Friday, June 16, 2006

Speaking of 'Moderation'...

The PCUSA made, for them, an unusual choice at their GA. They elected a moderate to be Moderator. Rev. Joan Gray seems to be a pretty middle-of-the-road pastor from Georgia. As an evangelical, she is clearly not the best choice from my standpoint for a dying denomination in desperate need of Biblical reform. But as far as the PCUSA goes, Gray is a refreshing change in leadership from previous leaders who actively sought to undermine their own constitution and Book of Order, all the while proclaiming that it was not their job to enforce it. Gray appropriately recognizes that Polity will not save the PCUSA. Coming from an expert on polity, that's a refreshing and wise attitude. She speaks in a manner that while not as definitive as one would like, is nonetheless humble and seems to place the focus on where it belongs - Christ. Now, to say this is not to say very much. The question is really what kind of Christ is our focus, and for years, the PCUSA has had a particularly weak view of the incarnate Christ which has polluted much of what they do and profess. As Moderator, Gray will have the opportunity to help reinstill pride in Christ, though it doesn't sound like she's prepared to do that if her statements regarding the exclusivity of Christ in salvation are any indication. While acknowledging that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, she clearly seems hesitant to forcefully proclaim that confession of Christ as Savior and Lord is the only way for a person to enter into the Kingdom. Here, as in other areas, Gray is wishy-washy in trying to reconcile what Scripture clearly says with what modern culture prefers to believe. This, of course, is emblematic of the sickness that's killing the denomination on a whole host of issues, and it will be regretable if Gray is unable or unwilling to offer clarity to a denomination that desperately needs a major dose of it.

However, with all of that said, the fact is that the PCUSA could have done far worse than Gray, as they have repeatedly done in the recent past. They could have done better, but in the current climate, this is probably about the best evangelicals could have expected. At least for now, she's willing to take a stand on Christian living that while siding with most of the rank-and-file in the denomination, is anathema to much of its leadership, seminaries, and pressure groups. This takes courage, and one can only hope that she will maintain this courage.

Unfortunately for evangelicals, the election of Gray, while probably positive, will not mean much in terms of the long-term future of the denomination. Much more important will be the vote later this week on the so-called 'local option' which would allow congregations to do an end-around the Book of Order on the question of ordaining active homosexuals. Enactment of this provision will render the constitution meaningless and will take the divisiveness of this issue in theory down to the level of actual sanctioned practice. Many evangelicals have threatened to break away if the PCUSA goes down this road. If this happens, the PCUSA may well morph into all-out Unitarianism within the next 50 years, because there will be too few people left who will be willing to fight the slide that has already been underway for some time. Right now, the PCUSA really is different from unitarianism in that most of the PCUSA really does believe in a personal God. Most unitarians do not. But one has to wonder what the PCUSA's concept of God will look like without a vocal evangelical presence that at least tries to hold the denomination accountable. Given the nature of human sin and the market that will always exist for rebellion in a world filled with rebels, I am skeptical that a denomination that has made it intolerable for large numbers of evangelicals to remain will be able to avoid the inevitable slide into unbelief that is now a trademark of the unitarian movement.


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