About the Covenant Network of Presbyterians

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By Douglas W. Oldenburg

A version of this commentary appeared in the Charlotte Observer on March 19, 2005.

The Covenant Network is a national group of ordained and lay members of the Presbyterian Church (USA) who are deeply committed to the authority of Scripture, the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Reformed tradition, and the historical principles of our denomination. We are moderate, mainstream, committed Presbyterians, yearning for the peace and unity of the church. Our membership includes former Moderators of the General Assembly, seminary presidents, and pastors and lay persons from large and small congregations.

The Covenant Network was formed in 1997 to restore to sessions and presbyteries their historic privilege and responsibility to discern God’s call for ordained office in particular individuals, according to clear Biblical and confessional standards. We are committed to a vision of the church as generous and just as God’s grace and, to that end, the removal of the constitutional and categorical prohibition of ordaining any sexually active gay or lesbian to office in the church. We strongly affirm that all persons regardless of sexual orientation are children of God and recipients of God’s unconditional grace, and we share a deep pastoral concern for those who feel rejected by the church.

We are equally committed to the unity of the church and encourage open dialogue and prayer in the midst of our differences. Even as we work for a change in our polity to reflect God’s generous welcome, we remain equally committed to a church that affirms the value of a broad range of theological perspectives and cherishes the opportunity to learn from differing points of view. Knowing that only God is God, we strive to hold our convictions with humility and encourage those who disagree with us to do likewise.

Although the focus of the Covenant Network has been on the ordination issue, we are also concerned about other challenges before the church: our declining membership, the person and work of Christ, the interpretation of Scripture, a renewal of our commitment to evangelism, a greater focus on working for social justice, and many others. We see ourselves as a counter-balance to what many perceive as a drift to the right in our denomination.

We believe there are many people in our churches who are struggling with these issues, especially the homosexual issue. However, many are afraid to share their struggle and talk about the ordination issue in their congregations for fear of creating criticism and painful conflict. We share those concerns, but believe the church should be a safe place where such discussions take place, where differences are shared, where mutual learning and growth might occur, and where our unity in Christ is celebrated.

Douglas W. Oldenburg served as Moderator of the  210th General Assembly, PC(USA).  He is the former President of Columbia Theological Seminary.

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