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March 27, 2002

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To the editor:

In a Presbyweb 3/23 posting (part of a diaologue between Dr. Tenke and someone else), Dr. Tenke writes,

If G-6.0106b is wrong and it is kept:
1) Faithful Presbyterians who are called to ordained service will be denied.
2) Other good, faithful people will feel that we have pushed them away from Christ.
3) Our "message" to the world will be viewed as being judgment from us, rather than an invitation to God.
4) In effect, we will have modelled ourselves after the Pharisees in scripture: self-righteous, judging others more than ourselves, holding Traditional views above Christ.
5) Children of many nontraditional families will believe that we think that they are not as good as we are, and they will find themselves pressured (by us) into ANTI-Christian beliefs and lifestyles.
6) By giving only conditional support to an already oppressed and victimized minority, we will "allow" more hate crimes by our inaction.
7) In doing all of this, we will prove ourselves as harsh and inhospitable as the Sodomites before us.

I hope that I am not the only one who sees some of the flawed logic in these arguments. I'd like to respond to several of the points Mr. Tenke made.

First, if we are truly Presbyterian and hold to the doctrine of election, can G-6.0106b really push someone away from Christ? Dr. Tenke is implying that the prohibitions of this part of the BOOK OF ORDER can do just that.

Second, in terms of judgment, I am wondering if people think the apostle Paul was being judgmental when he instructed Timothy and Titus in how to select leaders. Leadership has always had a higher bar in any organizational structure. Are the privates in the Army denied leadership advancement if they live in a way contrary to the code of the military? Absolutely. Do corporations hand out promotions (and yes, I see the flaw in my arguing here) because they are expected? Usually not. Leadership is a calling, a privilege. This is true in the Church. 1 Cor. 12 gives us a pretty good clue that not everyone is called or expected to be in leadership. However, ALL of us are called to service in Christ. Nowhere do I see G-6.0106b keeping people from serving. It may keep them from serving in a specific way, but it does not say "You cannot serve." I can see the response - "Yes, G-6.0106b keeps some people from office." True. Does it keep people from serving in every area of the Church? No, it does not.

Third, I believe Dr. Tenke is misinformed about the omnipotence of God and the work of the Holy Spirit in the saving and calling of people (point 3). Where are people ever saved at our invitation? God is the One who saves, and even if by some gross misjudgment we are wrong in keeping G-6.0106b, isn't God big enough to overcome our error when it comes to calling people to faith?

My fourth point of contention with Dr. Tenke's assessment has to do with the idea that support of G-6.0106b is the same as being a Pharisee. I can completely understand this judgment. I have at times been very embarassed by some of my colleagues on this side of the argument. But the conservative side of this argument holds fast to the authority of Scripture. When I was first getting into ministry ten years ago, the interim pastor I was working under told me, "John, if I have to choose between the Word of God or being popular, I will choose the Word of God." I, too, choose to be unpopular in the denomination if it means lining up with the traditional (Orthodox) interpretation of Scripture.

Finally, Dr. Tenke spoke in his article of "venomous" articles he has read. Isn't calling the Church a bunch of Sodomites (his final point) the same thing? I believe in this dialogue there ought to be room to say "I think you are wrong," but never should we throw mud like that.

John Bethard
Pastor, First Presbyterian Church
Hereford, Texas

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