Wednesday, August 30, 2006

THE Meeting

People started coming in around 5pm. The meeting was scheduled for 6:30. We had set up registration tables alphabetically and the lines became longer so, that by 5:45, there was a tail-back through the narthex of the Kirk.

Those who came early enough got to sit in “their” pews. Others had to make do. We asked people to squeeze toward the center so that we could fit more people into the sanctuary and balcony. Don’t tell the fire marshal this, since our sanctuary is “rated” for 750 people, but we packed in over 1,000. Non-members went to our Fellowship Hall where they watched through a live video feed.

I thought last Sunday was electric; nothing compared with tonight. People were talking excitedly. Those who greeted Wayne and me on the way in usually did so not only with a smile, but a “thumbs-up.” There were repeated ovations, some standing, throughout the meeting.

The voting began at 6:40, ten minutes late because our registration lines were slower than anticipated. The votes were three: first, we asked the congregation to concur with the session’s vote to disaffiliate. Second, we voted on affiliating with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Third, the congregation voted to affirm Wayne’s and my ordination.

Discussion was better than civil. People asked clarifying questions about denominational changes in the PCUSA. There were serious questions about the EPC, what it believes, and differences between the old denomination and the new. There were no voices in opposition.

When it came to the ordination issue, people asked if they could vote for one or the other of us (no), and whether or not we two would be a good match for the Kirk standards for pastor (apparently, yes).

The votes went as follows:

To disaffiliate from the PCUSA
Yes 967
No 36
Abstain 8

To affiliate with the EPC
Yes 973
No 31
Abstain 13

The vote for affirming the ordination of Wayne and me was done by acclamation, with a standing ovation. In fact, that ovation was one of several this evening, the most sustained one following our vote to disaffiliate. Another came after it was remarked that we were moving ahead to do what the Lord required, whether or not we retained our property. We informed the congregation that we will not go quietly in this respect, but it was not the deciding issue for us.

What I feel after all this is a bit of exhaustion, a deepened sense of love for my congregation (and from it) and for our staff. I also am beginning to feel a tremendous sense of freedom.

Keep praying--keep the faith,
Tom

39 comments:

Mark said...

I don't agree with it, but what's done is done.

May God bless you in your new ministry as an EPC congregation. May God bless the Presbytery of Eastern Oklahoma as it ministers to those members of The Kirk who choose to remain PCUSA. And may God bless the courts who will hear and decide upon the property lawsuit.

Faithfully yours in Christ,
Mark

Richard Wilson said...

You are to be congratulated on the success of your campaign although it was a disappoinment to me that so low a percentage of your membership voted.

I remain saddened by the manner of your departure and perhaps somewhat cynically I must say that while you have accused EOP of following an alledged game plan to the letter I could not help but notice that you have followed The Layman Game Plan to the letter!

I will and hopefully all Presbyterians and all of our other brothers and sisters in Christ will continue to pray for the whole body of Christ's Church!

Richard Wilson

Anonymous said...

Hang in there, as a former member I know one thing about the power base of the PCUSA, it is all about the power and money, they may have one, but not the other.

Their so called liberal compassion and understanding at the expense of the of the faithful believing members of the Bible are coming to an end, and they know it.

Dave Moody said...

Tom,
Barb and I were at the innagural consecration fo the AMiA (Anglican Mission in America) in 1999/2000. It was one of the most joyful, freedom filled worship services I've ever experienced. The only word I can use to describe it was an exuberant freedom centered on the cross and gospel. It sounds as if the saints at the Kirk have experienced something similar. God's grace, wisdom and the humility of Christ be with you as you follow our Lord in the coming days. And- I'm glad we're still on the same team- the church militant!

grace & peace,
dm

Dan Dermyer said...

Tom, Wayne and Kirk,
Congratulations for the work so far. Thousands (more?)have been waiting to see what would happen.

Thanks for the quick report. God bless you as you walk with Him.
grace, always

Anonymous said...

For a (now even more officially) "schismatic" Presbyterian (from a "schismatic" Episcopalian) I have four words:

THANKS BE TO GOD!

Go take one well deserved rest.

G.A.C.

Anonymous said...

