Thursday, March 29, 2007

Progressive Bigotry

The fracas between the The Episcopal Church (TEC) in the USA and the worldwide Anglican communion has revealed a racist rift. The TEC—a denomination dominated by progressivists—was recently warned by the Anglican bodies that they had just a short time left to commit to Biblical teachings on sexuality or be cut off from the larger body. The collective bishops of TEC almost immediately rejected the demand.

There's a problem for western progressives in the Anglican communion: their mission efforts of the 18th and 19th centuries were successful! While the progressivists dominate the western churches, the bishops in the 3rd World outnumber them, creating a liberal crisis whenever a global vote occurs.

The more civil among them criticize the 3rd World Anglicans’ conservative stance as “na├»ve” or attribute it to their assertion that they “haven’t grown.” I personally have run into this kind of accusation from some PCUSA pastors, trying to explain my conservative commitment away as some kind of ignorance. Such depictions are arrogant and demeaning but, for the most part, they are at least civil.
English morality is much closer to the Americans than the Africans. The problem is the church needs Africa to grow.
The less decent among them, including Retired Bishop John Shelby Spong, a darling of the left, have openly called some 3rd World bishops ignorant and stupid. People such as Spong have left the true Gospel to preach a gospel of their understanding of love. Unlike the love of God for us through Jesus Christ, their liberal love is limited to those who agree with them, or at least keep quiet about disagreeing.

The same thing can be said about the progressive public at large. A recent blog from the religious editor for the Manchester Guardian, Stephen Bates, has drawn a significant flow of bile from his readers. The Guardian is the British bastion of journalistic liberalism. In the 1930s it was the champion of Stalin in the USSR and the Fabian socialists in Britain. In more recent times it has been a voice decrying the place of Christian thought in the public square.

Listen to what some of their readers have said:
The whole history of the Christian Church has been one of controversy and schism, from the days of the Apostles on. Unfortunately this society of cantankerous polytheists keeps on going and causes strife over almost any change in society that does not fit their rigid codes.

American conservatives and the tree swingers probably have a lot in common but as always, an idea pushed through by hungover religious chimps and a half-cut gorilla will always lead to trouble from the Americans.

No doubt the Africans are being 'financed' (probably by extreme rightwingers) to be so hateful.

This is all so utterly utterly irrelevant. Who cares about a bunch of washed up has beens whose moral code is based on the hallucinatory ramblings of some pre-modern nomads. This pathetic line of hate the sin and not the sinner is so tiresome. 2000 years of sexual neurosis and blatant discrimination because of this guilt obsessed cult.

We can't keep on persecuting our ape cousins to the brink of extinction!
The above quotes are from readers of the blog, not the author, but they represent what I read regularly in the liberal blogs and editorials that I follow, and it bothers me that the author and/or the newspaper post such answers. There is a lot of hatred from the people who profess nothing but tolerance.

The sentiments of the people I’ve quoted could be a kind of victory dance on the purported grave of British Christianity. It is certainly true that active Christian faith in Europe has dropped into the single-low-digits percentage of the population. The dancers may think that they’ve won the day.

On the other hand, their hysteria may simply be fear of what is happening in the 3rd World. Biblical Christianity is on the rise in Africa and Asia. It is so strong that it is sending missionaries out to the darkest heart of Europe.

For far too long we’ve assumed that Christianity is a Western phenomenon. What is closer to the truth is that a distorted, institutionalized form of Christianity has dominated the West, most often in collusion with the State. In countries like ours, where there is separation of Church and State, the church is still strong. In countries where Christian faith is persecuted—including much of the 3rd World—it is growing in almost incredible numbers.

I am appalled by the hypocrisy in the progressivist movement. I'm not afraid for the faith, though.

Keep praying--keep the faith,
Tom

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Kirk in the News

The Presbyterian News Service ran an article about the Kirk today. The short article was straightforward and, for the most part, accurate. I want to clarify some points and address one misrepresentation that demands a response.

