Monday, November 06, 2006

Too Late for Change?

The Community Church of Ventura sent a declaration to its presbytery (Santa Barbara) regarding the faith and direction of the PCUSA. Within that declaration are these words:
“It is time, in the name of integrity and honesty, for those who have denied and rejected the essential tenets of the Reformed faith to graciously separate from the body and leave the church to those who have remained faithful to its standards, doctrine and tradition.”
I would like this declaration to be effective. My guess is that the Presbytery of Santa Barbara will receive it favorably and pass it on as an overture to the next General Assembly in 2008. There it will die. Those who have rejected Reformed standards will not leave. Their definition of the ancient standard of “reformed and reforming” is to change the church in accordance with “scientific” and cultural standards.

Churches like ours have felt impelled to leave because those changing the standards have made it clear that they will not. They are in the PCUSA to change it to their standards. In fact, they have already done so.

One of our local PCUSA pastors has written to members of the presbytery,
“The Kirk believes that the PCUSA is headed for the shoals, and has opted to man the lifeboats and jump ship. Other congregations have done (or are considering), the same. we must take their concersn very seriously. But as an evangelical pastor within the PCUSA, I'm convinced that there's still reason to be 'in the engine room' and hard at work. We need all hands on deck.”
This implies that we, at the first sign of problems, left the denomination. Fact is, we’ve been fighting for the Reformed standards of the traditional PCUSA for decades. I have served on boards of renewal organizations, attended national and regional meetings many times each year, written to magazines, blogs, and spoken out at various gatherings around the country. I spent at least one month each year fighting the fight in the contexts available to me. The passing of the PUP report was the last straw for us, indicating that the fight had been lost.

This pastor, who does see the problem and agrees that it is a problem, has just now decided to join the fray, apparently critical of us for not staying and fighting with him. I remember, years ago, inviting him to join me with a group of pastors who, among other things, was addressing the very problems that plague the PCUSA today. This pastor declined, saying that he had to budget his time, already committed to a theological discussion group.

I know that I sound frustrated--and I am. The time for generalist discussion groups, as opposed to active opposition to the problems affecting mainline denominations today, is long past. Many of us have literally given a cumulative year or more of our lives to taking a stand against the theological erosion that typifies so many denominations today. To continue the metaphor, the ground beneath the foundation is sinking. We feel it is time to move back to firmer ground.

Keep praying--keep the faith,


Anonymous said...


One of the things that I appreciate about this blog is your devotion to doing two important tasks:

1. Stating clearly where you stand and what you see as the real state of things in your former denomination

2. Being willing to admit that others who share your theological convictions might see things differently.

This post admirably presents not only your candid evaluation of where this denomination is going and also allows us to dialogue over that evaluation, leaving room to differ and engage on the real issues at hand.

The sad thing about this is that people have used this opportunity as a chance to fling mud at fellow believers and attack you personally for being so open and honest. What a shame!

As to my opinion about what is before us:

I vacillate from day to day, asking is this ship on the iceburg and sinking or can we still steer away with more effort?

Richard Wilson said...


This post is very interesting! It implies that something will be forthcoming in EOP that prompts me to withdraw from commenting further beyond my post in response to "unsophist said".

Again, I wish to thank you for maintaining this forum.


phillip j. owings said...

tom, i have known you for many years and early on urged you to give up and abandon the pcusa. you steadfastly refused and sought to stop the tide of apostasy in the denomination. therefore i am confounded by those that accuse the kirk, the kirk's leadership, wayne and you of abandoning the ship too early.

Larry said...

Your comments regarding a pastor in the EOP, who previously was too busy to get involved, is remniscent of what I have seen in our own presbytery.

There are those pastors who "say" they are upset with what is going on in the denomination, but when pressed to go public with resolutions, declarations, or actions in opposition, they find all sorts of excuses to not act.

I applaud you and the Kirk of the Hills for not coming up with all sorts of excuses to do nothing.

In the PCUSA the ones I have the most displeasure over are the so-called conservatives who do nothing.

The liberals in the PCUSA are at least clear in their agenda. Even though I totally disagree with the liberal agenda, I applaud the liberals for their clarity and willingness to stand behind their liberal positions.

Jim Loughlin said...

Regarding change and the fallacy that "nothing's changed" due to PUP, read the Layman article on Scott Anderson - one of the PUP authors. See "Openly gay PUP panel member seeks to become inquirer toward ordination as PCUSA minister" at

Regarding biblical arguments on homosexuality, see Dr. Robert Gagnon's response to Jack Roger's positions at

Pastor John said...

Pastor Tom,

Evangelical passivity within the PC(USA) is a definite problem in many Presbyteries. A lot more could be accomplished if all (or even most) of the self-proclaimed "evangelicals" actually would DO something.