Friday, August 18, 2006

Waiting for airplane parts

I'm sitting at gate C-32 at DFW waiting for a much-delayed flight home. I've just been visiting with a pastor friend whose church is struggling with the same things we have been at the Kirk. Our plane would be fine, but for the fact that, when the doors were opened to let passengers out, the escape slide, well, escaped. I suggested that we could still fly home on time if we just went low and slow, but the pilots are having none of it.

Back to issues at hand: I get the sense that some people think that our disaffiliation came about as a fit of anger or pique. We have worked diligently in the PCUSA for decades (the Kirk is 45 years old). We have watched with dismay as the denomination has incrementally moved away from its original biblical foundations. This last June was the "tipping point" for us, and will be for many others yet to speak, because it officially allowed for the rejection of clear biblical teaching.

The sexuality issue is symptomatic--it is not the source of the problem or even the main problem. That main problem is the long slide away from clear biblical teaching. We have not left the PCUSA, the PCUSA left us.

It is with great sadness that a move like this is done. It is even more sad that so much has to be done in executive sessions because of what I feel is reasonable mistrust of the denomination, as evidenced in the recently revealed legal game plan. I have no problem with denominational leaders preparing for eventualities. My problem is what they've said, how they've said it, and the complete disregard of the thousands upon thousands of people in the pews who despair at what we've become.

My mistrust is not in our presbytery, but in what is pressing hard on all the presbyteries in the nation, striving to clamp down on dissidents. Our presbytery is just a small part of a much larger system that is, at its core, corrupted.

It probably sounds empty to some when I say that I pray for the PCUSA, but I do. I know hundreds of leaders whom I respect and for whom I wish only the best. I am thankful for their many emails and calls of encouragement, even though some of them profoundly disagree with what we've done. I wish the people in Louisville could catch some of that spirit.

Keep praying--keep the faith.
Tom

32 comments:

dave said...

The comments I've received from friends and family that use the Bible as their guide say we've made the right decision. It's painful, but I know God will prevail. I feel betrayed by the denomination and we have no other option but to change. Our son was home this week before returning to college, and we were visiting with him about the changes taking place and he reminded us of this scripture:

[2 Timothy 4:3] For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. [4] They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. [5] But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

So we and our friends and family are continuing to pray and remain faithful, and are thankful for your leadership in guiding us through this.

Carmen Fowler said...

Tom,
Dear, dear friend. The prayers of many are with you, Wayne, your families and the good people of the Kirk. We are WITH YOU in every way that will ever really matter. My heart breaks as I know your hearts are breaking - but with you, I don't grieve as those who have no hope. We both know that in reality, we're already dead. Indeed, it is no longer we who live but Christ - and Him alone.
May grace, all sufficient, pour out upon you all, may you continue to articulate the truth with love, may you continue to strengthened in your inner being, and may you know that you never, never, never, alone.
Carmen Fowler

charleswelden said...

Pastor Tom, You are absolutely right about much including the PCUSA left first. Those few who may still disagree should read Romans 16 where Paul tells us to MARK and AVOID those who cause divisions and offences contrary to the sound doctrine which had been preached and they had learned. It is time to continue working where people will listen and not just serve their. 'Own belly'. There is definite Biblical principle for moving on in Jesus' name.

AmyCate said...

Uncle Tom (the one without the cabin :-p),

What you, your fellow pastors, your staff, and your congregation have chosen to do is absolutely amazing. I am quite aware that it will be fraught with many land mines, and that you and your fellow pastors are doing this at great personal risk (to your retirements, among other things). But throughout you will be a beacon of hope unto those of us who are lost in the world of the apostate mainline churches.

Hopefully the days of the PCUSA forcing the orthodox pastors into the shadows are now "at the beginning of the end". I am so proud that you have been an integral part of the effort to make that happen.

Kirk of the Hills, Tulsa, is incredibly courageous. Too few are. You are living out God's Word, and for that I commend you.

