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.”