Read the latest letter on our vision and commitment to a new way forward. Read it here.
Here is the commitment propesed as central to this statement: “We are committed to starting a new Reformed body without leaving the PC(USA).”
Here are some of the questions that must be answered to enable this to happen:
1) How can you have a new body that still remains a part of an old body? What is the real metaphor being proposed?
2) Will those not in agreement with this new Reformed body within the PCUSA agree to such an arrangement? If they do not, the commitment to remain in the PCUSA becomes quickly impossible.
3) Will those in agreement with this new Reformed body be able to live and minister within a denomination that denies the very core beliefs the new Reformed body values?
I have very real concerns that the answers to the above questions can be resolved in a way that allows this commitment. I for one would desire us to not be so quick to make a commitment that many of us feel is not possible anymore after years of such acrimony within the PCUSA. The answer may better lie in the simpe commitment to establish a new and separate Reformed body.
grace, Mike Clark
My questions are similar. Where does nFOG play a part in this should it pass? How do we fit in with GA? Thanks for all your continued work.
I’m concerned that this new letter discounts, in such strident terms, the possibility of leaving the PC(USA). The White Paper spoke about the creation of a new Reformed body. I believe that many of us understood this to mean that the leadership of the Fellowship was open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in this respect and that if, in fact, the position of orthodox believers within the denomination became untenable, we could act together in creating something new. Is the leadership actually saying that there are no circumstances under which division could ever happen? If so, you may have condemned the movement before it has even begun.
Still many unanswered questions. Would the GA still have the same or similar powers that it currently has? Would there still be one constitution? Would evangelical and non evangelical presbyteries be under the same Synod?
It seems to me that the only real solution that keeps us connected would be a confederation model. In this design ever presbytery would belong to either a liberal or conservative Synod (pardon me for a lack of better terms.) Presbyteries that could not agree on which one, could split and form two presbyteries (smaller presbyteries make more sense anyways). The Synod would be the highest governing body. Alongside the Synod would be an entity which connects for which ever purposes we think we can be connected. So in essence the Synod would be the new GA for respective bodies. The Synod would have its own constitution which would allow the liberals to have as many confessions as they would like and the conservatives to have the confession(s) they would like.
The idea of having two seperate denominations operating under one banner is not feasible or practical. As an elder who attended the 218th General Assembly, it it obvious to any Bible believing Christian that the denomination, at least at the General Assembly level is run by progressives. One comment that was made at the GA plenary was that conservatives who didn’t like it could leave the keys to church doors and don’t let the door hit you in the backside as you leave. Progressives having achieved what they want by the passage of 10-A will block every effort to divide their new Kingdom. With the passage of 10-A, I am ashamed to call myself a member of the PC(USA). Why would we want to be yoked to individuals who make up the rules as they go instead of following the Word of God.
I understand why this strategy would be best for those who align themselves with the “fellowship,” but how is this anything but harmful or destructive for the majority of the PC(USA). If the intent is truly to hold dual citizenship then “fellowship” members will need to seek what is best for both their like-minded body and the larger body of the PC(USA).
The “fellowship” course of action is similar to wanting to be divorced but continue to live with your ex-wife so you can save up money for a new house while she pays the mortgage on your current one.
What bothers me is that the Fellowship now sees staying within the denomination as its primary goal. The universalism in the nFOG is heresy, plain and simple. The inability for a church to keep from membership anyone based on theological convictions is inviting more heresy. If nFOG passes, forget 10-A; we will have embedded heresy within the core of the denomination. Let’s say that the Fellowship churches have a different FOG, different presbyteries, different synods…we will be completely different, yet we will be yoked with a heretical movement that disagrees about fundamentals of faith. Is this healthy? I think not.
Much as it saddens me, I am starting to think perhaps the critics were right and the Fellowship is not so much about theological integrity as it is about retaining property and pensions. I so hope this is not the case. However, this commitment to unity above all else does not inspire confidence.
New wine in old wineskins will burst the Church. People will leave the denomination because they want to live in Christ. Shifting deck chairs on the Titanic accomplishes nothing. Go and grow; remain and stay the same.
I, too, wonder why the focus for the conference has suddenly narrowed, and that some options are, seemingly, “off the table”. In a matter of days we will see the first domino fall. Others will follow in short order:
—Medical & Pension benefits for same-sex partners
—Passage of a new Book of Order with an underlying universalism, and further
erosion of any concept of national standards
—Re-defining marriage in the Book of Order
—Removal of offensive language from The Heidelberg Catechism & other confessions,
such as C-’67:
“The relationship between man and woman exemplifies in a basic way God’s
ordering of the interpersonal life for which he created mankind. Anarchy in
sexual relationships is a symptom of man’s alienation from God, his neighbor,
and himself. (II. 4)
I, for one, have sought for 28 + years of ordained ministry to work under the rubric:
“Stay, fight, win”. Yet, now, loss is at hand. A seemingly slow death for a once great church will soon begin. Let us come together and look at all the options before us.
Ephesians 3: 20-21.
I hope I am reading this post incorrectly but it seems the Fellowship has suddenly turned into the failed Presbyterian Global Fellowship in its view / goals.
As far as the dual membership (in ones current presbytery and in another structure)—who has the time and energy to spend on that instead of ministry in the local setting? We do have ordination vows to keep and simply going inactive within ones presbytery is not honoring those vows (IMHO).
Those in large churches tend not to get this as they often operate as their own presbytery and are pretty much left alone by their presbyteries. Others in the Fellowship belong to healthy, orthodox presbyteries and many have not experienced belonging to a progressive presbytery.
The only faithful way forward within the PCUSA is non-geographic presbyteries with a new Synod (or 2 or 3). If the Fellowship isn’t going to have this as their priority, which is what it seems they are moving toward in this post, please let us know so we can cancel plans to atttend the Minneapolis gathering.
What a disappointment. When I read your Fellowship’s White Paper in January, I was encouraged that Presbyterians were finally going to disentangle themselves from each other and reorganize themselves in such a way that all Presbyterians could pursue their own unreconcilable understanding of Christian mission. From what I have read since, it appears now that this Fellowship venture is just another doomed “renewal” effort following in the well-intentioned but failed footsteps of Presbyterians for Renewal, Presbyterian Coalition, etc. Evangelical Episcopalians are way ahead of you folks. They’re doing the hard work of disentangling themselves from their denomination which has become functionally Unitarian, surrendering their properties where necessary and getting on with the business of introducing irreligious people and the larger culture to Jesus. Five years from now they’ll be thriving while you Presbyterians will still be dithering about structure and process while headed for extinction with your mistaken understanding of Christian unity.
I second the previous commenter’s sentiment that we should be more about emulating our brothers and sisters in the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) who are going about the business of disaffiliating themselves from apostate communions and yoking themselves to vibrant expressions of orthodox Anglican Christianity in other parts of the world. In many cases this has meant walking away from their property.
Much of the May 4 letter I heartily agree with, though I was surprised that a consensus on remaining in the PC(USA) was so quickly arrived at. I realize this is an evolving vision. I would like to hear some of the spirit of Hebrews 10:34 (“You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.”) I’m also concerned that these “one foot out one foot in” fine distinctions will be lost on the average member in the pews.
That being said this initiative is the most hopeful thing happening in our denomination right now. I’ll be praying for all involved.
