January 2013: PCUSA is failing as a pseudo-religious organization

PCUSA is failing as a pseudo-religious organization

Posted Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Re: PCUSA lobbyist spearheads new push to tighten gun laws and PCUSA promotes pro-immigration push

Left wing political actions are what the PCUSA does best. Following the Bible and Jesus Christ are not so important, it appears. It’s no wonder it’s failing as a pseudo-religious organization.

Fred Edwards

Pounding on the table just closes hearts, minds and ears

Posted Tuesday, January 22, 2013

I write in response to the December 28, 2012 letter to the editor from Ruling Elder Frank K. Zinn of Grosse Pointe Woods Presbyterian Church. After reading his letter and re-reading the article about which he wrote, I was reminded of the old legal maxim: “When the law and the facts are against you, pound on the table.”

For the record, I, too, am one of those who left the PCUSA, going with my congregation when it voted to move to the EPC in June, 2007. (Actually, the PCUSA had left us far behind decades before.) I do not believe I have written to The Layman since then, but the tone and tenor of Zinn’s letter got to me. (An employee of the PCUSA headquarters once advised my old presbytery to “drive a stake through [my] heart,” and mean-spirited letters bother me.)

What caught my attention was that not once in his letter did Zinn dispute the facts reported in The Layman. Instead, he launched an ad hominem attack on an officer of the Presbyterian Lay Committee and the editor of The Layman. I have known Forrest Norman for nearly a decade and Carmen Fowler Lebarge for just about as long. Both are passionate followers of Christ, faithfully doing what He told all of us to do: to “make disciples of all nations,” and to “teach them to observe all that I have commanded you.” When the PCUSA accelerated its modern drift away from the clear teaching of God’s Word and Christ’s gospel, they and many others pointed out that departure. The institutionalists in the PCUSA were not pleased and went to great pains to punish the messengers.

Zinn goes to great lengths to praise the Administrative Commission for holding meetings, allowing people to talk and meeting with the session. What he did not do is dispute that the AC refused to allow the congregation to vote or that it threatened to dismiss some members in order to ensure that only pro-PCUSA members would remain.

But I saw his real complaint in the following sentences: “At considerable expense to the Woods Church, [Mr. Norman] provided confidential legal advice to certain members of session that was not shared with the full session. At the direction of two or three session members, a secret trust fund was established to divert financial pledge support from the Woods Church – presumably to be available later to those who left.” The real complaint is about what has always been the core concern of the PCUSA. It is always about money.

“Secret advice?” Where was Zinn when the Louisville Papers were secretly distributed and implemented? If some elders sought counsel from a respected member of the Ohio bar, they were entitled to do so. Nothing in their ordination vows required them to give up their individual rights as citizens.

As for the alleged “diversion” of pledges, the purported “considerable expense to the Woods Church,” the last time I checked, no congregation or denomination has the right to require its members to give, especially if some portion of that giving will go to a denomination which, in the eyes of the giver, has strayed. If members knew they might be forced to vote with their feet, it was prudent stewardship to put their giving aside for use by a new faith family. Had they simply left the congregation rather than staying in the false hope that the AC would follow the spirit of the dismissal process, the Woods church would have been no worse off.

Present a counter-factual argument, Zinn, and most will listen. Pounding on the table just closes hearts, minds and ears.

Michael R. (“Mac”) McCarty

Exercising freedom of conscience around the PCUSA family table

Posted Tuesday, January 22, 2013

In the November 2012 issue, Carmen Fowler LaBerge commented on More Light Presbyterians’ invitation to “Stand for Love” — a declaration of conscience that one is ready to officiate at the marriages of same-sex couples.

For those unfamiliar with my story, I am a teaching elder who presided at the wedding of two women in 2005. I was brought up on charges and was acquitted by a unanimous vote of the Permanent Judicial Commission of Pittsburgh Presbytery in 2008. I have signed on to the Stand for Love statement.

The present rule against clergy choosing to preside at weddings of same-sex couples (created by the 2008 Spahr decision of the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission) marks the first time in PCUSA history that the pastoral privilege of deciding whether or not to preside at a wedding has been denied to Presbyterian teaching elders.

