Archive for the ‘PCUSA’ Category

PCUSA in full panic mode

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

I have written quite a bit about the Presbyterian Church (USA), its abandonment of orthodox Christianity, its greed and delusions of power, and our church’s eventual escape from it (see here, starting with "The 556-member church …") Since that glorious day in November, 2008, when we left the PCUSA (without their permission), I have had little reason to write about this hollow shell of a Christian denomination.

But now, in their boundless greed and lust for power, the PCUSA asserts veto power over decisions of the faithful, vibrant Christian denomination to which we now belong, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.  In a letter to the highest elected officer of the EPC, the Stated Clerk, the PCUSA boss man (same title – Stated Clerk) complains about the very process that brought us out of the PCUSA and into the EPC fold.

First, a little political history.  The national government created by the U.S. Constitution was loosely modeled on the Presbyterian form of government.  The EPC and PCUSA each have a document (Book of Order) that describes its system of government.  Members of each local church elect Elders to represent and govern them.  These Elders in turn select representatives (Commissioners) to govern the presbytery to which the church belongs.  Presbyteries select representatives to the General Assembly (GA Commissioners) to govern the national denomination.  The GA elects the Stated Clerk.

The PCUSA and the national government of the United States also have this in common – both have lost sight of their founding documents and both have forgotten that the source of their ruling power is invested in the members/voters and not in themselves.

One of the PCUSA’s spurious claims is that a local church cannot leave without permission from its presbytery, and the presbytery’s discretion in such matters is nearly absolute.  We tried for two years to get the Presbytery of Wabash Valley to let us leave, but our good-faith efforts were met with deceit, political maneuvering, and stalling.  Even after our church voted by a large margin to leave the PCUSA and join the EPC, the presbytery maintained the fiction that our church was still part of their organization and our members were too.  They huffed and puffed about dismissing us but there was nothing they could do.

Since we left, the PCUSA has been losing members and whole congregations at an unprecedented rate.  Since both individual members and congregations are regarded by the PCUSA as assets to be used for its benefit, it doesn’t like to see them leave – especially congregations, which take with them two classes of assets, members (cash) and buildings (real property).

So the PCUSA is huffing and puffing again, demanding that the EPC not accept churches like ours that unilaterally choose to disaffiliate.  The EPC’s position is that such churches are independent – we certainly were – and can freely choose a denomination to affiliate with.  But no, an increasingly desperate  PCUSA demands that the EPC leave disaffiliated churches in their chains, pretending that the PCUSA still has jurisdiction.  And it accompanies its demands with veiled threats of ecclesiastical and civil court action.

Churches are leaving and courts are finding that the PCUSA can’t just steal a church’s property by claiming to have a trust the owners never granted.  The PCUSA’s Berlin Wall (built to keep its people in, not to keep others out) is coming down and they don’t like it.

Thanks to the Layman Online for the story.

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PCUSA: Goodbye to all that

Monday, November 17th, 2008

My church and I have joined the Midwest Presbytery of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC). After a long, divisive, frustrating struggle with a stiff-necked and ungracious Administrative Commission (AC), we (the session) finally said “enough!”. We scheduled an information meeting and vote without the AC’s permission.

More than 300 of 550 active members showed up last Sunday to vote on disaffiliation from the PCUSA. The vote was 270 to leave and 36 to stay. In addition to immediate disaffiliation, members voted to seek membership in the EPC and to retain our pastors, session, and Board of Deacons. Additional details are available at the Layman Online.

We still have the presbytery’s inevitable claim of an alleged trust in our property to deal with. We continue to hope that our dissenting members will choose to stay in their church family rather than cast themselves adrift in the PCUSA.

In a strange way, I am grateful to that unkind and unreliable AC. If they had shown some consideration for our church, we might still be trapped in their interminable process – and the PCUSA. Is this a case of God intending their evil for our good? I can’t say for sure, but as a new member of the EPC, I can say it’s a real possibility.

