Monday, August 21, 2006

Clarification and More

I've had a number of comments indicating that 1) we're not doing the proper presbytery process, and 2) we'll never win our quiet title suit.

We realize that we are not doing the process as set out in the Book of Order. This has been intentional. Also, we know that we have no assurance of retaining our property in this ordeal. The basic avaricious and punitive attitude of the denomination doesn't breed confidence. It is sad that we seem to do nothing about churches and pastors who defy not just the PCUSA constitution, but essential biblical morality, while anyone who challenges the denomination's demands on property is immediately disciplined.

Our principle has been to separate ourselves from what we believe to be the creeping apostasy of the PCUSA. We believe that this is right, whatever the outcome regarding our property. While we do this, though, we will make every ethical and legal attempt to hold on to the property that we have paid for, cared for, improved, and lived in for four decades.

While the denomination did enable the Kirk to begin through some vital loans, these were paid for in full, with interest, decades ago. In the meantime, the Kirk has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the presbytery and more to national and worldwide PCUSA missions. In these last few years, through our struggle dealing with the changes in the PCUSA, there has been no inquiry or concern from the denomination. Now, ironically, when we are taking the only action that we find to be morally acceptable, the PCUSA is extremely interested in us.

To demonstrate the bias of what seems to be the real concerns of the PCUSA, I refer you to the writings of a PCUSA pastor whose standing with the denomination will probably remain good. Below is a URL to his blog, demonstrating beliefs and teachings that are utterly against all that the PCUSA says it believes. I'm sure that there has been no plan of action prepared against him or his church by the Louisville office, nor any concern about what he teaches.

Click on "Marriage Equality" on "Previous Posts" on the right.

I recommend that you also click on his posts entitled, "Searching for the body of Jesus," and "Reformed and Always Reforming."

Keep praying--keep the faith,
Tom

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Tom,

You have put the finger on what has bothered me about our denomination: there has been a willingness in Louisville (and in many Presbyteries) to let a lot of things slide, such as enforcement of our ordination standards, and even fidelity to core theological beliefs, such as the bodily Resurrection of Christ. But when issues of money and property arise, it's a different story. Suddenly all talk of accepting diversity and demonstrating forebearance disappears, and the black jacks and brass knuckles come out. That is why the denomination has an unholy feeling to it at times. From my perspective, even the United Church of Christ looks pretty good because at least they don't have the same grasping attitude towards money and property ... one benefit of a congregational polity.

I don't know that I would have done things the way you have, Tom, regarding your congregation leaving the PCUSA, but you are all in my prayers and best wishes for the future of your common ministry. As a PCUSA pastor, I am sorry to lose you as a colleague, but we remain brothers in Christ.

Anonymous said...

"Today, some would say that the word of God is not limited to the Bible or even to Jesus. We see (hear?) the word of God as we examine the atom, study the cosmos, and appreciate nature, art and literature. We seek truth when we discover what it means to be human and use our reason to a good end. The idea is that all truth is God’s truth. The word of God, then, is truth wherever we find it. We might expand that further. Not only is the word of God truth, it is also beauty, love, justice, joy, and the recognition of our own fallibility."

Oooohhh, that such people are allowed to lead churches!

It is not the WORD of God that you might see in all he listed, but God's hand. And I say MIGHT because this "truth" of which he speaks comes from the minds and mouths of men, not God.

What so many of his ilk love to call "truth" is actually what they consider to be "consensus". Well, the two are not the same thing. "Consensus" among hand picked men with similar opinions to begin with does not establish anything to be "truth".

But either way, this is once again man-worship, self-worship (both New Age "religion" kind of stuff), nature-worship (Wiccan, Druid), not God-worship. The PCUSA is in major denial when it encourages such philosophies and still calls itself a "Christian" church.

Classical Presbyterian said...

Tom:

Here is what has happened in our little corner of the Kingdom--

An Austin pastor 'marries' multiple couples of the same gender in full public eye on the UT campus.

Nothing is done.

A San Antonio church hosts a conference, with John Dominic Crossan to preach and lead worship. Crossan denies the divinity of Jesus, the inspiration and truthfulness of Scripture and thinks the body of Jesus was eaten by dogs.

Nothing is done or said.

An Austin church accepts an atheist into membership, along with Buddhists.

Little is done.

Several churches announce that they will not abide by the Fidelity and Chastity requirement and one even tells the press that they violate it on a regular basis.

Nothing is done.

Here is the message from all of this--if you are a defiant liberal you get away with murder. If you are evangelical--sit down and shut up or we'll take your property.

