Straight Talk Highland Park Presbyterian's Ditching Its Church

Is it over gay pastors? Don't ask. They won't tell.

Last week I wrote an item for our news blog about Highland Park Presbyterian and how they were ditching out of the national Presbyterian Church so they wouldn't have to have gay clergy. As happens, I learn lots more about topics after my items appear.

First of all, no Presbyterian church really has to accept any pastor it doesn't want to accept. I looked that up. Catholic priests get sent to or imposed on parishes by bishops. The Presbyterian Church is more like the Episcopal Church in which I grew up in that a parish hires the pastor it wants.

So after its national denomination voted (again) last year to allow homosexuals to become ministers, Highland Park Presbyterian was never in any danger of getting one for a minister. They just didn't want anyone else to have one.

I knew when I wrote my item that HPPC was never going to admit it was abandoning its own denomination over gay clergy. I saw from their official pronouncements that it was all about weighty theological issues having to do with the "inerrancy" of the Bible, which is sort of not a real word, but there you have it. Oh, no, gay ministers would be fine, but we can't have anybody in the church who might be noninerrant.

Yeah. After I said that was bullshit and it was about gay clergy, the theological thicket just got thicker. One commenter suggested it had less to do with gay clergy than with "penal substitutionary atonement." Say what?

I had been binge-watching Orange is the New Black on Netflix, a series about women in prison. I thought maybe penal substitutionary atonement was something I had just seen those naughty girls doing, but it's not. It's about Jesus dying on the cross for our sins and whether we have to do anything about our sins ourselves since that's already been taken care of at the bank.

The fact remains, as I said in my blog item, Highland Park Presbyterian Church happens to have a long and twisty road behind it on the issue of gayology. During the agonizing debate in the national denomination, Ronald Scates, pastor of HPPC until a year ago, was an ardent opponent of any opening to gay clergy.

He also has been an advocate and activist for programs that attempt to turn gay young people into heterosexuals, a concept so controversial that such programs have been outlawed in some states. The most recent governor to sign a ban on "gay conversion therapy" was Republican Chris Christie of New Jersey.

The reason for the bans is the belief that trying to turn gay young people into heterosexuals is about as damaging and basically crazy-headed as trying to turn heterosexual young people into homosexuals. In fact ... hey ... it's the same thing, isn't it?

In May of 2009, John Wright, then the editor of Dallas Voice, took Scates to task for homophobic speech. Scates wrote to Wright complaining that his characterization of Scates had been unfair. He said in his manuscript note:

"I am not 'afraid of the same' (that is what homophobic literally means), nor afraid of folks who have same-sex attraction. I only want God's best for them. I have been taken into the world of homosexual sex (and heterosexual sex outside of marriage) and have witnessed the self-destructiveness that is rampant whenever we use our bodies contrary to the way God has made us. I hope you will be open-minded enough to read the enclosed. If I didn't think you were a valuable person, if I was truly bigoted, hateful, I didn't care about you ... I wouldn't bother to write.

"There is a way out ... a way back toward the center of God's will ... both for you and for me (because we're both in the same sinful boat). I've witnessed that firsthand as well.

"Don't give up on God's best for your life. I promise you that I won't either. In Christ, Ronald Scates."

Along with this missive, Scates sent Wright a brochure for a ministry he had headed, which was devoted to convincing gay young people that they were wicked because they were gay. Wright published the letter and made reference to the brochure. I said in my blog item that I thought Wright presented the letter in a way designed to lead a reader to conclude that Scates was gay. I have gone back and reread what Wright wrote, and I want to offer here a major revision. But, first:

I reached Scates. He is on sabbatical from HPPC right now in an arrangement that sounds like pre-retirement as he nears 65 years of age. It's a deal he struck with the church a year ago. I asked him about the Wright letter. He wrote back to me by email saying this:

"The editor of the Dallas Voice took a comment I made to him in an interview a number of years ago and knowingly and maliciously twisted it totally out of context in order to make it look as if I was somehow latently homosexual. Previous to coming to Dallas, I served for 11 years on the board of Regeneration Ministries in Baltimore (three of those years as president), a Christian ministry for men and women who are struggling to come out of the homosexual lifestyle by seeking new lives in Christ.

