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, January 21, 2008

Christ and His Love (for heteros that is)...

The Layman reports that the largest church in Pittsburgh Presbytery has voted to leave the PCUSA and join the EPC. Here is an article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

The minister, Rev. D. Dean Weaver, named a bunch of theological trivia for its decision:
"The Evangelical Presbyterian Church has uniform ordinations standards across the board that say a person must believe in Jesus Christ as the only way, the only truth, and the only light; the bodily resurrection of Christ; the Bible as God's word; the historic doctrine of the Christian church," Weaver said. "We wanted to be in a denomination that was bold in its proclamation of that, unapologetic."
The keeper is of course, The Gay:
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is among several Protestant denominations embroiled in a bitter debate over what role gays should have in their churches. The national church's highest court ruled in 2000 that Presbyterian churches may bless same-sex unions as long as they don't equate the relationships with marriage.

"We consider those kind of issues to be secondary," Weaver said. "We're about proclaiming Christ and his love."

Yes, Christ and his love. Unless you are gay. Then no love for you.

37 comments:

  1. So yet another congregation decides that they do not want to examine their faith, to understand what the REAL meaning of their faith is, but prefer to not have to think, and just be told exactly, to the letter, what they need to do, and no more, to ensure their salvation. Do these folks not realize that they have been blessed with brains bestowed upon them with which to examine their faith so that they can fully appreciate it?

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  2. This is so sad. I recently was corresponding with a clergy person from a denomination not my own, he is however like me, fairly liberal.

    He was saying that one of his closest friends is so theologically conservative and that gays are a big issue between them.

    However, they have decided that to walk together in what they do share, might shed light on what they do not share and what they do share is a love of God.

    Then I saw atthis cartoon at my friend Grandmere Mimi's blog. She is an Episcopalian and they too have their share of issues due to gay clergy and more.

    Recently I had gotten into a bit of a comment war with someone who was very super conservative in her faith. It started out innocently enough, as it often does but got heated. I went to her blog and left a comment saying (all quite out of character for me so grace is the only answer there) that if we both loved God, could we find a way.

    I am happy to report we are communicating regularly and disagreeing without being insane about it.

    Lastly someone I know posted this on her church blog. Said person, whoever she is, seems to view disagreement as an invitation. She is a curious one indeed... What can I say?

    All this said- all He seemingly has asked us is to love Him and to love neighbor as ourself. To forgive and to be forgiven.

    Is that so hard? Don't answer that.

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  3. Again, I point out the irony that churches leaving the PC(USA) in the name of "consistent" ordination standards are NOT going to the historic conservative splinters, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC, which split from the northern church in the 1920s over the Five Fundamentals) or the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA, which split from the southern church in the 1970s over the PCUS' ordination of women and support of the civil rights movement). They are instead going to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC, which splintered off from the northern church in the final days before the old northern and southern churches reunited to form our PC(USA)).

    The reason is simple. The OPC and PCA take hardline stances against the ordination of women to ministry and leadership and claim it's an issue of Biblical authority. The EPC did not join their OPC brethren because they weren't comfortable with the more conservative leanings, and the current Wineskins crowd wants their ordained women to be able to continue their ministries. In order to do so, the EPC has a system of "discernment" in which local presbyteries can determine whether or not to allow exceptions to the ban on women in the pulpit.

    What was it some dude once said about the plank in your own eye and the speck in the other's?

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  4. As a member of the Memorial Park Church in Pittsburgh, I think many in the congregation would be shocked to learn that we are perceived as anti gay since the subject has, quite frankly, not been brought up. Dean Weaver's comment on ordination standards is about this line: "standards across the board that say a person must believe in Jesus Christ as the only way, the only truth, and the only light;"

    The argument with the PC denomination has to do with the role of Jesus Christ and not the gay community. Do you believe that Jesus loves gay people? – I do.

    If the governing body of Memorial Park Church were to be forced to hire pastors that preach Jesus is just one of many paths to enlightenment, rather than the teachings of Christ alone, then it would simplhy cease to be a Christian Church.

    Somehow I doubt a split to join the Unitarian community would raise any eyebrows.

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  5. Well, I am very saddened by your presumption that this church, MPC, is leaving because of anything having to do with homosexuality. Where, in any of their statements, do you see anything remotely hateful or biased???

    It is unfair to paint a church you are completely unfamiliar with this way. You have no idea who we are or what we've been through to make this decision. Yes--I too am a member of that church, as well as an employee. Though there is no such thing as a perfect church, I can assure you that I would not be so closely connected with a congregation that was hateful to anyone.

    As far as our love for homosexuals goes: again,you have no personal connection with the church, so how could you possibly know how we treat them? In fact, I have a friend who was part of that lifestyle for many years, until recently. Invited by another friend to attend a service, this person is now a member of our church. This person was understandably initially apprehensive about joining in, but has found Christ here, among friends--who did not judge or shun, but welcomed.

