PCUSA General Assembly

Here is a sample of what went on at this year’s PCUSA’s General Assembly. People dressed up as animals, and figures from what looks like a Mardi Gras procession, mixed with ministers and others in an attempt to celebrate what apologists for this scene say is just PCUSA’s way of paying homage to “native American spirituality”. It all looks a bit pagan to me, and certainly out of place in a denomination that claims to be Christian and reformed.

PCUSA General Assembly

Here’s another event, a communion service, with the “big puppets” to the fore, and some form of liturgical dance. Whatever changes the PCI’s Arrangements Committee contemplate for our General Assembly, I hope they don’t go down this road.

Given the other decisions and proposals of the General Assembly with regard to Christian marriage and the place of practising homosexuals in leadership, it seems that PCUSA has drifted away from its biblical and reformed roots. But some people have been pointing that out for many years.

19 Replies to “PCUSA General Assembly”

  1. What totally Madness that the PCUSA General Assembly has lost their Reformed Evangelical faith and Biblical principles to their doctrines,And also on the Christian Marriage in the place of Practising Homeseual in leadership is a Sin and it clearly state that in the bible that no mam and man or women and women should live together only by God’s Grace that to people Man and women be joined in Marriage.So let the PCUSA rethink in the church Doctrines which they signed to the westminister Conffesion of Faith.

  2. And the culture in the PCUSA is dubious of evangelicalism because in our enthusiasm they think we might lead people to respect us less?

  3. There are children and young people present at the opening of their general assembly. Maybe they do some things better than us.

  4. I sometimes question why we are still linked to the PCUSA., though there are some great people still in that church. It’s very sad.

  5. Stafford, some might say that the opening procession has a bit more life and colour about it than PCI’s stately procession of ex-moderators! But surely it is difficult – perhaps dangerous – to pick a 5 minute excerpt out of an opening event that took a couple of hours and criticise it. Cherry-picking lacks context, lacks any verbal or written explanation of the significance of what was happening. Surely General Assembly Opening hermeneutics requires a bit more context and material before jumping to conclusions. One person’s culturally relevant may differ greatly from another person’s. And NI’s lack of knowledge about how well – or poorly – Native Americans have found inclusion within PCUSA and other reformed denominations in the US means we might need to learn a little bit of history before judging in haste.

    As one commentator – you may have referred to him as an “apologist” – said below the Youtube video:

    “I am an evangelical & was there. After a bit of unease, I realized the entrance processional was a creative display that spoke of the coming of all creation to worship the Lord , from the four corners of the earth, all driven by Holy Spirit as symbolized by the banners of wind & fire. The music was not “canned” but led by Native American Presbyterians from a church in Minneapolis. The processional ended with baptismal imagery that led into the theme of Jesus as the Living Water. Please, chill.”

    The second video – the puppets – has no connection with PCUSA as far as I can tell. It might have helped in the post if you’d made that clear. Maybe it’s because I spent a very pleasant half hour recently talking to Oscar the Grouch, but I do note that puppets seem to have a place in NI Christian teaching. My daughter attended a holiday Bible club a few weeks ago which featured a pair of camels that could be accused of helping spread the Gospel. And the same puppets (or is the puppeteers) have taught children from PCI at more than one Kid’s Praise Party.

    Is there no light to be had at all in either of these situations? As the “standards of the church” that get read out at PCI ordinations and installations say:

    “In exercising the inalienable right of private judgement the Christian is not to set his reason above the Word of God, or to refuse light from any quarter.”

  6. Alan, you are absolutely right about the importance of context, and nowhere is this more important than in your last statement. “Not refusing light from any quarter” does not mean that anything goes or that all opinions are equally valid for reformed Christians. The statement comes in the context of affirming the authority and sufficiency of Scripture and the inadequacy of human reason. The statement goes on to say that conscience is free from “the doctrines and commandments of men which are in anything contrary to His Word or beside it, in matters of faith and worship.” It is for that reason that traditionally reformed churches have opted for only those elements in worship which are commanded or recognised in the Bible. No one’s conscience should be bound by being required to participate in worship which includes other elements not prescribed by Scripture.

  7. Alan

    When my daughter was little she was forever asking the question, what is real? (It was a question asked by the Velveteen Rabbit in the book of the same name by Margery Williams, worth a look). “Is Barney the dinosaur real?” she asked. What about Tinkywinky, or (more interestingly) those Newsreaders on TV. Or what about actors, are they real, and the people they are pretending to be, are they real? And then, of course, Santa, was he real? “I want to know, mummy, is he real or not,” said the three year old with eyes so piercing that they made an answer which was anything other than the truth impossible.