The article says,
The schism declaration came in response to a report from an administrative commission that was appointed by the presbytery in September 2006, shortly after the congregation voted to follow the lead of its session and pastors and bolt the PC(USA) for the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC).
The EOP has declared us to be in schism, which is the PCUSA equivalent of bell-and-candle with a papal rebuke mixed in. If their definition simply meant that we had split from the PCUSA, it would be accurate. The administrative commission report, though, is using “schism” to mean that the Kirk is internally divided. This is just not so.

Does that mean that there were no people who disagreed with what we did? No. There was a handful of Kirk members who either joined other churches or simply started attending elsewhere. The rest have chosen to remain with us, choosing the direction of the Kirk over that of the denomination.

The unity of the Kirk has never been greater. Since I’ve been at the Kirk for over 25 years, I have a historical perspective from which to speak. Morale is high primarily because we have moved on. The property issue must still be determined in court, but the denominational issue is concluded. Rumors of internal division have apparently been seeded by members of the EOP, possibly because they cannot envision unity through such a change.

Another inaccuracy regards a significant detail:
The session, acting as the corporation board, then hired Gray and Hardy as pastors and filed suit in civil court to gain ownership of the church’s property.
It was not the session that acted as the corporation board and rehired Wayne and me. It was the corporation board itself—the trustees. The Kirk has always had a separate Board of Trustees. The corporation is a separate legal entity, not to be confused with the congregation.

Finally, there is a misrepresentation:
Doug Dodd, moderator of the commission said that “over six months of efforts to achieve reconciliation and determine the nature of division” had failed.
Let me itemize their “six months of effort.”
  • A couple of public meetings, sparsely attended.
  • So-called “Kirk of the Hills, Presbyterian Church worship services,” held at another church and also sparsely attended (by presbytery members, not Kirk members).
  • A letter to the Kirk board, inviting them to a meeting that, since we are no longer PCUSA, was irrelevant.
  • The publication of a rather angry, ad hominem report.
The real point of this empty process is clearly stated in the article.
The presbytery, again on the recommendation of its administrative commission, authorized its trustees to protect the presbytery’s property rights over Kirk of the Hills. The PC(USA) Constitution states that church property is not owned by a particular congregation but is held in trust for the denomination.
Their effort dealt little with reconciliation--just read the report. The EOP cares about only one thing: the property. This was evident when a presbytery official, long before the Kirk seriously addressed the idea of leaving the PCUSA, told others "the Kirk may want to leave, but they'll never get their property." It was evident the next March when, in secret, the EOP went to the courthouse to file an affidavit against our property. It is evident in the AC report. The AC's "six months of effort" was unwanted and unneeded by the true Kirk that still meets on 61st Street in Tulsa. A church that is united in ministry and purpose has no need for reconciliation.

Keep praying--keep the faith,
Tom

Monday, March 12, 2007

Sound the Alarm

The fact that we’ve left the PCUSA doesn’t mean that we don’t have concerns for friends we’ve left behind. One of the principal concerns before them is what has been called “local option.” The liberals in the denomination say that, after the last GA, “nothing changed.” Others, like me, have said that everything has changed, and there are presbyteries that will exercise that local option to ordain practicing GLBTs. Everyone seems OK with this as long as it’s not their own presbytery. That may become a moot point.

If a PCUSA task force has its way, local option will be subtly enshrined in the Book of Order. The Form of Government (FOG) task force was empowered by the GA to rewrite the Book of Order, making it simpler to use. Instead, it appears that the task force is dedicated to making the BOO local option-friendly.

Terry Schlossberg has written an excellent summary of what has transpired so far in this committee. While many, including me, thought that the work of the task force would be to maintain the first four foundational chapters and rework the rest, it is obvious that they want to rewrite everything. On top of that, the meat of the document will move from constitutional status to that of a manual of operations or handbook.

Some have reacted to this with horror, recognizing that it will pave the way for individual presbyteries to rewrite their own standards of ordination. Schlossberg’s article cites one pastor saying that the new document “looks like, smells like local option.” The co-moderator of the task force replied, laughing, “Of course it does…What do you think we are doing here?”

