Tuesday, March 31, 2009

6 more down, 30 to go

6 more presbyteries have voted with no particular surprises. All six voted in favor of amending the Constitution and removing the fidelity and chastity requirement. The presbyteries were:

Genessee Valley
New York City
Susquehanna Valley
Western New York

Of the six, three voted for removing fidelity and chastity in 2001. The other three switched their votes from 2001, but all three were among the list of presbyteries whose 2001 votes were close enough that they reasonably could have been expected to switch. Opponents of fidelity and chastity would need all of the close votes from 2001 to change their minds this time around, plus they would need at least one more presbytery that nobody really sees going their way to come over to their side as well. The total vote is now 81 against the amendment and 62 in favor of it. 87 presbyteries are needed to prevail.

The remaining presbyteries (along with their 2001 votes and whether they are amongst the presbyteries who foreseeably could switch (S)) are as follows:

1 Alaska-No (S)
2 Atlantic Korean-No
3 Boise-No (S)
4 Dakota-No
5 de Cristo-Yes
6 Detroit-No (S)
7 East Iowa-Yes
8 Kiskiminetas-No (S)
9 Lehigh-No (S)
10 Long Island-Yes
11 Middle Tenn.-No (S)
12 MW Hanmi-No
13 Minnesota Valleys-No (S)
14 Missouri River Valley-No (S)
15 National Capital-Yes
16 Noroeste-No
17 Northern New York-Yes
18 North. Plains-No (S)
19 Northern Waters-Yes
20 Pacific-No (S)
21 Salem-No (S)
22 San Francisco-Yes
23 San Jose-Yes
24 Savannah-No
25 Sierra Blanca-Yes
26 South Louisiana-No (S)
27 Southern New England-Yes
28 Suroeste-No
29 Utah-No (S)
30 Wabash Valley-No (S)

God bless.

Friday, March 27, 2009

5 more votes, no more surprises.

5 more presbyteries have held their votes on removing fidelity and chastity from the PC(USA) Constitution. None of the 5 were among the presbyteries whose "no" votes in 2001 were close enough that they could possibly change their minds this time. All 5 went as expected. They were as follows:



The tally is now 56 presbyteries in favor of the amendment and 81 against it. 87 votes are needed to "win" (although the mere fact that this vote even has to be held takes away any feelings of "victory"). The remaining presbyteries are as follows:

1 Alaska-No (S)
2 Atlantic Korean-No
3 Boise-No (S)
4 Dakota-No
5 de Cristo-Yes
6 Detroit-No (S)
7 East Iowa-Yes
8 Genessee Valley-Yes
9 Grace-No (S)
10 Kiskiminetas-No (S)
11 Lehigh-No (S)
12 Long Island-Yes
13 Middle Tenn.-No (S)
14 MW Hanmi-No
15 Minnesota Valleys-No (S)
16 Missouri River Valley-No (S)
17 National Capital-Yes
18 New York City-Yes
19 Noroeste-No
20 Northern New York-Yes
21 North. Plains-No (S)
22 Northern Waters-Yes
23 Pacific-No (S)
24 Philadelphia-No (S)
25 Salem-No (S)
26 San Francisco-Yes
27 San Jose-Yes
28 Savannah-No
29 Sierra Blanca-Yes
30 South Louisiana-No (S)
31 Southern New England-Yes
32 Suroeste-No
33 Susquehanna Valley-Yes
34 Utah-No (S)
35 Wabash Valley-No (S)
36 Western New York-No action (S)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Two More Presbyteries

Two more presbyteries have voted in favor of amending the PC(USA) Constitution and removing the fidelity and chastity requirement for ordination, Boston Presbytery and Western Reserve Presbytery. Both of them voted for the similar measure in 2001, so neither vote was a surprise. The current tally is 79 against the amendment and 53 in favor of it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My math was a little off

I may have called this thing a little too early in my last post about the vote to amend the PC(USA) constitution to remove the fidelity and chastity requirement. Part of this was my fault due to my poor math skills. It was also partly due to the fact that a couple of presbyteries who voted in favor of fidelity and chastity in 2001 (by wide enough margins that nobody really expected them to change their minds) changed their votes.

Currently, those against amending the Constitution (and therefore in favor of keeping the fidelity and chastity requirement) still have a sizeable lead, 79 to 51. 43 Presbyteries still have to vote. 25 of those voted to keep fidelity and chastity in the Constitution the last time the issue arose in 2001 (one of these actually took no action in 2001, which has the same effect as a "no" vote). The other 18 all voted to take the provision out of the Constitution and are all expected to do the same this time.

Knowing that none of those 18 presbyteries are really in dispute makes the current vote total really 79 No and 69 Yes. It is the 25 presbyteries that voted "no" in 2001 that are up for grabs. According to The Layman, a publication of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, 17 of those 25 presbyteries reasonably could switch their vote this time around. If all 17 switch, the final vote would be 87 No and 86 Yes. The amendment would still fail, but it would be much closer than I previously may have led you to believe. Also, keep in mind that we recently had two presbyteries that nobody thought would change their votes switch over in favor of amendment. If there is even one more surprise, it could effect the outcome of this vote.

Below is a chart showing the remaining Prebyteries, how they voted in 2001, and whether the 2001 votes were close enough that they reasonably could switch this time around. The name of each presbytery is followed by its 2001 vote. An "(S)" indicates it could potentially switch its vote.

