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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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When You Think Church Renewal Efforts Aren’t Helping …

Sometimes you just can’t keep a good story to yourself. And this story happens to be a true story about discovering Church renewal efforts are making a difference in unexpected places.

By Chelsen Vicari, Juicy Ecumenism.

On Sunday I invited a young minister of the local Presbyterian Church (USA) and his wife over for supper at Eric’s and my house. The minister’s sweet wife and I developed a little friendship while attending the nearby gym. After a few coffee conversations, I knew they pastored a PCUSA congregation in our small town. I knew the wife was faithful on the topic of marriage and sanctity of life. But I also knew her husband was a 27 year-old PCUSA minister who graduated from a liberal Presbyterian seminary not long ago. I couldn’t help but speculate about his theology.

Before the couple arrived, I told my husband that perhaps, just this once, we should avoid the topics of politics and religion at the table. Between PCUSA and Southern Baptists and Trump and Clinton, who knew where the conversation might lead? Besides, my purpose for hosting the dinner was to show hospitality to my newfound friend and her husband, not to grill the PCUSA minister on his theology.

Of course religion came up and I’m glad it did.

Carmen Fowler LaBerge

Carmen Fowler LaBerge

The “what do you do” question popped up while we sipped our tea. So I carefully explained the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) seeks to strengthen Christians’ witness in the Public Square, advocate for the Persecuted church abroad, and further renewal efforts in the dwindling oldline Protestant denominations. (No, there isn’t a delicate way to put it.)

The young minister nodded his head and then expressed concerns over the continued decline of PCUSA membership and unorthodox leadership decisions. As the IRD reported, the PCUSA lost 50 congregations since the denomination redefined marriage at General Assembly 2014, as well as 209 congregations total between 2013-2014. IRD President Mark Tooley noted the PCUSA lost 89,296 members in 2013 and 102,791 members in 2012.

“Do you know Carmen Fowler Laberge?” the young Presbyterian pastor asked me. Yes, I told him. Fowler Laberge is a friend and colleague within the renewal movement. She not only serves as President of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, but hosts The Reconnect, a podcast show tackling culture from a Biblical worldview. For the young pastor, Carmen’s voice is an encouragement to hear as he struggles with the frustrating decision of his denomination’s leadership. Her voice reminds him he is not the lone orthodox Presbyterian within the PCUSA. Her efforts encourage him to carry on and he asked me to thank her and offered to his gratitude to me and the IRD.

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Fifty Years with The Confession of 1967: Little Reason to Celebrate

c 67When the 222nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) – called “GA” – meets in Portland, Ore.,  it will consider literally hundreds of items of business.  The high profile items (typically related to morals or politics) will be reported by the national media and on this web site.  Included in the GA’s packed agenda are several events recognizing the 50th anniversary of the Confession of 1967.  These are unlikely to get much attention by the national media, but will be celebrated often by the 594 commissioners and the 198 advisory delegates to the assembly who report their experiences in their home presbyteries and local churches.  The advance synopses of these events suggest they will treat C-67, as the Confession of 1967 is often called, quite favorably.  Nonetheless, history shows there is little reason to celebrate.

C-67 was written in response to an action begun in 1958 to produce a statement of faith that would update the Westminster Shorter Catechism into contemporary language.  The committee instead wrote a totally new statement that varied from the Westminster Shorter Catechism.  Their report was first presented to GA in 1965 but took its name from the year in which it was adopted.

Adopted by both of the pre-reunion branches of the PCUSA, C-67 was billed as a “modern statement of faith” and was eventually adopted by an overwhelming majority of the presbyteries.  Even so, it was not without controversy then and it ushered in an extended unbroken period of membership losses that have now seen the departure of about 63 percent of PCUSA membership.