May God bless you and your congregation. You all remain in our prayers as you take this corageous move as a testimony of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and in support of the Living Word, the inerrant Gospel of Salvation. Put on the full armour of God as the forces of Satan driving the apostasy of the PCUSA and heresy therin begin their deliberate and un-Christian campaign against you, your session and your members. For them, it is all about property and money, and nothing about God. We remain in faithful prayer for you in these trying times. May God give you the courage and strength to carry out the Great Commission in His way, and not in the pagan ways of the world.

Chuck Larsen said...

Dear Tom,
Nancy and I have been following your church navigating through the mine field of the PCUSA. We continue to pray and wish you all well in the days ahead.

Sincerely,

Chuck Larsen

Chuck Larsen said...

Dear Tom,

We left the PCUSA 5 years ago for the PCA and our Worship Experience has increased and our blood pressure decreased. You did a brave, noble and needed thing.

Sincerely,

Chuck Larsen

JohnK said...

Tom,
Thanks for your Godly stand. You, Linda, and the people of Kirk are in my prayers (Is 54:17). God richly bless and keep (shamar)you, John

Anonymous said...

YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And I am proud to be a part of something larger than the petty arguments that still do encompass the secular things of a church that SHOULD be out doing God's work; they speak of things nobly, but have broken the back of the MISSION of the PCUSA: to preach the Bible, and that truth alone to ALL men(pardon me for not being PC) (worldwide).

Excited!

Andrew Strong

Renee Guth said...

May the Lord richly bless you all and your ministries for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ!

In His love,
Renee

mark hildebrand said...

I was heartened as our congregation met to vote on such an important issue: Will we affirm the inerrancy of Scripture? I am glad to know that we are of one mind.

I also was encouraged that the questions raised in the discussion of issues were directed toward how we will proceed during this interim period, NOT inflammatory barbs directed toward those who disagree with our decision. Now our charge is clear:

"Be ready at a moment's notice to give an account of the hope that you have (in Christ), but do it with all gentleness and respect."
1 Peter 3:15

Mark

TomGray said...

Mark,
Thank you for such a gracious response,
Tom

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

Dear Richard,
We were actually pleased with the attendance. Most congregationas, inluding ours, at tiems, have trouble getting 10% of the congregation our for a meeting.
The importance of this one brought out all that we could possibly seat in our sanctuary.
We have five services every Sunday because of this space limitation.
The only plan we followed was our own. I will say this, though, about the Layman (and us). Our "plans" and conversations have been public, which is in great contrast tot he behind-closed-doors secrecy of the PCUSA.
Tom

TomGray said...

Dear Chuck,
Thanks for your notes. I've appreciated your insightful and supportive comments through the years.
Tom

Quotidian Grace said...

I regret loosing the vibrant witness of the Kirk in the PCUSA. We will miss you all.

I pray that a reasonable settlement of the property issues will be made, so that court action is avoided and all parties can return to the important work of spreading the gospel of Christ to a world that needs it.

Anonymous said...

What is so electric about leaving behind fellow Presbyterians that you have said you love so dearly. Seems that you have a beef with the National Church so let's cut ties with all Presbyterians in Oklahoma. What did we do wrong, except guilty by association. I see nothing electric or exciting about being tossed to the curb. Years of friendship and mutual minstry flushed down the toilet. Thank you so very much for punishing us and causing this great grief all because of a handful so where else.

Mrs. Neyman

Daniel Berry said...

I still remember what it felt like when our presbytery in eastern Virginia finally dismissed the Northampton Presbyterian Church to the EPC, and I stood in my sanctuary and announced to the congregation: "Tonight, we are worshipping as members of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church." There was applause. It was a special moment. May your sense of exhilaration and freedom continue! On that evening, I never expected to be aPC(USA) pastor again. Today, I never expect to be an EPC pastor again. For me, it's been a strange journey indeed! You and your congregation will be in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

Richard Wilson,

I don't think we had a surprisingly low turnout. With over 1000 members voting in person (proxies are not allowed by our bylaws) this is almost 40% of our members. Many of our members had work, business trips, or other obligations. Many more of our members have left, but have either not informed the Kirk, or not yet transfered their membership. For example, my own 2 children now live out of town, and thus could not attend the meeting, but are still members. So, in my family, only 50% could vote. Many other families and members are in similar situations.

