Monday, July 27, 2015

Moving the sheep to barren pastures: John Shuck's "new" bible


While recovering from my heart surgery I found a relatively easy and fun read, Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson, a Catholic priest. The book is fiction, eschatological and written in 1907. The Lord of the world is the anti-Christ who gathers around him all those who believe that humanity is evolving toward a greater future and are the consciousness for the whole universe. A new evolutionary religion is blooming but evil is at its core. I was reminded of the book while reading a sermon on John Shuck’s sermon blog, Sermon and Jive.

Shuck, a Presbyterian teaching elder, is promoting the need for a new “bible.” One that will better fit with contemporary humanity.  He, like the anti-Christ in the book, sees all religious narratives as part of the evolutionary unfolding of creation. As Shuck puts it:

“The Bible gave us a cosmology and a history.  For it I am grateful.  It provided inspiration for the search.   Now we have to create a new Bible.   It won’t be one book as such, but we are in the process of creating a unifying story of origins, identity, and future hope.   We need our artists, musicians, and storytellers, to help in this great work.    This new Bible, so to speak, will contain all of the other Bibles, all mythology, all religion, all philosophy, and psychology, in short, all human cultural evolution.”  

There are errors in Shuck’s sermon, the first trivial perhaps. Contrary to Shuck’s words the Hindu and the Buddhist do have sacred texts, the Hindu Vedas and the Bhagavad Gita, (which Shuck has used before) and the sutras which belong to Buddhism as well as the Pali Tripitaka.

And Karl Barth, he did not, as Shuck states, retreat when he embraced theology. He in fact returned much of modern theology back to the Trinity since so many of Europe’s enlightenment theologians were Arians, denying the deity of Jesus. In fact it is Barth in his small book Dogmatics in Outline who pointed out that when someone hears a complaint against the Christology of the Nicene Creed they should think of a wolf’s snarl. He wrote:

“There have been many complaints and murmurings over this formula and probably, sooner or later in your studies, you will come up against men of letters and even teachers, who also do the same thing and think it dreadful that this matter should be reduced to this formula. I should be happy to think that, when you meet such complainers, this hour at college may come back to your memory and release a tiny check in you. This inveighing against so-called ‘orthodoxy’ is just a ‘wolf’s snarl’, which an educated man should have nothing to do with.”

And to suggest that the person of Jesus as well as Old Testament characters are “more likely to be composite characters in fictionalized accounts of old myths and legends reframed and retold,” is utter nonsense. Few scholars today deny the historical reality of Jesus.

Shuck’s greatest error is his ideology, because he uses evolution as transcendent truth, he elevates humanity to an untenable place:

“Human beings are not insignificant worms in this story.  We are the self-consciousness of this universe.   It is possible that there is intelligent life somewhere else.   But whether there is or not, we human beings are the self-consciousness of Earth and the Solar System for sure.   We are here and able to tell this incredible story.    Before human beings there were no stories of the universe.  There were no stories of gods, stories of love, stories of sacrifice, stories of sadness.   Self-consciousness emerged from evolution and all of our aspirations and hopes have emerged from our interactions, from our storytelling, from our small Bibles to a larger ever-emerging Bible that is our ongoing life story.”    

It is important to notice here that Shuck’s words, despite his disbelief in a personal God, hold to a certain kind of faith—one that is centered in materialism—but nonetheless a faith. I say this because there is no empirical evidence, no scientific explanation, for how self-consciousness could emerge from evolution. Shuck simply believes that evolution produced self-consciousness.

Shuck also believes that good, without an absolute good creator God, emerges from evolution.  The good is centered in humanity and is named by humanity. This is a path towards disaster. Without the absolutes that belong to the personal creator God of the Bible, which include mercy, compassion, redemption and judgement, humanity either falls into anarchy or develops totalitarianisms. It is like the iron mixed with clay in the biblical book of Daniel. The crumbles are constant, but still the iron overpowers.

Shuck often writes of being a “good” ancestor, but tell that to a dying person. In the book, Lord of the World, the heroine, who along with her husband believes in the same sort of evolutionary ideas Shuck believes, experiences a group of people dying because of a volor [Air-machine] crash. Her conversation with her husband is telling:

“Oliver, what do you say to people when they are dying?”

“Say! Why nothing! What can I say? But I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone die.”

“Nor have I till to-day.” Said the girl, and shivered a little. “The euthanasia people were soon at work.”

