What Happened Last Night
Beaver-Butler Presbytery voted down the Open Theological Declaration at its November 17th meeting in Aliquippa, Beaver County, PA and referred it to a special task force empowered to look at the issues the Declaration confronts.
Incoming presbytery moderator, the Rev. Connie Dunn was charged by the body last night with appointing members to this new task force and with instructing it to conduct its work so that it may present a report to the whole presbytery at its March 2009 meeting.
The 55-47 (I believe, but may be wrong on the actual vote) to refer the Declaration to the new task force came after nearly an hour of highly spirited debate.
Principle objections raised during the debate centered largely around the Declaration's statements about the nature of Christians' shared beliefs with Jews and Muslims about the nature of our understandings of who God is and what constitutes either valid or invalid promotion of joint worship.
Not a few minister-presbyters raised questions about participation in and conduct of mixed-religious wedding services with Jews. They also raised questions indirectly (or obliquely) about whether or not this Declaration calls into question Christian understandings of the historical precedence of the Jews' status as God's chosen people and whether or not the document calls into question the validity of the Old Testament scriptures.
Where We Go from Here
Those of us who are appointed to serve on the newly created task force will do so. We truly have no choice at this point.
We have invested ourselves, our beliefs and consciences into this debate--seeing it as a fight over matters that truly rise to the level of covenanted orthodoxy. We will continue to stand where we must.
In the mean time, a dozen individual sessions, their collected elders, their pastors have officially signed this document and stand behind it. Our call to other sessions and presbyteries to consider this or some very close parallel statement have lost none of their passion and immediacy. We need to take decisive steps and make a bold, clear but loving stand in the face of what we see as serious steps away from the gospel handed down once-for-all to the saints.
We may not back down. And we are committed to this fight at the judicatory level. This is a church fight that must be appropriately and correctly waged within the courts of the church. Certainly affinity groups and related reform organizations are welcomed and encouraged to share this fight with us, but ultimately, the fight must be waged from the lowest recognizable regional courts to the highest.
Again, our Defender is strong and we are called to stand in place.
Please continue to pray for us and to check in with us regularly regarding updates or questions. We may be contacted via this blog or by e-mail. My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org and Pat McElroy's e-mail is email@example.com
Grace & Peace,
+Rusty Stuart & Pat McElroy