Monday, August 28, 2006

Call it, and they will come...

Tonight was the night. Presbytery had called a meeting and contacted our entire membership to invite them to an open forum regarding the Kirk's decision and the Presbytery's position. For a time, the local denominational folk have been telling us that the Kirk is far more divided over this issue than we think. "Many, many people have come to us complaining about what you (Tom and Wayne) have been doing." The Synod people even put a number to it--300 people were in opposition.

Just a few showed up, perhaps 70, I'm told. Subtract from that the presbytery representatives and the non-attending former members and it was a few dozen. Subtract from them the majority who showed up in support of our action, and it comes down to a handful. I don't want to dismiss those people. They are people (I know they won't believe this) that I care for. When some of the attendees of the meeting called me to tell me what happened, I had this painful desire to know just who it was in opposition (it's sort of like touching a bad tooth with your tongue to see if it still hurts). I didn't want to know names to be angry or to further the debate. I need to know what has happened in my congregation.

I was told that the same spin spun tonight. "We filed the affidavits because of one church, but thought it would be good for all." "If you'd just talked with us, we could have worked it all out." I'd love to believe these things--I just can't. I can't afford to, for the sake of danger to my congregation. I can't afford to for the additional sense of devastation that would come if the denomination, one more time, showed its perfidy, as with the PCUSA "legal game-plan."

I feel no sense of satisfaction over this meeting. What has happened is sad, considering that we did hang on so long with the denomination, hoping for renewal. There is no pleasure in dissatisfied members, even if it's just a handful (I'm not naive, I know that there are more out there, I just know it's still a small, small proportion). There's no pleasure in any sense of division between any of us who feel, or felt, a kindred spirit.

We still have so much before us. There is the congregational meeting on Wednesday. There is whatever response the denomination will continue to make. There is a whole world of ministry out there. I don't feel it tonight, but I know that the energy and joy of moving forward will return.

Keep praying--keep the faith.
Tom

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Tom,

Just for the record, I do intend to support the votes on Wednesday. But I was in attendance tonight and came away with a very different picture of the spirit in which the meeting was conducted. There may have been some spin--on both sides. But I found our host Jim Miller, in particular, to be gracious (when it would have been easy not to be...), kind, sincere and just as committed to the cause of Christ as we are. At the outset, he said there was no hidden agenda for our time together and he conducted the meeting accordingly. From where I sat, I saw a brother who was trying to lower the level of rhetoric and vitriol, not raise it. My mind wasn't changed, but my heart was moved. I'm glad I went.

Blessings,

Rick Long

frankiedoc said...

Dear Pastor,
Many from around the country are aware of your God-given courage and your fight for integrity and upholding Scripture. And we are praying for you.

Be wise and alert to the wiles of your presbytery and Louisville who will try to undo you and steal your church.

As a former member of Hollywood Presbyterian Church we are aware of PCUSA's willingness to exploit a chink in the armor or minor schism and turn it into a matter
which "demands" an AC and disposition of the pastor. Do not believe that merely the fact that you have a majority supporting you that your presbytery will honor that fact and leave you alone.

Louisville plays hardball and will go to nearly any length to take possession of the church. Hollywood and the Torrance, CA Korean church are cases in point, just this last year--both attacks orchestrated by Louisville.

Inspite of clear minorities within those churches favoring presbytery's view, Louisville dispatched individuals to make the congregations toe the line.

Please take your adversary seriously. It pains me to say it but if you plan to leave PCUSA with your property then you will need to guard it by those truly prepared to keep intruders away.
Your adversary is both cunning and relentless. Be prepared for distinctly unChristian behavior.

May God bless you and gift you with His strength, His courage and
His desire to continue to do that which is right.

Dr. Frankie Cotton
Huntington Beach, Ca.
(formerly of Hollywood Presbyterian)

Anonymous said...

I don't even know how to respond to that. Basically I'm floored by that attitude. You're being a little controlling don't you think? Seems that you are spinning the meeting as well even though you were not there.

Anonymous said...

You reap what you sow Brother. You sowed discord and now you have it at all levels.

