Saturday, September 09, 2006

No Voice of Reason

Here’s the scenario—your denomination is hemorrhaging members. There are churches leaving and others considering doing so. Some are suing for their property while others remain in the denomination only because they fear losing their property. There is tremendous confusion about what the denomination believes. Some are trying to respond by clarifying what is and isn’t acceptable for leaders. Others are trying to withhold giving in an attempt to persuade denominational leaders to listen, learn, and act appropriately.

If you were leading in such a situation, what would you do? It would be good to listen to the voices of those agonizing over their place in the denomination. You might want to step up to the plate and help clarify what you do and don’t believe. At the least, you’d assure congregations that you are striving to work things out in accordance with what you're hearing.

Don’t hold your breath if you’re in the PCUSA. Clifton Kirkpatrick, the highest staff officer of the denomination, has given his response to this real-life scenario in a letter to the stated clerks of presbyteries.

His response starts out giving some hope: “The assembly called [us], as we face difficult issues, to be engaged in ‘processes of intensive discernment through worship, community building, study, and collaborative work.’ The assembly also encouraged us prior to decision making to engaged in the spiritual disciplines of prayer, discernment of the will of God, and seeking to hear God’s voice through the voices of those in our community.” (emphasis added)

Then, though, Kirkpatrick gets to what his letter is really about and expresses concern (read, opposition) to the following:

  • “Actions by a presbytery that in essence set aside the assembly’s authoritative interpretation of G-6.0108 and require subscription to all or specific constitutional standards.”
    This means that conservative presbyteries, like San Diego, cannot set standard tenets for ordination. This is in spite of the fact that ordination vows require adherence to the “essential tenets” of Reformed theology (which are nationally undefined).


  • “Establishing answers that are required of candidates for installation and ordination, or determining in advance answers that will be unacceptable.”
    This goes against logic. If churches and presbyteries examine candidates, it must be on the basis of the responses they expect. Whenever a company hires an employee, the interview process is designed to seek out qualifications, suitability, experience, and the like. Presbyteries should not expect particular compatible beliefs from candidates.


  • "Proposals to grant congregations – based on a super majority vote or other criteria – to leave the denomination with their property in the event of schism."
    Let no presbytery grant grace to a departing congregation. Although Mark Tammen, the legal eagle of the PCUSA, blithely states that they “dismiss” four or five congregations every year, he fails to mention the financial consequences of this, given that “dismissed” congregations either pay for their property (again) or forfeit it.


  • “Actions to restrict presbyteries from fulfilling their G-9.0404d responsibilities to transmit their per capita assessments to synods and General Assembly.”
    This is to keep congregations, and then presbyteries, from withholding money from the national offices. Even though the PCUSA's permanent judicial commission has judged per capita to be a “voluntary donation,” Kirkpatrick’s office still enforces it as a tax.


  • “Mandates that presbyteries seek to place on sessions for procedures or content for the examination of candidates to be elders or deacons beyond those specified in the Constitution or its authoritative interpretations.”
    No presbytery should dare to establish standards for its churches.


  • “Yes these are difficult days for many of you. But it is in times like this that we most need to seek the spirit and mind of Christ and to be faithful to our Constitution, as we seek to build up the church in faithfulness to its Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”


Does not Kirkpatrick sense that the people in the pews are speaking the spirit and mind of Christ that they have discerned? Is the Stated Clerk’s office the only source of Christian wisdom?

Rather than listening to “seek God’s voice through the voices of those in our community,” Kirkpatrick is trying to silence those very voices. While he attributes his admonitions to the authority of the constitution, he has choices. He can choose to proactively implement the whole constitution or just the parts he’s interested in. The Stated Clerk’s office has effectively ignored egregious moral violations of the constitution while sniffing out every possible challenge to the money that might flow into the national offices. Ironically, by ignoring the one, he has caused the other.

Another blogger, and even some who have written me, have compared the attitude of the Stated Clerk’s office to the establishment of Rehoboam’s reign after his father, Solomon, died.
Then King Rehoboam went to discuss the matter with the older men who had counseled his father, Solomon. “What is your advice?” he asked. “How should I answer these people?”
The older counselors replied, “If you are willing to serve the people today and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your loyal subjects.”
But Rehoboam rejected the advice of the elders and instead asked the opinion of the young men who had grown up with him and who were now his advisers. “What is your advice?” he asked them. “How should I answer these people who want me to lighten the burdens imposed by my father?”
The young men replied, “This is what you should tell those complainers: ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist—if you think he was hard on you, just wait and see what I’ll be like! Yes, my father was harsh on you, but I’ll be even harsher! My father used whips on you, but I’ll use scorpions!’”
(1 Kings 12:6-10)

Rehoboam follows the young men's advice. The direct result of that choice was the division of Israel into two kingdoms. It never recovered and both kingdoms eventually were conquered.

Whither the PCUSA? This is a time when a witness of grace from the “top” could result in healing and hope. Instead, the march to division and destruction goes on.

Keep praying--keep the faith,
Tom

51 comments:

Barbara Allen said...

Amen and amen!
I think Mr. Kirkpatrick has just answered those who wanted to stay and fight within the system.
Barbara Allen, Elder
FPCSM

Mr. E said...

Good day Pastor Gray,
I am troubled by your comments in your post. As I understand it you have resigned your position as a PCUSA Minister. The church that you serve has disaffilated from the PCUSA also. Why do you continue to criticize the PCUSA?
You and your congregation have chosen to move on. So... move on!Continuing on this slanderous persuit detracts from the mission we are all called to serve.

Former member said...

Rev Gray, I don't agree with your decision to leave PCUSA, but now that it is done it serves as a giant wake-up call to those who are left. There is something very wrong happening and it will slowly change, but not immediately. This is a big ship to turn around in stormy seas.

NetProphet said...

Tom,

The events of the last few weeks have concerned me that the 36 Kirk members that voted againest breaking away from the PCUSA might feel hurt or left out. I would encourage our members to pray for the 36 in our congregation for healing and the grace of our Lord be abundant for all concerned in this process.

