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

24 comments:

Mark said...

Dear Tom,

My brother in Christ. Wow! The AC's report was quite revealing. It certainly shed more light on why the Kirk session called the August '06 congregational meeting when it did -- in order to act before the August meeting that your representatives requested be held on the 23rd.

EOP has been acting in better faith and with higher morals than you've let on. Your actions come off now as even more reprehensible than they did when I read just your blog and The Layman. Theological disagreement does not give you, Wayne, or the session license to abuse power, which y'all have clearly done. Confess your sin, repent, and seek the forgiveness of Christ. Seek to be reconciled with EOP so that you and your supporters can transfer to the EPC with integrity. And leave the Kirk (name, records, and property) to those faithful Kirk PCUSA members you've been intimidating and silencing with your self-righteous hubris.

Last summer I posted on this blog that we needed to stay united within the PCUSA, that the various perspectives were needed in order to reflect the fullness of God's word and will. I still believe that. However, I no longer believe that you (Tom, Wayne, the session, and your complicit suporters) should stay within the PCUSA, particularly after how you've behaved, unless you are willing to repent of your manipulative ways, to submit to the discipline of the Church, and to seek to live more truthfully and humbly among your fellow Christian disciples.

Tom, we are still brothers in Christ, but you have sorely tested that bond. Reread 1 Corinthians and listen to Paul's admonitions to both the wealthy and those who claimed higher spiritual gifts (like tongues). His words are also meant for the likes of you. The ends do not justify the means, dear brother.

More deeply saddened,
and yet still yours in Christ,
Mark

Toby Brown said...

Tom,

I am shocked and apalled that your church's session did not allow the compassionate and well-meaning EOP COM to come into the Kirk and take over the governance and worship of the congregation!

(That was sarcasm.)

All of this makes it abundantly clear why the KJirk's leadership hs taken the path that they have. You were protecting your flock from the wolves!

(And isn't this report a shockingly obvious attempt at slander towards your ministry and that of your fine congregation?)

I'm glad I'm not in EOP today, that's for sure!

Ted D Rossier said...

Mark,

At this point schism is inevitable and necessary. You and the other progressives might as well just admit that to yourselves. This is an untenable situation. Fortunately for the Kirk, the legalities of the ownership of their property appear to not be founded on doctrinal considerations, and I wish them the best and will pray for God's will in the outcome.

The 21st Century Reformation is beginning. Here's an interesting fact: in the Bible, whenever "the Remnant" (i.e., the true Church) is spoken of, they are always in the minority.

I wonder why that is?

Ted

Jim Loughlin said...

After reading the report, it is apparent to me that the AC was not interested in what the vast majority of congregants had to say, but rather the AC approached the issue as "EOP vs. Tom and Wayne". This has been obvious all along. For example, my household has four Kirk members. Back in December we received *one* letter with *one* ballot from the AC. The first option is titled "I intend to continue to worship with Pastors Gray and Hardy". This blatantly ignored that the congregation acted as a body and voted individually to disaffiliate with the PCUSA. Did the AC publish how many responses were received and what those responses were? No. Did each ballot represent one member? No. Why didn't the AC poll members individually? Why didn't the AC ask individual members (not households) if they wanted to leave the PCUSA instead of intimating that this is all Tom and Wayne's doing and we are just following along like lemmings? The AC does not publish how many people attended alternative worship services or the open forum meetings. Wouldn't those be indicators of how many really belong to their definition of the "true church"? If there are a significant number (hundreds) of members who want to stay in the PCUSA, don't you think that the "no" vote in August would have been more than 4% (967 - 36)? If there are hundreds who disagree and the church is in schism, then why is the church still full week after week? The AC reports that roughly 18 members indicated that they wanted to stay with the PCUSA. Assuming this is households, then when multiplied it comes out to roughly the same number of people that voted "no" on disaffiliation - still 5% or so of the congregation. It is obvious that the AC was not interested in the opinion of the vast majority of the congregation.

Mark said...

Dear Ted,

It is debatable whether or not schism is inevitable. Regardless, it is not necessary. The point that is irrefutable is that, if schism does occur, those who wish to remain within the PCUSA are accorded the constitutional status of the true PCUSA church in that location, even if the majority wish to leave the PCUSA. It matters not whether those who wish to remain PCUSA are 94% or 4%--they are still the true PCUSA church in that location. The AC has concluded that there are members of the Kirk who wish to remain in the PCUSA. Therefore, those PCUSA members within the Kirk remain the stewards of the name, records, and property of the Kirk. Those who voted to disaffiliate are free to leave the Kirk in order to pursue ministry in a venue of their choice outside the PCUSA.

