Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Incredible Double Standard

Dean Weaver, moderator of the New Wineskins Association of Churches, recently wrote PCUSA Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick, asking for “a moratorium on certain disciplinary and administrative actions against churches and church officers who may be considering leaving our communion.” Dean cited G-1.0301 regarding freedom of conscience as a basis for this.

I am aware that some presbyteries have laid out plans, or followed the plan prescribed by the PCUSA legal offices, to aggressively seek out pastors and sessions who are considering leaving. This has established an atmosphere of fear.

Once again, we see the incredible double standard exhibited by the PCUSA. Read what the moderator and stated clerk of the GA wrote back to Dean.

“Freedom of conscience as it is understood in the Reformed tradition does not permit church officers to act outside the Constitution of the church….
The 212th General Assembly (2000) made it explicitly clear that even the General Assembly lacks authority to declare a moratorium on upholding the provisions of the constitution.”

Move back now to 2001. What follows is from the official denominational website:

“After a self-imposed two-year moratorium on the constitutional standards for ordination to church office in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the 213th General Assembly is poised to take up the issue that has divided the church for more than 20 years.”
Jerry L Van Marter, 01158
May 8, 2001

Is there something wrong here? Why can we declare a moratorium on receiving overtures (something the constitution doesn’t allow, so far as I can tell), but we cannot have a moratorium on unchristian actions against churches that are simply obeying their conscience?

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good Morning Pastor,

If you wouldn't mind clarifying something for me if time permits.

On your web page you have four Pastor's listed. You have posted on your blog that you and one other pastor have resigned. Did the other two also resign?

If they didn't why are they still there? Are they ordained ministers? I am just curious.

Thank you.

Sherry

Anonymous said...

Tom:
As a faithful member of the Kirk for decades and a Presbyterian from birth, I too have had issues with the hierarchy polity of PCUSA. However, just as I may not agree with all of the planks of my political party’s platform, I don’t leave because I am disgruntled. I have seen this split in the Kirk developing over the last year. While I have always respected you immensely, it is very clear to me that you have been leading the charge towards disaffiliation with PCUSA. Had you pushed to make this move six months ago, I don’t believe the majority of the congregation would have followed.

I have gone back to June and re-read all of this blog in reverse order which has been very enlightening. In your June 20 post you stated, “I have always said that the Kirk will never be a maverick congregation, going off somewhere on its own. That is still true. The essence of Presbyterianism is being connected as a body. The fact that the PCUSA has effectively rejected this is no reason for us to operate alone.” What are we now doing? Becoming the only congregation in EPC in the State of Oklahoma seems a little on the “maverick” side.

It has become abundantly clear to me that this has been a well orchestrated plan to press forward and discuss only the concerns of PCUSA church polity and gradually steer the congregation to come to the conclusion that leaving the denomination is the only correct thing to do. Because of your leadership, I am certain there is now a majority on the disaffiliation issue. One might argue that this push has come from the Session or other leaders in the congregation, but that would be naïve. Leadership in any church always comes from the Senior Pastor.

I am sure there are many members of our congregation that love and respect you as their Pastor, but truly do not want to see PCUSA church politics force this decision they have to make on August 30. Many of these faithful members (now presumably in the minority) who have given their tithes and offerings to our church’s ministry and property as well will surely feel abandoned.

Respectfully,
Kirk Member

TomGray said...

Dear Sherry,
Wayne Hardy and I were ordained in the UPCUSA (the predecessor denomination to the PCUSA). Dan and Jeff were not. Therefore, there is no denominational authority over them--just over Wayne and me.
Tom

TomGray said...

Dear Kirk Member,
To describe me as “disgruntled” far understates how I feel. Having just read all my blogs, you should have a sense of how deeply I feel offended, hurt, and theologically betrayed. Six months ago I would not have “made this move” because much has happened between then and now (also recorded in my blogs).

The reason that we are possibly going to become the “only congregation in EPC in the State of Oklahoma” is that there are no other Presbyterian denominations we could go to that match the Kirk’s ethos and theology.

You say that this was a “well orchestrated plan to press forward and discuss only the concerns of PCUSA church polity and gradually steer the congregation to come to the conclusion that leaving the denomination is the only correct thing to do.” If this is so, you need to ask yourself, “Why now?” I’ve been leading the Kirk for over 20 years. Why would I wait so long if this were my intent all along.

You are upset with my presentation of the bad side of our denomination. Perhaps you could present the good that would balance a denomination that has left following the Word, that has essentially abandoned mission and evangelism, and has decided to favor those desiring GLBT ordination while attacking people who wish to hold to traditional Presbyterian Christianity.