    Please consider that you are speaking in a hurtful way about brothers and sisters in Christ, who are doing their best to live lives pleasing to Him, just as you are. We are not perfect, but we are trying to follow Him. Our path may look different than what He calls you to, but that doesn't make us bigots, stupid, blind, or unthinking.

    We don't look down our noses at those who made a different choice from us; and I think we deserve the same courtesy.

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  6. J.M. Richards writes:
    As far as our love for homosexuals goes: again,you have no personal connection with the church, so how could you possibly know how we treat them?
    Love of homosexuals....we treat them?? Them? I love and accept human beings, not "whites", "blacks", "homosexuals", "hispanics", "asians", and even them there "heterosexuals".

    In fact, I have a friend who was part of that lifestyle for many years, until recently. Invited by another friend to attend a service, this person is now a member of our church.
    WAS part of that LIFESTYLE? Let me guess, he was saved? Being homosexual is not a "choice". If it was, one would simply not choose to follow a "lifestyle" and be faced with such hatred and discrimination.

    In conclusion, thank you for the generous tagging of "THEM homosexuals" in your church. By the way, what tag do you wear?

    In your last line you talk about "brothers and sisters in Christ", and that I agree with you on. We are all just that, brothers and sisters in Christ - no tags.

    Here's to wishing for peace for unconditional acceptance of all of God's children.

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  7. pgh_girl and j.m. richards:

    Welcome! You are right. I do not know your congregation. I am sure you are wonderful people. I am sure you are sincere in what you believe. Further, I am sure that you do a multitude of good things for those who come through your doors and for the city of Pittsburgh. I sincerely believe that. As Fran pointed out with her link, I am positive that we all have much more that unites us than unties us.

    Since your congregation voted to leave the PC(USA), then it appears that you would rather be untied than united with the other 10,000 plus congregations in the PC(USA).

    Your pastor, whom I do not know personally, just from public reports, is the co-moderator of The New Wineskins Association of Churches.

    Obviously, there is a laundry list of complaints the NWAC has against the other 10,000 plus congregations. Complaints so huge, that many congregations, including yours, cannot be affiliated with the rest of us.

    According to Wikipedia, at the top of the list of complaints is written:

    "Reasons for the discontent leading to this possible separation include, but are not limited to: 1) general discontent with the PC(USA)'s decisions on issues such as homosexuality and abortion..."

    Not only is homosexuality an issue, it is number one on the list! If neither of you is aware of this, perhaps you don't know why you are leaving.

    Love. What is it? One way a congregation might love a person who is in a loving relationship with the person of the same gender is to try to get them to stop. Love them into being straight. And if it is a guy, try to help him break up with his partner and find a nice girl or live alone.


    Another way to express love is to bless relationships officially (ie. holy unions and/or marriages), welcome gay couples as full members including ordination to all ministries of the church, work for justice and dignity for sexual minorities in church and in culture.

    It depends upon what you call love, I suppose.

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  8. pgh_girl, one of your statements is misleading and IMO a result of the PC(USA)'s historic weakness in educating the membership about what it means to be Presbyterian, and demagoguery from leaders in the New Wineskins and similar movements to (again, IMO) enhance their denomination power.

    If the governing body of Memorial Park Church were to be forced to hire pastors that preach Jesus is just one of many paths to enlightenment, rather than the teachings of Christ alone, then it would simplhy cease to be a Christian Church.

    In the PC(USA), NO church can be forced to hire any pastor they do not want to. In order to be installed, a pastor must first be nominated by a nominating committee drawn from the congregation, and the congregation must vote to approve the call of the pastor.

    The only way Memorial Park church could get a pastor "that preach[es] Jesus is just one of many paths to enlightenment, rather than the teachings of Christ alone" is if its own congregation and Session force it upon themselves.

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  9. Shuck,
    While you’re partly right in saying that may be one of our grievances with the PC (USA), it is by no means the most important one. So it appears at the top of Wikipedia’s list. That does not mean a thing to our congregation. Every church affiliated with NW is not going to have the same concerns and responses. I suggest you look a little more closely at New Wineskins itself, and not an article written about it.

    It does depend on what you mean by love. If you mean a ‘hands off, do whatever you please kind of “love,’” well, that’s not what we do. We instead point to Christ, who is the perfect example of Love, and who loved us so much he didn’t want us stay the way we are, but died to redeem us. We don’t expect people to be perfect and have their lives together when they enter our doors—-or the place would be empty.

    I am sorry that you seem to be personally offended by our church leaving the denomination. But I don’t see why this should change the ways in which we relate to each other as brothers and sisters. Do you only accept those inside your denomination as being part of the Body?


    Scott,
    I’m truly hurt by your words. While in my past I may not have been a very gracious person, God has done a lot of work on my heart and I am now no longer a “tagger.” However, I have to question if you yourself are.