I find you comments a bit insincere regarding those attending the meeting. If you were truly concerned about the leading of God's Spirit in this endeavor, it should not matter if one or a thousand voices attended. Why can't a dissenting voice be heard without you knowing who it is or is it possible you just want to corner us and pressure us in seeing "your truth".

As my Father would say - "let it go and God will work it out". How about some wonderfully written spiritual advice on your blog rather than your church political views.

I went to a library and pulled a book on Church History from the shelf. Wanted to see if Luther, Calvin or Knox tried to take the building with them when they added their voice to the dissent. Nope, they just left. Would that they were here today.

NetProphet said...

Tom,

This whole process has definitely been challenging and energy consuming. I am saddened by the fact that Kirk Members feel left behind in this movement of the Holy Spirit. I don't condemn them for their view point but rather pray for them and show them Christ's love and grace. We are a body of sinful people and need to understand God's grace, be excited about our mission, stay grounded in God's word, transformed in Christ thru the guidance of the Holy Spirit and released to the world to fufill the Great Commission. I know this entire event is simply Satan causing division and strife amongest God's people. The Kirk, you and Wayne will be blessed greatly by your actions. We simply need to remain focused on Jesus, be gracious and humble in our endeavors and continue to pray for the Church. Thank you again for your leadership and your witness.

Anonymous said...

There were over 100 people in attendance Monday night. There were several Kirk supporters there. Arms folded, scowls on their faces. Very negative language and body language. Even a homophobic pot shot from one person. Grown-ups acting like children. I know there are definitely more gracious and mature people from the Kirk that weren't there. I will do my best not to label the Kirk based on the actions of a few. I certainly hope that folks that were "on the fence" over staying with or leaving the Kirk weren't in attendance.

There are so many great people at the Kirk. So many relationships that I have cherished over the years. I am saddened to see how people I once admired behaved themselves.

Although I disagree with the decision to leave, I agree with Tom: Keep praying-Keep the faith.

charleswelden said...

As for me and my house we will serve the Lord. As most other attenders of The Kirk, we support you and Wayne and OUR decision to leave an organization who will not reason because they are unreasonable and that because they are serving their own selves and itching ears. That organization (pcUSA) has forsaken the truth and for MANY reasons therefore cannot be trusted. We believe you have done what you must and we hope a new leadership in Louisville will surface to let congregations go there way peacably. There should be no need to pay hard cash but IF forced PLEASE KNOW we and MANY others will step forward with funds to follow your and Wayne's leadership and purchase new land, buildings or pay a ransom to a denomination not deserving it. We are not just following you but Christ in this and HE is IN THIS. Keep the faith and BE VERY ENCOURAGED.

Classical Presbyterian said...

What an inspiration you are!

This post is a very gracious and loving word to the saints in Tulsa.

You know that real leadership is not without opposition and disagreement, yet you and the Kirk of the Hills congregation had the courage to face the opposition, speak the truth and LEAD. God bless your witness!

This 'meeting' shows how we have idolized denominational constructs for far too long.

The reality of Christian life--and joy, in fact--is that altough we may now be in separate human organizations, we are together the Body of Christ.

EPC, PCA, SBC, ELCA, ECUSA, PC(USA)..it matters not one whit to our relationships within the Kingdom.

The PC(USA) 'hierarchy' better wake up to that fact. But, I guess they are already...

Anonymous said...

Pastor Tom, I have been following the events involving your congregation and I heard your comments on Delgiorno's morning radio program. Their are many of us in Tulsa who support the stand you have taken for Christ and his word. I personnaly believe that your congregation deserves to keep the property which they have paid for. Satan is a thief and he wants to steal your property. It is in this regard that I am writing to you. Your congregation is not guarranteed justice in our earthly courtrooms, as you are most certainly aware. But; The God we serve sits on a throne in heaven and he renders just decisions from that throne which no earthly courtroom may overturn. Therefore, I urge you to prepare a written petition of the legal issues involved, and to make your case and your legal defense before God on the basis of his laws and his justice. Write out the petition and offer it to God. Ask the Father to hear your petition and to render justice on behalf of your congregation in the name of Jesus Christ. He will do so. Remember; You have an advocate (i.e. defense attorney) who stands before his throne. It is the God of heaven that rules over the kingdoms of men and he rules justly (see Dan. Ch. 4). Only in the courtroom of heaven will you receive absolute justice for your people!

