Penance or a Good Deed?

October 31, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Life, Religion 

This week has been a long week.  I’ve been attending a training class in Philadelphia.  That requires me to get up before 6am in order to get to Trenton in time for a train that will get me to class on time.  Last night, I added a church meeting to that – going straight from the train station to the church and getting home about 9:30pm.

When I got home last night, I discovered that the trees and bushes on the side of the house were covered in toilet paper (and inexplicably paper towels).  This is the first time in 12 years at this house that we’ve had our house vandalized (well, we had our mailbox pulled down once).  I spoke to a few neighbors who were out and they knew that it was done before 8:45pm.  We also reported it to the police – a neighbor’s house was damaged by eggs Sunday and another neighbor had a pumpkin stolen.

Tonight I got home and my wife reported that 4 neighborhood kids (including 2 kids commonly known as “bad” kids) stopped her in the driveway and asked her if it was OK for them to clean up the mess.  They did, and we gave them the first candy of the night.

Now I think it’s somewhat likely that they did the deed in the first place.  Either way, they made up for it and did a good deed.

I had been seriously considering withholding candy from everybody, but this restored my faith in people.

Blogging will be very sparse this week

October 29, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Admin 

I’m going to a training class in Philadelphia this week.  That means getting up early to take the train in and getting home late.  There is no computer access at the class (too cheap to provide wireless), so I won’t have any access except in the shortened evenings.

Blogging should resume next week.

Kitty is alright

October 27, 2007 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Life 

I mentioned on Thursday that Isaac had a lump on his leg.

The vet called today.  The tissue tested as fatty tissue – making this a fatty tumor which is benign and very common in older cats.  We are to contact the vet if the lump changes, but otherwise it’s not something to worry about.

Isaac could care less.  It’s not affecting him at all.

We’re feeling better.

Mission Presbytery Overture on Membership Vows

October 26, 2007 by · 6 Comments
Filed under: Religion 

This week, Mission Presbytery passed the following overturn to the 218th General Assembly by 30 votes (out of a few hundred).  I post it here because it doesn’t appear online anywhere.

My comments will follow the overture.

Mission Presbytery overtures the 218th General Assembly (2008) to direct the Stated Clerk to send the following proposed amendment to the presbyteries for their affirmative or negative votes:

Shall G-5.000 be amended as follows: insert the following as G-5.0200 and renumber the remaining items in G-5.000. *

G-5.0200 Membership Vows

At the time member-candidates present themselves to the session for reception into membership, whether by profession of faith, transfer of letter, or reaffirmation of faith, the following questions shall be addressed to the member-candidates for their answer as indicated. Sessions may make the determination, on an individual basis, to exempt certain persons from answering these specific questions due to physical or mental disability. In such a case, appropriate alternative questions and their presentation should be devised, still meeting the requirements of G-5.0101a.

Trusting in the gracious mercy of God, do you turn from the ways of sin and renounce
evil and its power in the world?

I do.

Who is your Lord and Savior?

Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.

Will you be Christ’s faithful disciple, obeying his Word and showing his love?

I will, with God’s help.

Will you be an faithful member of this congregation, share in its worship and ministry through your
prayers and gifts, your study and service, and so fulfill your calling to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?

I will, with God’s help.

*Should the assembly send a revised Form of Government to the presbyteries for their positive or negative vote, the vows contained here should be inserted and included in the
appropriate membership section.


Chapter XIV, G 14.0000, of the Book of Order lists the constitutional questions prescribed for those being ordained or installed to service in the offices of the church. In contrast, the Book of Order does not presently contain a corresponding set of constitutional questions for those wishing to enter into active church membership.

It is desirable that the Book of Order be amended to include constitutional questions for those seeking active membership since

(1) having common, standardized, questions for use throughout the denomination will emphasize the fact that membership is not solely in the local church, but in the larger, connectional, whole as well;

(2) it will provide a resource of readily accessible, doctrinally sound, and well-constructed questions for use by the local churches;

(3) it will provide guidance and clarification to member-candidates in the step they are taking as outlined in G-5.0101a (“One becomes an active member of the church through faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and acceptance of his Lordship in all of life.”); and

(4) its placement in G-5.000 appropriately emphasizes the promises and responsibilities of membership along with the meaning and privileges of membership.


I am opposed to this overture.

Here are the reasons.

