Friday, March 30, 2007

Synod PJC Decides in Cast Against Presbytery of Olympia!

We win!!

Here is the text from the Synod of Alaska/Northwest’s PJC decision…

Alaska Northwest



Complainant(s)Barlow J. Buescher, Dave
R. Brown, Mary D. McGonigal, Jeanne

Howell, Serena Sullivan, Eileen Dunn

Wayne H. Keller, Don E. Keller, Dwight

W. Whipple, David. R. Kegley, F. Mark

Dowdy, Brian Heath, R. Sidney Cloud

Isaac H. Jung, Irene Van Arnam, Michael

Baugh, Chuck Jenson, Donna Lee, and

the session of Lakewood Presbyterian


The Presbytery of Olympia

) No. 06-R1


This is a remedial case which has come before this Permanent Judicial Commission as a result of a complaint filed by the above named complainants against the Presbytery of Olympia, respondent.


The Permanent Judicial Commission finds that it has jurisdiction, that the complainant has standing to complain, that the complaint was properly and timely filed, and that the complaint states a claim upon which relief can be granted.

At a meeting at Church of the Indian Fellowship in Tacoma, Washington, on

September 21, 2006, Olympia Presbytery adopted the following Resolution:

“We hereby declare that in our discernment of the movement of the Holy Spirit, every mandate of the Book of Order (2005-2007 is an essential of reformed polity. Therefore, any violation of a mandate of the Book of Order (2005-2007) constitutes a failure to adhere to the essentials of reformed polity and thus presents a bar to ordination and instillation”

Following this action, the complainants, believing that the adoption of the foregoing Resolution constituted an irregularity under the Constitution, filed a Complaint with the Stated Clerk of the Synod of Alaska Northwest concerning the following particular allegations:

(a) The Resolution, insofar as it purports to commit the presbytery to act contrary to the General Assembly’s Authoritative Interpretation, violate the presbytery’s duty to honor the Constitution and to implement the decisions of higher governing bodies. (Book Of Order G-1.0400, G- 4.0301 and G-11.0103t)

(b) The Resolution denies the freedom of conscience that is to be afforded to all officers and candidates, and breaches the presbytery’s duty to show “mutual forbearance” in non-essential matters, by curtailing individual candidates’ opportunity to present, and to have meaningfully considered, principled objections to standards that may not be deemed “essentials” of Reformed faith and polity. (Book of Order G-1.0301, G-1305, G-6.0108)

(c) The Resolution constitutes a denial and abdication of the presbytery’s responsibility meaningfully to asses both the fitness of individual candidates, and the validity of any principled objections such candidates might assert regarding church standards, during examination of fitness for office.

(Book of Order G-6.0108)

(d) The Resolution constitutes a misuse of the presbytery’s discretion in assessing the fitness of individual candidates, by converting what are supposed to be case-by-case assessments into a mandatory policy that applies without distinction to all cases. ( Cf Johnston v. Heartland Presbytery, Rem. Case 217-2 (GAPJC 2004); PCUSA Minutes, Pt 1 p.68 (1998); Simmons v. Presbytery of Suwanee, PCUSA Minutes, Pt 1 p.114 (GAPJC 1985)).

(e) The Resolution promulgates an erroneous view that all of our constitutional standards lend themselves to a single, uncontroverted interpretation, disregarding the unavoidable complexities and interpretive work that proper application of Scriptural and confessional standards entails. ( Cf Book of Order G-6.0108b;Londonderry Presbyterian Church v. Presbytery of Northern New England, Rem. Case 213-2 GAPJC 2000)). It therefore invites members of Olympia Presbytery and its committees, as well as individual candidates, to abdicate their responsibility carefully to consider the meaning of church standards, both when attempting to comply with them personally and when applying them to others,

(f) The resolution denies and contravenes the presbytery’s obligation to give serious and meaningful consideration to the choices of ministerial leadership made by congregations under its oversight. ( Cf. Book of Order G-1.0306, G-6.0107, G-14.0501b, G-14.0502-0507)

(g) The Resolution forecloses, within the bounds of Olympia Presbytery, processes of dialogue and discernment that are fundamental to the church’s self-professed identity as “the Church reformed always reforming, by the Spirit of God.” (Book of Order G-2.0200 G-4.0301, G-18.0101)

h. The Resolution ignores, and forecloses more constructive responses to, the strong urging of the 217th General Assembly that all governing bodies “engage[] in processes of intensive discernment through worship, community building, study, and collaborative work” to address issues that currently divide the church. Such disregard of General Assembly’s guidance denies and contravenes commitments to openness and connectionalism that are fundamental to our polity. (Book of Order G-10400, G-3.0401, G-4.0302, G-11.0103t).

