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.

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


Mark said...

And so goes the gospel according to Tom. Meanwhile, Tom continues to justify his abuse of the system.

In Christ,

Anonymous said...


I just cannot understand how someone who signs is name In Christ, can come up with such a mean spirited useless post. Can you not at least make a point?

Tom and others have been more than clear about the abuses of power of the PCUSA, there are tons of sources out there if you open your eyes. But as I said to your liberal friend Arthur, that will never happen, only on point of view, YOURS and anyone else that expresses on contrary to yours is ignorant or mean-spirited while you are doing the same thing (mean spirited) and not even realizing it. It really does make me shake my head in wonder and disbelief.

Tom even provided a quote from the FOG folks about their agenda for local option and you attack him for it. Sad.


mike said...

can we please have Arthur, Ted and Mark make their own blog so they can argue between themselves. i tire at their one-ups-manship. (arthur, not sure if i spelled that correctly, but i'm sure you will tell me).

Anonymous said...

Better the gospel according to Tom which is based on the Bible, God's unchangable Word, than the gospel according to PCUSA which is apparently based on current culture (a most changeable and always changing entity.)

By the way, reporting what is going on, even from a opposing perspective, is not abuse. It is called commentary.

Esther Underwood

Anonymous said...

Thanks Tom - Thank you for being the voice in the wilderness, a beacon of light in darkness and keeping our eyes focused on the Word of God as opposed to the "commandments of men." (Matt.15:7-9)

In the name of the one and only Lord - Jesus Christ,

ebscer said...

actually this could work out... a few people have critized you for not leaving properly and ignoring the boo in doing so. If it's changed it gives churches the option to say "we're not reaffirming this new one, so we're leaving the pcusa..." Nothing really changes but then you don't have to deal with the likes of the above mark...

Jim said...

I always laugh (and then cry) when Tom is accused of "abuse of the system". I've seen the decades of twisting, manipulation, and out and out lies of the inclusive wing of PC(USA). They force their agenda on the majority. They change the rules, so they can stack the deck at GA. They abuse those who disagree with them. They refuse to debate on facts.
So many opposed to the changes have already voted with their feet. Inclusiveness does not apply to those who oppose the changes.

Paul Johnston said...

My curiosity piqued by your post, Tom, I read over the drafts at the PCUSA site. The most basic thing that struck me was the complete absence of the positive work of the cross. Yes, we know the suffering of Jesus shows us how evil human sin is. And we know his faithful perseverance shows us the steadfastness of God's faithful love. But is that it? Just an example, a visual aid?

The biblical witness (and the historic orthodox witness of the church) is Christ died for our sins, not just from them. Christ's death on the cross is not just a sign of barriers torn down and sins forgiven, it's the place where that really happened.

Back in the 1920s, people debated whether the death of Christ was effective because of penal substutition or payment of a ransom or some other theory. But the key truth that the death of Christ effected our salvation was not at issue. Now it is, at least for the leadership of the PCUSA.

Churches have crosses in their sanctuaries, not as a reminder of a tragedy, but as a reminder of a victory. But that victory seems to be absent from this draft of the foundational principles of the PCUSA.

Anonymous said...

Mark -

Questions for you - not rhetorical.

What is the system you accuse Tom of abusing? From what I read of your posts I think (am I wrong?) you believe he's abusing something like his 'power' as a minister to mis-lead and/or intimidate his congregation, and/or abusing the PC(USA) system by going outside of it.

I guess you think (since I haven’t seen it for sure in your posts) that you are for the move to local option (true?). I’m not sure so I’d like you to innumerate the abuse you describe – because besides being 'against' Tom it isn't clear to me. What's your position on the proposed changes to the BOO mentioned specifically in this blog? Do you believe Tom is inaccurate in his characterization of what’s going on? Do you believe that his characterization is accurate but not alarming? I’m not sure. If the alarm is false why do you think so? If it's true but not really alarming I guess you're happy with the 'local option' results.

If he’s (and we as the congregation – to the extent we were not ‘intimidated’) are abusing the system, it seems to me, that it's abused the system via an extreme case of 'local option'. There is surely is 'local option' with individual Church members. History has shown many in the PC(USA) have already used that option by voting with their feet – many continue to do so weekly.

Seems to me there is either now or soon will be 'local' option for presbyteries to vote to reinterpret the BOO how they see fit. I could be wrong here, but many – not just Tom – believe that form of local option is now or very soon will be the case. If Tom’s predictions are right, I guess the only 'local option' that won't remain is for individual congregations to leave as one body. The 97% of Kirk members who voted to leave – if my personal belief is representative – did so because we believed we are called to continue on our pilgrimage with the specific set of fellow believers. By the way, we'd find it convenient to keep the building but if we loose it, we built it once we can build it again - if the Lord so leaves.

The 'gospel according to Tom'... Do you really believe Tom thinks the 'gospel' in this blog is good news - or was your intention to belittle his views by a personal attack? Seems to me like Tom's recent missive is more to me like a prophesy (really more a prediction) than a gospel. These predictions also have the benefit of being able to be verified in the relatively near future. If you think the "alarm" in Tom's blog is false, I'd appreciate knowing why you think so.


Richard Wilson said...

There has to be a better way to resolve our differences!

