Tuesday, January 26, 2010

January 26, 2010

Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)


Back in the early 70s when I was studying in Germany, Heidelberg professor Wolfgang Lowe scolded to conclude a fierce intellectual exchange, "Unfortunately, Herr Kopp, we are not all omniscient."

Deservedly, I was body slammed for being an arrogantly obnoxious bigger than little egghead.

Noting how he was going down around the same time as kinda providential, I was beginning to realize the truth in one of President Nixon's rare confessions: "A sign of maturing is admitting you're wrong."



One of the lessons of the Reformation was/remains the need for an informed faith.

That's why reforming churches have always been big on education as a continuing pursuit from Sunday School on (scroll down to the 1/21 edition for Dowey's definition of the true meaning of being Reformed).

That's why I read everything that I can from the left and right before making comments on the hot button issues before church and society; and, even then, I really mess up a lot more than I'd care to admit yet must.

During a tutorial in a program designed to birth arrogantly obnoxious big or little eggheads in college, the director said, "Robert, you will have to read, listen, and learn from sources that don't agree with you before you can engage them in debate; or you'll continue to look like a fool who only knows what he believes."



Parenthetically, that's why I dive into daily editions of www.churchandworld.com and www.presbyweb.com; for I need to read, listen, and learn from all sides of every issue before taking, uh, a side.

If you aren't subscribing to 'em, you're missing out on the best tool to get in touch with sources that don't always massage your prejudices but, surely, provoke more probing for the whole truth.

There are also links to several religious and secular news/editorial outlets that enable you to sift and sort between swears.

If you want to be spoon-fed on what you think you already know, don't click 'em on; but if you're one of those folks who take His parable of the wineskins seriously...


Getting back to what I don't know, KD's MLK Day Special Edition (scroll down to 1/18) provoked a stinging response from a peer in Indiana: "You describe eloquently the professional arthritis in my bones...It sorely aches in the 38th year of ordained service...to look back on little worldly measurable achievement...to only estimate with stone scales the spiritual benefits my efforts may have brought to others...to hunger for God more than the little comforts of this world which cannot be purchased with plastic anyhow."

O.K., friend, but remember I said I don't use plastic anymore because it was an addiction with continuing consequences. Moretheless, well said!

He went on, "An ancient car and elderly truck will carry my wife and me the rest of our days...a lethargic congregation of 80 members will be my companions until I choose between being their chaplain and whatever...Our dog is good for another 6 to 8 years...All in all, it is a good life if I do not weaken, lose faith, or demand too much. Like Super Chicken said to Fred the Lion, 'Ya knew the job was dangerous when you took it.' I did, just not how much!"

Yep, you've learned how to be abased; but I'm with Tevia in my weaker moments, "I realize, of course, it's no crime to be poor; but it's no great honor either. So what would be so terrible if I had a small fortune?"

"Sometimes," he observed while pouring on the salt, "you bug me a bit because you live higher up the material/professional mountain than I and yet complain about things well beyond my dreams...You are used to things I never experienced; or was weaned from long ago. However, you are clearly growing through some of the things that I passed not so long ago that gives me hope/encouragement for you."

Psst. By George, I think you've got it! Absolutely! I've had more than my share of high steepled perks over the years; and when I felt my soul being sucked dry by it all, I sabatoged myself! You can read about that in the books for sale that nobody buys on this website. I always felt guilty - meaning I was guilty because you only feel something if it's true unless you're a real sicko - about having more of this and that than most other peers. Of course, I miss some of it now. It's the truth. I'm still learning which, uh, accounts for the balance on my...and Road King in someone else's barn.

He concluded, "I don't mean to sound like a wiser older brother; but I just may be so without your eloquence or scholarship. Keep up the good work! What George MacDonald said to me, when I was your age, I'll say now to you: 'The best part of your ministry is still ahead of you!'"

Thanks, friend, I needed that! I know I'm not as good as my mommy says nor as bad as my enemies advertise. And, yes, I believe the best is ahead of me because, now more than before, I know there's lots of room for improvement after figuring out that assuming you've arrived signals the need to start all over.



Hanging on to what I may not know - and you can take that either way - a member of the PCUSA Form of Government Task Force wrote to me after the PCUSA Thanatos Libido Special Edition of KD on 1/21.

She/he was cordial yet constructively contentious through a few exchanges: "There are a lot of misinformed people out there...people who have not read the documents but are relying on the often shallow analysis of others who have their own agendas."

Uh, is it possible that nFOGers have an agenda as well/awful?

Be that as it may be despite the noble protests of nFOGers who remind the suspicious/cynical of those aging PUPpies and re-imaginers, she/he made a non-contested point via rhetorical interrogative from KD's perch overlooking the arrogance of our franchise's left and right: "Have Presbyterians succumbed to 'sound byte' theology and lost the capacity for sustained thought and analysis?"

Uh, probably.

