Several of those who have been commenting on PCUSA affairs have made the point that the denomination has been drifting in the direction of apostasy for a long time, and that gay ordination is a rather peculiar place to draw the line in the sand. I agree with them, though it is also the case that it is usually easier for people to understand changes in behavioral standards than theological ones.
We have another example today of just how unmoored from anything resembling Christianity some elements in the PCUSA have become in a column in the Buffalo News. Another junior-league Spong, the Rev. David Persons, makes the evidence-free claim that “Protestant” churches are losing members because they take the contents of that Bible thingy way too seriously:
The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo is not alone questioning the “mass exodus” from its services; Protestants also do. As a Presbyterian minister here for more than 30 years, I watched our local Presbytery lose thousands as churches closed.
Many claim, as reporter Jay Tokasz shared, the cause is secularism. I disagree. The major cause is beliefs no longer giving credibility to reason and modern scholarship. After centuries, the Catholic Church recognized scientists Copernicus and Galileo. How long before the traditional churches admit that literalizing stories of the Bible has no historical basis?
Current archaeological and historical studies depict 95 percent of the Bible with no historical basis. With no historical proof of a man named Jesus and repetitions of similar stories going back 20,000 years, the traditional approach to Christian scripture interpretations is changing.
The biblical stories were mostly borrowed and taken from ancient pagan (folk) sources, which shared these stories as allegories depicting eternal truths. These stories were part of the ancient eastern Mediterranean spiritual teachings using the lunar calendar to teach universal spiritual truths. The church literalized these old pagan stories, making forms, liturgy and government inviolate. The message of the Jesus story, as from Isus of Ancient Egypt, was simple; the presence of spirit, the realm of God, is within us. One experiences this presence by changing understanding (repentance) and looking within.
I seek to share these stories from a symbolic, allegorical viewpoint. The winter solstice at Christmas teaches the soul coming to the darkness of Earth. The Easter equinox is the seed emerging from darkness into the light of sun, symbolizing our awakening (meaning of resurrection).
The old pagan stories are rich with meaning and relevance if understood from a non-literal viewpoint. Early church teachers who taught this view were called Gnostics — “those who understand.” In the 4th century the church declared them pagan heretics, with most of their writings destroyed.
I expect to read stuff like this in the comments in the “On Faith” column at the Washington Post, where atheists, Wiccans and other New Agers, and the old-fashioned ignorant duke it out. But this isn’t just for a newspaper article. Evidently, this is what the people at the church in New York where Persons is interim pastor are subjected to as well. He writes in his “Pastor’s Page” on the web site of the First Presbyterian Church of West Seneca:
In my messages and teachings I will continue to emphasize the God I speak of as accessible to everyone in anyplace. I feel the church has placed God too “out there” beyond the reach of ordinary people. People come to sit in rows to hear the elevated “experts” describe the conditions for God’s blessings. My goal is to shorten the gap between “teacher and student” so each one can claim his or her divinity. My messages are given from a non-literalist view of the Christian faith, seeing the Bible as ancient spiritual stories and metaphors to help people access the “Kingdom within.” My messages stress the conviction that God, Divinity, the Christ-Mind indwells each one of us, even those who don’t believe or accept it. Love is Universal. Heaven is here and now; hell is a life and mind living without the concept of choice and responsibility for one’s own thoughts. I believe the One Spirit lies dormant in every person, awaiting the time to be accepted, listened to, and followed.
The Presbyterian Lay Committee has asked the question in a paper at the Layman Online web site, “Can Two Faiths Embrace One Future?” My response to that question is, “what do you mean, two faiths?” Does anyone really know just how many religions there at work in the PCUSA (or any of the other mainline denominations) these days?
(Hat tip: Adel.)