    She would have asked the same about the camels at the Holiday Bible Club, indeed her brother once came home from such an event convinced that Jesus really was a sheep. “Guess what,” he said, “turns out Jesus is a sheep.”

    It’s the question asked about God by those called ‘New Atheists’. You know how it goes, Santa isn’t real, so God isn’t either. It was the question asked by Pilate, and it was the question answered by Jesus, not just in his reply to Pilate, but in every one of the years he spent walking the dusty roads of earth. It was the question he answered with his every word and every action.

    And I guess that this is my trouble with ‘Christian drama’, it misses that *we* are the drama, we are the image bearers (symbols) of God, earth is the stage, the natural world is the backdrop and Jesus, centre stage. *We* are the “creative display”… and we are also real. It reminds me of the ‘Creation dance and drama’ performed at a Christian Youth event – the big marquee was packed, the stage was set up, everything had been well rehearsed and the audience were treated to a display of God’s creation through mime and music and all the rest, and the delicious irony was that it all took place in a forest. A forest which no one really saw or heard or tasted… because they were too busy worshipping.

    This world is God’s drama, and it is real, and we live it everyday.

    So, I suppose I’m thinking that if we need pantomime camels (or whatever) to teach our children about Jesus, that only highlights our inability to communicate with them. If Native American people (or whoever) have been excluded from the fellowship of our churches, then I, if I were one of the ‘other’, wouldn’t be particularly impressed with a bit part in a processional.

    Real sins, like exclusion, are dealt with by participating in real dramas, real dramas like eating and drinking with people, real dramas like words, words of kindness and grace, real dramas like offering, again, the hand of friendship even after it has been spurned. Real dramas like the Cross.

    And that, to my mind, is what is pagan about such events in the church, it is the replacing of the real drama with a made up one of our own, one behind which we hide… and the really disturbing thing is that we can hide behind the most orthodox of doctrine.

  8. To critise a procession at the opening night of a general assembly or even elements in worship, or prior to worship is a minor point. A more relevant point is that the PCUSA endorses homosexuality.

    Let’s talk about something that matters.

  9. Peter,

    > Real sins, like exclusion, are dealt with by participating in real dramas, real dramas like eating and drinking with people, real dramas like words, words of kindness and grace, real dramas like offering, again, the hand of friendship even after it has been spurned. Real dramas like the Cross.

    I’m with you on that.

    > And that, to my mind, is what is pagan about such events in the church, it is the replacing of the real drama with a made up one of our own, one behind which we hide… and the really disturbing thing is that we can hide behind the most orthodox of doctrine.

    But where do you draw the line? You’ve highlighted that visual embellishment can be distracting and take away from the message. But surely the oral message could be distracting too? Could anecdotes and stories and the odd bit of humour not get in the way of the message?

    Jesus lived in a culture where spoken words were of great value and influence. Today words are still important, but the culture is also very visual. Symbolism and pictures are all around, and part of how many people engage with concepts. It seems biblical to use our God-given creativity to help understand and share good news. And it would seems unbiblical to falsely constrain ourselves.

    Stafford concluded his comment with:

    > No one’s conscience should be bound by being required to participate in worship which includes other elements not prescribed by Scripture.

    Can anyone actually conclude that there’s anything unbiblical in the first five minute clip?

  10. The opening night of a general assembly on the other side of the Atlantic is, I would suggest, irrelevant to most Christians in Northern Ireland. Let’s not lead virtual lives dominated by the internet and other forms of media. I demand reality for my life and I don’t believe that it is to be found on facebook or on the internet.

  11. Truth is stranger than fiction ! ! !

    At First Presby’ Portadown, on Sunday, our children’s address consisted of one man dressed all in black, he was the Dark Destroyer (Satan) and the other, dressed in white, was Jesus. They had a tug of war! Go(o)d v’s evil. First time evil won then Jesus with the help of his “friends”, won.

    We were all encouraged to cheer and boo the appropriate “hero”.

    Stafford, your children’s address was different, are you taking your led from PCUSA? You obviously do not reject light from any quarter. What are you planning next week?

  12. Alan, thanks for your comments.

    Where do we draw the line? I’m not always sure, and while my contributions so far might give the impression that I’m both ‘black and white’ and ‘anti-creativity’, that’s not the case (I love my mac as much as any fan boy!).

    The difficulty I have is that I keep getting the impression, and it’s one I can’t quite shake, that we’re loosing the wood because of our preoccupation with the trees, we’re loosing the message because of our preoccupation with the medium, and we’re loosing the ability to offer the hand of peace because of the processional.

