PCUSA Apologizes for Boarding School Abuses in Alaska

By Lisa Demer, Alaska Dispatch News. For the first time, a church organization has apologized to the Alaska Federation of Natives for its treatment of Native people and especially for abuses in boarding schools.

The Presbyterian Church’s national general assembly agreed in June, at the prompting of Alaskans, to issue an apology to all Native Americans abused, mistreated or diminished through church schools and boarding schools or otherwise.

An expression of sorrow for long-ago wrongs was delivered in person at the AFN convention on Saturday by the Rev. Curt Karns, the Anchorage-based executive presbyter – or administrator – of the Presbytery of the Yukon.

“To those individuals who were physically, sexually and emotionally abused as students of the Indian boarding schools in which the (Presbyterian Church USA) was involved, we offer you our most sincere apology. You did nothing wrong; you were and are the victims of evil acts that cannot under any circumstances be justified or excused,” Karns told the AFN convention.

The apology was a notable moment on the final day of the convention at the Carlson Center. Delegates also considered some 35 resolutions on everything from Chukchi Sea polar bears to the need for tribal courts to food security — which some village residents said needs to encompass the importance of walrus hunts, reindeer herding and other rural practices.

Fairbanks last hosted AFN in 2013. The convention brought in thousands of delegates who celebrated accomplishments by Native individuals and institutions, listened to speeches by key government officials and took stock of what to get behind next.

They filled hotels and shopped for kuspuks, seal hats and ivory earrings at the AFN arts and craft fair. They danced on stage at Quyana night and spun off for side events including fiddle dances, a Mt. Edgecumbe reunion and an open-mic talent night for young poets, musicians and storytellers called Indigenize It.

In the main hall Saturday, delegates welcomed the apology, standing up and applauding when Karns finished.

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Rev. Dr. Curtis Karns, Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of Yukon, the Presbyterian Church in Alaska, apologized for past abuses made by the church in Interior Alaska Native communities.

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PCUSA’s IPMN Endorses Palestinian, Black Social Justice ‘Struggle’

By Gregory Tomlin, The Christian Examiner. The Presbyterian Church (USA), which has been hemorrhaging members since it began pressing for gay clergy and same-sex marriage almost a decade ago, is now aligning itself with a radical “social justice” group which demands the government pay reparations to all blacks in the form of free education and income.

On Oct. 19, the denomination’s news service reported that the church’s Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) endorsed the platform of the group calling itself the Movement for Black Lives (MBL).

IPMN itself is a social justice organization. Its chief spokesman, Bob Ross, associate professor of global cultural studies at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has written on the growth of “U.S. Imperialism” in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington. He said IPMN endorsed MBL because the struggle blacks in America face is the same as the struggle the Palestinians face for liberation from Israel.

“These justice struggles are linked in that the people of Palestine are in solidarity with black people in America struggling for freedom, justice and equality,” Ross said. “The black struggle and the Palestinian struggle for justice are not just parallels, but they’re struggles where there is an exchange of ideas.”


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Synod Calls for Immediate Divestment from Fossil Fuel Companies

By Rick Jones, Presbyterian News Service. The Synod of the Northeast of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has voted to take immediate steps to divest from the fossil fuel industry. Expressing concern about the impact of climate change on God’s creation, commissioners of the regional body say they are compelled to take action.

“The Presbyteries in the Synod of the Northeast have been heavily involved in the divestment debate at the last two General Assemblies,” said Sue Smith, ruling elder commissioner with the Presbytery of Monmouth and resolution co-author. “One third of the Synod’s presbyteries have been involved in this effort so there is clearly an interest for divesting from fossil fuels.”

Among the Synod’s recommendations:

  • Immediately stop new direct investment in fossil fuel companies
  • Work with asset managers to divest the Synod’s assets including holdings of equities or corporate bonds in fossil fuel companies
  • Work with current/prospective asset managers to develop and implement institutional fossil free investment options
  • Actively seek out and invest in renewable and energy efficiency related securities


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First Presbyterian-Houston to Vote Again on PCUSA Dismissal

First Presbyterian Church in Houston, Texas will vote for a second time on seeking dismissal from the Presbyterian Church (USA) on Nov. 1.

If the motion – “that First Presbyterian Church of Houston shall request dismissal from the PCUSA and affiliate with ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians” – is approved by a majority of the congregation, the session will ask the Presbytery of New Covenant to dismiss it at its Nov. 19th meeting.

The congregation’s first vote to leave the denomination in February of 2014 failed — by 31 votes — to meet the required supermajority approval needed for dismissal.

