Let’s talk about downgrade. Located in Purchase, New York, Trinity Presbyterian Church is a PCA church affiliated with Tim Keller’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church network of churches in the Metro New York City Area. On Reformation Sunday, they did something quite disagreeable, which is to invite a well-known pastrix to preach the sermon.
Delivering the message was Mrs. Fleming Rutledge. She is a well-known Episcopal priest, author, theologian and preacher, who was one of the first women to be ordained to the priesthood of the Episcopal Church, back in 1975. Though more conservative than most Episcopalians, she certainly has her liberal streak, such as when she discussed ‘gay’ marriage and the place of the practicing homosexual within the church, writing:
“We will do well, I think to make an honored place for the devoutly Christian gay people who sincerely want fidelity and stability in their lives insofar as that is possible for them. These couples are in the distinct minority and it seems to me that we should support them in their wish to carve out a more responsible style of life. I therefore agree (I think) with those who say that we should be discussing the possibility of some sort of blessing for gay couples who fit this description…. For the phenomenon of homosexuality I would suggest the word “adaptation.” Homosexuality is not a normal variant of human sexuality but an adaptation to the circumstances, whatever they are, that have produced exclusively homosexual desires in a person. Therefore I do not believe that gay couples should be “married” as heterosexual couples are married. There needs to be some tacit acknowledgment that this is something less than the full intention of the Lord in creation. My own sense at present is that gay unions would be conducted rather like second marriages after a divorce─quiet, restrained, and dignified (at least that is the way second marriage ceremonies used to be).”
To this end, she was invited to attend and give the Sunday morning sermon, which she did with gusto. When pressed on their Facebook page about this sinful endeavor, the church pushed back and straight-up lied about the whole affair, making excuses and offering justifications for why they invited her in the first place.
Not true. She gave the sermon for that day. It was not a “one-time bible study” but rather was the message delivered to the entire congregation for that church service. Even the church’s own media lists it as such.
The rest of the sermons on the site follow the same template, listing the sermon and the preacher, demonstrating the last year wasn’t comprised of 51 sermons from the pastoral team and 1 bible study from a wayward pastrix, but rather a full year of preaching.
The church has three pastors on staff- could they not find anyone to deliver the message? Why invite someone that is unapologetically in clear violation of their creeds and confessions of faith? This is the definition of downgrade, where violations let slid result in violations grown big. Even if she was a great teacher and had no weird or aberrant beliefs, the fact that she is a pastrix who travels across the world preaching ought to be enough to ensure she would never have been invited.
With a pastoral team that is violating the denomination’s confessional standards, as soon as the congregation realized who was teaching they should have shouted her down or all walked out of the service, and then go scorched earth against the pastors and the elders, contacting the Presbytery to have charges brought against them, even going so far as removing them from office.
You don’t take nail clippers to theological weeds or treat them gently, pruning them down and merely minimizing their presence. You dig them out with the shovel, hack them up, burn the roots, and then salt the land where they once laid, rendering it a wasteland where nothing will grow for a hundred years.