The decision on the part of the Kirk's majority to disaffiliate from the PCUSA clearly is rooted in doctrinal disagreements. However, the secular courts in this country are not in a position to decide who is more faithful to doctrine, but who is more faithful to polity. (In a country with separation of church and state, doctrinal purity can only be determined by church courts.) The Kirk was constituted as a PCUSA (originally UPCUSA) congregation, therefore it was required to follow PCUSA polity. The pastors and session elders chose not to follow the polity to which they willingly bound themselves in their ordination and installation vows. Likewise, they encouraged the congregation to disregard their constituting polity. Therefore, the leadership jeopardized the majority's claim to the name, records, and property of the Kirk.

Yours in Christ,
Mark

Mark said...

Dear Jim,

As I am not a member either of EOP or of the AC, I have no answer for why the AC has not documented the statistics of responses to their surveys. I find it curious, though, that you and Tom remain silent on the timeline provided by the AC--a timeline that clearly shows the intent of the Kirk's representatives to lie about the Kirk leadership's willingness to meet with EOP leadership on August 23. That lie appeared calculated to create an end run around the process, that is, to generate hostility toward EOP in order to rush/influence session and congregation votes to disaffiliate. In other words, the Kirk leadership's actions last summer appear far more tactical than responsive (or even reactionary).

Yours in Christ,
Mark

Mark Smith said...

How was this document obtained?

It appears to be a draft marked up for revision.

You aren't dumpster-diving, are you?

TomGray said...

Mark and Mark,
There is so much more to the story than can be told--particularly about the events surrounding the August 23rd meeting.

To the other mark, a copy was given to us by someone who attended the presbytery meeting.
Tom

TomGray said...

Mark (not Smith),
Are you by any chance Mark Tammen?
Tom

Mark said...

Dear Tom,

No, I am not Mark Tammen, though I take that as a compliment. Mark Tammen has a much sharper mind than I have.

I'll answer the next unasked question: No, I am not a presbytery, synod, or GA executive, staff member, or consultant. I am simply a small church pastor who has been Presbyterian my whole life, and who appreciates Paul's admonition to do all things decently and in order.

Yours in Christ,
Mark (not Smith)

Mark Smith said...

Thank you for answering. So the comments are just the person's notes?

Larry said...

It seems that an amicable settlement of these property issues would be for the 97% who voted to leave the PCUSA to give to the 3% who voted to stay with the PCUSA a sum of money equal to 3% of the property value.

In that fashion the 3% who wish to stay with the PCUSA could use the funds to start a new PCUSA church in the area near to where they formally members at Kirk of the Hills (soon-to-be EPC).

The 3% remnant wishing to remain with the PCUSA likely contributed to the maintenence and operation of the Kirk of the Hills property and thus their share of the property is that---3% and no more.

Anonymous said...

Mark (not Smith) -

I was not expecting you to speak for EOP or the AC - I was just writing my observations and questions. I can't speak to the 8/23 meeting - I was not on session and I am not a pastor. I do not know what happened or what was said. I do think it is somewhat of a cheap shot to publicly question me about the meeting and imply that I am withholding some knowledge or attempting to mislead people by not mentioning it. Please choose your words a little more carefully. I do know this - the congregation was not deceived or rushed into anything. That would imply that we all were quite happy with the PCUSA, had a bi-polar reaction, and voted to disaffiliate. Rather, the lopsided vote shows the level of frustration the congregation has had with the PCUSA over the years and that the congregation knew what it was doing. Perhaps you may think it was some sort of mob scene out of an old Frankenstein movie - complete with pitchforks and torches. However, I can assure you that the meeting was conducted decently and in order. I am curious about the statistics because the AC report does not appear to even moderately consider the concerns of the congregation beyond the tacit acknowledgement of the vote.

Jim Loughlin said...

I posted the anonymous comment to Mark (not Smith). I clicked the wrong option....

Mark said...

Dear Jim,

I apologize for misunderstanding your relationship to the aborted August 23rd meeting with EOP leadership. I admit my error regarding that and I ask for your forgiveness.

Tom has hinted that he knows more than he is saying about that meeting. I assume from his hinting that he intends for that information to be withheld until the case goes to trial. Whether or not that assumption is true, the Kirk leadership sent representatives who agreed to an August 23rd meeting with EOP leadership. That agreement was broken by the Kirk leadership.

As for last August's congregational meeting, please understand that I do not question that the meeting attendees were courteous. I accept Tom's blog account. I have no visions of the Kirk as a raging mob wielding pitchforks and torches.

