Monday, June 30, 2008

We're Home!

Well, brothers and sisters, we're back! This just shows that missed flights and hotels fires can't stop the proclamation of the Gospel. I want to thank everyone who came to church yesterday at 2:00. I think it was a wonderful service. It was the first time I performed a baptism, had a person profess faith in Christ, and share communion all in one service.

With regard to the General Assembly, on Friday evening, I thought you might want to know that the assembly affirmed the nature of Christian marriage by an 80% to 20% margin. And now that's it's over, maybe we can focus on something other than "the elephant in the room," like helping people grow in their understanding of Jesus Christ and improving the lives of the people of our community. That's our mission. Personally, I think there's too much for us to do as disciples of Jesus to allow one issue to consume most of our passion, time and attention. And as mentioned in a prior message, in spite of what you hear, in the presbyterian system no changes can be made to the Book of Order without the approval a majority of presbyteries. That's where we hear the voice of the church. Anyone who says different doesn't know how our government works, and if you feel bold, you may want to explain that. But if not, just nod and move on to another subject.

I look forward to see all you on Sunday.

Yours in Christ,
Ed Rudiger

Friday, June 27, 2008

Important News

About an hour ago, the General Assembly voted to recommend that what's been called the "Chastity and Fidelity" section be removed from the Book of Order and replaced with the following:

Those who are called to ordained service in the church, by their assent to the constitutional questions for ordination and installation, pledge themselves to live lives obedient to Jesus Christ the Head of the Church, striving to follow where he leads through the witness of the Scriptures, and to understand the Scriptures through the instruction of the Confessions. In so doing, they declare their fidelity to the standards of the Church. Each governing body charged with examination for ordination and/or installation establishes the candidate's sincere efforts to adhere to these standards.

Making this change could lead to the ordination of homosexual men and women. I'm sure that this will be played up by newspapers and by others. You will probably hear that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will begin ordaining homosexuals.

BUT BEFORE YOU BECOME TOO EXCITED OR UPSET, there are three things to remember. First, in the Presbyterian Church, we are governed by majority rule, and the General Assembly is a body of ministers and lay people elected by presbyteries. This is not a decision by staff in Louisville but by people like Rob and Kayla, The debate on the issue was open and fair, and the vote was close (56% to 48%). Second, with respect to our church government, absolutely nothing has changed. The action taken by the General Assembly MUST be approved by the presbyteries before our system as covered in the Book of Order is altered. Joy or anger is premature. Since many people think the General Assembly takes action without listening to churches, it may be positive that churches and presbyteries will have the chance to discuss and act on this measure. In this case, the voice of the church will be heard. Third, I believe it's time for all of us to remember that people on both sides are Christians, even if we might interpret scripture in different ways, and to listen, especially to brothers and sisters with whom we don't agree. I don't think this is a time to make assumptions and share information that's not accurate.

Again, Rob, Kayla and I will be back on Sunday, and I'd be delighted to talk with about this or any other issue.Again, I wanted you to know the facts before you hear the gossip and assumptions that you'll surely encounter.

Yours in Christ,
Ed Rudiger

More Greetings from San Jose

Well, here I am again, writing in the back of the Assembly Hall as candidates for the stated clerk's positions speak. As you may know, Clifton Kirkpatrick is retiring; therefore, the denomination will have a new stated clerk. All the nominees are very good; it's a no lose situation.

Yesterday, we met from 8:30 am to 11:00 pm. Although much of the business was routine (unfortunately, "routine" doesn't mean easy or brief), the assembly did accomplish three important things. First, they changed some the ways the church gives our ordination exams to seminary students. Second, a new governmental structure will be sent to the presbyteries and churches for study and comment. Finally, the Assembly approved several corrections to the Heidelberg Catechism. They will be sent to the presbyteries for approval, and then they need to be approved at the next General Assembly (2010) before the changes are made to the Book of Confessions. These changes correct additions that were inserted into the original German about fifty years ago. Sadly, one of the changes has become a political issue, because the answer to question 87 ("Can those who do not turn to God from their ungrateful impenitent life be saved?"), the words "or of homosexual pervasion" were added in 1962. These words weren't in the original, but those who spoke against deleting them asserted that the authors would have supported their inclusion. The arguments on both sides were strong. If the change didn't deal with homosexuality (an issue our new moderator calls "the elephant in the room"), I'm not sure there would have been a debate at all. Personally, I believe that we're on a slippery slope when a person seeks to interpret scripture accurately but is comfortable with inaccuracy in our confessions, allowing what we assume the writer intended to carry more weight than the original words.