Amos

TomGray said...

Some comments to several of you,
Of course, I wasn't at the meeting. Since I'm the only one doing this blog, I had to get information from others who were there. The people I talked to said that there were 60, maybe 70 there.

This morning someone else told me that the meeting started with about 70, but had around 100 when it ended. I trust that person and number. The only point I was trying to make about the numbers was in response to the warnings I've been getting from denominational people, saying that I don't understand the Kirk is deeply divided, and that hundreds were in opposition. That clearly is not true.

I didn't really want to know who said what in a spirit of anger or judgment. This has been my flock for 24+ years. Even if you don't believe it, I am concerned about each person.

For the person who commented on Luther and Calvin, you need to actually read the books you took down from the shelf. Where do you think Luther and Calvin's followers got their church buildings? I pastored in an early Reformation church in Scotland. It took its church building away from the Catholics. Calvin even tried to take over the entire city of Geneva! Read, before you speak.
Tom

Anonymous said...

I don't know if I'm unique but I chose to go to the Kirk and become a member because I like the congregation, I enjoy the convenience and the outreach programs are meaningfull. The fact that the Kirk was a member of the Presbyterian churh USA had no influence what so ever since, at the time I joined, I did not know of the affiliation. It makes no sence to me why the Presbyterian Church USA should have any claim to the Kirk property since the congregation paid for it and should have title to the property.

Anonymous said...

All of this is reminding me of a family I knew several years ago. The husband and wife were both very good people who had been married many years -- happily at first, then gradually growing apart. He was a very successful physician, spending many hours in his practice and earning lots of money. She worked during the early years of their marriage, then stayed home to rear their five children.

As the years went by, they spent less and less time together. Then one day he met another woman who was more nearly a soul-mate, and he decided he would rather be married to her. So he filed for divorce from his wife of 30 years, and feeling that he needed some grounds other than "irreconcilable differences," accused her of betraying him even though he was the one who had found someone else.

The situation was difficult enough for the wife and their children. But it got worse when they started dividing their property. He claimed that, because he had earned the money, he should get all of the property. She claimed that they had always shared everything, and she was entitled to the house because they still had children who lived there and he was the one wanting to leave, not her. They lived in a state that recognized they both had mutual investment in their property, and the judge awarded half to each when the divorce was final. The house was sold, and they each received half the proceeds.

The Kirk and the Presbyterian Church are like this couple. They both have invested much in their relationship, but have grown apart. Those who think the Kirk is entitled to their property simply don't understand the covenant relationship between a congregation and the whole denomination. This situation is as sad as a divorce in a family. I pray for everyone involved, on both sides, and for the bitterness and accusations to cease.

Rich Love said...

Tom,

Don't be too distracted by those who would take anonymous popshots at you. This wasn't just your decision, it was all of our decisions. It did not come soon enough, as far as I am concerned. In fact, I know of at least one family that was very active with The Kirk that left because we did not leave pcusa sooner. I would rather have had these families back, than those who want to anonymously chide you for a decision that the vast majority of us agree with.

If the pcusa doesn't want to leave us be, then they can BRING IT. I won't lose any sleep at night about the possibilyt of losing this building, because our church is strong not because of the multi-million dollar building, but because of the body of believers who touch lives for Christ all over the world.

Tom, you've opened this blogging forum so that people can share their heartfelt thoughts, and I commend you for that. This blog is but another example of the openness that you've had in discussing the problems with pcusa and with the most recent general assembly. I for one know that you've personally dealt with these concerns for years, and I know that the decisions made by our church family were made sincerely, after much thought and prayer.

We'll keep crusading for Christ, no matter what happens with our building. We're right, they're wrong.

With all due respect to Dr. Miller (whom I think is an awesome pastor), he is merely postponing a decision that he will be making in the not too distant future.

In Christ,

Rich Love

Jim Loughlin said...