Most notable among the controversies in C-67 was a statement that reflected a broad departure of the Presbyterian understanding of the authority of Scripture.  A key was this statement from C-67:

“The Bible is to be interpreted in the light of its witness to God’s work of reconciliation in Christ. The Scriptures, given under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, are nevertheless the words of men, conditioned by the language, thought forms, and literary fashions of the places and times at which they were written. They reflect views of life, history, and the cosmos which were then current. The church, therefore, has an obligation to approach the Scriptures with literary and historical understanding. As God has spoken his word in diverse cultural situations, the church is confident that he will continue to speak through the Scriptures in a changing world and in every form of human culture.”  [Book of Confessions 9.29, emphasis added]

That statement stands in stark contrast with the words throughout the Bible attesting to a much higher authority of scripture.  These statements may be found throughout Scripture – one theologian listed forty-seven such references – but consider these two key statements about what the Bible says about the authority of Holy Scripture:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” [2 Timothy 3:16-17, NIV]

“Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” [2 Peter 1:20-21, NIV]

By saying Scripture was “the words of men,” C-67 opened the door for other people to redefine Scripture – even when its meaning was crystal clear – to other meanings that better fit their agenda.

“C-67 was the first step of many in a departure from the historical standards of the Presbyterian Church (USA) as expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith, said Matthew A. Johnson, chair of the board of the Presbyterian Lay Committee (PLC). “It took the denomination from relying on Scripture as its source of authority to everyone doing what was right in his own eyes.

In fact, the PLC was begun over this controversy.  We said then that this statement in C-67 was not consistent with Holy Scripture and was blasphemous.  We said then that this outright disobedience to God’s teachings would bring punishment upon our denomination and we called for repentance and reform.  We have not ceased our prayers that reform would come and we urge all Presbyterians to pray that the upcoming GA will truly mark the beginning of that new reformation.

pcusa-membership-declineIt is an historical fact that the pre-reunion denominations of the Presbyterian Church (USA), which experienced numerical growth each year from 1960 to 1965, have never seen a year of positive growth since!  The total membership of the pre-reunion PCUSA, which stood at 4,158,127 in 1965 is now 1,572,660 and the rate of loss has accelerated since 2012 when the ordination standards and the definition of marriage were changed.  Projections indicate that in about 2024, the PCUSA membership will drop below 1-million members.

pcusa-pct-lossObviously it cannot be proven that the continuing five decades of membership losses can be attributed solely to C-67.  PCUSA officials, including most local pastors, cite a myriad of other reasons that range from the local economy and a general malaise in society about religion.  The early church, however, viewed numerical growth as a sign of God’s approval of their work. (See Acts 11:21).

A well-known Presbyterian theologian once remarked that a dying organization will say yes to anything in a futile attempt to save itself.  That’s how we, at the Presbyterian Lay Committee view many of the controversial actions of recent GA’s and we caution that the upcoming GA may be no exception.

We need to pray for the commissioners to the 222nd GA and for our denomination and its leaders at all levels.  We need to be concerned, as we may have a rough road ahead.

________________

Suggested further references:

Read John 10:22-42, esp. 34-39.  “Scripture cannot be set aside,” (v.35)

Check this web site for regular updates from the General Assembly

For a current example of efforts to further “amend” Scripture, look up http://tinyurl.com/zovxtuv or http://tinyurl.com/p28dsg5

Robert B. Fish has served as a board member of the Presbyterian Lay Committee since 1994.  He served as clerk of session, a member of his presbytery’s General Council and its Permanent Judicial Commission and he was a commissioner to the 202nd General Assembly (1990).

 

 

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In Memory of Ray A.M. Jones, Director of the Presbyterian Lay Committee

Jones, Ray

Ray Jones

The Presbyterian Lay Committee offers its thanks to God for the life and Christian witness of our colleague Ray Jones, who departed from this life into eternal life on February 29. 

Ray was an amazing and wonderful person and a blessing to all who knew him. 

His entire life reflected his love for his Lord and his family and his service to his country.  Following college, he served six years active duty in the Air Force in Latin America and 15 years in the Kansas Air National Guard.  He worked as area manager for the National Disaster Medical System, providing disaster preparedness for the areas of Kansas City and Wichita, Kansas.  During his career, he was part of a federal team who were called upon to coordinate medical care for numerous serious disasters in the continental United States and territories. 

He was a loving husband, father and grandfather, being survived by his wife, Kay, daughter Susan and her husband Mark Keene, and three grandchildren.

He was a linguist, who was fluent in Spanish and also spoke French, Italian, Portuguese and some Dutch and he read Arabic.  He practiced his faith and kept his language skills sharp by reading through the Bible in various languages. 

Ray and his wife Kay were both strong supporters of their church mission program, taking annual overseas mission trips, often to Latin America.  He could be found frequently on social media, sending encouragement to those he had met through that outreach.

