Highland Park Presbyterian Aims to Preserve Its Values, Which Apparently Include Homophobia

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Highland Park Presbyterian is not, repeat NOT leaving its own denomination because of gay clergy. It's all about inerrancy. Next question: What's inerrancy?
David Carr had a good piece in The New York Times Monday about the diminishing value of sexual outing as a moneymaker for the media business. It's about a recent Gawker story outing Fox News breaking news director Shepard Smith as gay. Apparently no one gave a shit.

I think I understand the moral complexities here as well as the next person in my business, but then a part of me dies every time I see society get over another really good phobia. I think, "Don't take outing away from us! Now all we'll have to report on is rehab."

I actually think we all get it. Stories outing people over whom they screw become less and less effective showstoppers the less anybody cares. Carr hits on the one cultural fulcrum that can provide leverage for outing stories, and that's the twist.

You know. The twist. Gawker thought people would consider Fox News a fair target because Fox is so totally twisted. Judging by the utter lack of pick-up, though, Gawker must have been wrong. To get a rise out of anybody (please) with an outing today, you have to find somebody way farther out on the twisted continuum than Fox News. Wow. This business!

Fortunately for us in the local news trade, we have the Park Cities, the twisted well that never runs dry. In Monday's Dallas Morning News, for example, we have a story about Highland Park Presbyterian Church, whose members voted overwhelmingly Sunday to ditch out of the Presbyterian denomination and join a new outfit called the Covenant Order of Evangelical Christians, which sounds scary, doesn't it?

The abbreviation is ECO. Try it on.

"So what religion are you now?"

"ECO."

Still scary.

The Reverend Joe Rightmyer, interim senior pastor of HPPC, said in a statement on their website, "By joining ECO, we are not walking away from our Presbyterian values. We are preserving them."

Yeah, well, that would be basically walking away. A number of Presbyterian churches have departed from the denomination over the last couple years, almost always claiming that it's all about something called biblical "inerrancy," a word with a sketchy career in dictionaries. I do find it in Websters New World meaning infallibility, but the closest to that meaning the Shorter Oxford English will give it is "fixed," like the eyeball that never moves in a wall-eyed guy. Mostly for words, I still trust the Old World.

And in fact in the case of Highland Park Presbyterian, the one word they seem least willing to utter about all this is a very old one, gay. As in clergy. All of the ship-jumping here and nationally began a several years ago when the national Presbyterian Church, also known as the Real Presbyterian Church, entered into a debate about allowing homosexuals to become clergy. That debate seems to have been resolved last year when the national body voted down an attempt to roll back an earlier decision admitting gay clergy.

Now, remember, I promised I wasn't just going to sit here and talk about who's gay unless I could come up with a really good twist. I do know the rules on this. So ... uh, well, OK, I admit it: I am not exactly sure what I've got, but here it is, anyway.

In May of 2009, John Wright, then the editor of Dallas Voice, took the then pastor of HPPC, Ron Scates, to task for being a homophobe. Scates wrote to Wright saying the characterization was 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.

With this missive he included a brochure for a ministry devoted to turning gay people into heterosexuals. Wright published the letter and made reference to the brochure in a way that made it sound as if Scates had gone through the escape-from-gaydom program himself.

I reached Scates today. 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 said 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.

Most of the Regen staff were/are homosexual/lesbian oriented folk. I said, "If I'm going to serve on this board with wisdom, faithfulness, and compassion, I need to understand the homosexual lifestyle beyond the mere anecdotes and caricatures that currently inform my knowledge and understanding of the lifestyle."

This was in 1989, so I asked some of the male Regen staff to "take me into their former world" by driving me around Baltimore during the daytime and showing me key sites of homosexual activity while telling me about what actually goes on in those places. I certainly had my eyes open to the self-destructiveness of that lifestyle.

That is what I clearly told the editor of the Dallas Voice so that he would understand that I made an intentional attempt to move beyond homophobia and to truly understand what the lifestyle entailed. After he published his purposely twisted version of what I said and meant, I called him on the phone, to ask him why he would do such a thing, and he reacted with a "too bad for you" attitude.