I would also like our congregation to pray for Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of PCUSA that he has the opportunity to exercise God's grace when dealing with dissenting congregations.

It might be of interest to read his viewpoint of his perceived role as State Clerk, which is to uphold the Constitution, at all costs, regardless of the consequences to the local
congregations.

http://www.pcusa.org/ga216/clerk/kirkpatrick-questions.htm

Going back to my concern for our 36 brothers and sisters, it is my hope that you stay and continue to be part of our congregation.

On another note, I attended New Members class this morning and it was standing room only. We had various religious backgrounds represented such as Church of Christ, transplanted Presbetyrians and also included a former pastor of The Latter Day Saints of Jesus Christ, going through the 6 week process to join our congregation. The total number in our class was around 36.

I have a question for you Tom. Why does this blog not have a spell checker?

Mark Smith said...

Tom,

You have renounced the jurisdiction of the church. You are now (according to you) out of the denomination. You've taken your ball and gone home.

Why then are you insisting on standing on the sidelines criticizing the rest of the team that you've left?

I think your decision to leave the PC(USA) means that you have lost the privilege of making negative comments about what continues to happen in the PC(USA). Anything else looks petty.

TomGray said...

To those concerned that I am still writing about the PCUSA,
Our church has moved on. Many pastor friends in the PCUSA have asked that I keep on blogging about the situation in the denomination. I am in a unique position. Since I have renounced jurisdiction, the denomination can take no punitive action against me, whereas is surely can and may against any pastor or elder speaking out so frankly.
I'll keep re-evaluating what I'm doing. I hope to be able to drop it, preferably because the situation has changed for the better. Fact is, it's gotten worse.
Tom

TomGray said...

PS to those concerned,
I didn't know that only PCUSA pastors could critique the denomination. Next thing you know, some Episcopalians are going to write in anger about what I said regarding them. Maybe I should move to something safer, like politics ;)
Tom

Anonymous said...

I feel we have a right to critize the PCUSA since they and EOP continue to attack the Kirk and our leadership on many fronts, including the property the Kirk has built up over the years to support our mission.

Also lets not forget to mention the fact all of the anonymous pro-PCUSA posters that continue to send Dr. Gray hate mail and to post lovely caring posts of support to the Kirk(note sarcasim).

We (the Kirk) need to continue to show the way for the church and point out the errors of the PCUSA since they feel a need to move away from the bible and attack their fellow Christians when we disagree with them.

P.W.

Jim Loughlin said...

For those who would like some direct substantiation of what Tom has written on this blog entry, here is the URL:
http://www.presbyweb.com/2006/News/0909--Stated%2BClerk-to%2BStated%2BClerks.doc

Thansk to "reformed catholic" at the classicalpresbyterian blog.

You don't have to be a member of Presbyweb to see this document.

Reformed and Reforming said...

Pastor Gray:

Be Honest. It is your move to politics that has caused your current fame (or infamy, depending on one's point of view).

If you were being honest, you would answer these questions:

1.) What are you, as the leader of a large, ostensibly Reformed congregation, teaching about the heresy of the Rapture as preached by the heretic Tim Lahaye and his old ally, Jerry Falwell?

2.) What are you, as the leader of a large, ostensibly Reformed congregation, teaching about the heresy of the self-esteem gospel as preached by the heretic Robert Shuller and the Holy Psychobabbler "Dr." James Dobson?

3.) What are you, as the leader of a large, ostensibly Reformed congregation, teaching about the heresy of the hyper-emotional Charismatics such as Oral Roberts, Pat Robertson, Morris Cerullo, and Benny Hinn?

4.) Why are you asking your flock to ignore the blasphemous heretics listed above so they may obsess over national denominational politics involving mostly secular issues?

The answer, my friend, is politics. The aforementioned heretics are your secular political bedfellows. There heresies must be ignored so you can lead your flock into battle against the vast majority of your fellow Reformed Christians who have consciously and conscientiously decided to remain in the national Presbyterian Church.

I can't help but wonder what you'll do should the next General Assembly correct its course (like it is doing on Middle East disinvestment). What if pray tell, you are leading your flock into a theological wilderness. I suppose you can get a TV show and preach the rapture and play charismatic praise music. At some point, though, you really should give up any pretense of being Reformed or Presbyterian

Anonymous said...

i heard (through the presbytery grapevine) that the presby asked the kirk to pay 1/10 of what the property was worth, which according to this person was between 800,000 & a million dollars.

is this true??

~mary

Anonymous said...

Good grief! Since when is it a "privilege" and not a "right" to talk about a particular denomination????

If we are going to be consistent, then PC(USA) members must refrain from criticizing the Southern Baptist Convention or the Presbyterian Church in America.

And, if people don't like what Rev. Gray is writing, then, uh ... don't read it! Simple, really.

Blessings,

John Erthein
Pastor, Elderton Presbyterian Church

TomGray said...

To "reformed and reforming,"
I concentrate on teaching what Scripture teaches. I'm not a particular devotee to any particular theologian, pastor, or "heretic."

I would pray that you might find some sense of grace for your own life (and regarding others). The amount of anger you show must be destructive to you and, probably, painful.

Politics is not my thing. There are politics in all human endeavors, including the church. If I were more political, I probably would not have made the decision to demit my ordination. There are many easier things I could have done, including hanging around just a few more years for a comfortable retirement.
Tom

TomGray said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
TomGray said...

To Mary,
There was an unofficial approach by another pastor to my co-pastor suggesting that the presbytery might be open to such a thing. This was done months before we were actually talking about leaving.

We are not really interested, I think, in paying a ransom for our property. Others might disagree with me.
Tom

Larry said...

Tom Gray's comments on Kirkpatrick's threatening letter to the stated clerks is most germane. In Kirkpatrick's mind he believes he owns all church property.

It is good for Tom to keep his congregation informed regarding the intentions of the top constitutional officer of the PCUSA.

"dillusional" minion said...

To former English teacher.

I wonder if you could help me since I am in a bit of a pickle. Ostensibly I don't have good command of the English language.

Is Psychobabbler a word?

