Monday, February 05, 2007

Are PCUSA Churches Leaving This Week?

The New Wineskins Association of Churches is meeting for a winter convocation in Orlando, Florida. At this meeting, it is said, there will be a group of PCUSA churches “gracefully disaffiliating” from the denomination. Numbers as high as 130 congregations have been rumored.

The PCUSA leadership has sent a letter, predictably, with a plea for unity—a plea that essentially disregards the problems causing the disaffiliations.

One thing we’ve heard constantly is that “nothing has changed.”
"Among the reasons of those wishing to leave are perceptions of particular actions of the 217th General Assembly last summer. These perceptions include concerns that our ordination standards have changed and that the PCUSA no longer believes in the Trinity. Neither of these is true."
It is true that the words in the constitution were not changed, but the application of them has officially become relative. If presbyteries may ordain openly practicing GLBTs without discipline, then MUCH has changed regarding ordination. The words remain, but the standards have been changed.

The denomination says that it still believes in the Trinity. That may be so. It is, however, up for broad interpretation. The PCUSA is becoming increasingly modalist, defining functions of the Trinity (i.e. creator, sustainer) rather than living with the mystery of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three and one. Much of the impetus for such redefinition has come from progressive feminist circles unhappy with the Father and Son part.

So, churches like the Kirk have left a denomination which has demonstrated that it would rather include anything but strictly orthodox Reformed belief. The PCUSA stated clerk and executive director have given several reasons why it would be better for those churches to stay in the denomination.
"It is our deep conviction that we are better together than we are apart:
"We are better followers of Jesus when we stick together, mutually encouraging one another in the work of discipleship. "We are better together and more effective in confronting the enormous problems in the world – dire situations like Darfur, HIV/AIDS in Africa, and ongoing human tragedies in the wake of Hurricane Katrina."
Just how effective is the PCUSA in confronting the “enormous problems in the world”? If what they mean by confronting is making statements and having endless meetings, they fail to see that such effort does nothing to effect change. Even the amounts of money and resources applied by the PCUSA to human tragedies like Hurricane Katrina pale in comparison to much smaller denominations, like the Mennonites.
"We are better together because the Presbyterian Church (USA) as one expression of the whole body of Christ needs all of its parts in order to function well (1 Cor. 12)."
It is true that the whole body needs all its healthy parts. The problem with the PCUSA’s assertion is that, once again, it deems itself to be the whole body. The Church Universal is the body; the PCUSA is just a small part, like an inflamed appendix or ingrown toenail. Oops—those parts need to be removed, don’t they?

Lest you think that I am being unbiblical, listen to what the Word has to say about parts of the body that have become diseased and useless (i.e. those that ignore sin).
If your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
Matthew 18:8, 9
Let me remind progressives that this is not Paul speaking (the progressively-dismissed writer of 1 Corinthians 12) but Jesus himself. I also would remind progressives in the PCUSA leadership that Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians 12 was most certainly not that we are better off in big numbers. Rather, we are to recognize that the smaller parts (if not inflamed, etc.) are just as important as the bigger ones.
"We are better together because our resources of time, talents and treasure have a larger and farther reach."
There are many larger bodies with which Christians of any ilk may associate with better effectiveness than the PCUSA. The old mainline denominations are administratively top-heavy, theologically lightweight, and missionally challenged. There are mission associations today doing far better work than all the mainline denominations combined. World Vision is one that comes immediately to mind. Even better, World Vision is committed to Biblical, orthodox Christian faith!

One must take a cold, hard look at the reality that belies the PCUSA’s statement. Do the people in the pews really believe that the money the denomination receives is being used better than members would? If that were so, would not giving to the denomination be up instead of dramatically in decline?
"We are better together because our discernment and deliberations on tough topics need our many perspectives to reach the most faithful decisions."
So the PCUSA makes more faithful decisions because people remain in, regardless? Let’s think again of recent stands taken by that august collection of denominationalists:
  • Abortion on demand is supported (with the exception of partial-birth procedures)
  • Authors of fully discredited papers (particularly the horrendous sexuality report voted down in 1991) are still pulled out regularly by the denomination as “experts” in Christian views of sexuality.
  • Presbyteries can deem themselves of greater authority than the Bible when considering the behavior of those asking to be ordained.
  • Last year’s “deliberation on tough topics” out of the “many perspectives” came up with the Trinitarian re-description of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as “Rainbow, Ark and Dove,” (crazy, but at least not modalist), “Speaker, Word and Breath,” and “Compassionate Mother, Beloved Child and Life-Giving Womb.” Even national editorials realized the nonsense in this, suggesting that we might as well describe the Trinity as “Rock, Paper, and Scissors."
The same Apostle Paul who wrote the words of 1 Corinthians 12, also penned the words found in 2 Corinthians 6:17. In the context of that verse, Paul argues against continuing with so-called believers who put up with sin in their midst:
“Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”
2 Corinthians 6:17
In all this time of change for me and the Kirk congregation, we’ve never gone out to encourage any other congregation to leave the PCUSA. But, if people have come to us, we’ve been honest about what we believe is best.

