Recently the Office of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) released a paper in an attempt to answer and refute other papers being used by different churches that are in discernment concerning leaving the denomination. Entitled “Constitutional Musings: Misrepresentations about the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.),” the paper begins:
The Office of the General Assembly has had an increase in the number of inquiries about printed materials from outside of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), being distributed within congregations, that ascribe to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) beliefs and standards which are meant to show that the church is no longer worthy of support. Over the past years the list of these misrepresentations have varied little and most have been answered in detail in the religious press, study papers adopted by the church or by specific action of the General Assembly. i Whenever possible, the Office of the General Assembly directs those who inquire about specific conclusions drawn by these papers to resources which give a broader understanding of the issues.
As someone who has seen one or two of my papers listed as resources for churches in discernment and more importantly because I believe the OGA has misunderstood the importance of the papers they are referring to, I will address what I think is the misunderstanding. But first I will note two important points.
1.Most of the papers, including mine, were not written with the intention of encouraging churches or church members to leave the PC (U.S.A.). Neither were they written to encourage members to stay. They were simply written to alert the church to various actions or statements by PC (U.S.A.) organizations and leaders which were harmful to God’s people. They, in many cases, were written as prophetic admonitions; most are attempts to speak truth to power from a biblical perspective.
2.The OGA and other leaders are failing to listen to their own churches. They could speak volumes concerning those who deny the deity of Christ, the atonement and the authority of Scripture. If they will not speak God will use others who do and will continue to speak!
However, there is a larger problem that the OGA fails to understand. The beginning of the Theological Declaration of Barmen as well as its history addresses their apologia about correct theological views in the PC (U.S.A.)’s constitution and study papers.
In the history of Barmen when the main denominations in Germany united, they also voted on a constitution. The Confessing Churches did not dispute the constitution; they, in fact, based their right to confession on that constitution. And it was because many church leaders failed to abide by the church constitution that the Confessing Church arose. In the introduction to Barmen the author speaks of what is threatened:
This threat consists in the fact that the theological basis, in which the German Evangelical Church is united, has been continually and systematically thwarted and rendered ineffective by alien principles, on the part of the leaders and spokesmen of the “German Christians” as well as on the part of Church administration. (8.07b)
And that is the problem today in the PC (U.S.A.). Simply stating that our constitution is orthodox does not speak to or about those who are continually and systematically thwarting and rendering it ineffective. The Confessing Church leaders called for those who agreed to stand with them. In their view those, even though leaders and administers, who were ignoring and tramping on the confession of the church were no longer members of the German Evangelical Church.
When pastors broadcast or write that the Bible is a myth and/or deny the deity of Christ as well as the existence of God they are thwarting and rendering the constitution ineffective. When Presbyterian professors and pastors insist that the death of Jesus Christ was unnecessary they thwart and render the constitution ineffective. When one past vice-moderator lowers the New Testament on to equal ground with gnostic texts, and another past vice-moderator insists others can come to God without Jesus, when the contemporary moderator unties the denomination from the confessions they are thwarting and rendering the constitution ineffective.
One can point forever to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s constitution and other study papers but if everyone including leadership does what is right in their own eyes there is good reason to see the denomination as withering on the vine that is Christ.
 Here it should be noted that the PCUSA document gives this information in their footnote, “For example: the 1993 “Reimagining God” conference is often listed as proof of a move away from reformed standards. Seldom do those making this accusation include the response of the following (1994) General Assembly which replied to critics of the church of this conference by, among other things, overwhelmingly adopting the following statements:
• We affirm the one triune God.
• We affirm the uniqueness of God's incarnation in Jesus Christ.
• We affirm the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our salvation.
• We affirm that the Scriptures, by the Holy Spirit, are the unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ.
• We affirm, again and again, the faith once delivered historically expressed in the Nicene and Apostles' Creeds, and the other historic confessions of our church.
We reject teachings that deny the tenets of our faith. Let there be no doubt that theology matters, that our Reformed tradition is precious to us, and that we intend to hand it down to the next generation-our children and our grandchildren.” [Minutes of the 206th General Assembly (1994) page 88] “