Warmly in Christ,
Upon hearing the news tonight of the passage of Amendment 10-A, I am even more distressed to read your letter dated May 4, 2011. Your choice to remain within the denomination, while intended to avoid further division, has the effect of prioritizing tradition over Holy Scripture. Your Presbyterianism is more important than your commitment to Scripture.
In the end, if you choose to pursue this course, the Fellowship will be little more than a footnote in the history of the decline of the American church.
I pray the gathering in August will yield a different result.
Tragically I was part of the Uniting Church in Australia a decade ago when this same decision was made. The Reforming Alliance was formed to try and achieve almost the identical goals as this white paper, but tragically small concessions (the movement of phrases, the changing of “all”, to “or” in belief statements) and many within the alliance went back to how things had been. Since then the UC in Australia has been in free fall and is currently liquidating all of its assets just to stay afloat. It is a dead body walking and tragically has taken countless resources and gifted people out of front line ministry to fight a battle they could not win. Many others simply left the UC, leaving property and pensions behind and joined other denominations or structures and have remained strong thru their commitment to God, each other and their effective ministries instead of an archaic structure. Please don’t let this happen again.
My hope and prayer is that this can be achieved. Honestly, though it seems harder and harder to find commonality in this situation. I really wonder if the two sides have enough in common to make this marriage work anymore. If we find out that we don’t, we should be allowed a dignified departure negotiated in good faith where both sides can go on to lead productive lives. This is a hard thing especially for the leadership on both sides. If we are to be honest though, today probably will mark the end of conservatives in the PCUSA. The reason is this: whether we can negotiate any of this or not, the remaining conservatives in the pews will not stay in the PCUSA under the theological conditions as they now exist. Therefore the time frame on this is fairly short. If we can’t work this out for our congregations they will gradually distintegrate. I think I could illustrate it this way for those of you who have been in the PCUSA a long time. If you were either entering or graduating from Seminary now instead of some years back, would you honestly want to join PCUSA as things now stand. I know that I chose PCUSA while I was at seminary almost 3 decades ago. If I were facing that choice now, I know I would choose differently and it breaks my heart. The people in the pews don’t have that same kind of romantic attachment. They don’t care about pensions and buildings and those who object to todays decision will not want to support the denomination when other options exist for their membership. Don’t expect them to have much patience or give you much time because they won’t. Evangelicals also represent the largest component of people going to seminary. As they look at this latest decision, very few will likely choose to serve in PCUSA unless this is resolved and soon. Urgently do we hope and pray for God’s help. He is the only one who can save this troubled marriage.
I’m a PCA minister. Many of my congregants are former PCUSA members. I’m grieved to see the decline of the PCUSA. There are many faithful Christians in its midst. You should depart. You should go to the EPC. Leave the property. Leave the pensions. Take your sheep.
Having just read about the vote in the New York Times, and then reading the February and March letters on the website of the Presbyterian church where I was a member when I lived in Minneapolis, I am saddened, but also full of hope. Commitment to denomination at the cost of obedience to Christ and His teachings smacks of a certain group headquartered in Rome. Ours is not a legacy of submitting to misguided authority, but of bold reaffirmation nailed to a wooden door. I live in Illinois now, and one only need walk around Chicago and see the emtpy, hulking shadows of what were once thriving Protestant denominational congregations to see the future path of deciding to be the world’s missionaries to the Church, instead of living our Biblical mandate to be Christ’s missionaries to the world. I’m going to be brutally honest: leave the PCUSA — and if buildings, etc. need to be abandoned, then do so. God will provide for the faithful, and maybe that means buying the buildings back out of the bankruptcy of the remaining PCUSA entity in the future. PLEASE don’t waste anymore time, effort, or resources on winning a battle while losing the war. But instead, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Rejoice in the opportunity for renewal, and CONTEND FOR THE FAITH!
I agree with most of the posted comments. What makes us think that the victors will be willing to give up anything to keep us in the PC(USA). I plan to attend the August meeting but if the feelings in the latest letter are upheld, it will be my last. What I originally saw as a breath of fresh air (a break from PCUSA) seems to have become simply bad breath blown over the coals of “getting along at all costs”. I pray it will be different in August.
I second the above comments of disappointment in the Fellowship. I am not necessarily for a rush to leave the PCUSA. I am willing to hear other alternatives but to see that forming a new Reformed Body that is evangelical and open to women’s ordination is off the table, this is a grave disappointment. It leads me to reconsider going to Minneapolis.
Let us start being honest about what 10-A really does. The various calls to unity from denominational leaders are all hollow words after the passing of Amendment 10-A, which not simply allowed for the change in the ordination standard (this is secondary and less important to me), but it killed the connectionalism of the PCUSA which was established by the Walter Kenyon case. 10-A killed the unity of the church and a very unique understanding of the connectional nature of the church. By allowing every Presbytery and every congregation to do what is right in their own eyes, we essentially have become a less connectional and a less unified church. In polity, we are less Presbyterian and more Baptist. We hear the sorrowful lament of the chaos in our day just as Judges 21:25, “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” I grieve over the fact that political organizations from LGBT community were allowed for 35 years to come into a governing process to eventually destroy our understanding of connectionalism. The words of these letters from GA leadership ring like a hollow bell, it is an empty silence. Let us hear the words of the Prophet Jeremiah and let us stop our theological malpractice of healing the wound of our people lightly, saying, “Peace, peace, when there is no peace!” The political expediency of the left wing of the Church has killed the connectional nature of the PCUSA. Let us be honest and let us stop talking about an empty unity that doesn’t exist. Let’s start looking at a new way into the future as the White Paper originally discussed with all options on the table until we can gain a clear perspective of the future.
I am most disappointed and discouraged at the weakness and indecision demonstrated by the Fellowship in their most recent pronouncement. It seems incomprehensible that the leaders of this group could conceive of excluding the possibility of separating from PC(USA). The majority of people in the denomination have – by their vote to approve Amendment 10A – declared that they do not care about Biblical precepts or the essential tenets of the reformed faith. Given that, why would we even want to affliliate ourselves with them? While I urge caution and the necessity of taking time to exercise due diligence, I cannot see that a viable long-term solution exists which does not allow for the possibility of dissolution of our bonds with a group of people who are unconcerned with all we hold as vital in our worship.
I share the disappointment of several others who have commented. Why is that the organized evangelical movements in the PC(USA) end up doing the same old thing? What is this Fellowship advocating now that is different from Presbyterians for Renewal and, as Matt Ferguson asked, the Presbyterian Global Fellowship? I have to say it is crushingly disappointing to hear a stirring call to arms in January, with anticipation building over the next few months, THEN hear the same people back off and refuse to consider all options. Why on earth should pastors who do NOT serve large churches (as well as lay people with jobs and families) and have limited resources spend the time and money to come to a gathering that may end up like the Confessing Church Celebration (which I attended) … a whole lot of furrowed brows and expressions of concern and fiery sermons that lead to …. nothing different.
Over the years, I have come to believe that the organized evangelical movement is great at holding conferences in expensive hotels or large churches that have little lasting impact on anything outside of these conferences.
Simply, Fellowship PCUSA appears to have made some predetermination re: the scope of their meeting’s agenda. Since leaders and congregations are exploring a broader range of options, it would be of greater service to more people if the options were not so limited prior to the meeting.