Oliver took her hand gently.

“My darling, it must have been frightful. Why, you’re trembling still.”

“No; but listen… You know, if I had anything to say I could have said it too. They were all just in front of me: I wondered, then I knew I hadn’t. I couldn’t possibly have talked about Humanity.”

Who will proclaim to Shuck’s congregation the good news of God’s great mercy in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. All they will be able to speak of will be the self-consciousness of humanity. The whole focus in this sermon is on gathering the world’s ideas for a new, so called bible. That they are not hearing the good news is Shuck’s great sin, but it is also the sin of his presbytery and synod. The sin belongs to all of us when we have not proclaimed winsomely, without fear, the good news of Jesus, when we have not proclaimed the authority of Scripture, when we have not held out to broken people the gracious promises of God.

 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Planned Parenthood selling aborted baby parts, may God have mercy ...


How does one set eating food and drinking wine while explaining how you sell aborted baby parts? Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Senior Director of Medical Services of Planned Parenthood Federation, talks calmly, over her food about how aborted baby parts are harvested and sold by Planned Parenthood affiliates. What lies ahead is unfathomable horror.

We have reached the level of Nazism which was and is paganism. God’s judgement on this nation will surely be great if we do not repent and turn from our horrific sin. If we belong to Jesus Christ we must stand against this.

“The Church confesses that she has witnessed the lawless application of brutal force, the physical and spiritual suffering of countless innocent people, oppression, hatred and murder, and that she has not raised her voice on behalf of the victims and has not found ways to hasten to their aid. She is guilty of the deaths of the weakest and most defenseless brothers [and sisters] of Christ. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Ethics)

Yes, many in the church are standing strong against killing unborn babies, but in my denomination, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), such killing is encouraged. This knowledge of the selling of body parts simply adds to the feelings of guilt, shame and sorrow many of us experience. May our Lord have mercy.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Schism, heresy and control


So what is schism? How does it fit with heresy? Part of my thoughts are at the moment centered on a little church in Northern California, Burney Presbyterian Church. The Sacramento Presbytery held a special meeting to vote on a motion to place an administrative commission over the Burney church. This is the motion:

With the determination of the Administrative Commission appointed to the Burney Presbyterian Church on February 28, 2015, determining that there is a schism pursuant to the Book of Order (G-4.0207), that the presbytery take immediate action and take original jurisdiction of the Burney church, and continue the relationship with the PC(USA) in all means of its ministries.

The first AC appointed to the church simply determined that they were in schism but were not allowed to act on their assumption. At the meeting, to the Presbytery’s credit, members of the church were allowed to speak. But commissioners were not offered the first AC’s report and so the only reason given to commissioners for stating the church was in schism was that several people, including two session members, did not wish to leave the PC (U.S.A) while the other four session members did. Most Burney church members want to leave and spoke out at the meeting.

The above means that in the Sacramento Presbytery if a church wants to leave the PC (U.S.A.) but a few members do not, the church could easily have an administrative commission placed over them.

During the debate about an amendment to the motion, I noticed that the parliamentarian kept pointing to a paper and stating that it was already there. It turns out this was to be the instructions for the new AC, but none of us had seen it. After a bit of protest the moderator read the instructions. I had trouble hearing her and later voted with those who wanted the instructions added to the motion. After reading them at home today I am sorry I voted yes, but the amendment failed anyway. Here are the instructions:

The Administrative Commission shall:

1.       Confer with the members of the Burney Presbyterian Church to explain fully the process of resolving the discord within the congregation. Special attention is to be given to those members who have stopped attending yet wish to be faithful to the PCUSA.

2.      Dissolve the Session of Burney Presbyterian Church.

3.      Become the governing body of the Burney Presbyterian Church.

4.      Assure the conduct of worship and the preaching of the Word on a weekly basis and assure that pastoral ministry and meeting financial obligations continue.

5.      Identify accurately the members of the congregation who wish to be part of the PCUSA and those who do not want to be a part of the PCUSA.

6.      Identify members of the congregation who are willing to accept necessary leadership roles and responsibilities for the ministry of the church; and, furthermore, give direction and supervision to these leaders.

7.      Assess the viability of the Burney Presbyterian Church as a continuing congregation made up of those members desiring to remain in the PCUSA.

