We Understand That The Law is Good

As we move on in the 1st Letter of Paul to Timothy who was at Ephesus the second pericope I will take a look at is Chapter 1:8-11. This short passage follows the instruction given by Paul in what is wrong with the teachers of the law who are ignorant about what they are to be teaching and the assumptions that should be made from the law. We read in verse 6 and 7 for a refresher:

For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion. Wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.

But what conclusions are they making from the law that Paul here is wanting Timothy to avoid himself and in teaching his students? Well to understand that we first need too understand what Paul has already written concerning this. We know that we can recall with certainty that Paul’s use of the phrase “Teachers of the Law” is not innocuous. He most assuredly means the Jews, his former brethren. We also can point back to any number of places in the rest of Paul’s letters to receive his full instruction on the Law, that Timothy must know already, but specifically I want to look back at Romans 3:19-20 because this other pericope I think encapsulates the use of the law Paul is highlighting here in 1 Timothy 1:8-11. Paul says:

Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

The last clause is vitally important for what Paul is about to say in 1 Timothy 1: 8-11, that:

But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals (here Arsenokoitais, cf. Robert A.J. Gagnon‘s The Bible and Homosexual Practice for further understanding of this word) and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.

So in this short section of 1 Timothy 1 we see Paul laying out for Timothy and for us a proper understanding of the Law of God (as given to Moses) and how the Law is to be properly understood in the context of Justification by Faith Alone in Christ Alone through Grace Alone. That, as Paul says in Romans 3, through the Law comes the knowledge of Sin.

(By the way make sure and check out Spurgeon’s Morning lesson for today.)

PC (USA) Ordains Non-Celibate Homosexual to Ministry

Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area ‘Fidelity/chastity’ ordination standard not an essential of Reformed faith and polity, commissioners decide

By Craig M. KiblerStaff Writer
The Layman Online
Monday, January 28, 2008

EDINA, Minn. – Scripture and the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA) both took a beating Jan. 26 when the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area overwhelmingly voted that the “fidelity/chastity” ordination standard in the Book of Order is not an essential of Reformed faith and polity. With several inches of snow on the ground and temperatures hovering in the high teens, more than 350 people were in the sanctuary of Christ Presbyterian Church as commissioners voted on a declared scruple to that clause by Paul Capetz, an openly gay former minister in the PCUSA. Later, the presbytery also voted overwhelmingly to restore Capetz to the exercise of the ordained office of minister of Word and sacrament, as well as validating his service as an associate professor at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in New Brighton, Minn.Commissioners voted on the following motion: “The Committee on Ministry recommends that Dr. Capetz’s declared departure from G-6.0106b be not found to constitute a failure to adhere to the essentials of Reformed faith and polity under G-6.0108 of the Book of Order.” Of the 283 votes cast by written ballot, 197 commissioners voted in favor of permitting the scruple; 84 voted against; and there were two abstentions. In a statement, Interim Executive Presbyter Sarai Schnucker said, “We are overwhelmed by the grace and love that this presbytery exhibited today. The members of the presbytery have conducted themselves with respect and restraint, even while handling such a controversial issue. As a presbytery, we listened to each other and heard each other. In the midst of this time of debate and discernment, there was true worship by the Body of Christ as we sang songs and broke bread together.” “We are unaware of what might take place as a result of today,” she said, “but we have come together as the Body of Christ and we are grateful for the presence of the Spirit with us. Thanks be to God.” Second declared scruple It was the second time in 10 days that a presbytery had approved a declared scruple regarding the denomination’s “fidelity/chastity” ordination standard. On Jan. 15, San Francisco Presbytery approved a scruple in the case of Lisa Larges, a lesbian who is seeking to take the first steps in the ordination process. The three votes in Edina came in response to a request by Capetz that he be restored to ordained ministry. In April 2000, he had requested, and the presbytery agreed, that he be released from the exercise of ordained ministry because of clause G-6.0106b in the denomination’s Book of Order.That “fidelity/chastity” clause, approved by a majority of the PCUSA’s 173 presbyteries in 1997, requires those called to office in the denomination to “lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church,” including living “either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness.” At the time, Capetz said in a document provided to the presbytery for the Jan. 26 meeting, he was “unable to construe that amendment to the constitution as implying anything other than commitment to a life of permanent celibacy on the part of homosexually-oriented persons who serve as ordained officers in the church.”

