Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Monday, November 12, 2007

The New Whiners

The New Whiners is the name selected by our poll for the New Wineskins Association of Churches. I thought it might be of interest to have a little lesson in church property.

The New Whiners is a collection of schismatics that seek to separate or aid congregations in separating from the PCUSA. Fine. They want to take the PCUSA's property with them. Not so fine.

G-8.0000 is the section in the Book of Order that has set the rules for the church and its property. G-8.0600 is the section pertaining to a church in schism. Schism is not my word. It is in the Book of Order. Here is the pertinent passage:

6. Property of Church in Schism
The relationship to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) of a particular church can be severed only by constitutional action on the part of the presbytery. (G-11.0103i) If there is a schism within the membership of a particular church and the presbytery is unable to effect a reconciliation or a division into separate churches within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the presbytery shall determine if one of the factions is entitled to the property because it is identified by the presbytery as the true church within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). This determination does not depend upon which faction received the majority vote within the particular church at the time of the schism.

Folks unfamiliar with the PCUSA might wonder why a congregation does not own its own property. In a congregational system, that is the case. In our system a congregation is a steward of the property. This system protects congregations from ministers and or people who join the church from taking over the church's property.

This is what is happening today. If you read the documents of the New Whiners, you will discover that they think they are too good for the PCUSA. They feel that they are the "true believers." They will provide a variety of reasons why they think that is so. They certainly are entitled to think what they like about themselves.

If you have spent any time in a church you will find people who were not satisfied with their church and decided to break away and join another or to start their own. It happens all of the time. However, when someone decides to leave one congregation for another, they do not get a refund on the money they had donated to the church. They don't get to take "their" pew with them.

The same is true on a larger scale when a congregation (or a group within a congregation, even a large group) is not satisfied with the denomination. They can leave and attend another congregation, start their own, or stay at home. But they cannot take the property with them. It is not theirs. It makes no difference whether they think they have the right views about Jesus, or gays, or whatever.

The presbytery is made up of elders and ministers from the various congregations and ministries within its bounds. The presbytery, as a body, makes the determination in the event of a property issue of which faction represents the PCUSA. The presbytery, on a case by case basis, has the freedom to make some kind of deal. They can...

1) Say so long to the schismatics and work with those members who wish to remain in the PCUSA who will be stewards of the property.
2) Sell the property to the schismatics.
3) Make some kind of deal with the schismatics (ie. grant them the property for some percentage of its value).

The schismatics have no right to the property. None.

The New Whiners know this of course. They try to confuse the issue in two ways:

1) They invent theological mumbo jumbo in attempt to show that they are the "real" Christians and as such deserve the property.
2) They manipulate our congregational intuition to gain sympathy.

Let me explain this second part.
  • Since many Presbyterians are unaware of how the property is managed in the PCUSA, and
  • since many Presbyterians identify with their own congregation rather than the denomination, and
  • since many Presbyterians are often not conscious of the long history both of the denomination and of the congregation they presently attend,
they think that they are the congregation. "We are the present members of this church. It is our church." That is congregational intuition. We intuitively think in terms of congregations.

Of course, it isn't our congregation. People long before we ever arrived established our congregations, built the buildings, and provided the infrastucture (seminaries etc.).

Our polity is set up as it is to protect the witness, to speak for the saints who have passed on, and to look to the future. From what does the church need protection? The answer is wild-eyed preachers who think they are too holy for the rest of the PCUSA. Today's incarnation is The New Wineskins.