Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Furthering PCUSA Mission

Church property is a hot issue in the PCUSA. Few know that as well as we do at the Kirk. The denomination (from its national legal gameplan) insists that presbyteries must retain property—or get a significant settlement—to further the mission of the PCUSA.

Is that why the Pines Presbytery allowed one of its churches to sell its building to an Islamic society to become a mosque? An article in today’s Layman Online details the merger of two churches and the sale of one of the church’s property.

It wasn’t as if there were no other qualified buyers. There was one organization that wanted the church in order to reach out to the homeless and poor through a Christian outreach center. The other wanted to create a Christian worship and evangelism center.

The pastors involved argue that this sale will improve dialogue with Moslems—it will be a great learning experience. The only problem is that none of it will be Christian teaching that is learned. The pastors aren’t even thinking about evangelizing the Muslims, believing that they are each “children of Abraham” and worship the same God we do. They’re ready to learn Arabic so that they can learn the Koran.

It simply isn’t mission. The real reason for this sale was money. The Islamic Society offered more cash than the Christians. To me, this is a metaphor of the property issue at hand for PCUSA churches, like ours, that leave the denomination. It’s not really about mission, it’s about money.

I’m not opposed to Islamic Societies building mosques. It’s the context that bothers me—they didn’t need Christian church property to meet in.* Having traveled extensively in the Middle East, I’m painfully aware of the thousands of ancient churches converted to mosques and it pains me to think of the same thing happening here. Islam is not interested in cooperating with Christian ministry; they are bent on overcoming other religions and placing them into dhimmitude (official second-class status). Most of the churches they now occupy in the Middle East and Turkey weren't purchased, either. They were taken at the point of a sword.

As more and more Presbyterian churches die and the property empties out (or as the denomination confiscates property from vital, dissenting congregations), the more this kind of issue will arise. What the PCUSA and all mainline denominations need is Christian evangelism to fill the buildings, not extra cash to support a dying denomination.

Keep praying—keep the faith,
Tom

* A related incident occurred in Tulsa not long after 9/11 when the University of Tulsa (ostensibly a Presbyterian institution) built a brand new mosque on its property.
CORRECTION: One of my elders pointed out that the University of Tulsa simply provided the land. They did not provide the funds for building the mosque.

Photo by Gary Miller from the November 2006 issue (Vol. 39, No. 5) of The Layman. Reprinted with the permission of the Presbyterian Lay Committee.

14 comments:

Toby Brown said...

Is it any wonder why God continues to allow (hasten?) our denominational fade into apostasy and decline?

We asked for it and now we're getting it....

I find particularly relevant the book of Jeremiah chapters 2 on, for the biblical parallel to our situation.

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Stephen said...

Tom,

The PNS just posted the following story: "Judge tosses property claim by California dissidents" (http://www.pcusa.org/pcnews/2006/06630.htm).

Any comments?

Keeping the faith,
Stephen

Stephen said...

Tom,

I read the Layman article (http://www.layman.org/layman/the-layman/2006/5-november-2006/islamic-symbol-replaces-cross.htm) and it contained some interesting information that you failed to share in your blog.

The most important piece of information you left out is that the two congregations who merged to form Trinity PC of Bossier City both filed for property exemptions in 1985, within the guidelines set by the 1983 reunion that formed the PC(USA). In other words, they owned their property outright (no presbytery, synod, or GA intrusions allowed) and had every right to do with it whatever they wished.

Why do you hold up Trinity PC's action as an example of denominational heavy-handedness and greed when its action was totally autonomous (and legal, I might add, in both secular AND church courts)? I thought that was part of what the Kirk has been advocating for itself since this summer: to own its property outright and to do with it whatever it wishes.

Meanwhile, you laud the EPC and the PCA as denominations who allow their congregations to own their properties outright.

You're sounding a bit schizophrenic.

On to the second interesting bit of information in that Layman article. The author, Gary Miller, wrote, "The spire of the former First Presbyterian Church of Bossier City, Louisiana once lifted high the cross. It now makes visible the symbol of the star and crescent which was once a central emblem of Islamic conquest."

And was the cross not once a central emblem of the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the Christian conquest of the Americas? Was it not burned (and is it not still burned) by many Klansmen as an act of "pious" intimidation?

Let us not forget our Christian history, however inconvenient or embarrassing it may be, lest we be doomed to repeat it. Let us not fall into double standards.

And on to that question of why Trinity PC isn't trying to convert Muslims when all Muslims are supposedly hell-bent on enforcing dhimmitude. I don't remember reading in the Bible that our Lord attempted to convert the centurions who crucified him. Yet I distinctly remember reading that he prayed that they, and the Jewish leadership, and we might be forgiven by the Father.

I applaud the efforts of Trinity PC of Bossier City to promote trust and dialogue with their Muslim neighbors, dhimmitude or no dhimmitude, particularly in this day when relations between the religions have been strained by American arrogance. By their example, they lift the cross much higher than even the grandest steeple. By their example, they treat their Muslim neighbors as they would treat Christ.

Matthew 25, if I remember correctly.

Keeping the faith,
Stephen

Backwoods Presbyterian said...

I was literally in tears while I was reading the articlein the recent Layman issue. The Lord must weep at our nature. Why must we continue to hold up other "religions" as being just as true as the one True faith?