For 13 years as Sr. Pastor of HPPC, my goal for everyone in our congregation was merely to preach and teach only what the Scriptures clearly reveal to be God's best for any and all people in all areas of life, including the realm of human sexuality, which is fidelity in marriage between one man and one woman, and chastity in singleness, whatever one's orientation, and to do so in a compassionate and non-condemnatory way as part of the Gospel of grace. That's the whole story.

I'm trying to reach Wright. He's the guy who got fired from the Voice in a recent controversy over a more physical form of inerrancy. You remember. The parade?

See also: Dallas Voice Publisher: Editor John Wright Was Fired, But It Wasn't for "Doing Journalism"

Meanwhile, I have my own motto for all of this, not that anyone would listen: Don't spend too much time obsessing over how other people screw and getting angry about it, even if you really really like getting angry about it, because it could cause your eyes to stay like that and you might wind up inerrant. Word to the wise, my friend, word to the wise.

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97 comments
TexMarine
TexMarine

This is all about putting asses in seats. I'm a member of another denomination that has already had two major schisms.  At its core is the church's desire to exist, and how do you do that today? You become "popular". The way many of us see it, why change to accommodate those who have nothing but hate and discontent for your institution.  Form your own LGBT church, and move on.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

The Presbyterian Church is an honorable tradition.  They're great advocates for minorities and the aggrieved, the world over.  They seem to understand the great commission and Jesus' charge to love even your enemies.  It's appropriate that this congregation, who've forgotten about the modesty they've long espoused, is breaking away, there was vast cognitive dissonance.  They could become Episcopals, they have a long history of compromise, but these folks aren't into compromising on tolerance, just on prohibitions against greed, judgment

mcdallas
mcdallas

All of this was predetermined.

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

UnfairPark should never get into the fine points of Protestant theology. Clearly in way over its head. 

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

 PCUSA has been off the rails for decades.  This is nothing new.  PCA, on the other hand, is doing just fine as the Real Real Presbyterian Church in America.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

I believe the Evangelical priest when he says that he doesn't fear homosexuals.  What those people actually feel is "hatred", not "fear".,


ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

So let's all show up in sandals and togas.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

What I don't understand is that Presbyterians follow a doctrine of predestination as part of the resolving the seeming conflict between an omniscient God and man's free will.


Could the acceptance of homosexuals into the Presbyterian Church be considered part of predestination and God's plan?

Could the rejection of homosexuals by the Presbyterian Church be considered part of predestination and God's plan?


Enquiring minds want to know ...

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

As a non-Presbyterian, I wonder at all this fuss over what they believe or do not believe. I think we can safely leave it to the Presbyterians themselves to fight it out.  It's not as though they are lobbying the legislature. 

Odummer
Odummer

What happened to the photo of Wilbur in a ratty bath robe pointing a shotgun at us?

wright7
wright7

John Wright here. I've sent Jim an email with my cell so he can call me, but basically here's my response: Ron Scates is completely full of shit. He never called me to explain what he meant by "taken into the world of homosexual sex." If he had, I certainly would remember it, and I certainly would have reported on it. Do you really think I would pass up a chance to do another post about Scates? No way! The last communication I had with Scates was his handwritten letter. Furthermore, I never twisted Mr. Scates' words to suggest that he was a latent homosexual or had been through an ex-gay program. Go back and look at my post: http://www.dallasvoice.com/pastor-scates-ive-been-taken-into-the-world-of-homosexual-sex-104984.html

ebailey75057
ebailey75057

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a]

38 This is the first and greatest commandment.

39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]

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

Don't believe there is anything mentioned about sexual orientation regarding Jesus' two  primary commandments to us.  Nothing mentioned about loving or not loving people because they are gay or straight.  Jesus wanted us to simply "Love our  neighbors" unconditionally.  The Pharisees at HPPC can worship however they like.  Maybe they can hold a joint service with Westboro Baptist someday.  Their heading that way in their beliefs.