I make no bones about my leadership. I certainly, in the last few months, have led, along with elders, this move. I wish that we could have gone away from the PCUSA in a gracious separation, but that was not possible. Secret moves on the part of our presbytery, secret threatening documents from the PCUSA offices, and the absolute need to respond to their legal actions in a timely fashion created what happened.

I hate to think of anyone feeling abandoned by the Kirk, yet I realize that this could happen. It hurts me even to think so. Unlike the PCUSA, if such people wish to leave for other churches, they will do so with no rancor on our part. If they stay, they will find the Kirk to be the congregation they have always known.

In terms of their offerings, I wonder how many Kirk members gave to the Kirk ministries and, especially, to Kirk building programs, with the intent that the funds were not for the local church, but for the denominational offices?

Tom

Public Theologian said...

Tom--

It isn't a double standard at all. The moratorium to which you refer was nothing official. It was spearheaded by an affinity group, the Covenant Network, in order to give the denomination time to heal from repeatedly having sex overtures to vote on every year. Governing bodies were free to continue to submit overtures as they saw fit, which they did. The Covenant Network simply asked supporters to vote them down in the name of taking a rest.

The present situation is different. You are asking people to place a moratorium on the polity of the church, not on the submission of overtures. What's more, you are asking it, not in the name of the church's unity, but so that you and others can rend it asunder while expecting the majority who want it to remain intact stand idly by.

Th situations could hardly be any more dissimilar. Whereas the Covenant Network called for a moratorium to give their OPPONENTS their due by acknowledging that the church had spoken, you are calling for a moratorium for YOURSELF to give you time to manuever.

Anonymous said...

Double standards indeed.

You say you think Presbyterian/Reformed beliefs and polity are the best expression for the church, yet you work within New Wineskins to dismantle polity. You speak out of both sides of your mouth.

You say some of us are more concerned about denominational loyalty than about the truth. Why aren't you listening to those of us who say we don't think you have a corner on the truth?

You say six months ago you wouldn't have left, but now things have changed. Of course things have changed. The majority at General Assembly didn't vote the way you wanted them to on a few issues. That doesn't mean that they're wrong or that you're right. It means on a few issues you didn't get your way this time around.

You say the General Assembly is allowing presbyteries and sessions to disregard essentials? That's not true! Sessions and presbyteries must still answer to higher governing bodies for their actions.

Last April I heard from others in the presbytery that the property affidavit was filed (listing all property throughout the presbytery) because some churches had mistakenly sold property over the years without following consitutional requirements to get presbytery approval first. You make it sound like the affidavit was filed only "to clamp down on dissent". I saw the affidavit then and it looked above board to me.

I have heard that the executive presbyter tried many times to meet with you in the weeks leading up to last week's session meeting and you put him off. If that's true, so much for open dialogue.

I've heard that a week before the session meeting the promise was made to presbytery that there would be no withdrawl from the PCUSA and no lawsuit. If that's true, so much for honesty.

You feel hurt and betrayed? What are the rest of us supposed to think?

God help us all, please!

TomGray said...

Dear Public Theologian,
The moratorium was on more than just overtures. Our stated clerk, Clifton Kirkpatrick, supported this move which included a moratorium on accusations and trials against those who were violating G-6.0106b. It truly is a double standard.
Tom

TomGray said...

Dear anonymous (I’d rather you had the courage to say who you are),
You are right that the GA voted the way I didn’t want, but you seem to imply that those votes were inconsequential. The vote made on the PUP report completely changed the interpretation of our constitution without giving presbyteries the chance to vote on the new interpretation. The new interpretation, in my firm opinion, now officially allows judicatories to permit what Scripture clearly prohibits.

Regarding the affidavits, please answer the following:
1) why was the presbytery following exactly the process outlined in the leaked secret guidelines for opposing dissenting churches? (And filed within 2 weeks of the meeting giving those instructions.)
2) why was it done in secret?
3) why are there no minutes of the trustee meeting that authorized the affidavits?

Please take the time to read the leaked papers. You will see that this process is only to attack dissident churches.

I don’t know about any promise made not to withdraw—I cannot imagine that we would have said that. For the last couple of years I’ve told our general presbyter (we don’t have an executive presbyter as you wrote) that it was possible that we would withdraw. I met with Greg in the weeks before the session meeting (along with Wayne Hardy and Jim Miller) so there was no avoidance.