Tom, (my hero) What office do you want to run for? How about T.V.?

charleswelden said...

Dear Pastor.Tom,
Again you demonstrate wisdom and restraint as you have seen into the distubed and angry 'reformed and reforming' person writing about everyone but himself being a heretic!
I suppose you have to let through a few of the negative comments to let the rest of us see how warped and attacking a few people can be.

Just in case the "anti-heretical reformer" is reading, my family totally enjoys the blessings received at The Kirk under your leadership and are thankful to learn as we hear the pastors' sermons. I suppose this next statement may (to a few) seem 'heretical: but the BIBLE teaches Christ will return to 'rapture' His bride. Dr Dobson and Focus on the Family. has helped thousands of children. Be born (not aborted) helped married (the normal kind) couples seek help and receive it. Our daughter was diagnosed by several medical specialists to be totally blind in six months however we attended a service where she was healed and that was seven years ago! Oh by the way Benny Hinn was leading the service. God did the healing.

To God be the glory for the blessings He has given all of us who will acknowlege them.

Tim Hight said...

Pastor Tom,

I would recommend that you post no comments that are submitted anonymously or by a user name.
If people are not willing to share their name, then I have no desire to read their comments.
Secrecy and the hush hush has recently caused a serious problem within our congregation.

Tim Hight
Perry, OK

Anonymous said...

Tom,

You certainly have the right to continue publishing your comments regarding the PCUSA. Each time you do, however, it helps reveal more about your character.

As far as refusing to pay a "ransom" for your property, this statement also reveals what should have been apparent all along to everyone reading this blog: you were never interested in the peace, unity, and purity of the church. If you were, you would accept this gracious offer of settlement, if it is indeed being offered. Accepting it would enable your congregation to move on, while honoring your previous commitments to the Constitution you claim to care so much about in your writings. By not accepting it, you reveal yet again that this has always been about power for you, which is sad.

If you were a mature follower of Christ, you would cease this ranting, accept the offer of a settlement from your presbytery, and move on to the fertile fields of your new denomination. I feel sure you have much to offer them. You won't be able to offer it to them, emotionally, spiritually, or otherwise, if you do not let this sad episode go.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dillusional:

I have a sense of humor, and it seems you do as well. You are using humor to make light of my gentle correction. That is well and good.

I'll let the good folks at Websters determine the appropriateness of the word "psychobabbler." It may very well have entered the cultural lexicon to the point where it is considered appropriate, if a little inflammatory.

The only word I would strike from your most recent post is "ostensibly."

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous -

The one who blogged "it helps reveal more about your character...". (Writing of Tom)

Question for you: Have you ever met Pastor Gray? Are you that sure he's "never interested in the peace, unity, and purity of the church"? Having known him for years (and years), I don't think your thoughts reflect how I understand his heart and is walk with the Lord. You may have a point about 'accepting ransom' and 'moving on' but your personal attacks are jumping to conclusions just a bit. Are they really necessary?

Ford Brett

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous (the one who blogged "it helps reveal more about your character...". (Writing of Tom):

The reason for the Kirk leaving the PCUSA had nothing to do with property or money and everything to do with theology. Whether we should have left years ago, or our timing was right is up for argument, and I don't want to go into that in this post.

The reason for the manner of our leaving had everything to do with property. Let's separate these 2 issues.

When my wife and I bought our current house, low these many years ago, my father-in-law loaned us money to do this. Since then we have paid off the loan (again, low these many years ago), and refinanced the house several times, paying off all but the current loan. If we chose to leave the family, and my father-in-law came and filed an affadavit of ownership on my house, I would have every right to be mad, to sue to have the affadavit removed. If he then came and said, "Sure, you can leave, but give me 10% of the value of your house as a tithe to the family," I'd have every right to consider it extortion. Fortunately, my father-in-law would never do this.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what the PCUSA has done through the Eastern Oklahom Presbytery. Yes we can "afford" to pay EOP, but it is wrong! Most courts have said it is wrong (some very emphatically) when the case went that far.

And, some churches cannot afford it, and are afraid that, if they even talk about leaving, they will lose their property. We have an obligation to them to set a precedent.

No, I do not like what the Kirk has been forced to do. However, revieing the history of how PCUSA has acted toward churches which wish to leave, we had no choice.

God bless,
Bill Underwood

Anonymous said...

1.) What are you, as the leader of a large, ostensibly Reformed congregation, teaching about the heresy of the Rapture as preached by the heretic Tim Lahaye and his old ally, Jerry Falwell?

2.) What are you, as the leader of a large, ostensibly Reformed congregation, teaching about the heresy of the self-esteem gospel as preached by the heretic Robert Shuller and the Holy Psychobabbler "Dr." James Dobson?

3.) What are you, as the leader of a large, ostensibly Reformed congregation, teaching about the heresy of the hyper-emotional Charismatics such as Oral Roberts, Pat Robertson, Morris Cerullo, and Benny Hinn?

4.) Why are you asking your flock to ignore the blasphemous heretics listed above so they may obsess over national denominational politics involving mostly secular issues?

The answer, my friend, is politics.

-----------------------------------

reformed and reforming-

Exactly what proof have you that Pastor Tom follows any of these so-called "heretics"?

Although in the previously cited questions you seem to be "asking" him what he's teaching, it is obviously in an accusatory manner. Then the accusations become obvious in the paragraphs that follow.

So I'd like to know what proof you have to be throwing these accusations around.

I happen to be an evangelical, orthodox Christian, and I myself only believe in the teachings of one of the people mentioned in your rantings.

My beliefs are based on knowledge. Knowledge of both Biblical history and archaelogy only serve to reinforce an orthodox interpretation of the Bible. As a nice bonus, they also aid in evangelical pursuits (and disprove the historicity of "religions" such as LDS).

Regardless . . .

I've been a member of both "evangelical" and other congregations. Never have I found a congregation that was less tolerant of my beliefs than the other ones. Not only my beliefs either fell on deaf ears, I was told that they were based on lies, or that I should ignore the part of the Bible they were coming from because the author of that part of the Bible was not to be listened to for one reason or another (for instance, Paul was a "radical convert").

