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Aug 18, 2005


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Denis Hancock

Thank-you for expressing those concerns.

It almost seems a cognitive dissonance to call ourselves "Reformed" yet at the same time reject a defining aspect of Reformation (i.e. Sola Scriptura

Christian Boyd

Great study paper! Dr March was one of my professors in seminary and I love him dearly. However I was disturbed by his shift to pluarlism. I believe our confessions and our newest catechisms leads us to a more inclusive understanding, which resonates with the Calvin and the teachings of the Church through time. "What is God doing?" "What does God desire of us?" Be faithful and follow the Way we have received through our baptism, nurtured by Christ's presence, illuminated by the Spirit through the Word, and be sent out as missionaries of the Good News. If we do this, then we cannot be pluralistic. If we embrace pluralism, then as St James said, our works are empty and are faith is dead.

David Hackett

Well stated and researched. I'm grateful that you are articulating these concerns in advance of the Council's meeting, and backing them up with statements from PCUSA confessions and documents. Go ahead, be bold, bring this before the Council!

Michael Kruse

Thanks for these observations, Christian. I am deeply passionate about this issue and I suspect that was evident in my writing. I don’t know Dr. March and I wish him no ill will.

I do think the GAC needs to be more focused about our mandate. I fear this situation in September is going to be awkward for a number of people but the stakes are too high on an issue like this to let it slide.

Michael Kruse

Denis, it all comes back to your "What is Reform?" question from earlier this week, doesn’t it?


Michael Kruse

David, I suspect this is all going to make it to the Council well before September. We will see what unfolds. Actually, I suspect the Darth Vader theme music has already been queued up for my arrival in Sacramento. *grin* Seriously, the Council are good folk. At least they put up with me.

will spotts

Well done.

Dave Moody

Great review-- thank you. And I suspect your concerns at the end are spot on. By reading this book, tacit legitimacy is given to its thesis by the GAC. For us in the trenches this is just one more thing we have to defend to our sessions- if folks are reading the web... thank you, and godspeed at GAC.


I believe this conversation is revealing a real divide emerging in the church. It's actually not a theological division. It's between those who are willing to have conversation--even boundary-pushing, assumption-challenging, potentially unorthodox conversation--and those who feel that the right posture of the church is not exploration but boundary-setting.

I don't mean this unkindly or cynically. Does the Church exist primarily to say "This is as far as you can go and no further." If so, then it will bother you that our leaders would read something with which you disagree. But if part of the Church's calling is to say, "Where is God leading us? Are we led somewhere different?" then books like March's will not be threatening.

Even if one concludes (and I have no reason to think Mike's analysis is wrong) that March is incorrect, we are not worse for having had that conversation. Some might say we're stronger, because we are firmer in our convictions.

One other thing: To say that the GAC reading a book gives "tacit legitimacy" to its thesis is simply ridiculous. If I were deemed to be giving legitimacy to the thesis of every book I read--or even asked others to read--then I would seem very conflicted indeed. But if I avoided books out of fear that they might say something wrong, or unorthodox, or difficult--well, I wouldn't learn very much.

Michael Kruse

Hi Brian! Long time, no see. Here is my take.

The Bill of Rights in the US Constitution provides for freedom of speech. Yet, courts have ruled that not all speech is protected. Often the focal issue is context. “If I yell fire! Run for your lives!” in the middle of a city park with virtually no one around, that is one thing. If I yell the same thing in a dark crowded theater, that is another. Context is everything.

Our denominational structure is very different from most institutions. Most organizations have a board that is responsible for both setting policies and giving oversight. In our case, the General Assembly sets denominational policy and priorities. The elected General Assembly Council is charged with giving oversight to the execution of the GA decisions. The staff, through the leadership of the executive director, is charged with effective and efficient execution of these plans.

At the risk of oversimplifying, the GAC is not a boundary-setting body or a boundary-pushing body. We are a boundary-maintenance body! If we want to set or push boundaries, we have the General Assembly for that. By keeping the boundaries clear, we empower effective execution by staff.

This book is not about a peripheral aspect of the church life. The only thing we require for denominational membership is a profession of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This book is advocacy for a position that takes direct aim at this affirmation and contributes nothing to the dialog about how we as the GAC might better communicate Jesus as Lord, honoring the boundaries set by the General Assembly. The issue here is not one of embracing or resisting boundary exploration. It is about the appropriate context.

I would generally agree that it is ridiculous to say that discussion of a book that advocates against denominational policy implies tacit endorsement. However, when the body discussing the book is the boundary-maintenance body of the denomination having dialog about how to further mission, and we chose to study a book that is a direct assault on the very center of our mission, how does this book help us with our work? How should that be interpreted? Why not use a compilation of the General Assembly statements like I wrote of, or use something like the “Hope in the Lord Jesus Christ?” Bring in someone from Theology and Worship or someone with expertise in this discussion. Discuss the tensions this creates in a pluralistic society. I maintain that this is the wrong discussion with the wrong group at the wrong time.

Sorry for the rambling but I hope this is coherent.

will spotts


You address this distinction very well. I was trying to think of how to express the difference. Obviously, no one would or should be concerned about individuals reading specific books and discussing them. The issue is more the purpose of the GAC -- I mean, no offense, but this is neither Oprah's book club, or a group deciding on statements of our beliefs as a denomination.

Again, I would always default on the side of reading, but the issue of endorsement (in this context) is a very real problem. It is similar to the events that moderators or stated clerks attend in their official capacity. If they are there as observers, fine. If they are there as private citizens, making this fact known. If they speak, pose for photos, issue joint press releases, etc., then not fine. It is an endorsement.

Michael Kruse

Thanks Will. I really think the biggest issue here is confusion about what we as the GAC are called to do. The broader issue is the underlying theological questions. Because, IMO, we are confused both in polity and theolgocially, we are prone to these types of errors. This confusion leads to those who would suggest such a dialog feeling unfairly censored. And those who object to the dialog feeling like they are being manipulated.

Rev. Toby L. Brown

Thanks for your reflections on this important issue--that of Dr. March's theological dissonance with our faith. I would also refer you and the readers here to my own article that spoke to Dr. March's essay in the June issue of the PW magazine, Horizons. You can find it here:
Thanks for you dedication to what matter most--living for the glory of God.

Michael Kruse

Thanks for bringing this to our attention Toby. I changed a setting that may actually make your link work. *grin*

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