I do feel hurt and betrayed. How have I hurt or betrayed you, other than recounting what has happened?
Tom

Larry said...

Tom,
You are a prince to answer the many anonymous critics so forthrightly.

Anonymous said...

Please tell me why you are having a vote? Isn't the action of the Session all you need? Or do you need a vote to show you are being followed?

Dan Dermyer said...

Well as I have been following this along I thought I might as well offer a real different approach to the Kirk's situation and others.

In view of the reality that the denomination has turned away from the what it used to be, and in view of the perception of hurt, betrayal and embarrassment among the sheep, how about a two alternative situation.

1. Churches that leave will not sue the PCUSA for damage to their reputation as Christ honoring, God glorifying ministries.

2 Evangelical churches that stay will receive damage moneys from the denomination for the hindrance the PCUSA as a denomination causes to local ministry.

Would that fly?

Jon Thomasson said...

Pastor Tom,
You get a fair amount of criticism on your blog, so I thought I would share a quote from Martin Luther (another reformer) about how pastors should receive praise and criticism. May this be an encouragement to you as you seek to follow Jesus and not an institution:

"The ministers of the Gospel should be men who are not too easily affected by praise or criticism, but simply speak of the benefit and the glory of Christ and seek the salvation of souls. Whenever you are being praised, remember it is not you who is being praised but Christ, to whom all praise belongs. When you preach the Word of God in its purity and also live accordingly, it is not your own doing, but God's doing. And when people praise you, they really mean to praise God in you. When you understand this--and you should because 'what do you have that you did not recieve?'--you will not flatter yourself on the one hand and on the other hand you will not carry yourself with the thought of resigning from the ministry when you are insulted, reproached, or persecuted."

And from that scurrilous turncoat, Saul, I mean, Paul of Tarsus:

"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:12-14

Press on, Pastor! You are guarding your flock and staying true to the course.
Jon

Anonymous said...

A number of posters have stated that they are upset that the Kirk wants to leave the PCUSA. They take the position that polity overrides everything else. No one seems to care what the Kirk members want to do. They want to force us to stay in the PCUSA or lose our property. Do it our way, or else!

The disenchantment with the denomination by our congregation goes back almost 40 years to our founding. Members have felt the leadership did not care what we thought and they did not feel bad about making pompous statements that outraged many of us. Over the years many members left our church because they no longer wanted by be associated with the PCUSA. It seems our feelings and concerns are of no concern. To the contrary, we have been chastised and disciplined when we spoke out. We have been shunned by many in our Presbytery, even as we grew to become the largest church in the Presbytery.

These debates in the church have bled the life from the denomination as so many issues were forced upon congregations, whether we agreed with them or not. More time, money and energy of the church has gone into fighting over ordination issues than any other activity in recent years. Mission and evangelism has taken back seat to divisive political statements.

We are tired and worn out. We want to stop feuding and fussing. We want to devote 100% of our efforts to our missions and our programs.

It is obvious that we are never going to change the PCUSA, so the only hope for peace in our time is to leave. There are two ways to leave. We can leave as individuals (which many have already done) or we can leave as a congregation. We don't want to leave the church that we spent most of our adult lives building and paying for. In this church we baptized our babies, married our children, buried our parents and worshipped God for 40 years. Do you blame us for wanting to keep it?

An ordinary person would think that our fellow Christians would wish us well and be gracious. Certainly you could then say "good riddance" and we could all go back to doing the work of the Kingdom.

But apparently the leadership of the PCUSA is opposed to showing Christian love to fellow Presbyterians. They appear to believe that it is more important for them to have the money and the control even at the expense of making thousands of people miserable. Is this the way they interpret Christ's teachings? If so, do you wonder why we want to leave?

When individual members decide to leave to go to another church I always wish them well and pray that their spiritual needs will be met in their new church home. I am saddened that we let them down, but it is probably part of God's plan. Again, this is a concept that seems to be lost on Clifton Kirkpatrick, Joan Gray and other denominational leaders who have decided that under no circumstances will they show any mercy on those who want to leave.

I pray that this will not become a long drawn out fight. It certainly will be very public and I suspect that the average person will be for the underdog in this fight (if it comes to that.) The PCUSA and the EOP will look like pretty nasty people to the average person on the street. The sound bytes on the evening news will not be kind to them!

I also find it amazing that one of the bloggers talked about the importance of Social Justice. Where is the fairness and justice in the Book of Order paragraph on church property? It is so blatantly unfair that it may be illegal.

