Monday, January 9, 2012

An administrative commission & deception-update

I was going to put an update on my prayers for Fremont posting but this needs to be a whole new posting. The motion to put an administrative commission over Fremont Presbyterian Church in Sacramento did pass with a vote of 81 for and 51 against. But some of the facts that came out in the meeting were very disturbing.

It was admitted that although the negotiating team of the Presbytery failed to meet with Fremont’s negotiating team they did meet with a small group of those who voted not to leave. Twenty-five was the number given. And they met with them twice they said. That number we were assured had grown to 60 or at least fifty. The Presbytery had helped them to open an escrow account where their tithes could be placed rather than giving them to Fremont, and then gave them a place to worship. All of this was done without the Session of Fremont knowing about it and as I said, it was done before the negotiating  team met with Fremont’s negotiating team.

This information only became known because one brave pastor of another church had heard rumors and asked if it was so. The numbers were not given either until someone asked.

Could one call this deceitful and deceptive?

Should one call this deceitful and deceptive?

Isn’t it the Presbytery that is causing schism or should one even ask?

To understand better why I ask these questions please read an older post, "Threats of loss towards those who want to leave: seduction for all others"

Update: I accidentally used the word discernment when I meant negotiating team.


Mac said...

This all goes back to the master plan that was revealed with the publication of the Louisville Papers in 2006. One element of that plan was to identify anyone or any group, no matter how small, and declare him, her, or them as "the true church." declare anyone else to be "the schismatics," and then hand over the property to the "true church."

As I recall, the vote on the issue of disaffiliation was about 425 to 165, yet the presbytery can only find 25 people in the "true church." While the numbers are different, our experience may explain the discrepancy.

Our vote was about 138 to 3, out of 207 members. Of the three, two had just transferred membership from another PC(USA) congregation to which they promptly returned. (That congregation is now in the "discernment" process and looking to move to the EPC.)

The third, a long time member, told me, on the night of the vote, "I voted 'no' because I was afraid we would lose our property. I guess no one else is worried." He was back in his same Sunday School class and his regular pew (we are, after all, Presbyterians)the next Sunday.

Anticipating attempts by the presbytery to count the 70 non-voting members as "no" votes, we gave members who could not be present for the vote--college students, folks on vacation, a policeman on duty, members of the Armed Forces, and a few who were hospitalized--the opportunity to submit "letters of intent." They were told that absentee balloting was not permitted, but a LOI would at least inform the presbytery of where they stood. we received 24 LOIs, all of which stated that "if I had been present, I would have voted to disaffiliate." This meant that there were some 40 non-voters, most of whom were elderly members who had relocated out of the Commonwealth, but whom we could not bear to remove from our membership rolls as long as they wanted to remain members, who might be the "faithful remnant." Obviously, the presbytery did not even attempt to make that claim.

peter larson said...

Viola: This is sad and disturbing but not at all surprising. It seems that we evangelicals seem to be perpetually suprised and naive....expecting to be treated fairly and graciously. In the words of Dear Abby, we need to wake up and smell the coffee. It is good to be hopeful and seek reform and renewal, but that will not happen within the PC(USA). As with the Reformers and in Bonhoeffer's age, we need to leave this corrupt and unholy denomination that is unfaithful to Christ, disobedent to the Word and hostile to the Gospel. As you know, our congregation did that in October.

Reformed Catholic said...


I like the way your church headed off the non-voting issue. Perhaps Fremont needs to do the same in some way.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the use of "Anonymous" for this post but I think it is needed in times like these.

I believe what has happened in this situation, as well as others in this denomination, speak to the need for congregations to give serious consideration to vote to disaffiliate and move on instead of going through any dismissal process a presbytery may offer.

If, in the mind of a congregation, the PCUSA has reached a point where the congregation believes they need to separate, seriously consider the disaffiliation option.

Patrick Watters said...

more sad and ugly news for our former "family" (actually still family in Christ) . . . but we know God is Sovereign and this is nothing new to Him and His rebellious people . . .

Anonymous said...

The answers to your concluding questions, Viola, are:

Yes; and

I can't help but think that taking a deceptive approach will eventually result in the presbytery alienating a good portion of those who voted against the initial move for dismissal.

David Fischler
Woodbridge, VA

Anonymous said...

I'm going to have to be anonymous, too - due to the nature of this topic (If you want, I can send you a private email to let you know who I am). Our church has just begun a dismissal process - and what you are experiencing is one of my greatest fears.