Posted in EPC, PCUSA, Personal | 1 Comment »

PCUSA: Obfuscating the Bible

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

As an academic (Computer Information Systems), I usually appreciate other academics’ creativity. I enjoy novel ways of thinking that lead to interesting and maybe useful results. But not when the academic is trying to make the Bible hard to understand.

The utterings of theologians and Bible scholars must be approached with caution and often taken with pounds – not grains – of salt. A professor doesn’t get tenure by writing “Calvin was right.” No, getting tenure generally requires the production of ever more novel and esoteric ideas. This is especially true when grants are involved. That’s fine in most fields but not when explaining God and his Word.

I am not a theologian or a Bible scholar (just a lay student of the Bible), so I don’t keep up with what is all the rage in this global academic village. But as a Presbyterian, I sometimes read about what Presbyterian scholars are up to. “No good” is often an accurate summary. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the current debate over homosexual practice.

In the interest of full disclosure, I confess I often wish God would lighten up a little. I’ve worked with and been friends with homosexuals most of my adult life. I’ve worked in college, community, and summer stock theater. (Accuse me of stereotypes if you will, but it is what it is.) I lived at a YMCA in New York for a while – not “the” YMCA of Village People fame – but not much different. I team taught an adult Bible study on homosexuality with a friend who was trying to escape “the life”. (He has since quit trying, but I still greet him as a beloved brother whenever I see him.)

It grieves me that as a man married to a woman I can enjoy sexual intimacy within Biblical bounds but these friends and colleagues can’t. God, however, didn’t ask my opinion. He sets his standards and I can’t change them. Neither can I ignore them or urge other Christians to. Theologians and Bible scholars shouldn’t either, but too many do.

The PUP report, for example, contained the astonishing assertion that the Bible’s teaching on same-gender sexuality is too “diverse, subtle, and complex” to make any determination of what it actually says. Had they asked, I would have referred them to the excellent Scripture and Homosexuality by Dr. Marion L. Soards, a professor at the very liberal Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Unlike some of his colleagues he is indeed able to read and understand what the Bible says. (My friend and I used Dr. Soards’ book and How Will I Tell My Mother? as resources for the class.)

But there are plenty of Presbyterian academics who want us to believe that the Bible was written for intellectuals with advanced degrees. To these exalted few, we poor yokels in the pews are unable to grasp what the plain text means without their intervention. Strangely enough, what they present is often an obfuscation* of what the Bible says, not a clarification. (I have written before about the PCUSA’s penchant for word games.)

Such were the speakers at the recent Covenant Network victory celebration. Walter Brueggeman and Stacy Johnson gave attendees what they wanted hear – strained exegesis that they can use to claim that the Bible says what they wish it said. James Berkley (the Berkley Blog, formerly the Institute for Religion and Democracy) has written in the Layman Online about the talks by Breuggeman and Johnson.

Presbyterians who want to know what a faithful academic has to say about the Bible would be better served reading J. Gresham Machen, Francis Schaeffer, or the aforementioned Dr. Soards.

* Obfuscate: To make so confused or opaque as to be difficult to perceive or understand: “A great effort was made . . . to obscure or obfuscate the truth” (Robert Conquest).

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PCUSA: The Sundquist disaster

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

The Sundquist decision is reminiscent of Roe v. Wade. In that case, an activist Supreme Court searched the Constitution high and low to find a hook on which to hang its desired result. Through some of the most tortured logic since the Dred Scott case, the Court found the right to an abortion tucked away in the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Likewise, the GAPJC discovered powers invested in the presbyteries that until now have lain completely hidden in the Book of Order, awaiting discovery by a greedy and desperate bureaucracy.