Dave Moody said...

Wayne, Tom-
What Carmen said...
grace & peace (pressed down and overflowing),
dm

Mike said...

Good Morning Tom

"We did not leave the PCUSA, but the PCUSA left us" - That isn't actually true - When Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on that door long ago - he didn't leave the Church - he asked the Church to engage in a dialogue over doctrinal differences. The Church and it's leaders excommunicated him.

That is not what took place last week when the Session voted to leave the PCUSA. I don't mind you leaving - go and go in peace - but don't say the PCUSA left you - they didn't - you left them.

Why is it so hard to admit the truth - it is supposed to set you free.

Mike

Anonymous said...

Mike-

Why don't I clarify it then?

How about "We didn't leave the PCUSA. The PCUSA has abandoned Christ, so we've left the PCUSA."

That better?

Eric H said...

mike, what tom is saying is that the position of his church has remained unchanged through out the years, and that the only change is from within the PC(USA)...

I hope this church is only the first of many, after the lutherens broke off from the catholic church it reformed itself, and is no longer the oppresor it was, I hope the same will happen within the pcusa

Anonymous said...

Dear Peggy and Tom,

What is this thing that you have done?

When I first responded to Tom's blogs I said I was no stranger to Church politics. In my opinion church politics is pure poison to the Christian soul. I also stated that in my opinion, the best a pastor can do is shield the rank and file of his congregation from the universe of church politics, and the worst he or she can do is to intentionally bring it upon them.

Now you've crossed the Rubicon.

I am reasonably certain the PCUSA did not leave you politically or theologically. If today's leaders are less biblical than the generation of leaders 45 years ago I honestly cannot tell. Some of the ones we had back then were pretty bad.

The whole world is in shock at how much the American society has moved to the right over the last 20 years. It may be that the PCUSA has not moved to the right as fast as society, giving the relativistic impression of having moved to the left. Twenty years from now when the pendulum swings back everybody will wonder at how fundamentalist the PCUSA will have become.

I respect your personal integrity, and your motives. I don't think the Evangelicals have a leg up on submitting to Biblical authority, but I agree that Biblical illiteracy seems to be a problem. The discussion here is about wisdom in leadership.

My own first priorities and that of the church I attend are with the people that come to us fresh off the street. Many are returning after long absences, or have never been to church in their lives. True post-Moderns and post-Christians. Their souls are like freshly planted gardens. They come seeking to find the presence of God in their lives, not having any idea what that means, but knowing somehow that it will be good. My priorities are first not to get in God's way, and second, if He sees fit to let me tend HIS gardens in the hearts of these people, then to do so the best as I can. All of our doctrines, all of our theologies and all of our confessions are for this one purpose only - to make us better gardeners. It's what we were made, saved, and called to do. The gardens are not ours but His, he plants them and then puts us there to tend them (why is a mystery). If the best we can do is keep the fences mended so that the wild horses of church politics don't come trampling through, then that too is honorable work.

Leading a church is as much about tending the gardens as it is about keeping the horses out. It takes focus and premeditation. I don't recognize how your decisions have done either. They seem reckless and irresponsible to me, or perhaps the result of group-think (no offense, it happens to the best of us), but Who knows. I guess time will tell, and I confess to be curious. God is well known for causing even the worse of situations to work together for good to those that love Him.

With Love in Christ,

Jodie

drmom said...

Mike,
The PCUSA has left us by not consistently following the teachings of the Bible, and often blatantly rejecting them. You can be literal in saying that the Kirk has left the PCUSA organization, but we have only made this move after decades of trying to work within the denomination over these issues, and we have only done so because of the stands that the denomination has taken.

Bill Underwood said...

Tom,

Please know that I wholeheartedly support you, Wayne, Session, Deacons, and Trustees in this time of transition. I know the decision was made with much prayer. Joshua said "Choose this day who you will serve. As for me any my house, we will serve the Lord." Thank you for faithfully leading us in service to the Lord.

