Friday, July 18, 2008

Options for Moving Forward – Presbyterian Global Fellowship (PGF), Presbyterian Renewal Ministries International and the Presbyterian Coalition.

The PCUSA is in a mess! How are we to move forward? Various groups within the PCUSA have spoken on this topic. Many faithful Presbyterians do not have the time or desire to find out what the various groups are saying. It is my intention to give a “best effort” to accurately present the “way forward” presented by the various groups with in the PCUSA. The last post looked at Presbyterians for Renewal (PFR).

Before moving forward I have to poke fun at us Presbyterians. Have you ever noticed how many acronyms float around the PCUSA (there’s one!)? Last weekend I received a text from one of our church’s high school students. A group of students was headed for Graham Jam to work in our church’s booth. There were a couple of abbreviations that I did not recognize—I still don’t know one of them! It got me to thinking… I had better make sure that everyone knows the main acronyms:

· PCUSA – Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

· PC(USA)—see PCUSA above.

· EPC—Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

· PCA—Presbyterian Church in America.

· GA—General Assembly.

· Amendment B—Book of Order, Form of Government section G-6.0106b; additionally referred to as the “Fidelity and Chastity Amendment” even though it has been in the Book of Order for years.

· PFR—Presbyterians for Renewal, an evangelical renewal group in the PCUSA.

· LGBT—Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons who are sexually active.

· GLBT—Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons who are sexually active, this is the “original” form of LGBT but was changed because it was politically incorrect in that it started with a “male” word.

· MLP—More Light Presbyterians, a liberal/progressive group within the PCUSA that seeks full inclusion of LGBT persons in every aspect of the PCUSA (including ordained positions).

· PGF—Presbyterian Global Fellowship, an evangelical renewal group in the PCUSA.

· PRMI—Presbyterian Reformed Ministries International, an evangelical renewal group in the denomination, headed by Brad Long, that leans heavily toward the Charismatic movement (formerly called PRRM—Presbyterian Reformed and Renewal Movement).


Please feel free to add to the list!!!

Now, on to Presbyterian Global Fellowship.

To date, PGF does not have an “official” response to the 2008 General Assembly. Their web site does not list any such response. On their official blog (PGF Outbox), Vic Pentz (Pastor Peach Tree Presbyterian Church) has a post dated July 1, 2008, titled “Do You Know the Way from San Jose? I assume that he is speaking with “authority” as to PGF’s response to the Assembly.

Pentz makes the following observations:

  • “…the PC(USA) rejected unequivocally what has long been considered—and still is in the global church-- the biblical standards for sexual practice.”
  • “The battle is lost for evangelical renewal groups within the system. The old “stay-fight-win” strategy is history.”
  • “The options now remaining seem to be: 1) to live with the new ascendant ideology; 2) to enter into the legal complexities of trying to get permission for one’s congregation to be dismissed to another denomination; or 3) to find a way to be ‘in the denomination but not of the denomination.’ This third option is the one Presbyterian Global Fellowship affirms.
  • “The Presbyterian Global Fellowship seeks to be a parallel society living a new vision for the church within the PC(USA).”

PGF plans to stay in the PCUSA as a parallel society. But, what does that actually mean? What does it mean to be “in the denomination but not of the denomination?” Will PGF churches pay presbytery, synod and GA per capita? Will PGF churches be active participants at presbytery meetings? Will PGF churches give mission $$$ to GA mission causes?

I use to coach 4th, 5th, and 6th grade basketball teams. Coaching 4th graders was fun, but extremely challenging. Everyone wanted to shoot from the top of the key like their favorite professional basketball player. Each player wanted to dribble the ball ALL AROUND THE COURT. Players acted like “I own the ball and I will do whatever I want to with it.” I had a player that I will call “GP” (after Gary Payton, formerly of the Sonic). GP refused to run lines like the rest of his teammates. GP shot the ball from the top of the key every time he touched the ball (even though he had a difficult time even getting the ball to the rim from that distance). GP refused to be a team player. One day I sat GP down and told him I had had enough of his behavior. I told him what I expected from him and that if he disobeyed one more time that he would not be allowed back on the court until I talked with his mom and dad. His attitude changed immediately! I coached GP for three years. I periodically see GP or his dad at the grocery store. They still call me “Coach.” GP is gone on to a success stint in the military. GP learned what it means to be part of a team.

The PGF direction reminds of coaching my 4th grade team. PGF is going to “keep their ball” within the confines of the PCUSA, ignoring the rest of their team, unless it suits their fancy.

Presbyterian Renewal Ministries International

The PRMI web site does not list an official response to the Assembly actions. Brad Long, Executive Director of PRMI was a signer of on open letter on The Presbyterian Forum web site called, “Presbyterian Renewal Network Joint Statement. The open letter says, “We invite Presbyterians to join us in seeking God’s help to turn back this effort to lead the Church to a place where it is in danger of becoming no Church. None of the damage done by this Assembly is final or irreversible.” Other than this letter I have been unable to find any public statement by PRMI on the Assembly actions.

