Sunday, August 27, 2006

Sunday Morning, Monday Night

Today, Sunday, has been a red-letter day for the Kirk. The atmosphere this morning was electric. My guess is that attendance was around 1,500 to 1,600 worshippers. In each service there was applause in response to the actions taken last week; in two of the services, standing ovations. We pastors took this to be a response to the path ahead, not criticism of what we’ve left, nor given personally to us.

This afternoon we had an open house with people from the community coming through to see our facilities and, even more importantly, to meet Kirk people. Everyone who came was positive and excited about the possibility of coming to the Kirk. This is the best sign of what is to come.

Of course, the rumors abound. People with synod contacts have told us that the “big guns” from the denomination have us in their sights. Someone else in synod said that the denomination has identified 300+ Kirk members who are angry with what we’ve done and are ready to join with presbytery Monday night. If that’s true, it means that we have at least an 85% approval rating—I’d settle for that!

I took some time today to look through the picture directory and my printed directory. It is a good way to pray for the congregation. I began to consider who might be in that 300 and could only come up with 30 or so that I felt might truly, sincerely be opposed to what we have done. They’re all good people, and good people will disagree.

Of course, if the presbytery is calling through our list including inactive members, it might be a different story. Those who drop out do so for all kinds of reasons, some of them negative. They’re not a central part of who we are today, though.

Every year, a congregation our size removes a couple of hundred people from the rolls. Some move away, some pass away, some move to other churches within town, and others have been long enough on the inactive list, without any response to us, to be removed. At the same time we add enough people each year to keep our growth rate steady.

Whatever happens Monday will be a blip on the radar compared with what is about to happen in our future. My prayers are especially with those who feel hurt by what we’ve done. I pray that they will find a new church home immediately or find reconciliation here at the Kirk. I hope that the presbytery’s calling on long-gone members might move some of them back into active worship in some other church.

All that matters is that we be faithful to Jesus Christ. The Head of the Church is far greater than any tiff in Tulsa.

Keep praying—keep the faith,
Tom

26 comments:

Dave Worcester said...

Dear Pastor Tom,

I attended the Kirk of the Hills for 6 months while I was on temporary assignment in Tulsa for Rockwell Int. during the mid-90's I loved your church and sang in the choir while I was there. It was a highlight of my time there.

I am currently an Elder at La Habra Hills Presbyterian in La Habra, CA. We are an evangelical, Confessign Church congregation struggling with the same issues you are. Our Presbytery at least to date, is also quite evangelical so the pressure to leave the denomination has not been an issue in the church although I am deeply disturbed by the direction our leadership is taking.

I covenant to pray for you folk. May our Lord guide and direct.

Phillip J. Owings said...

Tom, Wayne:
Thank the Good Lord for your leadership. Please keep good counsel about you that can guide you and the other elders. I hope and pray the battle has already been won and we can move on to our critical mission and that of all Jesus' churches which is to spread the Good News of the Gospel.

Anonymous said...

"All that matters is that we be faithful to Jesus Christ. The Head of the Church is far greater than any tiff in Tulsa."

Amen, and Amen.

But that's the point in doing this: to make sure that Christ is the Head of the church that the Kirk is formally associated with. And you, Pastor Tom and the Kirk, can only do as much as Pastor Tom and the Kirk can do to make that happen. It might end up being a blip in the radar of the PCUSA, or it might end up starting a landslide of churches fighting to leave. But at least now you will know that you did what you knew was right, according to God's word.

All the best for your meeting tomorrow evening. Will be waiting to hear what happens.

G.A.C.

NetProphet said...

In response to:

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,

Since we are talking about leaving a denomination, I was just curious why you left the Kirk? It seems strange for someone condeming our action of dissaction and is no longer in our congreation. What credibility do you have?

Anonymous said...

Dear Pastor Tom,

You wrote: We anticipate soon reuniting with the faithful Presbyterian church by seeking entrance into the EPC.

So I conclude that are suggesting that any of us that stays in the PCUSA are unfaithful.

I have always thought that only God could determine who was faithful and surely the "faithful remnant" aren't all in the EPC. Like Elijah, you might discover on this journey that there are many more faithful Christians in and out of the PCUSA then you can ever imagine. Frankly, you aren't God. The congregation you lead is only one of many gatherings who try to worship the God of Creation each week, celebrating the gift of Jesus Christ, his death on a cross and his defeat of death by rising from the grave. Even those individuals, who you so flippantly dismissed, because they aren't always in the pew, may be in God's eyes more faithful than we can every imagine.

