Thursday, August 17, 2006

Somber Thoughts

Now that the Kirk has taken the step of disaffiliation, and Wayne and I have renounced jurisdiction (resigned) from the PCUSA, I’ve had just a little time to reflect on the immensity of all this.

I have some worries—I’ll list them in order.
  • I worry that the presbytery may follow the PCUSA "game-plan" and go through our congregation trying to find people opposed to our decision and drive them further apart from us. This seems more directly schismatic than what we’ve done already. Our presbytery hasn’t had a history of being vindictive or petty, but the worry is still there.
  • I worry about the stress on our congregation. Since we’ve not gone through “the process” there is the possibility of litigation (the same threat existed in the process, as well). We’ll see.
  • I worry about people in the Kirk who will be angry and feel alienated by our decision. Some will leave; every loss will hurt.
  • I worry about the stress on our staff. We have an already heavy schedule doing what we always do. The added stress won’t help.
  • I worry about Lynette and Chrissie (Wayne’s wife and mine). They have to bear the negative comments, etc. that will come, without being able to do anything about it.
  • I worry about other congregations who are where we are or just about there—especially smaller congregations with fewer resources.
  • I worry about the stress on Wayne and me. Wayne has John to worry about on top of everything else. I’ve got arthritis that loves to flare up with stress.
  • I worry a little about personal finances—mostly about retirement, since it’s not that far away and we don’t really know the effect renouncing our jurisdiction will have.

Now, for what I don’t worry about.
  • I don’t worry about the future of the church. God will bless our actions.
  • I don’t worry about the Kirk’s finances. Our congregation has always been faithfully generous.
  • I don’t worry about the cats—they’ll just keep shedding incredible amounts of fur on everything in sight.
  • I don’t worry about what people think of me as a pastor or us as a church; I’m satisfied that we’ve done the right thing.
  • I don’t worry about the property because God’s will shall prevail.
  • I don’t worry about our future ministry. The release from the sense of oppression of the last few years (and the last few months, in particular) will energize us.

I'm also sad.
  • I'm sad about leaving many wonderful Christians and congregations I have worked with in Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery in the past 24 years. These fine folk are NOT the enemy.
  • I'm sad for the continued erosion of Biblical principles in the PCUSA--this will affect generations of members who think they're being taught the whole truth.
  • Again, I'm sad for the pain this may cause for people I love and care about.

I don't want any of you thinking that I'm somehow overwhelmed with worry. In fact, I'm much more at peace after the decision than I was before it. As I look back on this list I see that the balance leans sharply toward a positive future for the Kirk. All we have to do is put one foot in front of the other as we move through what will, temporarily, be a difficult time.

Keep praying—keep the faith,
Tom

23 comments:

Brian Huddleston said...

While it was a big surprise, especially since all the talk was along the lines of the NWI becoming a separate Presbyterian denomination that we would likely join, the Session did the right thing under the circumstances.

Yesterday, The Kirk's "Quiet Title" lawsuit against the Presbyterian Church, and the Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery of the PCUSA, was filed in Tulsa. It looks like the possibility of litigation is a reality. It can be both a shield and a sword. We'll see.

In the mean time, I am reading up on what it means to be in the EPC. So far, I like what I see.
In Trust,
Brian

EPC Ruling Elder said...

While reading the Layman Online during lunch today, I discovered your Session's decision. As a Ruling Elder in the EPC's Presbytery of the West and former Clerk of Session it is my hope and prayer that your congregation find much in our denomination that they like as they explore us. I encourage your members to check us out at www.epc.org. They may find things with which they do not agree, and in the EPC that's okay! But we do hold firmly to our Essentials of Our Faith. I suspect that your congregants do so already and don't even know it.

As you are very well aware you and your congregation are now fully engaged in open spiritual warfare. I am very sorry to hear that you have to take your case to the secular courts. We will be praying for you and for your Presbytery.

And when the time comes, please feel welcome in the EPC family of churches. We hope that you will feel "at home" with us.

goulagirl77 said...

what is a quiet title lawsuit?

Anonymous said...

