In the period of pain that has followed the ratification of Amendment B by the presbyteries, many have counseled patience. "Don't panic, let us see how the amendment is applied. Maybe it won't be so bad." Others have expressed the thought that those in continued opposition to Amendment B, or who choose to ignore it, have tacitly renounced the jurisdiction of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
I find, however, that it is impossible to take the advice or to be cowed by the threat. There comes a time when, like the brave German Christians who adopted the Theological Declaration of Barmen, we must stand up and say what we believe.
What I believe, in the simplest statement I can make of it, is that Amendment B is deplorable in its intention and perilous in its wording. It elevates obedience to law over God's grace in the matter of ordination; it elevates the collected documents in the Book of Confessions to a status they do not claim; it ignores fundamental principles of the Reformed Faith; and it seeks to identify a category of second-class Christians who may not be ordained.
Having stated the objection, and being committed to working within the PC(USA) toward an early solution, what can I do? Of course, I can offer help and advice to those in peril, assist in providing for an exchange of information among those who are prosecuted or fear prosection, and write and speak as eloquently as possible against the intentions and effect of Amendment B. In doing so, I reject categorization as a "sore loser." I think that the effect of Amendment B was affirmatively misrepresented, and that many people voted in favor of it without realizing its true intentions or effect.
There is (at least) one further thing I can do: suggest a strategy for
active opposition, which follows:
1. The following is true:
(a) you are a minister who was on the rolls of a presbytery at the time it acted on Amendment B; or
(b) you are an elder who was enrolled as a commissioner to a presbytery meeting at which Amendment B was acted on; and
2. The presbytery meeting happened less than "three months ago" (i.e. on the present date - May 12, 1997 - the meeting was held no earlier than February 13, 1997); and
3. The presbytery voted in favor of Amendment B; and
4. You voted against Amendment B or can state convincing reasons for "mistake" in voting in favor of it,
I am of the opinion that you are entitled to file with the stated clerk of your Synod a complaint in a remedial case, seeking to correct "an irregularity" of the presbytery. The following is a draft of a complaint which might be filed:
To the Stated Clerk
Synod of _______________:
Please take notice that the undersigned complainant hereby complains of an
irregularity committed by the Presbytery of ______________, as follows:
a. The complainant is _______________________, with an address
at ___________________. The respondent is the Presbytery of
____________________, with its address at _________________.
b. The irregularity complained of is the adoption by the
respondent of "Amendment B" to the Constitution of the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) at its stated meeting on
____________________, held at _____________________,
_____________________________, by majority vote of the
members and commissioners present.
c. The reasons for complaint of the irregularity are as
i. Amendment B is contrary to the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in that it elevates "the confessions" to a level of authority that they do not have and were never intended to possess.
ii. Amendment B is contrary to the teachings of the Bible in that it does not allow the conviction that a candidate for ordination is called by God to the work for which he or she seeks ordination to outweigh its focus on sin as defined in the "confessions of our church."
iii. Amendment B is contrary to the teachings of the New Testament in that it does not confess God's grace as the sole means of justification.
iv. Amendment B is contrary to the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in that it fails to confess the unique and authoritative witness of the Bible in considering the issues of calling, ordination and sin.
iv. Amendment B is contrary to certain central tenets of the Reformed faith and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) including but not limited to the assertion "That 'God alone is Lord of the conscience and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in anything contrary to his Word, or beside it, in matters of faith or worship.'" (G-1.0301(1)(a).)
v. Amendment B is contrary to the first affirmation of The Theological Declaration of Barmen, a confession of our church which cannot be amended by simple majority vote of the presbyteries (see G-18.0201.a(2)), which is as follows:
"I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me." (John 14:6.) "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. . . . I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved." (John 10:1, 9)
Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and death.
We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from and beside this one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and truths, as God's revelation.
d. The complainant is and was a [minister member of] [elder
commissioner to] the Presbytery of ___________________ at
the time of the meeting at which the irregularity occurred.
e. The complainant requests the following relief:
i. that the action of the Presbytery of ______________ be declared invalid and rescinded;
ii. That the stated clerk of the presbytery of ________ be required to withdraw certification of approval of Amendment B to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
f. A copy of this complaint has been delivered to the
respondent by [certified mail] [personal delivery].
NOTES: A lot of work is involved in prosecuting a remedial case, and attention to every detail spelled out in the Book of Discipline is essential. The three-month time limit is "jurisdictional." The synod permanent judicial commission has no power to hear a remedial case after that time limit has expired. Proof of service of the complaint (that is, a receipt in the case of certified mail or an affidavit of personal delivery) must be filed with the stated clerk (but this may be done within a reasonable time after the complaint is filed).
If anyone files such a complaint, I would appreciate being advised, and I am available to provide assistance if needed.