Saturday, March 26, 2016

Jesus is risen!


He is alive and he is our life. Jesus has overcome death, and hidden in him, we also live. He is in the heavenly realm having authority over all that is created. And we are kept and protected within His authority. This is the morning—not the night—we may rejoice in our risen Savior!

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. (Col. 3:1-4)

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday

Surely our grief he Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell on Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us have turned to his own way; and the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.  (Isaiah 53: 4-6)


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Ghost Ranch: apostasy or an X written on our forehead?

God led the prophet Ezekiel through a smorgasbord of apostasy, idolatry and nature worship committed by the leaders and people of Jerusalem. In Babylonian exile, in a vision, Ezekiel was shown the many gods worshiped by both priests and people, by both women and men. (Chapter 8) Publically the priests of Judah showed their contempt for their God by literally, in the temple, turning their back on him as they worshiped the sun. Secretly the elders of Jerusalem worshipped all of the creature gods of other nations. The women, in a lack of love for the Lord, wept for the god Tammuz, “a Sumerian god of vegetation.” [1]  

Likewise, exploring, on their web site, Ghost Ranch, a conference center owned by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), but used by many other denominations and religions one is confronted by apostasy, idolatry and nature worship. I have written about Ghost Ranch before, but now, even more so, there is a gathering of all that would detract from the grace and beauty of Jesus. It is, on the outside, new age sentimentality—one could pick out a few wise thoughts—but at its inner-core it is demonic and as dark and cold as the bottom of Dante’s hell.

There is a workshop, Healing Grief: Around the Sacred Wheel, led by a woman who is a practicing shaman. The bio of Cheryl Downey states, “Since 2000 she has also trained, practiced and mentored women and men in spiritual healing and the sacred arts from within universal shamanic teachings that empower the wisdom of woman and nature.” It also states:

“…the Sacred Wheel is an ancient and simple tool for illuminating and shifting deeply held, blocked or knotted energies within the four basic directional aspects of our grieving self: physical, emotional, spiritual and mental. Whether experiencing acute or long-held losses of loved ones or pets, or life transitions such as loss of job, home, physical health, or empty nest, the Wheel turns at the pace you need and can trust.”

Another workshop is Spiritual Activism: Working with Ancient Wisdom to Create a Better Tomorrow. Part of the description states, “Interfaith dialog and conversations have their place, but the magic of transformation and transcendence truly happen when we combine the sacred teachings of all the great wise ones of the ages. We can dwell there, breathing deeply, being present to Oneness.” The capitalization of ‘oneness’ in the text implies that all of reality is one and divine.

Another workshop, A Thousand Blossoms: Cultivating Your Inter-Spiritual Nature. This workshop lead by Mirabai Starr. The description states:

Join us on Wednesday, November 16 for acclaimed author, translator, and speaker, Mirabai Starr, in an exploration of the many ways human beings bear witness to the presence of the Divine. By saying yes to the sacred in multiple holy houses — Hinduism, Buddhism, Sufism, Mystical Judaism and Christian mysticism—we affirm the unitive essence at the heart of the world’s great wisdom traditions and activate that inner knowing in service to a world hungry for connection. In Cultivating Your Inter-Spiritual Nature, using a contemplative approach and drawing on the poetry of the mystics, Mirabai offers a direct experience of the love that welcomes everyone to the table.”

In other words Mirabai offers a connection to God through the use of all of the world’s religious texts, in particular the mystical ones. She sadly mistakes the personal God encountered in Jesus Christ for the impersonal spirit forces of eastern religion. And she, as do most of these other leaders, offers religious practice as a means of knowing some kind of divine presence. The workshops are devoid of a redeeming savior.

Mirabai’s workshop is offered as a pre-event before a retreat for Spiritual Companions and Soul Care Workers. This is a retreat meant especially for those who have in the past participated in Ghost Ranch’s spiritual directors program StillPoint. The participants in this program come from various denominations. Mirabai’s workshop is a clue to the kind of training they receive. There is a video on Mirabai’s workshop site. It is an interview by Rich Archer of the Buddha at the Gas Pump.

