I mentioned yesterday several committee recommendations to the Presbyterian's general assembly. Now a number of votes have been taken by the assembly in response to these issues. The assembly voted to explore the possibility of providing same sex benefits to church employees. They voted to express opposition to Virginia's new law which prohibited "contractual rights between same-sex partners". And the assembly also expressed support for civil unions.
These are the sort of votes that should be a part of the national debate when it comes to religion and cultural issues. The religion versus secular divide is an overplayed theme which fails to capture the diversity of responses that people of faith have to many of these issues. While there was a lot to cheer concering the Presbyterian's assembly a cautionary note is needed. The assembly voted to not endorse the federal marriage amendment. But they also explicitly, unlike the Unitarians, voted not to oppose or put resources in seeking the defeat of the amendment. Also it will be worth watching what happens to the issue of gay and lesbian ordination which should be voted on today.
And two stories from different ends of the spectrum should be of concern to all. Hugoboy has linked an article on the efforts to monitor churches. A group called the mainstream coalition in Kansas has recruited 100 volunteers to attend services "in Johnson County to look for overt election-year politicking from the pulpit, which could violate federal law." Spies in the church? Sermons being monitored? Has a line been crossed?
From the other end we have the Bush campaign proposing some extrordinary tactics to get church members involved or in contact with the campaign, including efforts to have church member directories turned over to the Bush campaign. Also folks are encouraged to attend particular groups within the church to make a pitch for Bush. The plan was so intrusive of local congregations that even the Southern Baptist's commission on public affairs expressed outraged. As Richard Land of the commission said "I would not want my church directories being used that way".
Thanks to Chuck Currie for the info on the Bush campaign efforts. Also he was able to land an interview with the head of the National Council of Churches, Rev. Robert Edgar. The efforts of the NCC to connect faith and the issues and problems we face today are strikingly different from those who would seek to prevent any involvement and those who want to make the church a subsidiary of a presidential campaign. The interview is well worth a read.