But people in the evangelical church have been quite open to my beliefs and all I have to say about them. They're quite willing to listen to what I have to tell them about history and archaelogical finds, and about my interpretation of the Bible. They're MUCH more open to what I say than anyone in the other church was.

I could go on, but I've got to leave. All I can say is I think you're spouting off without any personal experience or any real knowledge of the situation you're talking about. My guess is that you have an agenda, and I must tell you that it's quite obvious.

G.A.C.

dillusional minion said...

Anonymous,

Thank you for defining the term psychobabbler.

You are using humor to make light of my "gentle correction." That is well and good.

I'll let the good folks at Websters determine the appropriateness of the word "psychobabbler."

I would like to know your definition of "gentle correction" because I, being ostensibly a Reformed individual attending a large congregation feel like your attacks on our pastor are certainly not what I would define
as "gentle correction", but filled with hate and anger. I do certainly find that humorous, which I am sure you do, since you have a sense of humor as well.

Care to babble some more on this subject?

Did I use ostensibly correctly?

I realize that I am certainly as educated and articulate as you but perhaps God can still use me despite by shortcomings.

aka
NetProphet

Reformed Catholic said...

I see once more some of the the anonymous bloggers have bypassed comment on the Stated Clerks latest missive, which is a very good example of what we used to call 'word processing' before the term came to mean a program that helped you create letters and manuscripts.

A commentary on Presbyweb by Chris Yim, former Moderator and Member of GAPJC says it all:
www.presbyweb.com

Aside to Mr Charles Weldon, the 'Rapture' does not come from the Bible, it is not a Presbyterian or Reformed teaching found in any Reformed denomination. If you'd like to know what the PCUS thought in 1978 on this, here is a link:

What do Presbyterians Believe

Blessings

Thomas Fleming said...

Hello, my name is Thomas Fleming and I am a current member of the Kirk and a student at John Brown University. I keep refering back to this blog for my updates on the current status of the the Kirk as well as the status of the Denomination. I am very appreciative of the information I am receiving from Tom, as well as the example that he has set for young adults including myself. I pray everyday for the peace of mind of our congregation and for the rest of those who have been affected by this political/spiritual mess. May the Lord remind us of the fruits of the spirit as we move forward instead of backwards with all of this negative critisism. Thank you Tom for being an inspiration and I pray that you constantly stand firm in what is right.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Col. 3:15

Reformed and Reforming said...

It is very telling that Mr. Weldon, as a member of Kirk of the Hills, believes that the rapture theory is somehow Biblical. Of course, it is 19th century fundamentalist nonsense that can be found nowhere in scripture and has been roundly dismissed by every Reformed denomination from the UCC on the far left to the OPC and ARP on the far right and everywhere in between. Clearly, Pastor Gray has failed Mr. Weldon as a teacher.

But, I am flabbergasted to read that Pastor Gray "is not a devotee of a particular theologian, pastor or 'heretic'." Oh Really? Augustine, Calvin, and Knox ring a bell? Or is Benny Hinn just as good (or even better or Mr. Weldon suggests)? Of course all religious denominations and sects believe that their teachings are scripturally correct. But without some theological grounding tested literally by centuries if not millenia, we are left with the Church of What's Happening Now. Whatever the pastor or, even worse, the TV preacher / Republican party boss thinks must be right. It is clear from this thread that at least some portion of the congregation at Kirk of the Hills has no grounding whatever in the Reformed tradition.

I was not surprised that a number of culturally and politically congregations have chosen to depart PCUSA after the last GA. No one in my very traditional, historically Puritan PCUSA congregation supported GA actions regarding ordination. But, I was a little surprised to see that Kirk of the Hills was so anxious to join up with a very small denomination (EPC) that seems to have more than a little of a charasmatic element. Now, I am surprised that you even want to continue the pretense of being called Presbyterian and by implication Reformed. Benny Hinn indeed.

Commander said...

Tom,

I was on the committee that interviewed you way back when you came to the Kirk. Your faith in the words of the Bible has not changed. PCUSA has lost their faith in the words of the Bible and therefore are walking down a slippery slope that is leading them away from the Truth.

Thank You for teaching and preaching the Word and not taking the easy path as PCUSA has taken.

liberty4u said...

More information from the PCUSA website:

Book of Order (Annotated) > Supplementary Materials > Citations from Minutes of Predecessor Churches -- (EARLIER REFERENCES) > G-1.0400, UPC, 1983, pp 141ff, Report of the Special Committee on Historic Principles, Conscience, and Church Government

The basis of Presbyterian polity is theological. Our polity is not just a convenient way of getting things done; it is rather, the ordering of our corporate life which expresses what we believe. The connection between faith and order is inseparable. At its heart, the polity of the church expresses our Reformed theology. What we do and the way we do it is an expression of how we understand our faith.

The Scots' Confession makes this clear when it speaks about the marks of the true church, those qualities which enable us to identify the church. These marks have to do with both purity of doctrine and proper procedure. The two are interrelated for what is true must also be expressed in the way things are done. Thus the right administration of the sacraments has to do both with the proper understanding of them and with the way in which they are done, and the exercise of discipline is a matter of procedure.

Central to this relationship between faith and practice is our conviction that Scripture is central to all the church does. The shape of the life of the church, that is its polity, is a direct expression of what we believe the Bible teaches. This is not to say that Presbyterianism is expressly taught in Scripture; and certainly not to say that other forms of church order, reflecting the understanding of others of God's people, are inimical to Scripture. We do affirm, however, that we believe that our polity is biblical in that it expresses our deepest insights from Scripture about the relationship between God and the people of God.

liberty4u said...

Idea for legal approach for churches leaving the denomination:

My prevoius post points out that polity and theology are intertwined. That means that the court cannot separate the polity out from the theology, which makes a neutral opinion impossible.

In the secret game-plan from the PCUSA, they want to label the church that is leaving as "schismatic". This could easily be brought up in court and challenged. The court could be asked which party is schismatic? The court would have to be asked to not hear the case, because they would have to decide who was schismatic, the church or the denomination. This cannot be ruled on by the courts without ruling on theological questions.

