Saturday, July 22, 2006

New Wineskins Report - Friday While I Was There

The mood at the NWI gathering was one of anticipation. It is possible that this gathering will mark an important milestone in the PCUSA.

The day started with worship (as always, since this is the most important thing that we do). We had another powerful message from Ephesians 4.

Key events of the morning were breakout workshops. The workshop on church property issues showed that local churches have more legal grounds for exiting the denomination with their property than we had believed. Getting a GOOD lawyer that knows property and trust law is VITAL.

A church in Iowa was able to negotiate with its Presbytery to keep their property. How? I’m not sure. If I find any details I will post them on the blog.

The PFR head honcho brought greetings to the gathering. He said that faithful followers of Christ could follow several Presbyterian paths. He made it sound like they were not going to join the NWI in their move forward.

One key moment happened during the introductions of various affinity groups’ observers to the convocation. Parker Williamson (The Lay Committee) basically said that it was time to leave the PCUSA! For years he has been in the “stay/fight/win” camp. No more! NWI will receive a huge boost if the Lay Committee can influence congregations of the Confessing Church Movement to join the cause!

I was unable to change my travel plans. I have to lead worship on Saturday night and it would have been almost impossible to be home in time. Three very trusted friends are going to update me on the delegate voting part of the meeting. Based on my discussions with leadership in NWI and voting delegates, I believe that the recommendations discussed earlier will be approved. That approval sets a course and time-table for action. There will be convocation in the winter of 2007 that will be VERY INTERESTING. NWI could be in a position at that time to receive congregations that desire to leave the PCUSA. Would this be the time of a mass pullout from the denomination? No one knows.

I do not plan on attending the upcoming meetings of the Confessing Church Movement, the Constitutional Church Movement, the Coalition or the Presbyterian Worldwide Fellowship. The Presbyterian Worldwide Fellowship wants to direct all of their mission dollars to faithful, biblical mission projects around the world. I don’t understand how you can separate your church from the denomination in the area of “mission” and not in all other areas! Mission is one place that some good things are being done. NWI will be talking with all of the Renewal groups in the coming months. No need for me to fly all around the county.

I am very disappointed with many of the “tall steeple” pastors and their churches. Why are they not a part of this movement? Why are they not giving leadership to the PCUSA? Do they all agree with what has happened in the denomination over the past five years? Are they afraid that what happened to Hollywood Pres. will happen to them? What about the rest of us? There were a few “tall steeple” pastors present. Praise God for them!

Those who gathered at the NWI convocation are to be applauded. They are willing to stand and say that the PCUSA is not “The Church!” We have been a significant part of the Church. There was a time when the Presbyterian Church sent out missionaries and planted churches. People came to Christ through the ministries of our denomination. All of that began to change in the 1050s and 1960s. We spend countless hours and dollars in writing “papers” and trying to change the constitution. We ignore the FACT that we now live in a post-Christian era. The PCUSA has lifted modern thought above the written Word of God. The PCUSA has turned its back on Reformed Theology. We have no list of essential beliefs (that is straight from the Stated Clerk!). I guess that essentials are up for grabs. The General Assembly found a way around the Presbyteries in trying to ordain GLBT persons. The PCUSA does not look, or sound, like a church of Jesus Christ. The NWI convocation felt like a church. It worshipped like a church. It sounded like the church. It prayed like the church. It focuses on mission like the church. It places a high priority on Reformed Theology like the church. It seeks to value and honor scripture like the church. Could it be a new representation of the church (not the “Church)?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

New Wineskins Report 4 - Thursday Late Afternoon and Evening

There was a great presentation this afternoon on what NWI means when it says that they are “evangelical” and “Reformed.” Ok everyone, take a deep sigh of relief.

Evangelical: NWI firmly believes that the Church is to be about the Great Commission. NWI firmly believes that those who are apart from Christ need to experience the redeeming work of Jesus in their lives. We have spent too many years and too many $$$ fighting over issues that are important but keep us from the work of Christ. The church in the 2/3 developing world KNOWS about and practices evangelism. We need to regain our focus on evangelism.

Reformed: NWI firmly believes that we are to be a Reformed ministry that is grounded in the theology of the Reformed tradition. The Reformed theology is the theological foundation that will keep NWI grounded. This grounding will keep us from falling back into the theologically muddy waters that are present in the PCUSA today.

The idea of “one-foot-in and one-foot-out” was introduced to the entire gathering. The concept is that a congregation would have one foot in the NWI and one foot out of it. There are some congregations that will have that other foot in the PCUSA. The NWI would function side-by-side with the PCUSA. The denomination’s constitution would govern the church and the church would not renounce jurisdiction of the denomination (at least at this time). Other churches that are not going to stay in the denomination are encouraged to keep one foot in the NWI while they place their other “foot” some place out.

There was also a significant presentation on church property law. It was VERY BORING. Important, but boring. There is a book out on the topic. Let me sum it up this way:

  1. It all depends on state law.
  2. Contact an attorney that specializes on property and trust law in your state. I spoke with representative from two different churches from two different states that have attorneys working on this issue. If your church is seriously considering leaving the PCUSA and would like to learn from their experience let me know that state you are in. If it is from one of the states I will get your contact information to the appropriate church.
  3. A major component for property issues is specific to a local church, who it was formed, what the property deed says, minutes of congregational and session meetings, etc.

