PCUSA Assembly Approves Deleting Gay Clergy Ban

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s highest governing body voted Friday in favor of a proposal that would allow for the ordination of non-celibate gays and lesbians.

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The 218th General Assembly, meeting in San Jose, Calif., this week, voted 380-325 to send the overture – that would delete the requirement that clergy live in “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between and a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness” – to the denomination’s 173 presbyteries for approval.

Adding to the blow to conservatives, the Assembly also adopted a supplementary authoritative interpretation of the PC(USA) constitution that would allow gay and lesbian candidates for ordination to conscientiously object the current “fidelity and chastity” standard and the local ordaining body to discern whether the declared objection is disqualifying.

After decades of debate on gay clergy, commissioners and delegates at the meeting continued to argue on both sides, but the debate this year was shorter than in previous years, according to the Presbyterian news service from the General Assembly.

Approving the proposal of amending the PC(USA)’s constitution would “destabilize the denomination, obliterate trust and reduce funding for the church. Don’t send a shock wave through the church,” said the Rev. William Stepp of Tropical Florida Presbytery, who opposed the drop on the gay clergy ban.

The PC(USA) “needs a continuing strong witness to biblical standards for sexuality,” he added, according to the news service.

But with discussion on ordination standards having gone on for 30 years, the Rev. Susan Fisher of Pacific Presbytery felt “compelled” to advance the amendment to the presbyteries to “let the wider church decide if now is the time” to change the standards.

The Rev. Dan Holloway of Providence Presbytery, who moderated the Assembly Committee on Church Orders and Ministries that brought the recommendation to the Assembly, stressed that the Assembly’s vote has not changed the denomination’s constitution. But with heated debates expected across the denomination as presbyteries decide whether to approve the proposed amendment – a process that could take up to a year – Holloway urged for “gracious and loving and welcoming” conversations “since we are not all of one mind.”

Pleading for unity, outgoing General Assembly Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick said, “There are people who are gay and lesbian who long passionately to be included. There are others who believe strongly, not that they don’t love them, but that standards must be upheld. What is essential is the spirit of unity as we go forward to a new stage in the process.”

Also on Friday, the Assembly approved a new authoritative interpretation of the Book of Order – which contains Rules of Discipline for the PC(USA) – declaring that interpretive statements related to sexual standards for ordination that predate the adoption of the “fidelity and chastity” requirement in 1996 “have no further force or effect,” as reported by the Assembly news service.

The “fidelity and chastity” requirement had replaced language prohibiting non-celibate gays and lesbians from ministry.

Courtesy of christianpost.com

Steven Curtis Chapman’s daughter killed in accident

by Terry DeBoer | The Grand Rapids Press

Thursday May 22, 2008, 4:53 PM

The Chapman family: From left, Will Franklin, Maria, Steven, Shaohannah, Mary Beth, Stevey Joy, Caleb and Emily Chapman.

West Michigan Christian music fans are expressing their sympathy for Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman after the death of his 5-year-old daughter in an accident Wednesday in the family’s driveway.

“We opened up the phone lines and people called in and wanted to pray right over the air,” said Troy West, morning show co-host on contemporary Christian music radio station WJQK-FM (99).

Maria Sue Chapman was struck by a car driven by one of her teenage brothers, according to authorities in Franklin, Tenn., who added they believe no charges will result from what they termed “a tragic accident.”

The child died 10 days after her fifth birthday. Chapman’s manager, Jim Houser, also noted in a Web site posting the family had been hours away from hosting a high school graduation party for their son Caleb when the accident occurred.

Maria was the youngest of three Chinese girls the family had adopted, two of them through the the Nashville, Tenn., office of Bethany Christian Services. Chapman and his wife, Mary Beth, also have three biological children — two teenage sons and a 21-year-old daughter.

“They are loving and wonderful parents and a great family — they must be devastated,” said Brian De Vos, manager of Michigan operations for Bethany Christian Services. “He’s been such an advocate for adoption — I know their commitment to kids.”