I was there and I echo Rick Long's sentiments above. I woke up this morning sad, but unwavering in my opinion that the Kirk should leave PCUSA. The meeting started tense, but ended somber - I am sorry if the body language was bad, but this is no picnic. Jim Miller is a terrrific man of God. He was able to take one particularly tense moment in the meeting and turn it around into productive dialogue. He did not dodge any questions, but did present his view of the Kirk's actions in no uncertain terms. In addition, he is losing an ally on the renewal front - that hurts and I understand that. There were no threats and no attempt at "finding the true church". I am thankful for that. Jim Miller stated that he feels Presbytery's hands are tied because of the actions the Kirk has taken. That is understandable as they are trying to follow their rules - the Kirk knowingly did something differently. I support the Kirk's approach. Yes it is unusual, but these are unusual times. We need to be careful to not get into an "Us vs. Them" mentality just because someone does not agree with you. Let's all continue to speak the Truth in love. Finally, regarding the purported "homophobic" comment, all I recall was one Kirk member speaking about his own gay son who died of AIDS, his love for the homosexual community, and his desire to bring them to Christ.

Anonymous said...

I was at the meeting Monday night and spoke near the end of the meeting. A small bit of what I said was quoted in the Tulsa World this morning. Since only a few words were taken out of a larger context in which they were spoken, I feel it would be good to clarify them.

Here is the quotation from the paper: "My heart is literally breaking....If the only way I can handle this pain is to leave, then I've got to go."

The pain I was talking about was the culmination of many years of being active in the PCUSA to bring about change and being constantly disappointed, disillusioned, and frustrated by the actions of the denomination. What I have to leave is the body causing that pain, the PCUSA.

I fully support the decision of the Kirk session and feel affiliation with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church will provide a positive and supportive atmosphere in which the congregation can continue to carry out its calling by Jesus Christ to mature in faith, minister to those in need, and make a difference in a world that needs to hear the good news of the Gospel.

I also would like to thank Dr. Jim Miller, who led the Monday night gathering, for his gracious handling of the meeting.

May God direct us all in the path He would have us follow in the days ahead, pouring out His Spirit upon us to empower us to carry out the calling He has given us.

Peggy Alexander

Anonymous said...

God bless you for opening this blog forum to all people, whether or not we agree with you. I don't agree with you or your session, and I know it takes courage for you to post this. For that I respect you. Live from love and compassion, not judgment and pride, and you will be following God, whether it's in the PCUSA, the EPC, or outside the institutional church.

Anonymous said...

To Tom Gray

You must be very old to have Pastored in an early reformed Scottish Church. You don't look a day over 50

TomGray said...

Dear Anonymous,
I was born in 1549, oops, 1949.
The church I served was in Edinburgh and was founded in 684 AD. It was the second Scottish congregation to "go" presbyterian under John Knox.
Tom

Arnie Dahl said...

Dear Tom,

Pat and I have read your posts daily and as relatively new members of the Kirk please know that we wholeheartedly support you, Wayne and our session on your decision to leave the PCUSA.

Personally, right or wrong, a church's particular denomination has never been the major point of attraction to me but rather if Jesus (The Word) is faithfully lifted up in the spoken word and in mission outreach. This the Kirk does magnificently and this is what attracted me to the Kirk in the first place (while not forgetting the truly dedicated brothers and sisters we regularly fellowship with)

If I may share a bit of personal history. In the late '70's, while a member of a local SBC congregation, I got a double whammy when our pastor very un-apologetically revealed to me his "universalist salvation" beliefs (a foreshadow of Carlton Pearson) and later by his wife when she saw me using a Schofield Reference Bible. She rather condesendingly told me that "I ought to throw that bible in the trash because as it was unfit for study". That was over 35 years ago and now here we go again with the PCUSA - only much broader and blatantly on a variety of idiotic issues.

When we shake it all down we are left with one undeniable fact and that is that the one true foundation who is the Lord Jesus Christ - the very Living Word of God by which we are all to live, and not by bread alone, and which is settled forever in heaven, is no longer applicable to many in the PCUSA leadership.

Either we as Christians - imperfect as we are - will remain obedient and faithful to all of God's written absolutes, or we will not. We are not free to pick and choose what we will adhere to as the PCUSA's leadership would have us believe in today's ever changing cultural war. Ultimately, the unchanging authority of God's Word is what this current chasm in the denomination is all about and nothing else.