8.     Explore ways of providing assistance, financial or otherwise, to facilitate the viability of the congregation should that be the course of action taken. Such exploration can include, but not be limited to, financial aid from the Presbytery, developing a mission strategy, exploring a “yoked” relationship with another PCUSA church, exploring a federated church arrangement with a church in correspondence with the PCUSA.  

9.      Facilitate the individual transfer of members who do not wish to be part of the PCUSA to a congregation of their choice and with whom the PCUSA has a corresponding relationship allowing transfer of members.

10.  Carry out any other necessary actions to bring this matter to a final resolution.

 

And yes the motion to place an AC over the church passed.

So what does Calvin have to say about schism and heresy? Well for one, they are not the same. And for another, unity only exists within a body that holds to the essentials of the faith or “sound doctrine” as Calvin puts it. The PC (U.S.A.) has cast aside the authority of Scripture; even half of the denomination’s constitution is now in conflict with both scripture and our confessions. I have quoted Calvin on this just recently. I will do so again:

“The name of heretics and schismatics is applied to those who by dissenting from the Church destroy its communion. This communion is held together by two chains—viz. consent in sound doctrine and brotherly charity. Hence the distinction which Augustine makes between heretics and schismatics is, that the former corrupt the purity of the faith by false dogmas, whereas the latter sometimes, even while holding the same faith, break the bond of union (August, Lib. Quaest. In Evang. Matth.). But the thing to be observed is that this union of charity so depends on unity of faith, as to have in it its beginning, its end, in fine, its only rule.”

It is the PC (U.S.A.) that is causing schism because every church, elder and official that denies or twists scripture, denies the faith and breaks unity with the church universal. A great many, not all, in the denomination, have moved on and are now celebrating the vile sensuality of our fallen culture. Even the stated clerk. Schism has come slithering into the door of our churches by way of deceit, worldly pride and political correctness.

Peter speaks of those who speak arrogant words of vanity. He says they entice by “fleshly desires, by sensuality”—they live in error. Jude speaks of those who have, “crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” John speaks of those who fail to bring their sin to the Savior and his shed blood. (1John 1:5-9)
Yes, the denomination is experiencing schism but not by those departing to other reformed denominations but by those who have so torn apart the truths of scripture that they have left the faithful without a true home.
 

 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Is the church of Christ queer? Presbyterians Today's blog


Is the church universal queer? Not at all! Oh the denomination, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), in its apostasy, might be. But that erases its claim to be the body of Christ. It erases Layton E. Williams’ claim that it is the body of Christ.

Williams, a teaching elder, has written a posting for Presbyterians Today at their site “Reimagining the Church.” Her posting is “Presbyhonest: relevant truth telling with a queer twist.” Various Presbyterians have been writing their visions of what the denomination should be. In a side column which serves as the writers voices they state:

 “We are part of a creative team commissioned by Presbyterians Today to ask questions about who's getting a platform to speak and who's not. And this is our canvas.”

And they go on to suggest that the site is “a holy place for reflection.” Presbyterians Today has made a statement that they do not represent either the PC (U.S.A.) or Presbyterian Today, however they are providing the place where the postings appear. And on their front page they have this: Read Presbyterians Today’s new blog, Reimagining the Church.

Williams is insisting that now, since the PC (U.S.A.) ordains members of the queer community, (and that is the term she use), and since we are one body we need to come out and admit the church is queer. As she puts it:

“When people ask, “What’s next?” I’m overwhelmed by how much more there is still to be done. I believe the hardest work for the PC(USA) and the church universal still lies ahead. What God calls for isn’t inclusion of queer people. It’s justice. And for that, the church—the body of Christ in the world—must name and embrace its own queerness.”

And Williams also insists that the church, until it does come out, is homophobic and queerphobic. This is not an appeal for diversity in the denomination nor does it embrace compassion for those who see the queer lifestyle as sinful. It is rather a call for the denomination to acknowledge that because it contains queer persons it is also queer.

But here is a paradox. It is true that when we come, as a church, before the Lord to confess our sins, we must confess that not only are we child murders, greedy, unkind and disobedient to Christ, we must confess that we are queer, that we have allowed sexual immorality to invade the church and offered no help to those who are in such bondage. In other words, as the church we must confess for the church the sins of the church.

We are truly sinners, but we are also saints. That means that our identity is not tied to our sin but to the new life given us by Christ Jesus. We possess the righteousness of Christ. He who is innocent and holy gives us our identity. There is neither homophobe nor queer in the body of Christ. There is only the redeemed who glorify their Lord.
 