Even though I hope it's not necessary, I want to encourage you to be careful as you hear reports related to what's happening here. Newspapers tend to focus on the sensational, and there are publications, groups and persons who tend to "spin" information to support their assumptions and political agenda. Irrespective of what I believe personally or politically, I have no doubt that the people at the assembly are faithfully seeking to serve God and that the Holy Spirit is flowing through this body. It's also important to remember that any changes to the Book of Order, including those dealing with "the elephant in the room," must be approved by the presbyteries before enacted. Therefore, I'd caution you to not make assumptions about the direction of the denomination before that direction is known. Three people from Cove are here; ask us any questions you might have when we get home.

Well, I'll go ahead and take my seat. Today should be a big day. Rob and Kayla send their greetings. And I can affirm one thing, the sin of gluttony has be suspended for this week. The only thing better than the meals have been the worship services. They've been inspiring, and I hope to bring some of the things we've done here back home. I'll see you Sunday.

Yours in Christ,
Ed Rudiger

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Greeting from the General Assembly - June 26, 2008

On behalf of Rob, Kayla and myself, I send you greetings from San Jose. The business meeting has just started, and I'm writing this from a computer located in the back of the hall. Although the GA started to do business yesterday, most of the actions were not very controversal. We elected a vice moderator, Rev. Byron Wade, another exciting young man. We also agreed to continue our conversation with Jews and Muslims. Although we recognize that the three religions have different understandings of how God has been revealed to humanity, all three groups affirm that we've been called to love God and neighbor and to care for the poor. I think this is right on the mark. For me, this gives us a solid foundation on which we can build a working relationship without asserting that our faiths are identical or reducing the importance of Jesus Christ. Personally, I believe this action is very important, because this should give us an opportunity to improve the lives of people with whom we have little contact and to grow in our own relationship with God. Just like Christianity can help them, other faiths can teach us some things about compassion, dedication, meditation, and prayer. I firmly believe our faith in Jesus Christ and our outreach to world can actually deepen as we listen to others, and in my opinion, anything that deepens our relationship to Christ and focuses our mission to the world is a good thing.

Well, the business of the assembly is moving on; therefore, let me do what I'm here to do: observe. I hope everything is well with all of y'all, and I'll see you Sunday.

Yours in Christ,
Ed Rudiger

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

For the Cove Community

We are now blogging. Understand, this is all new to me; therefore, I expect to make plenty of mistakes. We've set up this blog to encourage conversations within the Cove Presbyterian Church community and between our church and the rest of the world. I hope y'all find it informative and helpful. For those of you within the church, please send any information you'd like to post to the church office, covepresbyterian@aol.com. To those outside our community, please respond to anything you see posted or please contact us directly. Remember, we're a church, a community of Christians; therefore, please use language that would be appropriate for both children and adults. Although it seems to the standard practice on a lot of blog sites, I ask you not to swear or use profanity. Thanks.

Just for some background, we're a community of Christians who are trying to share the love of God and the grace of Jesus Christ through our words and our lives. We're located in Weirton, West Viriginia, a community that has been hit hard by America's changing economy. Although we don't claim to have all the answers, we're open to the questions. Above everything else, we're working to strengthen our focus on Jesus Christ and to trust the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

We'd love to have you join our spiritual walk. If you're near Weirton, please come to our worship service, Sundays at 11:00. If not, contact us through this blog. In the future, we plan to offer whatever the community has to share.

Well, I guess that's about it. Thanks for taking the time to read this, and I'll talk with you later.

Yours in Christ,
Ed