That's the thought that drew my attention back to this blog after learning of the commentary regarding the report of the Administrative Commission of EOP. After reading articles from The Layman Online today, I have decided to add my own comment.

In the article "NEWSWEEK EDITOR LOOKS AT RELIGION, HISTORY", Jon Meacham, the editor of Newsweek Magazine, is reported to have said "The liberal and conservative sides in religion are getting more extreme that they need to be. The reason? Both sides are losing. Both sides, broadly put, are living in fear."

It's apparent that differences that are now attributed to "liberal versus conservative" points of view have existed for many decades and these differences are being used by the opposition to move us toward open warfare. I credit The Layman and its supporters for beginning the work toward preparing the battlefield. In waging war, we can succeed in reducing or even eliminating some evil but in the process we often do more harm than good. Surely that must be the reason Jesus tried to teach us to be peacemakers!

I believe the vast majority of us are between the extremes--we are open to considering a differing understanding or interpretation. That's what our differences consist of--differing understanding and interpretation. The extremes believe they hold all the answers--"I'm OK and you're OK if you believe the same as I believe".

Shouldn't all christians consider themselves to be evangelicals whether they consider themselves liberal, conservative or somewhere in between? It seems to me there has been a consious decision by those who apparently consider themselves to be "conservative evangelicals" to wage war against those who do not believe exactly as they believe. To wage war, even in the name of Christ, may well result in doing more harm than good!

I acknowledge that I can be (and have been) wrong in my beliefs and that we are surely more in agreement than disagreement in our beliefs but I hope you (Tom) and your supporters will allow me to express my personal belief that you have declared war against me and all others who do not believe exactly as you believe. It is obvious that we are now in an "us versus them" situation where it becomes difficult to recognize and acknowledge when we are wrong. I firmly believe that you and the Kirk have chosen the wrong course even though I accept that you just as firmly believe you have chosen the right course.

I have noticed from time to time that you have been misinformed regarding actions of EOP. The most recent instance that I am aware of is the report that came to you regarding action at the recent presbytery meeting. It is true that a minister among those who believe the same as you do on ordination standards did move to soften the language of the AC report. Of course, it was not possible to do so. In "The Report is Online" you state "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". It is my understanding that you were misinformed--the sub-committee was established to prepare a press release regarding the report.

In closing, I would like to say again "there has to be a better way to resolve our differences". I realize that may not be possible in "The Kirk versus EOP" but my hope and prayer remains that we all will find a surely more peaceful and pleasing way before God to settle our differences.

Richard Wilson

Larry said...

Thanks for posting the commentary on the rewrite of the Book of Order. Those Presbyterians who are opting to sit-it-out need to take note of the changes coming down the pike.

Do not let the liberal detractors sway you from the course. Continue to comment on the PCUSA so long as Kirk of the Hills has an interest in what the denomination is doing.

Too few PCUSA ministers have the gumption to tell it like it is. It is sad they have taken such vows of silence. They were called to be shepherds of the flocks.

TomGray said...

Thanks for the clarification on the paper vs press release.

I do think that progressives and conservatives are miles apart. I do, though, believe that progressives have postulated a new christianity. What we conservatives are supporting is the traditional understanding of Christianity.

I'm not sure what being in the middle means. Do you accept that Jesus is uniquely "the Way, the Truth, and the Life?" If not, you've aligned yourself with the progressives by default. If you do believe that, why stand for what progressives have done and are doing to mainline denominations?


Presbyman said...

Richard Wilson says we should find better ways of resolving our differences. He may well be right in this ... Christians taking each other to court is a poor witness to the world.

I cannot help but notice, however, that Richard seems to place the blame for the conflicts in the PCUSA at the feet of "conservative evangelicals" who have "declared war" on people with whom they disagree.

Placing all the blame for our problems on "conservative evangelicals" (and in the interest of full disclosure, I consider myself to be one) is not a good way to promote unity and reconciliation. It absolves non-conservative non-evangelicals (or whatever you want to call people with different views) from their own responsibility to seek compromise and reconciliation. Saying that things will be better if "those" people change is self-serving.


Pastor John

Anonymous said...

Pastor Tom,

I read about your struggles at an Episcopal blog, Stand Firm.

Sadly, we face the same challeges to "the faith once delivered to the saints." You will be in my prayers.

You will find kindred souls
at Holy Spirit Anglican Church in Tulsa. Father Briane Turley is a former Episcopal priest, and a godly man.

May God bless you and your flock.

Discouraged Episcopalian

Mark said...

Dear Tom and All,

I apologize for my unkindly worded comment. I spoke out of my frustration, which I should have kept to myself. Perhaps after I cooled off I would have said nothing at all. My previous responses to Tom's most recent posts were carefully considered. My reaction to this post was just that: a reaction, not a response. I recognize that my outburst only detracted from, rather than contributed to the discussion. I admit my sin, repent of it, and ask for your forgiveness.

I deeply appreciate Richard Wilson's words. They certainly helped redirect me.

Yours in Christ,

TomGray said...

Thanks for the latest note. In spite of the level of tension in all this, my decisions and words have been in what I believe to be the best interest of the Kirk, as well as a contribution to a debate that will probably continue years into the future.

I've never expected that everyone would agree with what we've done, or what I've said and written. I have been surprised by some of the vitriol mixed into the responses. I will continue to defend our actions, hopefully in a way that is assertive without attacking.