Presbyterians have historically been thought of as “brainy” Christians, people who take their theology seriously, people who don’t base decisions or teaching on their feelings or their gut but on their minds as led by the Holy Spirit. But to read Craig Kibler’s account of the debate in Minnesota this week, you’d think that that tradition had gone right out the window:

Another man, an elder, questioned something Capetz said that he called “a bit dismissive of the importance of Scripture. I believe Scripture trumps all.”

Capetz replied by saying that, “I certainly didn’t mean to sound dismissive of Scripture. What I’m opposed to is an idolatrous use of the Bible in Protestant usage and ethics as if we didn’t need to reflect in a rigorous method and manner what Scripture teaches … that all we have to do as disciples of Christ is to abide by Scripture. I think that runs dangerously close to idolatry.”

“This is a denomination that prides itself on a very high level of theological education. Theology matters,” he said.

The equation of obeying Scripture with idolatry was old in Harry Emerson Fosdick’s day, and it’s embarrassing, frankly, to hear of straw man like that appear in a setting like this. The fact that one believes what the Bible teaches, and believes that it reveals God’s will to His people, is not idolatry. As for his statement about theological education, I refer you to my comments in the previous post, in which he demonstrates to my satisfaction that what matters for Capetz isn’t theology, but personal desires.

Another commissioner, who supported the motion, said that, “20 years ago I would have voted against restoration. The issue was so uncomfortable for me.” Since then, she said, she’s read, listened and investigated the issue. Now, “my mind has changed and my heart has been changed by the Holy Spirit.”

That she’s changed her mind is obvious. That the Holy Spirit informed her that the Scripture that He inspired got it wrong is doubtful.

Another man, explaining that he’s spent the past year-and-a-half in a “life-changing experience” battling cancer, said that, “when you have cancer, your life does change.”

“Two thousand years ago, I would be an outcast,” he said. “Orthodoxy doesn’t want you around. There are servants that Christ calls to be a part of His Church who are those who the orthodoxy doesn’t want, those who the orthodoxy calls sinners. We can no longer keep people out. We’re all sinners.”

People with cancer in the first century were outcasts? Who knew? As for the orthodox not wanting him around, give me a break. Capetz isn’t asking whether he can join a church, he’s asking for his ordination to be restored, while at the same time loudly proclaiming that he won’t abide by the ordination standards of the denomination. Jesus didn’t hesitate to watch people walk away if they were unwilling to answer the call to discipleship, which is what Capetz is insisting that he has a right to do.

Another commissioner said the vote comes down to “what’s essential and what is not. What is essential,” she said, “has to do with a commitment to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments.”

She said she based her opinion on Calvin’s The Institutes of the Christian Religion. “That is what is essential and that is what Paul Capetz has committed himself to.

So if a pastor preaches the gospel and administers the sacrament, but runs around on his wife, is repeatedly drunk in public, and cheats on his income taxes, that’s hunky-dory with this commissioner. By the way, if she’s read the Institutes all the way through and actually understood what she was reading I’m a Genoa salami.

Another commissioner said that “what we have to do is go deep down to what is sin. … Homosexuality is not a sin – it is sin to deny calling forth a people, sinful to deny ourselves of who we are in loving relationships.”

“Homosexuality is not a sin”–OK, if you say so. Why I should take your word for it I’m not sure….

Those who vote against restoration, he said, “are saying to someone else that we are choosing to say ‘No.’ If we do that, we will limp into the future. We will not do it as a whole body.”

Sir, I hope you realize that you just lost your ability to vote against anyone who ever asks for ordination in your presbytery ever again. If Fred Phelps decides to go PCUSA and move to Minnesota with his ordination, you’re stuck, because you’ve just surrendered your right to say no.

The comments about Scripture, relationships, personal pride and so on led one commissioner to ask, “Does this departure from essential tenets get a few whiffs of red herring in this room? That’s not unusual at presbytery.”

I have no clue what this means. I guess you had to be there. Of course, when Minnesotans talk about herring, can lutefisk be far behind?

“I’ve come to this conclusion,” he said. “There is no place in the Gospels where I am told to detest or despise somebody for whom they love. I no longer believe that a committed, sincere love between two consenting adults is in itself a state of sin. Period. Call it a scruple.”

So to deny Paul Capetz the restoration of his ordination credentials because he refuses to abide by the standards of the PCUSA constitution is to “detest or despise” him. Check. I’m glad someone played the “bigot” card. This whole event just wouldn’t have been complete without it.

Another woman minister, referring to the “fidelity/chastity” clause, said that, “this amendment is not about homosexuality, but about celibacy. It’s about anybody who is not in a marriage cannot be ordained. We don’t talk about that. It’s absurd for us to sit around and talk about Paul Capetz when there are a whole bunch of ordained heterosexuals having sex before marriage.”

“I’m tired of being the Bride of Christ,” she said, to laughter from commissioners. “If the way of marriage was open to me, I’d go there. I didn’t get into this to be a nun. If I wanted to do that, I’d have become a Catholic.”

When this person says that the fidelity/chastity clause means that “anybody who is not in a marriage cannot be ordained,” you realize what she’s saying? She saying that Protestants are fundamentally incapable of controlling their sexual appetites. The clause has to go, because she can’t keep her pants zipped, and if since she’s not married, it’s an oppressive requirement that she be required to do what she isn’t capable of. Of course, Catholics apparently are able to control themselves, since nuns (as well as monks and priests, the vast majority, anyway) manage to do so. By the way, please note that Capetz is not the only member of the Twin Cities presbytery to declare before God and everybody that he has no intention of upholding PCUSA’s ordination standards. It’s nice to know that he’s got heterosexual company.