What I wish I would read more of on this blog are statements from Christians that they love Jesus and not some local Church. I love God, I love Christ and I love the Church in all of its expressions. I have travelled around the country this past year and enjoyed worshipping with Christians (the majority were PCUSA), but also some Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists and even National Fellowship of Brethrens. I loved the Church, not any specific church, but God's Church and The Christ we bowed down before.

Would that the many people on this blog relook their own words. May they rally around the real leader of the Church, the Lord of Life, Jesus Christ and may they join the great communion of believers both in heaven and earth and place their alliance there.

Blessings upon all of you who seem so confused and emotional about a building and who is on whose side. No wonder the world scoffs at us these days.

Randy

J.D. Miller said...

Tom, it is with genuine grief that I follow your blogs. Your predictions of what the Presbytery would have done, had the Kirk followed a constitutional course of departure, betrays more fear than light. In my judgement, the strategy that you and your Session are undertaking is deeply flawed.

The Kirk's unilateral disaffiliation and lawsuit has served to hamper those of us who would have preferred to work for a gracious separation. A lawsuit does not encourage creative conversation. It forces narrow legalities.

The Kirk's unwillingness to allow the Presbytery council to speak to the Session and the congregation, has forced the Presbytery to act as instructed by our constitution.

As a fellow evangelical who believes the PCUSA is in real need of reform, I am saddened that you're rushing to man the life-boats, celebrating your rescue, and leaving the rest of us behind.

I remain open to speaking with you on better ways forward -for the Kirk and the larger Church whom we are mutually called to serve.

James D. Miller
Pastor, First Presbyterian, Tulsa

Classical Presbyterian said...

Look who 'trusted the process'---

Alan Meenan and David Manock at Holywood Presbyterian Church. They trused and they were dusted.

Linn Grove Presbyterian Church--they almost had the locks changed!

The members of Harrisburg Presbyterian Church are fending off a hostile takeover from their presbytery.

The list goes on and on....

For the record, I personally do not advocate leaving the PC(USA) for most of our congregations.

But if a congregation is in a hostile environment, then they had better take their God-given duty of stewardship in hand and save the ministry that they have built.

In other words, trust the process to this current denominational regime and you will have your job revoked, lawsuits enacted and property confiscated.

We also know that my words here are probably going put me on the watch list--that Lousiville file on 'dissenters'!

Guard your flocks, you under-shepherds, guard your flocks!

TomGray said...

Dear Jim,
Thanks so much for your comments. Thanks also for the visits and calls with us through this hard time. I know that your heart is tender toward the Kirk and the PCUSA.

Unless you have read the PCUSA legal action plan, it will be hard to convey the emotional foundation of our actions. It is not an overstatement to say that there is fear behind them. It is not that we are particularly suspicious of the presbytery, but that the denomination has indicated that it will not let the presbytery act in any gracious way.
Research shows that the PCUSA does not dismiss congregations graciously. Every congregation that has been “dismissed” with their property has had to pay hard cash in order to do so.

Add to this the most recent actions on problematic churches and you have an idea of the atmosphere of fear that permeates the PCUSA. Hollywood First Presbyterian had its pastors removed and gagged by an Administrative commission. The congregation is now, only a year later, a bare shell of what it once was. The two most recent withdrawals by smaller PCUSA churches has see exactly the same pattern of response when using the system: remove and/or gag the pastor(s), do the same with the session.

You say that we have forced the presbytery to act by the constitution. It has been the so-called constitutional actions around the nation that have show the system to be fixed only in the favor of the denomination’s desires. Congregations that wish to be dismissed will only do so homeless or nearly broke.

Again, I do not place these things at your doorstep. You have not acted in any aggressive way toward the Kirk or us pastors. We have received veiled threats from denominational sources, though, since last Christmas.
Yours,
Tom

Martin Thompson said...

Tom,

Pursuing "peace" and "justice" and "beating swords into plowshares" is simply PCUSA propaganda for the World Communion Sunday fliers.

When the manure hits the spreader, they and their quislings have no bias towards peace and are ready to use every form of legal violence at their disposal to maintain their power.

Clifton Kirkpatrick should change his name to "Nasrollah" in light of his chosen tactics and James Miller of First Pres Tulsa should repent of his participation in this joke of finding a "true church".

May the God of heaven give you victory and give the PCUSA repentance for their heresies.

DrMom said...

Rev. Miller,

You really believe that "predictions of what the Presbytery would have done, had the Kirk followed a constitutional course of departure, betrays more fear than light"? The Kirk's decisions were based on what the denomination has actually done and is continuing to do in other churches desiring to disaffiliate from the PCUSA, not some imagined threat.

