Thursday, March 20, 2008

Doesn't Faith Matter?

It seems to me that the news story about Martha Clark, the new general counsel for the PC(USA), illustrates a concern many of us share: Is this denomination just one more corporation, no different in practice and vision than just any old secular business?

Let me interject that I don’t know Martha Clark and have no bone to pick concerning her promotion. She sounds legally qualified and competent, and the search appeared to be thorough. I wish her well.

However, in reporting about Clark’s promotion, the news story reads no differently than if it were talking about a promotion at secular Humana, just down the street in Louisville, where Clark once worked. What do we learn of Clark’s spiritual competence for church leadership? Nothing. Does she believe? Does it matter? What do we find out about her theology of the intersection of secular law and Christian practice? Nothing from this news report.

What does Clark bring to the job? Experience, we’re told. Does she bring faith or congruence with our church purposes? We don’t know. She may well be spiritually mature and a pillar of her church, but we wouldn’t know it from this report, nor would we know if such qualifications were even considered germane to the search. Maybe they weren’t. Linda Valentine didn’t mention anything about spiritual qualifications for Clark.

Is this just another job for Clark, or is it a calling by God to a Christian vocation, a significant leadership ministry in a self-consciously Christian organization? We don’t know. Apparently such information is not important for such a news story, or maybe not important for such a staffing decision. But I can’t help but think that it should be.

The previous general counsel, Erik Graninger, came under fire for his harsh, take-no-prisoners contribution to the “Louisville Papers,” the legal briefs that counsel extremely aggressive and contentious tactics for presbyteries to grab the property of transferring congregations. Thus, the attitude and tactics of the general counsel do have bearing in this ostensibly Christian organization. An attorney who sees her calling to be pastoral as well as legal would probably operate with a different set of practices than one who makes it her job only to fiercely contend for worldly goods and power for the corporation.

I hope we have a new denominational general counsel who prays about her decisions, who looks to the good of the Body of Christ and not only to the secular ambitions of an institution, who seeks to live by Christian guidance and principles as she practices law with excellence, and who sees herself in a role of Christian responsibility and leadership. I hope this isn’t just a nice promotion, like one might get at Humana or any other corporation.

I can hope, but I don’t know, because the news story gives us no clue about the spiritual side of this decision. That, to me, seems odd, for a church.

24 Comments:

Blogger Chris said...

Intellectual property...I think they're gearing up for a fight over the name Presbyterian!

6:27 AM, March 21, 2008  
Blogger Dave Moody said...

Jim,
What is a tad disheartening about this (and I wouldn't even have noticed this except that you blogged on it)- is not the hiring of Ms. Clark per se, she's undoubtedly well qualified and competent for this position- but the reality that the hiring of a lawyer is newsworthy enough to proclaim it. Does it say something about the self perceived tacit understanding of the importance of lawyers for our denomination? Yes hire a lawyer, but is that really significant for the mission of the denomination. I fear, it just may be. And thats what is the troubling part of this blog.

Why not go out and find the best church planter/team of people, tried and true, to completely revamp the mission end of things-- to plant gospel proclaiming churches? That would be worth announcing!

But instead, we hire lawyers, announce that to the world, and *seem* to think that is fulfilling some portion of the great commission, or the great commandment.

I could be all wet and naïve... but I can't help but be vaguely uneasy at the whole thing.

Dave Moody
Trinity Church
S, IL.

7:53 AM, March 21, 2008  
Blogger Jim said...

I think we need to be careful that we aren't too cynical about this matter. I know we have found too many instances where cynicism is a rather logical conclusion, but I wouldn't consider this one of them.

The PC(USA) is a large corporation. Corporations, in this day and age, need legal counsel, and they have attorneys on their staff. There are property matters, liability matters, contracts, insurance matters, personnel matters, and who knows what else that require legal opinions.

The PC(USA) has had a general counsel for some time, so this surely isn't some sly move, portending nefarious action by the denomination. It's a routine replacement of an existing position.

HOWEVER, the point I still want to make is that we're not just some secular corporation. Faith DOES matter, and it should matter with this hire. There was not a shred of evidence in the PNS story that faith played any part in this position. That is what I was lamenting. I think it is such an attitude that causes unfaithful results at times in the life of this denomination.