First-Houston remained in the PCUSA, but according to an Oct. 13 letter sent to church members, “in the minds of the significant majority of those voting, the vote left us in the worst possible position: nearly two-thirds of our church wanting to leave the PCUSA but being prevented from doing so by an inability to comply with a PCUSA-mandated process. That process, which caused so much divisiveness within our congregation three years ago, was later determined by the PCUSA to violate its own constitution and has since been abandoned.”

While current PCUSA policy states that the church session has the “exclusive authority” to request dismissal from the PCUSA, the session at First-Houston is seeking input from church membership.

According to the session’s letter, before the congregational vote is held:

  • A time for prayer and worship has been scheduled for tomorrow, Oct. 19, and Oct. 26;
  • An online survey is being conducted asking for input on the dismissal issue and other issues. The survey will also be available at the church for those without Internet access on Oct. 23. Results of the survey will be available Oct. 27.
  • A Q&A will be held Oct. 23 with representatives of ECO;
  • And resources from the 2012-2014 discernment process have been made available on the church web site.

The letter also included a summary of the “reasons why we believe that the denominational affiliation issue should be addressed now.” They include:

  • “The current direction of the PCUSA, particularly its theological drift and its focus on political activism and legislative and lobbying efforts at the expense of evangelism and mission work, is fundamentally out of sync with FPC’s Mission Statement and the objectives of Vision 2020.
  • “The relationship of FPC’s session and current pastors (and presumably future pastors) with the PCUSA is often unproductive, unhealthy and highly politicized. The session devotes considerable time and attention to issues created by positions taken by the PCUSA and working to avoid criticism of FPC and its pastors by the PCUSA. For the last five years, denominational issues have often dominated session agendas.
  • “The dysfunctional relationship of evangelical pastors with the denomination, and the potential of discipline by the PCUSA against those pastors who embrace views contrary to those of the PCUSA, create an atmosphere of anxiety and conflict that is counterproductive to the effective conduct of ministry. Moreover, under PCUSA polity, presbytery plays a significant role in the selection of ordained pastors by FPC, and there is considerable concern as to whether FPC will be able to call pastors in the future who embrace the orthodox view of theology that is affirmed by FPC’s Statement of Faith.
  • “An ongoing affiliation with the PCUSA challenges FPC’s ability to live into the ministry and mission focus of Vision 2020, particularly in the area of church planting.
  • “The continued overhang of an unresolved denominational issue is confusing to the congregation — particularly new members — and promotes an atmosphere of uncertainty within the membership regarding the direction of FPC.”

Property will not be an issue during the vote. First-Houston has clear title to its property after reaching a settlement agreement with New Covenant Presbytery in May, 2016. The church agreed to pay the presbytery $1 million as part of an agreement to end two years of civil litigation after the church filed a civil lawsuit in 2014 seeking to clear the title of its property from claims by the denomination that it holds a trust interest in FPC’s property.

The $1 million payment includes payments of $700,000 in semi-annual installments of $175,000. Also, the church will make a $300,000 mission payment — four quarterly payments of $15,000 for five years — to a mission partner chosen by FPC Houston in consultation with the presbytery.

According the PCUSA statistics, First-Houston has 3,132 members.

For more information, visit First-Houston’s denomination affiliation page on its web site.

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Judge to Decide Who Pays in Peters Creek Church Dispute

By Suzanne Elliott, The Observer-Reporter (Pa.)

It will be up to a Washington County judge to decide who is going to pay in the ongoing financial dispute between Peters Creek Evangelical Presbyterian Church and the Washington Presbytery of Pennsylvania.

The church formed in 2008, when the majority of the congregation of Peters Creek United Presbyterian Church voted to leave Presbyterian Church (USA) in favor of the more conservative Evangelical Presbyterian Church. In recent years, Presbyterian churches across the United States have been leaving the PCUSA, the country’s largest Presbyterian denomination, mostly because of its shift to support of gay ordination and marriage.

The two congregations – those who left for the new church and those who remained – engaged in a lengthy legal battle over the church property that ended in December 2014 when a Washington County judge ruled that the minority group of members who did not depart for the evangelical church should retain ownership. That did not, however, resolve all the financial issues.

In a hearing Wednesday in Washington County Court before Senior Judge William Nalitz, attorney Stephen Marriner, representing the Washington Presbytery, had Lindsay Aaron, a Washington certified public accountant, examine eight years’ worth of the evangelical church’s financial records and point out more than 20 purported accounting errors.

“This accounting is the worst accounting I have ever seen in my career,” Marriner said during the two-hour-plus hearing.