By standing for love, we are affirming our freedom of conscience as expressed in G-2.0105: “Freedom of conscience with respect to the interpretation of the Scripture is to be maintained.” The freedom of conscience clause is a great gift to the PCUSA from our forebearers. As we all understand Scripture differently, it allows us to do what Paul counseled in his first letter to the Corinthians: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.”

There is right now in the PCUSA significant difference in our interpretations of Scripture with regard to the related Scriptural treatments of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and the nature of marriage. The church protects our differing views within the bounds of not departing seriously from the essentials of Reformed faith and polity, infringing on the rights of others or obstructing the constitutional governance of the church.

None of these three concerns is threatened by weddings of same-sex couples performed by Presbyterian pastors who are faithfully keeping their promise upon ordination to show the love and justice of Jesus Christ. At the same time, clergy who will not officiate at weddings of same-sex couples, because of their interpretation of Scripture, have every right to refrain from doing so.

Not only do we passionately differ at our PCUSA family table over our interpretations of Scripture, but we also differ in our interpretations of our church constitution. Even as our passions run high, Jesus prays that we may be one. I trust that we—as Jesus’ church family—can come together with respect for each other held in the Baptism we share. So I fervently hope we stay at the table and hear each other out. I’m ready to do that and am eager for your response.

Janet Edwards

Layman article got it wrong

Posted Friday, December 28, 2012

Re: “Congregation votes with feet – leaves the PCUSA” November 2012 issue

You’ve got it wrong! As Layman editor Carmen Fowler LaBerge is well aware, the congregation of the Grosse Pointe Woods Presbyterian Church did not leave the PCUSA. The facts are that a group of members (less than one third) did elect to follow the lead of the senior pastor who abruptly resigned without notice when things were not going his way.

Your quest to disparage the PCUSA and the Woods Church, by inaccurately reporting the facts, is unfair to both the church and the administrative commission of the Detroit Presbytery. This commission provided full opportunity for all church members to express their views over a period of several months. Following this extended period of discernment, which included a number of open forums, the congregation appeared to be equally divided on whether to seek dismissal. The session was also divided on the issue. Your article contains quotes only from session members who decided to leave – you obviously chose not to obtain and report information from session members who stayed.

Early in the process, Ohio attorney Forrest Norman (also chairman and chief executive officer of The Layman) counseled with three session members regarding dismissal from the PCUSA. He met at least once in Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan with the full session; and also had a number of private communications with the senior pastor and a few session members. At considerable expense to the Woods Church, he provided confidential legal advice to certain members of session that was not shared with the full session. At the direction of two or three session members, a secret trust fund was established to divert financial pledge support from the Woods Church – presumably to be available later to those who left.

For many months The Layman has reported, with great editorial satisfaction, a current list of churches that have left the PCUSA. At the same time, The Layman claims to provide reliable information and resources for “renewal within the PCUSA.” To my knowledge, neither LaBerge (Layman president and executive editor) nor Norman (Layman chairman and chief executive officer) has any connection whatsoever with the PCUSA. In fact, LaBerge publicly set aside her PCUSA ordination two years ago and Norman led his Hudson, Ohio church to leave the PCUSA more than five years ago.

Would not their time and energy (and that of the Layman) be better spent by simply promoting the organizations they now support rather than casting aspersions at the denomination they left years ago?

Frank K. Zinn, elder

Grosse Pointe Woods Presbyterian Church

‘Let us resist putting a stamp of approval on any sin’

Posted Wednesday, December 5, 2012

In the referenced Scripture (Mark 10:1-12) as Janet explains, Jesus did respond to a question about divorce. In His response He specifically talked about a divorce between a man and a woman. But as Janet suggests, in His silence does or did He give His tacit approval then of same-sex unions? If so does that also mean in His silence, He also approves all unions including that of an adult/child; or, adults with more than one partner, etc.?

We are made in His image and we are to reflect His glory. When we do not, we engage in idolatry — plain and simple. He did not make us to be liars, thieves, adulterers nor homosexuals. We only become liars, thieves, etc. when we engage in those acts. If I am a thief or adulterer and attribute my sins to God “because He made me this way,” then I am also liar. We are however, called to love all sinners including homosexuals.