Jim Berkley
Bellevue, WA

9:06 AM, March 21, 2008  
Blogger John Shuck said...

Hey Jim,

I have tagged you with a blog meme. Bruce Reyes-Chow started it. I hope you can play.

John Shuck
Elizabethton, Tennessee

3:59 PM, March 22, 2008  
Blogger Jim said...

John,

No thanks.

I never have liked chain letters.

Jim Berkley
Bellevue,WA

4:18 PM, March 22, 2008  
Blogger Bill Crawford said...

Interesting. Shortly after Katrina PDA hired a person to run the PDA Tent Cities. Her faith tradition was Jewish although I don't believe from our conversations she was practicing.

When I questioned PDA about hiring a non-Christian much less a Non-Presbyterian I was told it was a matter of equal opportunity employment.

Hope that makes up for any lack of evidence in your cynicism. That's cold hard facts.

Bill Crawford
Thibodaux, La

3:09 PM, March 26, 2008  
Blogger Jim said...

Bill,

And THAT's interesting. And what you were told is actually untrue.

Churches definitely CAN discriminate in hiring because of religious belief. A key test case involved a janitor in a YMCA, if I remember correctly. Faith--even for a custodian--CAN be a legitimate job requirement when it is a Christian organization that is hiring.

I would argue that it SHOULD be a job requirement, since we're not just any old organization, but rather a Christian ministry with a mission to accomplish in a Christian manner.

Anybody could possibly run a volunteer work camp, but it would take a Christian to run a work camp as a Christian ministry. Any qualified attorney could be the PCUSA corporate attorney, but one would think that it would take a Christian attorney to see the position as a Christian ministry and not just a job.

Faith ought to matter.

Jim Berkley
Bellevue, WA

3:28 PM, March 26, 2008  
Blogger Bill Crawford said...

Agreed!

6:43 AM, March 27, 2008  
Blogger Kattie W. Coon said...

Jim, Bill,

"I would argue that it SHOULD be a job requirement"

Great message you're conveying there guys.

I heard of Jewish services taking place in one tent city, and there were Muslims in another. Does this bother you?

When it comes to running tent cities, in a disaster zone, the PDA should take the position of...No Jews need apply??? I guess we don’t want their kind of good works!

“Faith ought to matter”

Yes Jim, faith matters.

We have to stamp out these ecumenical, interfaith activities. After all faith HAS to precede membership, right? We get to decide who the true faithful members of the Church are, don’t we?.....NOT!

Faith without good works, or good works without faith, well, you know the story as well as I (I hope). Hopefully, in the end, God finds our merger of the two to his liking.

I grow weary of the propaganda spewed out on blogs like this one.

Kattie

12:24 PM, March 27, 2008  
Blogger Jim said...

Kattie,

Now don't hold back! Why not tell us how you REALLY feel? :-)

In your grumpiness, you illustrate two things:

1) I find that in general, progressives seem to have a difficult time simply being courteous. (John Shuck comes to mind for some reason.) Your posting was contemptuous and full of jumped-to conclusions. I don't think that helps your cause.

2) It's all about works. Jesus doesn't matter. Faith doesn't matter. Just hop to whatever cause is the latest rage. Anybody can do it. It takes no belief. The cup of cold water is what matters, not that it is given as an emissary of the King. THAT, quite frankly, is yet another indicator of the very problem I was trying to point out. You do my argument great service by so amply illustrating my point.

What you miss, Kattie, is that I am all for doing compassionate service. Jews do it a lot because of their faith. Secular people do it. Even despotic dictators can summon the will to do it at times. It needs to be done, and the more, the merrier. I'm all for it.

However, a distinctly CHRISTIAN group will have a distinctly Christian stamp on not only what they do but how they do it and--most importantly--in whose name they do it. If Presbyterians gather their efforts to do something good and important, why not do it in a way that adds a key dimension a Rotary Club or atheists' league or Muslim Brotherhood can't? Why not serve as the hands and feet of Jesus Christ--giving him the glory, rather than their human achievements?

