Saturday, November 29th, 2014
The Layman Online > 2014 General Assembly (PCUSA) > Leaving? No. Protesting? Yes.

Leaving? No. Protesting? Yes.

landingFor the record, we (the Presbyterian Lay Committee) are not going anywhere. We are, in fact, going everywhere. More on that later. Here I will offer comment, comfort and some castigation over the actions of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

By now you know that the General Assembly did the mental and intellectual gymnastics necessary to issue an Authoritative Interpretation (AI) of the constitution that ignores the plain meaning of “one man and one woman” and now allows nearly half the ordained clergy in the PCUSA to perform same-sex marriages. Every state that allows gay marriage to be performed, PCUSA ministers may now do so, and Presbyterian church property can be used for the same. The GA went on to send an amendment to the presbyteries for ratification to formally redefine marriage as between “two people,” but the horse will be fully out of the barn by the time a majority of presbyteries vote. We will certainly fight to resist passage of the amendment, but the vote will not affect the AI as it is based on the current language anyway. So, the PCUSA has a new theological and institutional position: same-sex marriage.

The GA also took action to divest its corporate holdings of three American companies whose products Israel uses in what the PCUSA deems “non-peaceful pursuits.” The backlash from the Jewish community and Israel itself has been vociferous. Our interfaith relationships have been heavily damaged. These are theologically, politically and relationally troubled waters that the PCUSA has stirred up when the hope was peacemaking.

The Social Witness policy decisions of the GA are a veritable minefield: new advocacy for progressive reforms of the U.S. tax code, the U.S. financial and political systems, U.S. drone policy, gun control including regulation of all ammunition, a controversial U.N. program on food sovereignty … the list goes on and on. Certainly the GA did some good things, but there is no denying that these are strange days in the life of the church and growing ever more so.

The damage done by this assembly to our global relationships is yet to be seen, as are the responses of regular members hitting the door. An exodus is expected, and the GA voted to increase per capita by 5 cents in 2015 and again in 2016 to spread the costs over a smaller number of members. How many will leave is not known. The actions of this assembly will almost assuredly exacerbate the exodus of congregations, but the GA did nothing to smooth that path.

Please read the statement of response by the Board of Directors of the Presbyterian Lay Committee to the actions of the PCUSA and the PLC’s recommendation of how you might respond. The proposal to stop funding a corporation that has been unresponsive to efforts by its stakeholders is to give the PCUSA a taste of its own divestment medicine. The redirecting or positive investment of your dollars to ministries and missions that are aligned with classical definitions of Reformed faith are heartily encouraged. Divesting financially from corporations who purport to be an expression of the Church but do not conform to the Scriptures at the most basic of levels is a legitimate protest of that corporation’s actions. To fully divest would be to leave and some will be called to do just that.

Please know this, we will seek to inform and equip you wherever you land. So, see, we’re not going anywhere, we’re going everywhere.

Share this post:

on Twitter on Facebook on Google+

About the author: Carmen Fowler LaBerge

Carmen Fowler LaBerge heads the ministry of the Presbyterian Lay Committee as its President and Executive Editor of its publications, including The Layman.

27 comments

  1. Red_Dirt says:

    Proposed: To install slate of Post-Modern Conservative leadership for the purpose of returning church building ownership to the congregations, as it was for the 250 years prior to the 1987 assignment to common trust,

  2. Red_Dirt says:

    Has it occurred to anyone that the reform initiatives might be veiled actions to drive away members, the traditional congregation, in order to take control of the endowments, property, and jobs? The adage, “Follow the money” would suggest so. Politics, nothing but politics.