Obummer
Obummer

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

jsitton
jsitton

Can't even get the photo correct?  And we are suppossed to put any creadance to this article?  The church is a private institution and can do what they please.   Leave'em be.  Please, Jimmy.....details, details!

jsitton
jsitton

Can't get the photo correct?   And you expect anyone to believe your drivel, there Jimmy?  Details, son, details.   Journalistic integrity, please.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

The press, who cares deeply, makes a big kabuki deal about the love that dare not speak its name, except when it comes to FOX.  Then they run it up the flagpole for a few cheap laughs like a bunch of little kids.

Then they pat themselves on the back for proving we have come of age when no one cares.

Catbird
Catbird

If you're a Christian and serious about your faith then there is really no choice but to reach out to the GLBT community and encourage them to leave the life behind with the help of the Holy Spirit.

First chapter of Romans is all about that and it isn't a judgment at all. Paul says he comes to the community in Rome as the king of sinners, someone who has persecuted and even murdered Christians. His plea is for their good, not his...there were plenty of other things on the man's "to do" list.

I don't know Ronald Scates but he sounds like an honest Christian to me and more than anything else, members of the Dallas GLBT community need someone who will be honest with them about the prospects for their afterlife and they are about as likely to find that at the "Dallas Voice" or the "Real Presbyterian Church" as they would have in Caligula's court.   

ruddski
ruddski

Better yet, an LGBLT mosque,.

jack
jack

@mcdallas HAHAHAHA! not many folks outside the Presbyterian church are going to get that one. Very clever though:)

NotaPresbyterian
NotaPresbyterian

@bvckvs "Evangelical Priest"?  Are you high, or do you just not know what you are talking about?

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@bmarvel 

Since 9/11, we can no longer afford to give religious freaks the latitude to fight it out among themselves.  When we give them that kind of freedom, they blow up skyscrapers and gun down innocent civilians.


scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@ebailey75057 A lot of "Christian" advocates and defenders, but no likes for the actual gospel--that's about right.  They probably didn't recognize this arcane quote. 

James080
James080

@Obummer  

Maybe Steve had a sex change procedure.....when a lump of mud suddenly fell off the man. 

gabe48
gabe48

@jsitton You have the gall to mention drivel?  What do you think you're spewing?  

Jim backed his story up with citations.  Since you are making the accusation, the burden of proof is on YOU. Please cite a source that is NOT the bible to back up your assertion that this is, "drivel." 

You can't?  Oh, that would explain why you are using a straw man to try and discredit this article.  Do unto others, jsittony.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@Catbird Paul says celibacy is better.  and, there's nothing about homosexuality from Jesus or Paul.  The Old Testament makes a few oblique references to it, but there's really not much foundation for your VERY selective reading of the Bible.  The Good Samaritan story makes it clear that it's not faith, nationality or tribe that divides you from others, all are your neighbor, and how  you treat them is how you love Jesus.  You're a pharisee and have missed the GOLDEN RULE and the principle commission of Jesus.  Sad, you're a pharisee, not a follower of the gospels.

Wilson
Wilson

@Catbird How many times does Jesus mention homosexuality, versus how many times he talks about helping the poor?  And there are all kinds of passages that, "if you're a Christian and serious about your faith," you should be doing. Like selling all your possessions and giving the money to the poor, for a start. How's that going?

ebailey75057
ebailey75057

Their prospects for the afterlife are just as good as anyone else's. 

TexMarine
TexMarine

@ruddski Funny you mention that. They're going to spend all their ammo on Christianity, when Christians aren't the real enemy of the LGBT community.

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@bvckvs So it's now open season on religion, bvckvs? That's been so very successful in other countries. Nothing like a little persecution to drive people back to their faith.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@bvckvs @bmarvel Presbyterians are much more moderate than their history might suggest

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@bvckvs @bmarvel 

The moment I thought I've heard the craziest thing you could possibly say, you come up with something even more outrageous.

Bravo!

ruddski
ruddski

Get it while you can.