Look at what has happened in Torrance ( http://www.layman.org/layman/news/2005-news/moderator-ufford-chase-leads-group.htm ) where the denomination tried to take over a worship service in a congregation that voted to leave? What about the Linn Grove, Iowa church where the denomination has banned the pastor from having any contact with his congregation simply because the congregation asked to leave? What about Hollywood Presbyterian, where the presbytery sent an administrative commission run the congregation? What about the documents that give a step-by-step guide of how to deal with "schizmatic" congregations?

The denominational leadership seems more intent on keeping property and breaking up congregations than Biblical truths. Not only are they selective in what parts of the Bible they choose to believe, but they do the same with choosing which parts of the Book of Order and Constitution they wish to follow. They're willing to let standards slide when it comes to ordaining those not living in fidelity and chastity (heterosexual and homosexual), but they aren't giving any consideration to congregations with traditional Biblical standards who wish to leave the denomination.

As Christians we should emphasize loving each other, but this does not mean that we should encourage and endorse sin. We can love each other all the way until there is no "meat" to Presbyterian faith at all. I cannot ethically participate in this process any longer.

Obviously, there are many members of the PCUSA who don't stand for this trend, but it is clearly the way that the denominational leadership is pushing. Those who focus too much on loving, being "nice", and not making waves end up permitting those promoting non-Biblical policies to walk all over us--emptying the denomination of a basis of faith.

Sam Sibala said...

Dr. Miller,

Since you are in a leadership with the Eastern Presbytery do you approve and support the legal action taken by our Presbytery to file affidavits againest 62 congregations including yours?(My assumption).

The Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery has filed affidavits in all of its counties 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).

The affidavits are accompanied by legal descriptions of the property of the 62 congregations in the presbytery.

This legal action was taken back in March, long before the Kirk took any legal position. Did the Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery dialogue openly with the 62 congregations regarding this action?

The decision to file the affidavits was made by the presbytery's Board of Trustees. Elders and ministers who serve as commissioners to the presbytery were not informed about the affidavits or asked to approve them before they were filed with county courts.

Dr. Miller are you on the Board of Trustees?

Pastor Tom has been very open for us to dialogue with opposition to our position. Until Friday of this week was the first time I have received any correspondence regarding this issue and was invited to meet at your church which was very gracious. However my attendance would simply be used to validate PCUSA's position in a court of law, claiming that by attending your called meeting that I would not be supporting the Kirk's decision. I would be happy to meet with you in private to discuss these issues if you so desire.

Sam Sibala
Kirk Member
269-8491

stjones said...

I was struck by a comment by "anonymous": "What I wish I would read more of on this blog are statements from Christians that they love Jesus and not some local Church."

Here's what I would like to read: more statements from Presbyterians who say they love Jesus and not some denomination. The GA's actions were disappointing but not surprising. The real surprise (and disappointment) has been the parade of "renewal" leaders who talk about remaining loyal because of their love for the PCUSA.

I applaud the Kirk for having the wisdom and courage to see that withdrawing under the rules of the PCUSA was to continue to acknowledge the authority of the PCUSA. As the Louisville Papers show, the PCUSA seems to know it has abandoned its Scriptural authority and will rely on legal authority from now on. Sounds like a party known as the Pharisees to me.

Anonymous said...

Greetings: A small reflection upon reading your blog

So this woman was place at the feet of our Lord. Accusations were flying around. Jesus was being set up. He looked at the woman and then the crowd. He who is without sin cast the first stone. Then he reached down and scrippled in the dirt. One by one the accusers left. Finally just Jesus and this person. Then the Lord of Life said: Where are they that would condemn you?

None Lord but you!

Go and Sin no more.

For all you Christian bloggers, my might practice just a bit of what your Lord taught when it comes to this matter.

Seems to me, an outsider, one that you would most likely place in hell, that you haven't gotten the fundamental message. God forgives and so should we all and none of us can cast a stone no matter where one stands in this issue.

For the Reverend Miller who was quite gracious in his words. It pains me that you were attacked so harshly for your attempt to reach out a hand of kindness. I would very much like to meet you some day.

Kevin R. Mobley
Staunton, VA

Anonymous said...