    • Red_Dirt says:

      Thank you, Anon. My point is to follow the money. The philosophical and theological issues are concocted by what amounts to another fabrication, the progressive left. Take away the money and power. See how fast they suddenly lose interest in gay marriage, women ministers, married priests, prayer in school, nativity scenes, and “In God We Trust” on the quarters.
      The left, driven my feminists and black separatists, is doing the same thing in the Ivy League. One Harvard controversy this year involved challenging certain investments by the endowment, on some kind of trumped up “moral” grounds. Baloney. This is the “new breed” simply elbowing its way in on endowment decisions. Taking a seat at the table. What is to follow is the politically correct squeeze.
      Isn’t it obvious what is going on? It is not only about seizing the wealth, but about the power to award Foundation grants. I ask, why is this same thing not happening to denominations out of the main line? The answer to that should be plain as the nose on our faces. Those smaller denominations have not built up enormous wealth in property and investments as the main line. This entire thing is a huge put on.
      This is why so many with experience and influence in the Presbyterian Church are saying, “Don’t leave. Stay and Fight.” I say, “Leave, and take your stake with you.” Windwood should simply eject the denomination and demand its per capita share of the endowments.
      For anyone interested, the Windwood church has a very interesting recent history.

    • anon says:

      again i agree with what you’re saying Red Dirt. as a former wall streeter, financial advisor, corporate financial analyst, the main reason i commented to you is i’m sort of dumbfounded that i didn’t see through what they’re doing earlier. of course, anything for money. that’s exactly what i saw during my entire corporate career. some of these large church organizations are operating much like american corporations, or foreign ones for that matter, i worked for two of them as well…

      bigger picture, i still think we’re all wasting time here, meaning God is about to get the last word. literally any day now. after the elections is what messages to prophets are saying. i know you guys, and gals, don’t believe in most of the end time prophets. maybe Ephraim Rodriquez from Puerto Rico, a Protestant, is more palatable. whatever, i suggest researching end times signals. up until lately i thought we had at least another year until Biblical events began to escalate. that may turn out to be an optimistic guess, now they’re saying we may only have a few more weeks.

  3. Jeanne thonpson says:

    I am currently employed at a Presbyterian Church. My pastor at the church does not agree with gay marriage and will vote against it at their meeting soon. I completely disagree with this policy of gay marriage, I believe that marriage is set aside by God between a man and a women. I support Israel in everything I do. I support Pro life organizations. I have been employed at this church for 3 1/2 years and am truly considering leaving it does depend on the vote on gay marriage. My decision is a hard one I enjoy my job very much, so do I stand and fight or leave? These 3 agendas go against my beliefs,

  4. George Hill says:

    It seems me that enunciation of these various social witness positions are likely to drive away numerous members who disagree with them. This is something the PCUSA can ill afford as membership is already expected to plunge below 1,700,000 this year.

    The PCUSA would do better by preaching the gospel.

  5. McDuff says:

    We left the PCUSA nearly two decades ago. We left because we saw the writing on the wall – the denomination had already turned a blind eye to abortion, and compelled congregations to ordain women elders, even though they might have been led by scripture to a different direction. The gay agenda had already surfaced. As an elder, I went to presbytery meetings where ministers and elders sang stupid songs based on “I’m a little tea pot” (I’m not kidding). The idea that Christ is Lord of the Church, and it is governed by Scripture was viewed as laughably antiquated by elders and pastors alike.

    Then, dear friends said, “If they ever ordain gay ministers, we’ll leave”. That day has come and gone and they remain. After that they said, “If they ever permit gay marriage, we’ll leave”. That day has now come and gone as well. Now they’re saying, “If our congregation ever performs a gay marriage, we’ll leave”. With all due respect – ridiculous! You stay because leaving is difficult! Putting Christ first often requires us to deny ourselves!

    Many friends stay, as the fans of the Layman do, because they view the PCUSA as their mission field. Well, that means that they are viewing it as on par with the world, and certainly, they have become indistinguishable from it. They talk about the love and acceptance of Christ, but they neglect any idea of obedience to Christ – they will define what they will and won’t obey. It has become a pagan institution.

    One may argue that their congregation remains faithful and so they should or could stay. In Presbyterian governance, you are under the spiritual authority of your congregation AND the Presbytery, the Synod, and ultimately the General Assembly. This is not a congregational form of governance. Therefore you are under the authority of those who just approved gay marriage as being Biblical.

