A Statement from The Fellowship Community Board on OVT-001

Brothers, Sisters, and Friends in The Fellowship Community,

Many are asking what The Fellowship Community (TFC) Board thinks about Overture OVT-001, from the Olympia Presbytery to the 226th General Assembly this summer. Most of you know that TFC is not an advocacy group. The decision was made long ago to resist advocating on issues, constantly making statements or becoming activists for this or that cause. That was an intentional choice, so that we could use the energy of our volunteer organization to focus on relationships and encouragement in ministry for leaders and churches within the PCUSA who have traditional theological beliefs and convictions. Our TFC network’s emphasis has been on, as the opening line of our mission statement says, “proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.” So, the fact that we are writing now to comment on an issue–an overture, in this case–lets you know it is serious.

We are concerned. More than that, we are disappointed. After all of the battles over scriptural interpretation in the past 50 years in the PCUSA, usually highlighted by questions of sexuality, after all the revisions to our Book of Order, and after so many traditional churches and leaders left the PCUSA in the last 10 years…we are the ones who stayed. To be clear, we continue to believe that scripture teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman, and that celibacy in singleness is our calling outside of marriage. We still consider the difference between orientation and behavior to be essential. These have not been comfortable convictions to hold, in our culture or our denomination, but we’ve stayed. Presbyterians have acknowledged that people of deep faith come to differing conclusions. We have stayed, and there has been room to stay.

If GA disallows a traditional interpretation of sexual behavior, it would be devastating. Whether by the words of the overture, the application of it, or the stated rationale behind it, perhaps a thousand churches and thousands of PCUSA pastors and elders would be excluded—and if enforced, driven out of the denomination. Among our Fellowship Community are many of the largest, most vibrant, mission-focused, church-planting, solid churches remaining in our denomination. Is the big tent suddenly not big enough to include us? Some of us serve “purple” churches, working hard at holding diverse views on some matters, while being unified around Jesus Christ. This overture is a message to these churches that there is no room for working at this within the PCUSA. It subordinates one part of our constitution–the Book of Confessions–below another, the Book of Order. And it would mandate one view, one interpretation of scripture in matters of human sexuality. No room for others, no freedom of conscience.

In the recent past, TFC has dialogued and joined hands with many people in our denomination, including the Covenant Network, to protect space for diversity and disagreement. That has worked in these last years, but this overture now threatens it. This will narrow us, make us smaller and ironically, work a kind of fundamentalism we thought we had moved beyond.

Our hope is that the overture fails. We hope that the General Assembly commissioners will recognize that their task is to enrich the whole church, and not just those they agree with. The hope is that we might stay connected AND disagree, and continue a challenging journey together to follow Christ, our ultimate hope, “who holds all things together (Col. 1:17).”

We encourage you to move toward the relationships in your presbytery—its leadership, your colleagues, and your GA commissioners. Have face-to-face conversations that are clear, but have them around tables, not shouting over emails or trumpeting in social media posts. Let’s practice our way forward together in the Way of Jesus, whom we follow and whom we proclaim.


Peace of Christ,

The Fellowship Community Board


Mike McClenahan, President, Senior Pastor, Solana Beach Presbyterian Church, Solana Beach, CA

Dan Baumgartner, Secretary, Pastor, The Cove Fellowship, Santa Rosa, CA

Jim Witherow, Treasurer, Retired Pastor, Faith Presbyterian Church, Aledo, TX

Cynthia Betz-Bogoly, Pastor, Elkins Park Presbyterian Church, Elkins Park, PA

Tracey Davenport, Senior Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Plano, TX

John Fullerton, Senior Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Lakeland, FL

Eric Hoey, Pastor, The Presbyterian Church, Henderson, KY

John Joseph, Associate Pastor, Providence Presbyterian Church, Hilton Head, SC

Tamara Mitchell, Associate Pastor, Presbyterian Church of Jackson Hole, Jackson, WY

Timothy Scoonover, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Moncks Corner, SC

Jason Tucker, Lead Pastor, Tower Hill Church, Red Bank, NJ

David Won, Senior Pastor, New Presbyterian Church, Los Angeles, CA


Advisory Board

Jerry Andrews, San Diego, CA

Donna Marsh, Chicago, IL

Mark Perry, Peru, IN