Answering a question about what makes fundamentalist tick Mirabai states:

“I’m much more interested in the questions, I get very nervous when anyone has an answer for me and I myself continuously, maybe it’s an inquiry based inclination in me, but as soon as I think I start to have it figured out I fire, I fire the god that I just elected and enthroned in my consciousness.”

Mirabai explains her spiritual background which includes many new age gurus from the sixties and seventies. She talks of her interest in mystical Christianity but even though she has translated them she seems to put an eastern religious focus to their writings. She along with her interviewer, believes that religion is evolving and the implication is that at some point although there will be diversity there will be an understanding that all religions in their essence will be one. (I am placing the video at the end of this posting so the reader can have an idea of what is being promoted at Ghost Ranch.)

There are many other such classes listed—the flavors are slightly different than the false gods of Judah, but they are nevertheless false, frightfully false. Various minsters and priests receive this apostate teaching carrying it out to other parts of the mainline denominations. Yes, religion will evolve, that which is on unstable ground will drift into nothing or become so evil that they will, as they have begun to do, combine the falseness with immorality and oppression. 

In Ezekiel, as God brings judgment on the city of Jerusalem, he has an angel mark the foreheads of those who “sign and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst.” (9:4b) John B. Taylor in his commentaries points out that this was a kind of X. He states that the early Christians believed this was a sign pointing to the cross. That the prophets, as usual, were pointing to something of which they were unaware.

Against the apostasy of such places as Ghost Ranch and the denominations that allow it to flourish stands the cross—the grace open to sinners. (We all are) Christ Jesus is surely pleading with his people to be and stay faithful to him.

[1] John B. Taylor, Ezekiel: An Introduction & Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, general editor, D. J. Wiseman, (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press).

Sunday, March 20, 2016

A New York Times article & my father

A person on Facebook posted an article from the New York Times, “Dying with Nothing to Say” by Katie Rolphe. The theme of the essay is our expectations that the last words we experience from those we love, when they are dying, will include reconciliation and longed for answers to our deep questions, but death does not usually provide such glad endings. The essay set off a string of memories and a final ending that was, at least, a glad one.

My father died when I was around 24/25, I don’t remember the exact date. He killed himself. But at the time I wasn’t sure, some rumpled notes were in his garbage can. Later, 30 years later, a sister confirmed my memories. I was the last person to talk with him, the last daughter he visited. And he had things to say, I simply didn’t hear his words the way I should have heard them.

I was carrying my fourth child in about 5 & ½ years. My mother had died two years before—I was always weary. We talked of many things. My father, Wesley Trotter, had been a cowboy, a farmer and a truck driver. I loved my father dearly. He was 52 and no longer worked because of a severe back injury which was getting worse. We were always close except when I became a Christian, perhaps too intense, but I was after all a teen when Jesus revealed his glorious salvation to me.

I have to laugh about some of those memories. One day, I, as usual sat in our rocking chair singing hymns, something I loved doing. My father was sleeping on the couch. When he woke up he started singing the hymn I had been singing and I laughed at him. But he got even. One late morning I was doing the usual teen thing, sleeping in. He pounded on my door yelling for me to wake up. I immediately sat up and cursed at him and he laughed and laughed. I had to apologize to him and God.

That particular visit, my father was trying to tell me two things, he simply did not know how to say either of them in a straight forward way. He was trying to tell me that he had encountered Jesus and did not know what to do with such an experience. He told me he had been trying to go to church but when they sang the hymns it made him cry and he would leave. He also told me who he wanted to keep my younger sister if he should die. She was only eleven. He was thinking of death and I didn’t understand why.

After visiting for several hours I told him I needed a nap. My youngest was napping and the other two were gone with their other grandparents. I thought he would stay and when I woke up we would visit some more. But when I woke up he was no longer there and I would not see him again.

I was angry when I heard of his death. I was angry for weeks. I keep asking God why. And then I called the pastor who had preached the funeral for both my mother and father. He was a Missionary Alliance pastor, a very kind man. I told him of my anger and asked can you give me any clue at all that my father knew Jesus. He said, “I certainly can.” He told me that just a month before my father’s death he had visited the pastor and accepted Jesus as his savior.  

