Oct 27th, 2008 · Categories: PCUSA, Personal · No Comments

Discipline in the PCUSA: An undisciplined process

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:

  • August, 2007 – alleged offenses in a public meeting with a hundred or so witnesses
  • November, 2007 – session (including this curmudgeon) announces unanimous support for move to EPC
  • February, 2008 – complaints filed with presbytery
  • October, 2008 – notice of complaints and investigation sent to alleged offenders

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.

This entry was posted on Monday, October 27th, 2008 at 11:35 am and is filed under PCUSA, Personal. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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