Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Ah, the good old policies

Today the Presbyterian Washington Office sent out the Witness in Washington Weekly e-mail newsletter. One of the articles read:

Elections Season- ‘The Principle of Church and State’
The principle of "separation of Church and State" implies that no Christian communion should seek privilege or power denied to others. On the other hand, this principle does not mean that churches should keep silent on, or be unconcerned about political issues. If the purpose of "politics" is to promote the good of the community and the nation, then churches should seek to be an influence in political life. . . . . . . all judicatories and local congregations have the right and duty to discuss social issues which may be called "controversial." (1955 Statement-PCUSA, minutes, p. 216)

That's a good statement. It's not as if the church and our religious convictions were meant to be in a totally different sphere than all those political things that do bode well or ill for the welfare of the people. We Reformed Christians believe in engagement in the world, not retreat or isolation.

However, let me add just three brief comments:
  1. It's one thing to "discuss social issues which may be called 'controversial,'" and another thing altogether to produce outlandish decree after decree on one issue after another. We Reformed Christians would be wiser to discuss things together than to be spewing half-baked ideas on topics to which we have given scant thought and brief attention--topics on which there is no agreement among Presbyterians, nor special expertise, for that matter.
  2. This article from the Washington Office fails to make a crucial distinction between speaking out on ISSUES (which is absolutely legitimate for a church, unless it becomes a substantial activity eclipsing the charitable purpose of the nonprofit corporation) and supporting or opposing particular CANDIDATES for office (which is strictly forbidden and a sure route to difficulties with the IRS).
  3. As long as the Washington Office is hauling out policies more than fifty years old, let's invite it to show us what our Presbyterian Church's policy on ABORTION was at the time. The funny thing is that on the particular issue of abortion, the Washington Office just seems to get selective amnesia about our historic policy, which was rightfully and firmly opposed to abortion for the life of the church, up until recently, when we lost our bearings.