Friday, December 01, 2006

December 1 – To Withhold or Not to Withhold

Last night at the Session meeting (church board for those non-Presbyterians out there) I suggested that Evergreen Presbyterian Church withhold its General Assembly per capita for 2007. Most people around the table had no idea of the national struggles of our denomination. That’s my fault. For years I have shielded our congregation from all of the garbage that goes on in the PCUSA. I will never do that again. Most people were generally surprised by the items I have posted on this blog this past week.

Like most churches, the main concern of our elders is our local church. It is hard for members of a local church to see how what happens elsewhere in the country within the PCUSA impacts our local church.

Our elders are going to spend at least a month praying about withholding General Assembly per capita and giving it to Presbyterian mission.

I “hated” our meeting last night. It brings me only heartache to have to tell the elders of our church about the mess in our denomination. It will be a happy day when Christ either changes this denomination or he tells me it is time to leave. I am tired of the fight. Its killing the PCUSA. Its killing pastors. Its killing me.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Thinking Unpopular Thoughts – Per Capita – Day 3

The past two days I have looked at some reasons why churches should withhold General Assembly per capita and give that money to Presbyterian missions. So far we have looked at the following reasons:
  • per capita is optional;
  • the Trinity report;
  • the Peace, Unity and Purity (PUP) report;
  • the actions (or lack there of) of the GA Stated Clerk concerning the PUP report;
  • Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11 by David Ray Griffin.

Today I will look at some additional reason to withhold GA per capita.

The inconsistent way the GA Stated Clerk deals with issues: Over the past several years there have been pastors, churches and presbyteries that have openly defied the constitutional mandates of the Book of Order regarding ordination. The Stated Clerk has done almost nothing to rein those folks in. Now, presbyteries (like mine) have passed resolutions concerning ordination saying that the Book of Order is to be followed. What does the Stated Clerk do? He says that these presbyteries are in error. The State Clerk has threatened to come down hard on any presbytery that lets a church leave the denomination with its property. Do we see the Stated Clerk threatening the presbyteries that allow churches to ordain persons who openly defy G-6.0106b? No way! The theological bias of the Stated Clerk shows through in how he deals with issues. The Stated Clerk has damaged the PCUSA and local congregations in how he deals with issues.

The Horizons Bible Study: The PCUSA web page says, “Horizons—the Magazine for Presbyterian Women.” The Horizons Bible study on Genesis is heretical! I wrote extensively on the Horizons Genesis study in September. After five posts I had only covered the first 20 pages of the study. I was shocked by the theological garbage in that study. Some will argue that Horizons is separate from the PCUSA. That may be true, in a legal sense. Horizons bills itself as the “Magazine for Presbyterian Women.” The PCUSA web sit has a page specifically for them. They are a major player in the PCUSA. I have heard that the Horizons Bible studies have contained heresy for years. If that is true, why hasn’t the General Assembly or General Assembly Council said or done something to stop it? The Horizons Bible study, and the way that the PCUSA supports it, has caused serious damage to the PCUSA and our local churches.

Louisville Only Listens When $$$ are Involved: The only way to get the attention of the General Assembly and its staff is to hit them in the pocketbook. Can Assemblies error. Yes! This past GA is an excellent example of an Assembly the erred—more than once. Can these errors be undone? It is too early to tell. Louisville only listens when churches withhold money.

Summary: Churches are leaving the PCUSA. Presbyteries are taking stands on following the Book of Order concerning ordination. The PCUSA is in crisis. Swift, firm action is needed immediately. We cannot wait until the next General Assembly for action. Churches all across the country need to withhold GA per capita to send a strong statement to General Assembly. Churches need to ask their presbyteries to not “make up the difference” when the presbytery sends in the collected per capita. Then, churches across the country need to send overtures to the next General Assembly which forbids a presbytery from paying the per capita for those churches which withhold per capita.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Thinking Unpopular Thoughts – Per Capita – Day 2

Per capita is the “tax” that each church pays for every active member on the church rolls. Each higher governing body sets the per capita that it is to receive to cover its administrative costs. Some governing bodies (such as mine) use a different method of determining it’s per capita. It is my contention that for the coming year our local churches should withhold the General Assembly per capita and give it to Presbyterian missions. Yesterday I looked at two reasons for withholding GA per capita: per capita is optional and the Trinity report. Today I will look at some additional reason to withhold GA per capita.

The Peace, Unity and Purity Report: The most recent General Assembly passed the now infamous Peace, Unity and Purity (PUP) report and threw the Presbyterian Church in turmoil. This action allows ordaining bodies to determine what “essentials” of the Reformed faith are really essential. We now have no national standard that is universally applied for the ordained offices of Minister of the Word and Sacrament (pastor), Elder and Deacon. Some will argue that ordaining bodies have always been able to apply the national standards as they see fit. Wrong! The General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission (GAPJC) ruled in the 2000 Londondarry decision that,

“governing bodies must “comply with the express corporate judgment of the Church in an explicit constitutional provision”; failure to do so “exceeds the constitutional bounds of freedom of conscience” (citing G-6.0108b; 12.1065-66).