It will be interesting to see developments from Orlando this week.
Keep praying—keep the faith,
Tom

19 comments:

mike said...

thank goodness for another comment from Tom. I was getting tired of seeing ted, arthur and jodie trying to outdo each other with multi-syllabic words. very few people are impressed.

physicsteacher54 said...

Two years ago a young man graduated from the high school where I teach. He constantly behaved as if the rules did not apply to him. He still loudly revs the loud engine of his truck (with glass pack muffler) when he drives by the school. I can not figure out why he is still intent on trying to disrupt the learnng atmosphere for others. For some reason, he seems unable to let go and grow beyond high school
I do not understand why you don't let the PCUSA go, Tom. Let the people who are still in it deal with their own situation. You had your say and have moved on. So move on in reality as well as in denominational affiliation. Trust God, and trust the people who were your colleagues to do what God (not Tom) is leading them to do.

Larry said...

I hope you have time to continue posting commentaries on the PCUSA.

As for people such as physicsteacher54, they can stop reading your postings if the postings are such a bother to them.

TomGray said...

Dear Physicsteacher54,
What's the particular righteousness in moving on? Should there not be a voice to cry out against the injustice and apostasy of the mainline denominations? These denominations purport to be the true church, yet so many of their leaders are attracting people down the wide road instead of Christ's narrow way.
Tom

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of us, both individually and as members of a local PCUSA Church that are strugling with the question of how to deal with the obvious changes in the denomination. As an active member of four major denominations during my life I personally remain interested and concerned over what each of the great groups are doing.
What Tom is doing in this blog is simply providing a lot of us more food for thought. Even though he and his church have apparently moved on so to speak, I am sure he has continuing interest in his past affiliation. It's his blog and he has a right to do this particularly to help those of us who are still making decisions.

Personally, I would like to see PCUSA come out from behind the "nothing has changed" barricade and simply state, we want to be more inclusive, we want to be more open, we want to change. Its similar to the pro choice dogma in which abortion is something other than the killing of a baby. This would make a clearer path for a lot of us. Keep it up Tom. John West

Cameron Mott said...

I tried to read “The Trinity: God’s Love Overflowing”. It is a hard slog for me because A. it has no authority and is not doctrine for us PCUSAers and 2. it just does not grab my interest which makes its denominational non grata a great reason, in my opinion, not to read it. I made it past the controversial part, it is made clear that the PCUSA affirms "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" as the historical, scriptural, confessional, liturgical, creedal, and indispensable standard.

Whatever your view of its content, why is an un-adopted non-doctrinal paper being used as an example of our denominational doctrine? I believe the doctrine of The Trinity our denomination should be held accountable to is in the BoC, is it problematic?

Arthur said...

To Anonymous, (Tom’s new set of rules I guess)

You said:

“Personally, I would like to see PCUSA come out from behind the "nothing has changed" barricade and simply state, we want to be more inclusive, we want to be more open, we want to change.”

Are you saying that because you agree with that point of view? I wonder because that sentiment is NOT the majority opinion of the PCUSA (the true GA) but rather is the opinion of a fairly powerless group in Louisville. Far too many people don’t realize that, won’t realize that, or, for whatever reason or agenda, don’t want us to realize that.

To Cameron:

You said:

“Whatever your view of its content, why is an un-adopted non-doctrinal paper being used as an example of our denominational doctrine?”

I would think you already know the reason for that. This is part of the far Right wing’s version of propaganda. Both far wings (Left and Right) lie to us (maybe not in their own minds though).

The most bazaar propagandist lie I’ve seen in a long time comes from both the far Left wing and the far Right wing simultaneously. Fortunately (I think, but certainly hope) it’s still a minority opinion within the greater PCUSA community. It’s the notion that the adoption of the AI in the PUP report gave ordaining bodies “local option” and fundamentally changed the BOO. It doesn’t of course, but both far wings will screech until they’re blue in the face claiming that it does. The far Left wing doesn’t believe that they can be slapped down hard, and the far Right wing doesn’t believe they have the power to do it. It’s absolutely bazaar.

Arthur

TomGray said...

Cameron,
The Trinity paper was "received" officially by the GA, even though it was not "adopted." If you take this with the fact that the PCUSA has taken rejected papers and continued to use them as official guidance, you can see why this is an issue.
Tom

Cameron Mott said...

Tom,

I don't know what you are referring to but non-adopted is still non-official and unauthorized. Even if there are some errant individuals I don't see how this amounts to the denomination going down an apostate wide path in this case; especially when we have a historic, orthodox, and adopted official doctrine which even this document affirms.

Arthur,

I support our ordination standards and oppose local option but my opinion of what the AI is and will do is opposite of what I take to be that of Tom and the NWAC. Both sides of opinion are ONLY opinions at this point and what the AI does or doesn't do is not proven [or even tested] yet and so it seems to me any group or individual claiming the AI is this or does that is in error. Maybe it will be this or do that, or maybe it won't, but it is not and does not now.