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (1Cor. 6:9-11)

 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

We get Letters ... on forbearance


We get Letters! Well if you are an ordained member of Journey Presbyterian Church in Folsom, California you got a letter inviting you to a meeting. The invite came by way of what was the Sacramento presbytery’s discernment team but is now the engagement team. This is a requirement of the new dismissal policy. According to the letter this will be a consultation “with the leadership of the church.” The letter states the consultation will be:

·         To explore the possibility of reconciliation

·         To discuss the practical consequences of dismissal of the congregation

·         To discuss issues of disharmony and possible mitigation

·         To discuss how members whom hold deeply held differing convictions can work with members of differing views

 The letter also requests that we read an article which is attached to the new dismissal policy. The paper is Theology of Forbearance by James Calvin Davis(1). I have read it twice now and intend to read it again. The paper has some helpful points in it, but also is problematic. One problem is that it wanders back and forth between thoughts about people leaving a denomination for various reasons and people leaving the church universal. This is of course not the author’s intent but it happens unless the writer clearly defines the meaning of “the Church.”

In the paper the early Massachusetts Bay church is one example. A distinction is made between the church, which wanted to stay a part of the English Anglican Church while reforming it, and Roger Williams who thought they should leave because of the corruption in the Anglican Church. However the fact that the Anglican Church left the Roman Catholic Church over the desire for King Henry the VIII to divorce his wife is not mentioned in the paper.

And while the church was a leading example of a reformed congregation the officials of Massachusetts Bay not only exiled Roger Williams, they also hung one of the first Quakers to preach in the colony, a woman named Mary Dyer.  This is not a good example of a group of people seeking renewal without splitting off from the mother denomination. Of course it was, after all, the 1700s.

But the biggest problem with the paper is that no distinction is made between those issues that divide the church of God from those in apostasy and those issues that although divisive are still not worthy of broken unity. Instead forbearance seems to cover all issues—that is, no matter what, according to this article, one always must practice forbearance rather than leave.    

Now, quickly I want to insist that there are those who are called to stay in such a denomination as the PC (U.S.A.), but there are many who are called to leave. After all the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has left the faithful behind—it is they who have broken the unity, first with the Lord of the Church and his word and then with those who are seeking to be faithful to that word.

What would John Calvin  have to say about forbearance and unity? What was his description of the visible church? The visible church is not sinless, not without impurities but:

“Wherever we see the word of God sincerely preached and heard, wherever we see the sacraments administered according to the institution of Christ, there we cannot have any doubt that the Church of God has some existence, since his promise cannot fail, ‘Where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them.’ (Matth. Xviii. 20). (Italics mine.)

And Calvin, in this chapter, (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book Fourth. Of the Holy Catholic Church. Chapter 1), lays out a strong case for not leaving a church which has these characteristics. As he states, “… let us learn from her single title of Mother, how useful, nay, how necessary the knowledge of her is, since, there is no other means of entering into life unless she conceive us in the womb and give us birth, unless she nourish us at her breasts, and, in short, keep us under her charge and government, until divested of mortal flesh, we become like angels (Matth. Xxii 30.).

One would do well to read the whole chapter and take it to heart. But Calvin goes on in chapter 2 of the fourth Book to explain the difference between the false church and the true. Calvin was forced to do this because the Catholic Church, insisted that the reformation churches, formed outside of the Roman Catholic Church, were both false and schismatic.  Calvin referring to Augustine shows the difference between schismatics and heretics. And in this is shown the difference between the true and false church:

“The name of heretics and schismatics is applied to those who by dissenting from the Church destroy its communion. This communion is held together by two chains—viz. consent in sound doctrine and brotherly charity. Hence the distinction which Augustine makes between heretics and schismatics is, that the former corrupt the purity of the faith by false dogmas, whereas the latter sometimes, even while holding the same faith, break the bond of union (August, Lib. Quaest. In Evang. Matth.). But the thing to be observed is that this union of charity so depends on unity of faith, as to have in it its beginning, its end, in fine, its only rule.”

Calvin goes on to state:

“Accordingly Paul, when he exhorts us to it, takes for his fundamental principle that there is ‘one God, one faith, one baptism’ (Eph. iv. 5). Nay when he tells us to be ‘of one accord, of one mind,’ he immediately adds, ‘Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus’ (Phil. Ii. 2, 5); intimating, that where the word of the Lord is not, it is not a union of believers, but a faction of the ungodly.”