We have just received an alert to pray for you and to add our "two cents" as an expression of solidarity with you who stand firm as the apostle Peter warned we must in such a time as this.
Through several similar situations, including our good brothers at Hollywood Pres who were taken out under the false pretenses used by false leaders calling themselves "faithful and true"...it seems God is covering you and giving you courage in the heat of a battle that is bound to only become worse before it gets better.
You know as you stand your ground with Jesus for the sake of His honor, His Name, His Glory and Truth you can't lose. The gates of hell cannot and will not prevail against His Church even if it means we who belong to the Master end up suffering all He did in this present world when He refused to bow down, back down or give any place at all to the same prince of darkness grim that you are now facing.
We tremble not for him, we know his doom is sure...isn't that what I've been singing for years alongside of faithful brothers and sisters who have believed from their hearts while confessing with their mouths "JESUS CHRIST IS LORD" OF ALL HEAVEN and EARTH?
Our prayers are with you, we stand with you unashamedly at the Right Hand of Jesus who alone has power to rescue, save and "invite" us into HIS presence when all that is left of earth is dust and ashes.
We will rise with Him on a Day that for us means deliverance while for those who strive against us will mean doom. "Come quickly Lord Jesus" should be the cry of every faithful heart in this hour of greatest darkness overtaking a world who should by now know so much better.

Anonymous said...

Dear Kevin Mobley,

You wrote that we should forgive the sinner. I agree wholeheartedly. You quoted Jesus' statement "Go and sin no more." Again, this is gospel to me (if you'll pardon the pun). However, the PCUSA has said, in effect, "There is no such thing as sin." How, then, can we say "Go and sin no more?" The only option is to say, as Joshua did, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." And, the only way to serve the Lord is to withdraw from PCUSA, which has chosen not to serve the Lord, but mammon.

As for those who choose to stay with PCUSA, I do not call them sinners (any more than we all are). It is the *denomination* that has fallen away from the Bible and the teaching of Christ, not all members of the denomination.

Finally, I would place no individual in hell. I have neither the authority, the knowledge, nor the desire to do this. This is between Christ and each individual. I do know that Christ said "Know one comes to the Father except by me." So I must follow Him. How others do is between them and God.

Regardless of your opinions in this matter, I ask that you pray for us, that all we do is in God's will, and to his glory, not ours. My only goal is to serve Him as best I can.

Blessings,
Bill Underwood

Anonymous said...

Mr. Kevin Mobley-

"Go and Sin no more."

I was pleasantly surprized that you included this part of that scripture. Your ilk so often leaves it out.

Of course, you still ignored it.

The PCUSA has made no effort to change what it's doing. It continues to persecute congregations that adhere to an orthodox interpretation of scripture. It continues to amend the Book of Order in a way that reflects its tumble into heterodoxy. It continues to do all that it can to drive a wedge between congregations and their pastors, and between different contingents within congregations, in hopes that it can strengthen its legal claim to church property. It continues to engage in all kinds of immoral and unethical behavior.

So where, exactly, have they abided by Christ's command to "sin no more"? I mean, if we are to "cast no stones", isn't that their end of the deal?

Oh! One more thing.

It is not the Kirk's wish to destroy them, as those casting stones were trying to do to the adulterous woman. I believe that they merely want to break free of their tyrannical and unbiblical rule, which encourages people to value the PCUSA, the Book of Order, "social justice" (liberal style), and liberal politics over God.

Would God be against that? Since his FIRST Commandment commands that "you shall have no other gods before me", I'm thinking . . . uh . . . that would be a yes.

G.A.C.

Backwoods Presbyterian said...

It looks like all the interest groups sent out e-mails telling them to perouse your blog and fill it up. I see a lot of "form" type posts by anonymous posters.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Underwood

I have yet to see any statement made by the PCUSA that says "there is no such thing as sin". As in all conflicts mud slinging is the charge of the day - they say this, they say that - Who is the PCUSA? It is a fair amount of people - for sure most of the comments are directed at National Leaders, but the PCUSA is made up of even doubters like me! And I have been in those wonderful conversations where it is clear, that I am condemned despite whatever you may say. As I read the Blog, Dr. Jim Miller made an appeal and members of the Kirk identify him as a "Leader" and as such place him in that category of so called "heretics". Did not matter that he identified himself as an evangelical or a person who is obvious in great grief. Nonetheless the stone was cast, not once, but twice by a Drmom and Mr. Sabala and let not even talk about the kind words written to me GAC.

And finally, easier to chose anonymous and sign your name then to log into an account. Most anonymous logs do have a name attached "Backwards Presbyterian".

Kevin Mobleyu

Anonymous said...

Hey, I wish you well and all speediness as you take your church out of PCUSA. Honestly, you seem like a bad fit for the denomination anyway sense you seem to lean towards Fundamentalism. Godspeed!

TomGray said...

This last sophomoric comment reminds me of what I hear Rick Ufford-Chase (past moderator) say after the news conference of renewal groups responded to the PUP vote: "I think only about 200 churches will leave. Good riddance."
There isn't a lot of love flowing through the PCUSA right now.
Tom

Paul Welch said...