TomGray said...

Stephen,
The Torrance case is very different from the Kirk (also in a different state with different laws). Our congregation is not divided as was the one in Torrence.

Regarding the two churches' property, the PCUSA has made it clear that no property agreements, either verbal or on paper, will be honored. Therefore, it still was the presbytery's responsibility.
Tom

John West said...

Lest comments in this blog confuse anyone about the propriety to this sale please refer to the accompanying editorial highlighted in the referenced article. This editorial supports Pastor Tom's conclusions perfectly well. The bottom line is the apparent acquiescence to a sale for non Christian purposes vs. the reluctance to give up property of congregations with viewpoints not reflected by the present PCUSA. Also, to avoid further confusion it needs to be reflected that historically one of the objectives desired and accomplished by the Catholic church with the crusades was to hinder the militant spred of Islam throughout Europe. Some of the objectives were certainly questionable as were the methods, but in overall retrospect there were some laudable objectives and accomplishments. History as currently taught does not give proper respect to what the Catholic Church actually accomplished during this period.

Historically and in the present, the US as a more or less Christian nation has repeatedly stood for religions freedom. We have stood against communism, facism, and now militant versions of Islam who wish to denie the right of the Jewish state to even exist. It is apparent to me that soldiers, and I was one, of this nation have defended freedom including religious freedom more in the past 100 years than any other nation has accomplished in the last 2000. Perhaps the Greeks came close, but we take the prize. God will remember what this nation has accomplished. John West

TomGray said...

More to Stephen,
The crusades were 900 years ago. Do you know of any recognized Christian denomination that is threatening believers of other faiths?

On the other hand, Islam seems to promote violence. Even the suggestion of a slight to their faith brings on violence. The moderates do not seem to be speaking up against it. The Koran reads (and I have read it) like the Old Testament. Christianity is governed by the New Testament whose fulfillment in Christ mitigates how we understand the Old.

I know of no sane Christian, and certainly no denominations, that use the Old Testament as an excuse to attack your neighbor physically.

Regarding your comments on the EPC and PCA, I fail to see your point.
Tom

Stephen said...

Tom,

I'm not up on all the heresies. Tell me, what's the name of the heresy where the Old Testament is viewed as subordinate to and mitigated by the New Testament, instead of the two Testaments together being considered the Word of God written?

Keeping the scriptural faith,
Stephen

TomGray said...

Stephen,
You seem to be referring to Marcionism, where the OT and "jewish" aspects of the NT were thrown out.

The OT is mitigated by the NT. The former is fulfilled by the latter.
Tom

Stephen said...

Tom,

You did not accept my first response to your comment/question, "The crusades were 900 years ago. Do you know of any recognized Christian denomination that is threatening believers of other faiths?" I'll try again and add to my first response.

Yes, I know of some.

The German Christians (representing many denominations) who supported Hitler's National Socialist agenda in the 1930s and 40s to exterminate Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and others. The majority of the world recognizes this as attempted genocide.

Serbian and Bosnian Serb forces (Orthodox Christians) who perpetrated the ethnic cleansing of Bosniaks (Muslims) and Bosnian Croats (Roman Catholics) in Bosnia in the early 1990s. International courts are still debating the question of genocide.

White supremacists who intimidate, abuse, and/or murder people of other races and religions in an effort to keep Christianity and the human race "pure".

A majority of Christians are disturbed by these atrocities done "in the name of Christ" by people who call themselves Christian. It would be laughable to suggest that Christians as a group are responsible for these actions.

Likewise, Muslims cannot be held accountable as a group for the actions of extremists and terrorists who call themselves Muslims.

Keeping the faith,
Stephen

Stephen said...

Tom,

As to the matter of the Muslim Qur'an sounding like the Old Testament, it is true that both books portray divine commands to kill or control those outside their respective faiths. You speak of the New Testament as "mitigating" these commands in the Old Testament, and the Qur'an as having no such mitigating revelation. How convenient that you sidestep Christ's comment that not one letter of the law (Torah, the Old Testament) would be changed until all had come to completion.

I disagree with you. I believe that we must turn to the Holy Spirit to help us understand clear conflicts within scripture. Some of the ways in which the Presbyterian and Reformed traditions have relied upon the inspiration of the Spirit are through historical and textual criticism, aided by archeology and anthropology. We also pray, confer with tradition, and dialogue/debate among ourselves as we study scripture. We use the brains God gave us and seek the Spirit's help to guide us so that we may discern God's truth within the complexities of the Bible.

(I can hear the screaming now from the inerrantist crowd. Sorry, folks, but that's straight from the confessions: C'67.)

The Muslims I have known look at the Qur'an in similar ways. They know God is not bloodthirsty. They know they are called to peace with all people. You do them a great injustice to paint them all with one stroke.

Keeping the faith,
Stephen

TomGray said...

Stephen,
Your response to violence in Christian history cf. Islam reveals faulty logic. I don't have the space here to respond so, since a lot of folk make the same mistake, I'll respond in a blog in a couple of days. The same goes for the comparisons of the Koran (Qu'ran, Q'rn) with Christian Scriptures, C67, and "inerrancy."
Tom

TomGray said...

Stephen,
Demanding that I post comments that we've decided not to is unhelpful. We edit for the tone of some responses, as well as for redundancy.
Tom