By His grace, by the power of His spirit, we do not have to sin. Accordingly, let us resist putting a stamp of approval on any sin, even if it is politically and culturally acceptable. Instead, let us be about praying for the redemption of all sinners versus indulging their behavior … including our own.

Bill Cashdollar

Algonquin language different from the Wampanoag language

Posted Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I read your article with interest. I am not Indian but my wife is. I see many discrepancies between the truth she has spoken about the history of her people in Massachusetts and some of the comments I read here. I don’t think she would agree that the dialect of the Algonquin language was only spoken until the 17th century. Her great grandmother, who helped to raise her, spoke the language into the 20th century. The Indians like the Irish had to speak their language far from the public ear because it was proscribed by the government. From what I have learned about their history, the Christian natives worked on the translation and printing of the Bible. It was not a strictly English production. With the advent of Indian gaming there are a lot of people about the land weaving a false narrative about who the natives of Massachusetts are and were.

Good article none the less.

We are Christian, she is much more devout than I.

Paul Morceau

A subtle contradiction between Edwards’ interpretations of the various passages

Posted Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I would like to offer a critique of Edwards’ exegesis for seeing a blessing of same-sex marriage in Scripture (letters of September 19 and November 28). There is a subtle contradiction between her interpretations of the various passages.

The verses in Paul are assumed to be only directed toward “exploitation of others” and therefore do not apply to the loving, committed relationships we see today. This interpretation is based on the assumption that the only loving, committed relationships in the first century could have been traditional man-woman marriages, and that Paul could not have even imagined our situation today. Or as Edwards put it in her letter of September 19, “marriage between a man and a woman was simply all anyone knew at that time.”

But now we learn that David and Jonathan also had a loving, committed relationship (marriage?).

Rev. Edwards says as much:

“If you take the love story between David and Jonathan as a life-long covenant (as David takes it to be, caring for Jonathan’s son in accord with his promise), then there are, indeed, grounds for permission of same-sex marriage in Scripture.”

Here is the point of contradiction: Jesus and Paul would surely have read of the relationship of David and Jonathan in 1 and 2 Samuel. If they understood it as Edwards does, then marriage between a man and a woman was NOT “all anyone knew at that time.” Paul would have been aware of a Biblical loving, committed same-sex relationship and could have distinguished it from the exploitative relationships of his contemporary Greco-Roman culture.

If Edwards’ interpretation of 1 and 2 Samuel is correct, then her interpretation of Paul must be wrong.

David Clark

Are we trying to follow a script or formula, or trying to follow the Spirit?

Posted Tuesday, December 4, 2012

I appreciate the efforts of you-all to call Presbyterians back to the faith of their fathers and keep all (who care) informed about the tribulations being experienced by the faithful. Your efforts give specifics to pray about. Thank you.

I usually read only your paper’s news-reports. However, this month, I also read your “Equipping…” column. I was surprised to discover an Arminian statement in Week III, “A response is necessary” (in regard to the insufficiency of Christ’s atonement sacrifice). Having grown-up in Methodist churches, this belief is very familiar to me. However, it contradicts your introductory statement, “We have sinned and God alone can fix our sin problem”. Moreover, some “Berean” investigation reveals it to contradict many Scriptures, including:

  1. 2 Th 2:13 … God chose you from the beginning for salvation…”
  2. Eph 1:4 “…He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world…”
  3. Rom 11:7 …the chosen obtained [salvation], while the rest were hardened.”
  4. Rev 17:14 “…the [ones] with Him [are the] called and chosen and faithful.”
  5. Mk 13:27 “…He will gather together His chosen, from the four winds… earth… heaven”
  6. Rom 9:11 “… in order that the purpose of God according to election might abide, not from out of works, but from out of Him calling…”
  7. Rom 5:9 “….having now been justified in the blood of Him, we shall be saved… from the wrath.”
  8. Rom 5:10 “… we were reconciled to God by-means-of the death of His Son… having been reconciled, we shall be saved in the life of Him.
  9. Rom 8:30 “… Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called. Moreover, whom He called, these He also justified. Moreover whom He justified, these He also glorified.”
  10. 1 Cor 6:11 “… but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord of us, Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of the God of us.
  11. Mt 1:21 “… He will save His people from their sins.”
  12. Jn 6:37 “All that the Father gives to Me will come towards Me…”
  13. Jn 6:39 “… all that He has given to Me, I should lose nothing from out of it, but will-re-stand-it-up in the last day.
  14. Jn 6:44 “No one is able to come toward me unless the Father… should draw (GRK: chose-to-drag) him,”.
  15. Eph 2:8-9 “For by grace you are having-been-saved-once, by-means-of faith ; and this, not from-out-of you, [it is] the gift of God; not from-out-of works, in-order-that not any should-boast.”
  16. 2 Tim 3:16 “All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable towards teaching, towards reproof, towards correction, towards training in righteousness.”

