Sunday, July 31, 2011

Leaving or staying: In obedience to Jesus

The session of Fremont Presbyterian Church, of Sacramento, my church, has voted, unanimously, to leave the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and join the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Because of that I would like to clarify several things. There are several church meetings planned to discuss this. The congregation will still have to vote. I will uphold my church’s desire to leave the PCUSA, they are making their decision, after much prayer, on what they believe is the best way to obey Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Church in the midst of a disobedient denomination. However, I will not leave with them.

I believe in this time of crisis, in the denomination, Christians are obligated to listen to the voice of the Lord; to obey him and follow him no matter what that may mean. The Session of Fremont has heard the Lord speak of faithfulness by way of leaving. I have not yet heard the Lord tell me to lay aside the writing and work I have been involved in for the sake of his purposes in the midst of our disobedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. I am, of course, extremely sad. But I will remain.

Having part of my Christian journey go through the Jesus movement; a time of great revival among the flower children of the sixties and seventies, I know what God can do in the lives of wayward, sinful people. That was a time when God literally reached into the drug culture, sexual revolution, false spirituality and set many young people free from their sinful life styles.

I know He can still do so. Perhaps it will be in the PCUSA, a denomination so given over to its own selfish need to walk with the society of the day that it is embracing the society’s base sexuality and its culture of death. Perhaps revival will happen in some obscure home Bible studies as it did in the sixties and seventies. But then again, perhaps God has chosen to let the PCUSA dwindle away and become some small heretical sect unnoticed by anyone except the Judge of the earth.

The fragmentation began in our Presbytery several years ago, with PUP. It will continue, here and many other places, until we listen to the Lord of the Church. But that listening will only happen when the Holy Spirit moves members to embrace the Lordship of Jesus Christ which means obedience to his word. It is a sorrowful time for me and many others. But we will wait on the Lord of the Church to do his work wherever and whenever that may be.


Jodie said...
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Pat & Patti Watters said...

Amen Viola. Patti and totally understand your "position" and know you are (as always) seeking the Lord in this. May He continue to bless, guide and protect you. In His abundant love, pat

Debbie said...

May God continue to be with you as you courageously move forward.

Debbie Berkley
Bellevue, WA

Greg Scandlen said...

I haven't yet decided what to do, but this much I know -- that God never fails and that all of this is in accordance with His plan. I am not sad, I do not grieve. I look forward joyfully to the adventures yet to come and I can hardly wait to find out what He has in store for me next. God bless you, Viola, in whatever path the Lord takes you on.

Greg Scandlen
Waynesboro, PA

Viola Larson said...

Greg, you would be sad if you knew you were going to need to leave your church-not that I won't keep seeing friends there. But, knowing that God does all things well doesn't mean we don't grieve, just not as others because we have hope. The good thing about all of this besides the Good God is planning, is that we still all believe in the essentials of the faith. We are not parting over moral or faith issues.

Linda Lee said...

Thank you for your faithfulness and for sharing your journey. Your proclaimation of the truth is so appreciated.
Take comfort in this verse:
1 Corinthians 12:18 "But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of t he, just as he wanted t hem to be."

I praise God for your part and placement in the body.

Kathy Horstman said...

Oh, Viola, you are brave.

Me, I wonder if, as an at-large (female) minister, I'm just being mercenary or cowardly by sticking around. I still haven't given up all hope of getting a pulpit somewhere, and if not in the PCUSA, where?

Viola Larson said...

Kathy it sounds to me like you are the brave one: ) Why don't you try the program "for such a time as this." Someone I was a liaison to did and she now has a little church in W.Va. Your sermons are terrific-so full of Christ. So Scriptural . For anyone interested see the link NOT EXACTLY AS PREACHED on the side of my blog.

Viola Larson said...

Linda Lee,
thank you so much. The verse is perfect, well all of Scripture is inspired, but you know what I mean.

Reforming Gary said...