    By singling out one stray word—“them”—you tagged me. You made an assumption about the kind of person I am. But you don’t even know me! You don’t know the people I come into contact with, as friends, coworkers, relatives, or strangers. You don’t know how I treat anyone. Yet without meeting me, or conversing with me, you categorized me. Talk about judgmental!

    Also, you made an assumption that I was talking about a male, when I deliberately left that unspecified. Hm. Any particular reason?

    I’m not even going to get into the whole “choice” debate with you, except to say that my friend would disagree. And if you deny that testimony, you’re silencing a whole group of people who believe differently from you—-people who believe they have been changed by the Holy Spirit.



    In short, I am disappointed by these responses, which are not gracious and peace-seeking and looking for unity, as one might expect from fellow Christians. Instead, you have looked for ways to point the finger at us and what you perceived to be our faults. Explain to me how that’s a demonstration of God’s Love.

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  10. Hey JM,

    I have looked pretty close at NWAC and their website and statements. I am sure that you are correct that different congregations may have different reasons for trying to disassociate with their 10,000 plus fellow congregations. I am sure that members within these congregations have different reasons for voting to leave. Many of these reasons are flawed. They are based on a mistaken understanding of what it means to be a member congregation of the PC(USA).

    My question to you and to all NWACs is the same:

    What will you be able to do in your new denomination that you cannot do already in the PC(USA)?

    You wrote:

    *I am sorry that you seem to be personally offended by our church leaving the denomination. But I don’t see why this should change the ways in which we relate to each other as brothers and sisters. Do you only accept those inside your denomination as being part of the Body?*

    No, I am not personally offended. It does however, change everything. When a couple decides to divorce that changes everything. You have decided to divorce yourself through secular legal means from 10,000 plus congregations with whom you swore a covenant.

    We are not congregational in polity. We are connected. The congregation you presently serve is not yours. We serve our churches as stewards of the larger body.

    You have decided that you are more important than the body. Your congregation has chosen to break the covenant.

    That seven million dollars in property you hold in trust for the PC(USA) is not yours.

    You might want to read the Constitution of the PC(USA), the Constitution to which your congregation is in covenant. G-8 in the Book of Order:

    2. All Property Held in Trust

    All property held by or for a particular church, a presbytery,
    a synod, the General Assembly, or the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), whether legal title is lodged in a corporation, a trustee or trustees, or an unincorporated association, and whether the property is used in programs of a particular church or of a more inclusive governing body or retained for the production of income, is held in trust nevertheless for the use and benefit of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)."

    And...

    "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."

    Your congregation apparently thinks that doesn't apply to you.

    Oh well. It is mostly water over the dam. The divorce has already happened. You may have to pay some settlement. Maybe not.

    It could be that the secular courts will rule in your favor. If so, I say, congratulations. You took the denomination to the cleaners. Then you cleaned house. You won the divorce settlement. Winner takes all. That could happen. You obviously have the money and lawyers to do it.

    Que sera, sera. But let's be clear about reasons. It may not be about gays for you. So what is it for you? Are you ashamed to be associated with us? Are we not Christian enough for you?

    I repeat the question: What will you do in your new denomination that you cannot do in the PC(USA)?

    And here is another question:
    Why would you take what does not belong to you and hurt the witness of the PC(USA)?

    I care about the PC(USA). Some of us are proud of this denomination. We are proud of scholarship that encourages the challenging of minds. We are proud that we address issues of social and political concern. We do not agree on many things. We fight. That is OK. We also seek reconciliation. We are diverse in our witness. That is our strength.

    There is no hierarchy "out there." We make our decisions through a constitutional process. All these people who make these awful decisions are simply folks just like you who get involved and discern and vote.

    As far as gays and love are concerned. We could rehash this thing forever. Some of us in the PC(USA) think the sin from which people need redemption is prejudice and ignorance regarding sexual and gender minorities.

    Be that as it may.

    Blessings,
    John

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  11. To: Flycandler,
    On the hiring of pastors, I stand corrected. The comments in your first post are also well taken.

    But where then does the PCUSA get the authority to remove elected pastors from their congregation because those pastors are acting on their conservative convictions? This has happened in other churches and there is a current movement underway to remove all of our pastors, elders and deacons to deal with the “unrest” that appears to me to be far more prevalent in the newspapers and out-of-state blogs than within our walls. (There are reporters hanging around. Someone asked a visiting missionary if she was a disgruntled member. It is out of control.) And hey! Those are MY pastors! That’s my family. I don’t know anyone who wants them to be dismissed. If the PCUSA were to succeed in removing our pastors, just exactly who would they replace them with? And where would that leave us?

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  12. Where is this witch hunt happening? Unless something new and dramatic has been happening in Pittsburgh Presbytery, sitting pastors are NOT being removed from congregations against the congregations' wills. Where is this hysteria coming from?