Peters Creek Evangelical claims the Washington Presbytery owes it $374,525 dating to 2007, an amount the Washington Presbytery disputes.

In its complaint, Peters Creek Evangelical acknowledges it occupied the Brookwood Road church property from November 2007 through its last service at the site on April 26, 2015. It says it paid all costs associated with the maintenance and upkeep of the property, and is entitled to reimbursement of $573,360, minus a $2,000 monthly rent, for a total of $374,525.


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Hunter Farrell to lead World Mission Initiative at Pittsburgh Seminary

By Leslie Scanlon, The Presbyterian Outlook.

Hunter Farrell, who is stepping down as head of World Mission for the Presbyterian Church (USA), announced Oct. 5 that he has accepted a call to serve as director of the World Mission Initiative at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

Farrell, 58, said his new position will begin in January and will include teaching about mission at Pittsburgh seminary. In a recent interview with the Outlook, Farrell said:

“I think the church needs to step up and show how we’re engaging in those global issues with our partners around the world. It’s a good time to work at a college or seminary and look for ways to connect young adults with what God’s doing in the world.”

Donald J. Dawson, who has lead the World Mission Institute and also has served as director of the New Wilmington Mission Conference, announced earlier this fall that he will retire Oct. 31.


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Speakers Added to Presbyterian Scholars Conference

Dr. Jennifer Powell McNutt, Mickie O’Donnel and Dr. Randall Carter Working have been added to the list of speakers at the upcoming Presbyterian Scholars Conference, Oct. 19-20 at the Harbor House at Wheaton College, in Wheaton, Ill.

The distinguished group of scholars will  gather to discuss the past and future of American Presbyterianism. The conference also includes a 25th Anniversary round table discussion of Bradley J. Longfield’s The Presbyterian Controversy.

World renowned historian George Marsden will take part in the round table discussion, along with Dr. Michael Bush, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Athens, Ala., and Dr. Darryl Hart, distinguished visiting professor of history at Hillsdale College on On Oct. 19.  Marsden is an influential historian of American Christianity. His biography of Jonathan Edwards won virtually every major historical prize, including the Bancroft Prize, the Merle Curti Award, the Philip Schaff Prize, and the Eugene Genovese Prize. Among his other books are The Soul of the American University, Religion and American Culture, and Fundamentalism and American Culture. Marsden is professor of history emeritus at the University of Notre Dame. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

This is the ideal conference for scholars, pastors, seminarians, graduate students or laypeople who want a better understanding of Presbyterian history. Specific attention will be given to the problem of secularization within Presbyterianism and the hope of evangelical renewal and reform.

The updated scheduled for the two-day event includes:

  • Lecture #1: “The French Bible for a Persecuted People,” Dr. Jennifer Powell McNutt, Associate Professor of Theology and History of Christianity, Wheaton College
  • Lecture #2: “Property (Mis)Trust: The Dilemma of Presbyterian Assets in Church and Court,” Michael Bush, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Athens, Ala.
  • Lecture #3: “Restoring the Ethic of Love: George Eldon Ladd’s Call to Civility in Evangelical Scholarship,” Dr. John D’Elia, President and Professor of Christian History and Culture New Seminary of the West, Calif.
  • Lecture #4: “Where (in the world) is the One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church?” Joseph Small, Adjunct Professor of Ministry, University of Dubuque Theological Seminary Former Director of the Office of Theology and Worship Presbyterian Church (USA)
  • Lecture #5: “W. Stanford Reid’s Vision of an Academic Reformed Historian in a Mainline Denomination,” A. Donald MacLeod, Research Professor of Church History Tyndale Theological Seminary (Toronto, Canada), President of the Canadian Society of Presbyterian History
  • Lecture #6: “Presbyterians and the Mainstream in the United States;” Dr. Darryl G. Hart, Distinguished Visiting Professor of History, Hillsdale College
  • Lecture #7: “Evangelical Brotherhood: Reformed Christianity in Colonial America,” Dr. Bradley Longfield, Dean and Professor of Church History, University of Dubuque Theological Seminary
  • Lecture #8: “Between The Old and New Princeton: J. Gresham Machen’s Early Years,” Dr. Richard Burnett, Executive Director of Theology Matters
  • Lecture #9: “Forgotten Presbyterians: The Contribution of Evangelical UPCNA Scholars, 1913-1950,” Dr. Jeffrey McDonald, Affiliate Professor of Church History, Sioux Falls Seminary, Omaha campus, Pastor, Avery Presbyterian Church, Bellevue, Neb.
  • Lecture #10: “Exegesis or Eisegesis? The ‘Why’ Behind the Lack of Theological Thinking in Our Congregations,” Mickie O’Donnel, Director of Children’s Ministry, Noroton Presbyterian Church (CT), Member of the Theological Task Force, Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians
  • Lecture #11: “Body, Space, and Spirit: The Corpus Christi Play and Early Modern Protestant Worship,” Dr. Randal Carter Working, Pastor, Lompoc Presbyterian Church (CA), Adjunct Professor of Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary

A group discussion on the future of renewal in American Presbyterianism will be held on Oct. 20. The updated conference agenda can be found here.