So, it would be easy to establish that the courts could not decide on these cases but that leaves the question of property ownership up in the air.

That is where I think the church that is leaving should request binding arbitration. In binding arbitration, theological questions could be ruled on by the arbitration panel. The denomination would be on very shaky ground if they want to make theological arguments.

I am not a lawyer and this may not be a reasonable approach from a legal standpoint. But maybe a lawyer could take some of this approach and turn it into a successful strategy.

TomGray said...

To reformed and reforming,
You need to read Scripture more thoroughly. The rapture (caught up in the clouds) is in 1 Thessalonians 4.

As to theologians, it has been my experience/opinion that those who identify too strongly with a theologian seem to limit themselves to a too small canon-within-a-canon of Scripture. I would far rather be known as a Biblical theologian than by a particular theologian's theme.

If you looked in my library, you'd see that I am well-read in Reformed theology, from Augustine to Calvin and Knox. I studied at an ancient Reformed school in Scotland.

As to your comments about charismatics and other ministers, please stop. Your words are unkind and unChristlike.
Tom

Kurt said...

Tom, I just wanted you to know that members of Heritage Presbyterian Church (PCA) in OKC have been praying for you and your church.

Thank you for taking a stand against the continuous downgrade in theology the PCUSA has taken.

I pray that gossip and slander are erradicated from your congregation and unity and exhortation replace them, as your congregation goes through this complicated and fragile process. I pray that your elders are able to aid the members in this. May the Lord keep all of you near as long as this process lasts.

Grace and peace,
Kurt

p.s. reformed and reforming: please, by all means, stop. Going on a super-cynical rampage of men with terrible theology will accomplish nothing. Saying things with grace and humility is a start. Perhaps you should read Calvin, Knox, and Augustine a little more closely, because I don't believe they would handle these men the way you do.

If you were actually concerned with the false doctrine being propogated by those men, you would address it differently.

I hate dispensational/charamatic/self-esteem bull crap as much as any other Reformed guy, but I've seen that handling these subjects with a controlled tongue often yields better results than cynicism.

Anonymous said...

It is very telling that Mr. Weldon, as a member of Kirk of the Hills, believes that the rapture theory is somehow Biblical. Of course, it is 19th century fundamentalist nonsense that can be found nowhere in scripture and has been roundly dismissed by every Reformed denomination from the UCC on the far left to the OPC and ARP on the far right and everywhere in between.

----------------------------------

reformed and reforming -

I'm curious, friend . . . are you in favor of many of the "social justice" causes that the PCUSA currently espouses?

Things such as maintaining "unity" at all costs with despotic leaders of governments (often led by religious leaders) that slaughter people for no reason, rape women in front of their husbands and children, stone women for being raped (while purporting that they were "adulterous"), and so on? All of this in hopes of getting them to change "through love".

Are you in support of homosexual "marriage"? Where in the state and city where it was made legal, the resulting "divorce" rate is already astronomical?

Well, tell me sir: if you want us to be so tolerant of your views, and of other people . . . where is the reciprocal tolerance? Have you ever thought that maybe being an example of tolerance might help those who don't agree with you to calm down?

One reason why evangelical churches are growing, and mainline churches are not is that the evangelical churches are the ones that are actually practicing the reciprocal tolerance. The evangelicals have this thing that seems alien to you. It's called FAITH.

Evangelicals don't need to scream and yell in an angry way to get their point across, because they know that God will do the work for them, if they have courage to do what they are called to do according to the Bible (not Calvin, Knox, Benny Hinn, Oral Roberts, or ANYONE else), and if they just have patience. This is called FAITH.

Now, this is not ALWAYS the case. There are always exceptions of course. There are churches where people are beaten over the head and pressured into believing one way or another regarding the minutae, with the threat of Hell looming over their shoulder. But those churches are cultic. That kind of teaching is power-driven, not faith-driven.

The Kirk is not like that. I am not a member, but I have attended a few times when I've been in Tulsa. I've never seen them teach on dispensationalism or pretorism. They might teach Revelations, but then they let people decide for themselves what interpretation to believe in.

The pastors and other teachers at the Kirk have this quality that seems alien to so many in the mainline churches: it's called respect. They don't see themselves as the be all and end all of opinion pertaining to God and the Bible. They have respect for congregants ability to make up their own minds, do their own research, persue their own interests, and form their own opinions. So in teaching, they lend you their expertise, and let you run with it.

I've often wished that I lived in Tulsa, so that I could be a part of a church like that.

G.A.C.

Anonymous said...

Dear Reformed and Reforming,

I hate to admit it but I've read your blogs several times just trying to comprehend what exactly is your point. Why are you so upset? And really, with whom are you so upset? You agree with us but you're angry because we left? You have sour grapes so you libel the EPC? You even chose to pick a fight with one member while insulting the rest of us. Why don't you come to the Kirk on Sunday and just meet with us? I know you'll discover wonderful people and the plain and proper study of scripture without a particular eschatological(or otherwise) presuppossiton or paradigm.

Sincerely,
Forgiven and Forgiving

Mark said...

Dear all,

The epistle reading (Revised Common Lectionary) for this coming Sunday, September 17, is helpful for all of us. James 3:1-12:

1Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. 3If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. 4Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits.

How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! 6And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. 7For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, 8but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. 10From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. 11Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? 12Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.

"Reformed and Reforming" is not the only one to say "unChristian" things on this blog. I've read many an evangelical call PCUSA leaders, and anyone professing a liberal view, "Bible haters" and worse. Talk about unChristian. Everyone needs to bridle their tongues -- or in the case of the internet, their fingers.

Seeing as we're all made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27; James 3:9), perhaps we need to ask ourselves what about the image of God shines forth in the people we're so ready to brand as heretics.

Okay, I'll go first. Though I don't agree with Tom on many points, it is clear that he is zealous for Christ. The fact is, I've seen a zeal for Christ in Tom's "opposition", also. God shines forth through all of us, in spite of us, and there's no sin that can stop God from making it so.