I must disagree with Mike. When General Assembly rejected Biblical authority, they rejected our constitution, confessions, historical precedent, and God. The truth is that at this point the PCUSA left God's Church, while the Kirk remained faithful to God and our Presbyterian roots--they left us. Whether Session voted to dissociate from PCUSA (which it did) or PCUSA "exommunicated" us (which it didn't) is immaterial.

May God bless you richly for your faithful service.

Bill

Anonymous said...

I have more of a question. Does this mean that we reject those who do not believe as we do, and are seeking a Church home. I have been at this Church for 22 years, and have been looking at the E.P.C. website and find many of their beliefs at odds with my own, for I believe the Bible is man's version of God's word, and we may all be proved to have been right on some things and very wrong on others someday. I am concerned.

Anonymous said...

Tom and Kirk members,

Check out the PCUSA.org website and see what has happened to other churches that have persued the path you have chosen by disaffiliation. It's under news and events involving four churches. You have no legal leg to stand upon within our nation's civil laws. Sorry but the Kirk was established under the PCUSA constitution by your presbytery, and only the presbytery has the legal power to determine the fate of your property, unless you have no dissenting members loyal to the PCUSA, which would seem an impossibility in a church as large as the Kirk, or you are prepared to turn the keys back over to Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery, which may be your ultimate plan.

Mike said...

To All those Anonymous and identified individuals who respond to my commment:

1) Thank you for your deep consideration of my spiritual walk and views.

2) I especially like the clarity of the statement: The PCUSA abandoned Christ. So that means any who stay are lumped into that group. Seems a bit judgmental and hyper-critical. I am a Presbyterian who believes that Jesus is LORD. Apparently that isn't enough. Somehow I have abandoned Christ or so says the conventional wisdom on this blog.

3) While the Scriptures surely tell us how to act in the midst of conflict, often denominations put together a Constitution to provide additional guidiance us in the midst of those conflict.

4) I doubt very much if any modern Christian adheres strickly to a New Testament understanding of the Church or for that matter John Calvin's rendition in Geneva. I haven't seen anyone sell all they have and give it to the poor and follow Christ. Modern Christians are a bit selective in my view of what is "biblical" and what is not.

Well, this is my final say. I have enjoyed the love shown in all of your words.

Peace to you all and may this Christian fight not detract from the Glory of the God of Peace.

Mike

Anonymous said...

To the blogger who says we don't have a legal leg to stand on: What you don't seem to realize is that the PCUSA has completely junked the constitution over and over again. The actions taken at this year's General Assembly were against the constitution. The irony is that they want to uphold the constitution when it serve their interest and ignore it when it doesn't.

Anonymous said...

Mike,
Please understand, no one is casting judgment on those to choose to stay with PCUSA. There will be devout Christians on both sides of this issue. When bloggers refer to PCUSA, we intend to refer to those who have seized control of the leadership of the denomination, not those individuals who are members of the churches across the denomination.

Mark Smith said...

"When bloggers refer to PCUSA, we intend to refer to those who have seized control of the leadership of the denomination, not those individuals who are members of the churches across the denomination."

Suppose you agree with some of what those leaders believe? Even a lot of what they believe?

Do you feel that anybody like that has abandoned Christ?

Anonymous said...

Since when did the constitution of the PCUSA become a document that was static. It was never intended to be a "inspired" document, but the work of the Church that deals with issues as they come forth.

If all things on the floor of GA were done in accordance to the Book of Order, then the GA didn't abandoned it's constitution. That we may not like the way it turned out, well maybe that is because we didn't step forward and go as commissioners.

Anonymous said...

Today a woman was banned from teaching in a Christian School because the Bible says that women should be silent in Church. I am certain that the Kirk of the Hills has women on their Session, their committees, and speaking in worship and Sunday School. Given the biblical mandate cited by this Christian Institution (who would lay a charge against any congregation that allows women a voice in the church) I would interested in knowing what the female members of the Kirk have to say about that.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Underwood,

I wouldn't say that it is immaterial. There is a substantive difference notwithstanding your disagreement with Mike. His arguement is a bit more lucid than yours at this point.