Various Presbyterian denominations will be represented at the conference including the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Church in Canada.

To register please contact Dr. Jeff McDonald at jsmcdonald@unomaha.edu, or by calling (402) 682-1439.

Cost is $30.00 (payable at the conference) and includes three meals plus refreshments. The conference hotel is the Hampton Inn-Carol Stream, Illinois. Please ask for the Wheaton College discount when making reservations.

This is not a function of Wheaton College.

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With Radio Show, Carmen Hopes to Bring God Back into Everyday Conversations

The following is an interview with Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of the Presbyterian Lay Committee and host of The Reconnect.

What is the goal of The Reconnect?
We want to equip every Christian to bring God into every conversation. Sometimes we relegate God to the “God things” at church on Sundays. The PLC wants to help people reconnect the eternal with the everyday. That starts with thinking about what we’re thinking, cultivating the mind of Christ in the matter of the day, and then serving as ambassadors of God’s perspective to others. It’s our role and responsibility to speak up for God in every context. Awkward? Yes, sometimes, but people want to know God’s perspective and we’re the ones in a position to share it. We’re helping Christians reconnect with the hope they will in turn serve as reconnectors for others.

Why is the PLC doing a radio show?

Good question! The method of delivering the message has changed and the audience has grown but the PLC continues to be on the same mission of informing and equipping Christians. Our context for many years was the PCUSA. As people and congregations left the PCUSA for the PCA, EPC and ECO, we continued in relationship with many of them. And now, the issues we have faced in the PCUSA are issues in the culture at large. So, stay or go, you need to be equipped to engage the issues in a way that honors Jesus. The radio show is a vehicle for the message and it translates into a podcast and other online resources.

listen-liveWhat are some interviews that have stuck with you?

Two interviews, which stick out, were both with my friend Gerrit Dawson, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Baton Rouge, La. Baton Rouge became ground zero this summer for the national tensions of racial violence after the high-profile, police involved shooting of Alton Sterling, and the horrifying retaliatory shootings of three police officers. Gerrit shared a gospel vision for what reconciliation could look like in the city. He shared the incredible vision of what only God can do to bring people together across historic divides. Then, only weeks later, Baton Rouge was hit by a 1,000 year flood. Although thousands of families were displaced from their homes and entire parishes affected, it took a while for the media to catch on to the gravity of what was happening. Gerrit shared with us how the Church was stepping in to be the Body and gave us irreplaceable insight into what was happening on the ground. We absolutely want to serve the Church and connect listeners to what is happening around the country.

Another episode that stands out is the interview with Nik and Ruth Ripken. They were missionaries in Somalia. They buried a son in Africa. Their sacrifice for the cause of Christ is real and their love of people deep. They spent several years recording interviews with Christians in places where the Church is thriving in persecution – Russia, China, the Middle East. The stories became a book and then a movie, The Insanity of God. Things they said on the show changed my perception of the global church. If I refer to my brothers and sisters as ‘the persecuted church,” I now stop and prayerfully correct myself. There’s only one Church and I dare not imagine I am not a part of their experience nor take for granted the freedom I have to worship Christ and share Him with others.

follow-carmen-on-facebook-for-moreWhat have you learned in the first five months of hosting The Reconnect?

There’s no shortage of topics. People ask me if I ever run out of topics for the show. I tell them, more things end up on the floor than what we can talk about in one hour a day. Not only is there so much happening in the headlines, but God cares about all of it, so we always have an entry into the conversation.

We started doing a series on Fridays called Behind the Byline, where we talk with reporters who cover religion for different media outlets. Long time religion reporter Bob Smietana came on the show and he communicated what I was feeling: every story has a “religion” angle. He told us  the “God beat” is the best beat to cover in the news world because faith connects to any story. I agree, God is as active in the mundane as He is in the miraculous. It is our call as ambassadors of Christ to make this truth known.