The really alarming thing about the Sundquist decision is the practical reality of how churches wishing to escape the clutches of the PC(USA) might initiate the process. The session can’t ask the congregation what they think. The session can’t vote to ask the presbytery to launch their intrusion into the life of the congregation. There seems to be no mechanism to compel the presbytery to take action, so particular churches must beg the presbytery to act. They are entirely at the mercy of the presbyteries who have been granted authority to lord it over them like the Gentile kings and call themselves “Benefactors”.

It seems the denomination’s dreams of converting presbyteries into bishops (cf. the Louisville Papers) is coming closer to fruition. With this decision in hand, it will be much easier to convince a judge that a presbytery is not a body governed by representatives of local churches, but is in fact a powerful hierarch with ruling authority over those churches.

One has to wonder if the the part of this decision that limits expressions of conscience to speech only (no action permitted) will apply to the broad right to scruple. If one had any confidence in the integrity of the GAPJC, one would assume that the first case involving a candidate scrupling G-6.0106b would result in the candidate being told “You can verbally disagree with the standard, but you can take no action that would violate it.” Odds, anyone?

Frankly, this comes as no surprise. Those of us who have studied the Supreme Court over the years have witnessed its growing tendency to act as though the Constitution means whatever the Justices say it means. This seems to be a common weakness in constitutional systems of government: Where the legislative body is either weak or complacent, the highest court is free to interpret the constitution any way it pleases. So it is with the PC(USA). Perhaps the GAPJC took its lead from the 218th GA’s authoritative interpretations that declare meanings not found in the actual words of the Book of Order.

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Discipline in the PCUSA: An undisciplined process

Monday, October 27th, 2008

When our session announced a year a go that we believed God was calling our church out of the PCUSA into the EPC, it galvanized a small opposition group into action. Initially, they sent a letter to our congregation that listed their objections to the EPC. Whether by design or honest mistake, the letter contained many misleading and inaccurate statements about the EPC and its beliefs and policies. After that, the group went underground, refusing many invitations to discuss their concerns with the session, rebuffing several efforts at reconciliation, and never publicly giving any reason to remain in the PCUSA.

But underground didn’t mean inactive. Instead of addressing the issues, they mounted a full-scale assault on both of our pastors, several session members, a Sunday School teacher, and even the church organist. Part of the strategy was to file complaints against these people with a willing and compliant presbytery. On October 9, I received a letter from the moderator of an investigating committee along with copies of two complaints. These complaints alleged that I had intimidated an anonymous party and that I had failed to show this unnamed person (or perhaps another) proper respect. The alleged offenses seem to have taken place at a congregational feedback meeting held in August, 2007, so the time line went something like this:

My initial reaction was to cut the complaints up into little bits and send them back to the Investigating Committee. Instead, I explained why I would not be participating in their broken process. This was my reply:

October 13, 2008

Dear Moderator —;

I am writing in response to your letter dated October 8, 2008 concerning two complaints against me filed with the Presbytery of Wabash Valley. My purpose is not to respond to the accusations but to bring to your attention violations of both the Bible and the Book of Order.

According to D-1.0103, [t]he traditional biblical obligation to conciliate, mediate, and adjust differences without strife is not diminished by these Rules of Discipline. Although the Rules of Discipline describe the way in which judicial process within the church, when necessary, shall be conducted, it is not their intent or purpose to encourage judicial process of any kind or to make it more expensive or difficult. The biblical duty of church people to “come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court . . .” (Matthew 5:25) is not abated or diminished. It remains the duty of every church member to try (prayerfully and seriously) to bring about an adjustment or settlement of the quarrel, complaint, delinquency, or irregularity asserted, and to avoid formal proceedings under the Rules of Discipline unless, after prayerful deliberation, they are determined to be necessary to preserve the purity and purposes of the church. [emphasis added]

The meetings described in the two complaints took place more than a year ago. At no time in the intervening months has any member of our church fulfilled his or her “duty to try … to bring about an adjustment or settlement.” Had my accuser(s) honored this simple obligation, a five minute conversation would have ensued. I would have clarified my words or actions which were never meant to disrespect or intimidate anyone and I would have sincerely apologized for any offense given, however unintentionally. This did not happen, however, and any opportunity to bring about a resolution has been lost.