What bothers me most now is that we’ve gone a week, there have been significant questions and concerns raised on this board (many of them republished today by The Layman) and…nothing. No responses, no explanations, zilch. As the saying goes, “Who’s in charge here?” Even an assurance of a response would be more than what we’re hearing, which are the crickets.
I understand that this is a new movement, but in the Internet age, a week is an eternity. By August, we will have already been under 10-A and the nFOG (assuming that passes) for over a month. We will have already begun the lapse into heresy. We need the forward momentum to continue, not lapse into oblivion.
Like most people, I would prefer to separate completely from the PCUSA – but the
problem of the property clause still remains – this make it extremely difficult for congregations (who really believes that the GA would support removal of property clause and how long would that fight take?). Staying in the PCUSA is a possibility if a “Fellowship” presbytery could be formed that would be completely removed from the control of the current GA and governance – again, how long is this fight going to take?
Can we immediately form an unofficial presbytery of like-minded congregations and pursue our own agenda without being harassed by geographical presbyteries and synods and GA?
Ken, I like the idea of an un-official yet official presbytery. This idea needs to be flushed out with advantages and disadvantages considered.
Regarding the newest letter with a new direction for Fellowship PCUSA. Personally, I am greatly disheartened with the new direction. I am not surprised , not everyone is strong enough to stand up to the bully.
Now that amendment 10-A has passed, being a part of PCUSA in any form is even less appealing. My primary desire to considering to be a part of Fellowship PCUSA was because I saw it as a stepping stone to stepping way from PCUSA entirely, enmass, and leaving PCUSA to those who want to ignore Gods word.
Those of us who were attracted to Fellowship could put together some other approach than staying. PCUSA could not oppose so many churches leaving at once. We all know, they hey don’t have the funds to oppose it.
You have disappointed me, you are hiding your light under a basket and you let me down.
Richard Conway, elder
As a long term Presbyterian from days of my childhood, through falling away and coming back to Christ and the Denomination, these recent events saddens my heart Deeply. My first instinct was to renounce and move on and away. But the people within my Church that captured my heart and caused my calling to serve them in Christ has made me temper this the last few days. I was guided to the website and it’s purpose. It speaks of idea’s and conversation. Reaching out to all of us to explore and in moderation and love decide our future as Servants of Christ and the Church, and churches we guide.
It is so easy for ones not directly impacted to say just split, leave the PCUSA outright and our locals churches. To give up things like Medical, Retirement Pensions when it’s not you that has worked within it for 20-30 years on a meager income and just cast it all aside without a credible plan. Anarchy serves no one by individual people bent on their own existence and cares. We are indeed Brothers in Christ and why we are here to fight this. We have troubled hearts and a great task ahead us and ask, beg, and Pray we all keep our heads, and don’t start issuing ultimatums as to what we will and will not accept before this Conference even starts.
Anyone who thinks this can be a single event to end our grief and cure the idiocy the present times has brought our Denomination is shortsighted, and acts like the modern world who looks for and believes in an “Easy Button” Let us continue to explore and discuss, we all have a common belief that PCUSA has indeed broke and we can’t fix it internally. I implore all to show Love, Patience, and Temperance as avenues are explored.
Personally I would like to see the people who head this also look at possibilities of reaching towards the EPC in some sort of capacity, including asking for people within their Denomination to come to this conference with idea’s and suggestions. They have been in our shoes, and walked through it all successfully. Above all else, I will be patient, not act out of passion or let it blind me to reason. The Lord knows our hearts. Let him guide us with Prayers to Him and love for each other. Let’s move forward together, not fracture apart along the way. God Bless.
2 Corinthians 6:14-17
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belialt? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
“I will live with them
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people.”
“Come out from them
and be separate,
says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you.”
I understand PCUSA Pastors who are faithful will loose everything. I pray you will trust that God will provide just as you did when you first started. The congregations who are fortunate to have such a faithful leaders should provide for their pastors needs both now and in retirement. But this one foot in and one foot out approach is just as Biblical as 10-A itself. It’s time to dust ourselves off and move on.
I meant non-Biblical in the above
I was married in the PCUSA 12 years ago, but we left 10 years ago. I have a question for you now. You now have a direct commandment from Scripture:
But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? – 1 Cor. 5:11-12
The Bible tells you not to associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral. Now, you continue to serve in a denomonation that openly ordains practicing homosexuals and fornicators. Are there any standards left? Is the ordination of women such an important issue to you that you are willing to continue in fellowship with those who mock God’s Word and make a mockery out of “the Lordship of Jesus Christ”?
I would URGE you to come out from among them and seek fellowship with your Reformed brethren in the EPC, PCA, ARP or some other Biblical body. Why should faithful Christians continue to uphold this church that has abandoned her Lord but still has the audacity to proclaim His name?
If Scripture means anything to you, if the holiness of God means anything to you, if the purity of the Gospel means anything to you, why would you stay? You have NO Biblical reason for doing so.
Unbelievers? Ouch. I don’t consider people within the PCUSA that support 10a to be unbelievers. Nor absolutely even the people that would practice it. I do not know their hearts or level of Temptation. Only Christ does. For our basic Calvinist tenet is that we firmly believe that by Grace, and only Grace are we Saved. And for me, in my personal relationship with Christ 10a is a step that weakens that relationship. And I assume the rest here. But in that decision/knowledge, I will not judge; I will not condemn, I will not resort to name calling nor will I act like I believe I know the heart of Christ or widen nor narrow the Gates of Heaven.
We all sin. Everyday. And it is something we can not fix. And are my own sins that much different from anyone elses? Am I to believe there are really levels of sin that make or break Salvation? Absurd. Grace comes freely by gift. Nothing Else.
Has PCUSA gone too far? Yes. Just in my (Blessedly long) generation it has changed the rules of our conduct to the point that there is no doubt it leads us to Hedonism and Damnation. But has that point come in the present (certainly in the future), and who involved is Damned is for Christ to determine. As I have read over Pauls best attempts to explain this in his Epistle, the more I try to find a line in the sand, in reality the more clouded it becomes. I have not the understanding, nor does anyone else but God Himself. We are not here to do His own Divine right. We are here to establish a criteria and Denomination we can feel comfortable in Worshiping and Serving the Lord. I too will not support a one foot in and one foot out position with unbelievers. But I feel strongly you are wrongly pointing fingers with a “Works Based” theology in considering all PCUSA members who won’t agree with you, I, or others as “unbelievers” This is a delicate matter that involves IMO Christians who are divided as to what extent we make standards to guide ourselves.
Even though I admit to be given into sin, I believe that making standards for my life to best try and fulfill, and belonging to a Denominations that adheres to and encourages them, makes me a better Christian. Thus I can become closer to, and serve Christ better. And in doing so bring more people to see and believe that Christ is indeed real, works through me, and brings a peace, love, and contentment that I personally convey because of my belief. I implore all here to please refrain from making this a judging, condemning ‘holy war”. Creating a Schism and drawing and dividing lines that splinter, scatter, and will indeed leave a great many people troubled and leave organized religion altogether. There is already enough of that today. May we as I mentioned previously go about this task with patience, humility, peace, love, and a consideration of not becoming blaming, judging Salvation, condemning hypocrites who can live without sin ourselves.