    Protest all you want, but to what end? I heard that conservatives were happy that they were able to insert the words, “traditionally defined as being between a man and a woman” into the motion. So what? Completely meaningless. Faithful Christians should abandon this pagan institution. Now.

    • guest says:

      thank you for sharing McDuff, your words are quite helpful. i already knew a lot of what you said, but it helps to hear it from someone else, and you put it all so beautifully. i left the PCUSA a while ago, 2010 officially. my PCUSA family and i have been butting heads my entire life, 56 years, we were ‘wired’ differently, i now understand. i was always considered to be the black sheep. even knowing as much as i do now it doesn’t make it easy, since i live with my elderly mother, have deal with a lot of what you’re talking about 24×7. it’s all very sad to witness, and very difficult to put into words. you summarized it well, i do appreciate it.

  6. Jim Caraher says:

    Mr. Greenawalt, what a delightful surprise!! I don’t know if you’ll see this but yes, my dad was pastor at Olney Presbyterian in the 1980′s. Thankfully, mother and dad are still living in the Philadelphia area at ages 95 and 92 and in fairly good health. So nice of you to remember them after all these years.

    With regard to your calculations as to when the last living PC(USA) member will be gone, that’s an amusing exercise which others have indulged in as well. As a practical matter though, the PC(USA) will never vanish completely because of its great wealth. In 2012 the Presbyterian Foundation, only one of many PC(USA) entities, distributed $63 million to ministry causes. The Foundation is a little cagey about disclosing its assets but if they distribute 5% of their assets annually without dipping into principal (a target many foundations shoot for), that indicates assets in the range of $1.2 billion and that’s just for the Foundation alone. So the PC(USA) will wither to a shrunken shell of its former self but survive quite comfortably on the wealth accumulated from its forebears. The foundation/non-profit/religious world is chock full of institutions which no longer fulfill the mission for which their ancestors bequeathed their wealth and that sadly is the future of the PC(USA).

    • guest says:

      precisely why God will be destroying the materialism of this world during the chastisements to come. they haven’t even started yet. read the Book of Revelation, it’s all in there. the pride and arrogance of many is caused by lack of fear, thinking their ‘assets’ will save them from any discomfort in this life. based on conversations with Presbyterian USA members, there is little, if any, concern about an after life, it’s the comforts of this life that concern most. my parents were both educated (i use the term loosely) in a Presbyterian USA College. their closest friends attended the same school. i’ve been listening to this sort of talk about so called ‘wealth’ for 50 years. sorry if i sound angry, after so many years of cleaning up my parent’s, and grandparent’s, big stinking materialistic Presbyterian messes, you bet i am. and God is pretty fed up too, from all indications.

  7. Laurie Fitchett says:

    I am so thankful that our church voted almost unanimously in June 2012 to leave PCUSA and join ECO. What a blessing to be affiliated with a church that believes in the Bible as the Word of God.

  8. Pastor Bob says:

    Read the “Reveal” study that originated out of Willow Creek and you will see who is staying in the PCUSA.

  9. Kay Hill says:

    My friend and I grew up in the Presbyterian Church. 15 years ago I went on the internet and became informed about our pastors getting abortion coverage in their medical plans. I could not live with that and moved on to the Wesleyan denomination, which is pro-life and conservative. Recently, I met my old friend at a reunion, who is still a member of the PCUSA, but uninformed about the Assembly votes. She was upset with her Jewish neighbor who called her to complain about the PCUSA and the divestment vote.
    My question: Are Presbyterians pastors informing people that these votes have taken place? Some members are apparently uninformed.

    • Jim Yearsley says:

      Kay, some of us are, many more are not.

      The reasons for that failure are myriad — and disturbing. IMHO the segment of the clergy (primarily specialized such as academia, social action executives and bureaucrats) which self-identifies as liberal progressive, intentionally and disingenuously misleads their constituency by misstating scripture, denying essentials and reimagining scripture. This behavior, I would posit is evilly inspired.

      The small (very) small segment of our clergy which identifies as orthodox-conservative or even Calvinist are speaking to their congregations with courage and honesty. For this behavior they are marginalized, whipsawed and in some cases forced out of pastorates by denominational functionaries committed to liberalism.