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19 comments
laughingpastor13
laughingpastor13

I failed to say I am a gay minister serving the Presbyterian Church USA. I had to leave Texas to serve my church.

laughingpastor13
laughingpastor13

Of course Highland Park Presbyterian Church left the denomination because of Gays.  I'm a Presbyterian minister now living in New Jersey.  I left my home state to have a place to serve.  There has been plenty of biblical and theological scholarship to clarify what the Bible doesn't say about homosexuality.  This scholarship is the same kind of scholarship used when the church ordained women. Churches like Highland Park Presbyterian affirmed the ordination of women in a time when the church said ordaining women was heretical.  Presbyterian's are about reading, thinking.....so I don't understand why some refuse to read and think on the issue of LGBTQ issues.  Despite some who depart.  Tonight....(Thursday, June 14 the Presbyterian Church USA voted to allow ministers to perform same gender marriage.  The denomination is the largest Protestant denomination to allow same gender marriage in the USA! 

jreedrocks
jreedrocks

This feature was written on a slow news week.  Who cares what stance a church makes?  They make the rules...you have to join and serve under their commandments...don't like it, drive a block down.  Personal connection here?  With the priest getting covered in paint over rainbow sashes, plus your rhetoric, you deliberately wanted to initiate a response.  Well done. As far as great journalism, well done...over and over and over by so many others.  Hope you enjoyed your week off.  Bring it next week!

jamessavik
jamessavik

It's a lot easier to rail against "dirty faggots" than it is to address the real issues that are destroying the various communities of faith.

If the preacher talks about divorce, he'll alienate half his congregation. If he talks about drugs and alcohol, he will alienate even more.

It's safer and easier to gay bash because they just aren't there in the congregation, they aren't welcome and the closet cases that are there know better than to object.

The big mega-churches around Dallas are all about playing to the mob.It's how they keep the offering plates full.

These churches wonder why so many kids never come back once they turn 18 and attendance is their choice. They also are so shocked and blame homosexuals in general when their deeply closeted gay members snap and get arrested for illegal use of a teenager.



friendlytxn46
friendlytxn46

What do you care, Jim? It's not your church. Why not utilize your excellent reporting skills on secular issues that really matter to the most people? Such as schools, the problem of domestic violence, the upkeep and safety of the city, etc. You are a great writer, but you are obviously trying here to stir up passions for a sensational purpose. BTW, this is one of the reasons so many people distrust and dislike the media. 

ebailey75057
ebailey75057

Our Savior's two most important commandments:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 

This is the first and greatest commandment.

And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.

All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Don't believe He specified any prerequisites to that 2nd commandment.  Nothing about Love thy neighbor, but you don't have to if he or she lives a different life style or has a different belief than you.  He commanded us simply to love our neighbors.

pithicanthus
pithicanthus

Appears to me the pastor wandered into never never land by trying to 'be at one' with homosexuals.. if you are not homosexual, you are not homosexual, if you are, you are ... so don't even go there .. its their life .. on the other hand, the bible clearly states that homosexuals shall have no place in the kingdom of God .. so either you believe or you don't .. if you don't, then stop trying to change the bible to suit yourself, it is what it is .. if you do, then don't try to reconcile a perfect and holy God's word with a sinful people - doesn't work, and you are wandering into never never land .. God is the judge, how do you make that PC? You don't! You either embrace it or you don't ... but you don't change it. You can argue til you are blue in the face, but it won't make any difference, you either embrace the word, or you run afoul of God. But some sinful people who are tormented by their consciences will continue to try to change God's word in their quest for 'normalcy', rather than repent and change - as the bible commands man to do ...  

dicksully
dicksully

Schutze's argument is fine for an article in a pulpy weekly, but the fact is that the issue of homosexual ordination and marriage does have major implications on how one reads the Bible. He runs roughshod over that fact to get to the juicy Scates anecdote, so he oversimplifies the argument for an overwhelmingly sympathetic audience. Schutze's articles are, of course, based on a hermeneutic of suspicion as opposed to charity, so I'm hardly surprised. But it is a fact that if the religious are not given more credit as people of thoughtful conviction, but instead reduced to simpleton, homophobic straw men, the two sides will forever be lobbing grenades to no good result.