As a ruling elder at Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Wichita and Colonial Presbyterian Church in Kansas City before that, he grieved at the loss of respect for the truth of Scripture and he readily embraced the decision at Eastminster to transfer its affiliation from the Presbyterian Church (USA) to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

In 1998, he accepted a call from The Presbyterian Lay Committee to become a member of its national Board of Directors, a role in which he served with distinction ever since. 

In March, 2005, Ray wrote the following prayer that was published in The Presbyterian Layman:

A prayer for God’s healing…

Heavenly Father, with open hearts we kneel to worship you, asking forgiveness for the things we do that are not pleasing to you. Forgive us our doubts and hurtful attitudes in these times of division in our world, our nation, and our denomination. Forgive us for mistrusting your power over the evil that plots against us in dark places of the world. Thank you for the infinite and healing love of your Son, Jesus Christ, that surrounds and encourages us. May your Holy Spirit strengthen and guide us to truly love one another as we work toward reconciliation and peace wherever it is needed. Grant us wisdom to lovingly speak your truth with grace. Turn our hearts and thoughts to you as we work toward healing within our denomination. We pray that as sisters and brothers we might be united again in sharing Jesus Christ throughout the world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

***

Rest in God’s loving hands, dear friend.

Read the obituary for Raymond (Ray) Jones.

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Merry Christmas from the PLC

Christmas tree cross and manger with scripture

Merry Christmas

from the 

Presbyterian Lay Committee

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PLC offers new resource to help church elders in communicating with the congregation

stay or goThe Presbyterian Lay Committee has a new resource posted on its web site The Layman “designed to describe the challenges faced by theologically centrist congregations who continue to adhere to the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as expressed in the Confessions of the Church but which are no longer lived out in some of the policies and practices of the Presbyterian Church (USA).” It is also available in Spanish.

In the preamble, Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, writes:

This resource is designed for Elders and other church leaders who need materials that can be adapted for use in their own setting. What is offered here is a resource that is designed to describe the challenges faced by theologically centrist congregations who continue to adhere to the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as expressed in the Confessions of the Church but which are no longer lived out in some of the policies and practices of the Presbyterian Church (USA). The document speaks in the first person from the perspective of a local church session that is seeking to describe the situation to members of the congregation.

The reader is reminded that the discernment process is spiritual. This is not a battle against flesh and blood but a battle for the witness and mission of the local church whom God has called and sent. The particular denomination with whom a local congregation feely associates provides either support for, or the stifling of:

  • the proclamation of the Gospel for the salvation of humankind,
  • God-honoring, Word centered Worship,
  • Biblically faithful discipleship,
  • the spiritual nurture and fellowship of the people of God, and
  • opportunities for shared mission in the world.

Is the denomination of which you are a part assisting you in advancing these Great Ends of the Church in ways that glorify God and edify God’s people?  If not, what is your denomination doing?

As representatives of Christ in the world today, Christians are called and sent to bear faithful witness to the character of God.  We learn to recognize the authentic character of God through His Word and Spirit. So, as we evaluate the ideas advocated by a particular denomination we must ask, “Are they bearing honest witness to the character of God as revealed in the Bible?”

  • Is the advocacy of the denomination (through statements, personnel, offices in Washington, seminary education, General Assembly actions, conferences, etc) aligned with the revealed will of God in the Old and New Testaments?
  • Does it bring glory to God and does it build up the Church into her calling as the pure, unblemished holy Bride of Christ?
  • If the ideas being advanced and advocated are not aligned with the Word of God, then what voices or what spirit is the denomination submitting itself to?

The answers to those questions will determine the course that must be taken; whatever the cost.

This resource is available in Spanish. No rights are reserved by the author nor the original publisher of the resource.

Carmen Fowler LaBerge, Layman.org

The entire resource is available by clicking here

Spanish translation available here.

It can also be found on The Layman’s PCUSA discernment resources page.

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Religious liberty activist: Supreme Court decision paves way for legalized polygamy

By David M. Drucker, The Washington Examiner.

carmen photo

Carmen Fowler LaBerge

Carmen Fowler LaBerge practically predicted the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

Back in September, the religious liberty activist and leader of the Presbyterian Lay Committee said bluntly that social conservatives were losing the debate over marriage to advocates of government-sanctioned same-sex unions. On Monday, the Washington Examiner reconnected with Fowler LaBerge to get her thoughts on the Supreme Court ruling and what comes next for Americans unhappy with the outcome.