DrMom said...

Arthur--

Before you make a sarcastic jab at Rev. Gray about not following his own rules about anonymous posters, you might want to re-read the post in question so that you can see that it is, in fact, signed.

DrMom

Arthur said...

Cameron,

Maybe you're right, we'll just have to wait and see. I just get tired of hearing the constant drone of "local option" as if it's actually true. Recent official documents from the GAC don't sound like "local option" is condoned.

DrMom,

It was an honest mistake, and I apologize to Tom for my false criticism in this case.

He has let at least one other one slip by recently, which I admit colored the lens by which I viewed this post. Tom's jaded comments have a way of pushing me off kilter quite a bit too.

Actually, Tom has been rather gracious lately. And I do appreciate that.

Arthur

Arthur said...

Cameron,

Correction... I didn't mean GAC in my previous reply, I meant OGA.

Arthur

Arthur said...

DrMom,

As a follow-up to my last reply to you, I should also point out the sometimes-overlooked fact that Tom, or someone on his staff, OK'd that post (there’s no freedom of speech here on this blog). If he, or they, thought my comment was sarcastic, then, by his rules, they shouldn't have posted it in the first place.

As I said before, you're right, I was in error concerning the "Anonymous" post, and my apology to Tom stands. On the other hand, Tom, and his crew, aren't completely consistent in the use of his rules and have let Anonymous posts and other violations through.

None of us is perfect.

Arthur

Pamela Cook said...

I did not know all that much about the PCUSA until The Kirk wisely decided to leave them. All I knew was that there had been fight for ordination of unrepentant sinners for 20 years or so.

This blog has been quite enlightening to me. I do not belong to denominations because they are at best divisive when we all that are born again are a part of one family, the family of God. The sad thing is that what you have experienced and people in other denominations are dealing with have proved what I had suspected all along, that is, when it comes right down to it the denominational rules overrule the Bible when people that do not believe the Bible is inspired by God rule.

I plan to read at least until your property issue is settled. This blog lets people know the ins and outs of how denominations work. I pray that one day we will unite in unity of the Holy Spirit and the inspired word of God.

Thanks for being a strong soldier in standing with conviction. I have had conversations with people as a direct result of mentioning your blog. The Kirk has recently received a member from a PCUSA church of someone I know. I am finding out that many people join churches and groups and have no idea what the foundation is. What a foundation was is worthless if it is not abided by now. That is the sad thing with denominations and groups in general. They start out in most cases because of a dispute. They try to come up with godly foundational truths to live by but at some point leaders get powerhungry and will do anything to keep the thing going. In just about every case they go away from the Bible and persecute those that want to live by it. I for one am grateful to see congregations like yours and hopefully many others in the PCUSA standing up for the word of God. The Bible says that the gospel is an offense. It's sad that when those that name the name of Jesus are the some of the main ones offended by the gospel.

We are in the last days.

Pamela Cook said...

Well Pastor Tom,

It looks like leaving the PCUSA is seriously being considered. This article states that the EPC is inviting the New Wineskins churches to join.

Maybe the stupid debates over the word of God will finally end. It is evident that they are not going to change. Why debate another five years? Get out and be free.

http://www.christianpost.com/article/20070210/25739_Dissident_Presbyterians_Consider_Way_Out_of_PC%28USA%29.htm

Cameron Mott said...

It really is an error for people to keep referring to the Trinity papers as anything adopted, official or authoritative in our polity or Confessions. According to the BoO, being unadopted by even the GA [let alone the also necessary majority of presbyteries] and only received does not even elevate the paper to the status of "guidance" in PCUSA.

Cameron Mott said...

I can't find the actual abortion position papers on-line, all I could find are excerpts in PCUSA's Presbyterian 101 resource.

The way I read it the PCUSA does not condone abortion but allows mothers' discretion in problem pregnancies, cases of rape, health complications etc.. Not much different from EPC in most regards except civil law and EPC adds language about the father [commendable imo]. PCUSA opposes abortion and civil law to restrict abortion at the same time.

Alex said...

Hey, I just found this blog and would love to know where to find a list of the congregations affiliated with the New Wineskins. Any directions?

Arthur said...

Alex,

I waited a couple of weeks before replying to you to see if anyone of the NWAC persuasion would volunteer that information. As I suspected would happen, no one spoke up.

I'm afraid your congregation will have to join the NWAC before you will be allowed to see their endorsing congregations list. They aren't disposed to sharing their identities with the rest of us. I pray they could show more Faith in the Lord.

In a letter following the February Convocation, Gerrit Dawson, Co-Moderator of the NWAC said: "We also approved inviting our endorsing congregations to share their identity with one another." So it appears that even the endorsing congregations don’t really know who all belongs to the NWAC.

Here's a link to the letter: http://www.newwineconvo.com/gerrit_letter_021307.html

Art