By shielding the identity of my accuser(s), the IC [investigating committee] has “abated”, “diminished” and indeed eradicated any possibility of my “coming to terms quickly” with my unknown accuser(s). By not admonishing my accuser(s) to be obedient to the Bible and the Book of Order and by pursuing these complaints in this manner, the IC is actively impeding any effort to bring about a resolution consistent with the principles that bind us as Christians and as Presbyterians. All that now remains are the “formal proceedings” that we are directed by the Book of Order to avoid. I find it particularly shameful and ironic that while I may have unwittingly created the appearance of disrespect or intimidation, this deliberate circumvention of Biblical and Presbyterian procedures can have no other purpose than to willfully disrespect and attempt to intimidate me.

I cannot in good conscience be a party to this un-Biblical and unlawful process. This letter concludes my participation in the IC’s investigation. I request that you include this letter in the official record of the investigation, lest anyone mistakenly believe that my silence bespeaks either an admission of guilt or a lack of due regard for the process the Bible and the Book of Order both prescribe. I assure you that, in choosing this course of action, I do not stand on any “right to remain silent” conferred by the Book of Order. Rather I stand on the right conferred by Christ himself to stand silent in the face of malicious accusations.


I copied the Interim Executive Presbyter and the presbytery’s Stated Clerk. As expected, I have received no further communication. My experience with our presbytery has convinced me that the Bible and the Book of Order are little more than convenient sources of quotes. They offer no roadblocks to the pursuit of power and property that drives the presbytery and its local allies.

Add this to my list of reasons to leave the PCUSA and reasons not to stay. Of course, if this nonsense actually went to a trial (without my participation, of course), they would probably kick me out of the PCUSA. Oh, darn.

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PCUSA: A willful blindness

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

The Presbyterian News Service released a pair of stories today that illustrate the willful blindness of the denomination

GAC’s Evangelism Committee reviews initiatives to reverse decline

… the General Assembly Council’s (GAC) Evangelism Mission Committee on Oct. 1 reviewed a variety of initiatives aimed at overcoming a decades-long membership decline in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

The committee heard about a laundry list of programs, strategies, and grandiose plans that will have no effect on the denomination’s spiraling decline. These folks still think it’s all about marketing, splashy campaigns, and finding just the right gimmick to get the suckers in the door. Along the way, they heard that paying some attention to church’s mission in the world might help, but …

The full-time overseas mission force is budgeted to increase in 2009 for the first time since Presbyterian reunion in 1983. Budget constraints present a challenge to keep the mission force in the field, [Hunter Farrell, director of World Mission] told the committee and so a direct mail appeal is being planned.

Direct mail! There isn’t enough money in all the program offices and political lobbying that pass for missions in the PCUSA to fund the real work of the church? This afterthought, this sudden interest in foreign missions, will have to find its own funding. Pathetic.

Presbyterian minister acquitted in same-sex wedding case

Now here’s some news that might cast some light on the denomination’s demise.

The Rev. Janet Edwards, a Presbyterian minister in Pittsburgh, was found not guilty Thursday (Oct. 2) following a trial on charges that she violated Scripture and the constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) when she presided at the marriage of two women.

In language worthy of Bill Clinton’s defense of his sexual exploitation of Monica Lewinski, the ecclesiastical court held that

the constitutions of the PC(USA) and the state of Pennsylvania define marriage as an act between a man and a woman. Therefore, judges said, the ceremony could not have been a wedding ceremony. “It can’t be an offense to the constitution to attempt to do the impossible.”

Do these people have any idea how foolish they look? Do they care about the scorn they heap on Jesus’ church when they utter such nonsense? Can anyone in PC(USA) leadership connect the dots here?