Keep inspiring us all and may Christ bless your sacrifice for His glory!

Larry said...

I support Kirk of the Hills.

sarahjordon said...

Dear Tom,

I am reading your blog and your call to read "shuck and jive". I did, but I also note that a Certified Lay Preacher, past deacon and elder and proclaimed Sunday School Teacher in your church does not believe that some of Paul's words are inspired. I believe that before was cast stones at others we might take a look at our own errors. Unless you agree with her assessment.

Sarah

Public Theologian said...

I find your position to be completely contradictory. You call the denomination avaricious even as you sue to take property that you and all your elders long acknowledged in your ordination vows belonged to the whole church. Why is the denomination's taking steps to preserve what every officer of the church has plegded for decades as denominational property a money grab, but your own attempt to get this same property, in violation of the oaths you made, somehow more holy?

You complain about the denomination not defending the Constitution even as you admit that in your leaving, you didn't bother to follow it either. Why do you feel that the Constitution should apply to others and not to you?

You complain about the denomination not inquiring into your concerns about the changes occurring in the PCUSA, but did you, your associate pastor, or any member of your session file ecclesiastical charges under the Constitution against the persons with which you had such issues? If the church abounds with heretics, aren't we supposed to identify them, see them tried and either censured or removed? Perhaps you did do this and I have missed it, but if you did not do this, why not?

TomGray said...

Dear public theologian,
It seems that you do not have a complete grasp of the PCUSA’s history. It was formed in 1983, and that was the first time that the trust clause was put into the constitution. The Kirk was founded in 1961; I was ordained in 1979. We were not organized under this principle.
I am not complaining about the denomination defending the constitution. I am complaining that its defense is unkind and essentially unchristian. It is perfectly within the PCUSA constitution to release the property, even under the trust clause. If you’ve been following my blogs, you’ll find that the denomination has been secretly putting impediments onto local property.
I have spoken out repeatedly against the kinds of things that have been blatant violations of the PCUSA’s constitution. I have served as commissioner whenever asked. I have been on the boards of renewal groups. I have traveled extensively to speak all over the country on these issues. My voice, along with so many others, has been ignored.
Tom

Anonymous said...

To Sarah Jordan,

Sarah, I am very sorry for a badly worded sentence. You're right; I said something I didn't mean to say, and I thank you for pointing that out to me.

What I was trying to say was that Paul did not say "The Lord does not permit a woman to teach," but "I" (Paul)do not permit a woman to teach."

Paul was giving Timothy instructions on pastoring a church, and yes God did inspire Paul to write the words Timothy needed to hear in order to deal with the situations and problems in that church.

Paul also writes this in 1 Tim. 5:23: "Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses." (NIV)

Divine inspiration, advice from an old friend, some of both???

Thank you for pointing out my failure to express myself clearly.

Peggy Alexander

Anonymous said...

Dear Peggy

Thank you for your reply, but I note that your Pastor also stipulated the same parameters in terms of the use of the pronoun within the NT Canon. Makes me wonder a bit about the leadership's ability to communicate properly. I figure this is a highly emotional charged issue.

In my Introduction to the New Testament Class in college, a secular college, it was readily point out that the doctrine of divine inspiration, and I probably don't have a great grasp on it, argues that God, using humanity, through the power of the Holy Spirit to give us God's revelation. It is not necessarily: divine inspiration, advice from an old friend, a little of both. Frankly it is Divine Inspiration. That is why we Christians believe in the authority of the Bible. But, again, I am just a college kid and if you all think that sort of thing atyour Church, God bless you.

Next thing you know we will all be wondering which Commandment was just advice from Moses (like Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy). Not many Christians remember that one. But we can all agree that at least Thou shalt not steal is divine.

SarahJordon

Anonymous said...

Dear Pastor Tom

I would take exception to your accusation that the (PCUSA or the EOP for that matter)denomination has been secretly putting impediments onto local property.

The PCUSA has an open web site for all the world to see. The actions take at all judicatories have not been in secret. I am just a old country parishioner. I sit in a small church pew, read the Layman, the newspaper, watch TV and persue the internet. It has all been there for public consumption. Me thinks ye protest too much.

Peter

Fred Nielsen said...

Tom:

Blessings and prayers for your journey. It has long been a wonder how and why presbyteries and synods have openly sanctioned ordination of and/or ceremonies of jointure for the homosexual community without reprimand.

The silence in these matters from Louisville and the Stated Clerk in particular have been particulary troublesome to this Presbyterian.