As a member of a small PCUSA congregation in North Carolina that is generally fed up with the denomination, I read your blogs with much interest. I believe our congregation will be following in your footsteps, so to speak. I pray for the true church, yours and mine and all the others that are seeking God's will for their decisions. God bless you for your courage and faithfulness to his word!
Toni in NC

Mike said...

No surprize whatsoever. Have been reading this blog for the past 90 day and it the journey started with all of this inevitably brought today's message - we are disassociating ourselves from the PCUSA - two quick thoughts - Hurrah - you had the courage to leave the denomination I have come to learn you hate despite your words to the contrary. Second - Now do you have the courage to go peaceable - meaning abide by the Constitution of the Denomination you were apart of for over 25 years - but now disassociated yourself from - and not fight the property issue (nah - not that courageous). I do note that you still have a call - Funny how God didn't call you to depart the call of a legitimate Presbyterian Congregagtion until you lead them out of the denomination - and indeed mysterious that God now calls you to a new Church - no - the old church - but you changed it.

Mike

Non-random Thoughts said...

Godspeed Tom. Godspeed Wayne.

TomGray said...

For goolagirl77, a quiet title is a suit asking the court to remove the affidavit which is impeding the title of the church's property. We asked the presbytery to do this, and they refused, hence the quiet title action.
Tom

TomGray said...

Mike,
You sound angry--I'm sad that's the case for you. We have done what we feel is best in light of the denomination's stated plan of action.
Regardless of what you think, this is not what we wanted, nor has it been easy.
Tom

Mike said...

Tom

Not angry in the way you think- and just because I disagree doesn't mean I am angry - more disillusioned than anything -
quiet title lawsuit - impossible when it is all over the blog - and of course the accusation that somehow the PCUSA will do the wrong thing - I am sorry - what is the right thing - The Constitution of the PCUSA is very clearly stated in Chapter Eight - suddenly you feel that can be disregard because it is in your best interest. Even more- your response to goulagirl wasn't all that honest- The Presbytery can't do what you asked, because the Book of Order doesn't allow for what you asked. I notice that important and pertinent peice of information was left out when you responded to her question. It doesn't become anyone to speak 1/2 truths - and this blog is full of them.


Mike

NetProphet said...

Mike,

Please review the following what the definition of what a quiet title is. I thought it would be helpful. Quiet does not refer to open discussion.


An action to quiet title is a lawsuit brought in a court having jurisdiction over land disputes, in order to establish a party's title to real property against anyone and everyone, and thus "quiet" any challenges or claims to the title. It comprises a complaint that the ownership (title) of a parcel of land or other real property is defective in some fashion, typically where title to the property is ambiguous - for example, where it has been conveyed by a quitclaim deed through which the previous owner disclaims all interest, but does not promise that good title is conveyed. Such an action may also be brought to dispel a restraint on alienation or another party's claim of a nonpossessory interest in land, such as an easement by prescription.

Other typical grounds for complaint include:

adverse possession where the new possessor sues to obtain title in his or her own name;
fraudulent conveyance of a property, perhaps by a forged deed or under coercion;
Torrens title registration, an action which terminates all unrecorded claims;
treaty disputes regarding the boundaries between nations;
tax taking issues, where a municipality claims title in lieu of back taxes owed;
boundary disputes between states, municipalities, or private parties;
surveying errors.
Unlike acquisition through a deed of sale, a quiet title action will give the party seeking such relief no cause of action against previous owners of the property.

TomGray said...

Mike,
The denomination CAN do what it wants. There is precedence. Also, consider how the denomination has already selectively enforced the constitution.
Tom

Anonymous said...

Mike,
Please use something close to proper punctuation if you wish to inform people with your thoughts. Excessive hyphens are only confusing, and don't help your case.

Mark Smith said...

Just a heads-up - you might want to make sure that a significant portion of your congregation agrees with the decision.

There's already been a note on Presbynet from a member who is upset about the decision.

PCUSA Elder said...

I am very excited for you and your church. I know that you and your session have struggled with this decision, and it is my belief that you made the right one in this denomination that has rejected the authority of Scripture.

It is my hope that in the coming months, we will find out that New Wineskins will partner with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church - I feel that the Essential Tenets are similar, and that the missional ideas of New Wineskins will be able to complement and add value to the EPC. Many churches are waiting for an opportunity and a vehicle to leave together, and the EPC is a great denomination.

