The Rev. Shannon Kershner Interview (2)
The interview under discussion was wide ranging in scope. Therefore, there are numerous topics with which I must disagree with corresponding levels of concern. I will here cover one of those topics that rise to the level of great concern.
At around 15:50 into the interview the Rev. Kershner makes the following statement regarding the authority of Scripture in the PCUSA.
… because there’s a lot of grey in our denomination and you can have differing understanding of Scripture’s authority and still be a good Presbyterian.
On its face this statement isn’t alarming. I would wager that in any Christian group outside of a cult there are differing understandings of Scripture’s authority.
However, if you happen to know the actual range of acceptable understanding for Scripture’s authority in the PCUSA this seemingly bland statement becomes disturbing. It is so because you are forced to choose between two unpleasant conclusions. One is that the Rev. Kershner is utterly ignorant about the true range of acceptable Scriptural authority understandings in the PCUSA. The other is that, although she knows this actual range, she nevertheless obscures the truth by use of language that will be misinterpreted by the vast majority of listeners.
You may have noticed that in both previous posts I have referenced the PCUSA’s ordination of an atheist and approval of an ordained heretic. My intent was to focus the reader’s mind on the true nature of our denomination’s position on Scriptural authority. That being, there are no limits on the acceptable differences in this area. If you yet doubt me, here are the publicly available statements of our PCUSA atheist ordained pastor, John Shuck, on Scriptural authority.
- Jesus may have been an historical figure, but most of what we know about him is in the form of legend …
- The Bible is a human product as opposed to special revelation from a divine being
Or, consider what the article published by the official PCUSA News Service had to say about proposals to delete Books from Scripture and add Gnostic books (emphasis added).
Until the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul and the rest were codified as the New Testament’s canon some 300 years after His resurrection, people heard the story of Jesus told through additional eyes and voices. These Gnostic Gospels are attributed to, among others, Mary Magdalene, Thomas (he of “Doubting Thomas” fame) and even Judas.
The discovery of the Gnostic Gospels in Egypt rekindled debate among theologians and religious scholars about what a “proper” New Testament should contain. One think tank that emerged was the 150-member Jesus Seminar founded by Robert Funk. During his lifetime, Funk advocated for a volume along the lines of what was produced by Taussig’s council; Funk also lobbied strongly for the extraction of some books in the New Testament, among them the Gospel of John. …
… Along this line, Reyes-Chow was quick to point out that, with the Gnostic Gospels and other “new texts” heavily favoring the strong role women played in the early church, he didn’t pick up any sense of the New Orleans council attempting to be “politically correct” or compensating for the “male-dominated” approach of the current canon.
Note that here a past Moderator of the PCUSA General Assembly, the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, is advocating for the incorporation of Gnostic Gospels into the Canon of Scripture. And, the PCUSA article clearly is supportive of this proposal.
I am extremely doubtful that the Rev. Kershner is ignorant of this situation. Therefore, the following figure provides a summary of what is the most likely intention of her comment.
Using tortured misapplication of logic and rhetoric it’s possible that a case for 1% (or 0.1%, or 0.01% …) orthodoxy in the views of an avowed atheist and Gnostic heretic could be made. Thus the Rev. Kershner might argue that she is technically telling the truth in the abstract sense that if even an infinitesimal part is white in an otherwise black color the result is “grey.” However, it strains credulity that the the Revs. Shuck’s or Reyes-Chow’s (apparently both “good Presbyterians”) views of Scripture’s authority fall within any reasonable interpretation of the ordination questions relating to this issue, to which they apparently answered in the affirmative.
W-4.0404: Constitutional Questions
a. Do you trust in Jesus Christ your Savior, acknowledge him Lord of all and Head of the Church, and through him believe in one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
b. Do you accept the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be, by the Holy Spirit, the unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ in the Church universal, and God’s Word to you?
c. Do you sincerely receive and adopt the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as expressed in the confessions of our church as authentic and reliable expositions of what Scripture leads us to believe and do, and will you be instructed and led by those confessions as you lead the people of God?
d. Will you fulfill your ministry in obedience to Jesus Christ, under the authority of Scripture, and be continually guided by our confessions?
In addition, here are the standards from the current PCUSA Book of Order that must be met for a person to be ordained as a minister (emphasis added).
G-2.0503 Categories of Membership
A minister of the Word and Sacrament is a member of a presbytery and shall be engaged in a ministry validated by that presbytery, a member-at-large as determined by the presbytery, or honorably retired.
a. Engaged in a Validated Ministry
A validated ministry shall: (1) demonstrate conformity with the mission of God’s people in the world as set forth in Holy Scripture, The Book of Confessions, and the Book of Order of this church; (2) serve and aid others, and enable the ministry of others; (3) give evidence of theologically informed fidelity to God’s Word; …
In what possible sense have the Revs. Shuck or Reyes-Chow demonstrated conformity or fidelity to God’s Word? I contend not in any meaningful way within a denomination that calls itself Christian.
Why would our elite leaders want to obscure the truth about the PCUSA in this area? Well, because were the truth generally known their moral credibility as Christian leaders would profoundly suffer.