Of course, the vast majority of religious leaders do nothing but goad in return, which is neither their calling nor in their best interest. I find myself perpetually caught in the middle: beholden to God over anyone else and distressed at the blowhards who peddle His name in vain to preach a message that isn't His.

daveyrh
daveyrh

Thank you for this article.  I am familiar with the "offshoot" Presbyterian sect.  They really don't quite fit into the standard Presbytery definition, but anyway . . . I am a gay man living in Dallas, raised a Presbyterian in West Tennessee in the 60s.  In 1957 our congregation, The First Presbyterian Church of Jackson, Tennessee, "had" to accept a minister from Cincinnati by the name of Dr. James R. Bullock.  He was a forward-thinking de-segregationist and one of the truly nicest human beings I have ever know.  I was taught my catechism by this man, who was reviled, tolerated, and finally respected and admired for his approach to ridding as much as his lot allowed the remnants of the Jim Crow South.  His name is now a featured chapter heading in the history of the church in the US, and I am proud as both a gay man, and a beneficiary of this man's humanity and optimism.  In the times since his retirement the congregation I was raised in split into a (more-or-less) traditional church and a bunch of bigots and holy-rollers depicted in your article.  As Oliver Hardy (of Laurel and Hardy comic fame) used to say - "Be it ever thus."  David Hancock

OnlyLogical
OnlyLogical

I'm for a TOTAL separation of church and state. So, while I might not agree with HPPC, it's a private organization and it's their call. 

HOWEVER, I DO have a problem when our COUNTRY's separation of church/state gets all muddied up when it comes to PUBLIC education, sports or whatever. Again, I said PUBLIC, not private.

i.e. the total b.s. of abstinence only education, prayers of only ONE denomination before PUBLIC high school football/sporting events. 

If the general populace want to form CLUBs that promote "the gift of virginity", etc. have at it.

NONE of the above should be "opt out" occurrences, but ONLY "opt in". Those in the minority around here, i.e. Jews, Muslims, aetheists, etc. on these topics already feel excluded on a daily basis. 

If prayer lovers want to have prayer, in a PUBLIC setting, it should ONLY be non denominational. I'm not saying take the "christ" out of Christmas, here, either. :-)

That's just stupid.

ALynnS
ALynnS

Everybody sit back and watch the Christians go crazy...

txtopnotch
txtopnotch

The bible is a history book, written by humans, giving humans' versions of their accounts of what happened at the time. History books do not mandate laws, customs or practices. It's an editorialized historical account of events that happened thousands of years ago. Other than it historical value, it has no place in today's society or the world we now live in. So what the bible says about anything or anyone is completely irrelevant, and anyone who would quote from such a source is likewise also irrelevant.

dtx.mcclain
dtx.mcclain

Didn't this same church split back in the 90s and the anti-gay faction formed Park Cities Presbyterian Church?

Obummer
Obummer

Yo God made Adam an' Eve, not Adam an' Qeve.

bfergi
bfergi

this story sucks...Schutze doesn't have a clue, gays are not approved of in the Bible, are not approved of in the Bible, Period.  That's what the HPPC is against, dumb ass!!!!   

dicksully
dicksully

@dtx.mcclain The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) split off in 1973. When Park Cities Presbyterian Church formed in 1991, they joined this denomination. The fact is, among the dubious reasons the PCA formed, racism was likely one of the biggest. It is a heritage the PCA has been rooting out since its inception, to the point that they now seek to either try or dismiss leaders that hold racist views. They still maintain the belief, per their confession, that homosexuality is a sin.

ebailey75057
ebailey75057

So sayeth bfergi! 

You are missing something in your studies bfergi.  God loves all of us, regardless of our sins. He loved us so much that while were were yet sinners He sent his only begotten son do die for our sins.   Its called Previenant Grace. 

kduble
kduble

@bfergi  "Whosoever shall say Thou fool, shall be in danger of hellfire."

---Matthew 5:22

hcartexas
hcartexas

@kduble @bfergi ... YOU FOOL!!!   You take the words of Jesus out of context..... does he say anything about twisting the word of God???

 
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