I feel that there are three questions which need to be asked of all those who have made statements on this blog:

1. Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the only son of God and was crucified, rose from the dead on the third day, and ascended into heaven?
2 Do you believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God?
3. Do you believe as Jesus stated in John 14:6, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

If you agree with these three statements, then you understand where the Kirk of the Hills is coming from. If you do not agree with these statements, I feel you need to re-evaluate your understanding of what it is to be a Christian. Without Jesus Christ as our only Lord and Savior, there is no "Christianity". We may all have different interpretations of some of the scriptures, but if you don't stand on the rock of core beliefs, you are just sliding on sand.

Sam Sibala said...

Mr. Kevin Mobley,

I would love to meet you as well and discuss our difference of positions. I am sure that we could disagree agreeably. As for Dr. Miller, I hold him in high respect. I simply asked him to reply to my question about the legal action initiated by our denomination to 62 of our congregations. I would ask a Congressman or Senator how they voted on a particular issue. Is it casting stones by asking clarification of person's position on an issue, especially one in a leadership role. Do you just blindly follow your leaders without the standard of Christ as your benchmark? If you would like to dialogue further regarding this matter, please call me on my phone at (918)269-8491. I welcome any intelligent discussion from you if I need correction.

Sam Sibala

Anonymous said...

Mr.Mobley,

We at the Kirk are simply wanting to separate from the denomination. They call the Kirk and other churchs like us "schimatic", and you feel that we are the ones casting stones? The denomination threatens to take over our church because we have different beliefs then they do, and again we are the trouble makers. Further, you should more carefully read the blog of Mr. Sabala and Dr. Mom, they did not say anything harsh to Rev. Millar. They simply pointed out facts of the matter that Rev. Millar is glossing over. Just because you don't like our opinions does not mean we are attacking Rev. Millar or anyone else.

I am also 23 yr active member of the Kirk just for the record.

P.W. not Paul Welch :)

Anonymous said...

Regarding JD Miller's comment, "The Kirk's unilateral disaffiliation and lawsuit has served to hamper those of us who would have preferred to work for a gracious separation. A lawsuit does not encourage creative conversation. It forces narrow legalities."

There have been people working for a gracious separation long before Kirk took any action, and their efforts were hampered, nay, thwarted by the work of the LVL leadership. IIRC, wasn't the TTFonPUP set up in response to an overture asking that congregations that couldn't live with the PCUSA ordination standards be allowed to graciously separete with their property?

It is not the actions of the Kirk that have derailed conversations about and hampered work toward some kind of gracious separation. That has been happening for years at a different level of church governance.

Paul

Lynn Lugibihl said...

Dear Dr. Miller and Pastor Tom,

Having attended the meeting hosted in part by Dr. Miller and Greg Coulter, I have a couple of questions which are relevant to the question of disaffiliation. I perceive this may be a moot point, as the vote to disaffiiliate was irrevocable. However, the need for information may be beneficial to others.

Dr. Miller indicated the passing of the Authoritative Interpretation in June of this year created confusion. I believe he stated it was not clear as to the end effect since in 1993 an Authoritive Interpretation was passed which clearly supported the constitutional provision prohibiting the ordination of those self-proclaiming themselves to be a practicing homosexual.

What, if any, opportunities does a congregation have to obtain a ruling that the recently passed AI is simply unconstitutional? The Kirk has stated they have taken action over the years to try to quell the direction of the PCUSA in the past. Is there an opportunity to act within the PCUSA to determine the constitutionality of the AI? If so, what is it?

If not, then it is my opinion, that whether there be confusion or whether there be clarity in the effect of the passing of the recent AI, that the inevitable effect is that no one can take action against a self-proclaimed practicing homosexual being ordained as a minister. Either the minister and congregation will claim they are clearly authorized by the recently passed AI or they will state that whatever confusion was created by the passing of the AI was insufficient to indicate they should not take such action.

Dr. Miller, what kind of actions do you propose would be effective to either eliminate the AI passed in June or eliminate the confusion which you state was created by this passing?

By the way Dr. Miller, I appreciate the open forum for discussion you presented.

Yours in Christ,

Lynn Lugibihl

Paul Welch said...

I posted a statement this morning concerning the President of Iran speaking at the National Cathedral (Presbyterian). The story was corrected to state that it was the Episcopalian National Cathedral. Sorry about the error, but with the previous inclusions of the Koran, etc. at GA events (check "other blogs" and key in Presbyterian) I guess it was easy to believe.
Paul Welch