Monday, November 30, 2015

The PC (U.S.A.) & the Presbyteries' view of mission and the Church Universal

The way presbyteries negotiate with churches seeking dismissal from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), I believe, says a lot about how they view the church universal. And this includes the presbytery’s view of the mission of the church. The thoughts I am writing about here came together after listening to the speakers for three administrative commissions at the last Presbytery of Sacramento meeting. Adding to my thoughts was a letter the session of Journey Church, (My church), received from the Presbytery negotiating team.

And let me quickly add that I don’t believe questions about the PC (U.S.A.)’s view of its mission or its view of the universal church has yet been truly formulated and answered by either my presbytery or the denomination. So here is the background.

At the presbytery meeting first two speakers explained what an AC was doing about two Korea churches who had simply withdrawn from both the denomination and their properties. One church, Capital Korean, now has 49 people worshiping in their church and according to the speaker are in need of healing. They hope to emphasize their youth ministry.

Zion Presbyterian church is consumed with problems. At the first meeting with those who had not left, the speaker stated that 58 people were present but twenty of them were people who wanted to leave but not with the pastor. The situation at this church is troubling to the AC and the presbytery because the church owes a huge debt. As I stated in another posting members of the presbytery wondered if the people who left owned the property and should pay the debt. The report was confusing but it seems as though the Presbytery is acknowledging that the property with the debt is theirs.

The third report was about Burney Presbyterian Church. The AC speaker for this church stated that there were 10 people staying—this is out of around thirty people. He stated that in the small town of Burney there was a need for a mainline church and also for ministry to Hispanic youth. After the meeting, I asked him if the 10 persons were attending church, because I had been told by a friend that at first no one came. The speaker stated that no one was yet coming to the church for worship because they did not yet have a pastor. This church was taken from the members of Burney who wished to leave with their property and yet no one is worshiping there!

The letter, e-mail, that came to Journey’s session was to ask for a meeting and for a gathering of mostly financial information but we were reminded of the various information the PET would be looking at. They referred to the Presbytery’s new dismissal policy. “Before negotiating the terms of dismissal the PNT shall review, perform and/or obtain the following:” 

Among other bits of information PET needed to obtain they pointed to this:  “The Presbytery’s mission strategy in the geographic area, and the proximity of other PC (U.S.A.) congregations;” 

However the information the PET asked for was not about any of the ministries of Journey but about their property and financial status. For instance there is this:

“As the PNT interprets the policy, we are requesting specifically, but not limited to,   the following:

1.     Any tangible and  or electronic  check registers, check stubs, canceled checks, bank statements, and reconciliation statements, deposit books, statements of account, and all other books and records covering transactions from January  1, 2010, to the present date., with respect to any checking, savings accounts, credit union accounts, savings and loans associations accounts, investment accounts held in the name of, or for the benefit,  of the church or by any individuals or  business entities on behalf of  the church or in which the church  has, or will  receive,  an interest.  (Including funds not yet dispersed as a result of bequests of deceased persons.)”

And this:

   “ 13.  Any and all documents pertaining to employment of the staff , including but not limited all records showing the amount of accrued vacation sick leave, and comp time ,  applications for employment, notices of employment, notices of promotions, or salary/fringe benefit increases, notice of demotions, pay deductions, discipline or termination, notice of resignations of employment, written reviews of staff work performance, any and all payment vouchers and records reflecting contributions to and withdrawals and rights under any employment retirement program, retirement plans, including Individual Retirement Accounts, pensions plans, 401(k) plans, profit-sharing plans from all employment.

   14.   Records of Journey Church’s Session and Deacon meetings, including but not limited to Minutes, confidential reports, emails, or other communications.

   15.    Records of financial reports including but not limited to treasurer reports to Session and  Deacons, the congregation, sub-committees, budgets, revised budgets, data bases containing financial information,   passwords to accounts held in electronic storage,”

This is all about money, but there is that other question about the church universal—how do these requests reveal the presbytery’s view of the ministry of the whole church? And if one ignores the ministry and mission of Journey or any other church what does that say about concern for mission. Is the PC (U.S.A.) the only denomination who has a worthy mission?

Not far from my house is a huge Salvation Army church. They have a large gym so that the youth in the area can participate in sports. There is a Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) in the midtown area and a well-known artist, a member of the church, hosts’ city artists who work with clay.  He even built a kiln for them to fire their work. Likewise, Journey Church is filled with ministries—prison ministries, a food bank, Teen Challenge, an African school, the list goes on and on.

The heart that is generous and full of the love of God because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ will rejoice in the Holy Spirit’s work in other places of the vineyard. When the PC (U.S.A.) begins to value the universal church in all of its true diversity—yes, including the Southern Baptist and the Assemblies of God, many of our battles will be over. When the presbyteries see the work of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and that of the Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians as enhancing the Kingdom of God there will be true unity under the Lordship of Christ.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


I am thankful for a lot this year. Physically, I made it through a major operation; after reading the doctors notes I realize that even the doctors seemed uncertain and pessimistic of the outcome, but God was merciful and kind. I am thankful for all of my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. I am looking forward to my 10th great granddaughter in 2016.*

Brad and I, this year, admiring an afghan our daughter Andrea made for us. 
I am thankful for my loving husband who, as far as I am concerned, despite his mild cognitive impairment, is my spiritual rock. I love watching him interact with his great grandchildren. Almost every morning if I peek into his study I see him with the Bible or in meditation.