It has been a long, long, long, long day. I have never been with so many people who are so frustrated with the PCUSA but are even more hopeful for our desired future. I do not get the sense that the actions of this gathering are being driven by anger or fear. They are being driven by our risen Lord who is calling us to a bright and glorious future. What will that future hold? The GAPJC will most likely the course the NWI will take. Do I believe that the amendment to the PUP report solidified the requirement of G 6.0106B. Yes I do. Will churches say that the new AI gives ordaining bodies the option of saying that “B” isn’t an essential of the Reformed faith. Yes I do. How will the GAPJC handle the case? In the past, they have let a person’s ordination stand even when an ordaining body was found in error of how it failed to apply “B.” If the GAPJC does that in cases involving the PUP report and the new AI then it will spell the end of the PCUSA as we know it. If the GAPJC says that “B” is not “essential” then it will spell the end of the PCUSA as we know it. It is clear that the delegates of the General Assembly were led to believe that the amendment would have no impact on the PUP report. The report was assed with the specific intent to give ordaining bodies the right to set aside certain provisions in our constitution. I find it difficult to believe that the GAPJC will uphold “B,” enforce the constitution and remove the ordinations of persons who fail to live by “B.”

Signing off from Tulsa for tonight.

Pastor Lance

New Wineskins Report 3 - Thursday Morning/early Afternoon

The theme of morning worship that God is doing a new thing in his church around the world à a global realignment. The text of Ephesians 4:1-13 was used. There is one church and that church is not a particular denomination! We are in a “season of humiliation” in the PCUSA. This is because we have failed the world-wide body of Christ. We have walked away for our commitment to the Great Commission. Due to this failure God has lifted up the church in other parts of the world. They are now leading and praying that the PCUSA (and other western denominations) would reclaim their biblical roots and follow God’s word.

Robert Gagnon gave a GREAT presentation on the recent General Assembly. His presentation (verbal and PowerPoint) were powerful and will be made available. I will share these with those of you who would like them. He urged NWI to stay in the denomination until the GAPJC hears a case involving the new AI. He guesses that it will take a year, two at the most, for this to happen. He does not hold out much hope that they will say that G6.0106B is an “essential” that must be followed.

The remainder of the morning and first half of the afternoon were on “networking.” The backbone of the NWI is going to be networks. We met in regional gatherings to set the foundations for the formation of those networks. I was in the Washington/Oregon group. My sense I that EVERYONE there was ready to leave the PCUSA (if certain/different situations could be achieved). Several churches are having a hard time keeping members since the approval of the PUP report. A formalized Washington network could be established as soon as noon tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

New Wineskins Report 2 - Wednesday Night

Answer some questions that you have left on the blog...

1. How many delegates will be attending? Over 700 people have pre-registered for the event. With 121 endorsing congregations that would mean there would be approximately 242 voting delegates (could be a few more due to multiple staff churches).

2. Quotidian grace asks about “the kind of church and denominational organization they are favoring.” The church they envision would be:


-United on essentials


-It would have the local church as the most important part of the church hierarchy

-There would be a flattened structure

-It would be very connected

-It would be Reformed but my sense is that the word “Reformed” is not going to be high on their priority list. I may be wrong on this. “Reformed” is important in their written documents but I did not hear the word used even once today.

3. Backwoods Presbyterian wants to know the difference between NWI and other renewal groups. Here is how some of the NWI board members summed it up. Presbyterians for Renewal (PFR) has been on the renewal scene for ages and ages. Many in PFR have adopted carried the stay-fight-win banner. The Coalition is an umbrella group that brings people and groups together. They have not tried to set an agenda for the PCUSA. The Coalition meeting I attended in Orlando several years ago would prove this to be true. It was a great gathering of people who were frustrated with the denomination but there was no agreement on how to move forward. The Constitutional Presbyterians are so new that they are not much of a group. To be honest, I don’t see why they exist. Our constitution has been ignored or openly broken for years without any consequences. Their encouraging us to obey and enforce the constitution is noble but will have little consequence (in my opinion). Their group is not very organized as of this time. The Confessing Church Movement is just that, a movement. It has no organized structure. This could change in light of the passing of the PUP report and the Layman’s recent postings on the denomination. The NWI is very organized, they have a plan and at time line (more on this in a few moments!) if it passes the member voting. Backwoods also asks about the “real message” of NWI to the denomination. That will be covered in just a moment when I touch on their recommendations.

The Evening Gathering.

The evening speaker reiterated that the reason for the meeting is that the PCUSA is in crisis. To face this crisis we must be about “Confessing Biblical Truth.” We do this by:

-“declaring the faith in the Fact of the Word of God”

-“faith, not fear”

-demonstrating it in “Unity” – our unity is in Christ, not a denomination

-“acknowledging when it is time to pursue new wine” (and new wineskins-he said this once).

Another board member gave a concise talk called “Why We are Here”

Macro issues:

*Global Church – God is doing amazing things in the church around the world and the PCUSA is not experiencing this powerful movement of God.

