Wednesday, October 27, 2010

October 27, 2010

Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)



I've been asked to lead a discussion in my presbytery - that's kinda like a collective bishop practicing constitutional, confessional, and representative democracy in which ordered groups rather than individuals exercise authority that must be recalled for people in Louisville who forget the PCUSA doesn't have a hierarchical polity - on The Belhar Confession.

That's because the 219th General Assembly that met in Iceland, uh, Minnesota last summer liked it and decided to send it to everybody, uh, all of the presbyteries with the expectation/hope/prayer/hallucination that it will be voted into our Book of Confessions (a majority vote by 2/3 of the 173 presbyteries is required for inclusion in the BC) which is a collection of dogmatic stuff that ain't really believed anymore but evokes sentimental memories of the way things never were or maybe were but are no more.

When I decided to remain faithfully in the PCUSA or remembered I was serious when I made those ordination promises in 5/77 or couldn't get by John 17 or didn't want to disrupt piling up more pension credits rather than run off with buddies like some kinda ecclesiastical Don Quixote to other franchises that are proving to be equally human in reality if not upokrisis, I told my presbytery's officers that I would serve as called/gifted instead of acting like the disgruntled on the way left and way right who like to banter and moan about those who get involved and try to honor, uh, whatever/whomever while they don't.


I kinda got carried away.

Simply, I'm going to lead the discussion on The Belhar Confession before we vote on it.


Anyway, I used to talk a lot about the BC when training officers and leading new members classes and serving on CPMs aka Candidates Committees aka gatekeepers for seminarians who want to be certified as, uh, O.K. to be pastors.

But when I discovered most of 'em didn't even know enough about the primary source, uh, Bible that supposedly inspired the BC, I lowered my expectations or dumbed down...

You know what I mean.

Be that as it has devolved to be, I jumped at the chance to lead a discussion on The Belhar Confession for reasons cited in the third paragraph of this KD's first section and when I heard the way left liked it (should) and way right didn't like it (could) because it should/could be interpreted as affirming same-sex behaviors.

Help me, Jesus!



Have we devolved to such a low point of study/debate that it's not about what is said/written but what is or is not intended between the lines?

Preferring exegesis to eisegesis, I decided I better start reading it instead of reading more about it; though my mind has been polluted/plagued by those presumptions/assumptions.


Before settling down to settle in on it, I reviewed the old standards on confessional theology by Dowey, Leith, and even Rogers.

I reviewed and recommitted myself to the Reformation pledge: ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda secundum verbum Dei.

I meditated on Romans 12:1-2.

I re-memorized a few lines from The Confession of 1967: "Confessions and declarations are subordinate standards in the church...subject to the authority of Jesus Christ, the Word of God, as the Scriptures bear witness to Him. No one type of confession is exclusively valid; no one standard is irreformable. Obedience to Jesus Christ alone identifies the one universal church and supplies the continuity of its tradition."

I asked God to deliver me from a mind already tainted by the ideological exaggerations ascribed to it by the way left and way right.


While fans of a few different theologians want to designate authorship to their idols, it appears to have been a collaborative effort to distinguish authentic Christianity from imposters in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa; appearing first in 1982 during a general synod meeting of the Dutch Reformed Mission Church in Belhar which is a suburb of Cape Town, South Africa, adopted by the DRMC in 1986, and now one of the "standards of unity" of the new Uniting Reformed Church of Southern Africa.

Written to extol unity as a gift and obligation with an emphasis upon reconciling affirmations, attitudes, and affections as evidences of faith, it emphasizes unity through and for Jesus as overcoming color, class, and cultural segregations.

The language is fresh, forceful, and faithful: "Unity is...a gift and an obligation...must become visible so that the world may believe that separation, enmity and hatred between people and groups is sin...and accordingly that anything which threatens this unity may have no place in the church and must be resisted..."

While folks from the way left and way right say it affirms same-sex behaviors, that's an assumed implication rather than an explicit reference.


Certainly, The Belhar Confession isn't the tightest theology to cross my noodle; however, let's be honest in saying the current BC itself isn't the tightest...

C'mon, be honest!

Assumed implications without explicit references aren't anything new to continuing controversies surrounding the BC.

To say it "may be applied broadly" kinda reminds me that the same thing is often said about Matthew 25!

I've heard/read lots of wordsmithing related to this confession: "Christian faith teaches that unity is a result of truth. In the Belhar truth is subordinated to unity...Allen Boesak, one of the architects of Belhar,...claimed, 'Based on Belhar, the church should accept gay members, should perform gay marriage ceremonies and allow ministers in gay relationships to serve in the church.' Although Boesak's own church rejected his interpretation of the Belhar, the fact that he would see its potential for this purpose demonstrates that Belhar can be used in this expansive way."


Can be used?


Let's exegete not eisegete!

More wordsmithing: "I want to support the Belhar Confession...I agree with most of the Belhar Confession, much of it is simply a restatement of Scripture...But in the end, I cannot...First, the Bible is full of examples of God's heart for the poor and the oppressed. But it goes too far to say He is in a special way God to them...God does not show partiality to the poor...Second,...because of its many perceived implications..."