Let's all put down the verbal machetes.

Yours in Christ,
Mark

Reformed and Reforming said...

G.A.C.

As I indicated in one of my earlier posts, I attend a very traditional, historically Puritan church that has remained within the PCUSA. The issue of "Gay Marriage" is not even an issue discussed in our church or our greater community. I'm a little surprised to learn that Tulsa is apparently different.

Our presbytery is never going to ordain anyone who is unwilling to proclaim themselves to be chaste in singleness or faithful in marriage. I understand that presbyteries in places like Massachusetts and Vermont might try to. While I don't approve, its really not a threat to me. And there very, very few Presbyterians there and I'm not going to lose sleep over how they do things.

I do not approve of the actions of this year's GA regarding ordination or their "receiving for study" the silly little paper regarding names for the Trinity. To some degree, I am heartened that the Fidelity and Chastity requirement was overwhelmingly approved. But, of course, the GA is just an annual church politics meeting and nothing more. Politicians in the church (Rightwing and Left) get very excited about it. The faithful back home could not much care unless the church politicians get them riled up about this transgression or the other.

Very little that has ever happened in a GA has ever affected (positively or negatively, directly or indirectly) our 300 year old, 600 member congregation or any of the 30 other congregations in our presbytery ranging in members from 20 to 2000.

You might find it interesting to know that our Presbytery has and does remove pastors and elders for heterosexual adultery and other churches in the Presbytery have removed Sunday School teachers for teaching the rapture. These are more vital issues in the life of our congregation (and I suspect most PCUSA congregations) than whether a presbytery in New England (or New York for that matter) ordains a noncelibate homosexual.

Anonymous said...

RE: Reformed and Reforming. I have to agree with the preceding post. I'm not sure what your point is either, although I suspect you are driven by some anger that is needing an outlet; and we are it. Asa Kirk member who supports Tom and Wayne, let me assure you that neither I nor the other members of the Kirk who believe as I do are uncultured lemmings willing to blindly follow either of them. We are only behind them because they are following Christ. Granted, my theological training is not even equal to that of a first century fisherman or tent maker, but I and many others are led and taught by the Holy Spirit. And that Spirit is who is pointing the way through scripture and conviction. Not Tom or Wayne. If they stop following Christ, we will stop following them. They know that and are acting upon a conviction that comes from God. They are doing the right thing, and so are those of us who support them. And that is what is at the heart of this matter. If you think that that makes me more of an Evangelical (you use that term as if it is a bad thing) than a Presbyterian then so be it. There are plenty of Presbyterians who would disagree with you. Again, I'm not sure of the source of your anger, but please find some other way to address it than by attacking those who are simply being faithful to our calling. By the way, I don't expect to live beyond the normal lifespan of man, if that long, so I don't think God intends me to wait for several millenia to pass so that I can test His theology that he made plain in the life, death, burial and resurrection of Christ. My relationship with Christ is real and in the present. Also, I have never really watched or paid much attention to Benny Hinn, but I can tell you that if you want to make persuasive points with me you won't get anywhere with anger, arrogance and sarcasm. Even if I were an atheist, which I'm not, I would still think the man is as entitled to as much respect due any human being. Remember "If I have not charity...."
I pray that Christ will help you deal with your anger. If your postings are any indication of your overall approach to dealing with others, it is probably hurting your witness for Him.

MB

Reformed and Reforming said...

MB - I am not angry. But, I am befuddled. I do not begrudge the charasmatics or dispensationalists any other sect. I simply do not understand why a charasmatic or dispensationalist would WANT to self-identify with the the Reformed movement or the Presbyterian church. If the leadership or membership of the Kirk of the Hills is heading in either of those directions, that's certainly their right. Just leave if you're more comfortable in the Assembly of God or Church of God (Cleveland, TN). But there is no need to portray yourselves as victims. One thing we could do with a lot less of in our culture is the whole victimization drama.

My larger point is that it is obvious that Pastor Gray is very selective in his outrage over PCUSA actions and inactions. As objectionable as one might find the Trinity paper "received for study" by the GA, it is unimaginable to me that a Reformed pastor would not find the Rapture theory at least as objectionable. It is plain as day that the selectivity of Pastor Gray's outrage is fueled by secular politics and not sound Reformed theology.

I remain astounded that Pastor Gray believes that 1 Thessalonians 4 supports the rapture theory. To believe that, one would have to completely ignore the Olivet Discourse in the Gospel in Matthew. History is clear that the Rapture theory was invented out of whole cloth in the 19th century by an ex-Anglican priest. It never existed in the first eighteen centuries of Christendom.
I actually don't think Pastor Gray so much embraces the Rapture theory. It is clear that he is unwilling to offend his political allies who do embrace the Rapture while posting many, many "UnChristlike" posts regarding leaders of the PCUSA.

Larry said...

To Reformed and Reforming who wrote about his/her lack of concern of what goes on in other PCUSA churches, presbyteries, or GA. Whoever you are, you need to read the Book of Order and the Book of Confessions. You are proclaiming your church is a "congregational" entity and not a "connectional" church. You are basically saying your church is not a presbyterian church.

Specifically, read this section of the Book of Order: "G-9.0103: The governing bodies are separate and independent, but have such mutual relations that the act of one of them is the act of the whole church performed by it through the appropriate governing body."


What Reformed and Reforming wrote is pasted below: "Our presbytery is never going to ordain anyone who is unwilling to proclaim themselves to be chaste in singleness or faithful in marriage. I understand that presbyteries in places like Massachusetts and Vermont might try to. While I don't approve, its really not a threat to me. And there very, very few Presbyterians there and I'm not going to lose sleep over how they do things.

I do not approve of the actions of this year's GA regarding ordination or their "receiving for study" the silly little paper regarding names for the Trinity. To some degree, I am heartened that the Fidelity and Chastity requirement was overwhelmingly approved. But, of course, the GA is just an annual church politics meeting and nothing more. Politicians in the church (Rightwing and Left) get very excited about it. The faithful back home could not much care unless the church politicians get them riled up about this transgression or the other."