    According to the church's constitution, in the Book of Order, there is a very lengthy, transparent trial process with enormous benefit of the doubt given to the accused for disciplinary action. There has to be a serious violation of Scripture, the church's constitution or civil laws in order to even get that far. If the appropriate judicial body (in the case of ministers, the local Presbytery, not somebody in Louisville) does find the accused guilty, then they are to consider the appropriate consequences, in order: rebuke, rebuke with supervised rehabilitation, temporary exclusion, and as a very last resort for the most egregious offenses, removal from office or membership. This is all part of that "D" section in the Book of Order, the "Rules of Discipline", that every Session member prays they will never have to use.

    As far as I know, the only situation that would lead to automatic removal that is anything remotely like the scenario you paint would be an indictment or substantial accusation of physical and/or sexual abuse of a minor by a minister.

    This is my same old saw, and John reflects it in his comments. This is a failure by the leadership in local churches to alleviate--and (IMO) in deliberate manipulation by the leadership of advocacy groups like New Wineskins--church members' ignorance of our denomination's polity and connectional nature.

    Your pastor is not a member of your church. He/she is a member of the Presbytery. Your church buildings do not belong to you. They belong to the Presbytery. As a part of a Presbytery, every church has a stake in yours and yours has a stake in everyone else's. If you as a congregation decide to leave the Presbytery rather than engage in civilized discussion, I suppose it's your right. Just don't demand refunds on your offering checks over the years. It's really tacky.

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  13. One might take J.M. Richard's comments more seriously if they didn't contain such obvious contradictions like this: "In short, I am disappointed by these responses, which are not gracious and peace-seeking and looking for unity, as one might expect from fellow Christians."

    Um... Your church is leaving and you're concerned that folks commenting here aren't looking hard enough for unity? Pot, meet kettle.

    Or this: "As far as our love for homosexuals goes: again,you have no personal connection with the church, so how could you possibly know how we treat them?"

    Well, as was pointed out, I'd say this statement is pretty good evidence, "In fact, I have a friend who was part of that lifestyle for many years, until recently."

    I continue to find it interesting that these folks who are so determined to make sure that the Book of Order is followed to the letter regarding ordination are also so determined to refuse to follow the Book of Order regarding the unity of the denomination.

    Contradiction, after contradiction, after contradiction.

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  14. But Tuesday, Memorial Park officials received a letter from a presbytery-appointed administrative commission that was formed, the letter said, to deal with "the destruction, disorder and unrest at our Memorial Park congregation."

    According to the letter, the seven-member commission of pastors and elders had the right to "remove, replace, restructure or dissolve the pastor's relationship with the congregation" and remove all assistant pastors, elders, deacons and lay officers.

    And the letter forbade the congregation from meeting or voting this past weekend.
    Source: Pittsburgh Post Gazette January 21, 2008
    http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08021/850927-54.stm

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  15. Alan,

    what you missed in my statement is that neither I nor the rest of my congregation waited for my friend to change in any way--we simply welcomed this person in. The heart change that occurred was not from any shame or guilt induced; it happened because of the Holy Spirit and not as the result of any human preaching. I'm sorry you can't accept that.

    It must be so easy for you, so black and white to say "Either you love gays THIS way, or you don't really love them at all." No middle ground. How progressive of you.

    Here's the thing about Unity: it's bigger than a denomination. Yes, we're leaving one branch. That doesn't mean that the people we leave behind are no longer Brothers and Sisters in Christ. In the Bigger picture, we're all still part of the same Body--whether we all follow the Book of Order, or *gasp!*--not. I guess I naively thought that being a Christian meant something bigger than being a Presbyterian.

    Also, your final comment was interesting to me--we always looked at it the other way around, as in, "Why are they so stuck on the property laws of the Book of Order, and not the Ordination?" To us, what is being preached is more important than where.

    Shuck,

    Last night I sat down and wrote a very long and thorough reply to you, addressing all your questions and comments. But this morning I realized, no one was going to read all that, probably not even you. So here’s my wrap-up instead:

    You asked some good questions—some of the same things we took into serious consideration before our vote. However, I doubt that my explanation of our reasons would satisfy you. For one thing, you seem to have already made up your mind about us—and that’s the real problem, isn’t it?

    My whole reason in posting a reply to you was not to become embroiled in a pointless conversation where I try to defend my church to you. We could go on forever and never reach an agreement, and I don’t think either of us wants that.

    For me, it all boils down to this: you rushed to an assumption about my church based on one thing: our decision to leave. You lumped 1,000+ people together in one category and as good as called us bigots in your original post.

    You judged us.

    When confronted about this, you looked for ways to justify your dislike of us by dredging up the Book of Order—to show how “bad” we are as Presbyterians, and presumably Christians in general. If something like this had happened on another blog, if someone had attacked your congregation, I’m sure you’d be pretty indignant, too.

    One thing is clear to me: you obviously want the last word. Have at it. I’m not wasting any more time and energy defending the good people of my church to someone who isn’t willing to consider that his (or her) jumped-to conclusion might be wrong.