Individual presbyteries will be empowered to define standards of inclusiveness, including sexual preference, if they so choose. Presbyteries could choose to eliminate examination of candidates on the floor, restricting such examination to tightly-closed committees. Each presbytery would essentially become autonomous, pounding the last nail into the already snug coffin lid of what used to be a connectional church.

The entire PCUSA, if such a document prevails, would be sacrificing its unique tradition in the name of the new gospel of inclusiveness. Such a goal is attractive to some on the task force. “The representative bodies of the church shall give full expression of the rich diversity of the church’s membership and shall guarantee full participation and access to representation in decision making and employment…[developing] procedures for promoting and reviewing that body’s implementation of the church’s commitment to inclusiveness and representation,” states the current draft document.

Will anything remain the same? Apparently so. The clause on denominational ownership of property will stay (probably strengthened so that it will stand up in court), medical and pension participation will be mandatory, and the frustrating limitation of terms for elders will remain. Oh yes, per capita will cease to be voluntary. Good luck.

Keep praying—keep the faith.
Tom

PS I’ll be coming back at you with some additional information on the EOP’s administrative report soon.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Tom the Intimidator

One of the many problems with the EOP’s Administrative Commission report is how it deals with supposed intimidation by the pastors and officers of the Kirk. The underlying thesis is that, if we had not been so intimidating, the Kirk wouldn’t have disaffiliated. This simply is not true. I can imagine that members who disagreed with our action felt outnumbered, but neither I nor any one else intimidated anyone. The fact that they spoke out at both the congregational meeting where we changed our bylaws, and at the disaffiliation vote clearly shows that every person was free to have a voice and express opinions. Everyone was respectful and polite to each other.

The few people who opposed disaffiliation, a few of whom left for other churches, are good people now missed by us. We respect their decisions and, in my conversations with some of them, they respect ours, although they still disagree.

The AC report gives an “example” of how I supposedly intimidate people:
“At a required clergy self-care worship of June 2, 2006, Rev. Gray told several people present of a situation he had confronted early in his call as pastor in which the resolution he reached was speaking to one of the elders of the Kirk after the meeting and saying essentially, ‘Tell me where you want me to send you letter of transfer.’ When the elder indicated things weren’t that bad, Rev. Gray reported repeated, ‘No, I’m serious. Tell me where you want me to send your letter of transfer, because we’re not leaving tonight until I’ve written that letter for you.’ While this incident reportedly happened many years ago, Rev. Gray’s recent reporting of it was done in such a way that expressed no regret at this occurrence. This appeared to the AC to be Rev. Gray’s expression of his present approval of such tactics when approached by members of his congregation who expressed concern about him or the church.”

I hardly know where to start:
  • This quasi-legal report bases its conclusions on hearsay.
  • This quasi-legal report doesn’t have the facts behind the story.
  • This quasi-legal report jumps to erroneous conclusions thereby.
Some Kirk members did approach me with concerns over our decision. They received respectful treatment, and most of them remain as active members of the Kirk. The representation of me in the AC’s report is certainly not how I behave, nor was their representation accurate about what I actually did and said.

Let me tell you the story as it actually happened. It was in 1987 (not 2006 some might think with a casual reading of the report) and the Kirk was in crisis thanks to a couple of very serious problems. Tulsa’s economic crisis at the time meant that hundreds of our members had lost their jobs or were in danger of losing their jobs. On top of that, the Kirk was still reeling from the shock of the pastor previous to me leaving the Kirk over a serious moral failure.

In the midst of these crises, one elder began to be quite divisive in the Kirk. This person was (prepare for a big irony here) trying to talk people into having the Kirk leave the PCUSA. Additionally, he was advocating issues that, while possibly in line with the Kirk’s ethos, were presented in a divisive manner, setting member against member and members against the session.

The incident cited in the AC was not after a meeting, as they say. This elder walked into my office on a weekday and said, “This church isn’t big enough for the two of us—one of us has to go.” Obviously, he meant that I should be the one to go.