I am sorry that you are saddened by the manner of our departure from the PCUSA. I am saddened that it was necessary. While we may (or may not) have "followed The Layman Game Plan," we have done what we did as a reasoned and reasonable response to the secretive actions of the EOP and PCUSA and to the very real threat of having EOP take over our vibrant, evangelical, Bible-based, church and effectively kill it. (I do not contend that EOP would intend to kill the Kirk, just that that would be the result if they took over.) Perhaps we were wrong; perhaps EOP would have graciously let us leave with our property intact, and defied PCUSA national, but I doubt it. PCUSA national has stated, for the record, that a Presbytery that lets the property go without payment would itself be taken over by the Synod or by PCUSA national. It is a risk that I, for one, am not willing to take. I applaud the actions of our Session, Tom, Wayne, the rest of the staff, and, ultimately, the congregation.

Now it is time for us to move on. God's call is clear "Go, make disciples of all nations." Now we are free to do that.

In God's love,
Bill Underwood

KTate said...

Tom,
As I drove up to the Kirk last night, I could not help the tears of joy the welled up in my eyes. I struggled to find a parking spot... and I was 45 minutes early.
Walking into the church, I escorted a woman from the community coming to watch from fellowship hall and to offer support and prayers. She was another confirmation that there are many people behind our move and from those many people, many prayers.
I am extremely proud of the decision the Kirk made last night. The attendence and the palpable joy in the atmosphere reminded me that regardless of what happens to our property, our Church -the people- will remain a solid group dedicated to following God.
May God continue to bless you, Wayne, Dan, Jeff, and the staff as you lead us in the days ahead!

In Christ,
Kenna Tate

Anonymous said...

Kirk of the Hills Church,
As a former United Presbyterian, the denomination that in l958 merged with the Presbyterian USA, I am pleased you dared to leave. Our dear friends in Ellinwood, Ks. have a daughter, son-in-law and childen members of your church. Through them, we are following your actions. My wife and I left the Presbyterian church many years ago.We are now North American Baptists. It was hard as my heritage had been Presbyterian from the l9l4, and Associate Presbyterian before that. I had attended a Presbyterian college, Sterling College, and several of my college friends became Presbyterian ministers. I get the Presbyterian Layman each month and I have noticed that the main thrust of the denomination now is money, property, and power. Most of the leaders have forgotten the saving blood of Jesus Christ as the center part of any denomination. You are in our prayers and we pray that the courts will allow you to keep the property. Isn't it interesting what non-Christians must think when church denominations like the Presbyterians are so mean and ugly to other Christians like your church who want to spread the gospel and save souls. May God bless you greatly.

Don Learned
Great Bend, Ks.
dandelearned@cox.net

Anonymous said...

Tom, although I did not attend the meeting of the congregation, it was reported that you said "The Cumberland Presbyterian Church is no more. They have united with the PCUSA." I saw a reference to that same thought on one of your earlier blogs. Is that what you said? If so, where did you get your information? The CPC did meet in Birmingham, in the same convention center and at approximately the same time as the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America and the Presbyterian Church(USA). The three denominations shared worship, but committee and plenary meetings were separate. And, furthermore, there was no discussion of reunion.

When a man of your position speaks, many people believe him, even if what he says is not true. When untruth is presented as truth, misunderstanding and chaos abound, ample evidence of which we have seen recently.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that Kenna Tate encourages the pastors and staff, but does not expect much from the Session and Trustees. Maybe it is recognized they will only do what is asked of them by the pastors and staff.

TomGray said...

Dear anonymous (re. Cumberland)
I may have been completely wrong. If so, it is my mistake, not an attempt at deliberate untruth. I'll check my facts on this.
Tom

TomGray said...

Dear anonymous,
Kenna is being encouraging to the whole church. We understand this, even if you choose not to.
I'd love to have the kind of power you attribute to me. I wish you could have attended some of our meetings. Our elders, deacons, and trustees truly lead! Any church would be blessed to have such people in charge.
Tom

thomas said...

Even though I live in Washington for now, I'm a member of a Presbyterian church in Oklahoma (Indian Nations Presbytery).

I'm saddened by the state of our denomination, and I'm praying for you and the Kirk as you make the transition to a denomination that is faithful to Scripture and the Lord Jesus.

I'm also saddened that you were forced by the EOP and national PCUSA to resort to secular legal action, and I know this saddens the Lord as well. However, it seems like your actions were indeed forced, and so I look for a time we Christians can put this behind us and get back to the business of calling the nations to faith in Christ.

