The presidents of the 12 seminaries related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) issued a joint statement endorsing a report on maintaining unity, purity and peace within a denomination struggling over the thorny issue of homosexuality.
According to a press release by the PC(U.S.A) on Tuesday, the presidents of all 10 denominational seminaries plus two that are in covenant with the church said they hope the denominations governing bodies will receive favorably a recently released report by the Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity and Purity of the Church (TTF).
We deeply appreciate the time, creative work, and wisdom provided by the members of the Task Force, and we express to each and every one of them our heartfelt thanks for a job well done, the statement read.
The TTF was created in 2001 to lead the PC(USA) in spiritual discernment of our Christian identity in and for the 21st century. It was instructed to specifically address issues of Biblical authority, Christology and ordination standards and power.
After nearly four years of debate, study and discussion, the 20-member Task Force drafted a preliminary report that affirmed the centrality of Christ and the Bible. The report also affirmed the current standards on ordination standards and power related to homosexual persons. The Presbyterian Church, like most mainline protestant denominations, neither recognizes nor allows the ordination of practicing gay ministers.
Presbyterians both liberal and conservative criticized the reports recommendations on homosexuality, though for opposite reasons. Conservatives expressed fear that parts of the report would open doors to a possible local option, where local churches may decide to go against the standards but be freed from penalty. Liberals meanwhile said the report did not go far enough in protecting the rights of gay and lesbian Presbyterians.
The seminarians did not touch on those concerns, but instead focused on the reports method of sustaining unity in diversity.
We consider the report of the Task Force a positive contribution toward a constructive and faithful future for this portion of the church universal, the group said
According to Louis B. Weeks, president of Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Va., this is the first time seminary presidents have spoken unanimously on an issue not directly related to theological education.
But this is an extraordinary task, accomplished in an extraordinary way, at an extraordinary time, Weeks said to the Presbyterian News Service.
One seminary president, Barbara Wheeler of Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City which is in covenant with the PC(USA) is a TTF member.
In addition to Wheeler and Weeks, the presidents signing the statement were: Theodore J. Wardlaw of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary; Laura S. Mendenhall of Columbia Theological Seminary; David L. Wallace Sr. of Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary; Dean K. Thompson of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary; Cynthia M. Campbell of McCormick Theological Seminary; C. Samuel Calian of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary; Iain R.Torrance of Princeton Theological Seminary; Philip W. Butin of San Francisco Theological Seminary; Jeffrey F. Bullock of the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary; and Sergio Ojeda-Carcamo of Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico, which, like Auburn, is in covenant with the PC(USA).
The following is the full text of the Nov. 1 statement addressed to Officers and Members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.):
We have read the report of the Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity and Purity of the Church, and we together express our collective hope that the 217th General Assembly, the governing bodies, and individual members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will receive the report favorably.
We serve institutions charged with preparing and sustaining leaders for the future of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and we consider the report of the Task Force a positive contribution toward a constructive and faithful future for this portion of the church universal.
We deeply appreciate the time, creative work, and wisdom provided by the members of the Task Force, and we express to each and every one of them our heartfelt thanks for a job well done.