Lisa Larges Decision – Synod PJC half right

March 25, 2009 by · 14 Comments
Filed under: Religion 

Yesterday, the Synod of the Pacific PJC released it’s decision in Remedial Case 08-01, Naegeli vs. Presbytery of San Francisco.

Here’s a quick summary for those not in the know on this case.  Lisa Larges is a lesbian.  She was ordained as a Presbyterian deacon some time ago.  She has also attended seminary, and for many years has been fighting to remove prohibitions against gay ordination in the PC(USA) – in part (though probably not the greatest part) so that she can fulfill her call to ministry.  At the time of the relevant events, she was enrolled as a Candidate with the Presbytery of San Francisco.

In December of 2007, the Committee on the Preparation for Ministry (CPM) of the presbytery voted to certify her as “ready for examination with a departure”.  The departure was her unwillingness to agree to abide by the G-6.0106b requirement for chastity or fidelity in a marriage between a man and a woman.  Others call this a “scruple”.  This process was apparently made possible by the Peace, Unity and Purity report received by the 2006 General Assembly.  A CPM minority report was made recommending that she be stripped of her Candidate status.  The presbytery voted in a close vote to choose the majority report, which was passed.  After that a large number of people requested a stay of enforcement and this remedial trial against the presbytery ensued.

The Synod PJC ruled the following (to the best of my ability to understand – it’s a bit confusing):

  1. The vote to certify Lisa as “ready for examination, with a departure” was out of order, because departures are considered at the time of examination.
  2. The Synod PJC denied a number of specifications related to the actions of the CPM, on the basis that it had no jurisdiction over a committee of a presbytery.  Most of those involved forcing the CPM to “uphold church-wide standards”.
  3. The Synod PJC admonished the presbytery to “faithfully execute its constitutional obligations to the entire church to enforce mandatory churchwide ordination standards”.  It also admonished the CPM (through the presbytery) to meet it convenantal obligations to candidates who insist on departing from mandatory standards.
  4. The Synod PJC did not remove Lisa from the roll of Candidates because it cannot do so – only the presbytery may.

I believe that the Synod PJC got it half-right and half-wrong.

First, they were half-right in that the action taken by the presbytery was out of order.  It is not correct to rule that a Candidate is acceptable with a departure (or scruple) when declaring the candidate ready for examination.  That is putting the cart before the horse.  The decision on a departure is properly part of the examination itself.  The PJC pointed out that the elements of an examination were not present – Lisa’s Statement of Faith was not presented, she was not questioned.
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Second, they were half-wrong in their admonishment of the presbytery on mandatory standards.  The General Assembly PJC has recently ruled that examinations are made on an individual basis by the ordaining body.  The GA PJC hinted that G-6.0106b as it stands today (and likely will stand – I believe that Amendment B will fail, unfortunately) is a mandatory standard and not allowed for a departure.  However, there has yet to be a test case under the PUP rules and recent GA PJC ruling.  I don’t know what the PJC will rule when a real examination with a real departure from G-6.0106b comes before it.  But I don’t believe that the Synod PJC is right in issuing this warning as a blanket statement.  The General Assembly PJC was VERY clear that each examination is an individual case.

If I were the Presbytery of San Francisco, this is what I would do:

  1. I would again hold a vote, but this time certify Lisa as “ready for examination” without mentioning the departure.  This action should be unchallengable under this ruling, as no examination takes place.  I don’t believe further CPM action is required as their recommendation would be properly before the body as a result of the vote being rescinded.
  2. I would expect that the action described in #1 would again be the subject of a remedial case, and prepare to defend it.
  3. I would expect that the General Assembly PJC would support the step of approving for examination.
  4. When it comes time for an actual call and examination, that’s when the real fur will fly.  I suspect that the presbytery would approve the examination, and then be the subject of a remedial case.  I expect that the General Assembly PJC would rule that Lisa is not eligible for ordination, based on their previous rulings and comments regarding the mandatory nature of G-6.0106b.

Let me be clear – I am fully in support of ordination of gay or lesbian (or any of the other categories that they tack on to the list) people being ordained provided that they are in an equivalent relationship to an acceptable heterosexual person.  I just don’t think that the rules that we have today support it, and I don’t believe that Amendment B will pass this time (though it’s gonna be close).  I also believe that this issue will continue to harm the church until it is ultimately resolved in favor of gay ordination OR it causes a split.