1.  It is duplicative of baptismal vows.

When I rejoined the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville last fall, I re-recited the baptismal vows.  That is a common formula for confirmation vows and for adult profession or reaffirmation of faith.  It’s also convenient in the case of a membership class that may include people who need to be baptized.  These vows are similar but different to the baptismal vows that we used (not different in any substantial way).

2.  It is subscriptionist in two ways:

A.  It uses specific words.  The current Book of Order allows variation in the vows for baptism (W-3.3603).

B.  It establishes new requirements for membership:
1.  Turning away from sin and renouncing evil
2.  Obeying the Word
Currently, only ordained officers are required to make these vows (and others).  They are part of the baptism ceremony, but in the case of infant baptism they are only promises made by the parents and not the adult-to-be.  You can’t become a member through adult baptism (and profession) today without making those vows, but you can if you were baptized as an infant.  The requirement to submit to the Word is completely new – it’s not even part of the baptismal vows.  Take a look at the current chapter G-5 and you will not see that vow for membership.  (It isn’t in the Directory for Worship either.)

The provided Rationale mentions the requirements for membership, but fails to point out that the vows go beyond the current requirements.

3.  The vows are unnecessary.

The session should make this determination before accepting the prospective member.  The session is required to sense a profession of faith.  Honestly, I believe that these vows would reduce rather than increase the quality of the profession of faith – in my experience confirmands and adult prospective members go much farther than these vows when explaining their faith to the session.

I believe that the bar for membership should be set VERY low.  As low as the requirements for taking communion, which are:

The invitation to the Lord’s Supper is extended to all who have been baptized, remembering that access to the Table is not a right conferred upon the worthy, but a privilege given to the undeserving who come in faith, repentance, and love. In preparing to receive Christ in this Sacrament, the believer is to confess sin and brokenness, to seek reconciliation with God and neighbor, and to trust in Jesus Christ for cleansing and renewal. Even one who doubts or whose trust is wavering may come to the Table in order to be assured of God’s love and grace in Christ Jesus. W-2.4011a

Membership should be the beginning of a new phase of commitment to Christ, not a hurdle.  Membership is not subscription to beliefs, it’s a public recognition of joining a community.

Would I allow a person who does not subscribe to the overture’s vows to run Sunday School or serve communion?  No.  But I would allow them to be a member.

Now, if the GA were to adopt these vows I would make the following changes:

1.  Move them to the Directory for Worship, probably in the current W-4.2000 area.

2.  Make it optional for the vows to be taken before the session or congregation.  I feel that they are more appropriate before the congregation, and are a natural replacement for most congregations’ tradition of asking all new members to repeat their baptismal vows when joining a new congregation.  Alternately, making them before both would be a compromise.  (My brother was sworn in as a police officer the night before the formal ceremony in order to allow him to take his gun home and be dressed in full dress uniform for the ceremony.)

Sick Kitty?

October 25, 2007 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Life 

Cats on Stairs

Our cats are coming up on 12 years old.  This is the time of life when age starts to take a toll.

Isaac is the cat on the lower stair above.  He’s already suffering from what is likely arthritis in his hips.

This week we discovered a lump on his back right leg.  It’s a solid but spongy mass under the skin at about knee-level.  It’s about the size of a dime in diameter and about the height of 3 dimes.  It doesn’t seem to bother him at all – he’s still running and jumping and sleeping as much as usual.

We took him to the vet last night.  The vet did a needle biopsy, and we should get the results by Monday.  He said it could be something sinister or could be as simple as a fatty tumor that is almost always benign.

I hope he’s OK.

(The other cat is Albert, in case you were wondering.  They’re from the same litter.  We’ve had them since they were 6 weeks old.)

We were looking for God, and we found Dog

October 22, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Religion, Youth 

Last night’s youth group meeting went rather well.  We had a discussion on mission trips and potential destinations.  It took a very theological turn somewhere in the middle and we ended up in 3 minutes or less with questions about repentance, Heaven, Hell, and whether or not God cares what we believe.  We’re looking at planning Theology on Tap Junior Edition (or Root Beer Edition) as a result of the students’ hunger to talk about weighty topics.

After the meeting everybody went out to the parking lot.  We discovered a small dog with a leash attached to his/her collar but no owner.  Also no tag (please, even if the dog is chipped put a tag on the collar!).  The dog was immediately loved to near-death.  After the youth left, I called the local police asking if a dog had been reported missing.  After I gave the description, the dispatcher gave me a perfect description of the dog’s collar and leash.  He said he’d send the owners to us.  I left the Youth Director standing at the curb with the dog waiting for the owner.  I hope he/she got picked up OK.

