The Presbyterian Church (USA) is in the midst of a serious makeover. For almost 2 decades, the denomination has continued to wrestle with issues of ordination standards as it relates to homosexuality. Many of the most conservative and evangelical congregations have grouped together as the New Wineskins group and have left the denomination all together, joining a new presbytery formed by the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Many of these congregations left at great cost, paying the PCUSA for the privilege of keeping their church property.
Now there is a new collaboration of reform minded “conservative” congregations. They recently met under the banner of “Gathering X.” These congregations cling to a hope that the PCUSA can be turned around from its decline into apostasy. They talk a good game and I am certain that many of its leaders have good intentions and hopeful motivations. However, if they are serious about renewal, I would suggest that they still don’t get it! By “get it”, I mean, taking seriously the steps necessary to correct some of the institutional problems that still plague the denomination.
At the “Gathering X” meeting in Houston in August, Rev. Mary Naegeli, senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Concord, CA addressed the attendees. She said that her “passion is to help people gain a mastery of the scriptures.” She went on to provide 5 steps to leading people into the scriptures. You can read the entire article at The Layman website. Scroll down in the pdf to page 14 of 28 or page B2 of the periodical itself.
In Naegeli’s fourth of five points, she suggests that people “foster a joyful acceptance of the authority of Scripture.” She continues, “there are many out there who just don’t care what the Bible says. They adjust the meaning of Scripture to fit their lifestyles, rather than allowing Scripture to adjust their behavior. The church cannot be renewed apart from an insistence on Scriptural authority.”
With charity, I will regard Rev. Naegeli’s comments as coming from a sincere heart. And no one can question the truth of what she presented. But I find it more than just a little ironic that an admonition to honor the authority of Scripture is coming from a woman senior pastor. How does she square her “office” in the church with the specific instruction regarding the qualifications for church leadership and the role of women found in Scripture in 1 Timothy 2 and 3, and Titus 1? Where is the conformity to the authority of Scripture in this apparent contradiction? Is serving as a senior pastor evidence of her own “joyful acceptance of the authority of scripture?”
Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Theological Seminary noted in a recent article that:
“The feminization of the ministry is one of the most significant trends of this generation. Acceptance of women in the pastoral role reverses centuries of Christian conviction and practice. It also leads to a redefinition of the church and its ministry. Once women begin to fill and represent roles of pastoral leadership men withdraw. This is true, not only in the pulpit, but in the pews. The evacuation of male worshippers from liberal churches is a noticeable phenomenon.
Furthermore, the issues of women’s ordination and the normalization of homosexuality are closely linked. It is no accident that those churches that most eagerly embraced the ordination of women now either embrace the ordination of homosexuals or are seriously considering such a move.
The reason for this is quite simple. The interpretive games one must play in order to get around the Bible’s proscription of women in congregational preaching and teaching roles are precisely the games one must play in order to get around the Bible’s clear condemnation of homosexuality.
Put another way, once one is satisfied to relativize the biblical texts limiting the congregational teaching office to men, one can (and almost surely will) be satisfied to employ those same strategies on texts condemning homosexuality. In both cases, the texts are relativized by postmodern ideologies.”
You can read the entire article from Dr. Mohler by clicking here.
Rev. Mary Naegeli said it perfectly…”The church cannot be renewed apart from an insistence on Scriptural authority.” To that I say AMEN. And the PCUSA will not realize renewal until they rely upon that authority institutionally and constitutionally.