Fred Nielsen

TomGray said...

Dear Peter,
I challenge you to find anything about the affidavits before we accidentally found the one on our property. The plans for legal action are marked secret, and came only because someone (thank God) in Louisville leaked them.

If you've been following other news, you will have learned that there is a third secret legal document out there--the Executive Presbyter of Pittsburgh presbytery is the source for that.

I regularly look on the PCUSA website. Where on earth have you seen these things?
Tom

TomGray said...

Dear Peter,
I challenge you to find anything about the affidavits before we accidentally found the one on our property. The plans for legal action are marked secret, and came only because someone (thank God) in Louisville leaked them.

If you've been following other news, you will have learned that there is a third secret legal document out there--the Executive Presbyter of Pittsburgh presbytery is the source for that.

I regularly look on the PCUSA website. Where on earth have you seen these things?
Tom

Anonymous said...

So, what is to be gained by forcibly keeping a church (i.e. property) in the PCUSA? The Iowa congregation has voted to leave. How does the forcible takeover by the Presbytery prevent the dissolution of the PCUSA? Do they think the members will continue to go to that church? Do they really think it will grow? The PCUSA is dissolving itself by its own continued failures and causing members leaving in droves - not by churches who have decided enough is enough and no longer want to associate with the denomination.

Jim Loughlin

Public Theologian said...

Tom--

I know when the denomination was founded. The property trust clause, according to the Annotated Book of Order available at the PCUSA web site, was added to the PCUS (which I understand the Kirk was part of) Book of Church Order in the 1982-83 edition, and was in effect when you became pastor of the Kirk, so unless your situation was very different, you should have had to reaffirm your ordination vows at the time you were installed in 1983. Your associate pastor did not begin his work there until 1989, so he definitely should have taken a vow acknowledging the Constitution's authority re: property, as well as did every elder or deacon ordained or installed in your church since reunion. The only way to circumvent this process would have been for the Krik to have followed the procedures for maintaining property at reunion, which your church may well have done, in which case you would be justified in some sense in asking for the proeprty, although having all renounced the jurisdiction of the church, you can't really even ask that now.

Nor can you evade your responsibility for not having followed the polity of the church in preserving its purity by saying that you talked about it. Rather than removing the heretics, or even trying to remove them, you have abandoned the church. It isn't enouigh to sit around in conclaves with other evangelicals in the PFR and NW and grouse about heretics. That isn't preserving the purity of the church. It's just assaulting it;s unity. You should have used the polity of the church to combat heretics if you were so sure they were present. You have made a conscious decision not to follow the way that our polity deals with such matters and instead have struck out on your own. Would it have been hard to press such cases? Probably. But when did Jesus say following him would be easy? Anyway, you didn't even try, as far as I can tell.

Obviously, the denomination had very good reason to move to put impediments on property of churches like the Kirk, given that you have little regard for the polity of the PCUSA.

And I haven't even discussed the great problem of you having violated the scriptural injunction against suing fellow Christians--this from a congregation that claims everyone else in the denomination has abandoned the Bible! The article in the Tulsa World quotes elder David Block speaking about the way the PCUSA differs form the Kirk: "A lot of people are open to individual interpretation, saying a lot of the Bible is wrong because parts of it are outdated. We say the Bible is the word of God yesterday, today and tomorrow." How is it that you all get around the prohibition against taking fellow Christians to court and still claim that everyone else is playing fast and loose with scripture? Seems to me to be a self-serving exegetical standard. Is scripture only "the same, yesterday, today and forever" when it speaks about sex?

I am a liberal but I am very sad about your church leaving. I don't want to be in a church of liberals because denominations in which every one is in lock step end up with gigantic blind spots that greatly hinder its ministry of sharing the gospel. A church of liberal Presyterians without the benefit of voices such as yours will be a barren place and I am very upset with you for doing this. I think it is a terrible, terrible thing that you are doing, one that will lead to dissillusionment and discouragement all across the church for believers of every stripe and which will ultimately besmirch the name of Christ in the world.

Anonymous said...

Public Theologian-

"Nor can you evade your responsibility for not having followed the polity of the church in preserving its purity by saying that you talked about it. Rather than removing the heretics, or even trying to remove them, you have abandoned the church. . . . You should have used the polity of the church to combat heretics if you were so sure they were present."

How, exactly, do you know this? Pastor Tom mentioned before that this struggle has been going on for many decades. And I know for a fact that Pastor Tom has been embroiled in it, on a local and national level, trying every avenue that he can think of to fix this through "the polity of the church", as I'm sure many other pastors have, at least from the time he started at the Kirk (maybe before). He has given a significant portion of his life to "going through the propper channels".

