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:Later, the report states,
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)
- 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.
“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,