Charles,

PS: Only God knows if any of us are faithful to God. To state such a thing is the epitome of pride.

TomGray said...

I want to respond to two recent comments. First, to the one from the person telling us that we have no legal standing for our property.
That my well be so. We simply desire to do our best under state law to retain it. If we do not, we will consider that to be God's will for us. We did not leave the PCUSA to "get" our property. We left it for theological reasons. Their actions against our property were responsible for the timing of our decision.
Second, to the person concerned about women's leadership. The women of the Kirk would be rightly upset if we were to even hint that they are not teachers and leaders in our congregation. We believe that God has gifted men and women to spiritual leadership, and our history shows that.
Thanks for your comments,
Tom

Anonymous said...

Tom,
I hope you are making clear to your congregation that you may have to leave behind the Kirk facilities and that no intimidation happens toward those who do not want to leave the PCUSA as you claim your session has voted to do. I believe there is a process in place to transfer from the PCUSA to other denominations, but your action implies an unwillingness to work within that process. Even a significant majority of members voting in favor of transferring will not make it legally possible without engaging the EOP process, which you are saying you have rejected.

The Kirk's session action has the appearance of trying to avoid a presbytery administrative commission and your own removal from office.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous,

I am responding to your comment about the First Baptist Church in Watertown, NY dismissing a woman from being a Sunday School teacher.

Since I am a woman who has been ordained and served as both a deacon and an elder at Kirk of the Hills, I feel I am qualified to repsond. Also, I teach adult Sunday School (to both men and women), a Tuesday Bible Study (to women), and am a certified lay preacher.

The woman referred to in the news story was no longer allowed to teach because the particular Baptist church she attends adopted a policy to prohibit women from teaching.

As justification for their action the church cited a passage from 1 Timothy 2:12: "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent." (NIV)

In my opinion, the Baptist church mentioned in the news story is improperly interpreting this passage. However, they are entitled to their own opinion. I don't believe they should be forced to allow women to teach. However, I do find it rather upsetting that the news story said this woman had been teaching at the church for many, many years. So this was a reversal of policy that resulted in her dismissal.

Many Bible scholars would not interpret this particular passage to be a mandate on prohibiting women from ever teaching because Paul indicates by the use of "I" that it is his personal opinion. Paul is writing some words of advice to his younger friend about pastoring churches. Apparently there have been some problems in some early church with the attire and actions of the women. My guess is that some of the women turned the Sunday services into a fashion show competition and were doing some other things that were disruptive or out of place in the worship service.

Note that Paul uses the pronoun "I" a lot in this section, further indicating that these are his own personal words and not divine revelations. In the culture of the day Paul's suggestions were probably pretty good ideas.

Women have always had an important place in the ministry of the Kirk. Over the years we have had two women serve as pastors on the staff, Rev. Sandy Hackett and Rev. Pat Sibley.

When I served on the board of deacons, there were several other women deacons; when I served on the session, there were other women elders. Women have also served as trustees.

The Kirk currently has many women in leadership positions serving God with their gifts in a variety of ways.

I hope this clarifies the position of the Kirk on the ordination of women.

In His service,
Peggy Alexander

Anonymous said...

Amazing that a church that holds the authority of Scripture so high, that has even had people say on this blog, that it is infallible and inerrant, suddenly when it comes to the issue of the role of women in church speak of the misinterpretation made by the Baptist Church in New York. Can we have it both ways. Only be literal when it serves our purpose. I guess so if it serves "our needs".

Anonymous said...

Dear Peggy

Thank you for your creditials. I appreciate that very much. I have none but I do believe that if Paul's letters are to mean anything then we cannot sift through what we believe is inspired and not inspired based upon an opinion.