Guest
Guest

@HPPC_Neighbor @jsitton No, it is Third Church of Christ, Scientist at Oak Lawn and Hawthorne.  Both the Christian Science church and the Roman Catholic church were designed by Mark Lemmon at about the same time, that is why they appear similar.  This, however, is a picture of Third Church.  If you magnify the picture, the little green sign at the lower left has the name of the church.

jsitton
jsitton

Lighten up there Francis.  I don't know what you got so riled up about.   I just told the author of the article that it really hard to take his piece seriously when he can't get the photo correct.   What assertion do I need to back up?  That the pic is not correct?   Don't need scripture for that.   Or that the church is a private institution and they can do whatever they please within the law?   Don't need scripture for that either.   I don't! like the title of his article, but hey, its the Observer and I do like a little irreverence.   Again, it is a church and they can do whatever they want as they are a private entity (and no I don't go there).   I'm not in the business of judging anyone, so if you don't believe what this particular church believes, don't go there and quit hating

Catbird
Catbird

@scottindallas Sorry Scott but you clearly have not read the scriptures for yourself if you sincerely hold that opinion. This is most common in the mainline protestant  denominations in america so you are definitely not alone in this belief. That is why HPP split from the national bureaucracy. 

Try reading Romans for yourself and then lets talk.

Cheers!

Catbird
Catbird

@ebailey75057 unfortunately, many passages, including 1 Corinthians 1 6:9, do not agree with your statement....here's what it says:

Do you not know that sinful men will have no place in the holy nation of God? Do not be fooled. A person who does sex sins, or who worships false gods, or who is not faithful in marriage, or men who act like women, or people who do sex sins with their own sex, will have no place in the holy nation of God.

sorry ebailey...I hope maybe this is helpful.

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@ruddski Man ruddaki, sometimes I almost agree with you and sometimes I'm saure you're a prize fool.

Name one administration in the past three or four that wasn't founding or dithering or disgraced at the end. Take off your partisan glasses. The world is ever so much clearer.


bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@bvckvsHey, man, and I quote: "we can no longer afford to give religious freaks the latitude to fight it out among themselves. "

Inasmuch as most religions are always riven by internal disputes, that sounds like a license to persecute to me. Perhaps by "freaks" you meant only those not of your religion.

By the way, bvccks, there IS  Constitutional issue involved.

ruddski
ruddski

"...t's only open season against the apocalyptic religions" . Keep in mind that the floundering regime considers political adversaries snd those who insist on folloeing constitutionsl law as dangerous extremists.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@bmarvel 

In psychology, that attitude is referred to as a "persecution complex".

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@jsitton they CAN'T do anything they want.  The Church is the property of the Presbyterian Church.  There's a hashing out that has to occur for them to sever their ties.  I agree that is and should be between them, but the congregation isn't the only concerned party

Catbird
Catbird

@scottindallas @Catbird New Life Version, First Chapter of Romans for you dear friend. I hope you can find your way out.

24 So God let them follow the desires of their sinful hearts. They did sinful things among themselves with their bodies. 25 They traded the truth of God for a lie. They worshiped and cared for what God made instead of worshiping the God Who made it. He is the One Who is to receive honor and thanks forever. Let it be so.

26 Because of this, God let them follow their sinful desires which lead to shame. Women used their bodies in ways God had not planned. 27 In the same way, men left the right use of women’s bodies. They did sex sins with other men. They received for themselves the punishment that was coming to them for their sin.

28 Because they would not keep God in their thoughts anymore, He gave them up. Their minds were sinful and they wanted only to do things they should not do. 

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@Catbird @scottindallas you try.  I've read it.  There's nothing about homosexuality in the NT and Paul absolutely says that it's better to remain (as I am) celibate...

NotaPresbyterian
NotaPresbyterian

@ebailey75057 This is weird.  I haven't directed a single comment towards you, other than to say I was responding to Gabe48, not you, when I suggested he contact a priest or pastor.  

ebailey75057
ebailey75057

@Catbird @ebailey75057  

My God  loves and forgives me of  my sins and transgressions.   You must worship a different God, one apparently bent on eternal damnation and punishment. 

A few examples of what my God does:

Hebrews 10:17Then he adds: "Their sins and lawless acts  will remember no more."