If every God-breathed declaration is true, and will never contradict itself, any theory, hypothesis, pronouncement, exhortation, doctrine, confession, interpretation or translation that seems to contradict any Scripture should be closely examined for errors. Two popular “Christian” doctrines appear to fall into this category:

  1. Christ died for everybody: If Christ died in order to justify and reconcile all sinners to God, and if all mankind are sinners, then all mankind has been justified and reconciled to God. Accordingly, all enmity between God and all mankind has been erased; and there is no wrath to come against anyone.
  2. My salvation requires accepting the free gift of salvation and accepting Jesus into my life. If only those whom the Father has drawn/dragged and enabled can come to Jesus, and all that the Father has given to Jesus will come to Jesus…of whom He will not lose even one… then only those whom the Father has given, dragged and enabled will be saved. This is all the work of God; nothing more is required from me… and nothing that I do will ever be a cause for any boasting.

The following seems closer to the truth

  1. Jesus died to save His people.
  2. His people are those chosen and given to Him by the Father.
  3. God does whatever is required to redeem, justify, reconcile, rebirth, save, and sanctify all whom He has chosen to so grace.
  4. Any acceptance, surrender, good works, right conduct, right belief or helpful association is the result of God’s work on my behalf (not a requirement for my salvation).

Lastly, your use of the term “post-modern person” sounds very seminarian. However, I failed to see any definition. Moreover, I doubt that any definition changes anything fundamental, since all people have been born into sin, are infected and enslaved in sin, are spiritually dead, with eyes that can’t see, ears that can’t hear and hearts that can’t understand… until God (miraculously) enables whatever is required, to occur… to rebirth them… according to His plan, His time, His way, sometimes assisted by His servants, chosen, called and equipped with whatever words and actions that He has given to them, in order to accomplish His will.

We all would be wise to ask, “Are we trying to follow a script or formula, or trying to follow the Spirit?”

Alan Lietzke

A clarification

Posted Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Just wanted to make one clarification in your statement about the realignment of the Presbyterian, that is, its deviation from Biblical truth, which included “Anglicans and Lutherans.” As a former Presbyterian and now a Missouri Synod Lutheran I can say that the difference between ELCA and MS Lutherans is as stark as night and day. Please do not group MS Lutherans with the ELCA.

Sharon Kientz

Carson City, NV

Traditional paradoxes are no longer allowed in an educated world.

Posted Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I think you are doing a great job, but there is a problem with today’s people that is going to require a little work to overcome.

The reason I am a Christian is that God spoke a few words to me when I was in my twenties. (Nothing since that time, and I am grateful for that.) No amount of proselytizing could have brought me into the fold because I come from a background of computer programming and logic is the basis of what I decide is true or false.

I had the false assumption that the Bible and logic were incompatible. It turns out that old school science and religion are incompatible.

My hobby is the study of reality. Not the far out stuff, but things that spring from quantum mechanics and university consciousness studies. Modern science has swung 180 degrees and is now totally compatible with the Bible. This includes Darwin’s evolution which has been debunked logically via the Cambrian explosion and philosophically via genetic programming. Adaptation still holds true, but that is not in conflict with Biblical thought. And, if you were wondering, there is not a problem with the Earth being millions of years old to science and thousands of years old to the Bible. If you view this world as a simulation with a history, like ‘Doom’ or ‘World of Warcraft’, you can understand how you don’t start the game at the beginning of its history. You start it where things get interesting. Anyway, I digress.