A side issue – the PJC chose to “exclude all media from the trial, including all electronic devices, cameras, and recording devices.”  This caused more than a little consternation from the users of the Internet service Twitter, including our own GA Moderator.  I believe that the Synod PJC overstepped its bounds in taking this action, as it is not supported in the Book of Order’s Rules of Discipline (though it would have been for a Disciplinary Case).  I have seem a growing problem in the church surrounding the issues of authenticity and transparency, including all levels of the church from the congregation to GA committees.  This is another issue that has the potential to divide the church, as young people who demand authenticity and openness see the backroom, Old Boys’ (and Girls’) Club atmosphere that is so prevalent in our congregations, presbyteries and higher bodies.  There is a clear desire on the part of some to avoid “airing our dirty laundry”, but that actually has the potential to hurt the church.  I believe that Generation Y, the Millenials, and even parts of Generation X demand openness.  These younger folks would much rather see a dispute handled well than a dispute covered up.

We’ll see what the next steps are in this case.  I believe that the presbytery will again move forward with Lisa’s quest for ordination to her calling, but that the road will continue to be bumpy.  I respect her for choosing to be a test case.

Jessicas and Jills

March 14, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Life, Religion 

I recently wrote about the interesting parallel between my current rough period of life (being out of work) and a previous rough period of life (the high school/college period).  There’s another interesting parallel.

I’ve noticed that when my life is going the worst there are angels who enter my life and help me through the rough patch.  What’s interesting is that a number of them tend to be women of about my age with the same first name.

In high school, the rough patch involved trouble with my parents (that continued until age 21) and trouble socially at school.  I won’t go into the problems with parents, but assume that they were worse-than-average oldest-child teenage stuff.  The social stuff at school stemmed from the fact that I was fairly geeky and therefore not in the in crowd, plus the usual teenage hormone/dating/angst stuff.

In high school, a bunch of the angels were named Jessica.

Jessica Sunshine was two years older.  She was a bit of a mentor to me.  She taught me most of what I know about stage lighting, but at the same time taught me much about life.  She was a sympathetic ear at times, and a role model.

Jessica Bernstein was someone who took me seriously when those around me did not.  We shared a number of classes, and I even tried to help her get through calculus during senior year.  She was someone who could brighten my day and see the good side of me when others didn’t (or I couldn’t).

Jessica Meyerson was the closest of all of these to me.  She was someone who entered my life in a significant way at a time when I had made the choice to exit a group that had been a very large part of my life.  We kept in touch after high school and during the summer after freshman year, we spent a lot of time hanging out in NYC.  It would not be hyperbole to say that she kept me sane that summer at a time when my relationship with my parents was about as bad as it could get.

And then there’s another Jessica.  She entered my life through my very early involvement in the greater Presbyterian church.  I believe that if she had not been taken from us tragically, my life might have been very different.  I still remember her every January 22.
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There were others who helped me at that difficult time in my life.  There was a Tim, 2 Walters, a Linda, and many others.  It is just interesting that there were so many Jessicas.

Today, it seems that Jill is the name of some of the angels.

Jill van den Heuvel is responsible for helping me find my current church congregation.  She has also taught me courage in the dark times of life through her own example.  If I didn’t have my church in my life right now things would be much harder, if not impossible.

Jill Cifelli has been a mentor, friend, and fellow traveler on life’s path.  I first met her in her role as Interim Associate for Pastoral Ministry at my church, when I was looking for a church.  She and I just completed co-chairing a church committee, something that may be repeated in some fashion as we move into the future.  And she has walked with me in the darkness of the current economy.  She brightens my day just by saying Hi, talking about life, or just waving like a maniac across the Fellowship Center.  She is such a spiritual person that one can’t help being nourished by her spiritual overflow.

Jill Kahlenberg is a fellow Lenox survivor, a friend, and another bright spot in my life these days.  She and I are traveling on the same road through the economy at the moment – though she is doing it with a more positive outlook.  Although we only speak every month or so, every encounter helps heal my soul for much longer than the actual interaction.  It’s good to have another person in my life who is so intelligent, organized, and driven to work for good.

I am lucky to have these Jills in my life at the moment.  There are others who are helping as much:  a Carolyn, a Barbara, a Sara, a Lorelei, a Rich and a Grier, an Axel, a Gooitzen and an Elsa.  But the common name seems to have shown up again.

Thanks for all of them.

I am a Project Management Professional (PMP)

March 5, 2009 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Job Search, Work 

As of this afternoon, I am now a Project Management Professional (PMP), certified by the Project Management Institute (PMI).

In order to achieve this certification, I had to document 4,500 hours of time leading project tasks, 35 contact hours of project management training, and pass the exam.  I actually documented about 5,600 hours of time and 71 hours of training.  This certification is not so much a new skill for me as the formal recognition of skills that I already have and use.  This should enable me to more easily get through the screen for positions that require these skills and/or certification.
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My wife got this certification several years ago, so we are now a 2 PMP family. is dead, long live!

March 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Admin 

I have deleted my old TypePad blog at  Any references to that blog should be redirected to:

Personal blog –
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