I believe that Paul did write that "all Scripture is God-breathed (inspired)". He didn't intimate that the passages which he uses the personal pronoun aren't inspired. Either the entire epistle written by Paul, historically accepted as Inspired Scripture, is inspired and carries biblical authority or it is not.

If anything this blog shows how modern Christians will interpret the Word of God for their own benefit. Even to exclude sentences as non-inspired Scripture because of the use of a pronoun. Yikes!!!

Is this the Biblical Preaching being heard in the pulpit at the Kirk? That some sentences in the New Testament are inspired and some are not!

Charlie Owen

TomGray said...

This is to respond to Charlie.

We do believe in the full inspiration of Scripture. In that, you'll have to agree, there are times when Paul says, "This is I, not the Lord, speaking."

In regards to the leadership of women I refer you back to Paul. He lauds the leadership of Lydia and Priscilla, among others. In Romans 16, Paul identifies a woman as an apostle! In verse 7 it says, "Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was."

In ALL the original Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, "Junia," a female name, is used, whereas most translations have mistakenly translated it as "Junius," a masculine name. The New Living Translation corrects this, as do some other newer editions.

No one can say that women were not leaders in the early church--the church talked about in Scripture. Therefore, what Paul says about women being silent, or not leading, in other passages, must have some sort of contextual limitation.
Tom

Anonymous said...

Dear Tom Gray

I fully agree that the entire bible is the inspired Word of God, even where Paul states: This is I, not the Lord speaking.

Are you intimating that those particular verses (such as you quoted) are not inspired parts of the Bible?

Charlie

PS: If you happen to have an original Greek Manuscript I would hope that you make it available to the world, since no one else seems to have knowledge of an original.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Owen,

I appreciate your comments regarding what I wrote. Yes, the apostle did write to his young pastor friend in 2 Tim 3:16-17:
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (NIV)

I wholeheartedly agree with you on the value of Scripture. However, I also agree with Pastor Gray that there are time when Paul's writings refer to a specific situation in a certain church and therefore have contextual limitations or refer to certain customs of the 1st century that are no longer in practice.

For example: 1 Cor 11:4-7
"Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head-it is just as though her head were shaved. If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head. A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man." (NIV)

The passage obviously has its roots in the custom of women wearing veils or head coverings in the Middle East and the apparent lack of that being done in the church at Corinth. Is Paul mandating hats or head coverings for all women in church today?

I am certainly not saying that Paul wasn't inspired by God to write what he did to Timothy or what he wrote to the church at Corinth in the above passage.

What I am saying is that some verses in Paul's letters are addressed to specific people and specific situations as in the following from Romans 16:1-4:
"I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me. Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them." (NIV)

These verses were only directed to the members of the church at Rome during the time of Paul, but give us insight into those faithful followers of Jesus who were working with Paul to spread the gospel.

There are churches and denominations that do not ordain women and I would certainly defend their right to take this position. Even within Presbyterianism there is division on ordaining women with some branches allowing it, others forbidding it, and still others leaving it up to the local congregation.

In no way did I mean to imply that Paul was not inspired in his writing. My point was that he was advising Timothy of his (Paul's) policy.

Paul wrote these words to the Galatians in 3:26-29: "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (NIV)

All who have confessed Jesus as Savior and Lord have been called to use their gifts and talents in God's service.

Let me assure you that the teaching and preaching at the Kirk is Biblically based. If we did not believe in the sovereigny of God and the Bible as God's Word, would we be taking our current stand?

God's grace and peace,
Peggy Alexander

Mark said...

As an ordained minister and deacon in the PCUSA, I'm deeply saddened to hear that The Kirk session has decided to attempt to pull the congregation out of the PCUSA.

Even though I've been labeled a "liberal" my entire adult life, I've advocated that the theological diversity in the PCUSA makes it a more faithful witness to Jesus Christ than it would be if it was merely "conservative" or "liberal". As Paul pointed out, no part of The Body can say it doesn't need another part of The Body; or put diffferently, the nose should not cut itself off to spite the face.