The problem is with religion, not the Bible. When you wrote, “God created humanity in perfection, but through our own will we have chosen to go our own way, and that is what led us into the mess we’re in,” the alarm bells go off. We have a choice alright. Either God knew what man was going to do or He didn’t. Thus, He either was oblivious to the future or He consciously created a creature destined to sin. Can you see the paradox here?

I choose to read the Bible at face value which includes tongue in cheek humor. He put the trees of knowledge and life in the middle of the garden. Now was that temptation or what? And, hey, Jesus was already there, right? The holes in His hands might be a hint as to what was going to happen. Come on! The Genesis story is the story of how God set it up so man’s soul could be forged into a brother of Christ. Of course man was going to fall. He had to fall in order for Christ to lift him to heights beyond imagination. And, regrettably, some of us aren’t going to make it. This is a high stakes game.

So, in conclusion, if we want to reach people, religion is going to have to change. Not toward the liberal death spiral, but toward reading and understanding the Bible within the boundaries of common sense.

Traditional paradoxes are no longer allowed in an educated world.

Marvin Daugherty

Pastor responds to Covenant Network article

Posted Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Covenant Network ran an article describing the Synods ruling that our union presbytery was found illegal. My response to the Covenant Network:

As one of the authors of this union plan this decision of the PJC is disappointing. Our honest desire was to keep our presbytery together even as we acknowledged deep differences in our understanding of the gospel, Scripture, and ministry. St. Andrews Church and all who signed the complaint have successfully killed any attempt in our presbytery to work together and even remain together. We in the evangelical side grieve this even as we acknowledge its reality and turn to take another course. It has become radiantly clear to evangelicals that in spite of liberal claims of inclusivity we are welcome only when and if we submit to their values and rules. It is thus clear that the Presbyterian tent is not really as big or inclusive as some would like to believe.

What is perhaps most frustrating is the inaccuracies found in both the complaint and judgement of the PJC. They ruled in article three that ECO requires members to agree with its list of essential tenets. The FACT is that ECO has no such requirement or rule. It is impossible at this point to determine if St. Andrews and the PJC are merely ignorant of this fact or chose instead to replace it with an untrue caricature.

Just wanting to keep you all informed. Thanks!

Mark R. Patterson, pastor

Community Presbyterian Church, Ventura, Calif

GA and many presbyteries effectively left the Presbyterian church years ago

Posted Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It is abundantly clear that congregations are not leaving the PCUSA … as The General Assembly and many presbyteries effectively left the Presbyterian Church years ago.

It’s the clear intent that PCUSA has one thing in mind to confiscate property as they continue with their actions to move away from Gods teachings!

Larry E. May

Winston Salem N.C.

Those who disagree with you are equally followers of Jesus

Posted Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thank you for this opportunity to respond to the comments and questions in Joe Duffus’ letter posted on Oct. 24, 2012.

At the start it is important to me to clarify that Joe’s summary of what I was addressing is different from my intent. He describes the differences I was speaking to as “a disconnect over the understanding of Jesus’ word as law.” That is a very important topic in the church, of course. However, what I had in my mind and meant to talk about was the PCUSA Book of Order in its function as law in the church, not the much larger Law of God. I am sorry I was unclear.

My intent was to say that our Book of Order actually permits what it does not prohibit. I expect Joe Duffus and I agree that our church wants our Book of Order to be in accord with Scripture. In that sense, I acknowledge Joe’s point and assert that with Scripture, too, what is not prohibited is permitted since this is how there is space through history for the Holy Spirit to do God’s promised “new thing.”

This begins to explain how I can understand Scripture to permit same-sex marriage as there is simply no prohibition of faithful, covenantal loving relationships between two men or two women in the Bible. If you take the love story between David and Jonathan as a life-long covenant (as David takes it to be, caring for Jonathan’s son in accord with his promise), then there are, indeed, grounds for permission of same-sex marriage in Scripture.

There is, in the Bible, prohibition against rape (Genesis 19, Jude 1), of sexual acts in religious ritual (Leviticus 18, 20), sexual exploitation of others (Deuteronomy 23, 1 Corinthians, 1 Timothy), and debauchery (Romans 1). I trust your readers and I can agree that there are prohibitions in both Scripture and Presbyterian law against these sins. None of these prohibit the covenant of two men or two women before God and the church or to “love til death” that we all recognize as marriage.