I also come out of the Jesus People Movement and saw hundreds of lives radically changed by the Word of God penetrating their wayward hearts. Many of the current generation of GA leaders also were part of the cultural revolution of the 60's. They did not come to Christ because they created a Christ of their own, like a plastic Jesus sitting on the dashboard of their cars. I have been praying for hundreds of these folks that God would move in them and convert them. It is difficult mission field because they "hard soil" well worn path - long term unbelievers who believe they are already saved.

While in the Jesus People Movement, my group, "The Light of World Fellowship" prayed that God would keep me out of the organized church and in the streets where I belong.

Viola Larson said...

Well Gary although you are in an institution you are kind of in the streets- Maybe that is a good name for an Evangelical blog in the PCUSA: )

James Kim said...

Viloa, I appreciate your stance. None of what we're going through as a denomination is going to be easy. But, grace is never easy. It's always messy and hard. I know that the PC(USA) will be stronger because of your presence. Blessings!

James <><

Anonymous said...

Bless you, Viola, this sounds like a very painful decision for you. Marie Bowen faced a similar one when her congregation withdrew to the EPC. You are in my thoughts and prayers. This is a very difficult time to be an evangelical in this denomination.

On another note, if someone has been told not to post in a blog, what kind of arrogant stupidity does it take to keep posting there? Do they think they are oracles of God who must share their "wisdom???"

Bless you,

John Erthein
DeFuniak Springs, FL

Anonymous said...

Your decision illustrates some important and tough questions. One of the key things about the Reformed/Presbyterian ethos is that we are not Christians in isolation. None of us is so wise and righteous that we can dispense with the instruction and correction of the larger body of Christ. Yet, what do we do when we think the larger body of which we are a part has failed to correctly discern the spirit? Do we strike out on our own? Or submit to the larger body?

What does it mean to be loyal to the church? Is it loyalty to the worshiping community of which I'm a part? Or is it loyalty to the larger web of connections across the region?

These are important questions, and I am confident our community will benefit if you take a blog post or two and explore them a bit from your perspective. I have learned much from your postings, and would no doubt benefit from your thoughts about these…

P Johnston

Viola Larson said...

P. Johnson,
Those are great questions and I will think about exploring them since I have been thinking, alongside many others, of their ramifications for individuals and whole churches. I think one way of thinking about this is to go back to the Reformation, also to look at the Wesleyan movement and yes, even the Salvation Army. (Those are both movements that came out of larger church groups in a time of revival.) And also, as I have often done, look at the Confessing Church in Germany. (One might even explore the Anabaptist movement groups that both Calvin and Luther despised but they do have some lessons to teach the church.) Well that is a beginning.

peter larson said...

Dear Viola: I appreciate the strength and courage of your convictions. The call of Christ for each of us is different and I would not presume to question the call you are hearing to stay. I, too, have wrestled with staying and leaving over the years and what it means to be faithful to the Church. At the risk of oversimplifying a complex subject, I believe loyalty to the church comes down to only one thing: loyalty to Christ and only to Christ. I think this is the only way to interpret and understand all those "hard sayings" of Jesus that in order to follow him we must hate our mother and father, etc. Although these words seem harsh and cruel, I think Jesus is intending to show us that we owe our absolute loyalty and allegiance to him - and not to any group of people, however much we love and care about them...and much less to a denomination that would dishonor His name and defy his commands. Jesus is the church's one foundation....and it cannot exist or stand even for a moment apart from him. When we leave Christ, we leave the church in the true and spiritual sense. By the way, I also enjoyed the "Perfect Storm" video and magnificent German hymn.

Viola Larson said...


Thank you. You are right faithfulness to the church means loyalty to Jesus Christ the church's foundation. We of course cannot be faithful outside of the church, but the PCUSA is not “the church.” It is part of Christ’s vineyard that is failing badly- so now we must listen to the Great Shepherd of the sheep and I don’t believe his call to each of us is always the same. However I do believe he will gather a group of people to be faithful to him whether in the PCUSA or out-that is his business-thank God.

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