Frankly, I've been absolutely astounded that anyone could possess the amount of patience it has taken to keep from making this move sooner. Things have gotten quite ugly at times. Lesser persons than those who have endured the ugliness and kept going because they believe God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and therefore his Word should take precedence over people's often skewed and/or amorphous concepts of "polity" and "unity" (both of which are usually accompanied by threats of varying degrees [most minor], sometimes of violence, or sometimes even some slightly violent acts from both people within and fringe groups outside of the church).


"You have made a conscious decision not to follow the way that our polity deals with such matters and instead have struck out on your own. Would it have been hard to press such cases? Probably."

Um, I think I just dealt with this. Suffice it to say you're a day late and a about fifty dollars short.


"But when did Jesus say following him would be easy? Anyway, you didn't even try, as far as I can tell."

Jesus never said following him would be easy. That's part of what this split is over, in my eyes. The mainline churches want to turn whatever religion they're recommending (it's sure not Christianity) into an "I'm okay, you're okay" and "if it feels good, do it" kind of religion.

So who's going the easier route.

Didn't Jesus say something in the Gospels about casting stones? :-p

You obviously had no idea what Pastor Tom had done when you accused him of not trying. Wouldn't it have just been easier to have asked him what he HAS done, than to falsely accuse him? I'm sure he would have given you a good answer. Being pretty modest, though, I'm sure he wouldn't tell you the full extent of what he's done, or what he's endured. Let me just say, it's been tremendous. But he does it out of love for God, love for his family, love for his congregation, and love for the calling that he accepted when he joined the ministry at the Kirk back in 1983.

Anonymous said...

Dear Tom Gray

Filing for affidivates is a matter of public record. All you have to do is look. You just must be too busy answer all this blog stuff to do basic administration. (sorry - should not have said that).

It is obvious that you are on the warpath against your denomination. There is a level of paranoid in the conversation. Soon you will be telling us all that the PCUSA has a wire tap on your phone.

Peter

stjones said...

Tom,

The talk a few years ago of "gracious separation" was never more than a pipe dream. The PCUSA is shriveling and going broke. It is looking to its own survival and has little interest in the concerns and consciences of its members. It needs money, it believes, not grace. The denomination's secret strategies for seizing property - and the timing of their dissemination to presbytery and synod executives - suggest to me that the PCUSA planned on the GA’s acceptance of the PUP report and expected to reap a financial windfall.

And why not? From their worldly perspective, they are in a win/win/win situation. If a congregation leaves, they seize the property or extort a cash ransom. If a large number of members depart a particular church, leaving a non-viable "true" church behind, the presbytery can dissolve the congregation and get the property anyway. If neither happens, they continue to collect Per Capita.

"public theologian" litters the blogosphere with legalisms but never addresses the simple question of Biblical stewardship. Is it good stewardship to simply abandon members’ tithes, offerings, time, and effort given in faith to further the Kingdom? Should the fruit of that faithfulness be surrendered to a worldly institution to further its worldly goals? I don’t know the answer, but I do know a Biblical answer probably won’t be found in a greedy and punitive application of the "trust" clause. As you have pointed out, greed and vengeance are not the only options for enforcement.

Grumpy
"The Curmudgeon’s Progress"

Anonymous said...

Peter-

"Filing for affidivates is a matter of public record. All you have to do is look. You just must be too busy answer all this blog stuff to do basic administration. (sorry - should not have said that)."

I certainly agree . . . you probably shouldn't have said that. While it is a matter of public matter, who would think to look? Do you make it a habit? Who does?

Whoever does is either 1) a lawyer, 2) paranoid, or 3) knows their in danger.

Pastor Tom and other pastors were expecting that liberal leaders in the PCUSA, who BTW consistently preach that we should have "unity," stay within the "polity," and maintain "collegiality," would not do such a backhanded thing. So they did not think they were in such a danger, and were not checking the public record.

Do you have no life? Do you make a habit of checking these records on a daily basis? If so, I'm sure the people at the courts LOVE you.

"It is obvious that you are on the warpath against your denomination. There is a level of paranoid in the conversation. Soon you will be telling us all that the PCUSA has a wire tap on your phone."

When you make such allegation as the preceding, you should always be willing to back them up with solid facts. Otherwise you are committing slander, and you're just showing us that you're another kook ideologue with a major agenda. (This doesn't lend credence to your cause). Just a bit of helpful advice.

Peter"

Jack said...