After a hearing on March 20, 2007, in Seattle, Washington in which both parties were represented by counsel, the PJC, voting on each individual allegation, voted not to sustain allegations a-h.

The Synod Permanent JC is not able to sustain specific alleged violations of the constitution.

We remind and strongly urge the Presbytery of Olympia to hear again the call of the 217th GA to engage in processes of intensive discernment through worship, community building, study, and collaborative work. The PJC urges both sides to hear and consider again the words, of D-1.0103 calling us to “the traditional, biblical obligations to conciliate, mediate, and adjust difference without strife…..”

The resolution, adopted by Olympia Presbytery on September 21, 2006, does not preclude Olympia Presbytery from conducting a meaningful examination to assess the fitness of individual candidates on a case by case basis, and the PJC reminds the presbytery that they are obligated to conduct such examinations in a thorough and fair manner.

--------------- ORDER ------------------

IT IS ORDERED that the Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Olympia read this Decision, including the PJC accompanying statement, to the Presbytery at its first meeting, that the Presbytery enter the full Decision upon its minutes, and that an excerpt from those minutes showing entry of the Decision be sent to the Stated Clerk of the Synod. (D-7.0701)

Selina Everson a member of the Permanent Judicial Commission was not present and took no part in the proceedings.

Dated this_____20_ day of __March___ , 2007__
day month year

[signed] _______________________________________

Moderator, Permanent Judicial Commission

[signed] _______________________________________

Clerk, Permanent Judicial Commission

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Constant Companion

Each day we were in court there were the regular folks in attendance: judge, judge’s court staff, prosecutor, defendant, defense attorney, jury members and an armed Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputy. The deputy would sit “near” the defendant. We (the jury) would never see the defendant enter or leave the courtroom—he was always there when we entered the courtroom. The defendant was always dressed in nice, casual clothes. But “he” was always there—the deputy.

As a jury we never talked about the deputy. We looked at the evidence and testimony that were presented in court. Those were the things on which we based our verdict. We did a good job of keeping to the task at hand.

But thinking back, the deputy was always there.

Satan never wants us to forget about our sin—our failures. He would love it if there was a constant reminder of each time that we fail God, and others. He wants to remind us that we are not perfect: we do that which we should not do, we do not do that which we should do, we think things that we should not think, etc. Satan is there to point out our sin.

Seeing the deputy could have reminded the defendant that he was charged with a crime in Washington State. Satan wants us to know that we have been charged with violating God’s laws. But there is a difference! Jesus Christ forgives the sins of those who confess their sins, giving their lives to Christ and his service. God has forgiven us! Yet, Satan will still try to remind us of our failures. We MUST learn to recognize Satan’s tactics and ignore them. We need to live as those who have been set free—we have new life! Praise God!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Guilty as Charged

The court was called back into session. Our jury had been able to come to a unanimous decision. The judged asked our presiding juror to stand. Our presiding juror gave our verdict to the judge. The judge read the verdict for all to hear—guilty of one count of child molestation. The defendant sat there emotionless. The defense attorney slumped and hung his head. Almost immediately the defense attorney asked that the jury be polled as to the verdict. The verdict did not change.

Our jury was not involved in the sentencing of the defendant—the judge does that at a later date. A man will go to jail because of his actions. A little girl had her childhood stolen from her. The “ripples” (or tidal wave) going out from this event will have long-term effects on everyone involved. Do the crime—do the time.

Good Friday is not too far away—it causes me to think about our day in court. Be sure, we will have our day in court. The laws we will have broken are the laws of God. The case against each of us will be “air tight.” We will be found guilty—I will be found guilty! The punishment? The punishment will be worse than death. Scripture describes it in many ways—all of them are horrible! The good news (and bad news) will be that those who have given their lives to Jesus Christ have someone to take the punishment their place. Christ’s death on Good Friday was, and is, the punishment. I caused Christ to die—that’s the bad news. You caused Christ to die—that’s the bad news.

Would I be willing to serve the jail time for the defendant in our case? He touched his daughters (to use her words) “private areas,” “butt” and “vagina.” He stole his daughter’s innocence and trust. He destroyed his family. No, I would not be willing to take his place in jail.

That causes me to stop and think. Jesus took my place—so that I could live. I received the benefits of Christ’s action. I am EXTREMELY glad that Christ took my place. Christ truly demonstrated his love for me (and you) for taking our punishment—even when we didn’t deserve it. I am humbled. I am torn in my spirit. I allow someone else to serve my sentence but am not willing to serve the sentence of this guilty father.