Indeed if and when peaceful, civil avenues are explored and will not work in persuading PCUSA to allow us a path that mutually address’s , then as you suggest I would be for a total schism. But I will try my best to consider everyone involved and as well my personal theological concerns before I just dust myself off like I am turning away from heathens with no knowledge or belief in Christ.
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” Mt. 5:17 “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” Lv.19:22 (See also Romans 1:18-32) Game over; the majority of leaders of the PCUSA can no longer honestly claim Jesus Christ as their Lord, some of the majority may still refer to Him as Savior, but that is as far as they can go. Jesus as Savior but not Lord is quite similar to what D. Bonheoffer referred to as “cheap grace”.
Thus we are in the situation of Martin Luther. When Luther faced his heart wrenching decision to bow before both the Scriptures and the tradition of the Roman church, he declared at the risk of his life, “only Scriptures”. Scriptures became the sole standard for the Reformation of the Church. Today for fear of offending men and women rather than God, the PCUSA has declared, “no tradition and no Scriptures”. How ironic that getting it half right as the Roman church has over the centuries is now the better choice!
By rejecting the Scriptures as the final authority in our lives, the PCUSA is left with the rule of majority opinion; the tyranny of the whimsical majority. With no objective standards what is permissible will change from place to place and time to time. The idea that no one is above the law is gone. The majority usurps the Divine right to govern. With no objective standards that govern over everyone, including the majority, there is no possibility for Christian community.
Where is the schism? The Holy Catholic Apostolic Church of which the Reformed tradition has always been a part, teaches that the Scriptures are the Word of God. Now a majority of the PCUSA, an infinitesimal part of the Church Universal, has decided they are not happy with that teaching. The schism is that of this minute group of a few thousand wayward souls separating themselves from the faith received.
The “coup de grâce”, the death stroke, is that now the renewal organizations and validated mission support groups within the previous church are also under a sentence to sever their ties with the PCUSA. How can the Frontier Fellowship, for example, declare their belief in the Scriptures as the Word of God yet receive their validation from an organization that clearly does not? Would any pastor receive donations from the mafia or any other group openly hostile to the life and faith of their congregation? These organizations, even as they continue working with individual PCUSA congregations, will have to do so as independent agencies.
Now is not the time to delay a decision about what to do. The passing of time will greatly limit what can be done. Once the decision is made, we can then move carefully but a decision must be made. Thankfully there are good options now open to us. We do not live in a totalitarian society. We are free to initiate an Organizational Committee which will lead to a new denomination within the one Holy Catholic Apostolic Church even without any property. We are free to say our goodbyes and let the faithful seek new affiliations as each one sees is best for them. We are free to seek the dismissal with their property of all churches and presbyteries who do not want to be a part of the new non-church organization to which they are now unwillingly yoked; and form a new denomination together. We are free to try and get all the faithful churches transferred into presbyteries who voted to maintain Biblical standards and for these same presbyteries unite to create a new denomination that returns to the Apostolic faith. There are good options now but no decision leaves only one, to say our good-byes and put the past in a box.
You said: “now the renewal organizations and validated mission support groups within the previous church are also under a sentence to sever their ties with the PCUSA”
I just want to clarify that most (if not all )of the renewal organizations are independant 501 c3 corporations. They receive no funds from the PC(USA) and are not under the authority of the PC(USA) in any way. That being said, we are members and are committed to working for renewal of this denomination. Our organizations rely on the support of churches and individuals who share our goals.
I can only speak directly for Presbyterians Pro-Life, but I know that we have suffered a 30% loss in income over the past 5 years (since the PUP report) due mostly to departures of churches and individual members who previously supported our efforts to call the PC(USA) to return to a biblical stand against abortion and other threats to vulnerable human life. Only a few of those churches now in the EPC continue to support us with mission funds even though our work is directed to the PC(USA). We have remained in the PC(USA) as a witness to the truth more than 30 years since the church departed from scriptural teaching on the matter of abortion. We considered expanding our work of equipping congregations for life-affirming ministry to other reformed denominations at our 2006 Board of Directors meeting, but did not feel that God was leading in that direction. We are seeking God’s guidance for our future along with many of you. It may be that we are exactly where God wants us, like the prophet Jeremiah, remaining with a people journeying into judgment and calling them to repentance. I do not agree with you that leaving the PC(USA) is the ONLY faithful response.
However I personally choose to respond to 10A it does not require me to be less than gracious, kind, nor forgiving in my heart and attitude. With that being said, the prior letter written by Jason Van Bemmel says best what I would be thinking at this time. One question, observation I would have for those of the PCUSA, who are in the Fellowship support list, who are you fooling? Only yourselves I think. The only compelling reason I can see that you have given for not leaving is based on $, “common commitment to ….. the Presbyterian Foundation, a strong Board of Pensions.” Let me encourage you in your deliberations. Take any money consideration (Foundation, Pensions, property, debt, etc) out of the discussion completely and then see where your conclusions lead you. After that attempt to lay aside money issues, and it will be difficult if my premise is correct, then reread Van Bemmel’s letter again.
Well said. If the denomination didn’t have the legal authority to take property from congregations who have bought and maintained their facilities for years, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. In fact, I don’t think that 10-a would have even been a consideration if the property trust clause was removed. Are we brave enough to right the wrong, even if that comes at a high price?
So where did we go wrong? I believe we, as evangelicals, are guilty of the sin of omission. Like Adam watching while Eve ate the apple, and saying nothing, we allowed the entry into our seminaries, and then the ordination into our Church, of persons unfit for ministry as defined by Scripture and the confessions. We failed to ask the hard questions before ordination, and failed to reject persons who departed from Scripture. We failed to adequately discipline after ordination. And then those persons, even if they didn’t receive a call, had a vote in Presbytery. That in turn affected decisions on the Presbytery and GA levels. So here we are.
I have no monetary value, stake, or gain in my thoughts. And alot of these people here are the same. Besides giving alot of my weekly time to my Church, I am one of it’s strongest financial supporters. Many of us are, I imagine, in the same boat.
We live in a small rural town with a sole community congregation. To walk out of our building and not look back will displace alot of people, cut services some receive no where else, and many I am afraid would not seek another church which would be miles down to a larger city. Nor is there an easy place to set up one here to hold 100 people. I am not willing to just look at my theology and argue Denominational points of logic and just throw fellow Christian family to the side knowing such would happen. A great many people here are troubled, unemployed, religiously weak, and depend on our church.
So although I don’t agree with or accept what the PCUSA is doing, nor can I or want to attempt to nullify some very great points Mr Van Emmel and other have made. But for me, mercy and care of the brethren who appointed me to take on a larger role in the church weighs heavy on my heart. Mercy is a trump card always, and I will seek alternatives to outright abandonment without something that insures the flock stays together.
Alternatives that all can live by. Is it possible? I don’t know. But I refuse to accept “it can’t be done” and just leave without hearing what many far more learned and experienced can discuss and offer. Some are closing the door without even letting the process begin.
Your comment on small rural churches is important. Small churches in the urban environment can be replaced easily. Rural America has become fragile. Businesses, schools, churches, etc…close and no one notices. And they aren’t replaced. I hope that the remaining evangelical large churches will consider the plight of the smaller churches, of which there are many. If departure from the PCUSA is the ultimate outcome there needs to be room the smaller congregations to depart intact, rather than just having to close their doors.
I urge us to be careful here.