1 Alaska-No (S)
2 Atlantic Korean-No
3 Beaver-Butler-No
4 Boise-No (S)
5 Boston-Yes
6 Charleston-Atl.-No
7 Dakota-No
8 de Cristo-Yes
9 Denver-Yes
10 Detroit-No (S)
11 East Iowa-Yes
12 Elizabeth-Yes
13 Genessee Valley-Yes
14 Geneva-Yes
15 Grace-No (S)
16 Kiskiminetas-No (S)
17 Lehigh-No (S)
18 Long Island-Yes
19 Middle Tenn.-No (S)
20 MW Hanmi-No
21 Minnesota Valleys-No (S)
22 Missouri River Valley-No (S)
23 National Capital-Yes
24 New York City-Yes
25 Noroeste-No
26 Northern New York-Yes
27 North. Plains-No (S)
28 Northern Waters-Yes
29 Pacific-No (S)
30 Philadelphia-No (S)
31 Salem-No (S)
32 San Francisco-Yes
33 San Jose-Yes
34 Savannah-No
35 Sierra Blanca-Yes
36 South Louisiana-No (S)
37 Southern New England-Yes
38 Suroeste-No
39 Susquehanna Valley-Yes
40 Utah-No (S)
41 Wabash Valley-No (S)
42 Western New York-No action (S)
43 Western Reserve-Yes

This information comes from The Layman.

Stay tuned. This may go down to the wire.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day

For those of you who don't know, "Coughlan" is a good old fashioned Irish name. So to honor my heritage, I am fully decked out in my green suit and tie today. I wish you all a Happy St. Patrick's Day. Please celebrate it responsibly. God bless.

Monday, March 16, 2009

No sooner did I speak...

I finally got around to updating the fidelity and chastity vote in the PC(USA) when ... what should happen but more information comes in within hours of my post. The current vote tally is 74 presbyteries in favor of keeping fidelity/chastity and 46 voting to do away with it. Whichever side is going to prevail needs 87 presbyteries voting their way. That means the "magic number" for fidelity/chastity is 13. Those who want to amend the Constitution have a magic number of 41. It is looking increasingly likely that the PC(USA) Constitution will emerge unfazed, but it isn't over yet.

Of the 53 Presbyteries that still have to vote, 12 voted for a similar measure to do away with fidelity and chastity in 2001 (and all are expected to vote the same way this time around). The other 41 presbyteries all voted to keep fidelity/chastity in 2001. 22 of these were close enough that they realistically could go the other way this year. Even if all 22 switch, though, that would still leave the amendment 7 presbyteries short. All in all, it will be a closer vote than it was in 2001 (which means that this issue is likely to rear its head again in the very near future), but the outcome should still be the same.

Jacqueline Spears new home

You may recall that for some time now the Ten Minas Disaster Relief Project has been raising money to help rebuild the home of Jacqueline Spears in Gulfport, Mississippi. Her home was severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Well, thanks to the help of everyone who donated (along with the efforts and donations from many others, including Grove Presbyterian Church, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Carpenters for Christ and the Presbytery of Mississippi) Jackie's new home is arriving on March 21. There are enough volunteers to have it completely assembled within one month. Thank you for all your help and prayers. We are thrilled to have taken part in this happy ending and look forward to our next project. God bless.

Fidelity and Chastity update

The latest vote tally on the effort to repeal the fidelity and chastity requirement from the PCUSA Constitution is 69 in favor of keeping the requirement and 41 in favor of getting rid of it. 63 Presbyteries still need to vote.

In an only tangentially related note, I have recently been re-elected to serve another three years on the Session of Grove Presbyterian Church, so I will remain "in the trenches."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Richard Dawkins does not exist

"However statistically improbable the entity you seek to explain by invoking a designer, the designer himself has got to be at least as improbable."

This quote comes from page 138 of the paperback edition of Richard Dawkins' bestselling book "The God Delusion." Mr. Dawkins concedes that the existence of the universe is improbable, but he accepts its existence (largely because we live within it). We see the universe all around us, so it somehow must have overcome these odds (for anyone who wants to get hyper-technical, yes, I realize that he goes on to discuss the anthropic principle as a means to overcome the improbability, but it is just that, a way to overcome the improbability; this is still conceding that the universe's fine-tuning is improbable). But Mr. Dawkins rejects the existence of God based upon the even larger improbability. After all, Mr. Dawkins has never seen God as he has seen the universe, so he has no reason to believe that God has overcome the improbabilities.

Mr. Dawkins' argument misses the distinction between entities that exist within time and those that exist outside of time, but that is not the point of this post. Instead I wish to point out a rather humorous implication of the specific sentence I quoted above.

Bearing in mind that I have never seen Mr. Dawkins (just as Mr. Dawkins has allegedly never seen God) let's take Mr. Dawkins' statement again with a few insertions to clarify his meaning:

However statistically improbable the entity you seek to explain by invoking a designer (i.e., the universe), the designer himself (i.e., God) has got to be at least as improbable.
The conclusion = God does not exist.

Now allow me to use the same logic, but use it to try to explain the existence of the finely-tuned book "The God Delusion" instead of trying to explain the universe. After all, the combination of letters that come together to form the complex thoughts in "The God Delusion" are extremely improbable, so I am proposing that they were designed by Mr. Dawkins. Using Mr. Dawkins' own statement we get:

However statistically improbable the entity you seek to explain by invoking a designer (i.e., "The God Delusion"), the designer himself (i.e., Richard Dawkins) has got to be at least as improbable.
The conclusion = Richard Dawkins does not exist.

I am sorry to say Mr. Dawkins, that you have apparently disproven your own existence, at least to anyone that has never met you personally. I guess "The God Delusion" came together randomly after all, despite the odds.