Enough of this beating up on the Kirk for not following a grievously flawed polity. Think about the people who are involved. We are not radical Muslim terrorists; we are just ordinary Presbyterians who don't happen to agree with the denominational leadership. We believe that we live in a free country where we don't have to be coerced to believe everything that comes out of Louisville.

God bless you one and all.

John Haley
Elder, Kirk of the Hills.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
TomGray said...

Dear Anonymous (amongst the many of you with that same name),
The Kirk is voting because the EPC requires a congregational vote before we can be received by them.
Tom

Anonymous said...

Dear Tom,

I'm the anonymous who began "Double standard indeed" and ended "God help us all, please!" I've not written the other anonymous postings.

I don't agree with your decision, or with your judgmental attitude about the majority of the PCUSA, but I respect the fact that you are determined.

May God bless you, your session, and those of your congregation who go along with your decision to leave. And may God bless those you are forsaking.

Presbyterian Parson said...

Would that a transfer to a different denomination be so simple as a session vote, but your split with the PCUSA will most likely cause a split within your own congregation, even if the dissenting group is a small minority. However when these cases go to the courts over property issues, minority groups that remain loyal keep the stewardship of the property, since the congregation has always cared for it on behalf of its owner, the presbytery. I suspect some kind of pathway could be found, such us purchasing the property from the presbytery so they would have the resources to begin a new church that remains loyal to the PCUSA. You may argue that taking this to court will reveal God's will on the property issue, however, you can read plenty of court precedence to see that God's will has already been revealed on this issue in the USA. Aren't we to be subject to those who govern according to Paul as Romans says, since they are instruments of God's will?

Anonymous said...

Tom:
So the vote is merely for the sake of EPC? Simply a formality? Then it's a done deal already and the congregation had no say in if they wanted to leave or not? Is that what you are saying? What happens if the vote is quite split? Does that mean anything?

As far as John Haley's comments go, I would agree if he was certain that there was 100% approval of the congregation. His opening paragraph assumes that is what ALL of the Kirk members want to do. There are other members who have also been there as long as he that might not be in firm agreement over this whole issue.

Anonymous said...

Amen to the wise and sound words of John Haley!

Public Theologian said...

Tom--

In the interests of maintaining consistency, since there are clearly members of the Kirk who do not want the church to leave the PCUSA, will you allow these people to have back what they have given to theclife of the church, be it a pew, the church organ, a parking lot or a donation to the endowment fund? If you found someone on the church property trying to take back what they gave, say, loading a piano onto a pickup truck, without first having gotten the session's authorization for doing such, would you observe the moratorium on pursuing legal action against such people who would simply be acting on their Christian convictions as you claim you are acting on yours, or would you take steps to secure what you understood to be the property of the body as a whole, incluidng using legal remedies, e.g. calling the police? Assuming you would refuse to stop such persons yourself, could you as the pastor unilaterally declare a moratorium on anyone else on the session or in the congregation from taking actions to prevent the removal of the community's property?

TomGray said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Classical Presbyterian said...

Public Theologian assumes too much. Like all of the people with the 'Louisvile Rules' mindset, he thinks that money given TO KIRK OF THE HILLS is money given to the denomination. This is utter baloney!

I'm sure that somewhere in this denomination there are a few people who give to a congregation, thinking and assuming that they are giving to the national entity in Louisville. But these folks must be just a handful. Frankly, I've never met one!

Public Theologian sounds a little desperate! His rhetoric persuades no one and just sounds like so many clanging cymbals of a dying institution.

Tom--Keep being faithful!

Bayou Christian said...

Tom,

I think the condemnation here should not be on you but on the institution that has made a work within for reform pastor like you vote to leave, and a work from within to reform pastor like me take pause and consider the meaning of "The Church".

Bless You,

BC

TomGray said...

To those expressing concern about members who disagree with the Kirk session's vote.

We are concerned for them, too. The last thing we wanted to do was hurt people within our own congregation. We desire to be as responsive to those who disagree as we can.

I don't think for a moment that we have 100% of the congregation behind us, but I would put the number in the 90s. This is based upon our previous congregational meeting on the property, where the vote was about 550 to 1, and the nightly meetings I've been holding at the Kirk, where there have been no negative comments.

When we took the vote to dissafiliate, it was clearly one that is not in the constitution of the PCUSA. Essentially, we chose to remove ourselves rather than ask for permission to be removed.

In terms of the property, we will still pursue our lawsuit to clear the title of our property (we are not asking for any damages, just for the removal of that document from the public record), and we are in contact with the presbytery at the same time to indicate willingness to negotiate.