When I was ordained (both times), I vowed to uphold the constitution of the PCUSA. I've hung in there, even when I disagreed with the majority vote on some matters (in sessions, presbyteries, snydods, and GAs). I've hung in there because the overall constitution, and -- more importantly -- the overwhelming majority of the denomination, seek to serve Christ faithfully. The Spirit blows where it wills, influencing majorities in spite of liberals and conservatives alike.

Now you cut and run because you disagree with the majority vote of the General Assembly about the PUP Report. It sounds too much like you're taking your marbles home because you lost one and everyone else isn't willing to change the rules of the game so you can win it back.

I've got news for you: this isn't a game. If you go away, we all lose -- including you -- and our collective witness to Christ is tarnished. We hang in there with each other because we're family, chosen by God to serve God humbly. Christ's death and resurrection put an end to playing the Mitzpah Coin Toss.

It stuns me that you are willing to diminish The Body of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ because of a battle between extremists (from all sides) in our denomination. Go if you choose, and go with my prayers, but I can't help feeling that you're abandoning those of us who are unwilling to abandon you.

TomGray said...

Mark,
I fail to see how one congregation moving from one Presbyterian denomination to another is diminshing the body of Christ. That is, unless you believe that the PCUSA is The Body of Christ. If that's the case, you'll need to explain that to any of your members who move to another city and join a church of another denomination.

As far as those who are "unwilling to abandon us," I'd need some clarification. In all of our struggles over the past 5 years, only one pastor in our Presbytery has inquired as to how we are. On the other hand, we have had threats, and an unusual interest in the market value of our property.
Tom

Anonymous said...

As I scan over all that is posted on this web page I am deeply disturbed at the level of unsatisfaction by all parties involved. Perhaps it is the nature of a blog, but it is rare that anyone actually addresses the questions and concerns being raised by either side. I can site at least four areas. 1). The discussion about the woman being dismissed from her job. The essence is about Biblical Authority and who determines that authority (the root behind why the Kirk has left the PCUSA). I didn't see the individual challenging the role of women in Church which seems what everyone is focusing on, but rather, the determination of who decides what is biblical authority. Is it the Church? Is it God? Is it a particular denomination or congregation. At times it seems as if members are arguing that individuals decide. "In my opinion" isn't biblical authority. Everyone opines from time to time. 2). There seems to be a great deal of energy and time surrounding property. I am fairly certain that in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles it states that "they held all things in common". As long as I don't get the hair on the back of your head raised and bring back imagines of communism, I suggest that the early church was much more concerned about the eternal souls of the people rather than a building. The earth is God's Temple. The things we build pale in comparison. Maybe we are all focused on the wrong things. 3). There is a lot of words being thrown out that are quite accusatory. The PCUSA did this, the PCUSA did that. Well I am in the PCUSA and I have done neither. Let's focus on who is the PCUSA (it is us all in the most generic sense, just as we all are the Church, regardless of whether or not we are Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, etc.). If we are going to make an accusation, let's name names and perhaps that will stop hurting all those wonderfully faithful people who attend worship each week in order to give Almighy God the praise that is rightfully God's. and 4) (Finally), on the topic of who left the PCUSA or vice versa. I must say that if I read this page correctly then the Session of the Kirk voted to disassociate themselves. That would mean they left the PCUSA. The reasoning behind the departure is (and again I hope I have this correct) a trend they see of abandonment of historic theological and biblical principles. The generalization that 45 years ago we were as a denomination more biblically minded or spiritual begs a question. How does a human being determine only what God knows for sure. Between 45-60 years ago the Christian Churches in American were still oppressing women, in terms of not allowing them to hold ordained offices in the Church. The church keep a silent voice while in Europe an army was attempting to wipe out an entire race of people. We ranted and raved from our pulpits against another country and their political system because they were different than us. I am not so sure they were any better or worse than we are today.

Perhaps we all need to take a deep breath and get on our knees and as the publican said so long ago: Have mercy upon me, a sinner.