Peter,
Of course you are right that legal documents are public record. That does not mean, however, that every time you are mentioned (or your church is mentioned) in a legal paper, someone knocks on your door to tell you.
You accuse Pastor Gray of being paranoid (and then apologize for it). But in fact, only a paranoid person would be silly enough to check the county court clerk's office, or a legal web site, to see if any documents have been filed naming him or herself.
Unfortunately, the PC-USA has been acting in such a way that it takes "leaked" documents in order to find out all of what the denomination is up to.
Trust me, a group of conservative journalists like those at The Layman would probably go to great lengths to find all of the public documents they can in order to chronicle the current situation in the denomination. The fact that documents have to be leaked should tell you something.
It's a nice thought to think that because some documents are labeled "public information" they are automatically always simple to find and the public is encouraged to read them. Ask any newspaper reporter, they'll tell you that is simply not the case.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jack

The fact that I stated I was sorry, was in fact, a bit of sarcasm. Sorry I wasn't clearer for all the wonderful readers who seem to have such a grasp on the complex issues at hand.

Peter

Chris said...

Hold the line, Tom, hold the line.

I, too, have been deeply troubled by the direction of the denomination. I am an inquirer under care of the presbytery where Mr Shuck serves. I went to seminary on a full academic scholarship, graduated with a funded fellowship for further study, made 5s on Theology & Exegesis exam (and soundly passed the others) plus a 98 on Bible Content. I've been a teacher and preacher in the church, and folks tell me that they are renewed in their confidence in the PCUSA when they see young people proclaiming the faith fearlessly.

Nevertheless, I have been prevented from moving to candidacy because I am "agonistic" - and I fear that my public contention with Mr. Shuck will only strengthen the resolve of those in power to prevent me from being examined on the floor of presbytery. Perhaps if I had been agnostic about the Scriptures, instead of contending (agonizing) for the faith once delivered, I'd be a pastor by now!

I also think it is ludicrous that people are pointing to you as an oathbreaker, without the slightest interest in noticing the hierarchy of values set forth in the ordering of our vows. Apparently, it's okay to fudge on Scriptures and Confessions as long as you trust a Jesus that isn't defined by those two sources.

You're absolutely right - the double standards between what constitutes faithfulness to our vows for revisionists versus orthodox evangelicals is about to be put on display.

Anonymous said...

The first chapter of James admonishes us to be grateful for times of tribulation, as tribulation teaches perseverance, and that our faith will bring us through all things and we will be stronger. Regardless of which side of this unfortunate situation we are on individually, I pray that we will learn perseverance, faith and to trust in God for the solution...I am deeply saddened for the Kirk, the presbytery and the denomination that this action is being taken. I also know that this wasn't taken lightly by the pastors or the session, but I cannot personally support the action, and find it to be short-sighted in my judgement, lacking in faith, trust and having an egregious disregard for the good of the Kirk and the denomination. I pray for the Kirk, Tom Gray, for Greg Coulter and the officers of the presbytery in these sad and discordant days.

Charles Preston said...

Tom

I hope more of the so called "evangelical" pastors in the PCUSA have the courage to follow in your footsteps.

My wife and I left for the PCA over two years ago. We had been members of the PCUSA/PCUS for over 50 years and my grandfather baptized me into the PCUS over 60 years ago. It was a hard decison, but we did not leave the PCUSA, it left us.

It is humorous to read postings referencing Calvin as being against schism. Calvin whose intellect and energy ensured that the break from Rome would be sucessful. I wonder if those posters also believe in total depravity, unconditional election, and limited atonement. Somehow I doubt it. Calvin would not recognize the theology preached in most PCUSA pulpits today.

Thanks for keeping the Reformed faith Tom. My prayers are with you and your congregation.

Charles P Preston Jr

John Shuck said...

Dear Rev. Gray,

I am John Shuck. You referred to my blog in this post. I don't know you and you don't know me. Yet you say that I demonstrate "beliefs and teachings that are utterly against all the the PCUSA says it believes."

No sir, I do not. They may be utterly against what you say the PCUSA says. Your very action to leave the denomination demonstrates that you and the PCUSA are in disagreement.

My blog is a part of my teaching ministry to my congregation and to others. Teachers introduce students to a wide variety of ideas.

I certainly do not need to defend myself to you. But then again, I would never dream of attacking another minister whom I don't even know.

It appears that you are diverting attention away from yourself by pointing at me. You made your decisions. Live with them. Don't bring me into it.

John Shuck
http://shuckandjive.blogspot.com/