      The worst of it is the large segment of our clergy who are first, foremost and always, self-interested careerists who are much more invested in protecting their pensions, salaries and potential for the next larger/richer call. They intentionally keep their denominations in the dark and pretend all is well.

      I will be extraordinarily surprised if this denomination survives another 6 years.

  10. Jim Caraher says:

    Some of these observations are correct, namely that the PC(USA)’s contraction will be mitigated somewhat by inertia in churches that don’t want the departure hassles with presbytery, haggling over the property, etc. But the PC(USA) is clearly moving further to the left wing fringe of Presbyterianism and can no longer sustain any pretense of sitting astride the broad middle of the theological spectrum. There aren’t enough evangelicals left to even attempt to field a candidate for GA moderator and the votes on marriage at GA were huge, lopsided majorities. So it’s quite clear that the rate of membership attrition will accelerate in the years ahead. Eventually the PC(USA) will shrink to a hollow shell of its former self with a membership of less than 1 million (down from a peak of 4.3 million) and it will resemble a once prominent church in downtown Philadelphia. A well paid minister bravely preached to an empty sanctuary in that church for years because the income from the endowment kept the doors open and the lights on. Similarly the PC(USA) will soldier on in a shrunken state until Jesus returns living off the accumulated wealth of those who mistakenly believed that bequeathing their money to the PC(USA) would advance the cause of Jesus in American life and culture. Meanwhile non-PC(USA) Presbyterians (EPC, PCA, ECO) will be the inheritors of an inheritance far more valuable than dead people’s money – the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

    • guest says:

      Even those holy servants who profess to serve Jesus Christ will be too weak to defend Christianity and they will allow themselves to be forced into accepting these laws. In many cases the traitors amongst them will facilitate the abolition of the Cross and the Truth of Christianity. In time, they will all adore a false doctrine, along with other faiths which will not come from God. Because they will choose the path of error, by their own free will, this means that they will refuse to accept God’s Mercy and they will condemn themselves to the darkness.

      We must never betray Jesus for any reason, for He is the Way of the Truth and only He can bring us Eternal Salvation.

      I used to go to visit my old Presbyterian USA congregation too. In the beginning, prior to my conversion, i still sat in the pews. as the weeks turned into months and years I drifted further to the back of the church. then i started sitting in the lobby, instinct told me it wasn’t ‘safe’ to be inside. eventually i just started showing up for coffee hour after church.
      the most interesting part of the story, i haven’t been to coffee hour there for several years now. not because i haven’t tried. it’s a bit of a long drive. each and every time i tried to drive there the Holy Spirit put a major block in the way, blew up my radiator, mother in the hospital and so forth. i was still determined to visit. about a month ago my financial situation became so extreme i had to turn in the license plate on my car. so that’s the end of any notions of going to visit.

      God will deal with this situation in his time, there’s no doubt in my mind. knowing as much as i do now, i personally don’t want to be anywhere near these places when everything hits the fan.

    • Bruce Greenawalt says:

      Jim,
      I liked your comments. I wonder if you are or are related to the Jim Caraher who once was pastor to the Olney Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia?
      About five years ago I calculated that with the loss rate average of the previous four year, the PCUSA would lose its last member in 39 years. Of course, extrapolating recent trends far into the future is a futile effort as something always intervenes to change the trend, but I did it anyway, and thought that as a life long Presbyterian I would “go down with the ship” Well, something has intervened to change my extrapolation: recent votes at the General Assembly may accelerate the process and I will have to recalculate numbers and whether I want remain on board the sinking ship
      Bruce Greenawalt

      .

  11. Don says:

    I have some anecdotal evidence that I believe suggests something well short of a mass exodus from PCUSA will occur following the Detroit GA.

    Though I’ve left PCUSA, I still worship often at my former church, a congregation of 600+ near Dallas -Fort Worth. My guess is that membership is roughly evenly divided between conservative and “progressive”. The associate pastor and DCE are decidedly on the “progressive” side; the senior pastor generally avoids taking a public position on the divisive issues.