Paul’s command to dissociate with the incestuous man in Corinth was disciplinary, not punitive; the intention was to correct the fellow’s behavior and return him to the community of believers. Judgment and wrath are God’s alone. Our mandate is to love our neighbor as Christ loves us (Jn 13:34).
We also have to live into the tension between grace and works. We are justified by faith alone by grace alone through Christ alone. Yet saving faith will always produce ‘works’ in keeping with faith. One of these ‘works’ is handling our sexuality in a God honoring manner. For our LGBT sisters and brothers, that means the difficult choice to live a life of celibacy, the same choice required of unmarried heterosexual believers.
The focus in the PCUSA has been on polity, and only secondarily on doctrine and theology. But we as a denomination are defined by our theology, first and polity second (eg. a Muslim community could adopt the same polity as the PCUSA).
Let me make a theological proposition:
God approves of homoerotic practice.
Is this statement true or false?
If it is true, then the church has been worshiping the wrong god, an idol!, for the last 2000 years, and our Jewish forebears in the faith for 3000 years before that.
If the above proposition is false, then the PCUSA just chose an idol over the Holy, Mighty, Eternal God YHWH.
We may be unclear about homosexuality, but if God doesn’t judge the idolaters then He is going to have to apologize to Israel.
For an excellent exegesis of Pauline thought see here:
MDiv student, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
I just read your May 4 letter and while it sounds good, I cannot envision two separate bodies in the PC(USA), unless this is simply a first step in organizing a church split, just as a couple separates before divorce. I cannot see how Fellowship can be separate, yet under the yoke of PC(USA), that still governs and will likely not permit separate Presbyteries. Even with separate Presbyteries, would we not still have to abide by the book of order, the changed ordination standards and many other doctrines, Fellowship disagrees with? Does PC(USA) not still have the power to discipline, remove pastors and elders? If the current Presbyteries are unwilling to let a local church leave (with their property), what makes Fellowship think they are going to be willing to let these churches move to a different Presbytery?
Jesus said: “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand…” (Matt. 12:25)
We cannot remain of the PC(USA) body unless the plan is to “starve” the liberal side by withholding financial support. This does not seem ethical or honest to me. I think the honest approach is to seek a division into a separate Presbyterian denomination that shares the same history as the PC(USA) does, but without having to move to an EPC or a PA denomination.
there is an unasked and unanswered question with your proposal. When we tithe in our congregation, tell me, where will my money go? will it end up with PCUSA so they can continue to use it in a manor which does not fit with my personal beliefs. If I am unable to get to the Gathering, know now that if you come up with a final plan, please do NOT have it include any input form PCUSA, there is no trust, I owe them no allegiance, I want no connection with them. My connection is with my Lord & Saviour, I have an earthly connection with my church family and that is not PCUSA but those in the pews surrounding me. I have said it many times as have many others, it is time to dust off our feet and move on. We have better things to do.
I remain, in His service
“Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Convention.
If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it.
We are now far into the fifth year, since a policy was initiated, with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation.
Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only, not ceased, but has constantly augmented.
In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed.
“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.
I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.
It will become all one thing or all the other. ”
The words of Abraham Lincoln sadly ring true for us today. As I read the speech in its entirety I see the culminating struggle within the PCUSA mirrored there. I know that this comparison (which includes the Dred Scott decision, the Nebraska bill and Douglas’s “care not” policy) may seem repugnant to some but I find it very apt.
As I continue to reflect on the Fellowship’s evolving positions I find myself more and more in agreement with Lincoln and Matthew 12:25
If you all desire to be the leaders of those of us who long for spiritual renewal, then you will need to do so with greater clarity. Your vision sounds strange. You seem to want us to form a church within the structure of the PC(USA) as a kind of nesting church configuration. Your reasoning seems to be based on a fear of loss. You might lose some of your current members and you might lose access to the resources of a well established pension fund and foundation.
If this is where your minds are, then you might need to spend some time in prayer and study to reaffirm your confidence in God’s provisions. It sounds to me that you are leaders in need of a Leader. You need someone to inspire confidence in you. Without Him you cannot lead us.
I was surprised and distressed to read the May 4 letter. It marks a major departure from your previous letter and greatly limits the options of those of us who are seeking to remain faithful to Christ and his unchanging Word. Based on the intital letter, 11 elders and pastors from our church went ahead and made hotel reservations and booked flights. Now that we have made this commitment, you have suddenly changed the agenda and purpose for our meeting in Minneapolis. I believe this is unwise and unfair to all of us who signed the original letter. In the current crisis there will be a great temptation to temporize, equivocate and vacillate – to go limping and waivering between two opinions, as in the time of Elijah. However, this will not do. In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer who stood firmly against idolotry in his time, “The hour is late!” The first letter was bold and clear – the second letter seems confused and timid. In the words of scripture, “If the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will march to battle?” (1 Cor. 14:8) With this second letter, the trumpet call has become very muffled. As we contemplete our future together, we must above all remember the words of our Lord, “You are the salt of the earth. but if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled on by men” (Matthew 5:13). A worldly church is, indeed, a worthless church – good for nothing. It will not be valued by the world but will be despised. If you wish to inspire trust and confidence, I urge you not to abandon so quicky the stated goals and missions of this newly-created fellowship.
I urge all who are dismayed at the apparent change in strategy found in the May 4 letter to still attend the August meeting and give your input – things can change. I’m for giving a shot at a separate non-geographical presbytery(the “orthodox” presbytery?) within the PCUSA, with no monetary or judicial or governance ties to the PCUSA (if such a body can exist.) The 2012 GA meeting in Pittsburgh is only a year away – time to generate strategy and overtures to GA for what we want. If the GA meeting refuses to give us the freedom we need, then a decision can be made to split.
As much as I’ve tried, I can not envision a completely separate body, yet under the “umbrella” of PC(USA). That’s like having a third limb that is not attached to the body. I can’t even envision a “silo” or a division within the PC(USA) under the umbrella of PC(USA). The umbrella is broken, why would we continue to stand under it?
Besides that, what makes anyone think that PC(USA) will give us Evangelicals one iota of consideration? They will not loosen their grip on us – they have too much to lose, especially in support Dollars.
Might as well bite the bullet, organize all the evangelical churches and petition GA to split amicably. Let’s get the divorce over with.
Thank you for your direct word of clarity about the concerns many of us have after the May 4th letter!
Well said. PCUSA is having it’s “Korah” moment. Those proclaiming to be holy and servants of God are in fact rebelling. Numbers 16.
I don’t see the point of The Fellowship if it’s going to stay in PCUSA. First, given that the notion of a non-geographic Presbytery was shot down in the last GA, it seems rather unlikely that PCUSA would permit a Presbytery that would not submit to the teachings of the denomination. Why, after fighting for decades, would the heretics give up their victory?
All that aside, as many others have noted, what is the point of Biblically faithful churches remaining in communion with Churches that have set aside the Bible?
A couple of articles from the Belgic Confession seem rather appropriate for our current predicament. I wonder if this is what the leaders of the Fellowship are mulling over?
Article 28: The Obligations of Church Members
We believe that since this holy assembly and congregation is the gathering of those who are saved and there is no salvation apart from it, no one ought to withdraw from it, content to be by himself, regardless of his status or condition.
