Saturday, September 30, 2006

EOP Reaction, version 1.03c (beta)

Chrissie and I were at the annual Kirk Retreat for Friday night and Saturday. It was a great gathering with more than twice the number of people who attended last year. On the drive home my phone rang--it was Wayne. "Have you heard about the letter?"

Wayne went on to describe a letter sent to all Kirk members indicating that those who wished to remain PCUSA would be worshiping at Southminster Church at 5pm Sunday afternoons until they could meet at the Kirk buildings (presumably when the presbytery thinks it will take control of the property).

This is the third try by the Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery to draw out a so-called "true church" from the Kirk congregation. The first was a mild attempt to provide a "supply pastor" for the Kirk since I and Wayne had left the PCUSA. The second was a letter inviting members to a meeting that took place at First Presbyterian, Tulsa. This is, by my count, the third attempt.

This letter raises several issues in my mind. First, we left the denomination virtually unified as a congregation. However, the presbytery is actively seeking to split people away from our congregation. Clearly their action is schismatic.

The second issue is about the legal process that we are in. The presbytery has responded to our suit to remove the affidavit from our property with a demand that the court force us to hand over our membership lists, along with a printed set of labels. The presbytery obviously already has the list. They've used it twice, once with the invitation to the meeting downtown and now with this letter inviting Kirk members to attend another church.

The question is why are they asking for this from the court? It costs a lot to go to court, and it makes no sense to spend the money to do so in order to get they already have in their possession. I would think that members of the Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery, knowing that money is in short supply there, might question such an expense.*

Third, the people who voted against the Kirk's disaffiliation are always welcome to attend church at the Kirk (some actually are). If what they want, though, is to be in the PCUSA, they can easily accomplish that by joining any of the PCUSA congregations in Tulsa. The handful of people wanting to remain with the PCUSA neither need the entire Kirk facility (designed for 2,000) nor could such a small number of people be able to pay the bills for maintaining the facility.

The EOP seems to be going blindly through a process--the check list, if you will--regardless of the illogic of doing so. If the gameplan says "get the church to hand over membership lists" they are doing so, even though they have them in hand.

So, the EOP will hold worship for the "Kirk" on Sunday afternoons at Southminster, deeming it the "true church." These Sunday afternoons are not meetings for discussion. They are an attempt to form a separate congregation from the Kirk. I would guess that they are hoping for numbers to indicate that there is a real division in the Kirk. I don't think that'll happen.

Keep praying--keep the faith,

* I know that the presbytery is responding to the Kirk's suit for a "quiet title" on our property. All the presbytery has to do to stop the expense is remove the affidavit that they secretly filed on our property. We asked them to do so, they refused, and we had to take legal recourse.


Anonymous said...

Quite interesting...apparently the letter came from Doug Dodd. Seems that the PCUSA may not be the only one with a political agenda here.

Mike Gwinner said...

Tom, When I asked Jim Miller about why Chrissie and Lynette had not received the first letter, he said it was because they were not in the roughly 5-year old directory they had. He also said they got a whole stack of "address-unknown" back, indicating a 1 1/2" to 2" stack, so (unless he was outright lying) I don't think they did have a current list then. But they likely have a more up-to-date one now. In our favor, there were fewer extra copies of the last one.

TomGray said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TomGray said...

That's interesting. Chrissie has been a member for 24 years and Lynette for 17 years. They didn't get this letter either.

Thomas Scandlyn, Harriman, Tennessee said...

I do grieve for all of you. The church in which I grew up underwent a split in which the pastor and much of the congregation joined OPC. I was part of the Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tennessee when it joined the EPC. In the Memphis case the congregation overwhelmingly voted to leave the PCUSA (approx 1800 vs 200) of those that voted. But even then there was a great deal of ill will in the air. The group leading the
PCUSA coalition was headed by an attorney that was the daughter of a former minister and she was very vocal. During this time the pastoral staff of the church was getting about 12 hate letters daily from both inside and outside the congregation with of course many of them unsigned. The 200 that voted to stay in the PCUSA walked out during the singing of Blest Be The Tie That Binds after the vote results were announced.

If you have 2/3 majority of the congregation wanting to leave the Presbytery in the interest of being a credible Christian witness
ought to let you go. But in addition to the apostasy that abounds in today's church there is much idolatry as well centering upon things like property and money. And in every ecclesiastical
body (even the local church) there are those who have bowed down to those idols.

A remnant congregation holding on to a building it cannot afford to maintain does the community around it only harm. A church is more than a roosting place for those who dwell inside its walls. It is a mission base for carrying Christ's gospel into the world around it. And neither side should lose track of that fact.