Faith matters, even in mucking out flooded homes. There is a MINISTRY dimension that could use mature spiritual leadership, not just a great community organizer or spunky crew boss.

If we're only just another social agency, why not reincorporate as the Presbyterian Organization (U.S.A.)?

Jim Berkley
Bellevue, WA

1:09 PM, March 27, 2008  
Blogger Kattie W. Coon said...

“If Presbyterians gather their efforts to do something good and important, why not do it in a way that adds a key dimension a Rotary Club or atheists' league or Muslim Brotherhood can't?”

Jim, are you implying that by employing a Jew, they can’t do their work in the name of Christ or proclaim the Gospel?

Was the Lord's work being performed by the Jewish PDA employee, or not? Are you (or anyone) qualified to be the judge? Was there not ample opportunity for the gospel of Christ to be preached by other employees of the PDA or their volunteers? It looks a lot like what you are advocating is some sort of Old Testament style purity code.

I don’t care how you try to spin it, sugar coat it, or deny it, what your argument ultimately comes down to is, “no Jews need apply”.

“In your grumpiness, you illustrate two things:”…

You got it very wrong:

1) I’m not all that progressive. I’m an equal opportunity offender. :-)

2) I said nothing at all about it being “all about works”, or that “faith doesn’t matter”.

Yep, more propagandist’s nonsense. False labels, twisted interpretations, lies…

In the words of St. Francis of Assisi, "preach the gospel always, use words if necessary".

Kattie

2:27 PM, March 27, 2008  
Blogger Dave Moody said...

Huh, who knew... its jump on Jim day. Apparently its anti-IRD day over at the most reformed blog on the internet too.

Christ is risen, contrary to the wishes of some, no doubt. But, he is risen indeed!

Jn 16.33

2:51 PM, March 27, 2008  
Blogger Kattie W. Coon said...

"Christ is risen, contrary to the wishes of some, no doubt. But, he is risen indeed!"

Amen to that Brother!

Kattie

3:13 PM, March 27, 2008  
Blogger Jim said...

rKattie,

If it quacks like a duck...

I just assumed you were as progressive by self-identification as you are by your ideas. My mistake.

But whither the animosity--accusing me of propaganda, lies, and heinous crimes of employment discrimination? What gives with all the fire in your comments?

I've been saying from the start that roles of leadership in a Christian organization ought to have believers occupying them. I mean--what's so radical about that?

Would you hire an active, believing, practicing, witnessing Moonie as your pastor? No? As your youth director? No? To teach the children in Sunday school? No? To lead a mission team to Mexico? No? To head up the pastoral care ministries of your church? No? To be a church custodian who never speaks for the church or teaches? Maybe?

We all make choices, and churches and Christian organizations fall on a broad spectrum, considering what message they want to give by means of the people they hire. I would imagine that you happen to draw a line somewhere differently than I would. That's neither bad nor good. It's different.

When I make a case for something somewhat more strict than what you'd advocate, that doesn't make me an evil, cruel propagandist, who tells lies and all. Really! Is it possible for someone to think something different than you and still be okay? Or must everyone pactice faith EXACTLY as you would, otherwise they must be denounced as terrible and jumped on with claws out?

Perhaps you could actualy be more LIBERAL in how you treat me and my ideas, and the motivations behind them. How's that for a suggestion?

Sigh.

Jim Berkley
Designated Hittee
Bellevue, WA

4:59 PM, March 27, 2008  
Blogger Kattie W. Coon said...

“If it quacks like a duck...

I just assumed you were as progressive by self-identification as you are by your ideas. My mistake.”

Really Jim?

What “progressive” ideas did I put forth. Was it the part about proclaiming the Gospel? How about the part about doing God’s work? Maybe it was the part about works without faith and faith without works? Could it possibly be the part where I suggested the radical notion that we can’t reliably judge through whom God chooses to work? What were they (pleural)?