And then perhaps we won't be so quick to cast that first stone at those who in God's eyes are just like us, in need of God's mercy.

Blessings,

Richie

Mark said...

Dear Tom,

I do not for a moment think that the PCUSA alone is The Body of Christ. You're creating a red herring with that remark, and you know it.

Nor do I believe that moving from one congregation to another, or from one denomination to another, inherently jeopardizes The Body. Once again, you're throwing out a red herring.

Rather, I'm concerned with the WAY in which you're doing it, and the REASONS you claim for doing it.

Richie's comments from early a.m. on August 23 get to the heart of the matter. There's no need for me to heap up words when he's addressed the main issues so well.

As for why I haven't sent words of encouragement or sought you out, the reasons are simple. I belong to another presbytery in the Synod. During a committee meeting in my own presbytery late last week I heard that y'all were pulling up tent stakes, so to speak, so I Googled The Kirk in order to find out what was going on.

Though we've never met face-to-face, we meet in our Lord Jesus Christ every time we partake of the Lord's Supper, every time we pray for the welfare of the Church (that's the Church Universal, not just the PCUSA), every time we engage the Word by which we Christians are formed. I'm referring to the communion of the saints, which I seem to remember is an article of faith listed in the confessions.

Through the communion of the saints AND our connectional polity as Presbyterians, I've hung in there with you and all other Presbyterians when we've had disagreements within our denomination. I cringe every time the labels "conservative", "liberal", and "evangelical" are thrown around. We keep labeling each other instead of listening to each other. It's nothing more than polity by pigeon-holing.

You say you're leaving because you think the PCUSA has fallen away from Biblical faith. Well, just because everyone doesn't agree with you on all aspects of Biblical interpretation doesn't mean that Biblical authority isn't at the heart of all our perspectives. As a self-described evangelical, I've been working for years to raise the level of my parishioners' Biblical literacy. From the pulpit and from my lifestyle I call my congregations to conform to the Word of God, and I still get labeled as a liberal because I believe the Word calls us to what some derisively label a "social justice agenda".

I believe that God's Word clearly calls the Church to a humble, transparent faith that builds up The Body. I do not believe that God's Word calls us to judge who is more or less apostate that everyone else. This is why I say that your leaving diminishes The Body: you claim that "you" are more faithful than "we" (or "those people in Louisville") are; then you intentionally disregard church order by disassociating without the vote of the congregation and the presbytery. The process for leaving the denomination has been set in place in the Book of Order since Reunion in 1983. You can't claim that suddenly GA spin doctors and the presbytery are crafting a diabolical plot. You and I both know there are cases where presbyteries have allowed congregations to leave with their property, but you don't discuss those on your blog. Instead, you take the PLC's approach of using incendiary rhetoric and withholding facts. Your actions come across as judgmental, hypocritical, and disingenuous.

You say you've been threatened. Well I've been threatened, too. I believe, on Biblical grounds, that G-6.0106b should be removed from the Book of Order. I believe you're wrong, on Biblical grounds, for silencing the LGBT and denying them the right to hold office in the church. Whenever I speak out to that effect, my livelihood is threatened. Only I don't have a 2,500 member corporation ready to hire me back.

God help me, by spending so much time articulating myself I'm afraid I'm sounding judgmental, too. The point is, we ALL sin and fall short of the glory of God. Leaving the PCUSA and entering the EPC isn't going to change that fact in you, in those you join, or in those you leave behind. You will find sin wherever you go. You will also find grace and repentance and forgiveness wherever you go. You will also find Christ in the lives of some of those you consider to be apostate.

Please reconsider. Hang in there with me and others like me, even if you disagree with me. God knows I don't agree with you on all things. But hang in with me anyway, because our mutual faith is built upon Jesus Christ, and wherever two or more are gathered in his name -- even if it's over the internet -- he is in the midst of them.

Faithfully yours in Christ,
Mark