From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[PCUSANEWS] Ordination fracas called more than a distraction

Date 17 Jun 2002 20:47:08 -0400

Note #7248 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:

Ordination fracas called more than a distraction
June 17, 2002

Ordination fracas called more than a distraction

New York pastor calls on Presbyterians to resolve conflict over G-6.0106.b 

by Eva Stimson

COLUMBUS, OH - The Rev. Jon Walton, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in New York City, told a luncheon audience on June 17 that resolving the continuing dispute over ordination standards is the key task God has assigned to the Presbyterian Church today.

Walton was the featured speaker at an event sponsored by the Covenant Network of Presbyterians and attended by more than 600 Presbyterians in Columbus for the 214th General Assembly of the PC(USA).

	"There is a great deal of complaining in the church that because we cannot successfully resolve the ordination issue once and for all, we cannot get on with the so-called real business of the church," Walton said. "But I want to suggest to you that resolving this issue may in fact be precisely the business that God has given us to do - which is why it won't go away. In fact, if we cannot solve this with God's help, then what do we think God will help us solve?"

	The ordination matter is more than just an annoying distraction from more important church business, he said, quoting the late Catholic priest and author Henri Nouwen: "What if our interruptions are in fact our opportunities?"

	The Covenant Network is working toward removing from the PC(USA)'s Book of Order section G-6.0106.b, which requires church officers "to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness." Walton and other Network leaders in attendance affirmed their continuing commitment to that goal. But Walton said the question must be settled by Presbyterians on both sides of the issue, seeking God's will together.

	"God has put us together on both sides of this issue for some inscrutable reason that only God understands," he said.  "I have come to believe that God will not let us off the hook until we settle this in a way that we will all understand and welcome."

	Walton had strong words for those filing judicial charges against Presbyterians they perceive to be in defiance of G-6.0106.b. "We have reduced the polity of the church to an endgame of judicial cannibalism that pits presbyteries against their own churches, and sessions against their own congregants, in matters of conscience and non-essential theological disagreements."

	He also condemned the church's obsession with "sins of the bedroom" while it overlooks other serious sins, such as "pride, selfishness, envy, work without Sabbath, idolatry of Mammon, Biblical sloppiness, and theological bickering."
Walton took time early in his speech to correct erroneous reports about the location of his church in relation to Ground Zero, the site of the Sept. 11 attacks on the towers of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. First Presbyterian, 20 blocks north of the site, has often been identified as the Presbyterian church nearest to Ground Zero. Walton said First Chinese Presbyterian is closer.
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