There is a difference, however, between seemly manners during a meeting, and unseemly order before and after a meeting. The meeting itself and the claims coming out of the meeting were out of order for three main reasons:

1. Tom, Wayne, and the session elders had renounced the jurisdiction of the PCUSA before calling the congregational meeting. By renouncing PCUSA authority, they renounced their ordinations. That meant that they no longer held authority to call a congregational meeting.

2. Whether or not the session elders had renounced PCUSA jurisdiction, the session never had the authority to disaffiliate the congregation from the PCUSA. Only the congregation has the authority to vote to request that the presbytery dismiss it from the PCUSA.

3. Whether or not congregation voted to disaffiliate from the PCUSA, it cannot leave the denomination as a congregation until the presbytery votes to dismiss it. Individual members may leave, but the congregation as a body cannot leave without being properly dismissed.

The Kirk will remain out of order until the congregation submits a formal request to EOP for dismissal to the EPC.

There has been much said about the June congregational meeting in which the congregation voted to expunge all references to the PCUSA from its articles of incorporation and by-laws. That action cannot undo the Book of Order requirement that the congregation be dismissed by the presbytery. I am not a lawyer, but I read the Book of Order carefully, and I read relevant information released by The Layman and the denomination. State and federal courts tend to side with denominations, not individuals or congregations, when it comes to the details of ecclesiastical law pertaining to membership.

So even if the session says, "Forget this," and continues to pursue its claim to hold clear title to the property, the congregation's membership continues with the PCUSA until the EOP dismisses it. Therefore, the presbytery still holds the title.

The Kirk joined the PCUSA through the UPCUSA. Prior to Reunion, the the Kirk was under a provision of the UPCUSA Book of Order which stated that the congregation held its property in trust for "the use and benefit" of the UPCUSA (G. XLII, 2), and at such time as the Kirk ceased to be a congregation of the UPCUSA, the property would "be held, used, applied, transferred, or sold as provided by the presbytery" (G. XLII, 2).

At the time of Reunion in 1983, the Kirk had the option to leave the PCUSA or to stay. The Kirk chose to stay. Had it chosen to leave, the presbytery would still have had final say over the property because of the authority of the UPCUSA Book of Order. By staying, the Kirk agreed to submit to the provision of holding the property in trust for the PCUSA, as stated in the newly formed Book of Order, (now G-8.0200). Likewise, by staying, the Kirk agreed to presbytery control of the property in cases of dissolution, extinction, schism, or dismissal (now G-8.0400, G-8.0600, and G-11.0103i).

As far as anyone has stated, the Kirk made no attempt to withdraw from the UPCUSA or the PCUSA, or to contest the title to the property, prior to Reunion, during Reunion, or for over 20 years after Reunion.

Now that the G-8.0000 and G-11.0103i provisions are inconvenient to the Kirk leadership and the majority of its members, they contest those provisions. However, James 5:12 says, "let your yes be yes and your no be no." It doesn't say, "let your yes be yes until the rules are no longer convenient." The Kirk is still a congregation of the PCUSA, and as such, the matter of its dismissal and property resolution must rightfully be determined by EOP.

Therefore, it behooves the Kirk members to welcome the AC so the AC can act in place of the maverick session. With an authorized session in place, the Kirk members could then request that a congregational meeting be called for the purpose of requesting that EOP dismiss the Kirk to the EPC with its property. That request would have to be honored by the AC if it came in writing from at least one fourth of the active members (G-7.0303a(3)). That would be the decent and orderly thing to do.

EOP for its part should consider prayerfully how it would resolve the property issue amicably if such a decent and orderly request came from the Kirk congregation. I would hope that EOP would not want to hold the congregation accountable for the disorderly actions of Tom, Wayne, and the session elders. I would hope that EOP would expedite the dismissal and property sale and/or transfer for pastoral reasons.

Once rightly dismissed from the EOP, the congregation could follow EPC requirements for calling Tom and Wayne, and for reinstalliing the once-maverick session, if it chose to do so.

Yours in Christ,
Mark

Mark said...

Dear Jim,

I, too, am curious about why the AC report does not include the stats on its survey of the congregation. It may surprise you and others to read that I think the AC needs to be more forthcoming about the stats in its report. Even so, I think EOP and the AC have been far more forthcoming than Tom has led us all to believe on this blog.

Again, I apologize for speaking out of turn concerning what you did and did not know about the August 23rd meeting.

Yours in Christ,
Mark

TomGray said...

Mark,
Just a clarification. We did not have the option of leaving the denomination in 1983. That was reserved for PCUS churches.