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  16. "It must be so easy for you, so black and white to say "Either you love gays THIS way, or you don't really love them at all." No middle ground. How progressive of you."

    Actually I didn't say that, nor did I say anything like it. I'm sure making straw men out of my position makes it easier to knock down, but it's disingenuous to do so, and then at the same time complain that others are misjudging you. Again, pot meet kettle.

    "Why are they so stuck on the property laws of the Book of Order, and not the Ordination?" To us, what is being preached is more important than where."

    Well... clearly that's unfortunately not, since the whole point here is the property issue. Anyone can leave the PCUSA at any time for any reason. They can easily get a letter of transfer to another denomination, if they choose. That should have been made clear to you folks when you became members in the first place.

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  17. It is quite interesting that your responses seem to be defensive, not really responsive the the issues being addressed. Your mind is made up and since nobody has a snowball's chance in Key West of getting you to go deeper than the surface, you remain on the surface, ignoring the issues we would like to understand as regards you and your congregation. AND you continue to be quite judgmental yourself.

    Following all these posts I still have no sense of you where I do have a sense of many of the other posters. Tis sad. It is a shame to become so hidebound that one cannot grow and reach out in the spirit that Christ tried to teach.

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  18. pgh_girl, that letter was sent AFTER the vote taken to leave the PC(USA). Like I said, the pastor is not a member of the local church; he is a member of the Presbytery. It is unconstitutional for a Minister of the Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA) to remain as the installed pastor of a church that leaves the denomination.

    JM, you talk about "dredging up the Book of Order". If it's been buried at Memorial Park, that reflects very badly on the leadership. One more time: THE BOOK OF ORDER IS PART OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE CHURCH. It is not to be dismissed lightly. Lord knows I've been beaten about the head with it long enough, but I've allowed myself to be bound by it and the authoritative interpretations therein, and work to change it where necessary via constitutional means.

    If your congregation votes to leave the Pittsburgh Presbytery (and thereby the PC(USA)), then you don't get to keep the property unless you pay for it and you don't get to keep your pastor unless he renounces the jurisdiction of the church (and the benefits that entitles him to). You do not get refunds on your offerings over the years.

    When any officer (Minister of the Word & Sacrament, Elder or Deacon) is ordained and every time s/he is installed, s/he has to affirm, in no uncertain terms and in front of all present at the ordination service, that s/he will "be governed by our church's polity, and will abide by its discipline".

    It is disingenuous at best to agree to be governed by that polity and abide by its discipline only when one feels like it.

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  19. JM!

    I wish you had posted the longer response. I am interested in why it is your congregation voted to attempt to leave the denomination. I don't understand why. I cannot think of anything you can do in a different denomination that you cannot do in the PC(USA).

    Frankly, it doesn't matter that much. People leave churches for all kinds of reasons. But they don't take their pews with them.

    Any one at any time, if they do not like the PC(USA), can leave (whether they be clergy or parishioners). As another commenter noted, you don't get a refund on your offerings when you decide to move to another church.

    And that is the way it is for every PC(USA) church. That is the deal. That is the constitution.

    The honorable thing for your congregation would be to leave the building and start your own congregation somewhere else, or buy the building from the PC(USA), or in good faith, make some kind of settlement with the Presbytery.

    Your congregation did none of those honorable things. You did none of those constitutional things. You decided to rip us all off.

    Call me judgmental, but when someone tries to run away with $7 million of PC(USA) witness, mission, and heritage, I think a little is deserved.

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  20. Flycandler:
    Respectfully, if the letter came AFTER the vote then how could it forbid said vote?

    "And the letter forbade the congregation from meeting or voting this past weekend." http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08021/850927-54.stm

    No, the letter came before the vote.

    As to the Money:
    Why does the presbytery want more money from us than they did from a California church with twice our membership?

    You can still buy a house in Pittsburgh for 75K! As far as real estate goes, we are not in California's league. We offered them $500,000 where a Sacramento church with twice our congregation paid half of that and was dismissed.
    Could this be a witch-hunt against the co-moderator of the New Wine Skins?

    Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette January 5, 2008 http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08005/846941-54.stm

    “According to a church statement, the amounts sought by the presbytery dwarfed mission gifts sought by the Sacramento, Calif., Presbytery from larger, or similar sized, churches.

    Those churches, one with 2,286 members and the other with 1,143, settled with their presbytery for $250,000 and $160,000, respectively.

    John Shuck:
    You wrote:
    “What will you be able to do in your new denomination that you cannot do already in the PC(USA)?

    In the PCUSA, I cannot be sure that when I am addressing a pastor in another church in the same denomination that we will both have the same definition of Christian.

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  21. And before you tell me it's a different presbytery for a different region etc. etc.

    I'm sure you understand that I mean it in the sense that the presbytery is representing the denomination and vice versa.