*PCUSA – Is in crisis.

*Congregations – the issues that have plagued the denomination will now be fought out in our congregations and presbyteries.

Convocation issues:

*Enjoying and seeking God – this will be a major focus of the convocation. We need to be seeking God if we are going to hear God and follow his leading.

*“Live It Now” is the theme. We cannot wait for future events to begin be the church God wants us to be.

*Move forward together -- whatever we do we want to do it together.

Just before the meeting closed for the night the “plan” was handed out for us to read (our homework). The recommendations will be discussed and voted on by official delegates on Friday afternoon and/or evening. During the next six months, within and between congregations and as presbyteries we will:

  1. Confess Biblical truth
  2. Define ordination standards of belief and behaviors
  3. Work together to discern the future of our relationship with the institutional PCUSA. Do this by asking questions similar to those posed by the Presbytery of San Diego.
  4. Evaluate congregational and presbytery giving by intentionally supporting ministries which reflect our faith and missional priorities.
  5. Take steps to see that the property of the congregation is protected for proper use in serving Jesus Christ and his Great Commission.
  6. Meet with other Presbyterians (Constitutional Presbyterians, Coalition, Presbyterian Global Fellowship, etc.) to speak to and hear proposals for way to move forward together.

For the whole NWI group their action plan (if approved) will be:

  1. Connections will be formalized as the New Wineskins Association of Churches (NWAC).
  2. NWAC will call for a congress of renewal leaders this year to pursue common ground for a preferred future.
  3. Develop networks and foster relationships with common cause partners (not sure what this means)
  4. Form a nine person strategy team that will develop a transition plan and make recommendations to the 2007 winter convocation. It will include but not be limited to dismissal of congregations from their presbyteries.
  5. NWAC will gather in the winter of 2007 to receive and act upon the recommendation of the strategy team.

It appears that the message to the PCUSA is that we are planning to leave!

New Wineskins Report 1 - Wed. afternoon

New Wineskins – Workshop on Understanding New Wineskins

The purpose of this workshop was to bring the participant up to speed as to what New Wineskins Initiative (NWI) has been and to answer questions that people might have.

The workshop opened with a reading of Psalm 37:1-9. POWERFUL! Read it now!

There are (as of 1:30 p.m. today) 121 endorsing congregations in the NWI, with about 65,000 members.

Observation #1: If people would have had many of their questions answered if they had taken the time to read the NWI documents on the web site.

Observation #2: NWI believes that the approval of the Peace, Unity and Purity (PUP) report is a “precipitating crisis.” (their words, not mine) This will be fleshed out in the coming days.

Observation #3: Theology ties us together à which leads to joint mission à which determines structure. This was mentioned several times.

Observation #4: NWI believes that the PCUSA is like an inverted pyramid. The top of the pyramid is the “denominational stuff” (GA meetings, staffing, committees, etc.) and the bottom of the pyramid is the local congregation. While people in Louisville would disagree, I tend to agree strongly with NWI on this point. Their vision is to invert the pyramid and have the local church (which they view as the front lines of ministry) be the most important part of the picture. Then there would be Ministry Networks, small groupings of churches (normally geographically connected). Then there would be Support Networks and finally a National Network. Their on-line documents describe these networks.

Observation #4: A strategy of “one-foot-in and one-foot-out” of the PCUSA. This strategy was briefly introduced in the workshop and will be expanded on in the days to come. It sounds as though they are advocating that NWI churches begin implementing the NWI beliefs in their congregation and that they keep one foot in the denomination. Congregations are encouraged to begin focusing on the NWI theological essentials (and they mean ESSENTIALS) and the ethical imparities and at the same time begin to form Ministry Networks.

Observation #5: 105 degrees is HOT whether it is a dry or wet heat.

My plan was to leave for home after the Friday afternoon session (we have Saturday night church). Those plans may have to change based on private information from a conversation with someone “in-the-know.”

I will comment on the evening session (it is actually the first official session) later tonight.

Monday, July 17, 2006

New Wineskins Questions

Tomorrow it is “wheels up” for Tulsa and the New Wineskins gathering.

I NEED YOUR HELP!! What information would you like to have concerning the New Wineskins meeting? What kind of “Reformed” questions do you have? What kind of “biblical” questions do you have? What kind of “essentials” questions do you have?

Here is the schedule:


1:30 pm – 4:30 pm -- workshop on “Understanding New Wineskins.”

7:10 pm – Worship

8:50 pm—“Why We are Here” – Dean Weaver


8:30 am—Worship

9:25 am—Networking

11:00am—“On the 217th General Assembly” – Robert Gagnon

1:00—Regional Network meetings

4:00 pm—“Making Ethical Decisions in Matters of Conscience” and “Church Property Law: Trust and Ownership Issues”

7:30 pm—Worship


8:30 am—Worship

10:20 am—Equipping Workshops

2:20 pm—Plenary Address by Bishop Robert Duncan – Anglican Communion Network.

I will try to get answers for all of your questions. My plan is give an update each day of the gathering. The posts will probably be late in the evening Tulsa time.