Getting to the nut of the suspicions/cynicism, she/he acknowledged, "We are aware of the trust issue. There is nothing we can do about it. We were called together and charged to create a revised FOG...We knew that the ecclesiastical climate was not favorable to such a task. We knew that nothing we could do would be acceptable to the extremes of left and right...That left us with a choice: either throw up our hands...or provide the very best revision we could...We chose the later...I think we did a good job. Not a perfect job, but a good one...If...[nFOG]...is defeated, this effort will be put on the shelf, and the next time we come to the question of what sort of church we want to be, someone will haul it out and learn from what we've done...But I will have to confess to a certain sadness...We will have passed up yet another opportunity to 'sing a new song' in our polity, at a time when the old music, though still playable, is a little stale."

I don't know whether to say I'm with ya because that's how friends in/of the Confessing Church Movement felt/feel or ask if we need "more light" than Biblical Christianity as upheld by our current constitution to spice up what's gone stale. Methinks the left wants the trappings of church (process/polity) without its guts (Biblical Christianity) while the right wants, uh, what it thinks is, uh, right. What's stale? Biblical Christianity or the PCUSA? I'ma so confused...

She/he said this about ordination standards in nFOG: "What is left to the discretion of presbyteries are the processes by which preparation will take place - what questions and forms a candidate or inquirer will answer or complete, what requirements over and above the minimum standards...will be put in place by a presbytery for its candidates to follow...[nFOG]...requires the church at every level to adhere to standards expressed in the constitution...each presbytery shall develop and maintain mechanisms and processes to guide, nurture, and oversee the process of preparing..."

Getting back to the trust issue...

She/he said this about the fears of voluntary per capita apportionment becoming mandatory taxation without any real representation: "No...The PJC decision...will remain in force: 'A presbytery's right of oversight cannot be construed to give a presbytery...a right to mandate a session's full payment of per capita'...Nothing in nFOG would change that pattern."

I'ma so relieved; except, uh, for hearing from across the PCUSA that many franchise jingoists already say per capita is mandatory regardless of the previous PJC ruling(s) and threaten particular congregations thusly to the tune of if-they-don't-know-what's-in-the-BO... And, without naming names, I know that employees in Rome - uh, I mean Louisville - have written to particular congregations and threatened them about paying up their "voluntary" per capita apportionments - the threat being a higher judicatory's pretended prerogative to remove moderators, elders, and anyone who encourages the withholding or redirecting of per capita for confessional/constitutional contentions.

She/he said this about how nFOG will enable/disable gay marriages in the PCUSA: "The proposed FOG will not change the definition of marriage; nor the role of a minister in celebrating a marriage service...marriage as 'between a man and a woman' remains unchanged..."

Whew; but, uh, I know of presbyteries that look the other way already which, I guess, means it's already de facto rather than a posteriori. Sorry.

She/he said this about our historical/traditional commitment to connectionalism unraveling if nFOG is adopted: "Connectionalism is not a term employed by our constitutional documents...I don't think it's even a proper English word...The proposed FOG uses the term 'interconnection'...to describe interdependence...couching the sense of mutual connection and obligation...The proposed polity articulates standards and mandates functions that are incumbent on the whole church; but allows - indeed, requires - the church at all levels to determine the structures and processes best suited to the particular context in which a standard is applied."

Putting it another way, I see a bad moon arisin'!

She/he means well.

I believe nFOGers mean well.

My daddy said, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

Personally if not parochially, I think any kinda polity can work as long as the constituents trust whoever's running the show to run it in ways that honor God as enfleshed in Jesus, explained in Holy Scripture, and upheld by our constitution which may be gutted sooner than later to allow for...

Again, any kinda polity can work as long as we trust each other.




Here are two more quickies on nFOG; and then I've gotta leave the mainline for the sidelines because the mainline has moved to the sidelines of American religious culture as attested by nobody really caring what it says anymore, its existence being barely noticed, and no one outside of it will notice when it's gone for good. Again, as a friend in the franchise said to a stunned PCUSA bureaucrat, "We are irrelevant to everyone but ourselves."

First, from a pastor in Indiana: "If nFOG is adopted, does that mean churches that were under the old FOG have the option of leaving the denomination because it's basically different from the old one? Are we bound to accept nFOG if we prefer oFOG? Given our experience with the Confessing Church Movement, I'm sure those legal beagles in Louisville have already covered this; but does it open the possibility of relief through secular courts for churches that think nFOG will change the total complexion of the denomination?"

Second, from a PR expert in California: "Your questions have prodded the sleeping dog with a sharp stick! You have tossed a bomb in the PCUSA's powder room! They are trying to legalize the increasing theological corruption which oozes from Louisville; and you are rousing the residents to rebel! It was Zwingli who wrote about 'the church visible and the church invisible.' These are times when we get a glimpse of the 'visible remnant' and those who were never regenerated and who profess an empty faith with their lips."


We'll see who cares more.



Blessings and Love!

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