Jesus must REALLY love me (and all of us) if he is willing to do what I would never consider doing for this man. For a good friend I would be willing to serve their sentence—but not for this man. Christ’s Good Friday sacrifice truly demonstrates his love for us—the unlovable. I am humbled!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

You be the Judge

Our jury pool was sitting in the courtroom. There were lots of questions that the prosecution and defense attorney asked of us. The judge had a question for us as the questioning came to a close. She asked us if we were uncomfortable with sitting on a jury that would have to decide on whether the defendant was guilty or if there was reasonable doubt then we would have to say that the defendant was not guilty. We were being asked to sit in judgment of another human being.

The trial itself was very interesting. Testimony was given by several witnesses. It was easy to spot the strategy of each “side.” Some witnesses were very believable; others hurt their side’s “cause.” It wasn’t until the testimony phase of the trial was coming to a close that it hit me—our decision as a jury could set this person free or send him to jail. At that point the jury process became very real. We were sitting in the seat of judgment.

Being in the seat of judgment gave me a glimpse into God the Father—Yahweh. My respect and admiration of God was greatly increased as the trial came to a close.

Laws: The State of Washington has a set of laws to govern our society. Some laws seem pretty stupid. Until recently we lived out in the country. The speed limit on the road in front of our small subdivision was 35 mph. I could drive up into the city and find much busier roads with higher speed limits. It made no sense. On the other hand, there are laws that do make sense—like inappropriately touching a child on their private parts. As a juror we were to apply the law whether we agreed with the law or not. God has established a set of laws. Those laws were to be kept—period. Breaking a law was (and is) considered “sin.” It was sin to break the law regarding mildew; it was a sin to break the law regarding adultery.

Actions: Individuals are faced with decisions regarding the laws of the State of Washington. Yesterday I saw five drivers choose to ignore the law requiring drivers to stop for a red light. The drivers blatantly ignored the red lights. Several times I had to quickly stop for red lights—each time I looked in the mirror to make sure that I wasn’t going to get rear-ended for stopping at the light! We are faced with decisions—obey the law or disobey the law. Every day we are also faced with making decisions about obeying God’s law. Most of those decisions are very easy to make—others are more difficult. I have never been tempted to murder a person. Yet, it is difficult to not envy the person with a fabulous sailboat! Sin!

Consequences: There are consequences for breaking the laws of Washington State—our actions have consequences. We have all heard the saying, “If you can’t do the time then don’t do the crime.” This saying has a certain ring of truth. People are always trying to find a way to justify their actions that involve breaking the law. Just this morning I heard an excellent example of that fact. One of the people who comes to The Oasis (my office away from the office) is a retired police officer. He still works for the department even though he is retired. He task is to ticket cars that illegally park in handicapped parking spaces. Today, he was sitting in the Starbucks parking lot in his patrol car. A car pulled into the handicapped parking space—a lady jumped out of the car and ran into Starbucks. There was no “handicapped” parking sticker on her car. The officer got out and began writing the ticket. The woman came out of Starbucks (latte in hand) and told him that she had parked there because she was only going to be in Starbucks for a few minutes! He told her that for the price of that ticket she could have sat in Starbucks and drank lattes all day. She openly chose to ignore the law—there were consequences for her actions. There are consequences for breaking God’s laws! Those consequences may not be as apparent as a ticket on the windshield of our car. Those consequences have an impact that will eventually affect every aspect of our lives—in this life and in eternity.

Sitting in the jury room I came to the realization that our decision was not going to decide the defendant’s future—it was the defendant’s actions that were going to decide his future! Additionally, we must realize that it is our actions that determine our guilt and innocence before God regarding his laws.

As a juror there were several things that I wanted/or didn’t want to do:

  • I wanted the little girl to recapture her lost innocence and childhood;
  • I wanted to “make things right” in the totally dysfunctional family;
  • I didn’t want a dad to have to go to jail;
  • I didn’t want the dad to struggle with drugs and alcohol;
  • I didn’t want the two girls growing up fearing their dad—hating their dad (only one of the girls had been abused);
  • I didn’t want to have to pass judgment.

Then it struck me. God doesn’t “want to” pass judgment on us—on me! It is our actions that pass judgment on us. It is our actions that find us guilty. It breaks God’s heart to see us break his laws. It grieves God to know that there will be those who are apart from him for all eternity. We must remember that God isn’t “doing it to us”—we are “doing it to ourselves.”

My jury experience allowed me to see the father’s heart breaking due to our actions—my actions! He doesn’t want any of us to be apart from him! He desperately longs for us to know him and love him. Yet, he honors our decisions and the consequences that come from those decisions.

Most Christians long for the return of Christ. Now, for the first time I truly understand why God is delaying Christ’s return as long as possible. Laws. Actions. Consequences. New life in Christ!