Sep 18th, 2008 · Categories: PCUSA, Personal · 1 Comment

PCUSA: Why not stay?

As my church struggles through an endless process of discernment, yoked to an Administrative Commission that seems dedicated to stalling and dividing us, I decided I needed a clear answer to the question “what harm is there in staying in the PCUSA?” This is what I will tell anyone who asks:

Jesus had a special warning for those who lead “these little ones astray”. Our children are watching us. The 218th General Assembly took deliberate action to discard the Bible’s clear and consistent condemnation of homosexuality. It intentionally bypassed the Book of Order and gave presbyteries permission to ordain practicing homosexuals. Our denomination has approved what the Bible condemns. By remaining a part of the PCUSA, we are leading our little ones astray.

The PCUSA is officially “neutral” on the matter of abortion, neither condoning nor condemning it. (The 217th General Assembly did approve a statement that opposes “partial-birth” abortions.) But the PCUSA has financially supported the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), a lobbying organization that opposes all restrictions on abortion. It has gone to court to oppose the federal ban on partial-birth abortions. The PCUSA went so far as to give the RCRC a “partnership in mission” award. By remaining a part of the PCUSA, we too partner with the abortion advocates.

The mainline Presbyterian church has been embroiled in a clash of world views since May 1, 1922, when Harry Emerson Fosdick, a liberal Baptist preacher, gave a sermon at First Presbyterian Church in New York entitled “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” The “fundamentalists” he opposed were Presbyterians who believed in (1) the inerrancy of the Scriptures, (2) the virgin birth and the deity of Jesus, (3) the doctrine of substitutionary atonement by God’s grace and through human faith, (4) the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and (5) the authenticity of Christ’s miracles. Fosdick rejected those doctrines and laid out the principles of modern “progressive” Christianity that continue to divide the PUCSA. By remaining part of the PCUSA, we continue to waste resources opposing an enemy we have allowed to thrive in our midst.

Throughout its history, the Presbyterian church has declared what it believes. Sometimes this declaration has been in the form of a confession such as the Scots’ Confession or the Westminster Confession of Faith. The Apostles’ Creed is a similar statement of faith. Most Presbyterian denominations – the Presbyterian Church in America, the Evangelical Presbyterian, and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, for example – have summarized their beliefs in a handful of “essential tenets”. In fact, the fundamentals Fosdick opposed were the essential tenets of the Presbyterian church in 1910. These “essentials” are the core, non-negotiable principles that define what it means to be a Christian. The PCUSA no longer clearly states what its bedrock beliefs are. Where nothing is declared non-negotiable, everything is negotiable. By remaining part of the PCUSA, we agree that everything is negotiable.

The Presbyterian church has always respected individual conscience. As early as 1729, the Presbyterian church in the American colonies adopted measures that protected the right of the individual to disagree with the church in some areas. However, the right to declare a conscientious objection (called a “scruple”) did not extend to the core beliefs of the Christian faith. After the 218th General Assembly, the PCUSA declared that “the scrupling of either belief or practice is now allowed.” There is no longer any standard of belief or practice that presbyteries cannot waive when a candidate for ordination declares a “scruple”. By remaining part of the PCUSA, we agree that standards are whatever a presbytery and candidate agree they are.

According the Book of Order, “ordination for the office of minister of the Word and Sacrament is an act of the whole church carried out by the presbytery, setting apart a person to the ministry of the Word and Sacrament.” When a presbytery ordains a minister contrary to Scripture, every church and every member participates in that act. When a presbytery allows the candidate to “scruple” a belief or practice, every church and every member consents to that presbytery’s decision. By remaining part of the PCUSA, we join in the ordination of ministers whose beliefs and practices are unknown to us.

This entry was posted on Thursday, September 18th, 2008 at 2:35 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.

One Response to “PCUSA: Why not stay?”

  1. ordination Says:

    February 10th, 2012 at 2:33 am


    […]PCUSA: Why not stay? | The Curmudgeon's Progress[…]…

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