What I found most distressing about your comments concerning the PDA tent city employee was your apparent assumption that this person would be in a position where his/her faith (or maybe lack thereof) would be critical. Who’s to say that God wouldn’t use a person without strong faith to bring many (and even himself) into a close relationship with God anyway? It’s really not at all like this person was being considered to be a Pastor, Youth Director, Sunday School Teacher, Mexico mission trip leader, or to head up the pastoral care ministries of your church, now is it? Or do you know (rather than assume) differently what this person’s duties were/are? Maybe Bill Crawford would be so kind to fill us in on what this person’s actual day-to-day duties were/are. In reality, his/her faith is probably more important to their own salvation than it is to the people encountered during the course of work. The same can’t be said for a Pastor, Youth Director, etc.

As far as us drawing the line differently is concerned: I think you’re right that it’s neither bad nor good, just different (maybe I really am progressive after all, and you too). I just wonder then why you decided to spend the time to write a nit-picking article about Martha Clark’s promotion and your apparent concern that the GAC and others weren’t concerned enough about Martha’s faith credentials to tell us about them (she’s only been working there already for 12 years).

I guess I’m just plain cynical when it comes to the articles you write. They’re just so non-uplifting and not full of encouragement, certainly not what I would hold up as good examples of good Christian commentary. You certainly don’t contradict those who criticize you and the rest of the IRD by the words you write. As far as my propagandist accusation is concerned: If it quacks like a duck…

Kattie

7:24 PM, March 27, 2008  
Blogger Jim said...

Kattie,

"I guess I’m just plain cynical when it comes to the articles you write."

Uh-huh.

Jim Berkley
Bellevue, WA

8:07 PM, March 27, 2008  
Blogger Bill Crawford said...

Katie,

I care little for your theological possition but your tone is completely uncharitable and unknowing.

Key points:

PDA was running a Christian mission not an ecumenical exercise. Their choice to hire an non-practicing Jew to run the mission made it quite clear that they didn't understand their work (on our behalf) was primarily a Christian response.

Katie you don't know much about this but I've run a disaster relief center in our church off and on for 5 years. We were a highlighted congregation for the One Great Hour of sharing.


I've helped respond to relief work in over 4 hurricanes, our teams have beaten the National Gaurd into communities with relief materials. I'm a veteran of these dealings. I'm on the board of a local secular relief agency.

During the Katrina, and Rita disasters I ran a 2,000 ton relief warehouse working with diverse persons from athiests, to the Red Crescent, to Whole Foods Inc., even the wife and son of Senator Joe Biden. But that Christian mission was run by Christians and often despite PDA and often with PDA.

You jumped all over us for pointing out a great problem for presbyterian bureacrats - their total disconnect with the fact that the rest of us consider it the mission of the Church they are running and that they treat it like their personal mission.

So get off the high horse for a moment.

We should work with people all over the map to help others but we should not sell out on who and what we are to do it.

What progressive ideas did you put forward? Ecuminism at the price of Evangelism. Whether you intended it or not you did seem to be expressing that possition.

Also the ad hominem attack on two Evangelicals like a truck running over an armadillo in the middle of the night. That's a pretty common progressive idea.

I worked with that Jewish person for some time, we had a cordial working relationship but that does not mean that I thought it wise or best to have her running the Mission of a Christian organization. For the leaders of that Christian organization to try and tell me they couldn't find any Christians to run it was dead wrong.

2:17 PM, March 28, 2008  
Blogger Kattie W. Coon said...

Bill,

I’m glad you chose to come back and provide us with more information. You didn’t answer my question though.

You said, “PDA was running a Christian mission not an ecumenical exercise. Their choice to hire an non-practicing Jew to run the mission made it quite clear that they didn't understand their work (on our behalf) was primarily a Christian response.” Actually the PDA’s work in the wake of Katrina and the other storms in that area was quite ecumenical. Were you not aware of the Jewish and Muslim groups of relief workers who occupied PDA tent cities? Your statement that the PDA hired a “non-practicing Jew” to “run the mission” sounds like a bit of a distortion to me. It’s true that I don’t actually know the full job description of the particular person in question, but I have seen the stated job description the PDA put out for people to run tent cities. Although the application form was clearly geared toward Christian applicants (so much for your - not "understanding" that it is a primarily Christian response – slam and distortion), I saw no reason to suspect that the hiring of a single non practicing Jew would produce such a taint on the whole effort that it, by Jim’s implication, would be no better than the effort of a Rotary Club or atheists' league or Muslim Brotherhood. As I asked before, was there insufficient opportunity to spread the Gospel? Was the Gospel not preached (reference to my earlier quote from St. Francis of Assisi)?