The Kirk is on the absolute right side of this issue and we thank God for your strength and leadership. Get ready for lots of company Tom because the truth is actually setting His church free.

With His Love,
Arnie Dahl

Richard Wilson said...

Rev. Gray:

After learning of your decision and the action of your session from a news report I turned to the web site and your blog hoping to learn how you arrived at your conclusions. I did so fully aware that I likely would not be able to agree with all of what I would find just as I continue to read "The Layman" even though I have come to recognize that I find only what the writers believe to be the only "right" answers.

During my 26 years as a Presbyterian I have found comfort in knowing that there are some things that we can disagree on without being hurtful to one another. I have tried to not feel hurt by what I read but since I don't interpret the denomination's actions the same way you do, it seems to me you are questioning my Christianity when you refer to us as "apostate". This hurts me deeply.

You have written--"The sexuality issue is symptomatic--it is not the source of the problem or even the main problem. The main problem is the long slide away from clear biblical teaching." There has been so much reference to the sexuality issue in your blog I will cite that as an example where I once agreed with you but in recent years I have found myself questioning whether that belief could be wrong. The Old Testament seemed to be clear but the more I study the life and ministry of Jesus the more I believe the New Testament has a different message for us. In addition, current scientific study seems to be pointing to proof that genetics snd hormone levels at birth may affect sexual orientation which indicates that at least some homosexuals may not have made a choice--it was predetermined for them as it was for those of us who are heterosexual.

I note too that much has been written about the property issue. I think it is regrettable that this causes so much discord. This surely can not be pleasing to God. While I can understand some of the sense of entitlement you apparently feel I also know that you and your congregation have affirmed the provision that you hold the property in trust for the PCUSA. I wish you could somehow leave everything behind but would that really be fair? I don't think so! Since reading the anonymous posting comparing the present situation to a divorce I now hope and pray that a fair and equitable resolution can be reached if separation does occur.

When I studied the "Peace, Unity and Purity Report" I had hoped that it would allow all of us to coexist while we talked and listened to one another in the hope that we could find common ground on which to stand united. I now believe that the evolvement your congregation has undergone under your leadership has placed you in the extremes of the PCUSA. In addition to your extreme conservativism I believe there is also a liberal estreme in the denomination yet I believe the majority of us fall in between the extremes. I have observed that when you move to the extremes (which I define as the inability to consider that you may be wrong on a given issue) you face a great risk of actually being wrong. We are all familiar with Matt. 7:1-5 and it seems to me that you and your supporters have been issuing judgments against the PCUSA which I suppose you interpret as having been called to do in the name of righteousness. I believe in what Jesus said and in particular I think now of John 12:48 when Jesus said "He that rejecteth me and receiveth not My words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day." Certainly the PCUSA and all of us who choose to remain cannot be so broadly accused of rejecting Jesus and not receiving His words. My impression is that EOP has gone more than half-way in trying to accommodate you both before and after your decision to leave the PCUSA. I very much regret tht you were unwilling to invite EOP representatives to The Kirk so that you (including your congregation) all could have talked and listened to one another before making a decision.

I believe we will all be called to account for any hurt that we have caused. My prayer now is that we can join together in prayer seeking the mercy and forgiveness that we may not deserve but can receive if we will only ask!

Thank you for your consideration of my thoughts, opinions and concerns.

Richard Wilson

Anonymous said...

Mr. Wilson,

Here we go again. Sir, you clearly are not reading all the posts made by the Kirk members and Dr. Gray. The Kirk has been more than gracious with the denomination and tried to "work things out for many, many years".

Your comment about people being born homosexual, in my opinion, is just another liberal excuse to justify the acceptance of the sin. People are not born that way. I have had a friend who was talked into, yes talked into being gay. While I do not apporve of his sin, I can love him as a person and pray for his salvation. I also sin, however, I can also ask for our Lord's forgiveness. I truly believe, many that are gay, do not ask for the Lord's forgiveness. Rather, they want the church, just like in society as a whole to accept them with "loving arms" This issue is a very small part of the problem however.