But all people are obliged to join and unite with it, keeping the unity of the church by submitting to its instruction and discipline, by bending their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ, and by serving to build up one another, according to the gifts God has given them as members of each other in the same body.
And to preserve this unity more effectively, it is the duty of all believers, according to God’s Word, to separate themselves from those who do not belong to the church, in order to join this assembly wherever God has established it, even if civil authorities and royal decrees forbid and death and physical punishment result.
And so, all who withdraw from the church or do not join it act contrary to God’s ordinance.
Article 29: The Marks of the True Church
We believe that we ought to discern diligently and very carefully, by the Word of God, what is the true church– for all sects in the world today claim for themselves the name of “the church.”
We are not speaking here of the company of hypocrites who are mixed among the good in the church and who nonetheless are not part of it, even though they are physically there. But we are speaking of distinguishing the body and fellowship of the true church from all sects that call themselves “the church.”
The true church can be recognized if it has the following marks: The church engages in the pure preaching of the gospel; it makes use of the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them; it practices church discipline for correcting faults. In short, it governs itself according to the pure Word of God, rejecting all things contrary to it and holding Jesus Christ as the only Head. By these marks one can be assured of recognizing the true church– and no one ought to be separated from it.
As for those who can belong to the church, we can recognize them by the distinguishing marks of Christians: namely by faith, and by their fleeing from sin and pursuing righteousness, once they have received the one and only Savior, Jesus Christ. They love the true God and their neighbors, without turning to the right or left, and they crucify the flesh and its works.
Though great weakness remains in them, they fight against it by the Spirit all the days of their lives, appealing constantly to the blood, suffering, death, and obedience of the Lord Jesus, in whom they have forgiveness of their sins, through faith in him.
As for the false church, it assigns more authority to itself and its ordinances than to the Word of God; it does not want to subject itself to the yoke of Christ; it does not administer the sacraments as Christ commanded in his Word; it rather adds to them or subtracts from them as it pleases; it bases itself on men, more than on Jesus Christ; it persecutes those who live holy lives according to the Word of God and who rebuke it for its faults, greed, and idolatry.
These two churches are easy to recognize and thus to distinguish from each other.
Thanks, Alan. Clear words right to the heart of the matter.
I was born into, baptized in, confirmed in, taught Sunday School in, was youth leader in and after marriage joined in another Lutheran Church. We moved, and I desperately sought another Lutheran Congregation where we lived, but they were as dry as dried bones. We casually went to a Presbyterian Church to hear a rendition of The Elijah with assurances that the minister was not going to preach. But, he did and it was a dynamic, Bible based sermon the likes of which we had never heard before. I was a faced with a heart rending decision, leave my Lutheran roots? It was then that I discovered that my fixation upon the denomination was nothing short of idol worship. I was worshipping the idol of a denomination rather than Jesus and God the Father. Since then we have been Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans and for 5 years I sang as a soloist in a Baptist Church. As we moved around we joined churches where the Holy Spirit wasmoving around.
If the Steering Committee is recommending staying in the PCUSA at all costs then it is nothing short of idol worship. Efforts have been expended by the New Wineskins and others to find a third way and there is no third way. The only Way is the Way of the Cross which has been significantly diminished over the years by the hierarchy of the PCUSA.
Our son was a pastor in the PCUSA. He left , and with a handful of faithfuls started a new church. He took a steep cut in salary and benefits but did not lose his pension. What he did gain was the joy of ministry without the smothering embrance of an errant denomination.
My prayer, our prayer, is that the meeting in Minnesota will reach the only conclusion that will cause Jesus to grin ear to ear and that is to institute a process of disassociation from the PCUSA.
Clifford D. Mansley, Sr.
I am extremely disappointed and saddened with the action taken by the PCUSA regarding the approval of ordaining persons that are committed to practicing sexual sin as a lifestyle into leadership positions. As I read Scripture, I see no difference between homosexuality and adultery, rape, bestiality, or incest. The Bible clearly provides a remedy for these sins just as it does for any sin. By submitting to God’s grace and repenting of your sins, they become your sins no more. Repentance is not feeling sorry for your sin, but turning away from that sin and towards Christ. But, to continue by choice to practice your sins is in effect denying Christ’s sacrifice. To lead and teach the church from that position is at best hypocracy and might even be judged as blasphemy.
I personally can not continue to be united with such an organization. However at this point, I will withhold the withdrawing of my membership from my local church. I will continue to fellowship and will participate in and support those ministries that originate at the local level only. At years end or sooner depending on the action of the leadership of my church and whether it accepts or rejects the position of the PCUSA and it’s affiliation with it. I will then make a personal decision regarding my membership and my relationship with this part of the body of Christ. I hope and pray for a positive outcome so that I may continue to be a part of that fellowship.
Optimist Arthur says:
It appears by the comments on this blog that there may be a need for two meetings in Minnesota; there are the two ways to respond to the present crisis.
One meeting would be especially for those who want to talk about defensive strategies for life in a denomination that has left the Reformed tradition, yea the Holy Catholic Apostolic Church. How to function in a denomination that has abandoned the Scriptures, will shortly redefine marriage and probably eliminate the uniqueness of Jesus Christ within a few years will be their concern.
The other meeting would be for those who painfully accept the reality that because what the Scriptures say is no longer conclusive; it is the majority vote that will sail the ship; they have been marroned, exiled, outcast.
So, all who come will have, “How Then Shall We Live?” on their hearts and minds. Most will already know into which of the two rooms they want to assemble, those few who are unsure will have the opportunity to watch and take their observations back to their congregations. However both meetings will need to begin their respective tasks of building defenses or building something new. So everyone should come with creativity and joy even in the midst of our sorrow because however one decides to respond to the problem, the Spirit of God will be there to guide us. Minneapolis needs to be an organizational meeting because just talk or commiseration at this point is an abdication of responsibility.
Perhaps the organizers should prepare a plenary session and then have two large rooms reserved as spaces to work in. It is simple enough to ask with the registration which of the meetings the attendee is more interested in so as to have enough space available to each.
Disappointed that leaders of the Fellowship have not responded to the posts on this site.
I woke today with a heart evenly heavier than norm. This whole thing and process goes beyond homosexuality and unmarried cohabitation. Our Denomination has taken root with a modern philosophy of “not offending people” and bent it to include us, our beliefs, and our churches with adding to this “Christian Love” So may we examine Paul’s authoritative instructions on how to deal with these problems.
1 Corinthians 5
1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. 2 And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? 3 For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. 4 So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5 hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh,[a][b] so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.
6 Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.
12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.
Paul tell us here that we are not to judge the world for that is God’s privilege and right. He even tells us we can not even live in this world if we do not associate with people of evil minds and intentions. And why would we want to? For to do so would cripple efforts to bring sinners to Christ. But he then tells us that this doctrine can not be used inside the church and as reflected earlier in this chapter that a little yeast leavens the whole batch. Outside of the way we conduct ourselves in the world, inside the church we must keep it clean and free of people who want to subvert the Truth and thus bring turmoil and an ever accelerating process of bending God’s laws to fit a worldly agenda.