I’m surprised to this day by my own response, but am equally sure that it was the right one. I asked him what church he would rather be in. He didn’t, as the AC report asserts, say that things weren’t that bad. What he did say was that he was going to make sure that I would be the one to go. That’s when I reiterated my statement. He suddenly seemed deflated, and then gave me the name of another large church in Tulsa. That’s when I wrote the letter of transfer.

I agree that this situation was not typical. I’ve never experienced something like this before or since. I did not come out of that encounter feeling good. I was shaky, upset, and even fearful for my future. Thanks be to God, it was the right decision for me, the Kirk, and that elder.

There are further inaccuracies that I’ll deal with in future blogs.

Keep praying—keep the faith.
Tom

"The Intimidator"--I'll be back.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Report is Online

The report of the Administrative Commission of Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery is now on the Kirk Website. All you need to do is go there, click on the picture with the words "Important Legal Documents" and the report will be the blue text at the top of the list. Just click that and begin reading, or click here and do the same.

I have been informed that the EOP has established a sub-committee to edit parts of the report to soften some of its more strident language. The gist of the report remains.

Keep praying--keep the faith,
Tom

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Official Administrative Commission Report on the Kirk

Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery (EOP) met today, March 6, 2007, and received the report of the Administrative Commission (AC) established to investigate the Kirk. Most of the information therein is old news.

There are supposedly factual assertions—assertions that are arguable, at best. One is that 92 Kirk members have affiliated with or are attending other Presbyterian churches in Tulsa. We wouldn’t be able to affirm exact numbers since the Tulsa Presbyterian churches (unlike our sister Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, et al churches) haven’t let the Kirk know that any of our members have transferred. We always have a few transfers within Tulsa each month—both into and out of the Kirk.

We know that a few families have joined First Presbyterian because our members have seen them on the TV replay of Sunday services. Only three families have informed us that they have so moved. One woman informed me that she was changing her membership to John Knox church (we didn’t receive notice from them, either). There are also people who settled in other Presbyterian churches in Tulsa years ago without changing their membership. At least one such person came to the congregational meeting when we voted on disaffiliation and was one of the most vocal in opposition to it. He actually made a scene at the registration table because we had officially removed him from our rolls for inactivity several years ago and, thereby, should not have attended the meeting. He went in over our protest and was one of those counted in the votes.

Another complaint in the AC’s report is the so-called discrepancy between claimed membership numbers and actual numbers. The paper makes a big deal of the fact that I have claimed 2,700 members when the number reported to the GA in 2005 was 2,665. I was rounding numbers, and this 2,700 was almost a year after the 2005 report. As their paper says elsewhere, the Kirk has never shown a year with a decline in membership. When the EOP lawyers demanded our membership rolls, they received between 2,300 and 2,400 names. This is because we removed the out-of-town members as well as inactive members. However, the PCUSA includes these non-active names in their “official” numbers, and the EOP has used this number to assert that these people are opposed to the Kirk’s disaffiliation.

All of the above boils down to the AC’s assertion that there is a “true church” loyal to the PCUSA that should receive the Kirk property. How they will do this as members of other churches, or even if they want the property, is not addressed.

