” (that we can’t define and don’t experience in the same way), then we might as well cut the cords and be done with it, for they are fast fraying. We must find a more fundamental commonness in Christ, or our centripetal convictions will fling us apart and tear us asunder.
May God have mercy on the PCUSA and make a way for us where there is no way.