The article in the Times is very good, I recommend it. But the author, I think does not comprehend the love and goodness of God to those who are in Christ Jesus. God reaches into our lives and works his wonders in ways that we could never imagine.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Cor. 1:3-4)

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The history and context of Journey Church becoming Hope Presbyterian Church as they transitioned to the EPC

I am writing a narrative of Hope Presbyterian Church's transition from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. I felt I should place it within the history of the PC (U.S.A.) and the Sacramento Presbytery. This is my beginning.

Local history lies in the context of wider events. On January the thirty-first of 2016, the majority of members belonging to Journey Church, Folsom, California, a PC (U.S.A.) , church, registered and voted to become charter members in a new denomination. Hope Presbyterian Church of Folsom, a transitional church in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, was formed becoming a part of the Pacific Presbytery of the EPC. This event developed out of the history of the evolving progressive culture in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
My introduction will set the event of a new church plant in the EPC within the history of the PC (USA), the Sacramento Presbytery and the local church, Journey Church of Folsom.
Report of the Theological Task Force of the Peace, Unity and Purity of the Church
The PC (U.S.A.) and its General Assembly, in an attempt to solve the continuing debate about sexuality versus biblical principles, in 2006, voted to accept the Report of the Theological Task Force of the Peace, Unity and Purity of the Church on the place of homosexuality as well as fornication (the act of unmarried sex) in the lives of those who sought ordination. Although, the authors of the report insisted that it was not local option, the right of different presbyteries and churches to set their own standards, for many local churches and presbyteries it became so.
The Sacramento Presbytery:
Because of the passage of what became known as the PUP Report, the Sacramento Presbytery, still containing many evangelical churches, passed, in 2006, four resolutions to guide the Presbytery:
 “1. To promote the peace, unity, and purity of our presbytery, we resolve that the Sacramento Presbytery holds that all candidates for ordination, installation, and/or membership in this Presbytery shall comply with all standards for ordination set forth in the Constitution of the PCUSA, or shall be ineligible for ordination, installation, and/or membership.
2. To promote the peace, unity, and purity of our presbytery, we resolve that the Sacramento Presbytery shall not receive into membership, nor recognize as a member, anyone who has been ordained or installed under a scruple (that is taking exception to any of the ordination standards as set forth in the Constitution of the PCUSA.)
3. To promote the peace, unity, and purity of our presbytery, we resolve that the Sacramento Presbytery shall honor the protest of every congregation that chooses to exercise its right to withhold its per capita, therefore, only designated congregational per- capita funds shall be used to fulfill presbytery per capita obligations, and presbytery per capita assessments shall not be increased to compensate for such protests.
4. To promote the peace, unity, and purity of our presbytery, we resolve that the Sacramento Presbytery shall take no action to enforce any general trust interest claimed against any property, real or personal, held by an individual congregation within the Sacramento Presbytery.”[1]
The resolutions passed. However a complaint was filed against the resolutions by David Thompson, then teaching elder at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Sacramento and teaching elder, at large, Jack McNary. On June the 20th, 2007, the Synod of the Pacific overturned the resolutions.[2] At the same time David Thompson and his session ordained two elders who were practicing homosexuals[3]. When members of the presbytery complained a committee was formed to investigate the event. The committee instead of disciplining the pastor and session wrote a letter to Westminster apologizing for the investigation and then made fun of one pastor, on the floor of the presbytery, who complained about the letter.
The Louisville Papers:
In some presbyteries the ‘Louisville Papers’ may not have played much of a part in their history; I believe they did in the Sacramento Presbytery. The Louisville papers were secret documents uncovered by The Presbyterian Layman. Written by Presbyterian lawyers and leaders they basically encouraged Presbyteries to battle for church properties in civil courts. They stressed a hierarchical nature for reformed denominations and pointed out that judges who belonged to hierarchical denominations, such as Catholics and Episcopalians, would better understand the proceedings.
Shortly after the Presbyterian Layman’s disclosure the moderator of the general assembly, Joan Gray, visited the Sacramento Presbytery. In the midst of questions addressed to her, a pastor asked her what she thought of the Louisville papers. Her reply was that she had not read them because she did not think they were important. She did not see the pastor’s face as he turned away. It was filled with shock and disbelief. I have no reference for this; his expression is simply burned into my memory. Shortly after this two churches, the two largest churches in the Presbytery, Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church and Roseville, sued for their property.