It is my goal to leave you and your session with a message of comfort. Do not worry about property and lawsuits and persecution - focus on the peace that comes from Christ Jesus. In fact, you should savor the persecution that may come from standing up for what you believe.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4:6-7


May God be with you and your Session,

A Current PCUSA Elder

Anonymous said...

As a Methodist, I am glad to see that your congregration has the courage to do the right thing. God's word is the constant; we are to be Christian's* FIRST and Methodists or Presbyterians or (fill in your denomination here) second. I love my church, but the denomination didn't die for my sins, Jesus did.

I will pray for you and your congregration. God will bless you all for doing the right thing, as opposed to the easy thing.

* i.e. all have sinned & deserve death, Jesus died for our sin and we must confess w/ our mouth and believe in our heart in order to be saved (a paraphrase of Romans, w/ apologies to Paul.)

The Lynn/Coon Family said...

I am not a member of your church, but I want you to know that I support your decision to follow what the Bible teaches. I am praying for you, your wives and your church. And God will bless you for following His word and not the world's system.

In Jesus' name,
Kahri Lynn

Anonymous said...

Pastor Tom,
While I wholeheartedly stand in favor of the session's decision to leave the PCUSA--indeed, the Kirk's denominational affiliation caused serious hesitation for me when we first joined the church because of its reputation for not upholding Scripture--I am concerned about the property issues. I understand that the Kirk owned its property prior to the PCUSA's founding and the creation of the constituional provision regarding property trust. Nevertheless, hasn't the Kirk has operated under that constitution for over 20 years? That would seem to at least imply compliance, whether explicit or not. Is it then ethical to dispute it now?
I believe that the gracious and godly action for the presbytery and the denomination would be to allow member churches to choose their future affiliations without material reprisal, but that does not seem likely. Still, I am uncomfortable taking disputes between believers to secular courts. Does 1 Corinthians 6 not apply here?
I have the greatest respect for your wisdom and integrity and hope you will find time to respond. I pray God's peace and strength for you in this time.

Anonymous said...

We'll all keep praying. Thanks for the couragous leadership, and know that there are many who are proud of what you are doing as a staff.


Peace

Anonymous said...

Dear Pastor Tom,
Ever since our church visited the new wineskins convocation, we have been in prayer for you and Kirk of the Hills. While we continue to hope that the evangelicals unite and fight, the recent meetings of the PC (split and directionless)and the pgf (rediscovering missions while sacrificing theology) have proven futile to deal with the crisis of conscience to remain faithful in the pc(usa).
We commend you for your faithfulness to your witness for the gospel and will continue to pray for you as you follow Jesus. HE IS THE SACRIFICE

Anonymous said...

Mike-

"The Presbytery can't do what you asked, because the Book of Order doesn't allow for what you asked. I notice that important and pertinent peice of information was left out when you responded to her question. It doesn't become anyone to speak 1/2 truths - and this blog is full of them."

As long as the Presbytery allows itself to be guided by the Book of Order above all else, it will not be a Christian church, but merely a political movement. In order to be a Christian Church, the PC would need to be guided by the Bible first.

It is within the Bible that we find the Word of God, NOT within the Book of Order. Both the intentionally errant and the faithful pastors change the Book of Order for many reasons. But the Bible does not change, and the Bible is inerrant.

Your comments never mention the authority of the Bible. Only the Book of Order. I think that says a lot about your personal beliefs and the motivations behind your responses. If anyone is telling 1/2 truths (or untruths, for that matter), it is not the author of this blog.

Larry said...

As an elder in the PCUSA, I support the decision made by Kirk of the Hills. Now other churches need to step forward with similar pronouncements.

Georgem said...

FYI to all you who think your purpose is to criticize Mike. This is a blog which means short hand to make a point. I am a member of the Kirk of the Hills. I have concerns about what and how we are doing things. But it concerns me even more when we attack a person for posting a view. I thought we were Christians not attack dogs.

GM

Anonymous said...

If push comes to shove, Kirk will lose any quiet title suit. The best bet is a negotiation.