When “two persons” is added to the PC (U.S.A.) Book of Order as a definition of marriage, when a person is ordained who does not believe in a personal God, when many in leadership insist that God’s truth is still unfolding or that not all of the Bible is the word of God there is the false church which denies God’s word. There is where there may be prophetic proclamation of God’s call to repentance, but not forbearance.   

(1) A Theology of Forbearance - James Calvin Davis

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Talking about Jesus, or not?


Recently the Laymen posted an article, “Moderator Rada, May I introduce you to the Rev. John Shuck?” The Moderator had stated at a Presbyterian Mission Agency board meeting that all teaching elders must vow to accept the Scriptures as the authoritative word of God. Speaking of the biblical and confessional doctrine that Jesus is the sole Lord and Savior, Rada stated:

“One cannot join a church in our denomination without answering the question in the affirmative that she or he believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. If you do not, you cannot be a member in our churches. And I have not met one single person—member or officer of our church—who does not believe that as truth. There has been a campaign of hate and divisiveness built against us. And it is not a true reflection of our particular body of Christ.”

The Layman pointed out that the Rev. John Shuck does not believe in any of the biblical truths of Christianity; he does not even believe in a personal God. I want to add to this because I believe many in the denomination are totally unaware of the growing apostasy in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The Scripture and the Confessions may proclaim the Christian faith, but a growing body of people within the denomination are allowed to uphold unbiblical views. Without discipline and censure it simply does not matter what the Confessions and Scriptures say.

In 2012, teaching elder Landon Whitsitt, who was vice moderator of General Assembly at the time, was visiting various presbyteries, speaking about a book he had written, Open Source Church the Wisdom of All. Videos were made of his talks and in the last video he stated, “Just because God has called you into relationship through the work and person of Jesus Christ doesn’t mean everybody has to be in relationship with God through the work and person of Jesus Christ.”

I wrote about the videos at, “Landon Whitsitt, Open Source Christianity and the sovereignty of God.” I stated that Whitsitt was a universalist. He read the article and on Twitter, in conversation with me, said no, he was not a universalist but a pluralist. Whitsitt pointed me to a Wikipedia article which explained that pluralists believe that one can be saved without Jesus’ salvation. (See also http://landonwhitsitt.com/2012/02/08/good-theology-bad-theology/ by Whitsitt.)

One teaching elder who envisions God in female terms and rejects most biblical doctrine and ethics, is Dr. Rebecca Todd Peters. Desiring a god/ess that changes as humans change, Peters contends that:

“An unchanging God generates self-blame and feelings of abandonment in the face of the changing imperfect world. In contrast, a God/ess open to change is consist with images of divine partnership with humankind, working together in the ongoing process of co-creation.”[1]

Peters, using her theological meanderings, passes by Jesus and sees female sexuality as a revelation of god/ess’ attributes. This bolsters her advocacy for LGBTQ sexuality as well as sex outside of marriage.

Teaching elder Aric Clark, more a universalist than a pluralist, nonetheless applauded John Shuck’s unbelief as he preached the installation sermon for his term at  Southminster Presbyterian Church in Beaverton Oregon.

The list is endless. There is Presbyterian, Dr. Eugene March, whose pluralist book The Wide, Wide Circle of Divine Love: A Biblical Case for Religious Diversity was studied by some members of the General Assembly Council during their 2005 meeting. It was meant for everyone but because of some protest its use was limited.

In the recent Sacramento Presbytery meeting we sang a song (I and some others didn’t) by Miriam Therese Winter. It was in the old blue Presbyterian hymnal. (Oh for a world-p 386.) The writer, who is Catholic, has written three books of liturgy for women which focus on women’ issues using female and goddess names for deity. In her book, Woman Wisdom, she has a poem asking about the name of the deity. Some of the verses are:

 I Am the Prehistoric Goddess/ I have many names and myriad manifestations.

Oh Prehistoric Goddess, reveal to us your names and myriad manifestations.[2]

The prayer goes on to name and pray to most of the known goddesses of ancient history as well as contemporary time. Not only is this blasphemous, it erases the very object of Christianity, Jesus Christ. He has no meaning in the context of pagan worship. As an example the song we sang began:

“O for a world where everyone respects each other’s ways, where love is lived and all is done with justice and with praise.  O for a world where goods are shared and misery relieved, where truth is spoken, children spared, equality achieved.  We welcome one world family and struggle with each choice that opens us to unity and gives our vision voice.  The poor are rich, the weak are strong, the foolish ones are wise.”