They eventually began a discernment process to leave the PC (U.S.A) for the E.P.C. In the meantime the presbytery produced a reasonable dismissal policy. The presbytery voted to allow both churches to leave with their property with the requirement of a gift of money for the presbytery. The agreement was fairly evenhanded. And then, once again, David Thompson of Westminster filed a complaint against the presbytery for allowing the two churches to leave with their property.
The church’s suit for their property was reinstated and was eventually sent to the Synod of the Pacific since Sacramento Presbytery was going broke. The Synod demanded an exorbitant payment for their properties. By this time churches were losing their properties in court due to hierarchal property laws and the two churches settled and left with their properties as did many other churches in the presbytery.
Further actions by the General Assembly, 2010 to 2014:
In 2011, after the General Assembly in 2010, a majority of the presbyteries voted to remove what was called the fidelity and chastity clause in the PC (U.S.A.) Book of Order. That was, “Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness. Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and / or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament (G-6.0106b).” [4]
One of the gay elders, who had been ordained by Westminster in Sacramento, was a commissioner to the 2010 GA. (In an uncanny way the PUP report had helped to move the denomination toward an unbiblical view of sexual ethics.) After this action LGBT members of the PC (U.S.A.), as well as those living with a sexual partner without marriage, could be ordained to the offices of teaching elder, ruling elder and deacon.
The General Assembly of 2014, not only voted to send to the presbyteries an item that would change words in the Book of Order to allow same sex marriage but also passed what was supposedly a clarification (an authoritative interpretation) of W. 4. 9000. The authoritative interpretation rather than clarifying changed the meaning of W. 4. 9000 stating that the meaning was “"...the freedom of conscience in the interpretation of Scripture (G-2.0105) to participate in any such marriage they believe the Holy Spirit calls them [teaching elders] to perform."
The amendment that was sent to the presbyteries and passed changed the wording from “Marriage is a gift God has given to all humankind for the well-being of the entire human family.  Marriage is a civil contract between a woman and a man.  For Christians marriage is a covenant through which a man and a woman are called to live out together before God their lives of discipleship.  In a service of Christian marriage a lifelong commitment is made by a woman and a man to each other, publicly witnessed and acknowledged by the community of faith.” To:
“Marriage is a gift God has given to all humankind for the well-being of the entire human family. Marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman, to love and support each other for the rest of their lives. The sacrificial love that unites the couple sustains them as faithful and responsible members of the church and the wider community.”
At this point the presbyteries simply made legal what many teaching elders, against Scripture, had already been doing. With the idea that Scripture could be interpreted individually via the Holy Spirit and against the traditional understanding of the whole universal church, the authority of Scripture was lost and many other churches began the discernment process which would lead them away from the PC (U.S.A.). There were other issues, important ones, which led to the exodus of many more churches in the Sacramento Presbytery. In fact two Korean churches, without going through the discernment process simply walked away from their properties.
Christology and Soteriology: the Lordship of Jesus and his Salvation:
One of the large incidents where Presbyterians as well as other mainline denominational members degraded the Lordship of Jesus Christ and denounced his salvation was the Re-imagining conference held in Minneapolis in 1993. The P C (U.S.A.) through the women’ ministries gave a large sum of money to the conference. Lady Sophia, thought of by some radical feminist as both the Holy Spirit and the mother of Jesus, was chanted to and used in prayer.[5] The author of the chant or prayer included it in her section of a book on the conference. One of the more damning verses was:
“Our sweet Sophia, we are women in your image: / With nectar between our thighs we invite a lover, we birth a child;/ With our warm body fluids we remind the world of its pleasures and sensations.” [6]
Some speakers denied the atoning death of Christ. Delores Williams stated, "I don't think we need folks hanging on crosses, and blood dripping, and weird stuff."[7] Another speaker Rita Nakashima Brock referred to the death of Jesus on the cross as child abuse by the Father. The conference, although the PC U.S.A. fired some people over the issues, was to effect the women’s ministries for many years. In the Sacramento Presbytery and at the church I was attending at that time, Fremont Presbyterian Church, when teaching a class on women’s issues one woman in particular showed up in a Sofia tee shirt as a means of confrontation.
Throughout the whole PC (U.S.A.), the atonement and deity of Christ is often denied, twisted or reinterpreted. From teaching elder Landon Whitsitt, vice moderator of the PC (U.S.A.) from 2010 to 2012, who is a pluralist, believing that there are other ways to salvation besides Jesus, to teaching elder John Shuck who believes in no God at all, the denomination is full of those who in some way deny the uniqueness of Jesus Christ.
The Christian is never allowed to enter into any peace but the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ. But at least they are allowed to rest in a part of Christ’s church that offers the safety of the word of God for their foundation. I am now ready to begin the story of our congregation’s journey to such a place.

