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June 30, 2006

Rock, paper, schisms

Empty words:

When referring to the Trinity, most Christians are likely to say “Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.”
But leaders of the Presbyterian Church (USA) are suggesting some additional designations: “Compassionate Mother, Beloved Child and Life-giving Womb,” or perhaps “Overflowing Font, Living Water, Flowing River.”
Then there’s “Rock, Cornerstone and Temple” and “Rainbow of Promise, Ark of Salvation and Dove of Peace.”
The phrases are among 12 suggested but not mandatory wordings essentially endorsed this month by delegates to the church’s policy-making body to describe a “triune God,” the Christian doctrine of God in three persons.
The Rev. Mark Brewer, senior pastor of Bel Air Presbyterian Church, is among those in the 2.3-million-member denomination unhappy with the additions.
“You might as well put in Huey, Dewey and Louie,” he said.
“Any time you get together representatives of 2 1/2 million people, you get some really solid people and some really wacky people,” he said, referring to the delegates who attended the 217th General Assembly in Birmingham, Ala.
… Like many longtime Presbyterians, Sherie Zander, a Brentwood psychotherapist, has followed the General Assembly’s actions. She worries that the report on the Trinity will further divide her denomination, already polarized over issues such as the ordination of gays.
“It’s very odd and bizarre,” she said. When she first heard about the report last week from a friend who called her from Birmingham with “You’ve got to hear this,” she burst out laughing.
“It’s very clear that God refers to himself as the father,” she said. “Jesus, when he walked on the Earth, referred to himself as the son. All through Scripture, the Holy Spirit is referred to as the spirit. What would give any of us the right to change that?”
… Bel Air’s Brewer also warned against over-familiar language.
A child calling parents “Father” and “Mother,” he said, is far different from calling them “Billy and Betty.”

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