Thanks for your posts.
Tom

Christopher A. Joiner said...

Tom,

My name is Chris Joiner, and I am a PCUSA pastor in Franklin, Tennessee. I found your blog through Presbyweb, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts, for what it's worth.

I am what many would call a moderate pastor, which means that many of my friends think I'm too conservative on some things, and other friends find me far too liberal on other things.

I have found a spiritual home in the PCUSA in large part because I feel that the Book of Order and the Book of Confessions express the will of God and are a faithful interpretation of scripture, and I am happy to submit to them and to guide my congregation by their lights. I am also gratified to be part of a church that believes in the sovereignty of God enough to declare itself "always being reformed accoding to the Word of God."

I believe that part of the genius of this particular expression of Christ's church is its ability to hold within itself varying theological, social, and political views while at the same time proclaiming a central truth concerning God the Father's love for the world poured out in Jesus Christ and sustained by the Holy Spirit.

I came away from the General Assembly with a deep sense that the church had listened carefully for the voice of God and had come up with a faithful response in the PUP report. I continue to believe that the actions of the Assembly, by God's grace, could guide us out of these conflict, if we but give them a chance.

I say all of that in order for you to understand the place from which I am coming.

I have read these posts, and believe that I am seeing the outline of a possible solution. You have mentioned that you are indicating a willingness to negotiate with your presbytery. I assume that means that you are willing to pay some compensation to the presbytery as a way of honoring your previous commitments as an ordained minister in this denomination and as a congregation that vowed to submit to the Constitution, and, by paying such compensation, would still be able to retain your property and move on to the next phase of congregational life in the EPC.

I truly hope that every presbytery will listen carefully for the voice of God when these situations present themselves, and see that trying to punish congregations by providing them no chance to compensate and retain property when it is clear that an overwhelming majority of the congregation seeks to disaffiliate, is counter-productive and less than Christ-like. Let me be careful to say that I believe the presbytery, and the PCUSA, clearly has a claim on your property. I think this claim is constitutional, and it is being affirmed in the courts, and will continue to be affirmed. Furthermore, this claim is theologically and ecclesially sound, in my opinion.

So what might it look like if the PCUSA recognized its claim through a negotiated settlement, and then released congregations that wish to leave with our prayers and blessings? What does it look like if we move beyond legalism to grace? What might happen if we empty ourselves of the need for vengeance and submitted to the pattern of Christ's own ministry? Well, I think it might look like the Church of Jesus Christ.

I am offended by many of the words you throw around, like "apostate," to describe this denomination. Even though those remarks have been clarified to mean "Louisville," that is a bit disingenuous and betrays an inadequate ecclesiology and understanding of our polity. But I do not dispute your right to those opinions, even if they are hurtful. And I do not dispute the right of your congregation to be able to move on with its ministry in a denomination that is clearly more in line with your identity. I hope the PCUSA rises to the challenge this presents to be Christ-like, and thus perhaps, in our actions, show that we remain a faithful manifestation of Christ's universal church, as do you.

Peace,
Chris Joiner

TomGray said...

Dear Public Theologian,
If you are a pastor (or have any close history to any congregation) you’ll know that, throughout the life of a congregation, people leave in anger for something the pastor said, the session decided, the firing of a staff person, et. al.

Did you or your pastor offer to give them back any money or items that they had donated to the church? If this were so, I’d be inclined to listen to you. Otherwise you’re just slapping me with a red herring.
Tom

Matt Ferguson said...

Tom, First I want you, Wayne and my brothers and sisters there at Kirk of the Hills to know I remember you in my prayers, as so many others are doing as well.
Second, for those reading this post and don't believer there is a double standard on the reply to the request for a moratorium by our Stated Clerk just go to the new article on The Layman's website titled "Unlike 1998 . . ." www.layman.org
Finally, to those who like to write anonymous notes---get some courage. There are some rare instances when one must remain anonymous but I don't see any here or in other blogs.

Anonymous said...

I have been a Christian and a member of a church for twenty-five years. All that time, I have given back to God a 10% tithe, plus contributing to building funds, mission funds, etc. At no time did I feel that I was giving this offering to the church directly, but to God to be used by my church to further His kingdom. To expect anything in return, beyond His grace toward me, is a ludicrous idea.

Public Theologian said...

Tom--

I am indeed a pastor, third generation, in fact. I was not trying to present a red herring but rather an argument by analogy, so I apologize if was obscure. Yes I have had disgruntled members, who in their leaving, wanted to take their gifts with them. I would not stand for this, any more than I imagine you would, for the same reason I suspect, which is namely because the gift, once given, belongs to the whole church and not to a part of that church.