DeVos has known the Chapmans for eight years and worked with them on Shaohannah’s Hope, a foundation the couple named for one of their adopted daughters and established to help families through the often expensive adoption process.

During Chapman’s most recent concert tour — which included a stop at Sunshine Community Church last September — the singer raised $340,000 for the foundation. While here, he awarded a grant of about $3,000 to a local family for adoption expenses.

He also has raised funds for construction of an orphanage in China for special-needs children who likely will never be adopted.

Chapman, 45, has sold more than 10 million albums, has had dozens of No. 1 Christian radio hits, and has won more than 50 Dove Awards — exceeding any other individual artist.

Yet he would much rather talk about his family or his work with adoptions and orphans.

“I have sung a lot of his songs,” said local Christian singer Marty Miller, of Belmont, posting comments on an area Christian musicians’ Web site. “Please be in prayer for the family.”

Chapman’s current hit song on Christian radio is “Cinderella,” a ballad about precious times spent together by father and daughter. It was inspired by a real family moment.

Courtesy of The Grand Rapids Press

Warren’s challenge to pastors: ‘What has God put in your hands?’

by Michelle A Vu, US Correspondent
Posted: Friday, April 11, 2008, 7:26 (BST)

'What has God put in your hands?'

Best-selling author of ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ Pastor Rick Warren speaks at the 19th annual National Conference on Preaching in Woodbridge, Va., on Tuesday, April 8, 2008.
(Christian Today)

Internationally revered Pastor Rick Warren slipped into the conference hall unnoticed Tuesday night, comfortably mingling with the hundreds of pastors gathered at the 19th annual National Conference on Preaching, before stepping on stage to deliver a sermon that reminded the audience why Warren is one of the most popular pastors in the world.

In his sermon entitled “Growing Spiritually,” Warren recounted the runaway success of his book The Purpose Driven Life – the best-selling book in history behind the Bible – to the audience gathered at Woodbridge, Virginia, in the US. The sermon was based on the story in Exodus 4 about the scene where God tells Moses to throw his staff on the ground and it transforms into a snake.

“That question, ‘What is in your hand?’ is one of the most important questions in life. What is in your hand?” Warren asked his audience, citing God’s question to Moses in Exodus 4:2.

God tells Moses to throw the staff in his hand on the ground and “something that was dead comes alive”, Warren emphasised. The pastor of Saddleback Church in southern California then made two points: God never does miracles to show off and God never asks questions that he does not already know the answer. God asks questions for our benefit, said Warren.

He went on to explain the significance of the staff which represented Moses’ identity as a shepherd; symbolised his income because wealth was tied to livestock back in those days; and symbolised his influence – Moses used the staff to pull or push his sheep.

“‘Lay it down and it will come alive, but Moses every time you pick it up it’s going to die,’” said Warren. “That simple little experience was the turning point in the history of the world.”

After that scene in the Bible, it was never again referred to as Moses’ staff but always called the Rod of God. The Rod of God was used to part the Red Sea, to turn the Nile River into blood, to perform miracles in front of pharaoh and to make water come out of a rock.

“It was just a simple stick. There was nothing magical about it, but once Moses surrendered it to God, it became the Rod of God,” Warren noted. “Pastors, what is in your hands?” the speaker challenged.

Courtesy of Christian Today

Gorbachev Admits He’s A Christian

Nearly 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union’s atheist empire, Mikhail Gorbachev has admitted he is a Christian, reports the Daily Telegraph. On a visit to Italy the last president of the Communist state prayed at the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi, and later told priests the saint had played a fundamental role in his life. “St. Francis is, for me, the alter Christus, the other Christ,” said Gorbachev.

Gorbachev always professed atheism as Soviet leader, although Ronald Reagan is said to have suspected that his Cold War adversary was a “closet believer.” Gorbachev’s parents baptized him in the Russian Orthodox church and his wife’s parents were killed during World War II for owning religious icons.

Courtesy of newser.com