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Joined: 2004/6/28
Posts: 141

 News - Church debates thorny issues

I just found this:

Church debates thorny issues

By Kayla Stewart / The Citizen

While the Presbyterian Church continues in a tug-of-war over church policies regarding homosexual marriages and leadership within the church, local leaders say it can be boiled down to an age-old debate - interpretation of the Bible.

"The basic issue that is being debated is how do we see Scripture," said the Rev. Thomas Drake of the Calvary Presbyterian Church in Auburn. "Is the Bible the literal word of God or a series of metaphors that help us with life and the way we relate to it?"

The Rev. Phil Windsor, of Westminster Church in Auburn, prefers unity, but a split might be inevitable.

"There are sincere, good Christian people on both sides of the issues; there is pain either way," he said. "I don't know if there is any common ground. It may lead to a split, but I don't know if that's the best course of action."

For years, liberals have been frustrated by the denomination's repeated refusal to abolish its sexual conduct rules, while conservatives have been equally frustrated by liberals' ongoing agitation and disregard for church law.

In 2001, regional units called presbyteries voted down a conservative proposal to bar church blessings for same-sex couples. A second issue erupted when a minister told a denominational conference that God brings salvation through various religions, not just Christianity, after which Presbyterian leaders affirmed that such discussions are proper.

One reaction to the growing rift has been the "Confessing

Church Movement," through which congregations representing 18 percent of all Presbyterian members have insisted that "Jesus Christ alone is Lord of all and the way of salvation" and that "marriage between a man and a woman (is) the only relationship within which sexual activity is appropriate."

Windsor and Drake don't agree with that interpretation."I try to take the Bible seriously - I don't take it literally," Windsor said. "For homosexuality, I don't think the Bible is the answer book. I look at the Bible for broad principles, one is to love neighbor as yourself."

He believes the same about homosexuals being in leadership positions.

"I know some homosexual people who exemplify the spirit of Christ," he said. "If these people say they feel called by God to serve in church and they have a different sexual orientation than me, I need to hear them out. The references in the Bible to homosexuality come from a different culture and a different age. I don't know that they present a prohibition to that lifestyle."

Drake agrees.

"I am open to the ordination (of homosexuals)," he said. "I take a view of Scripture that talks about the role of Jesus and the Christian message being one of empowerment, not one of exclusion. I think the more people we can include by reaching out, the stronger our witness is."

As to those who would contest that the Bible clearly denounces homosexuality, it all comes back to interpretation, he said.

"Biblical teachings are human interpretation," Drake said. "To reach out to this group is in fact the heart of the Gospel message. Leadership is demonstrated by a person's style and conduct in way of relating. I would resist to having, in the 20th century, a litmus test or a checklist as to who is worthy to be a leader. We're all sinners and we all fall short. Who am I to judge? God is the judge."

He has no comment as to whether he personally believes that homosexuality is a sin, but acknowledges that his church defines it as such.

"Our church and our denomination at the time says it is," he said.

The Rev. Bronc Radak, the interim pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Auburn, said it's dangerous for pastors to take a stance.

"When a pastor stands up and makes one decision one way or the other, you cut yourself off from the other half of the congregation who might feel differently than you do," he said. "I can't minister to people if I'm dividing them."

He said he refuses to let it become a major concern, even though he does see it as an issue in his congregation.

"I'm an interim pastor and it's not my job to lead them in one way or the other," he said. "I don't worry about it. It's not nearly as important as feeding hungry people, clothing people and giving shelter to those who have none."

But for many, it is a high priority. Important enough that since 2001, Presbyterians have been awaiting recommendations from a special task force on Peace, Unity and Purity, charged with seeking a way to overcome severe disagreements on gay relationships and other issues. Now that task force is close to completing its work, with the group preparing its final report at meetings in Dallas this month and Chicago in August.

Task force representatives met with the local clergy in January and discussed their strategy to encourage communication among parties of different beliefs by studying the Bible together and talking about the issues.

Windsor said they're are on the right track.

"This group is trying to bring two opposite extremes together and saying we should try to understand each other," he said. "I applaud what they're doing."

But some aren't waiting to read the fine print of Peace, Unity and Purity's report: 85 conservative congregations sent delegates to a convocation in Edina, Minn., that ended last weekend.

There, representatives endorsed platforms that laid out essential doctrines and "ethical imperatives," including the Bible as infallible, salvation through Jesus Christ alone, the necessity of world evangelism and rejection of gay sex and abortion.

The group - which calls itself the New Wineskins Initiative - also proposed a radically reorganized, mission-minded denomination to halt decades of decline in the Presbyterian church, which has a current membership of 2.4 million. The Rev. Jerry Van Marter, who covered the meeting for the church's news service, said it was "the most overt consideration of a split in the denomination that we have yet seen."

Some participants are ready to leave now, he said, while others want dramatic change "but hold out very little hope for that happening."

Drake said the Presbyterian Church is not alone in its struggles over this issue.

"What concerns me is not so much in the problem itself, but the tension that is existing in all religions today," he said.

"We aren't the only ones struggling with sexual orientation issues. Religion is, in essence, redefining itself. These kind of stresses and tensions are systematic of it."


we could comment for hours, but i think it would help more just to pray


 2005/7/3 8:32Profile

 Re: News - Church debates thorny issues

I heard from a friend of mine, the Church of Christ now accepts homosexual ministers...

 2005/7/10 1:11

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