The tune used is from “O for a Thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise.” That song is about Jesus:

O for a thousand tongues to sing
my great Redeemer's praise,
the glories of my God and King,
the triumphs of his grace!

Winters replaced Jesus with humanity.

Moderator Rada and many others in the P. C. (U.S.A.) need to understand that eventually the Scriptures and the Confessions will have no meaning at all for those in the denomination who choose our postmodern culture.  A written text unembraced has no purpose or use in any organization. A living, divinely inspired text has life to give to those who embrace its words, because they are the words of God. Without the word of God both the individual and the church is dead. Over and over it needs to be spoken, “Jesus said to him. ‘I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.” (John 14:6)




[1] Rebecca Todd Peters, “Embracing God as Goddess.” Body and Soul: Rethinking Sexuality as Justice-Love, editors Marvin M. Ellison & Sylvia Thorson-Smith, (Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press 2003), 165.
[2] Miriam Therese Winter, Woman Wisdom: A Feminist Lectionary and Psalter: Women of the Scriptures: Part One (New York: Crossroad 1997) 299.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Sacramento Presbytery passed their "gracious" dismissal policy: some thoughts


Sadly some bloggers in Pakistan have been hacked to death for their atheism. And a blogger in Saudi Arabia has been flogged weekly for his political views. But we, in the United States, are supposedly a democracy, I should be able to blog freely about the discernment process my church, or any Sacramento church, belonging to the  Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), is going through.

And that is a real problem because today, May 14, 2015, despite pleadings by several, the presbytery passed a dismissal policy that was anything but gracious.

It starts with biblical and gracious words but continues on in a controlling mode, setting churches up, not for reconciliation, but to flee the whole horrific process. For instance the part I have focused on as I began this posting is:

“Concurrently with the appointment of the PET [Presbytery Engagement Team], the chair of COM shall advise the pastors and Session as well as the Moderator that the General Presbyter or Stated Clerk will serve as the sole spokesperson with all media agents throughout the process. Any exceptions to this policy shall be approved by the Stated Clerk or General Presbyter in consultation with members of the COM and Presbytery Council.”

Now blogging about dismissal does not make me a spokesperson for my church or anyone else, but since I have been quoted in other publications I have been used by the media to gain information. Needless to say, I insist on my right to freely inform others and express my opinions.

For instance today, at our Presbytery meeting, an administrative commission placed over a small church in Burney California, declared the church in schism. If there is not reconciliation those few who do not wish to leave the PC (U.S.A.) will undoubtedly be declared the true church and be given the property. If there is reconciliation and the congregation all decide to leave together they face a daunting situation. With the new policy they will need to run a gauntlet of control and expense. For example the presbytery can hire a lawyer and the church, a very small church, will have to pay for the lawyer.

The need to control is the outward problem with the dismissal policy but there is a deeper problem, an unspoken problem. Today we had several teaching elders and some of their ruling elders speak on a panel about how they were dealing with the diversity in their congregations and the issues the denomination is facing today. It was almost as though they were showing us how we could ignore the elephant in the room. But the elephant is still sitting there and many members of Sacramento’s presbytery want those who are concerned about the elephant to stop caring.

Ten churches have already left the presbytery. Three, including Burney, are in discernment. This exodus really does spell defeat for an agenda that some wanted the whole church to embrace. The agenda was to bypass Scriptures and Confession and have the whole denomination embrace a cultural mandate to lift up unbiblical sexuality. In this case sexuality has turned into totalitarianism because churches are being forced to either ignore what they believe is sin or pay a huge penalty for the sake of their faith.

The many churches leaving in an attempt to be faithful to the authority of God’s word are a judgment on an agenda that has nothing to do with obedience to the Lord of the Church. It is the powers of darkness, which Paul speaks of in Ephesians, who are influencing the misery that some churches now face. And yet, still, Jesus is Lord of his Church, He is with us in the midst of uncertainty and sorrow.  To use Karl Barth’s German (Luther’s) translation of Psalm xlvi. 5: “Still,” it is said, “still, shall the City of God abide, lusty beside her tiny stream.”