“So get off the high horse for a moment.” Bill, you came in riding on a pretty high horse yourself in this last response. See any logs? Do you really think that all the good Christian relief work you’ve done makes you uniquely qualified to assess the circumstances surrounding the hiring of this particular relief worker? It’s impressive, but a bit of a non sequitur I think.

“Ecuminism at the price of Evangelism.” Bill, we’re talking about one person out of hundreds or thousands. You’re painting a very distorted picture.

“For the leaders of that Christian organization to try and tell me they couldn't find any Christians to run it was dead wrong.” Really Bill? Is that the whole truth or just an isolated fact taken out of context and spun to support your position? How many applicants did they actually have in hand at the time they needed someone? How qualified were they? Also, once they hired this “non-practicing Jew”, what reason would they have to fire her when the properly qualified practicing Christian came along? What kind of message would that convey?

I wonder how much of your latest missive qualifies as gossip?

My accusation of propagandism stands. Your writings reek of propagandist tactics (your's and Jim's).

Kattie

8:56 AM, March 29, 2008  
Blogger Dave Moody said...

Kattie-
You've gone from quoting St. Francis to making accusations of gossip and propoganda (which, I guess is lying, in essence)-- it makes me wonder if you really understand St. Francis...

The question originally asked was, "Does faith in Jesus Christ matter in hiring people to work in leadership positions for the Presbyterian Church(USA)?"

I *think* I hear you saying, a)it doesn't matter and b)to even ask such a question is unchristian (or the equivalent) and c) to assume a 'yes it does matter' means one is hypocritical, judgmental and again, subchristian (I know you haven't used that word, but thats the general vibe I'm getting).

I don't see such a posture on your part engendering much conversation. You're right, those who disagree are- well- bad, defective in some way, shape or form. Tone is incredibly difficult to interpret in this media granted, but am I misreading you?

Dave Moody,
S. IL

10:01 AM, March 29, 2008  
Blogger Bill Crawford said...

Katie your question was so far off topic that I saw no point in answering it you said:

"When it comes to running tent cities, in a disaster zone, the PDA should take the position of...No Jews need apply??? I guess we don’t want their kind of good works!"

As if our hiring a Christian to work as a Christian missionary is excluding Jews from pursuing their work - it's the kind of question that has no reasonable answer and therefore did not get one.

Do I have a problem with worshipping other Gods at a Christian facility? Yes Katie (who has not given her city and state) I do. If that makes me intolerant in your book fine.

Those facilities were often leant, leased, or donated to PDA for use as a Christian facility it has caused considerable local grief when those turned out to be hosting worship services as you described them.

As to what does the manager of the tent cities do? They coordinate the mission work of the Presbyterian Church whose members gave millions of dollars to do Christian ministry throughout the gulf coast.

Again you posit an unreality when you infer that my feeling that this should be run as a christion mission would keep muslims and jews or any secularist from helping people. That is an absurdity. Billions of dollars of relief has poured into the gulf coast region of which the millions of PCUSA dollars are (although generous)a drop in the bucket.

Instead of being used to proclaim Christ's mission they are being used to proclaim Allah's mission and many others missions.

Again that does not bother you - it does bother me.

Katie there is much more that could be said but I have no intentions of stating publicly what has already been stated privately in person and in writing to the leadership of PDA.

You have read job discriptions, I know the players on the field personally and I have lived it.

I'm not riding on a high horse but when some nearly anonymous person jumps all over my case about something that she knows nothing about yes I will respond to the poke in the ribs with a sharp stick.

10:53 AM, March 29, 2008  
Blogger Kattie W. Coon said...

Dave,

Yes, tone is incredibly difficult to interpret in this media, and yes, you seem to be misreading me.