I am thankful for my church, Journey Church in Folsom. Together many of us, most of us, have fought the good battle of discernment and after negotiations will leave for the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. I am thankful for my old church Fremont Presbyterian; they kept Brad and I fed after my operation and many sweet people have given rides to Brad, both to choir practice and church. I am also thankful for all of the renewal people in the PC (USA) who are still standing in the faith.

Most of all I am thankful for the Lord Jesus Christ who suffered and bled so that I might be forgiven and walk in new life.
* Oh dear-I said we were expecting our 9th great grandchild in 2016, I meant 10th. And yes, they are all girls.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Refugees and our debates

There is a troubling debate growing in the United States about admitting 10, 000 refugees from Syria. All of the concerns that have plagued our country throughout its history are surfacing. But the biggest concern has to do with terrorism. Perhaps there will be terrorist hiding among the refugees. There are the kinds of stories that some Facebook patrons link to; Sweden is in chaos because of the refugees and according to some reports all of them are young men; no families, no women and children. Even the burning down of some migrant centers in Sweden by rightwing extremist is seen as the fault of the refugees. But of course there is, rightly, concern about terrorism.

Today I asked a pastor I greatly respect about his views on the refugees. The pastor works in several risky areas of the world. His answer was, perhaps, the only right answer. He was conflicted. As an American, he said, he was concerned about security, he would have our borders closed for the sake of the American people. But as a Christian he didn’t see how we could turn away needy people who were fleeing war, persecution and terror. He added that one of the problems was that Christians were not given any priority although they are badly persecuted.

I have read several good articles on the situation and posted them on Facebook. I will link to them here: an article by student, Kliton Silvey, “Something Christian Millennials “Don’t get,”” Silvey ends her article with this:

“Maybe I’m just wound up. I suppose it’s possible to be too wound up or emotionally stirred at something like this. But if you want to curb my youthful enthusiasm, here’s all you need to do:

Open up a Bible and make a convincing argument that Jesus wants us all to be safe more than he wants us to reach the lost and help the hurting. I was taught, after all, that Jesus trumps all — even those teaching me that Jesus trumps all. Am I supposed to believe that or not?

It’s not like I’m declaring all of us must quit our jobs and go. But not only will we not go, we don’t even want them to come to us? I am genuinely confused. Somebody help me out here.”

One is by Dave Bier writing for the Niskenen Center a libertarian  organization, and while I am not a libertarian I believe this article answers a lot of questions. “Six Reasons to Welcome Syrian Refugees After Paris,”

One is by Presbyterian teaching elder and artist, John Stuart, “ Christian devotion: Rescuing Refugees - Exodus 22:21” and there is even a small article about Condoleezza Rice’s views, “Condoleezza Rice: I Get The Security Concerns, But The US Should Accept Refugees.”

And finally, dispelling many myths is one at a conservative news site, Bearingdrift. The article is “Myths vs. Facts in the Syrian Refugee issue.” (Hat tip Phil Moran)

About the need to make Christians as well as Yazidis a priority because of genocide, a friend shared this link, “For Christians and Yazidis Fleeing Genocide, the Obama Administration Has No Room at the Inn.” I hope a lot more information on this problem gets published. Matthew 25 has a lot to say about standing with brothers and sisters when they are suffering. We do it for and to Jesus!

Please watch the video below; it is filled with good reasons why, as Christians, we must care for the refugees. (Hat tip Dave Moody.)

Introduction to the Refugee Highway - 2014 from IAFR on Vimeo.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Donald Trump and Christian conversion

I’m not usually political but tonight it is a matter of my Christianity. Tonight in the Washington Post I read a very well done article on Donald Trump and his 95 minute tirade in Iowa “With torrent of attacks, Donald Trump moves back into center of race.” (I watched some of the tirade.) At the end of the article there were over a hundred comments including some by, supposedly, Donald Trump. And there was a comment by someone else, kzic, who said “Donald Trump may have been elected President of the USA tonight,” referring to the attacks in Paris. And then on Twitter I saw this:

  1. Ann Coulter @AnnCoulter 3h3 hours ago

“They can wait if they like until next November for the actual balloting, but Donald Trump was elected president tonight.”

In case no one noticed, besides mocking Ben Carson, Trump insisted that there could be no transforming conversion such as Carson claims. One of the commentators on PBS’s news did note that tonight.