Let me try to answer Joe’s crucial question concerning Mark 10:6-9 and Genesis 2:23-24: How can Jesus’ words in Mark 10:6-9 be consistent with an argument that gay marriage was part of God’s plan? Or, Joe puts it another way: Why would Jesus say, “But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,” if He meant only to address the Pharisees test question about divorce.

For me, what Jesus was doing by reminding His listeners, including us, of God’s pairing in Genesis is set up His punch line regarding divorce, the topic at hand: “What therefore God has joined, let no one put asunder.” When the context here is a question about divorce, then all Jesus says is meant to bolster His strong position against divorce—and it all does.

For Jesus, when a man takes a woman as wife, that’s it—they are together. Nothing there goes on to say, “And the only person a man can take is a woman and only a woman.” When we recognize that fidelity is central here and that good, faithful Christians testify to God calling them to marry a person of the same sex, then Jesus is saying to us, “What therefore God has joined, let no one put asunder.” There are simply no grounds in either Genesis or Mark to use these passages as a prohibition against same-sex marriage. To do so invites the charge of eisegesis. And if your readers want to turn the same charge on me, then perhaps we can declare together that Mark is about divorce and find our Biblical evidence for our views on same-sex marriage in other places.

Genesis is about origins. Genesis 1:27-28 and 2:18-25 are about the genesis of the human race. Marriage is not mentioned; it has to be read into it. This means that Genesis is consistent with arguments for same-sex marriage because it has nothing at all to do with either marriage or same-sex marriage.

I forgive Joe for presuming that what I believe is the “Italian” approach to the law (everything is permitted including that which is prohibited). I agree with him that this is what we are experiencing in the PCUSA right now, however, it is not what I like or believe to be good. I consider the “English” approach (everything is permitted except that which is prohibited) to be in accord with the way God desires the law to work among us.

I agree completely with Joe Duffus: “Legalistic shenanigans abound in the PCUSA polity and court system.” I am sure we disagree on perpetrators and desired outcomes. Perhaps we can agree that the “German” approach (everything is prohibited except that which is permitted) has failed, draining the church of precious time and treasure and threatening the cohesion of the PCUSA family.

I hear the pain in Joe Duffus’ cry, “Many here feel the pull of the same Holy Spirit to stand for Jesus’ words and ask why they are ignored.” Joe needs to explain to me how his understanding of Jesus is being ignored. Every Presbyterian has the responsibility to stand for what each understands to be “Jesus’ words” and to speak up for them so that they will not be ignored. My own sense is that insistence upon one’s own way—our read of Jesus’ words is the only possible read—is where our troubles begin.

As far as I know myself, I am not insisting that Joe or any other reader of The Presbyterian Layman adopt my understanding of how to follow Jesus. What I do want is for Layman readers to accept that those who disagree with them are equally followers of Jesus and to stop trying to make lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Presbyterians and followers of Christ out to be the “other” that they can put down, ignore or push aside.

Rev. Dr. Janet Edwards

GAPJC decision is big, bad news

Posted Friday, November 2, 2012

The GAPJC decision in the Tom v. San Francisco Presbytery case is BIG (and BAD) news.

The GAPJC has said that any presbytery dismissal policy that permits dismissal with property upon payment of certain continued per capita or mission giving and that does not ALSO require additional payment of a percentage of the value of the property, is null and void on its face, as written. Louisville’s perception of its own economic interests trump any presbytery-determined definition of “gracious”. So much for those (few) presbyteries that actually were willing to be gracious.

In addition, implicit in the GAPJC’s decision is another draconian holding. Essentially, the GAPJC has also ruled that even if a presbytery’s dismissal policy, as written, includes express mention of the value of the property as a factor to be considered, if an actual dismissal happens not to include exacting a sum as a designated percentage of that value, the presbytery’s dismissal policy will be held invalid as applied.

Also, if the Book of Order is interpreted in the manner that the GAPJC has just ruled, and if presbyteries really don’t have authority under the BOO to craft their own dismissal policies as each presbytery perceives grace demands, then that means that it is ultimately within the power of the PJC to decide what the percentage of the value of the property is that will satisfy the presbytery’s fiduciary responsibility to the PCUSA. 5%? 10%? 25? 50%?