The presbytery was the ones that filed an affidavit against our property, in a secret meeting, were no minutes were kept, and the Kirk's representive to this meeting was not present. How nice of them. Also this action was done days after given notice by denomination to do so against churches that have a dissenting opinion to the denomination.

I and a vast majority of the Kirk members are done with being "nice" and "getting along". We have tried it that way for years and each time the GA goes further and further away from biblical teachings.

Also, when i give my money to build the church, support our, yes OUR missionaries I am not doing it for the presbytery. My money and the members money built this church and its mission. Now the denomination wants to destroy all that, were is their christian attitude??? I just wish folks from your side of the issue would at least try and have an open mind to the Kirk and actually read all the facts before spouting off on something when you clearly dont have all the facts.

P.W.

Anonymous said...

Talked into being gay? That must have been one heck of a sales pitch!

I cannot speak for your friend and your relationship with him. Personally, I do not believe most people "choose" to be homosexual. Regardless, that's not the point of this post.

I have to admit that I find it curious that many folks who whooped and hollered the loudest about the potential "local option" destroying the church and its Constitution are the same ones who are blowing up the Book of Order out of "conscience".

Blessings on all as I pray God will be glorified through our often muddied clay jars.

Justin

Jim Loughlin said...

Justin -

If you have been keeping up with the posts, you would recognize that this is not about the Book of Order - it is about a denomination that continues to passively and actively move away from Scripture. It is about a denomination that looks the other way when serious theological violations occur - many of those encouraged by leaders of the denomination. It is about a denomination that allows those who reject the very basics of Christianity to continue in their position, as well as elect them to posts of leadership. Perhaps you do not like the tactic we employed and I understand your view. Our church is doing what will keep our pastors, session, and congregation intact. Hopefully we will prevail with our property as well - and I believe we will. No one locks the front door and leaves the back door wide open. It appears to me that the Book of Order process for dismissal does exactly that.

Anonymous said...

Justin,

For sake of example, you dont think if the denomination came into your church and removed your entire leadership (pastors and elders etc.) then began to teach biblical beliefs that are 180 degrees from what you believe, your church would not suffer serious damages? Loss of members, donations for the church's ministry.

The Kirk has different beliefs from the denomination, someone tell me, what is wrong with parties who disagree to split like christian brothern. No the denomination has to go and call us and others like the Kirk "schismatic churches" and threaten to remove our pastors, who preach nothing but firm christian beliefs and not "interpret" the bible to fit their agenda for society.
P.W.

Anonymous said...

In reading these comments through the past few days, sometimes my mind gets to wandering just a bit.... possible aided by my years. I'm sure others have experienced the same. At such times our minds sometimes drift toward the extreme. A couple of thoughts in that regard.

I seem to remember back.... way back in History class about a group climbing into boats and floating off to new lands to seek religious freedom........

Another thought explores misused power. Imagine for a moment, a fully functioning church, all that goes on, congregating, fellowship, common worship, healing, forgiveness, giving, mission work, even an occasional event that might even border on a miracle.

Then comes those with a power to disrupt.... not destroy.... never.... just greatly disrupt.

I do not want to be at Heavens gate when any of those people seek to enter! Fortunate for them.... God is just and forgiving!

Tom & Wayne:

Thank you for all you have given: direction, strength, integity, teaching and great sacrifice.

R.M.

Anonymous said...

I am a seminary student writing the exegesis ordination exam on Luke 4:1-13. One of the questions asks me to reflect on the Devil's interpretation of scripture. It seems to me that the Devil's interpretation is literally true, but Jesus rejects it. Why? Our confessions teach us that all biblical interpretations must be guided by the Holy Spirit and governed by Jesus' command to love God and love our neighbors. Please consider what Jesus' rule of love contributes to our biblical texts concerning homosexuality.

Classical Presbyterian said...

Anonymous Seminarian:

I hope your Ords go well!

That being said, was Jesus then lying when he defined marriage: that a man and woman (no other type of unions!) become one flesh?

Tom has considered Jesus' rule of love and that is why he has left the denomination---the rule of love is the rule of God's truth, springing from the Word.