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  22. Hey pgh,

    In the PCUSA, our definition of Christian comes from our Constitution which apparently you folks don't like much.

    It is the Book of Order and the Book of Confessions that guides us in how we interpret scripture and all of that.

    Now, of course, individual congregations and their preachers could decide that they want a narrower definition. This is apparently how Memorial PC has been indoctrinated.

    You sure can't be sure that all PCUSA clergy are going to be fundamentalists--that is for sure.

    But again, the honorable thing in that situation is for the fundamentalist member or preacher to decide that the PCUSA is not for them and graciously find another congregation in another denomination to indoctrinate rather than steal the property of the PC(USA).

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  23. Hey Fly,

    I have served on COMs in my two previous presbyteries and have seen this kind of thing happen again and again. Usually, a smaller congregation hired some fundy from another denomination who took them out of the PCUSA ethos. If he was there long enough, the members learned his way of thinking. Then they get upset about some decision in the media about the PC(USA) or whatever and suddenly think they need to take "their church" out of the denomination!

    What name do we have for these clergy who come in an steal our people and our tradition?

    Maybe I am just too old Europe. The model for American Christianity is now the independent big box church with a charismatic pastorpreneur selling his snake oil to teary-eyed faces singing Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!

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  24. So one church can pick which part of the BOO they agree with and toss out the rest (property supposedly belongs to the denom - not the local church) and another church can do the same - toss out rules (ordain individuals who do not abide by ordination standards of fidelity or chastity) they choose to disagree with?

    It seems to me the argument being tossed around here slams the Pittsburgh church for not abiding by rules when the Pittsburgh church is leaving because other churches have selectively tossed out their selective rules.

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  25. Thinking,

    I don't know of any congregation that has tossed out rules regarding ordination. If there are any, anyone is welcome to file a charge. We have a process for dealing with all of these issues.

    So is that Memorial PCs rationale? Some church somewhere has ordained a gay and has not been appropriately punished by someone, so we will therefore steal the denomination's property?

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  26. I Was Just Thinking wrote, "So one church can pick which part of the BOO they agree with and toss out the rest (property supposedly belongs to the denom - not the local church) and another church can do the same - toss out rules (ordain individuals who do not abide by ordination standards of fidelity or chastity) they choose to disagree with?"

    Well, John's right. I don't know any church that has refused to be under the denomination's discipline regarding ordination of LGBT people. So, they're clearly not "toss[ing] out rules" about anything. If these good folks are really that concerned about people apparently flouting the BoO, then it is their duty to uphold the BoO by filing more charges against those folks, not flouting the BoO themselves by attempting to steal property from the Church, property which good Reformed theology tells us was never theirs to begin with.

    But while I'm refuting that point, I find it interesting that you focus only on the fidelity & chastity aspect, "I Was Just Thinking". I'll bet you the price of MPC's property that if you gave me 15 minutes with the membership of MPC, I could find any number of ways they themselves have disregarded G-6.0106b by ordaining people who are unrepentant gluttons, usurers, gossips, etc.

    I wonder how the membership of MPC would feel about say, half of their membership attempting to steal their pipe organ because the rest of the congregation had ordained a glutton.

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  27. John, you're describing in large part the church I grew up in. As I noted before, it split down the middle in the 80s when a woman associate pastor was installed. The schismatics (who didn't stake a claim to the building) formed a PCA church on the other side of the county.

    A few years later, the First Baptist Church in town split (as Baptists are wont to do) three ways. Of the two separatist factions, one formed a new church (with "Heritage" in the name) and the other basically came to our church. It caused a very significant shift in the Session, though the vast majority of the congregation had no idea, as they were busy just getting churched to (imagine that). IMO, there is a potential danger when activist members of a church with a congregational government take on activist roles in a church with a Presbyterian government. Unlike a mere "influential member", an Elder has specific constitutional powers in our church.

    One of the transplants gave the Congregational Directory to The Layman, and that's how our church got introduced to the hysterical, reactionary church advocacy press. This was around the time of the infamous Reimagining Conference (which the PC(USA) had given some money to without reviewing all the course materials), and all of a sudden, we were in danger of having Janie Spahr castrate all the men in the church, then lead everyone in a Uterine Prayer to the goddess Sophia (imagine my surprise when years later I met Janie, and she turned out to be a charming person who loves God and loves her church). This led to the infamous Blue Hymnal fight, with exactly one half voting in favor (with the Associate casting the tie-breaker) and one half voting against, due to all the "subversive messages" that a black woman (Melva Costen, one of the nation's--if not the world's--leading experts in sacred music) inserted with her gay henchmen. My parents were on the committee that had to inspect each page and look for the subversive messages, and they found none. Their report was largely unread by the Session. The senior pastor retired, and the nominating committee (which retrospectively was stacked) picked one of the leaders of a conservative advocacy group (that he later became president of).