I have also learned 3 p.m. comes every day. Embarking on a daily radio show is just that – daily. It comes with different challenges, but also opportunities. If something happens on Monday, we don’t have to wait until Sunday to talk about it. We get the opportunity to discuss in real time the headlines everyone is also thinking and talking about around the kitchen table or coffee shop.


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The 2016-17 Horizons Bible Study “Who is Jesus? – a continuing review- according to Hebrews

By Viola Larson, Naming His Grace blog.

There is a great deal to applaud in the sixth lesson of the Presbyterian Women’s Bible study Who is Jesus? What a Difference a Lens Makes.The author Judy Yates Siker, in this lesson, “According to Hebrews,” at the end, answers the question about Jesus’s identity in this manner:

“The writer of Hebrews goes to great lengths to demonstrate the majesty, the grandeur, and the perfection of Jesus. Yet, this Jesus is one who can relate to us in our earthly circumstances. Truly, there is in every generation the need to carry the message of the good news forward, in spite of trials and frustrations of the day. The writer of Hebrews tells readers then and now to be strong, to give thanks for the unshakeable kingdom in which Christ reigns. Through the lens of this first-century writer, we are called to be strong in the faith, and through this lens, we are able to see the person and work of Jesus, the one who makes that faith possible.”

Siker understands that Jesus is both priest and sacrifice, and that he is both human and divine. She comforts her readers with the biblical truth that Jesus “can sympathize and empathize with people.”

And yet, still, there is the continued push to de-emphasize the wholeness and completeness of the biblical witness to Jesus Christ as fully God and fully human, as both Lord and the ransom for sin. Furthermore, there is the continued apology and concern about the witness to Jesus of the early church and how that affected their relationship to the Jewish people as a whole.


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Appointments Made for Way Forward Commission, 2020 Vision Team

By Toya Richards, Office of the General Assembly.

Appointments have been made for two General Assembly created bodies charged with helping the Presbyterian Church (USA) chart a way forward as a denomination.

Twelve people have been named to the Way Forward Commission and fifteen individuals have been named to the 2020 Vision Team, both of which were actions of the 222nd General Assembly (2016). The appointments for the 2020 Vision Team were made by the Co-Moderators of the 222nd General Assembly (2016). The Co-Moderators serve ex-officio on the 2020 Vision Team. Appointments to the Way Forward Commission were made by the Co-Moderators of the 222nd General Assembly (2016) and the Moderator and Vice Moderator of the 221st General Assembly (2014).

Selections for both the commission and the vision team were made in consultation with the General Assembly Nominating Committee and the General Assembly Committee on Representation.

“We are pleased that these individuals have accepted the invitation to help the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) discern what God is calling it to be in the future,” said Co-Moderators Denise Anderson and Jan Edmiston. “We are confident that each person will work to innovatively and creatively help guide the church where it needs to be.”


Members of the 2020 Vision Team include:

  1. Bernadette Coffee, Co-Moderator, Tres Rios Presbytery
  2. DèAnn Cunningham, Charlotte Presbytery
  3. Michael Fagans, San Joaquin Presbytery
  4. Chris McCain, Greater Atlanta Presbytery
  5. Joshua Narcisse, New York City Presbytery
  6. Salvador D. Gavalda Corchado, San Juan Presbytery
  7. Joshua T. Andrzejewski, The James Presbytery
  8. Deborah G. Foster, Foothills Presbytery
  9. Don Lee, Eastern Korean Presbytery
  10. Jerrod B. Lowry Utah Presbytery
  11. Lisa Juica Perkins, Co-Moderator, Grace Presbytery
  12. Karen Sapio, San Gabriel Presbytery
  13. Justin Botejue, Inland Northwest Presbytery
  14. Sabrina Slater, Inland Northwest Presbytery
  15. Rebecca Snedeker-Meier, Maumee Valley Presbytery
    (More information on the members can be found here.)


Members of the Way Forward Commission include:

  1. Samuel L. Bonner, New Brunswick Presbytery
  2. Emily Marie Williams, Grace Presbytery
  3. Raymond (Cliff) Lyda, St. Augustine Presbytery
  4. Eliana Maxim, Seattle Presbytery
  5. Eileen W. Lindner, Palisades Presbytery
  6. Josephene (Jo) Stewart, Charlotte Presbytery
  7. Sara Dingman, Missouri River Valley Presbytery
  8. Julie L. Cox, New Harmony Presbytery
  9. Mathew Eardley, Boise Presbytery
  10. Mark Hostetter, Moderator, New York City Presbytery
  11. Adan A. Mairena, Philadelphia Presbytery
  12. Patricia Rarumangkay, National Capital Presbytery
    (More information on the members can be found here.)
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