|Picture by Stephen Larson|
We live in a time of false teaching and apostasy. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) carries this burden of apostasy. It usually cost something to stand faithfully in such times. In JRR Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, as a new evil Shadow arises and creeping darkness engulfs their universe, Frodo, the Hobbit, says, “I wish it need not had happened in my time.” Gandalf, the wizard, replies:
“So do I,” … “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
After going through the correct process of discernment, voting and obtaining enough yes votes to leave the PC (U.S.A.) the session of Journey Church in Folsom received an e-mail with an attachment telling us that the church buildings and name would be given to those who voted against leaving. Among other items the negotiating team wrote:
“Having discovered a healthy group of Journey members who wish to continue Journey church as a PC(USA) congregation, The Transition Team made a motion to COM in accordance with the Book of Order and the new Dismissal Policies, that Presbytery appoint an Administrative Commission with original jurisdiction in order to move forward with this intended plan. COM passed this motion unanimously.
Subsequently, we mailed letters to the membership list that you provided, explaining the COM action, especially informing any who had voted against the dismissal request, that Journey, PC(USA) church will continuine [sic] at the present location assuming that Presbytery adopts the motion.”
The Old Testament reveals several ways the devout were faithful to the worship of God and the authority of scripture in times of apostasy. There is the prophetic tradition which stood against the idolatry of the Israelite culture. The prophets were made conspicuous by their own words and faithfulness. In the midst of a time when leaders profaned their religion with idols and false teaching the prophet was very much a member of the community and yet—too often they stood alone.
On the other hand is the witness of faithful priests, teachers and laity. Several times the faithful fled idolatry going instead to the one place of true worship. When the kingdom of Israel was split into two kingdoms and Jeroboam, the king of Israel but not Judah, set up false priests and created an idolatrous worship system, the scripture states:
For the Levites left their pasture lands and their property and came to Judah and Jerusalem, for Jeroboam and his sons had excluded them from serving as priests to the Lord. … Those from all the tribes of Israel who set their hearts on seeking the Lord God of Israel followed them to Jerusalem, to sacrifice to the Lord God of their fathers. (2 Chronicles 11: 14, 16)
Much later during a revival in Judah under king Asa, the king sent out officials, Levites and priests to teach the sacred law to the people. “They taught in Judah, having the book of the law of the Lord with them; and they went throughout all the cities of Judah and taught among the people. (2 Chronicles 17: 9)
The early Christians did not lose their worship sites until the last Roman persecution, but many undoubtedly lost their own property, their homes. The author of the book of Hebrews states:
But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened’ you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle: through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. (10: 32-35)
We have a great possession. We have Jesus our Lord.
Here is the letter sent to all the members of the congregation:
“December 2, 2015 Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
After prayerful consideration, study of the scriptures, and our conversations with those wanting to stay in the PC(USA), the Presbytery Negotiation Team (PNT) has determined that there is a viable congregation that can maintain Journey Church as a PC(USA) congregation. Anyone interested in this process is invited to attend an important meeting on December 13 at 4 pm at the Sacramento Presbytery office, 9983 Folsom Boulevard, Sacramento, to discuss the way forward. The PNT will conduct the meeting.
On October 11, 2015, Journey Church’s Session voted, and the members agreed, to request that the Sacramento Presbytery of the PC(USA) dismiss Journey Church to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church denomination.
On October 22, 2015, the Committee on Ministry appointed a Presbytery Negotiating Team (PNT) to begin the process of negotiating the terms for dismissal. Before the PNT could meet, a number of former and present leaders of Journey Church opposing the dismissal contacted the Presbytery’s Moderator and members of the team, inquiring as to what the Presbytery could do to maintain a PC(USA) presence in Folsom. The PNT met with these inquirers, first individually, and then as a group. The Book of Order (G-4.0207) and the Presbytery’s Gracious Policy for Reconciliation or Dismissal policy requires our presbytery to work with this viable group who wish to continue to use the church name, the property, and the assets to maintain a PC(USA) ministry and congregation.
Please be assured that the PNT is not trying to disparage anyone who no longer feels at home in the PC(USA) from making a move to another denomination. We will be sad to see you go, but we know that everyone must follow his/her own conscience under the leading of God's Spirit. Please know that you will always be welcome to return.
The Committee on Ministry is making a motion at the next Sacramento Presbytery meeting to appoint an Administrative Commission (AC) to guide the process forward. You may copy this letter and give it to those who might not receive it in the mail. Please feel free to contact any one of us if you have questions. Blessings,
Presbytery Negotiating Team”
Pray for all involved in this transition.