    After I came out to my parents, they turned to said Associate for help. By that time she had drunk the Kool-Aid and suggested "reparative therapy", even though a licensed psychologist in our church said absolutely not. My parents (who have been wonderfully accepting) and I tried in vain to get the church membership and leadership educated about the needs of GLBT members, but we were blocked at every turn. Finally, in a meeting with both pastors, we were told in no uncertain terms "perhaps you need to be pastored to somewhere else".

    With a heavy heart, my dad resigned from the Session after serving for 20 years. He heard from one fellow Elder afterwards, the daughter of the retired pastor.

    Yes, it hurt like hell. This was the church my sister and I grew up in, that my dad had served on Session and endless committees for decades, and where my mom was once Sunday School superintendent. And we got the heave-ho just because we had a position on a political issue that the pastor and the most powerful Elders disliked.

    After wandering from church to church, I finally transferred my membership to my current church and couldn't be happier. My parents joined soon after, and we feel like we're at home. It's not a "gay ghetto" church (as one of my friends calls some area churches that seem to have a 98% GLBT membership)--it's a neighborhood church (like the kind Diana Butler Bass describes in her books) that has a firm commitment to welcoming anyone, regardless of race, age, nationality, gender, sexual orientation or economic status. At a recent informal get-together of some of us GLBT members, one of the people on our church's Strategic Planning Committee asked for suggestions and wish lists, and the conversation immediately became almost exclusively about what we as a church should do for families with grade-school children. It's not about identity politics. It's about Church.

    So yes, stories like this one out of Pennsylvania hit close to home for me. My family had to leave the church we put so much time, talent and treasure into, and we had nothing to show for it, not even a goodbye from those we considered friends. Even in our new church, we have to have the same arguments at Presbytery as our former church tries to shut down the Presbytery's Committee on Inclusion and Diversity. But we remain because we are a connectional church. Lord knows I've been hurt personally by the policies of the Presbyterian Church (USA). However, I still think it is a worthy institution with a unique heritage and a special role to play in this world. It pains me to see all that thrown away so carelessly, whether it's my particular church or anyone else's.

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  28. I brought up the fidelity and chastity standard because that is what you've focused on, it seems to me. But personally what aggravates me about the pc(usa) is the stand taken on abortion, divinity of Christ and universalism. If you polled these churches departing I wouldn't be surprised if these issues were at the forefront of folks minds, not "the gay".

    As far as ordaining folks who cast off the fidelity/chastity standards, seriously you see no examples of presbyteries passing over this, looking the other direction or justifying their own interpretation of the standards? If standards can be interpreted on a presbytery by presbytery basis, what is the glue that binds these presbyteries into a denomination?

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  29. I Was Just Thinking wrote, "As far as ordaining folks who cast off the fidelity/chastity standards, seriously you see no examples of presbyteries passing over this, looking the other direction or justifying their own interpretation of the standards?"
    But you didn't answer my question about all the other folks at MPC who have violated G-6.0106b by being ordained.

    Perhaps I'm misinterpreting what you've written, and if so, I apologize, but you seem to have a limited understanding of our system of polity. Presbyteries do not bring charges against elders, deacons, or ministers, as you seem to believe. ANY elder, deacon, or minister anywhere in the country has the ability to bring charges against anyone else for whatever violation of the BoO they choose. The Presbytery's PJC then hears the case, but the case itself is NOT brought by presbyteries.

    If you honestly think people are looking the other way (and do you REALLY want a list of all the people brought up on charges under G-0106b?), ask yourself how many of these charges the elders of *your* Session have brought. Zero? OK, fine then, stop complaining about everyone else looking the other way. Again, pot ... meet kettle!

    "If standards can be interpreted on a presbytery by presbytery basis,"

    Actually that's precisely the way this is supposed to work for the ordination of Ministers, and traditionally Sessions got to decide whom they will ordain as deacons and elders. I'm sorry that, apparently, a very large group of people have become Presbyterians without understanding some of this very basic knowledge of our system of governance, but that's hardly an excuse to let them run off with Church property, now is it?

    If requiring everyone everywhere to agree on every ordination in every church is what you believe ties a denomination together (ours, or any other) then I agree it is probably time to go, since that's not the traditional, Reformed OR Presbyterian understanding, and it never has been.

    "If you polled these churches departing I wouldn't be surprised if these issues were at the forefront of folks minds"

    Well, apparently they too are unfamiliar with the denomination's stands. Perhaps instead of spending so much time focusing on the Book of Order, they could spend some time reading the second half of our Constitution, the Book of Confessions. I challenge you to find a single statement anywhere in there that denies the divinity of Christ, proclaims universalism, or any of the other issues folks supposedly care so much about.