    Immediately following Detroit, a couple of conservative members posted critical comments on the congregation’s Facebook page. The comments were deleted by an administrator. From the rest of the congregation? Silence. Nothing. On this past Sunday, a typical-size summer crowd was present.

    My conclusion: For this congregation, even the events in Detroit were not enough to cause more than the slightest ripple. I know with certainty that many in the congregation are opposed to same-sex “marriage”, to abortion, to almost the entire political and social agenda of denominational leaders. Yet they are staying. Out of fatigue at resisting that agenda; out of a desire to stay with friends; out of sheer inertia that keeps them in the same pews they’ve been in for years — for many and varied reasons, they will stay. I believe many, many other congregations, across the country, will react to Detroit in the same way — that is, little to no reaction.

  12. Whitey Bird says:

    I don’t look for a mass exodus from the pcusa as I would think that most of those that cared about the authority of Scripture and basic Christian Doctrines would have already left the denomination. Why would the support of Gay Marriage be a surprise to those that remain?
    I don’t have any reason to know but I have an idea that the pcusa and ucc will soon join together to make a good sized very liberal denomination with with a lot of good resources to be used to support the “left wing” agendas for many years to come.

    • guest says:

      ” I would think that most of those that cared about the authority of Scripture and basic Christian Doctrines would have already left the denomination”

      correct. i was a cradle Presbyterian, USA, left many years ago. one of the biggest factors was the internet. back in the good old days everyone just sort of went along with everything, we trusted our leaders, i would never even think about questioning anything. after i first started noticing some strange things going on, improper behavior of the ministers especially, i started doing my own research on the internet about tenets of the faith. it only took about five minutes to see i was in the wrong pew.

    • Loren Golden says:

      Do not look for a union between the PCUSA and the UCC anytime soon. Although they share a common political agenda and a common anthropocentric worldview that profoundly shapes their theology, their forms of government are ultimately incompatible. The UCC’s form of government is Congregational, whereas the PCUSA’s is, as its name suggests, Presbyterian. The PCUSA is more than proud of its property trust clause, insisting that a PCUSA congregation’s assets rightfully belong to the denomination. This sort of thinking is anathema in a Congregational form of government, which holds that a congregation’s right to depart a denomination with its assets is a fundamental and unalienable right.

      Rather, I would think that a union between the PCUSA and the Episcopal Church would be a much more natural match, given the proclivities of those empowered in the PCUSA bureaucracy to covet the bishop’s miter, and given the extreme zeal with which both denominations pursue the assets of congregations that dare to try to take those assets with them when they leave their respective denomination out of conscience. Given that both denominations are given over to liberal political agendas, and that neither denomination has a recognizably Christian theology, I should look for some sort of merger to take place between the two in the next ten to twenty years.

      • Marvin says:

        Loren…..agree that the likely course would be some type of “Progressive Union” denomination. Looking at the potential schism within the United Methodists their progressive wing could also be a party. While the PCUSA uses the old presbyterian terms for governance, the reality behind those terms is that now the PCUSA is effectively episcopal in the way it is run and where authority and power reside.

  13. Shelley Reel says:

    I stopped supporting the church financially years ago when they first started talking against Israel. This GA breaks my heart because, even though I am a CCM and an elder, I no longer have a church. The news about Israel and abortion survivors has pushed me over the top.

  14. Many in the congregation I attend are employed by HP. We will surely lose many if not most of them. I don’t blame them.

    • guest says:

      PCUSA flat out said they don’t want their filthy lucre, it’s not like they have a choice. what would have really been interesting is if the PCUSA had done the right thing back in 2008, divested all their bank, brokerage and other financial stocks; flipped over the tables, thrown out the money changers. they’re obviously still there.

  15. Wedad says:

    Are you implying that David & his men practiced homosexuality because were without women for those three days? This is just another example of how scripture is twisted to the taste of the user!!!

Leave a comment

Comment form

All fields marked (*) are required