The actual wording of the document is this:
“Evidence of member disagreement with the decisions made by leadership of the Kirk:
  • At least 92 Kirk members have joined or are attending other churches.
  • At least 18 Kirk members have either requested additional information about remaining with the PC(USA) or have indicated that they intend to stay with the Kirk despite their disagreement with the decision to leave the PC(USA).
  • Between 327 and 500 Kirk members have been inexplicably removed from the member lists presented to the AC.
We thus conclude that there is ample evidence that a significant number of persons wished to remain in the PC(USA) or for the Kirk to remain in the PC(USA) despite concerted efforts at the Kirk to alienate dissenting voices, block direct communication with representatives of the EOP, and intimidate those who disagreed. Therefore, the Kirk of the Hills Presbyterian Church is determined to be in schism. We further believe the number of members who the Book of Order would describe as the ‘true membership’ of the Kirk (See, G-8.0601) would be impossible to accurately determine without the cooperation of the Kirk leadership, but ranges from at least 110 to several hundred.” (page 7)
Later, the report states,
“The Kirk is in schism and thus, according to Chapter VIII (G-8.0100, et. seq.) of the Book of Order, its property, real and personal, is to be used for the use and benefit of the PC(USA) and shall be held, used, applied, transferred, or sold by the Presbytery….We therefore declare the Kirk to be in schism, submit this report to the Stated Clerk of the EOP for report to the EOP at its next meeting, and direct the EOP trustees to take all necessary next steps in accordance with the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA).” (pages 8 and 9)
A lot of the paper is anecdotal reportage of how anonymous people in the Kirk are supposedly feeling about the disaffiliation. I have no interest in identifying individuals; but a serious problem with the AC’s report is that it’s easy to claim member dissatisfaction without having to back it up with facts:
“Reports have been received by the AC of Kirk members who have been strongly discouraged from talking to anyone in the EOP and of Kirk members who suspect there is a larger percentage of members who would like to remain in the PC(USA) but are fearful of speaking up because there has been too much intimidation and outright shunning of those who have spoken up against the move toward ‘disaffiliation’ or who have left the church.” (page 4)
Of course the Kirk has never intimidated its members or shunned anyone. I believe that people at the Kirk will find the above description of intimidation and alienation to be utterly false. I’ll address that tomorrow, and thanks to the EOP and this report, I’ll have much to discuss for a long time to come.

Keep praying—keep the faith,
Tom

Things to Come?

With a new law regulating how Britons are to support homosexual lifestyles, it was only a matter of time before this enforced tolerance would become legalized intolerance against any who disagree.
LONDON, March 5, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) - After this April's implementation of the Sexual Orientation Regulations (SOR's), British religious schools may no longer be allowed to teach school children that the Christian viewpoint on sexual morality is "objectively true," a government report says.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights, made up of members from Parliament and the House of Lords, has issued a report on the implementation of the Regulations recommending that religious schools be required to modify their religious instruction to comply with the government-approved doctrine of "non-discrimination".

Although religious schools will be allowed to remain open and may continue to give instruction in various religious beliefs, instruction must be modified "so that homosexual pupils are not subjected to teaching, as part of the religious education or other curriculum, that their sexual orientation is sinful or morally wrong."

The report says the Regulations will not "prevent pupils from being taught as part of their religious education the fact that certain religions view homosexuality as sinful," but they may not teach "a particular religion's doctrinal beliefs as if they were objectively true".

Published February 26, the report says, "We do not consider that the right to freedom of conscience and religion requires the school curriculum to be exempted from the scope of the sexual orientation regulations."
(emphasis added)
Just think of how much has changed in just 30 years of relentless campaigning on the part of GLBT forces in the western world. In the name of “non-discrimination” has come legalized discrimination redefined as "tolerance." Don't think that the same thing isn't happening in your neighborhood.

Universities regularly require entering students to take "orientation" courses where Biblical values are routinely dismissed, if not ridiculed. Elementary schools throughout the US are including early sex education designed to undo the teaching of traditional morality. Mainline denominations like the Episcopal Church and the PCUSA are marching in lock-step with the revisionists' agenda.

Progressivists know that faith standards must be removed in order for the world they envision to arise. They know that they must somehow counter what children are taught in the home and, especially, in church or synagogue. As in Britain, the most obvious target is the school. There you have a trapped audience made up of fresh minds upon which all kinds of truth--or falsehood--may be written.

I have long believed that we need to teach our children not only the Christian worldview, but the worldview of others, so that they will not be surprised or twisted by unbiblical ways of thinking and living. This will be increasingly difficult to do as our culture is increasingly influenced by small groups with big agendas. It will also be harder to stand out from the crowd. But any alternative is too dangerous for our children and, ultimately, our culture.
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:1-5)
This passages commands us to hold fast to what we believe and teach. Written in a time not too different from ours, it reminds us of just how important the Truth of faith is. It is more important now than ever.

Keep praying--keep the faith,
Tom