    So, if any of that metaphor makes sense, I’d start drawing the line when I stop seeing the point! I’d start drawing the line when the interpretation isn’t clear, be it ‘theological artwork’ or an ‘orthodox liturgy’. For example, had I been at the opening ceremony linked above, I’d have had an awful temptation to take to my feet and say, “Right, boys, hold it just a moment; before we go any further is there any chance we could stop the meeting, crack open a ‘Bud’ and head to the beach, cos at least there we stand a chance of communicating with each other. Is there any chance we could clear all this ‘stuff and fluff’ out of the way and look each other in the eye?”

    Actually, to be honest, I get that feeling at quite a lot of church meetings.

    So it’s not the “visual embellishment” per se, sometimes it’s the whole ‘cut and caboodle’; and when you say, “surely the oral message could be distracting too? Could anecdotes and stories and the odd bit of humour not get in the way of the message?” I’d tend to agree (and it’s why I made my last comment in post #9) and I’d put it this way: if what we do when we meet together as God’s people isn’t helping us to love one another (and I don’t mean saying, “Hello, how’s things.” or “Wasn’t the singing great.” !), helping us to experience grace together, helping us to bear one another’s burdens, helping us move from ‘going to church’ to becoming people who ‘are the church’ and who are encouraging one another to worship, then I’m beginning to think that it’s time for a line. And while I completely accept your point about a changing culture, the last thing I want to have to do is sit with a ‘wise’ look on my face when I haven’t the first clue what the speaker is on about, what the ‘tradition’ is doing for us or what the animated icon symboly thing is supposed to mean. And I don’t think I’m that culturally, theologically or visually illiterate!

    Maybe I could sum it up this way, if what is on my mind when I leave a gathering of God’s people is, ‘the puppets’, ‘the celebrity preacher’, ‘the praise group’, ‘the jolly squirrels’ or ‘the comfort factor of the seating’ then we’re probably missing something. And just for the sake of clarity, this isn’t something that the full time staff can ‘fix’ or be expected to ‘fix’, it involves all of us, it’s a cultural malady and I’ve a feeling that the remedy starts with a liturgy called, ‘cup of coffee’ or, as John has called it, ‘reality’.

  13. I’ve never been to the opening night of the PCI General Assembly but I thought I was once told by my friend (an ex-moderator:) that he and all his fellow ex-Moderators had to march in wearing robes in front of the congregation?

    If that is so (sorry if I’ve got my facts wrong) and the PCI is supposed to be Reformed and biblical why do we not stop doing that sort of thing especially in light of some of the things Jesus mentions in Matthew 23?
    Maybe we should look at PCI to see if its doing things by the book first..

  14. @Warwick

    Yeah but they are fraternities not a Church. Not sure what relevance either of those videos actually has to Christ. I don`t have a problem with drama or anything else if it actually has meaning or portrayal of parts of the Bible stories or something like that but the whole feel of those videos is like a raindance .. which is fair enough if thats what you believe in … civil and religious liberties and all that … it`s just not Christian.

    2 Chronicles 14:3
    For he took away the altars of the strange gods, and the high places, and brake down the images, and cut down the groves:

    2 Chronicles 33:15
    And he took away the strange gods, and the idol out of the house of the Lord, and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the Lord, and in Jerusalem, and cast them out of the city.

  15. I fail to see how using a puppet in worship is any more unbiblical than an entire denomination washing its hands of those who invested based on the advice of that self same denomination, or that same denomination sending money to organisations overseas without ever once checking that it’s being spent appropriately…

    But maybe that’s just me.

  16. How to Conduct Pagan Worship
    First, gather a majority of like-minded people together. These people should regard their conscience and feelings much greater than God’s Word. Should a minorty show up and insist God’s Word be followed and honored, be sure to belittle them and defame them as intolerable. There’s a good chance you’ll get rid of them since they take that passage in 2 Cor 14-16 very seriously.

    Second, take great care to use lots of Christian lingo in your advertising of the gathering. That way newbies will be none the wiser about your agenda. Be sure to throw the words Jesus Christ around a lot. Newbies seem to be drawn to those words.
    Third, seek out images of birds and animals to dance throughout the worship service. Hiring puppeteers to handle this important feature is best. Your like-minded attendees will love this! They will see it as art and creativeness, and these dancing puppets will keep them grossly entertained. Don’t forget to throw in a baptism and some reading from God’s Word to throw off the newbies. You don’t want them to actually know your gathering is pagan. Usually, as long as you entertain them, you’ll fool them into thinking they are worshipping Yahweh.
    Well, there you go, some great advice on how to conduct a pagan worship service. Remember, actually believing in or taking seriously God’s Word is completely unacceptable. As per PCUSA vice-moderator “reverend” Landon Whitsitt, “God’s Word is only a reference point.” It’s not actually a word from God afterall.

    For those of minority in the PCUSA, let us not forget God’s actual, breathed-out Word: For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. Romans 1:22 – 25

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