That is the same principle that the denomination is operating under when it says that the Kirk just can't walk off with what has become the property of the whole PCUSA. And this is where I think Classical Presbyterian has missed the mark completely. Here is what we believe, what we all have affirmed in our ordination vows: We are one church--that does not flow from the property trust clause but from what we believe about the nature of the church as articulated in G-4.0301a. "The particular churches of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) wherever they are, taken collectively, constitute one church..."

If an individual believes that he or she is simply giving to the local congregation and not to a connectional church, he or she has failed to inform himself or herself about the nature of that church, or has been misled by its elders. The PCUSA could hardly be more explicit about how it understands the matter.

The theology behind that section in the BoO is at least as old as Presbyterianism itself, and certainly predates 1983. A blessing to one part of the church has always been understood as a blessing to all of us. A burden to one part of the church has always been understood as a burden to all of us. The denominational leaders in Louisville, as I see it, are doing what any good elder should o in whatever governing body they serve, which is to maintain what rightfully is the whole church's property as such. Failure to do this would be dereliction of duty.

To me this has less to do with the property than what it says about who we are. I am sure that the Kirk has fine valuable facilities, but I would be as opposed to letting you take it in the manner you are attempting to as I would if it were condemned hovel in the middle of nowhere.

By breaking faith with what we believe about the unity of the Church, the Kirk has called into question our identity as a people of faith. It is for that reason that many of us will use every measure at our disposal to see to it that this plan does not succeed, not because we expect any material gain (I've never even beem to Tulsa and have no plans of going there in the future), nor because we wish you or the Kirk any ill will but because failure to do so would be a capitulation of our ecclesiology.

The strange thing to me is that it was the very people who were saying this same thing about our ecclesiology prior to the most recent GA--that we are one church--who are now trying to leave, which makes their statements before the GA now ring hollow, as if we were only one church so long as they got their way.

Whatever one thinks about the liberals in the church, the pro-ordination side lost for 28 straight years and stayed connected to the church, not using its money to threaten everyone else when it did not get its way. I would ask that you reflect on this constancy when you make disparaging remarks about the people who are opposing your bid to take what they understand to be the whole church's property. Some of these people were on the losing side at the GA in 1978, the year before you were ordained. They did not take their churches out. They did not cut their per capita. They gave more, got more involved, and committed themselves further to working with people who loathed their ideas.

Thank you for taking the time to discuss this with me. I am sure you are very busy but still you have answered all of the comments here cordially, even when some of us have disagreed and been critical of your decision.

Larry said...

Public theologian seems to enjoy stirring up the pot with irrelevant examples of gifts. My dictionary defines a gift as:

"something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation"

I see no application of "gifts" to the issues you are facing.

Anonymous said...

Dear "public theologian?",
The question of whether to leave a church or not is serious and I do not believe you are being fair. Personally, I have to ask, "How is this matter affecting my Christian walk?"... and/or... "How is this affecting my children's Christian walk?"

In my opinion, the pro-ordination group had nothing to lose by staying...and everything to gain....because pro-gay theology like gay rights philosophy seeks not just tolerance but legitimization.

Thank you,

Janna "I know no one said life was fair" Geiger

Jim Loughlin said...

The pro-ordination side lost for 28 straight years because (from my understanding of the last 15 or so yrs.) overtures were sent to the presbyteries and they were voted down each time. That was because the majority saw the overtures as a serious departure from biblical standards. Now we have an approved change that has skirted the overture process which will allow ordination outside of Biblical standards.

Public theologian makes a statement somewhat along the lines of "now it's your turn". Since the folks who lost repeatedly did not try to leave, our church should not try to leave. As far as I know, we did not force those congregations to stay in the PCUSA during their years of defeat.

The issue here is Biblical Authority. From my perspective, it makes no sense to force congregations to stay together when they do not share foundational beliefs on Biblical Authority. You would not form a business partnership with someone who did not agree with you on the fundamentals of the business. We find ourselves at a serious point of divergence. It serves neither of us well to stay together.

person in the pew said...

Public Theologian states "the gift, once given, belongs to the whole church and not to a part of that church."

I respectfully suggest that you get out of the ivory tower and talk to some regular people in the real world. Most of the folks I know at church don't identify with the PCUSA and maybe not even the Presbyterian church. That's probably a good thing or many more of them would have been gone a long time ago.