Remember years ago when the Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia withdrew from the UPCUSA the presbytery initially took control of the property. Then realizing they had a historical monstrosity with high upkeep but no congregation left to pay the bills they released it back to the congregation. The condition the Presbytery of Philadelphia placed upon Tenth Church was that it agree to maintain its downtown location and ministry for at least 49 years. In my opinion that was a credible Christian request. The congregation got the property and it showed that the Presbytery did have a genuine concern for the inner city. By giving the building to the congregation they assured the community of more than just a shell at that location and by garnering that agreement assured them that the Christian witness would remain there (and that was before the turnaround in
downtowns of large cities started happening). In other words when there are separations there can be
ways to work it out so that the gospel message is not buried under an avalanche of idolatry bowing down to dollars and cents. The presbytery and the congregation need to take a hard look from a Christian standpoint what they have been trying to foster in that place. Then they can look at how this mission can go forward with the division of assets. The Tenth Presbyterian Church has perhaps done more to help those caught in the trap of sexual and moral confusion in a biblical way than perhaps any other congregation in America. Their location has enabled this outreach to foster the proclamation of the true gospel AND to show God's love to those that are broken. Even those in the old PCUSA that might not agree with Tenth Church's approach to the subject there are few who would deny the effectiveness of what has been shown there.

Phil Graham said...

Gayle and I received neither the initial letter announcing the meeting at 1st church nor the follow-up letter re: services at Southminster. We've been Kirk members since 1985 and have had the same address that whole time.

I am not upset that my family missed out on these two invitations from EOP, as they would have been read and then thrown into the circular file. Besides, EOP saved two precious 39-cent stamps and we all know how broke it must be to be coming after THE KIRK'S property.

On the bright side, our former Presbytery is to be congratulated for (finally) doing some outreach. ;)

Anonymous said...

The letter went to everyone that the EOP had in an outdated Kirk directory. I feel secure that the main purpose of the service was to provide a worship service for those Kirk folks who no longer feel comfortable attending the Kirk. I imagine that until the property issue is resolved this service will continue to take place.

Regarding the property thing:

Let's say a friend who moves to town asks to stay with you until he gets a place to stay on his own. You graciously invite him into your home. You have plenty of room, so it doesn't seem like a big deal. The friend gets a good job and is getting settled. After a few months you realize you really like him being around. The family has become attached to him. He has his own corner of the house and is not in the way. He does his share of chores. He offers to pay his share of the bills. After a couple of years he is pretty much a member of the family. Years roll by. Your friend suddenly approaches and says that "since he has been paying his share for the past several years" he should become the owner of your house. He asks that the title to your house be turned over to him. What would your reaction be?

TomGray said...

Dear anonymous,
Your analogy would be applicable if you had said that the friend bought, built, and maintained the house.

TomGray said...

PS to anonymous,
AND that he held the title to the house all along.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Quite interesting...apparently the letter came from Doug Dodd. Seems that the PCUSA may not be the only one with a political agenda here

the letter came from doug dodd not because of any "political" agenda but because he has been appointed as the clerk of session (by the eop) for what ever members of kirk who want to stay pc(usa)

Anonymous said...

I don't believe the directory the EOP is that outdated. We became members just over two years ago, and received both of the letters.

Anonymous said...

Who is this person named Douglas Dodd and what is his relationship with the Kirk and PCUSA??

Please in the future identify all people mentioned in the blog as to their title either with the KIrk, EOP or PUSA.


Anonymous said...

doug dodd is a member at southminster & he was asked by the eop to act as clerk of session of any kirk members who wish to stay in pc (usa).

the political comment probably came in because he ran for congress a couple of times.

Anonymous said...

Again, if you don't want to deal with the cost of a lawsuit, notably the discovery costs, don't file a lawsuit. The story that the EOP already has the list in question does not add up.

Reformed Catholic said...

Anonymous said...
Please in the future identify all people mentioned in the blog as to their title either with the KIrk, EOP or PUSA.

I'm not sure if you're the Anonymous who keeps saying 'sick sick sick', or just someone else who doesn't want to put a name or pseudonym down, but I read this and the first thing that popped in my mind was 'practice what you preach!'.

Anonymous said...

I know of a church that left a denomination in very similar circumstances to yours. There was a lot of energy generated; some good, some bad; that was centered on the conflict. The dirty little secret about standing as a church against a so-called "apostate" denomination is that it gives your congregation a rallying cry and a certain unity. The downside is that as soon as the conflict subsides, all the old issues come up again. In the case of the church I am referencing, many, many members were unable to get past the original "us versus them" posture, even when it was no longer relevant to their situation, so they turned the negative energy inward. The congregation is now a shadow of its former self.

I say all this in order to issue a friendly warning. Tom, it may be time to turn your congregation's energy in a different direction. A good start would be to steer this blog in a less negative and confrontational direction regarding the pcusa. You are not doing your folks any favors by keeping this fire lit. I feel at times that the only real identity your congregation has is its identity vis a vis the pcusa. This is unhealthy, unmanageable over the long term, and contrary to the spirit of Christ.

Each time this has been raised with you, you have said, in essence, that you will keep this alive until later, when the pcusa releases you or you are accepted by the epc. If I were in a decision-making body in the epc and saw the content of this blog, I would advise against receiving you. What denomiantion needs another unhealthily disputatious congregation?