“There are no constitutional grounds for a governing body to fail to comply with an express provision of the Constitution, however inartfully stated. Assertions of inconsistently, confusion or ambiguity may justify the right to protest. They do not create a right to disregard any part of the constitution.”

[Quoted from the PowerPoint presentation by Dr. Robert Gagnon at the New Wineskins Association of Churches meeting.]

Additionally, the intent of the General Assembly was to approve the PUP report as it was delivered to the Assembly. An amendment was added to the report on the floor of the Assembly. The Assembly was told by the constitutional advisory board that the amendment would not change the implementation of the report in any way. The intent was to allow ordaining bodies to set aside portions of the church’s standards, on a case by case basis. The PUP report was approved with 57% voting yes. That means at 57% of the voting delegates believed that they were allowing ordaining bodies the ability to set aside constitutional requirements on a case by case basis.

No one knows what the approval of the PUP report actually means – until a case makes it to the GAPJC. That could be years! Some ordaining bodies will begin ordaining persons who are not in compliance with G-6.0106b. They could also begin ordaining persons who disagree with other essential tenants of the PCUSA. Will pastors, elders and deacons be ordained who do not believe that Jesus is the only way to God? Will pastors, elders and deacons be ordained who refuse to ordain women? Will pastors, elders and deacons be ordained who deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead? No one knows because our “rules” are now unclear.

The Presbyterian Church has always viewed itself as a “connectional” church. The General Assembly has shattered the connectional component of the PCUSA. Connectional implies that we are connected by something. The PUP report means that we are no longer connected by the constitution or theology. The only things that seem to connect the PCUSA are the pension fund and church property. If these are the main things that connect us then we are in serious trouble.

The General Assembly, with its approval of the PUP report, has serious damaged the PCUSA and local churches.

The actions (or lack there of) of the GA Stated Clerk concerning the PUP report: Immediately following the meeting of the General Assembly, the Stated Clerk pronounced that “nothing has changed” within the PCUSA. If “nothing has changed,” why has the Stated Clerk failed to explicitly state that G-6.0106b must be obeyed? If “nothing has changed,” why hasn’t the Stated Clerk taken the lead to restore calm to the denomination? The answer: something has changed!

Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11 by David Ray Griffin: One of the “official” publishing houses of the PCUSA published this fabulous scholarly work (joke, joke!). Griffin contends that President Bush, our government and military planned and carried out the attacks on the Twin Towers. Imagine, the “official” publishing house of the PCUSA has published and marketed this book. Some will argue that Westminster/John Knox Publishing is separate from the PCUSA. To a point that is true—they are a separate corporation. However, their board of directors is appointed by the PCUSA! Their actions impact the PCUSA! Their board of directors has said that this book should have been published! No agency of the PCUSA (as far as I can tell) has condemned the publishing of this book. Why is the “official” publishing house publishing such a book? This has seriously damaged the PCUSA and our local congregations – we are the laughing stock of the church world!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Thinking Unpopular Thoughts – Per Capita

Per capita is one of those things that Presbyterians love to hate. Let’s face it, it cost $$$ for the various governing bodies to operate. This week I am going to lay out my thoughts on why Evergreen should withhold its General Assembly per capita and give that amount to Presbyterian missions (in fact, I will recommend that we give that amount plus some additional dollars to Presbyterian missions.

Per capita is optional: PJC after PJC after PJC have ruled that sessions have control over how to spend the dollars they receive and that they cannot be forced to pay per capita. A church does not have to pay per capita! Period! End of discussion! Some will argue that a church has a moral obligation to pay per capita. After all, doesn’t the local church benefit from the various governing bodies of the Presbyterian Church? Those who make this argument are actually saying the very same thing that I am saying. I believe that we should turn in per capita dollars if the local church benefits from the higher governing bodies. Likewise, if the denomination or local church is harmed by the actions of a governing body I believe that there is no obligation to give per capita dollars to that governing body. It is my contention that this past General Assembly and the actions (or lack there of) of the GA Stated Clerk have seriously harmed the PCUSA and our local churches.

The Trinity Report: The General Assembly has seriously harmed the denomination by “receiving” the Trinity report. The Trinity is composed of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Period. I know that the progressive side of the denomination does not like this imagery. Are there horrible earthly fathers? Absolutely. However, we do not need to throw out the term “Father” because some people didn’t have a good earthy father. As a church we should strive to stay as close to scripture as possible. Some may argue that the General Assembly didn’t adopt the report. That’s true. However, by receiving the report churches are allowed to use the imagery of the report in worship (except for baptism) and the General Assembly agencies are to begin developing studies materials based on the report! We must remember that the Jews so revered the name of God that they wouldn’t even say it out loud. The PCUSA has so little regard for the name of God that we now play fast and loose with it and change it to what ever we want. Receiving the Trinity report has seriously harmed the PCUSA and our local churches.