Anonymous said...

I am thankful that you folks are taking a stand. The prophets were stoned when God sent them to wake the people of God up and there are stones being thrown at you. Keep fighting the good fight!

Anonymous said...

Reformed and Reforming,

When referring to the "Rapture", I am assumming you mean one of the views held by a type of Premillennialist: either pre-, mid-, or post-tribulationist, aka Dispensationalism (whew what a keyboard-full!) Anyway, I don't see any reason why one couldn't use the term rapture in reference to 1 Thes 4:16. Questions relating to the timing of the Millennium (Rev. 20:1-6) and the Rapture (1 Thess. 4:16-17) and their relationships to the Second Coming of Christ have been debated for years and years and years. My point is, I don't think you can classify someone as a Dispensationalist just because they use the word rapture. My other point is that all the above is an in house debate not secular politics or essential doctrine. The selectivity of Pastor Gray's outrage is fueled by the turning from sound Reformed theology, which is the authority of scripture. We should actually be outraged with your type of attitude that is ignoring the problem all around you. Sorry, to take an offensive mode with you. Hoping we're getting to some kind of mutual understanding, eventually.

Yours Truly,
Forgiven and Forgiving

Anonymous said...

Amen to the comments of Forgiven and Forgiving.

Actually, Reformed and Reforming, I am glad that you are not angry; just "befuddled." From your comments I take that to mean you are confused as to why we would want to be Presbyterians and also embrace an evangelical view of Christianity. It almost seems like you are saying that if we want to behave that way then we are welcome to leave the Presbyterian Church. You can't mean it that way; or do you? At any rate, I have not yet looked into your suggestion pertaining to joining other denominations. Do you mean to endorse these organizations, or are you maligning them? Also, I believe the Constitution I supported and defended for a good part of my life entitles me to go to church wherever I wish. So I truly hope you aren't trying to suggest I should "get out". If I choose to worship with the body of believers at Kirk of the Hills I am free to do so. Again, I consider myself to be a follower of Christ and not bound by denominational history. Nor am I bound by your opinion as to where I am and am not welcome. As for Tom and Wayne, they have my continuing respect and support. If what I have to say is offensive to you, then understand that your attitude and implications about our motives and actions are equally offensive. Having said that, please know that I have no animosity toward you. I have been as respectful to you as the situation allows. I would simply implore you to show more respect for us and for our pastors.

MB

Anonymous said...

I am one of the 36 who voted NO. Through all of my efforts to make an educated decision, I received an e-mail that sums it up:

I think it's just a matter of how you decide to
understand Jesus and how to understand the Bible. If you decide that every
word in the Bible came directly from God (as the Muslims believe about the
Qu'ran), then you have to take every word literally -- but probably in it's
original language. That's fine, but if you choose that route, you have to
take them all -- not just some of them. Did the church advocate "turning
the other cheek" after 9/11? If, on the other hand, you take into
consideration the social and moral influences of the time, who was writing
it, to whom it was being written, etc., then you see it somewhat
differently. (Thus it becomes questionable whether Jesus' command to turn
the other cheek, apparently spoken in terms of one individual to another,
holds when you are considering something like 9/11). Even the four Gospel
writers weren't exactly in sync. I believe that the way Jesus, himself,
lived -- the broad brush view rather than the hair-by-hair of the brush
view) is the truest manifestation of what God wants us to follow.

Paul had no idea when he wrote his letters to the various churches that they
would someday make the Bible. I'm sure that he felt God leading him to
write what he did to each church because of its own unique problems. His
messages to the various churches differ widely. If he were writing a letter
to the Kirk today, do you think he would say, "Well done, good and faithful
servants" or would he say something else? I personally think he might say
something else. If Jesus' life is the ultimate authority, we see that he
befriended and loved everyone that the church of the time considered "out."
Without a doubt, homosexuals are the "lepers" of our time. Jesus made no
mention of them at all (in fact he was harshest against the religious
authorities of his day), so it seems very strange that this one minority
population of people, most of whom are about as non-threatening as anyone
could be, should be singled out as the group for which the "line is drawn."

I think the bottom line for each of us is to recognize that "what Jesus
meant" and "what the Bible means" has been addressed in hundreds of
thousands of documents and books for 2000 years. There is no "right" or
"wrong" answer. We simply learn what we can, pray, and seek to discern
decide what seems most right to each of us and go with it, fully
acknowledging that God is much bigger than any of our understandings of God.
For Christians, we believe that if we miss the mark a little, we are still
going to be reunited with God through grace -- not because we were "right"
or "wrong" about something we couldn't figure out. I think I can see Jesus
smiling on your efforts to seek the truth for yourself and your family --
and I have a strong suspicion that that's good enough.

liberty4u said...

anonymous wrote:

"There is no "right" or
"wrong" answer. We simply learn what we can, pray, and seek to discern decide what seems most right to each of us and go with it"

This above statement is a good way to express the idea of moral relativism -- that there are no absolute truths -- or each does what is right in his own eyes. Dr. Ronald Nash, in his course on Christian Ethics, gave a quick and, I believe, a humorous way of refuting this argument. You simply ask if a supporter of moral relativism is sure about his position. They can't say yes, because they would then hold that there is an absolute truth that all truth is relative. Therefore they must answer no they are unsure that they what they believe is true.

So, anonymous, are you sure that the statement "There is no "right" or "wrong" answer" is a true statement?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous,

The debate certainly forces people to think and to begin to understand what they believe, or say they believe. And it is better to be seeking Christ's will in this matter and others than to rely on entrenched beliefs. A person can be right about a thing, but not know why. It is important to question one's beliefs. And I think that is one reason that God gives us the ability to reason. The dialogue, even the controversy, may be His will in order to give us all a chance to lift up Christ in the process. It will also, I believe, bring healing and understanding in the process. And remember, just because we disagree with certain practices and lifestyles does not mean that we are hateful or intolerant. We are still called to love one another. I daresay the idea that the idea of renaming the the Holy Trinity for the sake of political correctness, as well as the perceived heavy-handedness of the PCUSA causes me more consternation than someone's lifestyle. And, though I and others believe homosexuality to be a sin, I also believe that sin is basically disobedience to God; and that one sin is as bad as another. I would say that we need to be clear on that, and need to ask the forgiveness of anyone we have caused to believe otherwise. I must say I appreciate your ability to blend candor and tact in making your point. There may be hope in this debate after all.