PUP report

In June 2006, the 217th General Assembly approved the report of the Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity and Purity that included an authoritative interpretation that allows individual church sessions and presbyteries to declare whether G-6.0106b is essential. The authoritative interpretation focuses on the “conscience” clause (G-6.0108) and states that the judgment of ordaining bodies cannot be bound by any rule that they deem non-essential.In August 2007, Capetz cited the PUP report in making a request for restoration as a minister to the presbytery’s committee on ministry. At that time, he said he was “grateful for this new authoritative interpretation of section G-6.0108 in our Book of Order that makes it possible for me to request reinstatement as a minister with a good conscience and for this presbytery to have the authority to determine my fitness for holding this office once again.” According to a November letter provided to commissioners by Stated Clerk Nancy E. Grittman, at the time he was released from ordained office, Capetz “was a member in good standing of the presbytery. … There were no charges pending against Paul, nor was there reason to believe that there might be. As Paul says in his letter, he acted in good conscience following the passage of Book of Order G-6.0106b. …” “Following the passage by the denomination of the Peace, Unity and Purity report and the authoritative interpretation,” Grittman wrote, “Paul has asked to be restored to the ordained office of minister of the Word and sacrament.” The presbytery’s committee on ministry voted 11-3 that same month to approve Capetz’s request, saying that his declared scruple to the “fidelity/chastity” clause did not constitute a failure to adhere to an essential of Reformed faith. A Dec. 1 special meeting to consider the issue was postponed, however, after presbytery commissioners at their November meeting directed the committee to provide the presbytery with “a clear statement of what the departure from the constitution is and what was the rationale of the committee on ministry to recommend his reinstatement.” That material was provided to commissioners for the Jan. 26 meeting.

Breaking News from Pittsburgh Presbytery

Minister charged in same-sex marriage

By Mike Wereschagin
Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Presbyterian Church has charged a Squirrel Hill minister with breaking church law by performing a marriage ceremony for two women last year.

The Presbyterian Church constitution allows same-sex unions, but not marriages. If the Rev. Janet Edwards, 56, is found guilty of violating the church constitution, she faces punishment ranging from a rebuke to removal from the clergy and loss of her ministry.

“I will plead not guilty,” Edwards, a minister who is a parish associate at the Community of Reconciliation Church in Oakland, said Wednesday. “I do not believe I violated the constitution of the Presbyterian Church.”

Edwards is charged with performing a marriage ceremony “for two individuals of the same sex,” for omitting Scripture readings from the ceremony and for failing “to have the participants declare their intention to enter into a Christian marriage,” according to a copy of the charges.

A spokesman for the Pittsburgh Presbytery declined to comment yesterday.

The Pittsburgh Presbytery began investigating Edwards shortly after she conducted the ceremony for Brenda Cole and Nancy McConn, of Triadelphia, W.Va., in Cathedral Hall in McKees Rocks on June 25, 2005. The couple married legally in Vancouver, B.C., several days later.

“Marriage reflects the image of God’s covenant with creation,” Edwards said yesterday. “That love and commitment can be in a relationship between a man and a woman, sure. It can also be between two men and between two women, and it very obviously is in the relationship between Nancy and Brenda.”

Nancy McConn, 66, a retired computer software developer from Dallas, W.Va., said, “Having a spiritual marriage was so important to both of us. We’re both spiritual people.”

Her partner, Brenda Cole, 52, a clinical psychologist and Buddhist, said she was confident that if they “continue to speak the truth” — that love and commitment, not gender, matters — “the church will come to see that reality.”

The Pittsburgh Presbytery has 153 congregations, according to its Web site. The Pittsburgh Presbytery is one of the largest in the country, Edwards said, and members possess a broad range of opinions.