Under grace,
Thomas

Jon Thomasson said...

Tom,
I am excited about Kirk's move and vote last night. The PCUSA has not lost a vibrant witness, but gained a brave example leading the way out.

As any evangelical PCUSA pastor knows from experience, their closest relationships are often not with other PCUSA churches in their presbytery (which are often liberal), but with other nearby evangelical churches (which are likely not PCUSA). The only thing lost is that you and your folks won't be able to attend presbytery, synod, and General Assembly meetings anymore. Hurrah!

Dean Weaver said...

Tom, Wayne and Kirk Family,

Thank you for the gracious and transparent look into the heart of this wonderful congregation.
Your humility and faithfulness is evident and honoring to the Lord.
We are with you!
Blessings!
-Dean Weaver

Classical Presbyterian said...

I am so thankful that things were led by the Spirit last night!

The absence of contention and the near unanimity of desire will validate your efforts and bless the congregation for decades in the future!

I agree with Dave Moody's comment---I am thankful for your newfound freedom and am glad that you all still remain our brethren in the universal Church, reformed and alwaya reforming according to the Word of God.

Godspeed with your proclamation of the Gospel!

Your Brother in Christ,

--Toby Brown

jdmiller@firstchurchtulsa.org said...

Tom and Wayne,

With a deep sense of sadness at your departure, I pray the Lord's blessing on the Kirk and your continued ministry. And I'm sure that you will pray for us. Our mutual service to Christ and His work continues, as does our friendship.

J.D. Miller

TomGray said...

Dear Jim,
Thank you so much for your kind note. I know that you have been between a rock and a hard place in this whole situation. It's not been easy for us, and we've not made it easy for you.
I value your thoughts and advice. You personally stood by us in difficult times, even though you deeply disagreed. May the Lord continue to bless you and your ministry.
Tom

Julius Marx said...

Mrs. Neyman-

You asked in your comment what was so elecric about leaving "those prebyterians we love so dearly". Just because we have chosen to leave the PCUSA, it does not mean our love for brothers and sisters in Christ leaves as well. As a matter of fact, I would say our hearts have probably become more burdened with love for you all who have chosen to stay within the denomination.

It was electric because for the first time in years, we feel like we can finally get on with the work God has called all of us to do without the worry of beaurocracy and red tape and comittees that do not share the same biblical truths that we do.

It was electric because, well, to be honest, we are a little nervous stepping out in faith, but we know it's the right direction to go.

like you said, maybe you have done nothing wrong, and it's just guitly by association. Or maybe we are all guilty by not stading up and telling them to change the direction of the ship and go back to the Bible!

Mrs. Neyman, please know all of us here at the Kirk are praying for you and every other PCUSA church, that if you are called to stay and fight, that God would give you a voice that can be heard.

John MacEnhill said...

You have gone the way of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.

Such a shame. I cannot say "God bless you in your new ministry," because it appears that He would not.

You will no doubt justify your sin by preaching observance to the Law -- like the Pharisees.

Anonymous said...

John,

What an ignorant, mean-spirited comment. You clearly have no idea what is going on and the love the pastors, elders, and congregation have for the Lord and his ministry. Your response just shows why the Kirk has to leave PCUSA and continue forward in our ministry ordained by Christ.

P.W.

Classical Presbyterian said...

John,

Ditto to P.W.'s comment! Your argument is ridiculous, mean and just plain corrupt!

So, being true to God's Word is now rebellion? Following Christ is disobedience?

Your comments do not pass the smell test, O clanging cymbal!

Anonymous said...

One question (not a hostile one, just an honest legal question).

Since the pastors are no longer PCUSA ministers and could not legally moderate a congregational meeting, what's to prevent someone (with standing) to simply file a legal actions against this process and muddy the waters?

I don't wish to argue right or wrong, but it does seem that they would have an almost lock tight case. They way you did it makes the whole process illegal by PCUSA polity.

ChadWhitten said...

In that my ballot was perhaps the first cast in on August 30, 2006, I feel a certain kinship to Confederate Army Lieutenant Henry S. Farley who pulled the lanyard on his mortar in 1861 and fired the first shot at Fort Sumter. It is an honor and pleasure to serve Christ under the leadership of Rev. Tom “Bobby Lee” Gray.

Chad Whitten