Sunday, August 27, 2006

A Summary Statement

Some are asking why we have not gone through the constitutional process to ask for dismissal from the presbytery. What we did was consciously different.

The constitutional process would have inevitably resulted in removal of the Kirk pastors, as well as the elected elders of the Kirk. This would mean that the denomination would move in literally to operate all aspects of Kirk of the Hills.

We did not leave PCUSA because we were tired of being Presbyterian, nor because we are politically, or socially different from them. Rather, after decades of moving in a direction away from Scripture, as well as traditional and Christian tenets, the official act of departure from Scripture occurred at this last General Assembly. It was an official decision and order over the church (an Authoritative Interpretation) that directly and purposefully contradicts not only the clear meaning of Scripture, but its authority. The General Assembly has effectively opened the door for elected officers of the church to believe almost anything, even if it is in direct contradiction with Scripture.

We at the Kirk are holding to what Scripture clearly teaches. The PCUSA has left this critical foundation. We, therefore, no longer recognize the authority of the PCUSA over any congregation that chooses to hold to the traditional authority of Scripture, as once held by the PCUSA. While not all congregations like us have made this move, many are preparing for it. For those who stay with the denomination, it is a tacit, yet conscious, affirmation of the denomination’s departure from Truth.

We therefore disaffiliated from the PCUSA, forming Kirk of the Hills Corporation, an independent congregational church, built on Presbyterian structure and Reformed theology. We anticipate soon reuniting with the faithful Presbyterian church by seeking admission into the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.
Tom

15 comments:

NetProphet said...

Tom,

In response to Dr.Mom from the previous series of comments to your blog. Dr. Mom needs to be better informed about the "pulse" of fellow believers before complaining about the bias of your blog. I am proud that you have the guts to take pot shots from people that have no clue what is really going on. As you and Wayne have taught us from the pulpit, we should always check out the story for ourselves. If Dr. Mom would read other sources such as www.layman.org they would realize that the Kirk is not alone in our dismay with the PCUSA. Other churches are creating their exit strategy from the denomination. It is interesting that PCUSA has taken proactive, aggressive legal actions to punish any dissenting churches. This can be documented by the www.layman.org a website not endorsed or funded by the Kirk. If people did their homework and came to an informed decision about this situation, they would find that you and Wayne have been very open and honest to the events leading up to this point. I wish people read everything they can about the issues and be more informed before they make such comments like Dr. Mom has made.

NetProphet said...

Tom,

Your readers might be encouraged by this recent development in New York regarding church property.

N.Y. judge rules church
separating from PCUSA
can keep its property

By John H. Adams
The Layman Online
Thursday, August 24, 2006
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A state judge in New York's Supreme Court system has ruled that the Hudson River Presbytery has no claim to the property of the now independent Church of Ridgebury.

The decision was a big, if temporary, victory for a tiny congregation – membership 29 at the end of 1995, according to PCUSA records – that voted unanimously on Jan. 10, 2005, to leave the Presbyterian Church (USA).

The leaders of the congregation announced their departure by warning that any attempt by the presbytery or the denomination to claim the church's property "will be deemed slander of title, compensable by damages, and any entry onto Ridgebury Church property by any officer and/or agent of the Presbytery of Hudson River shall be deemed criminal trespass."

The presbytery and the Rev. Richard H. Spierling, chairman of the presbytery's administrative commission, were undeterred. They filed a lawsuit claiming that the property belongs to the denomination. The complaint named as the defendants individual trustees, a denominationally recommended strategy intended to warn elders and trustees that they could incur personal liability amounting to thousands of dollars each if they persisted in their local church ownership claims.

But New York Judge John K. McGuirk ruled on behalf of the congregation on August 15, issuing a 10-page decision that declared that the Ridgebury congregation was not obligated to submit to the hierarchical claims of the denomination.

Deciding the case under "neutral principles of law," as recommended by the U.S. Supreme Court, McGuirk turned aside the PCUSA's argument that it is the rightful owner of the property under the denomination's property trust requirement in chapter 8 of the Book of Order.

Under New York law, McGuirk said, "It is hornbook [rudimentary] property law that only the owner of real property can convey an interest in the property; B cannot create a future interest in A's property without A's consent." McGuirk said the congregation's property deeds never mentioned the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Attorneys for the presbytery and the PCUSA argued that Ridgebury silently assented to the trust clause for 25 years before voting to leave the denomination.

McQuirk acknowledged that there was some legitimacy to that argument. However, he ruled, "mere silence and continuing its membership in the denominational church, absent more, is an insufficient expression of an intent to express a trust."