Many people I know at my church (a large "mega-church") come from other backgrounds...Baptist, Methodist, etc... They come to my chuch because it has lots of good programs...youth groups, bible studies, choirs, etc... Most people are connected to the local church, not the denomination. I don't know how many times I can state this. I know that you pastors live and breath denominational issues but that just isn't how it is for the average person in the pew. When we give money, we are giving money for our local church's mission trips, programs, building fund, etc...not for the Presbytery, the Synod, or for Louisville.

Anonymous said...

"You may argue that taking this to court will reveal God's will on the property issue, however, you can read plenty of court precedence to see that God's will has already been revealed on this issue in the USA."

"I think this claim is constitutional, and it is being affirmed in the courts, and will continue to be affirmed."

Are you two only reading the info on precedent that the PCUSA has been disseminating? If you'd like some more recent information, why don't you look at what's gone on in the Episcopal Church. The first 3 churches that left the ECUSA and aligned themselves with dioceses in Africa after the events of the 2003 General Convention WON their first round in court.

http://www.americananglican.org/site/c.ikLUK3MJIpG/b.564003/apps/s/content.asp?ct=1729335

BTW - I have a good reason for being anonymous. I can't tell you the reason, of course, because then I'd have to kill you :-p

Nah . . . I'll come up with a nickname.

PJ said...

Regarding Public Theologian's comment "The theology behind [the property] section in the BoO is at least as old as Presbyterianism itself, and certainly predates 1983."

That's true... as far as it goes. It is, however, not the only theology of church property that is as old as Presbyterianism itself. There is another, one more concerned with the dangers of creeping episcopacy than with creeping congregationalism. It's a free church Presbyterianism that probably traces back to the English nonconformists as opposed to the Scots Auld Kirk traditon.

I know in the 70s, when the UPCUSA amended the constutition to make explicit which Presbyterian theology of church property ruled here, the trustees of my home church found it a dangerous innovation. They reacted by amending the congregation's articles of incorporation to make their understanding of the theology of church property.

It would be interesting to have an historical study of the influences that led to the property amendments in the 1970s. I suspect the dialogue Eugene Carson Blake began with the Episcopal Church in the 60s was an important influence in shaping the direction the UPCUSA leaders chose for their church.

From my limited contact with PCA folk, I know that property issues were at least as important in driving them from the Presbyterian Church as were ordination issues.

I suppose one could say "this was always our understanding; we just made it explicit in the late 70s." But then, evangelicals have been saying that about the "innovation" regarding homosexuality, and we know how enthusiastically Presbyterian Church leaders have been about enforcing that standard.

Anonymous said...

From the half-way pew . . .

I have attended the Kirk for about two years, in which time I have given, participated, prayed for, and been pleased by many things that this congregation, leadership included, has accomplished. I will admit that I am not a learned member of the Presbyterian church in any way--I grew up four-square--and didn't recognize the importance of many issues of this nature. However, despite the matters that I have disagreed with (and none of these would merit the conlusion of our relationship with the Kirk) I am confident in our pastors, their knowledge, their ability to seek God's will for the congregation, and furthermore their right as informed leaders to move upon those issues they see fit. If they had not, my wife and I would have left--spineless leaders such as those who have allowed Biblical authority to be conjoined with the "spiritual thoughts" of a fallen sinner (any human) will be subject to their own punishment in time.

Tom, Wayne, Jeff, and Dan have my full support and will continue to lead the congregation as God leads them. Sadly, this cannot be said of the PCUSA denomination as a whole: on what foundation will the local option championers stand, if not their own merits and human devices?

To be cliche', "for the Kirk and this house, we will continue to serve the Lord."

God be with you all,

Andrew Strong

Anonymous said...

You won't get damages, so you have no basis to ask for them. There was no tortious conduct by PCUSA.

At the end of the day, you've filed a preemptive lawsuit that won't fly. Better drag it out and try to settle.

NetProphet said...

Tom,

The full church last Sunday to me was a validation of the support for our church and your leadership. I have many friends, many of them pastors that have been watching and praying for our congregation. Many believers in other churches around Tulsa have contacted me and said they are excited about the movement in our congregation and realize it is the movement of the Holy Spirit. I feel like the members of our church are energized and ready to share the gospel to all nations. When Christ asked the rich ruler to leave his possessions to follow him he refused. Maybe this situation is symbolic of our willingness to potentially lose our church property. So what! By having these nice comfortable pews, I believe some of our members forgot that we are called to share the gospel outside the comfort zone of the building called the Kirk. I hate wasted effort and energy in dealing with things that in the end, really doesn't matter. This reminds me of the political campaigns I have witnessed and all the dialogue that was all ego-driven. I don't believe in the comments that people are making that have no idea or concern for the members of our congretation, but take an opposing position only because of tradition. I for one would like to use my energy to share the Good News and love of Christ to the world instead of worrying that the "my pew" in "my church" might be taken away from me.

