Backlash from the Presbyterian courts
Well, the backlash has occurred - the PCUSA judiciary has ruled on a technicality - of course, a technicality that still bars ordination for GLBT. While the General Assembly allowed for declaring a "scruple" (a candidate could voice disagreement with a church "law") and that a local presbytery could then decide whether that disagreement was significant, the court said it wasn't written clearly enough.
The court decided that the wording allowed a candidate to disagree with the "fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness" clause, it did NOT say they could ACT on that disagreement.
I guess you can disagree all you want as long as you don't live authentically as LGBT. As-holes!
Presbyterian Outlook, February 13, 2008
TOP COURT PROHIBITS 'SCRUPLING' FIDELITY-CHASTITY STANDARD
By Leslie Scanlon, Outlook National Reporter
LOUISVILLE - The General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission (GAPJC) has ruled that candidates for ordination must comply with the sexual behavior standards of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), even if they disagree in conscience with them. The GAPJC, in a landmark ruling dated Feb. 11 on a case from Pittsburgh Presbytery, declared that the authoritative interpretation that the General Assembly approved in 2006 does not permit exceptions to the requirement in the PCUSA's ordination standards, which say that candidates must practice fidelity if they are married or chastity if they are single.
It described the "fidelity and chastity" provision as "a mandatory standard that cannot be waived." And it upheld language from a prior Synod of the Trinity PJC ruling that made a distinction between allowing departures from the church's standards related to belief - but not departures related to behavior. The GAPJC, the highest court in the PCUSA, endorsed language from the synod PJC ruling which states the authoritative interpretation the General Assembly approved "allows candidates to express disagreement with the wording or meaning of provisions of the constitution, but does not permit disobedience to those behavioral standards."
The GAPJC went on to say, "the fidelity and chastity standard may only be changed by a constitutional amendment. Until that occurs, individual candidates, officers, examining and governing bodies must adhere to it."
In another ruling issued on the same day, the GAPJC overturned a decision of the PJC of the Synod of Alaska-Northwest related to whether a presbytery could pass a resolution declaring every mandate in the Book of Order to be an essential of Reformed polity. In discussing such policies, the GAPJC declared one unconstitutional and stated that "it is not permissible for a presbytery or a session to define "essentials of Reformed faith and polity" outside of the examination of any candidate for office. Such a determination must be made only in the context of a specific examination of an individual candidate."
These GAPJC rulings -- a set of three -- mark the first time the church's highest court has considered cases resulting from the assembly's adoption in 2006 of the recommendations of the Theological Task Force on the Peace, Unity and Purity of the PCUSA. In the Pittsburgh case, the parties who won a favorable ruling from the Synod of the Trinity PJC appealed some language of that ruling, particularly the question of whether departures of conscience can be declared from the church's standards on matters that relate to behavior as well as those of belief.
The GAPJC stated that the theological task force, which presented the controversial authoritative interpretation to the 2006 Assembly, stated in its rationale that the authoritative interpretation was a "manner of life standard" that "requires ordaining and installing bodies to examine carefully both the doctrinal views and the manner of life of those elected to office."
The examining body then would determine whether that departure based on conscience -- known as a "scruple" -- would be permitted or would rise to such a level that it would be considered a departure from an essential of Reformed faith and polity and so could not be allowed. The theological task force, in its rationale, stated that the PC(USA) constitution "puts 'faith and polity' -- belief and behavior -- on an equal footing, as they were in 1729, when scruples were permitted in matters of 'doctrine, discipline, and government.'"
But the GAPJC ruled that the General Assembly did not adopt that rationale section, so "as finally adopted by the General Assembly, the Authoritative Interpretation does not equate 'polity' with 'behavior.'" And it stated that the church has required those being ordained "to conform their actions, though not necessarily their beliefs or opinions, to certain standards in those contexts in which the church has deemed conformity to be necessary or essential."
The GAPJC ruled that departures based on conscience would not be permitted from the "fidelity and chastity standard." It agreed with the Synod of the Trinity PJC that "no presbytery may grant an exception to any mandatory church-wide behavioral ordination standard" and that "under our polity, violations of behavioral standards are to be addressed through repentance and reconciliation, not by exception or exemption."
The GAPJC also dispelled the idea that presbyteries could pass resolutions stating they would enforce all mandatory provisions of the Book of Order. "Adopting statements about mandatory provisions of the Book of Order for ordination and installation of officers falsely implies that other governing bodies might not be similarly bound; that is, that they might choose to restate or interpret the provisions differently, fail to adopt such statements, or possess some flexibility with respect to such provisions," the GAPJC stated.
In a third case, an appeal by Washington Presbytery of portions of a ruling by the Synod of the Trinity PJC, the GAPJC ruled that a permanent judicial commission is not compelled to require or even encourage parties in a dispute to engage in efforts at biblical peacemaking, based on the model described in the 18th chapter of the gospel of Matthew.
It's likely to be the ruling in the Pittsburgh case that gains the strongest scrutiny by the church -- particularly as two cases of candidates declaring scruples regarding the "fidelity and chastity" language already have emerged from the presbyteries. On January 15, San Francisco Presbytery voted 167 to 151 to approve as "ready for examination" Lisa Larges, a lesbian who works for the advocacy group, That All May Freely Serve.
And the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area voted 196 to 79 on Jan. 26 to restore the ordination of Paul Capetz, a gay seminary professor who voluntarily set aside his ordination in 2000 in protest over the PC(USA)'s ordination standards. Capetz has said he would not promise to be celibate, but his objections are theological, not because he's currently involved in a relationship.
Any decisions church courts might make in individual cases such as theirs would have to take into account the GAPJC rulings just issued.
Copyright (c) 2008 The Presbyterian Outlook
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Sins are always worse when they're different than mine