Resisting Church Divorce

Denominational conflicts may arise from views of God rather than competing worldviews
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GODVIEWS: The Convictions that Drive Us and Divide Us
Jack Haberer
Geneva Press, 174 pages, $19.95

In the spring of 1998, it became clear that the traditionalist forces within the Presbyterian Church (USA) had won a significant—if only temporary—battle against the movement to liberalize the denomination's position on homosexual practice.

The 1997 General Assembly had approved an amendment to its Book of Order that seemed to open the door to the ordination of noncelibate homosexuals. The amendment required ratification by local presbyteries, however, and by the end of March 1998 the tally of votes showed that the proposed changes had failed.

Jack Haberer was elated by this turn of events. As the moderator of the Presbyterian Coalition, an umbrella group for various conservative organizations within the PCUSA, he had campaigned diligently against the liberalizing amendment. But before he allowed himself to celebrate this victory, Haberer phoned to express his sympathy to Scott Anderson, a leader of Presbyterians for Lesbian and Gay Concerns. In doing so, he wasn't entertaining second thoughts about the cause he had been espousing.

"I did not doubt that we conservatives were following an understanding of God's truth regarding sexual ethics that had stood uninterrupted for 3,000 years," Haberer writes. But he still felt compelled to acknowledge that "my opponents believed themselves to be following an understanding of God's love and grace that had wrestled against exclusivist trends ever since the days of the Apostles. I surely could feel compassion for the way they felt that the church's policy shut them out."

This gesture by Haberer, senior pastor of Houston's large Clear Lake Presbyterian Church, to one of his ecclesiastical opponents ...

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