[1] Layman, John Adams, “Presbytery will consider four resolutions in response to approval of PUP report”,
[2] The Presbyterian Outlook, “Synod overturns Sacramento Presbytery post-PUP policies,” 
[3] Naming His Grace, Viola Larson, “A newspaper article and letter about David Thompson: should we laugh or cry?,”
[4] See Presbyterian News Service, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) approves change in ordination standard: ‘Submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ’ replaces ‘fidelity and chastity’,
[5] Re-Imagining and Re-Imagining, Nancy J Berneking & Pamela Carter Joern, editors, (Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press 1995).
[6] Ibid, “Creating the Sofia Ritual,” Hilda A. Kuester, 18-20.
[7] Re-Imagining (Christian feminist conference), Wikipedia, I have placed a reference to Wikipedia but I listened to all of the tapes from the conference.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Triumph of the Will & a Donald Trump video

I watched a video of Donald Trump that supposedly shows what a great person he is—but I think the video is scary. No he doesn’t incite any one to violence in the video. He doesn’t make racist remarks or suggest that an American soldier is not a hero because he was captured. The video is light, happiness and promises—and yet—the words, the music, (yes the music) and the devotion of the individuals and massive crowds remind me of another time and place.

A sociology class I took so many years ago, about cults, what we now generally refer to as new religions, featured, during the last quarter a section on Hitler and the Nazis. The professor understood the Nazis to be the ultimate cult; Germany was a nation enveloped by a cult. A cult in the true sense of that word, not a new religion but an intolerant movement led by an authoritarian individual.  

When I watched the Trump video I was reminded of a movie we watched in the class. Not all of the movie but certain parts of it. In 1935 after Hitler had become chancellor of Germany he commissioned Leni Riefenstahl to produce the film Triumph of the Will. Although he also helped in its production. One of those who has posted the film on YouTube wrote of it:

“Triumph of the Will became an example of propaganda in film history. Riefenstahl's techniques, such as moving cameras, the use of long focus lenses to create a distorted perspective, aerial photography, and revolutionary approach to the use of music and cinematography, have earned Triumph of the Will recognition as one of the greatest films in history. Riefenstahl won several awards, not only in Germany but also in the United States, France, Sweden, and other countries. The film was popular in the Third Reich, and has continued to influence movies, documentaries, and commercials to this day.”

It is the music, the positive outlook and the adulation of the people toward Hitler which reminds me of the video about Trump. It isn’t that I see Trump as Hitler but I see in both films an authoritarian leader or potential leader whose authoritarianism is hidden because of the careless and blind enthusiasm of the people following him. And it isn’t that the video about Trump is a great work of art—it isn’t—but the way the music in the first of the Hitler film and in the last of the Trump film is used is the same.

And so I am placing first the Trump video and then the Triumph of the Will movie. Be sure and listen to the end of the Trump video and listen to the music.  When watching the Hitler film you will probably only want to watch the very early parts which include Hitler flying in an airplane and being greeted by crowds of people all raising their hands to him. In this film also note the music.