In this context one of my favorite blogs, The Anxious Bench, with some of my favorite writers, on the 20th of October, published an article about Trump. It was by Thomas Kidd, a historian, who concluded his article, “Donald Trump and the Coming Christian Political Realignment,” with this:

“I will not vote for someone so boorish, who has no clue about most basic political issues, much less those most important to Christian conservatives (including religious liberty and abortion). I will not vote for a misogynist reality tv star whose campaign is based on starting stupid fights. I won’t do it, and I hope that millions within the supposed GOP “base” would join me.”

I agree.
 But now I have more to say.

In history we know of another man who gave long rants, pretended to be a Christian and wanted to rid his country of all “foreign” peoples. Hitler was just a painter who gave long speeches and could coldly insult people without a care but somehow some Germans thought he was capable of elevating their nation to greatness. Christians, faithful to the Lord, cannot think like that, must not think like that. If a candidate doesn’t believe in Jesus, that is one thing, but a candidate who makes fun of the redeeming, transforming power of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection should be rejected by Christians.  
The video below is the speech. It is long and boring. To hear what I am writing about go to 1:26:29- but note that in another part Trump says he loves war if it is winnable.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Christian progressives, racism and the chosen people of God

The greatest of divide is often caused, at its deepest root, by ideological errors. Both evangelical and progressive Christians are concerned about racism. The concern happens because of the reality of the 21st century in the United States. We are overwhelmed by racism and its brutality. But the differing world views and theology of the orthodox and the progressive lead to different solutions. The progressives who insist they are for peace, for equality and for following the “way” of Jesus are bending away from their ideals. The orthodox are beginning to understand their oneness in Jesus which is held in place by each bearing the righteousness of Jesus rather than their own righteousness.

The oneness is inclusive of all races—each belonging to Christ and therefore belonging to each other.

Several postings, one by a progressive teaching elder, who is a friend on Facebook and one by a lesbian teaching elder, whose opinion piece was on the Presbyterian Outlook, led me to this subject. Both postings are, in my opinion, extremely offensive.  The first was simply a cartoon:

The site the cartoon was taken from also holds offensive pictures. It is a Facebook site called Bay Area Intifada. Its profile picture is of a Middle Eastern revolutionary, Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni, and a Mexican revolutionary, Emiliano Zapata. But the really troubling picture is one of blacks stabbing whites. In its real context, the slave uprising in Haiti in the 18th century, the picture makes sense but on this particular site and given its context the picture is racist and scary:

How is posting such a cartoon from such a site pastoral? How does it lift up the love of Jesus Christ? How does it speak peace?

The other posting, “Language matters: Finding common ground in faith narratives,” is about the concept of white privilege and how the author, Beth Buckingham-Brown, believes the idea of chosen feeds into and affirms white privilege. She writes:

“As a pastor who preaches every Sunday, I am aware of the language I use. Over time I have become increasingly uncomfortable with the following claims: “We are the people of God.” “As God’s chosen people, holy and beloved …” “God chooses us and sends us.” In addition, some Reformed concepts like “God’s elect” or “God’s predestined” or “God’s holy ones” or “the saved” are equally troubling. How did we get from the Israelites (a concept that is at best confusing based on timing and definition) being God’s chosen people and the inheritors of God’s promise and blessing, to the church in the United States, Presbyterian in particular, becoming God’s chosen – which has meant, in part, that we mount a militant defense of the land which we have taken by force and the democracy which only applies to some? We are not Israelites. And yet we (some of us) claim the favor of God and the chosen status by inserting ourselves into the narrative. …”

Buckingham-Brown goes on to conclude “.”What I hope is the promise, though, is that if we can once and for all separate church and state (and not let the state determine theology), we will be able to re-envision a theology that is centered on Jesus. In Jesus’ world, either we are all chosen or none of us are chosen (which really means none of us are!).

This is all theological confusion. The first posting the cartoon, leads away from the fact that we are all sinners and in need of redemption. The far, far right, “Christian Identity” which sees the white races as Israelites and the Jews as literal children of Satan is the same. Both the progressive and the radical right are scapegoating. Two things happen with this. Everyone’s sin and all evil get dumped on one group of people. And the individual sinner is not addressed instead she gets lumped into a group and is left without a chance for personal redemption and transformation.

This also leads away from peace. It is evil.

The second posting, about white privilege and chosen, is written by a teaching elder who does not seem to have a clear grasp of scripture or theology. The Nazis saw Germans as a chosen race but this was not a biblical concept. It had nothing to do with the calling of Jesus Christ. Biblically, being chosen has nothing to do with race but rather with God’s call to redemption. Such a call does not place one in any kind of worldly position but rather it is a call of service to the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is also a call to repentance and forgiveness. It means admitting to being a sinner unable to save oneself. The righteousness of Christ is our only righteousness. The life of Christ is our only life. Our chosenness unites us to Jesus and with that we are united to multitudes of every race and ethnic group on earth and in heaven.  It is the life and death of Jesus that has united us.

Worthy are you to take the book and to break its seals; for you were slain, and purchased for God with your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth. (Rev. 4:9a-10)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellences of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10)