My gossip comment (mostly a question) had to do with the lack of factual information presented concerning the circumstances surrounding the hiring of a "non-practicing Jew" to head up tent cities. We've heard a lot about the fact that she was there, but nothing concerning how she arrived there. We weren't even told by Bill if she was heading up only one tent city, many, a few, all of them, or whatever. The next thing we know Jim is proposing that this person’s presence there in that position effectively turns the entire ministry effort into nothing more than the effort of a Rotary Club or atheists' league or Muslim Brotherhood. Is this not the kind of poisonous talk that comes from gossip?

I wonder, is the position this person held really the kind of leadership position “for the Presbyterian Church (USA)” that your comment seems to imply? The job description I saw, and I can’t be certain that it was for her particular position because Bill didn’t tell us, doesn’t seem to me to be one where being a practicing Christian is an essential qualification. According to the description, this person, among other things, would be responsible for delegating someone to lead prayers. I would hope that if this employee were not a practicing Christian that she would have sought out the advice of someone who was before making that delegation. We’ve been given no evidence here either way, and hence no reason to criticize.

Jim’s original question I think is a valid one, and we should be mindful of a person’s faith qualifications when the truly are in a leadership position in the Presbyterian Church (USA). As it pertains to Martha Clark, she’s been active in various positions (including deputy to the position she now holds) for the past twelve years. Jim has even been present at meetings of committees in which Martha held positions of leadership, and was herself present. She is certainly not an unknown commodity. Why would Jim choose this particular job promotion to nit pick and sermonize? Jerry Van Marter didn’t mention Martha’s faith qualifications, maybe he though it was too obvious to mention, who knows, but Jim’s article makes it seem like the PC(USA) doesn’t care about faith qualifications, at least I think a lot of people will take it that way. If Jim really wants to preach a sermon on faith qualifications for leadership positions, then I suggest he come up with better, less inflammatory examples.

None of you has tried to convince me or anyone else that Jim and Bill have not employed propagandist techniques in this conversation (or argument if you’d prefer).

Kattie

11:45 AM, March 29, 2008  
Blogger Kattie W. Coon said...

Bill,

"Katie your question was so far off topic that I saw no point in answering it you said:"...

No Bill, that one was rhetorical and expressed my deep exasperation (grumpiness as Jim put it). I was referring to your gossip about the “non-practicing Jew”, and the almost total lack of factual information concerning the circumstances leading up to her employment.

I wonder, how much time did you spend with her in sharing the Gospel? Could that have been a significant part of God’s plan?

The rest of your response appears so ill thought out that I won’t attempt to respond to it. Sorry.

Kattie

12:01 PM, March 29, 2008  
Blogger Bill Crawford said...

Katie,

To be any more specific I would have to name names, times, places and that would be more unkind than to discuss the general principles of what happened. As long as I allow one person a shred of anonymity you seem willing to dismiss the facts as presented.

The fact is that PDA would not deny any of what I have stated (they would obviously contend with the interpretation) because they know that they cannot.

As to the rest - thank you for tolerating me for so long and trying to share your great wisdom with me. I understand your frustration as it is very difficult for me to put together a coherent sentence much less a constructive argument.

Now I believe it is time to return Jim's blog to himself and his other readers.

1:49 PM, March 29, 2008  
Blogger Kattie W. Coon said...

Bill,

Ah yes, the old I-could-tell-you-but-then-I’d-have-to-kill-you dodge. Really Bill, in case it wasn’t obvious, I was inquiring about the perspective of the PDA. What were their immediate needs (from their perspective) and their concerns for the relief effort? How did they come to choose the person they did? I’m sorry you find it impossible to address this without naming names. I’m certainly interested in discussing general principles, but you’re not providing much to work with here, so it remains just gossip, which makes me wonder why you would even bring it up at all.

Under what premise did you contact the PDA about this person? Is it possible they were just trying to brush you off? I don’t know you personally, but from the comments you’ve made here and on other blogs (including your own), you can be pretty snarky, and the PC(USA) leadership seems to get your blood boiling pretty easily. Please forgive me for my knee-jerk reaction to you and my skepticism, but I just wonder if they reacted to you the way PC(USA) committee chairs react to Jim (open-meetings-mean-I-get-to-examine-EVERYTHING-with-a-microscope) Berkley.

OK, back to Jim.

Kattie

2:55 PM, March 29, 2008  

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