Tom and Wayne, Thank you for your leadership. I warned you that we might lose members, oh well. I think we will have more people join our congregation now that we are making a stand. We need to make more room for new members to our congregation. I wouldn't lose sleep over the comments of your critics, especially Third Generation theologians! I am a lay person, not ordained, certainly not as educated and articulate. Perhaps Jesus can still use me anyway.

Presbyterian Parson said...

As a pastor, I do not live and breath denominational issues, in fact there is always some mopping up left to do in my congregation after GA meetings. I held my nose when Amendment B was passed as one of the most nonsensical theological positions for a Calvinist denomination, and continue to do so, in part because my take on Presbyterian history, is that sometimes the only thing that has held us together are the things we fight over. It could only take the love of an amazing God to put up with the likes of us. "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so," that has been about the only statement that the Bible makes that has ever held us together.

Classical Presbyterian said...

Tom,

With members like the ones who post here, the Lord has Kirk of the Hills in great shape!

Netprophet is ten times the theologian that Public Theologian is!

Ignore the petty critics, like Public Thelogian, and focus on the Kingdom and your future will be blessed!

Anonymous said...

"You won't get damages, so you have no basis to ask for them. There was no tortious conduct by PCUSA."

If you would look back through the blog and all of the conversation that has taken place, it has been stated numerous times that the Kirk IS NOT seeking damages. They have not claimed that they have been T-O-R-T-U-R-E-D (nice spelling, it's "tortuous") by the PCUSA, or anyone else.


"At the end of the day, you've filed a preemptive lawsuit that won't fly. Better drag it out and try to settle."

Actually, their lawsuit was responsive. The Presbytery filed an affadavit "declaring the presbytery's authority to limit the right of congregations to sell or encumber their church property and challenging the congregations' right to stake a claim to the property if its members voted to leave the Presbyterian Church (USA) (Layman.org, "Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery files
affidavits on local church property", click on underlined link "filed affadavits in all of its counties" to see the affadavit itself).

The Kirk is merely asserting that they own their property. They paid off the loan granted to them by the PCUSA to build the church decades ago, and they have paid for every addition and improvement since without the help of the denomination.

I don't know the rest of the details, but there's more that Pastor Tom can, AGAIN, explain since you either weren't paying attention, or just didn't care.

Don't you love how so-called "Christians" love to disseminate so many lies? Pastor Tom can explain, until he's blue in the face, that they're not after any damages. Yet we still get yahoos like this who will accuse people of nefarious deeds, hoping someone who doesn't know the facts will see what they've said, grasp onto it, and run with it.

I'm guessing Christ would be impressed.

Mark said...

Dear Tom,

That's really original, that "slapping me with a red herring" comment. I seem to remember I wrote the same thing about your game-playing under the "Waiting for airplane parts" blog not twenty-five hours before you decided to "slap" it to Public Theologian.

Next time, if you're going to borrow words from a liberal, use them properly. There was nothing misleading about what Public Theologian said. (That's what "red herring means" -- misleading.) You just don't agree with his point.

Now, how about a thoughtful response to Chris Joiner. I thought he had some good things to say.

In Christ,
Mark

TomGray said...

Mark,
I used "red herring" exactly as it is meant to be used. And I know I didn't coin the phrase "slap with a red herring." I've heard and read it many, many times before.
Tom

Anonymous said...

I'm the anonymous poster referring to damages.

A) Your own contributors made assertions regarding their desire for damages, hence my response.

B) I made no accuasation regarding whether Kirk's decision was good or bad in terms of religion. I'm talking about the law.

C) The assertion regarding the quiet title suit as a "response" is a bunch of malarkey. PCUSA had rights and asserted their rights. They never filed a quiet title suit, Kirk did. Spin it however you want, your argument doesn't make a bit of sense. But, please keep going for the spelling errors and accuasations regarding my own faith -- that certainly suits the style of some on here quite fine.

Anonymous said...

Moreover, the word is often spelled "tortious." Google it. Numerous OK Supreme Court opinions use that spelling. Microsoft Word rejects it, but that's hardly an authority.