From the “Joint Statement” one could conclude that PRMI believes in the “stay, fight, win” camp.

Presbyterian Coalition

The Presbyterian Coalition (“Coalition” from here on) is a loose knit group of Presbyterians and renewal groups that are in the conservative and/or evangelical camps. I attended a Coalition meeting in Orlando with several pastor friends. Additionally, a colleague of mine has served on the Board of the Coalition in the past.

I have been unable to find a direct response to the Assembly actions by the Coalition. In 2007, the Coalition created a document that outlined their strategy for bringing about renewal in the PCUSA called, “Let Us Rise Up and Build. I assume that this strategy is still in place today. For that reason, I believe that the Coalition is in the “stay, fight, win” camp.

One person observation—the Coalition reminds me of “herding cats.” The meeting I attended as like a gripe session—every one didn’t like the direction that the PCUSA was heading but there was no consensus as to what to do about it.


At 1:04 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The left has stayed fought and lost repeatedly. Twice before G60601b was sent by GA to the presbyteries and defeated and many other votes. The right loses once and folk are "shocked." The speakers at the Covenant Fellowship at GA spoke of their defeats and of their resolution. Seems to me stand up keep standing up is our call. In fact to walk out in the name of righteousness simply gives the left more voting power - it actually validates them. The renewal groups may not have it all together but they can and certainly are now called to be saavy politically - as One once said, "wise as serpents." I pray you stay. Your word is helpful to many of us. Our righteousness is not diminished by the state of the denomination because its source was never from ourselves anyway. Blessings on your vacation.

At 8:47 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pastor Lance,

Thanks for posting this series. It has certainly helped me.

The section on acronyms is great. I recently saw one that I had not seen before. What is ARP?

Praying for you and your presbytery.


At 6:07 AM , Blogger Christine said...

Strictly speaking, LGBT and GLBT denote orientation not activity--how do you know from their acronyms that they are "sexually active"?

At 9:11 AM , Blogger Pastor Lance said...

The pro-ordination of LGBT persons side only has to win one time; the anti-ordination of LGBT persons side has to win EVERY time. You may ask, “Why does that side have to win every time?” Sexually active LGBT persons can be ordained from now until the new Authoritative Interpretation (AI) is overturned (if it is every overturned). For the sake of argument, let’s say that the GA PJC overturns the new AI. Guess what? All of those folk ordained during that time are still ordained!!! The next Assembly would then, most likely, vote in another new AI in favor of local option. The cycle then begins again. It would only take a few Assemblies taking such actions to forever tip the Presbyteries in favor of local option.

My presbytery currently REQUIRES all Pastor Nominating Committees to interview a woman, a minority or someone with a disability—even if no one in these categories is in the top five or ten applicants for the position. Just you watch and see, within ten years of ordaining sexually active LGBT persons it will become a requirement of Pastor Nominating Committees to interview an applicant from this category.

At 9:16 AM , Blogger Pastor Lance said...

You are correct in that I do not know for sure whether a LGBT person is sexually active. However, if they are not sexually active they could have been ordained for years!! But let's just look at the PCUSA track record... I regularly read in the Presbyterian news circles of LGBT Presbyterian pastors that have lovers, that have their "partner," have been "married," etc.

At 12:48 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Stated Clerk of your presbytery has it wrong. See But of course you are correct if presbyteries ordain in the next two years, right or wrong, they will likely stand. Nevertheless we have an open system. Any postion taken can be challenged and if the left doesn't quit may the right not either. Not many illustrations of Jesus backing off. Blessing on your work.

At 1:20 PM , Blogger Nav said...


You didn't cover Presbyterians for Renewal's response, which sounds like a two Synod option. See PFR's "Contending for the Faith: The Way Forward After GA2008" and near the end of the document the section "Reshaping the Presbyterian Church (USA)"

At 9:31 PM , Blogger Pastor Lance said...

I covered PFR in a previous post.

At 11:33 AM , Blogger Nav said...


I should have read back to your other blogs and seen you had commented on PFR's stance---my bad.

I think you might be a bit too harsh on the PFR review. I have long opposed the two Synod model. It has been out there for debate for a few years now. But I am beginning to be swayed toward their argument that they are taking a clear stance in opposition to the progressive view. They would also remain somewhat connected but that connection would allow there to continue to be a full witness to them to hopefully win them back.

Now, I think over the course of a few years, the two Synods would very likely move further and
further apart so that a clean break would be the most likely result---just down the road a bit. It is not a perfect choice, but there is more merit to it than I first gave a few years ago.

Hopefully what all orthodox evangelicals can now agree on is that we simply cannot move forward in the failed and flawed "stay, fight, win" mode, which got us to this point.

So, will I see you are The Gathering or New Wineskins' Convocation in November? I will not be attending PGF's event. I think Cathleen will be with me at New Wineskins so if your lovely bride could make it they could do some catching up in person.

God's blessings to you and yours,
Matt Ferguson

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