I appreciate the tip that Mac had related to Letters of Intent.

It seems to me (related to the last anonymous post) that the only reason a church would go through a painful dismissal process is the potential for property negotiation (which might not even happen).
Disaffiliation seems like it would have to be coupled with a legal aspect if you want to retain property. Is that correct Anonymous 1?

Question - What are your options now? Since the Presbytery is doing this, could you do a new vote to disaffiliate to end the pain? I just don't know - it seems painful either way. I'm sorry your church is having to go through this.

Viola Larson said...

Mac I think your Church's ideas are very good ideas. I'm not sure they will work now for Fremont. What I hope is the Commission will hear everyone and ask fair questions and and treat all with some dignity.

Anonymous 1 I am afraid too many times disaffiliating ends up in a civil court.

Anonymous 2 I could be wrong but I don't think there are anymore options.

Anonymous said...

I have to remain anonymous as well, for similar reasons, but

I can't help but wonder if the vocabulary of conflict has been the pervasive vocabulary coming from the conservative branches of the denomination for years, then why should anybody suddenly expect reconciliation or even fair fighting in return?

One must lead by example or live with the consequences. If we wish to call ourselves followers of Christ, then we must be willing to pick up our crosses - not our swords and shields.

As long as we all prefer to fight, than that is what we will experience.

If you think its ugly, then stop.

Viola Larson said...

Anonymous 3

Your reasons have nothing to do with the other two. Please do not post here again.

Pastor Dennis said...

I just have a few thoughts. On of the principles of our polity is that we decide the will of God by voting, and that the minority respects the will of the majority. On that basis a church where the majority votes to leave should be able to leave. I say this even though I believe that God has called me to stay in the PCUSA, and encourage others to do so. One of my feelings about this deception (and I call it that as any parent would surely do of a child who tried to get permission or approval without telling the whole truth; so why that ugly, childish ruse by elders and pastors?) is that it is a worse sin than any other sin of the church that would motivate anyone to leave. Still I must stay for those forty-year-old reasons I have mentioned before.

Mac said...

Re: disaffiliation. I agree with Viola that it is no longer an option. One of the hidden, unstated, but direct purposes of the nFOG was to take away that option. Under the previous FOG, the congregations had certain undefined "permissive powers" which could serve as a basis for calling a congregational meeting. I have written elsewhere describing how those permissive powers allowed disaffiliation. The drafters of nFOG removed any mention of permissive powers and set strict, narrow limitations on the powers of the congregation. Those of us who left in 2007 and 2008 predicted that as soon as congregations became aware of a gaping exit left by sloppy drafting of the old Book of Order, Louisville would move to close the door with no warning. Sadly, we were right.

Mac McCarty
Downingtown, PA

Jitegemea said...

There are so many times I am thankful that I am a part of the Northumberland Presbytery which is soundly evangelical. It allows me the opportunity to stay with the denomination and openly declare the error of the General Assembly. And error it is. Period. Full stop. Whether or not I, the congregation I serve, or even the Presbytery will be able to stay for long will be determined over the next year. But I thank God every day that of all the presbyteries we might have returned to (after mission service) the Lord led us to Northumberland. I am praying for God's grace, honest rebuke, and courageous stands for those whose ministry is being attacked by presbytery bodies more concerned with legal/property issues than with a loving and blessed dismissal.

Viola Larson said...

Jitegemea Thank you,
Please note my update. It doesn't really make that much difference. But I am trying to be honest about what I meant.

I am grateful for every gracious presbytery in the PCUSA. And it does seem like our missionaries should not have to come home to such bitter times.

Craig said...

For some good news on the dismissal/property front.

It sounds like this will apply to the Colonial appeal as well. Although Heartland has, after losing in MO, filed suit in Kansas as Colonial has a campus there as well.

Craig N.

Viola Larson said...

Craig, I did read that. What we all need is some gracious presbyteries.

Barbara Long Red-Horse said...

I was thankful for those at the Presbytery meeting who spoke strongly for fair & gracious behavior & process, those who stated our congregation had voted to request dismissal & should be graciously dismissed not treated as a church in schism, and those who immediately signed their dissent to the vote. I am sad for those who say they are a few steps behind us in exploring dismissal. The process they are seeing cannot be encouraging to them.

It appears at least some in Presbytery leadership are desperate & trying to maintain control. Thankfully, God is in control though that does not mean processes will work as we would hope.