“I’ve received a lot of support from my colleagues here,” she said. “There are also a lot of pastors who disagree with my position.”

A pretrial hearing must be scheduled within 30 days, Edwards said. No trial date has been set.

“I’m glad I’ve been given the opportunity to participate in this discussion” about rights for gay couples, Edwards said. “The discussion has to conclude with their full inclusion in society.”

Mike Wereschagin can be reached at mwereschagin@tribweb.com or (412) 391-0927.

Open Rebellion

This is a letter to the editor in the Johnson City Press (My Great-Grandmother’s hometown) from a PC(USA) minister. I noticed it first when I read the newspaper in the August 20th edition. I did not pay it much mind until I found it on the Pastor’s own blog. Now paint me as a reactionary but is this not openly flouting the Book of Order and directives of the PJC and General Assembly?

Voting Against
“I have been honored to officiate at holy unions for gay and lesbian couples that I believe are as holy and blessed as any of the marriages I have performed for straight couples. I serve a congregation that welcomes and loves gay and lesbian people, their partners and families, and regards them as full and equal members.

I will be voting against this amendment in November. Regardless of what happens with this legislation, it is even more important that sexual minorities in this area know that you do not have to choose between your faith and who you are. There are congregations here that are open and affirming. I am proud to serve one of them.”

John Shuck
First Presbyterian Church

Pittsburgh Presbytery Does the Right Thing

Presbytery affirms its stance on gay ban

By 68-62 vote, petition opposes ordination

Friday, February 03, 2006

By Ann Rodgers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pittsburgh Presbytery will send a petition to the national governing body of the Presbyterian Church (USA), effectively asking it to retain the nationwide ban on ordaining those who are sexually active outside of heterosexual marriage.

The 68-62 vote yesterday came after more than half the original 269 commissioners had left the overtime meeting at Shadyside Presbyterian Church.

The presbytery has a long history of supporting a ban on the ordination of sexually active gay people.

The petition dealt with the denomination’s process for making church law, and came in response to another proposal that would appear to allow a local option on ordination standards.

Such a local option “will have ramifications well beyond the sexuality issue,” said Robert Gagnon, professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, who presented the petition. He is a leading proponent of the belief that gay sex is sinful.

If the local option proposal succeeded, “you will have no binding ordination standards at all,” he said.

The 2.4 million-member Presbyterian Church (USA) has long been torn over issues pertaining to sexual ethics.

In 2001 the denomination’s General Assembly appointed a broad-based Theological Task Force on the Peace, Unity and Purity of the Church to try to address and resolve the disputes. Its recommendations to this June’s General Assembly in Birmingham, Ala., include allowing local presbyteries to discern whether a candidate for ordination has “departed from the essentials of the Reformed faith and polity.”

The Pittsburgh petition says that any ordination standard that the Book of Order singles out from other standards, calls a requirement or makes mandatory by the word “shall,” must be deemed “an essential of Reformed faith and polity.”

At stake is a 1996 standard setting forth “the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage of one man and one woman, or chastity in singleness.” The General Assembly has repeatedly voted to repeal that standard, but the repeal never got the required ratification from a majority of the nation’s 173 presbyteries.

The petition from Pittsburgh Presbytery says that the task force proposal would effectively remove the right of presbyteries to vote on establishing binding national standards.

The Rev. Bebb Stone, pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Mount Washington, opposed the petition.

“For the last several years we have been using our polity and we have been torn asunder into a red state-blue state situation. It seems to me that the task force tried to find another way, to be more purple, perhaps,” she said.

The Rev. Paul Robert, pastor of Eastminster Presbyterian Church in East Liberty, said that his lay governing board had endorsed the petition because the current system of checks and balances keeps the church united.

“Sometimes we don’t agree with the person across the aisle, but we respect the vote,” he said. “The presbytery has the right to enforce the Book of Order. It does not have the right to interpret the Book of Order.”

(Ann Rodgers can be reached at arodgers@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1416.)