I didn't mean to keep the Tammen thing going. I was reading comments on the later blog, not this one, so I hadn't seen your answer. I'm glad you took the question as a complement. I really was wondering if you were the other Mark.
Tom

Anonymous said...

Mark -

I wonder why a solution to this whole thing is for Presbytery to vote and say "good by" (and either 'good riddance' or 'go in peace'). Why has that not happened?

Why would a presbytery not allow a church that 97% voted to disaffiliate to leave peacefully? Under no set of facts are those who want to stay any where near even 1 in 10 of the members. Getting even 6% would require a miscount of the no vote by a factor of 2.

Several classes of answers as to why a Presbytery would not allow the congregation to leave come to mind...

A1: They want the property.
A2: They are intimidated by the PC(USA) powers that be to want the property.
B1: They're standing firm against the heresy of the wayward members; B2: They're standing firm against the bulliness / mass hypnotic powers of the pastors;
C: They hold 'orderliness' in such high regard that they're upset that the 'rules' weren't followed to the T (e.g. meeting X should have happened prior to the vote so the votes 'illegal').

I'm familiar with (and know some of) the individual 'powers that be' in the Presbytery. My assessment of the prime reason is A2. I don't think they're personally are so covetous that they're justification is A1.

Some probably have disagreements with the Kirk theologically, but I don't think they believe the heresy is so great that they believe Kirk members are doomed Gnostics or the like. That kind of rules out B1.

They may think Tom et al are a bit headstrong and/or wish they'd stayed in the PC(USA) to continue fighting the good flight along side them to "correct the problems on the bridge of the ship". But I don't think they perceive Tom et al as Jim-Jones types. That kind of rules out B2.

Some possibly feel that 'meeting X should have happened before the vote', so there may be a bit of "c" in some of those in Presbytery. The solution to this isn't a lawsuit over property.

They should just vote and say 'go in peace' (or maybe 'good ridance' - that's up to them).

So... why the big fight? Property, Theology or "orderlyness".


Ford

Jim Loughlin said...

Mark -

I accept your apology. Thank you. The Kirk congregation knew what it was heading into when it voted to ratify disaffiliation. The congregation also knew that disaffiliation is not in the BOO, but we felt that was our best option. We understood what the BOO process is and we felt tht it would not provide a fair and reasonable process - we could argue BOO ad nauseum. The bottom line is that the congregation no longer wants to be a part of the PCUSA. We will see what the courts determine soon enough. We do not want to lose the property, but will deal with that should it occur.

Mark said...

Dear Tom,

You said, "Just a clarification. We did not have the option of leaving the denomination in 1983. That was reserved for PCUS churches."

Your clarification is not quite correct. My father was a UPCUSA minister active in presbytery leadership in a Union presbytery leading up to Reunion. (For those who aren't familiar, the term "Union" referred to dual membership in the UPCUSA and the PCUS). He was heavily involved in Reunion efforts.

EVERY congregation -- PCUS and UPCUSA -- had the option of leaving the PCUSA at the time of Reunion. However, not every congregation (including the Kirk) had the right to leave with their property. Only those congregations who were not under a trust clause (mostly PCUS churches) could leave with their property.

As for after Reunion, the newly agreed upon Book of Order stated that only those congregations who were not under the trust clause prior to Reunion (mostly PCUS congregations) could opt out of the trust clause in the new PCUSA within the first eight years after Reunion. If they took no action by the time of the deadline, they were bound to the trust clause.

Yours in Christ,
Mark

TomGray said...

Mark,
There was no way that any congregation could voluntarily leave the denomination in 1983. In fact, PCUS churches that considered leaving faced huge obstacles even though they supposedly were free to leave.
Tom

Mark said...

Tom,

If, as you say, "There was no way that any congregation could voluntarily leave the denomination in 1983," how is it that some congregations left?

-Mark

Jim said...

Tom,

Could Kirk make available the missing court documents (if not sealed):
* Plaintiff's Combined Objection and Motion to Strike (?? 2006)
* Defendant's Reply to Plaintiff's Combined Objection and Motion to Strike (Oct 17, 2006)

Presbyman said...

Mark's vitriolic comments attacking Pastor Tom Gray (in the first post) are justified if, and only if, one takes the words of the AC at face value and ignores any other possible interpretation, including Pastor Gray's words self-defense.

I may believe in Scriptural infallibility, but I do not believe in AC infallibility. Thus, I find Mark's comments against Pastor Gray to be very unfair and mean-spirited.

Respectfully,

Pastor John