Makes you wonder.  Maybe this was a “least of these” test.

Next week will be fun – we’re doing “Movie in the Graveyard” for Halloween.

Elder Statesman

October 13, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Religion 

My father just told me that he’s going to be nominated to be an Elder at his church this coming Sunday.

This is not a surprise.  He and my mother were both ordained as deacons at the same time, with me laying hands on both of them (I had been ordained the year before).  Now that he is retired he’s looking for something to do and asked his pastor to fill that need.

Of course, when I told Carolyn that Dad was going to be an elder, she said, “But he already is!”

Vacation Warning

October 12, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Admin, Life 

Attention readers!

Starting later today, I am on vacation.  Blogging may slow dramatically or stop completely for a week.

Carolyn’s plane from Germany just landed at Newark (we pilots know where to look on the web to follow these things).  I hope she was on it. 🙂

Tonight we rest.  Tomorrow it’s off to NYC.  We’re staying at Intercontinental The Barclay New York for 2 nights.  Sunday we go to the matinee of Spamalot.  (Our first date was 20 years ago Monday to see Monty Python & the Holy Grail at Rutgers.)  We’ll probably go Catholic for church – St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a few blocks from the hotel.

Monday we head home.  No plans at all for the rest of the week.  I might fly one day.  Mostly both of us need the downtime so there might be lots of snoozing with cats.

See you in a week!

Stewardship and Humor

October 9, 2007 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Can't Make This Up, Religion 

From the minutes of the Presbytery of New Brunswick Mission Council, September 25, 2007:

Based upon the average household income of
$93,277 per year and the likely contribution behavior in the area, the overall
religious giving potential can be described ass extremely high.

You can’t ask for a better typo (emphasis mine).

Run Ragged

October 9, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Life, Religion, Work, Youth 

I’m at my ragged end.  I’ve been doing too much.

First, there’s work Monday to Friday 8-5.  That’s a given.

Last Thursday – spend the evening doing laundry to get ready for Carolyn’s trip to Germany
Last Friday – spend a quiet evening with Carolyn
Saturday – get up, go to church Officer’s Retreat and give report on Welcome and Outreach Task Force.  Get home, discover that Internet router will not route.  Go to Circuit City, buy replacement.  Install.  Have 1 hour with Carolyn before she goes to the airport.
Sunday – church in the morning.  Then stay for Confirmation initial meeting lunch until 1pm.  Go home, pay bills.  Clean home office to get ready for FIOS installation.  Get ready for evening.  Go to church for youth group.  Get home at 9:30.  Get ready for bed.
Monday – after work, platelet donation – almost rejected for high BP due to exhaustion.  That takes 2 hours.  Go home, reboot DirecTV receiver.  Prepare and eat dinner and get a chance to watch 20 minutes of TV.  Get ready for bed and go to bed late.
Tuesday (today) – after work, go home.  Make and eat dinner.  Go to church for Youth and Young Adult Council.  Get home about 9.  Get ready for bed and try to go to bed a little early.
Wednesday – take day off from work for FIOS installation (expected to take 5-6 hours).  Cut lawn if not raining.  Possible quiet evening.  Do laundry so that there isn’t much to do when Carolyn gets home.  In the evening, conference call with pastor and co-chair for Welcome and Outreach Task Force.
Thursday – After work, eat leisurely dinner in only 1/2 hour.  Head to Princeton for Theology on Tap young adult evening.  Get home late, go to bed late.
Friday – Carolyn gets home from Germany in the afternoon.  Do her laundry.  Start packing for Saturday.
Saturday – Carolyn and I go to NYC for our 13th wedding anniversary and the 20th anniversary of our first date (both on Monday).  Don’t have any specific plans for Saturday yet.
Sunday – go to church in the morning (St. Patrick’s Cathedral?).  Go to Spamalot in the afternoon.  No evening plans yet.
Monday – maybe a morning NYC activity, then drive home.  Collapse.
Tuesday – Friday – vacation from work.  No specific plans.  SLEEP.

The only activities scheduled by me were the FIOS installation, platelet donation, and the NYC trip (planned over 6 months ago).  The rest were scheduled by others.

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