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Women in the EPC: "Second-class citizens"?

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

This, of course, is the interpretation PC(USA) spin doctors put on the EPC’s local option regarding the ordination of women. With our church growing impatient with the PC(USA) and its deep dive into cultural accomodation, we are looking very hard at the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC). Ours is a church where more than a third of the elders are women and our Associate Pastor is a woman. As a member of the session, I’ve given this matter a lot of thought and study.

Peace, unity, and purity (the real deal)

Rev. Dr. Jeff Jeremiah, Stated Clerk of the EPC, spoke to our congregation last year. (The discernment process has been interminable.) He mentioned that the PC(USA) and EPC cultures were different and that they often used the same words with different meanings. He noted that one difference in culture evident to outside observers is the degree of trust and real fellowship that seem to prevail within the EPC compared with the PC(USA).

One PC(USA) pastor who attended the EPC’s General Assembly in June last year described his experience this way:

The time at the GA was encouraging, energizing, hopeful and so Christ centered that there was no mistaking why the church had gathered to do business – to best be Christ’s church for God’s glory! I was really taken with … the spirit of grace and humility exhibited by the EPC folks.

This description stands in sharp contrast to the usual wrangling and in-fighting exhibited at a PC(USA) General Assembly. There were no demonstrations and counter-demonstrations, no staged walk-outs, no horse-trading and back-room deals, and no politically-charged circus atmosphere. Instead, there was peace and unity.

Dr. Jeremiah attributed this culture to the EPC’s focus on Christ and to the absence of doctrinal warfare. The EPC knows what it believes and requires officers to share its core beliefs. They have not elevated human conscience above the essential tenets of Reformed Christian orthodoxy as the PC(USA) has. Neither has the EPC elevated the ordination of women to similar status.

Prohibiting the ordination of women

Prior to 1930, the mainline Presbyterian denominations did not ordain women. The ordination of women to the office of elder was introduced into the original PCUSA in that year. The ordination of women as ministers of Word and Sacrament came to the old PCUSA in 1956 and to the UPCUSA and via the PCUSA’s merger with the UPNA in 1958. The PCUS followed in 1964. Now, section G-6.0105 of the PC(USA) Book of Order simply states that “Both men and women shall be eligible to hold church offices”.

When it comes to ordaining women, the greatest difference between the PC(USA) and the EPC is this: The PC(USA) has a history of prohibiting the ordination of women to any office. The EPC has no such history and has never had an institutional prohibition against the ordination of women. For that simple reason, the EPC has never had to alter its Book of Order to correct its former position. Having never barred the ordination of women, the EPC has no need to explicity authorize or require it.

But, in typical fashion, the PC(USA) treated the ordination of women as both an ecclesiastical issue and a political one. Celebrating the ordination of women was transformed into demanding the ordination of women. Not satisfied with the ecclesiastal decision to allow and even encourage the ordination or women, the PC(USA) embraced a political mechanism – affirmative action – to require it. While there are no formal quotas and no set-asides, the direction and intent are clear. No dissent is allowed, no excuses are accepted.

There’s just one teeny little problem with this politicized approach. It either (1) puts God in a box or (2) denies his sovereignty. Either the PC(USA) believes that (1) there can be no church where God chooses to call only men to leadership or (2) people, not God, do the calling. My opinion is that the latter is more akin to the way our denomination operates.

Allowing the ordination of women

So which denomination has it right? Is it the PC(USA) with its demands for gender equality and proportional representation? Or is it the EPC with a policy that simply says, “let God decide whom to call”?

Is life perfect for women called to leadership in the EPC? No. The Midwest Presbytery of the EPC has never ordained a woman to the office of teaching elder. But there is reason to hope that an ordained woman from the PC(USA) seeking ordination in the Midwest Presbytery would find

Such cannot be said of the PCUSA with its political culture and its delusions of being the “true church”.

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