Monday, July 03, 2006

Church Options - Day 3

This series of posts is looking at the options that local congregations can take in response to their frustration over the direction the PCUSA is heading and the approval of the PUP report. The first option was to submit, stay and try to work within the “system” to bring about positive change. The second option was to stay, fight, and to use the PCUSA’s tactic of not investing in specific corporations until they change the way they do business against the PCUSA itself. This third posting will begin looking at the option of leaving the PCUSA.

Let me begin by acknowledging that there are no perfect denominations. There will always be disagreements; there might even be divisions. A church that leaves the PCUSA expecting to find “the promised land” will be severely disappointed. The reason for leaving (and I believe the only reason) is for biblical reasons. The cause for the fighting in the PCUSA isn’t the ordination of GLBT persons that are sexually active—that is only a symptom. The cause is how we view scripture. A significant minority (or is it?) of the leadership of the PCUSA chooses to read scripture in a way that was never intended. They are so caught up with “peace and justice” that they are blinded to clear biblical teaching on sexual issues. Their blindness allows them to be willing to open the doors of the church leadership to any person who believes almost anything, lives just about any lifestyle and teaches that such departures are ok. For YEARS a professor at San Francisco Theological Seminary taught that Jesus was not the Son of God, wasn’t born of a virgin, didn’t do all of those miracles, didn’t raise from the dead, etc. The Bible is the key factor in denominational unity or dis-unity (if there is such a word). If a church leaves the PCUSA for an already existing denomination it must look closely at the beliefs of that denomination and see make sure that they are biblical.

Leaving the PCUSA for an Already Existing “Presbyterian” Denomination.

There are many “Presbyterian” denominations. Most of these denominations are relatively small in the number of churches and membership. I believe that most of the PCUSA churches that leave to join an already existing “Presbyterian” denomination will go to either the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA) or the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC). These are the two largest of the “other” Presbyterian denominations.

The PCA was born is December of 1973. It was formed with approximately 260 congregations and 41,000 members. It left the former “southern church” because of the southern church’s theological liberalism, authority of scripture and the ordination of women. In 2004 the PCA had 1,288 churches with 261,675 communicant members. The PCA has spread across the county but still has its highest concentration of churches in the south. This denomination does not ordain women to be pastors, elders or deacons and will not change their “rules” to ordain women.

The Evangelical Presbyterian Church had its beginning in the fall of 1980 and the spring of 1981. Pastors and elders came together because of their disagreements with the northern and southern wings of the Presbyterian Church family. They were concerned with the denominations’ views on theological liberalism and the authority of scripture. They have focused on the evangelistic fervor of the founders of Presbyterianism. Their theme is “in essentials, unity, in non-essentials, liberty, in all things, charity.” The EPC is very specific about its essential beliefs. Unity on these beliefs builds trust. That trust makes it possible to have liberty in non-essentials. The EPC realizes that some churches believe that the Bible forbids the ordination of women and others believe that scripture supports the ordination of women. The EPC lets each church make its own decision on the ordination of women. In 2001 the EPC had 189 churches with 69,000 members. The highest concentration of EPC churches is in the central part of the country, with churches spreading throughout most of the rest of the country. “Vision 21” is the slogan for their current push for starting new churches, membership growth and spiritual vitatity.

The advantages of this option:

1. Those who bleed “Presbyterian” will love keeping those Presbyterian ties.

2. Both of these denominations are CLEAR on their essential beliefs!

3. The local congregation owns the church property!

4. Evangelism is a HIGH priority of these denominations.

The disadvantages of this option:

1. Those who STRONGLY believe in the ordination of women will be totally dissatisfied with the PCA and frustrated with the EPC’s congregational-choice policy.

2. Many states have few, if any, churches in these denominations.

3. “Presbyterian” is still hard for visitors to spell.

6 Comments:

At 8:49 AM , Blogger Classical Presbyterian said...

How about the Christian Reformed Church?

I would like to read your analysis of this option for the future. They are fully Reformed and evangelical. They ordain women if the congregation so chooses. They have a great legacy and a fairly long history.

Sure, we would have to change some vocabulary words, but the substance might still be the same.

 
At 12:42 PM , Blogger Quotidian Grace said...

I echo CP on the CRC. We use their Sunday School curriculum--Walk With Me--and so do a number of tall steeple PCUSA churches in our area.

What about the ARC? One of our pastors grew up in that denomination. I understand it is concentrated in the southeast.

The EPC would probably find itself with a lot more women pastors if that became the preferred destination of withdrawing PCUSA churches. I wonder if that would cause conflict between the "new" and the "old" EPC?

 
At 10:57 AM , Blogger Pastor Lance said...

I am not that familiar with the Christian Reformed Church. Will have to do some research. Thanks for the suggestion.

 
At 9:28 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

so it's okay for congregations to make the call in ordaining women but not others? how is that different from what's happening in the pcusa?

 
At 11:30 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Cumberland Presbyterian Church may be a good option as well for many of our churches. Another might well be the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. Both are small, but solid denominations.

 
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