MAtthew 6:14-15For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Daniel 9:9The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him;

Colossians 1:13-14For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,  in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins

Psalm 103:12as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

Matthew 6:9-15"This, then, is how you should pray: " 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,  your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us today our daily bread.  Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. '  For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Mark 11:25And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. "

Good luck with your God  I'll keep mine

ebailey75057
ebailey75057

Well Gabe if we were to follow your beliefs of the bible there wouldn't be alot of Christians left.  We would all be killed for the slightest infraction.  Excellent! I'm sure our loving Savior wanted us to strictly adhere to the old testament teachings. Of course that is why he came down in human form to enforce the strict and unbending rules laid forth in the old testament.  Forget about all that stuff he taught about tolerance and love, and why he died on the cross for us.  

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scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@Catbird @ebailey75057  So, Catbird, you don't think accepting Jesus and baptism absolve one of sins?   Boy, you don't understand the tenants of basic Christianity

the_real_gabe48
the_real_gabe48

@gabe48 @Catbird @ebailey75057 Sure, but what does the old testament have to say about big meaty ribs and fresh hand cut fries?......I'll tell you what it says.  It's says, "Thou shalt eat the BBQ at Mac's on main street! For it is good." Amen.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@Catbird @ebailey75057

King James on that same passage:

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind ...

Be careful slinging that "effeminate" charge around:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnH-3t0W-HM

Catbird
Catbird

@ebailey75057 maybe you should spend a little time in 2 Thessalonians: 

...and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 

For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.

ebailey75057
ebailey75057

No need, already discussed; in length,  with my Pastors. 

We accept all those seeking the Love of Jesus.

(Regardless of Race, Color or Sexual Orientation)

All of us our God's Children.

ebailey75057
ebailey75057

Well Gabe if we were to follow your beliefs of the bible there wouldn't be alot of Christians left.  We would all be killed for the slightest infraction.  Excellent! I'm sure our loving Savior wanted us to strictly adhere to the old testament teachings. Of course that is why he came down in human form to enforce the strict and unbending rules laid forth in the old testament.  Forget about all that stuff he taught about tolerance and love, and why he died on the cross for us.  

ebailey75057
ebailey75057

Corinthians?  From Paul correct? Always found Paul's teachings suspect.  Do you require your wife or girlfriend  to remain covered in church or require them to remain silent if they have a question? Yeah how is that working out for your congregation?   Been studying Corinthians for better part of of 2 years now in bible study.   Would rather follow what my savior stated directly to us (in Red Letters) than what Paul wrote.  And that was to "Love they neighbor" period.  No ifs, ands or buts were included in that decree. Through Previenent Grace, God loves all of us, regardless of our sins.  Thats the very reason he died on the cross for us. 

NotaPresbyterian
NotaPresbyterian

@gabe48 @Catbird @ebailey75057 If you are really concerned with reconciling these things (and I know you aren't) with Christian theology, pick up the phone, call any Priest/Pastor/Minister in America, and they will help you out.

gabe48
gabe48

@Catbird @ebailey75057Since you love cherry-picking scripture, and you also love backhandedly telling people they are going to hell (remember everything in the bible about judgement?), here are some reasons, by your own logic, you are probably going to hell:

"For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a holy day, a sabbath of complete rest to the LORD; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death."  (What, you mowed the lawn on a Saturday or Sunday? Did the dishes? HELLFIRE AND DAMNATION APPARENTLY AWAIT YOU                                                                               ~Exodus 35:2

Any person who curseth his father or mother must be killed
~Leviticus 20:9

If a man has sex with a woman on her period, they are both to be cut off from their people
~Leviticus 20:18

People who have flat noses, or are blind or lame, cannot go to an altar of God
~Leviticus 21:17-18

Anyone who dreams or prophesizes anything that is against God, or anyone who tries to turn you from God, is to be put to death
~Deuteronomy 13:5

The eating of fat is prohibited forever
~Leviticus 3:17

Entrance into the assembly of the Lord was granted only to those with complete testicles
~Deuteronomy 23:1

Stubborn children were to be stoned, and the stoning was to be instigated by their parents
~Deuteronomy 21:18-21

False prophets are to be killed by their own parents
~Zechariah 13:3

If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property
~Exodus 21:20-21

If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl's father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives
~Deuteronomy 22:28-29

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters - yes, even his own life - he cannot be my disciple
~Luke 14:26

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