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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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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Interfaith Ignorance in Excelsis

By Mateen Elass, on his personal blog.

Due to ongoing reverberations from the June 2016 PCUSA General Assembly where a “Muslim partner” led the gathered Presbyterians in a prayer to Allah seeking their conversion to Islam, newly appointed Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson, Jr. has published a defense of the denomination’s position on interfaith relations, particularly with Islam.

Entitled “Remembering a Biblical Narrative That Shapes Our Interfaith Commitments: Building Bridges Through Interfaith Work“, this 1400 word document seeks to justify the PCUSA approach of linking together arm in arm with non-Christian (indeed anti-Christian) religions and marching buoyantly into a utopian future where all is love and beliefs don’t matter.

Nelson begins by greeting readers “…in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” But that hopeful start is lost in all that follows. We are led by the title to hope that Nelson will give us a biblical narrative showing how to navigate the minefields of interfaith relations. Instead, we are told to ignore beliefs that rightly separate us and lift instead a common “ethic of love.”

The only biblical text Nelson cites in defense of his view is one he has to misquote in order to justify his stance. In Mark 9:38-41, Jesus’ disciples report to him they had come across a man not of their group who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name. They had ordered him to stop since he was not of the twelve chosen by Jesus. When Jesus hears this, he upbraids them, saying, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me,  for whoever is not against us is for us.” Nelson is keen to show that the key for Jesus is commonality of purpose, not being part of his immediate group. Apparently for Nelson all interfaith groups seemingly have the same purpose, and so are acceptable to Jesus, and should be acceptable to us. Though the biblical text makes clear that the unknown man in question is doing ministry in Jesus’ name, and that Jesus’ rationale for not prohibiting him is that “no one doing ministry in my name can in the next moment badmouth me…,” Nelson incredibly twists this text in order to baptize interfaith cooperation:

“Jesus acknowledges the commonality of purpose between groups of religious leaders other than our own. When the disciples of Jesus reported to him that there were others casting out demons in another name, he responded, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us” (Mk. 9:39–41).” [Emphases mine.]

The problem is, this man is acting in the name and under the authority of Jesus, not from some competing religious stance. Jesus affirms his ministry because it is being done in his name, not in the name of some other religious authority. To use this text for support of interfaith relations, particularly with regard to Islam, a religion that denies the gospel significance of the name of Jesus, is to abuse Scripture in pursuit of a personal agenda.


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81 Members Enroll in Huntington’s Christ Presbyterian Church

By David E. Malloy, The Herald-Dispatch (Huntington, WV).

eco-1More than 80 new members were enrolled Sunday at the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians, also called the Christ Presbyterian Church, which is conducting services at the B’Nai Shalom Temple on 10th Avenue.

A number of the members of the First Presbyterian Church in the Tri-State broke away from the church in a disagreement about the Presbyterian Church (USA) moving in a more liberal direction on issues including homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

“We are West Virginia’s first ECO Presbyterian Church,” said Patrick Hall, an Ashland resident who serves as an associate pastor at the new church. “We were a brand-new church with no place to meet.”

That issue was resolved earlier this summer when church members signed a one-year lease with B’Nai Shalom to use their building on Sundays. B’Nai Shalom holds its services on Saturdays.

“They welcomed us with open arms,” Hall said. “They’ve been so gracious.”

The church members added the word Christ in front of Presbyterian “because we want Christ to be the absolute center of what we believe,” said Hall, who was among those enrolled in the new church Sunday. “We started here in July.”

“We felt the most peaceful resolution was to leave,” Hall said. “We felt like we didn’t leave the denomination. We feel like the denomination left us.”


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ECO Reaches Milestone of 300th Member Church After Break From PCUSA

By Michael Gryboski, Christian Post.

ECOA conservative Presbyterian denomination formed in response to the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s increasing acceptance of homosexuality has reached the milestone of 300 member congregations.

“We are blessed to have each and every church and church member in our ECO family. As we grow, it is our prayer that we continue to be a movement that builds flourishing churches that make disciples of Jesus Christ,” the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians announced on Tuesday.

The congregations listed as the latest ECO members include: Tacoma Central Presbyterian Church of Tacoma, Washington; Lenoir Presbyterian Church of Lenoir, North Carolina; Waldensian Presbyterian Church of Monett, Missouri; First Presbyterian Church of Columbia, California; Calvary Presbyterian Church of Enfield, Connecticut; and First Presbyterian Church of Towanda, Pennsylvania.

The Rev. Rachel Stahle, pastor at FPC Towanda, told The Christian Post that her congregation voted 74-12 in favor of leaving PCUSA back in June and were officially dismissed from the Mainline denomination earlier this month.
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