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

10 comments:

Stuart Turner said...

One thing that strikes me is this: what is the point of obtaining the church for the "dissenting" members if they have already gone to other churches. Would anyone really believe that they might come back if they were given the church? If they have already left, then they have become a part of the new community and are unlikely to leave unless forced to do so.

While it's obvious what is really going on, I still find this to be a very specious argument to claim that those 92 members are still a part of the "true" Kirk of the Hills.

Stuart Turner

Jon said...

Tom,
Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

I wish there was a church like the Kirk in my town.

Toby Brown said...

Two words come to mind for the Machavellian/Orwellian machinations of the EOP in this matter:

Land Grab.

Blessings be upon your defenses of your flock!

Anonymous said...

It is my understanding that a name is not to be removed from a roster unless membership has been transferred to another church. Is it legal (or ethical) to remove someone's name from the roster until they have officially moved their membership to another church? Although some of us (including myself) officially notified the Kirk that we would no longer be attending the Kirk, is it OK for us to be removed from the roster? I have not become a member elsewhere. I wonder if my name was on that roster...

No matter what the Kirk's intentions were, don't you agree that to an outsider it appears that you are simply keeping contact information away from the EOP? Is it not the EOP's job to contact and assist those of us who have left? I UNDERSTAND THAT THIS WAS THE SOLE PURPOSE OF OBTAINING A COMPLETE ROSTER. And does it make sense that a large majority of us had not (at the time) had enough time to find a new church home, therefore putting us in the category of POSSIBLY "needing assistance" from the EOP?

You don't have to agree or disagree with any of the PCUSA/EOP issues to see that this appears sneaky and inappropriate.

Chris Harris

Stuart,

Don't assume that all of us have "already gone to other churches". While some have moved quickly to other churches, many of us are still searching. It is not easy. And I am almost certain that NONE of us are claiming to be the "true" Kirk.

Jon said...

"Is it legal (or ethical) to remove someone's name from the roster until they have officially moved their membership to another church?

Yes. It is called removing inactive members. Periodically sessions will review roles and identify persons who have not been active for a time, typically at least a year and usually longer.

TomGray said...

Chris,
I checked into the nature of any removals from the list yesterday. No person active in the Kirk was removed unless we had already received a request for transfer. We received none.
It seems that the EOP either left some names off of their mailing or there were problems with the mail service. Most Kirk staff and their family did not receive the letter/card. My wife, a member for 25 years did not receive anything. Some of our current officers did not receive anything.
I had a number of active Kirk members say that they did not receive the letter.
Tom
Tom

Bill said...

Tom,

One question...did you really tell the anecdote that is recorded in the report, the one about asking an elder where he wanted you to write his transfer of letter?

Bill

Jim said...

Chris?,

Tom is right, that there are several procedures in PC(USA) like most denominations to remove members.
See the Book of Order (G-10.0302.3.b-Deletion from Rolls)
1. Letter of Transfer from another church.
We have even received letters from other local churches in other denominations, requesting "transfer".
2. Church is dissolved
3. Member Request
4. Member Transfers w/o notice or renounces jurisdiction.
5. Nonresident - one year
6. Moved and Unknown - one year
7. Inactive - two years (on top of 1 year active -> inactive)
8. Dies.

Cameron Mott said...

Tom,

Your elder[s] serving as Trustee in the EOP didn't attend either the March 7, 2006 Presbytery meeting or the January 21, 2006 EOP Trustee's meeting or any prior meeting where problems with 3rd party property issues were discussed?

TomGray said...

To Chris Harris,
Thanks for writing to this blog. We miss you and your contribution in ministry to the Kirk.

I think it needs to be made clear for your sake and others that WE do NOT think that you are claiming to be the "true church." It is the EOP that is claiming this on behalf of you and others.

I wish you and your family the best and hope your new church home will be a blessing to you, because I know that you will be one to it.
Tom