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March 25, 2004


Dear Editor:

I'd like to briefly reply to the Berkley & Dooling item posted on the PFR site regarding the "Unintended Consequences" of removing the Authoritative Interpretations. For the record, my own initial reaction to this overture was similar to theirs. Needless to say, all of their points were considered and discussed at length before this overture was approved by the Presbytery of Long Island.

Although the tone of portions of the AIs might salve a moderate's ears, the salve has become useless with age. The "grandparent" provision has no value today, as Janie Spahr supporters can tell you. Regarding homophobic hate crimes and using compassion in our dealings with sexual minorities, every Presbyterian believes that the words of Christ speak much more clearly and have more authority than a "guidance piece." Regarding the promotion of research and education, we will not promote ignorance without the AIs. Those who "need" the AIs for any of these reasons are simply misleading themselves.

G-6.0106B is now a duly approved part of our constitution, passed and maintained by the vote of our presbyteries. Its wording was crafted accordingly, even though it falls short of what many of us would prefer. Like it or not, it'll probably be around for awhile.

The Authoritative Interpretations, however, are something altogether different. They were prepared by a GA-appointed team as a GUIDANCE PIECE, and were neither crafted nor voted on as an amendment would have been. Judicial history to the contrary, they are STILL no more than well-considered position pieces – much like the recent Changing Families study and the ill-fated 1991 Sexuality report.

The AIs are also DATED. They were written in the decade following the removal of homosexuality as a classification in the DSM, when some psychiatrists, and many theologians, viewed the declassification as controversial. Now, three decades of evidence support the revision. Efforts to change the sexual orientation of healthy sexual minorities are likewise generally regarded as questionable under our international agreements regarding the humane treatment of experimental subjects.

The AIs deal with healthy, well-functioning, faithful Presbyterians who happen to be homosexual. Positive caveats to the contrary, their wording speaks AGAINST our commitment to inclusivity and theological diversity within the Reformed tradition. More importantly, their legal and stylistic weaknesses make them inflammatory. If you doubt this, try to envision an attempt to pass them as legitimate amendments: THEY WOULD NEVER PASS!

The final point is that the AIs are SUPERFLUOUS! Noncompliance cases are now tried solely on "B," which addresses the law, but reduces the controversy.

Yours in Christ,

Craig E. Tenke, Ph.D.
elder, Center Moriches, NY
neuroscientist, NYS Psychiatric Institute,
Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, NYC, NY

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