Much of it is simply a restatement of Scripture?

Because of its many perceived implications?

I can't stand it when someone says, "Perception is reality."


Reality is reality!


Let's exegete not eisegete!

BTW, anyone read any of Paul's letters lately?

I don't find them to be the most systematic around; and I know lots of people who have assumed implications without explicit references after reading 'em.

BTW, anyone ever hear of that colloquial definition of "assume" that goes like this...?

I know some analists from the way left and way right are gonna fry me for this, but I don't see nearly as much as they do in those three or less pages to support their extreme ideologies.

I just see a nice reminder that reconciliation and unity are characteristics distinguishing authentics from posers.


Have you ever said something and then listened to a report of what you said?

I've lamented, "I'm always surprised to hear what I said."

It often happens on Sunday afternoons.

I think that's what's happening to The Belhar Confession.

The way left and way right seem to be hearing/reading what's not there in, uh, black and white.

They're hearing/reading what they want to hear/read without respect to what's actually being said/written.

They're projecting/transferring...

That's kinda sick.



I haven't decided if I'm gonna vote for or against it; which, I think, makes me a good person to lead discussions on it.

Yeah, I like just about all that's in it; and I'm not like some folks who expect everyone/everything to be pure and perfect in every way like, uh, Jesus and Holy Scripture (go back to the third paragraph of this KD for more implied...).

It's just that the BC contains really big stuff - admittedly, some small stuff has snuck in over the years - like The Nicene Creed, The Apostles' Creed, The Scots Confession, The Heidelberg Catechism, The Second Helvetic Confession, and the Westminster standards; and I'm not sure if this one measures up to 'em.

I guess I don't really care if it gets in or not.

After all is said and undone, it's a subordinate comment on the Word.

Like all confessions, it's a secondary source.

I'm hoping people don't vote pro or con because the way left and way right are advocating their assumptions as rationale for casting ballots.

It's like reading Holy Scripture.

It's not supposed to be about what we think He says through it.

It's supposed to be about what He says through it.

We may disagree on what we think He says through it; but the point remains our prayers/labors must be to discover together what He says through it instead of what we...

I'm absolutely convinced God is not double-minded.

Unfortunately, we have that tendency; which is why we expect too much from human stuff like...


Blessings and Love!


dennistheeremite said...

It's so frustrating to have always considered onself to be truly conservative, and to pray for the church to maintain its orthodox teaching on marriage the ministry, and to see this insane outcry against Belhar. I see nothing unbiblical about it even though we don't really need another confession at the present time. I see no reason to vote against it. I think I need to stop being conservative and try being simply traditional or orthodox. And now I find myself to be ranting.

Dr. Robert R. Kopp said...

With you, brother! I've grown so weary of our conservative friends acting just like lefties in their my-way-or-the-highway-litmus-tests-for-everything-kneejerking-suspicious-of-everyone-and-everything pathology that I think I'm gonna just ask to be called a, uh, uh, uh,...Christian! Seriously, though the preceding was, the mainline needs more voices like you who get it/Him! I join you in not buying into their goose-stepping bias as, together with the saints, we pray/labor to look up, stand up, speak up, and act up for Jesus!

Nav said...

I think our Book of Confessions idea has proven to be a failure. We should return to one confession and update it as needed to reflect our basic beliefs. I will vote against this addition partly because of my view above, because our current confessions already speak to the issues this particular one raises, and because it is weak theologically. Since our current confessions already address the issues this new one raises, I would like to know a good reason to add this one. Be real---what "new" is added by accepting this new confession? If you can't answer that, then why is it being pushed? You call us "far right" and I challenge you to back that up. The far right has left the PCUSA long ago. Those of us still here are simply orthodox believers and not "far right". Are there "far left" folks in the PCUSA? Do we have folks who deny the resurrection of Jesus, the full divinity and humanity of Jesus, who do not uphold the authority of scripture? Yes, we do. So, we do have "far left" folks in the PCUSA but no "far right". I think you are simply being a bit "PC" here---very unlike your usual self.

Dr. Robert R. Kopp said...

Actually, friend, I find little to disagree with you about; especially the kindly poke at my hypocrisy! Actually, redundantly, I really think the Nicene is enough; or maybe, and this'll shock 'em, just the Bible. Psst. Don't tell anybody; but I'm not inclined to vote for it because it's like a BB gun compared to heavy artillery. One more thing. Yeah, those labels are imprecise. For example, I've been called everything from...
Blessings and Love!

Nav said...

I should have added that I enjoy reading your blog and I know we do agree on the foundational beliefs, etc. I was just disappointed in this particular one because I thought you were not up to your usual quality, etc.

Dr. Robert R. Kopp said...

Ah, dang, friend! You sound like my wife! Just kidding! I must have had a bad hair day. Oops! I have no hair! Or maybe, that day, I had no... Love you, man!