Her message to them: It’s going to get a whole lot worse, possibly for years, before it gets better. Fowler LaBerge, married to husband Jim LaBerge since 2011, lives near Nashville.

Examiner: You said when we last talked that your side was losing the debate. Are you surprised that, less than a year later, same sex marriage is the law of the land?

Fowler LaBerge: What surprises me is maybe not even the Supreme Court’s ruling but the level of social, political celebration, as if it was an overwhelming majority of the court. Seeing the White House used as a piece of propaganda as if this is now universally understood as our public policy, that is probably what surprises me the most, the willingness of huge sectors of the media and the population to be fully coopted by one side of the conversation.

Examiner: What did you think of the legal reasoning the majority used in reaching its decision?

Fowler LaBerge: The reasoning given now opens the possibility of those who are interested in polygamous or poly-amorous marriage. There is nothing in the decision that would now prevent the argument being made that polygamous or poly-amorous relationships ought not also be available to all citizens of the United States.

Read more of the interview.

Read Part 2 of the interview ‘Religious liberty activist: Refusing service to gay weddings ‘complicated” here.

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Carmen interviewed by two radio programs concerning PCUSA marriage decision

Listen-Now-Button110Carmen Fowler LaBerge was the special guest on two different radio shows on April 2, 2015. Click the links below to listen to the programs.

 

“What do members of the PCUSA do now that The Book of Order has blessed same-sex marriage in the Presbyterian Church (USA)?”
Carmen Fowler LaBerge – president, Presbyterian Lay Committee with host Molly Smith

 

There’s a lot of history behind the PC(USA)’s recent decision to redefine marriage in its church constitution. Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, explains how the denomination got to this place and what the remaining faithful in the denomination should do next.

 

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PLC offers marriage resources to concerned Presbyterians

marriage resources 2 become 1 - smallerSince the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s approval of Amendment 14F on March 17, the offices of the Presbyterian Lay Committee (PLC) have received numerous calls for help from pastors, elders and church members.

In response the PLC has created a “PCUSA Marriage Resources” page on its web site, The Layman Online.

The approval of Amendment 14F by a majority of PCUSA presbyteries s ratified the decision of the 2014 General Assembly to change the definition of marriage from between “a man and a woman” to “between two persons, traditionally a man and a woman,” thereby expanding same-sex marriages in the PCUSA beyond what is currently allowed through the Authoritative Interpretation (AI) issued by the same assembly. That AI already allows ministers in states where same sex marriage, to officiate at weddings for same sex couples.

In an article posted on the resource page, PLC President Carmen Fowler LaBerge wrote that “Almost immediately after the 86th affirmative vote was cast and the language related to marriage was formally amended in theBook of Orderthe phone started ringing. I have now heard from more than a dozen pastors who received reassuring calls from presbytery representatives saying essentially, ‘Don’t worry, we know you don’t believe in same-sex marriage and we’re not going to make you perform them.’”

The very fact that these pastors were even receiving such a call, she said “is an indication that these pastors have been identified by their presbyteries as ‘oppositional’ on this issue. Some Presbyterian Church (USA) pastors have wondered aloud what they can do to further protect themselves and their local church from the demand to perform a same-sex wedding.”

The PLC’s marriage resources page is an attempt provide the resources needed by churches to navigate through the changing landscape of both the PCUSA and the nation as marriage laws are being amended in many states throughout the country. The page will be updated frequently as new resources are made available.

Currently, the resource page includes a video from LaBerge, sample resolutions for church members and sessions in support of traditional marriage and articles, commentary and analysis on the issue.

The page can be accessed through this link.

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Carmen to speak at Dalton church on April 12

carmen photo

Carmen Fowler LaBerge

Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, will be speaking at Christ Church Presbyterian in Dalton, Ga., on April 12.

During the 10:30 a.m. worship service, her sermon, based in First Corinthians 15:1-8, is titled  “Resurrected Living: There He is again!”

The church is located at 510 South Tibbs Road in Dalton.

Friends of the PLC who live in or near Dalton (1.5 hours from Atlanta and 30 minutes from Chattanooga) are invited join Carmen for worship and the Q&A luncheon at Christ Church Presbyterian.

 

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