Ever more often the church leaders of today want to use “Christian Love” and “Not offending Brothers and Sisters” as the Whole Truth. When in fact their actions subvert the Truth as they hide behind an easy button of not having to act on the actions of many inside the church bent on bringing the church outside the realm of God and His Word. And to have the church bow to modern secular thinking. They offer a half truth that makes their job easier so as not to have to face aggression and offense. And to keep all people and the money they feel is more important than the Truth. The whole Truth is that although we must live in and do our best to change a world over run with evil, we will not allow this evil in anyway to find it’s way into our church. And we will examine the church and it’s people against the Truth and react aggressively to defend it. “Expel” is not a passive term. It is NOT of “Christian Love” and “Not offending”. The Truth tells us that even as Christian brothers and sisters, we must stand up and speak out against evil and those who peddle it from within our own churches. I implore every Christian Leader to carefully read Pauls authoritative instructions of 1 Corinthians 5 and examine themselves. How many times will you reach for that Easy button and take the easy way out that is bringing doom into so many denominations and individual churches. It is of Satan. He is the master of lies. And how better, convenient, and easier can it be than to cover the truth by stating bits and pieces of it and withholding the entirety of it. In the end of such process the Truth is totally lost and Satan has won.
I believe that the time has come for us to receive an answer from the leaders of the Fellowship. Are you going to answer the criticism of your May 4 letter? Like it or not, the continued silence speaks of indecision. One can only assume that those who began the initiative have been reined in by their sessions or by pressure from the denomination. Almost a month has passed since the letter that caused so much consternation. Apart from the appointment of renewal veteran Paul Detterman, we have heard precisely nothing. So, here’s a question: Are we going to be able to discuss all options at the August meeting, or not? If you have no plans to do this, will you at least allow those of us who do not wish to limit discussion to meet, for part of the time, separately?
I have heard some say the Fellowship is having a meeting by mid-June and I suspect they don’t want to try to respond without having everyone, or as many of them as possible, on board with what is said in reply to the generally harsh comments here—-mine included. It would be nice if they responded by at least stating, “We hear you and we will respond to comments after our next meeting.” If they do not have time set aside for folks to gather to interact with one another openly on a wide range of options—then I would imagine such a gathering will happen without their “approval”, so it would be foolish for them not to include it. And no, I don’t think holding such an informal meeting for folks (and only if all options are not being allowed to be discussed) would be hijacking ‘their’ meeting—-the meeting isn’t theirs, even if they call it and pay for it (Psalm 24). But, to be clear, I am still hopeful we will find out the letter released in May was not replacing what was released in January but an attempt to clarify some things but did so poorly, and in a way that appeared to represent a dramatic shift when it wasn’t meant to be read as that. We shall see.
Alan, et al;
Your question is a good one and your concern to get an answer is understandable. We’ve needed to spend a significant amount of focused time this month working through the nuts and bolts of the upcoming Fellowship events and proposals, and staying current on this page has suffered. I’ll personally try to be more prompt in keeping the updates coming.
First, an answer to the presenting question. The May 4th letter does not signal a change from any initial trajectory in the early Fellowship documents. The Fellowship has never been a monolithic entity, but rather a movement and a way of nurturing the Body of Christ in a variety of contexts.
Also, because we are in uncharted waters, any proposals or even initiatives we take at this point cannot be seen as one-size fits all or one-shot hits all. Regardless of whether your ultimate desire is to stay, leave, realign, etc., we are all in for a prolonged and complicated process.
The options offered from the beginning are all still on the table. There is a meeting next week where we will be framing the structure and focus of the August Gathering, ensuring that workable options are presented and helpful critique is heard by all.
Thanks for the reply, Paul. On the face of it, the road map outlined in the May 4 letter differs substantially from the one in the White Paper. Perhaps your meeting next week could clarify matters. I appreciate that we may not all be traveling in exactly the same direction, but it would still be helpful to hear that some destinations have not been ruled out before we even begin. A rough agenda for the August meeting would help.
Perhaps instead of consternation and complaining we should suggest alternatives. I see this Fellowship as a springboard to what is next and do not feel trapped or betrayed by the goals laid out. We all know biblical authority is at stake. We all know there has to be a new trail blazed. We all know God is faithful. Listening to God and to one another is the only way forward. I believe the leadership of the Fellowship is listening.
I personally want to see something new and I am excited about the oppotunity to get togther with others to envison what that can look like. I like the language of a new Reformed body. I love the idea of missional connection especially with churches in Korea, Africa, China,… I’m willing to explore coloring outside the lines. If the Fellowship leadership doesn’t have a venue for that, MN is still a place where we will be together and we can listen.
This event is a catlyst to what’s next not the means to an end – I believe the Fellowship leadership is listening and instead of complaining we can tell them and each other our hopes, dreams, visions, and directions. So what do you see as the way forward my Presbyterian brothers and sisters?
We have a number of challenging questions to address.
1) If we believe PC(USA) is teaching a truth or a gospel other than that proclaimed in scripture, and hold the plain text of scripture to be truth, then why would we settle for remaining joined with PC(USA) which flies in the face of guidance in the OT and NT that calls for the faithful to separate themselves from those that teach falsely. In the NT, we are reminded that such teachers come from Satan, not God.
2) Assuming we want to paper over that first issue and “kick the can”, we are still left with the problems inherent in running a Biblically faithful island (a non-geographic Presbytery) that is still subordinate to the directions of the GA. For example, benefits for same sex partners in staff? All this assumes the GA would permit the creation of such a body to begin with.
3) What differentiates this new body, if it can come into existence as either a semi-autonomous organism within PC(USA) or a new Reformed body, from all the other flavors of Presbyterian already available? Why make a new body? Why not join an existing body?
4) Finally, what message of hope can churches offer their members who look at what may be a lengthy process (many years) to achieve any of the Fellowships goals?
Frankly, unity is not as valuable as faithfullness. I see a split, a merge, or dissolution as the only realistic options. There’s enough paper tiger protest groups for Presbyterians to grouse about PC(USA). We don’t need another. The path forward is a plan for orderly withdrawal.
PC(USA) has joined with the Episcopalians, ELC, and Methodists on the road to universalism and a false god created by democracy, not the God revealed in scripture. Like those denominations, it will fade – there will be mergers as the differences of those false religions become more about tradition than doctrine. They will be amongst the goats crying “Lord, Lord”.
At risk of being too verbose, entertain me as I take one step further. Bear in mind I’m a laymen, so forgive me if I don’t endulge the usual grace laden obfuscation langauge that is all too common. What I expect as outcomes of the August meeting
1) Take a page from Luther and Jefferson and clearly articulate our grievances with PC(USA).
2) Define the core values that all members of this hypothetical body must agree to. There’s no point lobbying for a new body in PC(USA) without defining specifically how it’s different from PC(USA).
3) Define the minimum compromise criteria to remain within PCUSA. What concessions HAVE to occur for us to remain.
4) Timeline. Every project has a beginning, and an end. If we don’t define a timeline, we’ll be locked in decades of squabbling with PC(USA) as opponents throw up polity barriers and investigative committees.
5) Consequences: We don’t need to hammer out the specifics, only a commitment to leave in some way shape or form if our minimum requirements aren’t met from PC(USA).
Those are necessary first steps. We need to identify the problem we are trying to solve, the high level requirements for a solution, and identify risks. Subsequent conversation can get into the details of defining a proposed governance structure.