His ruling cited section 13 of New York's Restatement of Trusts: "[a] trust is created only if the settler properly manifests an intention to create a trust relationship." He also cited a comment on that section: "[t]he manifestation of intention requires an external expression of intention as distinguished from undisclosed intention."

"The only affirmative actions on defendants' part on this subject since 1981 were their explicit manifestation not to hold their property for the benefit of plaintiffs," McQuirk said.

The attorney for Ridgebury is Don Nichol of Jacobowitz & Gubits, Walden, N.Y., who also represented Circleville Presbyterian Church during its separation process from the Presbytery of Hudson River. After a 72-2 congregational vote in December 2002 to leave the PCUSA, Circleville negotiated its dismissal by paying the presbytery $112,000 - then the equivalent of $1,120 per member. Circleville is now affiliated with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

Some of Nichol's strategies for litigation include a historic overview of Presbyterian understanding of property ownership. In a commentary published recently on The Layman Online, Nichol cites statements in The Book of Confessions that he says support a local congregation's ownership of its property when those claims are challenged by the denomination. The Book of Confessions and the Book of Order together make up the Constitution of the PCUSA.

Presbyterians have always considered the highest authority is Scripture, with the confessions second and the Book of Order third.

Nichol was on vacation Thursday and could not be reached for comment.

The presbytery posted a copy of the decision on its Web site and a brief note saying that the "Presbytery Council will now be reviewing options. Please keep all parties in your prayers for the peace, unity and purity of the Church."

It was signed by Spierling, a minister who was once excluded from membership in the Presbytery of Palisades in a disciplinary action; Hudson River's new executive presbyter, former General Assembly Moderator Susan Andrews; and the presbytery's stated clerk, Harriet Sandmeier.

The Layman Online contacted Spierling's church office today and asked that he return the call. He did not.

NetProphet said...

I apologize to Dr. Mom, I meant to point out,

To anonymous (2:07 August 27, 2006)

regarding the comments,

Anonymous said...
Interesting how you will only let the comments that agree with your position be posted on your blog. Shame on you.

2:07 PM, August 27, 2006

What blog have you been reading?
Tom has been very willing to post other view points!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Tom. I must say that I was doubly blessed by the service this morning. Primarily because of the courageous stand being taken with respect to the Bible being the inspired word of God and of the persistent message that we belong to Christ and not to the world. And I was also struck by the parallel between the action we are taking and this nation's early struggle for independence. The behavior of the GA is not in keeping with what I believe are American values. And I almost felt like I was in Independence Hall this morning as we heard our faith affirmed and saw the determination in our leadership to oppose the bureacratic oppression of a hierarchical organization that has forgotten "its first love." Thank you for your commitment to Christ.
Indeed, you are right that we don't need to be rescued from the true Word of God.

drmom said...

netprophet,

You had me quite perplexed there for a moment. Thank you for your correction.

For anyone who is wondering, I am a 24-year member of the Kirk and in complete agreement with our current actions.

Dan Dermyer said...

Tom and others,
So many are watching and giving thanks for the steadfastness of your faith. Many are praying that you will have endurance as you seek to follow Christ in this matter.

I don't live in Tulsa, but I know where I'd love to worship--among those who are faithful the Christ and the Word of God.

Blessings, multiplied, and grace.

Anonymous said...

Netprophet-

I'm glad you got that straightened out. You were agreeing with DrMom, and disagreeing with anonymous. (At least, I think you figured it out, yes? If not, anonymous was the one you were actually taking issue with, not DrMom, as far as I can see in what you both are saying).

Tom-

I am quite relieved to see that they hadn't come in and changed the locks. So much of that happened in the early days of rebellion after the Gene Robinson "coronation" (when the three or four LA churches disaffiliated and aligned themselves with dioceses in Africa), I was thinking that when they gave in on sending "your replacements", they would replace that move by locking you out. Not this week, I guess.

I know that many are all for polity (which you know has worked SO WELL up 'til now . . . that's why everything is where it is today), but I'm all for keeping all those eyes (of Kirk members) wide open, and trained on the doors of the church as well.

You're in my prayers, as always.

G.A.C.

Anonymous said...