One final observation. The GAPJC’s ruling, that the presbytery’s obligation of fiduciary to the PCUSA demands exacting some percentage of the value of the property as the price for dismissal, stands in SHARP contrast to what had effectively been the PCUSA’s temporary national dismissal policy at the time of the 1983 reunion. Under the Articles of Agreement, if a church had a one-third quorum and a two-thirds vote, dismissal with property was automatic without any payment of any kind being required. If this was deemed proper notwithstanding the existence of the trust clause, and it was, how then can dismissal with no payment of a percentage of the value ( but with continued payment of graduated per capita and mission giving) now be deemed improper? Has the Book of Order changed? No. The only thing that has changed is the increasing financial needs of a dwindling PCUSA—hence the shift in the alleged fiduciary duty of presbyteries. Grace? No. In the eyes of the GAPJC, it’s all about the money. If anybody still had doubts about what is important to the PCUSA, the Tom v. San Francisco Presbytery decision gives an answer. It might well be called the “Show Me the Money” case. Sola Moola.

I agree with Mary Naegeli’s observation that the GAPJC’s decision did not require presbyteries to exact a percentage of the value of the property as a price for dismissal. The GAPJC’s decision only mandates that a written dismissal policy should list the value of the property as something to be considered when the presbytery determines what its fiduciary duties are. This is a technically correct reading of the GAPJC opinion and merits pointing out.

However, the actual text of a judicial opinion and the message received downstream are often not the same. I think that as EPs and administrative commissions and presbyteries receive and “translate” this opinion in implementation in the real world, they will increasingly insist, “to be on the safe side”, that any dismissal be contingent on payment of a percentage of the value of the property—not merely that such be a factor listed in the written dismissal policy. I think this will be a likely effect of this GAPJC opinion—even though the opinion doesn’t technically require this.

In the parsing of what this opinion says or stops short of saying, though, the big picture should stay in the forefront. The fiduciary duties of presbyteries to the PCUSA, on which this entire GAPJC opinion rests, is based on a false predicate — a valid trust to start with. By no stretch of anything remotely resembling basic legal principles or fundamental fairness can a non-owner create a trust for their own benefit over property someone else owns without that owner’s clear consent. And if there is no trust to start with, only the aspirational assertion of a hoped-for trust by the would-be beneficiary, there is no presbytery-trustee. And if there is no legitimate trustee, one does not even reach consideration of what the trustees’ duties are.

Lloyd Lunceford

Baton Rouge, La.

The PCUSA is using coercion to keep disgruntled churches in by holding on to their property

Posted Friday, November 2, 2012

I’ve just returned from a presbytery meeting of my denomination, which is a conservative one in the Presbyterian tradition. In the last four or five years, it has pretty much tripled in size and more churches are knocking on the gates asking to be let in. They are talking about the necessity of splitting the presbytery into at least into two segments because of the increased size. My part would be east of the Mississippi and would include both Tupelo and Memphis, so I suggested they call it the Elvis Presbytery. They didn’t think that was very funny.

Anyway, what I heard repeatedly was that more churches would bail out of the more liberal PCUSA and join us if it wasn’t for the property issue. The PCUSA is using coercion to keep disgruntled churches in by holding on to their property. They use other tactics like firing pastors, dissolving sessions (the elders), changing the locks on church doors, and finally, taking churches to court. Now, it would be helpful if the Lord repeated the Exodus thing and afflicted the PCUSA with 10 plagues – darkness, frogs, boils, etc. until they let His people go. But the Lord doesn’t seem to be into that, so here’s another strategy: passive resistance.

What if conservatives appeared at PCUSA presbytery meetings and General Assemblies and sessions of the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Council and sat in the doorway so no one could enter or leave? Then, they could sing “We Shall Overcome” as the police arrived and struck them with their billy clubs? Hey, it worked for India’s Mahatma Gandhi. His method of nonviolent passive resistance forced the British to give India its independence. Using the same tactics, Dr. Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement caused the passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Wouldn’t it be supremely ironic if conservatives used such tactics to be freed from a liberal denomination that preaches so much about “justice?”

Larry Brown

African Bible College, Currently on home assignment in the USA