Thank you Wes Fortin. Your response seems real in design and solid in a commitment forward. We have all had years of soul searching to get us to this point. Now we can diligently move forward with the work of the Fellowship Leaders who for a year have worked tirelessly to understand the real nitty gritty it will take to make change happen across the country and through our presbyteries. With your very direct questions, especially #3, 4, & 5, we can make the August Fellowship gathering a place of action. The time is now for all of us to move forward from the shaky world of “What if’s” to “Here is our plan, who will do what, and when will we complete task?”
Wes Fortin remarks are spot on. Granted, it may be too early at this point, but out of the August meeting should come a concrete plan of action and with a commitment to take necessary action. I feel that there is a great host of people waiting for some strong leadership.
While I have expressed my concerns about the Fellowship’s perceived change of direction, I feel strongly that all of us in the orthodox camp of the PC(USA) need to become serious about prayer and fasting for the upcoming August event. I have encouraged my congregation to fast with me on “Fellowship Fridays” until the event occurs, and I am encouraging others in other renewal networks. I invite all those who are reading this comments and planning to be a part of this meeting to join in this as well. I know that I need my focus to be on God and not on myself in this difficult time of discernment, and I believe God’s Word calls us to fast on these occasions. Thank you for considering the possibility during the Fridays between now and the August date.
A morsel of thought:
What is (What was) a denomination?
There is a very useful distinction that Ernst Troeltch made in a 1949 book called: The Social Teachings of the Christian Churches. He described two different ways of being organized to follow Christ. He called one way a “church” and the other a “sect”. The difference between them was where the “holy” of the Holy Church was located. In the “church” traditions such as Romanism, Lutheranism, the Church of England or the Reformed tradition, holiness was located in the dogmas, worship, and official discipline of the church. This meant the “church” could tolerate large memberships of people who behaved poorly so long as these members agreed on what things and teachings were holy. The “sects” were those organizations who believed that holy was not located in things or ideas but in the behavior of the members. Sectarians believe a holy community is not a gathering who says the Scriptures are Holy but people who live their lives by some key interpretation of the Bible. Historically there have been both very saintly and very heretical sectarian groups.
Without wanting to make the distinction appear trivial, we can illustrate the two options: people can gather around a Frisbee or everyone who says they can throw a Frisbee can gather together. In terms of gathering people, both are effective. However who is gathered and who is not changes dramatically in each case.
Now from these two examples of how the Church has gathered in the past we can see where today’s denominations came from. The denominations are sort of half way point between the churches and sects that Troeltch described. Denominations are/were a happy medium that could combine the stability and reliability of faith in objective truth with the enthusiasm and satisfaction that comes from fulfilling some specific behavior. Using the example of the Frisbee, a denomination could attract both the people who would gather around the Frisbee and those who said they could throw it. Unfortunately denominations also excluded people for both reasons creating huge difficulties for realizing Saint Paul’s vision of: “…one body and one Spirit… one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ef.4:4-6
From here I want to make two points, one about secularism and the other about ecumenical efforts and moving beyond denominations.
When you ask people who go to church if we live in a secular society, they almost always answer yes! The great majority of church goers see themselves as a minority in a larger culture that has different values than those taught by the church. This simple fact is absolute evidence that we as Presbyterians have not done well in educating the followers of Jesus Christ. (If it is any consolation the other denominations have not done any better.) The reason the statement that Christians live in a secular society is such a telling diagnostic of illness is that our Lord was not born in, nor did He live in, die in or resurrect in a secular society. Consequently it is clearly not His will that any of His children should live in a secular society. Jesus Christ and the Holy Church are empirical evidence of an alternative world, a new creation that exists along side of the secular majority. The Holy Church has a mission to secular society not within it. To illustrate this point, simply try to teach in any public forum about the Sovereignty of God, the Kingdom of God, or the Scriptures as the infallible Word of God. These topics are to the secular world like garlic is to a vampire! They hate them! Western secularism hates any absolute that it does not control and thus its nature is to become increasingly intolerant of the teachings of the Holy Church. This aggressiveness against the Church is the single greatest impetus for two important and long awaited developments: the success of ecumenical movement and moving beyond denominations.
Christ centered believers living under the authority of the Holy Scriptures must restart the ecumenical movement with great urgency because it is now so crystal clear with the assault on marriage, the assault on the uniqueness of Jesus, the assault on the sacredness of human life, etc. that in fact it is the historic Holy Catholic Apostolic Church that is under attack. In the present situation the issues that have been dividing the historical Christian traditions might be described as efforts straighten pictures on a wall while the foundation of the house is crumbling and the roof threatens to cave in. Are the difference between Anglicans, Lutherans and Presbyterians who accept the authority of the Scriptures and the efficacy of the Sacraments really so vast they cannot be overcome? Of course not. Already in many countries around the world Lutherans, Presbyterians and Methodists have formed single churches. In Eastern Europe, Spain, South India, Indonesia, Ethiopia, China and New Guinea many different denominations that are separate here in the U.S. have long ago successfully joined together to offer a common witness to the Lord Jesus.
Why think beyond denominational structures? Denominations as we have known them seem to have reached the end of their usefulness. In the first place no one in the historical churches (Anglican-Reformed-Lutheran-Roman-Orthodox) has ever been happy about the lack of full communion among us but nothing big enough has come along to help us get over keeping our fiefdoms. Secondly for generations all the denominations in the U.S. and around the world (including the Orthodox and Romanists) have failed to build credible model communities that demonstrate the vision of our Lord Jesus in the Kingdom of God. So prayerfully we are at a historical moment when the primary question changes from, “What defines the limits of the Holy Church?” (or, as this question has been used, what defines the limits of Presbyterian or Lutheran or Orthodox membership) to “What sustains the Holy Church as vibrant missional communities of Word and deed?” To build Kingdom seeking communities the Holy Church has enormous freedom and we can celebrate great diversity. The missional Church is not prescriptive in this regard and thus there can be, indeed should be, very different yet Biblically solid communities that maintain joyful communion with each other.
We now have the opportunity, ironically because of the pressures from secular society, to at last find reconciliation among all the Christians traditions which remain faithful to the teachings of our Lord and the Apostles. These different traditions can now look at each other as brothers and sisters who are using their different gifts and understandings to build an immense variety of Christian communities all seeking the Kingdom of God. My prayer is that the Fellowship will be looking beyond denominations of the past and towards the one Holy Catholic Apostolic Church, faithful to Word who dwells among us. John 17:23
In the wake of passage of 10A, our own rural church has formed an investigative committee. Over the next four months, we will be looking at seven alternatives. These are:
1. Do nothing. Stay in PCUSA.
2. Become a part of the Fellowship “bubble”
3. Leave for EPC
4. Leave for OPC
5. Leave for PCA
6. Become part of a TBD non-Presbyterian denomination
7. Become a free and independent church.
Our need from the Fellowship is simple and difficult: specificity. The gathering in August needs to end in a specific proposal, against which the other six alternatives can be compared. If it merely begins a multi-year navel examination exercise, may God have mercy upon the Fellowship and its leaders.
8. We could become a new Presbyterian denomination, using those Confessions which are Scripturally authentic, and discarding the rest.
What are the benefits to staying in the PCUSA? What are the benefits in leaving? Can we leave with our property, especially if we leave en mass? Is it better to leave, even if we have to leave some or all of our property? What happens to our Clergy- pension and health care? Lots of questions and interest in the outcome of the August meeting. God lead our leaders, have mercy on us, and refresh us for a new work wherever and whatever that might be.
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