It is distressing to see that denominational polity is acknowledged and/or ignored to serve the ends of the session and ministers. It is a shame to see that outwardly faithful ministers of the Word and Sacrament usurp their covenental responsibility and ordination vows to meet their own ends. I fear that the sanctimonious, irresponsible overreaction by those in whom the congregation and the church have put their trust is as bad, if not worse, than the stated reasons for leaving PCUSA. I am a former Kirk member who remembers actions taken to cover up the actions of a past senior pastor, whitewashing the truth in deed and in fact, all with the blessings of the then session. The actions of the GA are not to my liking, but the still small voice that I hear tells me to stay and keep the faith. Leaving is not believing...It is abandonment. I pray for all concerned, and hope that the transition to a different harbor will be lasting and to the benefit of the pastors, the session and to those who elect to follow. Those who do not wish to be a part of this action will be welcomed in other congregations who are inclined to be supportive of the church in good times and in bad. God works through those we like and don't like, with those with whom we agree and those we don't. I pray for the Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery that they will do those things necessary to uphold the requirements of the Book of Order. I am saddened that times have come upon us for Presbyterians to look at their relationship to their denomination like a buffet...free to pick and choose, follow or not follow, invoke the rules to meet their ends or ignore them for the same reason. The denomination will survive this. The Kirk will survive as well. I am disappointed, but not surprised by this short-sighted action. It is easier to take up your burden and leave than it is to work within the church and be a contributor to the solution. Sad....

TomGray said...

Dear anonymous,
The truth is that the PCUSA violated its covenantal responsibility. The Lord Jesus said that divorce was permissible for such a violation. I believe that all sides, including me, have hardness of heart in this, but I would not sacrifice the Truth, or lead people into a false covenant to preserve some sense of self-righteousness.

The case with the previous pastor was not covered up by the Kirk. The details of his affairs were correctly managed by the session, on behalf of the congregation—exactly what elders are supposed to do. We confronted his adultery, removed him, and then brought it to the presbytery, which did nothing for a year. After that year, they simply scolded him, passing him on to another presbytery in good standing.

If what you said about leaving (being abandonment) is true, the Reformation should never have happened, especially the more radical Reformation of Calvin.
Tom

Anonymous said...

Tom,
I agree that we have all become a bit more entrenched and our hearts are more hardened than they should be. We all fall short. My memory of the prior pastor's situation involves letters sent out about a new ministry by the session, and the truth leaking out to the members. Irregardless, the fact that little was done was a disservice to all. I can only wish the best for all concerned in this unfortunate turn. The EPC will be gaining some fine people, lay and clergy alike. I wish all the best and God's blessings to all. Hopefully, we can all get back to the work at hand and put politics on the back burner....

nsc said...

It was once said in a Kirk congregational meeting..."the Kirk is not betraying the PCUSA - they betrayed us" ...when they stopped upholding the authority of the Bible, started allowing presbyteries to open and close meetings with prayers to Allah and Buddah, made a joke of the trinity and opened the door for local option in ordination.

"Denominational Polity" should not be held in higher esteem than the word of Jesus Christ and it should never be worshiped. I am a follower of Jesus Christ first,then wife, mother, daughter, and much further down the list comes Presbyterian.

Peace to you Tom
nsc

Anonymous said...

The New York Supreme Court is not the highest court in New York -- that would be the New York Court of Appeals. Odd nomenclature, to say the least.

I disagree completely with the ongoing assertions that PCUSA has moved away from scripture.

Anonymous said...

Tom,

My family was at the 8:15 service yesterday and we all totally support the decisions our Church Family has made.

We have been members for over 30yrs and served as elders and trustee's. Our vote on the 30th will be to stay strong and to approve the actions taken by the Kirk.

Your leadership as well as Wayne's is appreciated. You are both loved and respected.

Anonymous said...

Dear Tom,

Although I am very sorry to see that your strong congregation has withdrawn from the PC(USA), I can understand your reasons for doing so. Given the atrocious way that Hollywood Presbyterian Church was treated by the Presbytery of the Pacific, I can also understand (albeit with sorrow) the decision to leave your Presbytery. There has been a breakdown in trust between many congregations and higher governing bodies. It's an issue in my own Presbytery. I am sorry to post this note anonymously, but I do not need to call unwanted attention to myself at this time (I am a minister member of another Presbytery).

I pray you and the congregation you serve will get through this season of discernment and emerge stronger and more faithful than ever before.

Blessings on you and yours,

"Anonymous Evangelical Pastor"

The Parson said...

If you are looking to join a "Biblically faithful" denomination, you will be waiting quite some time! Surely, Calvin's teachings on utter depravity should remind us all that even our finest intentions are stained with sin. No denomination, congregation, or individual believer is exempt from that mark. We will only be able to live "Biblically faithful" lives when our Lord returns for us. Until then, we depend upon His grace. I worry when I hear someone applauding their "Biblical faithfulness", because they betray that very standard they think they have achieved.