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  30. This is directly quoted from the Evangelical Presbyterian Church's (the denomination that Memorial Park is trying to switch to) official position paper on the ordination of women:

    "The Evangelical Presbyterian Church does not believe that the issue of the ordination of women is an essential of the faith. The historic Reformed position on the scriptural doctrine of government by elders is believed to be that form needed for the perfecting of the order of the visible church, but has never been considered to be essential to its existence.
    [...]
    Thus, while some churches may ordain women and some may decline to do so, neither position is essential to the existence of the church. since people of good faith who equally love the Lord and hold to the infallibility of Scripture differ on this issue, and since uniformity of view and practice is not essential to the existence of the visible church, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church has chosen to leave this decision to the Spirit-guided consciences of particular congregations concerning the ordination of women as elders and deacons, and to the presbyteries concerning the ordination of women as ministers." (emphasis added)

    Well, holy smoke, Thinking, what heathens are these? If ordination standards can be interpreted on a presbytery-by-presbytery (or even congregation-by-congregation!) basis, what is the glue that binds these EPC presbyteries and congregations into a denomination?

    ---

    Anyone want to take bets on how long the EPC takes to split into the NWLEPC and HTTHMWHEPC?


    (that's New Wineskins Litigious Evangelical Presbyterian Church and Holier-Than-Thou He-Man-Woman-Haters Evangelical Presbyterian Church, of course)

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  31. Everyone,

    I couldn't even read through all of this. I read the first 10 posts and saw that members of MPC were posting.

    At this point after being emotionally, spiritually, professionally beat up in every way, every shocking way, everything MPC/New Wineskins/EPC can just go into the trash permanently. It stinks. I don't have the energy to elborate because my wounds from the situation are so heavy.

    My advice to anyone who is in a churh that wants to leave the denomination: LEAVE. IMMEDIATELY. Don't wait. Don't take a "wait and see attitude". You will just be eaten up and spit out.

    This is what New Wineskins brings: destruction, lost relationships, lost churches, lost friends and ultimately a distrust of all things related to church that will last in my life a long time.

    It's not about gays. It's not about anything other than Dean Weaver wanting to be in the ego spotlight at ALL TIMES. Ordinarily I would never mention his name but since other MPC members are using it I might as well.

    This does not mean that Dean is a bad guy. On the contrary he has so many good and Godly things, so much good he could be doing. But he is wasting his time with political movements. Those of us who have had life threatening events or who are older know: life doesn't last forever Dean. If you want to be a pastor then go ahead and stop sticking you head in the church politics sand. It only benefits yourself.

    I don't care if anyone doesn't like what I have to say. This situation is so much worse than anything I could ever write here. Thanks for John for providing this space. This is the ONLY place where people can truly talk about the way it really is.

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  32. toshiba,
    I'm concerned -- are you OK? Certainly your needs have not been met.

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  33. Now, I've took some time to read through this.

    First, the question, what can you do in the EPC that you can't do in the PCUSA. I have been asking this for about 1 year. Response: Silence. Answer: Nothing except stroke the egos of the NW.

    Administrative Commission: What you don't understand is that the Presbytery was being very leniant. They could have introduced AC a very long time ago and removed all the staff.

    The reference:

    Why does the presbytery want more money from us than they did from a California church with twice our membership?

    Is straight from the mouth of Dean Weaver as he tries to "instruct", ie, brainwash, his flock.

    Answer: MPC has an annual budget of over 2 million. 1.7 mil is just over half of only ONE years budget after the church has been running for 40 years.

    MPC saying that any more would affect the church is a COMPLETELY ARROGANT statement. They think they can just leave the denomination without any financial penalty.

    Some members of MPC have acted very, very badly with regards to the Presbytery and this directly affects settlement. Settlement is not just a comparison with a church in California. Settlement is a complex matrix and behavior is in this matrix.

    Final solution: want to be in the EPC? Just go down to North Park Church and join. If 900+ members are added to the membership then they will need more staff and then there is a job for Dean Weaver. According to MPC the church building is just bricks and stone and doesn't matter. Then all this problem goes away completely.

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  34. pgh_girl, you are just realizing now that the fact that NWA operates out of MPC that this issue is affecting the relationship with the Presbytery. NWA uses MPC electricity, utilities, staff, servers and many other resources without paying a dime. Money for these purposes was donated to MPC for the use of MPC *ONLY*. I have no doubt that when NWA meetings occur at MPC that NWA meals, rental cars, lodging and other expenses are paid for by MPC. This is the driving reason why Dean did not want any financial hit to the church - it would rebound to NWA.

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  35. Then raise your concerns at the congregational meeting and dinner re: budget and annual rpt. on Sunday evening (Feb 17, 2008).
    Further correspondence should be off of this blog (pgh_girl_cap@yahoo)
    There was never an intention to leave without giving fair financial compensation to the presbytery. The matter is being settled out of court. http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08039/855828-53.stm

    After all, it's really all about the money.

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  36. I am not writing your yahoo account.

    *I already raised my concerns to the session*. Response from MPC session: Silence.

    Reponse from staff member: Aggressive e-mails not-of-God.

    Comment from staff member: The session doesn't need to answer your questions and is not going to.

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