MB

Anonymous said...

Dear "One of the 36";
I'm taking a deep breath as I start to write this because I'm not sure what I want to convey to you will be perceived by you as helpful. I can say it is helpful to me. It is fun to research and find out why the Bible is so very reliable. Lee Strobel(sp?)does an excellent job. And then there's interpretation: Practical hermeneutics is also very fun to help you know you are reading a verse and getting the proper context. When I read your comments, I get the feeling that you believe yourself more than God. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, 16"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work".
Don't miss the point about gay ordination. We all know we're all sinners. The issue is if you believe homosexuality is a sin, then why would you want to put an unrepentant sinner in a position of authority, example, and teacher? I would say the same thing for anyone with any type of unrepentant lifestyle, like a pornography user or a gambling addict or a politician! (haha!)

A Friend

Anonymous said...

To one of the 36,

Obviously the Reverend Gray and the Kirk fostered an environment that caused/casues people in the pew to think theolgoically -- some would say this is hard, hard work for both the pastors and the congregation. KUDOS to the Kirk and their staff.

Obviously the Reverend Gray and the Kirk fostered an environment where people in the pew allow God to be the conscious of how they use their calling to help guide the local church.

Obviously this situation has caused much pain in finding that one has a difference in discernment with their pastors and those who they have worshiped and prayed together for years. But I applaud you one in 36 for having the faith to stand for your convictions borne from your own study, reflection and meditation on the Word of God, both written, lived and alive in the working of the Holy Spirit in the lives of men and women, boys and girls.

Obviously God will have the final word. But until then let us all be in prayer for the Church Universal that one day we will truly be one flock with One Shepherd, Christ Himself.

God bless us all,

Lydia

Anonymous said...

I must say I appreciate your ability to blend candor and tact in making your point. There may be hope in this debate after all.

-----

I too appreciate this. Your blog entry lays out your points of contention, and is quite polite in doing so. This is the way to at least start a real discussion.

-----

I think it's just a matter of how you decide to understand Jesus and how to understand the Bible. If you decide that every word in the Bible came directly from God (as the Muslims believe about the
Qu'ran), then you have to take every word literally -- but probably in it's original language. That's fine, but if you choose that route, you have to take them all -- not just some of them. Did the church advocate "turning the other cheek" after 9/11?

-----

A few points to discuss here:
1) Re: "If you decide that every word in the Bible came directly from God . . . then you have to take every word literally . . . but if you choose that route, you have to take them all -- not just some of them."
-Yes! You do have to take them ALL! We must interpret scripture in light of scripture. We cannot take a piece of it out, go "ooohhh! look what this says", accept that one passage as the ONLY thing God had to say about the subject. God likely had MANY things to say on the subject, and we must consider ALL of them, and then we can come to a conclusion about what that tells us about the passage we were just looking at. (But sorry "anonymous". People have looked, and looked, and looked, and doing this still does not result in the conclusion that Christ advocates homosexual acts, or any out of wedlock, or extramarital sexual activity for that matter).

2)Actually, if we're talking about the PCUSA, "turning the other cheek" is EXACTLY what they advocated doing after 9/11.

3)Re: "If you decide that every word in the Bible came directly from God (as the Muslims believe about the
Qu'ran) . . . "

Enough with equating orthodox Christians with Muslims! (And this coming from the same contingent who SWEARS that Islam is a "religion of peace"). Within it is always this implication that evangelical Christians are these "dangerous" mind numbed robots who would go out and commit murder "in defense of" Christ or Christianity, and they've "done it before". Oh, yeah - sure.

You mean those few wacko, cultic people who's churches had thrown them out for threatening or scaring people and maybe came back and shot some people? Or the ones who had started "churches" of their own, and eventually decided that they were Christ, and then went on to do something murderous or otherwise destructive? Or the random murderous twerp who decided that God would be cool with it if they went ahead and murdered an abortion doctor.

Right. Sure, that compares to Islamofascist terrorists, all the death, maiming, raping, and other torture that they've committed. Sure, it's the same thing, on the same scale.

What are they smoking?

G.A.C.

Anonymous said...

To "A Friend" and "G.A.C." I am the Anonymous that signs his initials M.B. and I agree with the two of you fully. I think you may have me confused with one of the other anonymous posters. I'll log in as a blogger as soon as I can figure out how to get my popup blockers and firewalls to cooperate. As the saying goes, there is probably a short between the chair and the computer.

Let me be clear that I believe that homosexuality is a sin, and I do not support their ordination. I am also adamant that this is not a one-horse race. We have the duty to speak up against heavy-handed tactics of the PCUSA and to lift up Christ in the process. I was affirming, as you will agree, that we (meaning I and the others voting to leave) understand that we are to love the sinner and hate the sin and that we are anything but hateful, bigoted and intolerant. And to shed light on reference to a blend of tact and candor, the secondary audience was Reformed and Reforming, whom I dealt with rather bluntly in an earlier posting - mostly because of the abrasive nature of the commentary I saw in R and R's postings, which I found insulting to our pastors, our church and to Evangelical Christians generally. Those postings seemed to be saying (deep breath here) "if you want to behave like Christians you can just leave the Presbyterian Church." R and R might as well have said "we don't need your kind". I am still waiting for a reply on that because I hope that I am wrong and that such an attitude does not really exist. There simply are ways to disagree agreeably, and that is what I was reinforcing with my comment. I hope this clarifies things between us. God Bless the both of you.

M.B.

Anonymous said...

I hope this clarifies things between us. God Bless the both of you.

M.B.

-----------------------------------

It does for me. Thank you very much, my friend.

God be with you and bless you, in all that you do.

G.A.C.