Friday, September 18, 2015

Burney still faithful at a new address...

Much earlier a small Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) had an Administrative Commission placed over them in Burney California. The Burney church was counted in schism by the AC. I wrote about this at  Schism, heresy and control.  The main body of this small church with the exception of only a few, about four, decided that they would forgo the process of trying to leave in what used to be an orderly way. For them it was no longer possible. The main body of the church wrote this letter to the Sacramento Presbytery:’


Date: July 28, 2015

(Letter To AC on 9/9/15 informing them of our decision to leave the PCUSA and Building)

Thank you for your time and the information you shared with us over the phone, face to face and by email over the last few days. 

We as a leadership team of eight members plus around 28 other attenders have decided to move on and constitute ourselves as a new congregation affiliated with EPC. Last Sunday was our last worship service in the Burney Presbyterian sanctuary and we are now preparing to meet for our first worship service on Sunday at a rented location in Burney with the name “New Hope Evangelical Presbyterian Church”.  Our last congregational act, besides thanking God for the 67 years of faithful servants and service was to pray that God’s name and glory within the sanctuary would still be kept whoever is the owner or user.

We appreciate and understand your clear offer for us to remain while we work out the road to our future.  We all had no idea of your recent offer even though we had informed you weeks ago of our possible departure on September 8, 2015.    The offer came a few weeks too late for most of the congregation who had made tentative plans to leave as soon as they saw the COM recommendation to Presbytery to impose original jurisdiction over the Burney church.

 It was also a stunning to hear from you that the “loyal” group was not returning, especially after they had worked so hard to achieve the goal of having us move out of the church premises.  We who are leaving were never disloyal – we tried to follow the PCUSA protocol.  Nevertheless, we wish and pray that sometime in the future we may be able to lease or purchase the property. 

One request that we have to the AC is that you would give us permission to use the sanctuary for any memorial or funeral services related to people who have been active members and attenders of the PCUSA and whose families may wish to honor their loved ones in this way. 

Knowing that the loyal group is not coming back at present we do not want to leave you without some local contacts through this transition.  If needed, the present church secretary, Lorinda Wike (530 355 9902), and Claudia Graves (530 262 4496), the treasurer, are willing to stay on employed for an interval to be determined by you and by them in order to perform those duties needed for the day to day operation.

In cooperation with you – sincerely in Christ,

New Hope Evangelical Presbyterian Leadership Team

 The Presbytery's letter answer is anything but gracious. It is a tale of what many in the denomination want. Here is the letter:

TO:   “Session Elders”: Rick Dougherty, Wendy Dougherty, Ralph Boggs, Linda Isbell,       Moderator of the Deacons‐Jean Boggs, and Treasurer‐ Claudia Graves plus other     PC (U.S.A.) members and attendees who wish for dismissal to the EPC.
FROM:   Administrative Commission members Louis Nevins, Robert Johnson, and Julie Home
CC:   Revs. Tom Tripp and Nancy Clegg

SUBJECT:  Your letter of July 28, 2015
DATE;   August 3, 2015

With Julie's return to the United States we have now had an opportunity to meet and discuss your  letter.
We have reviewed Rev. Tripp's reply to you of the same date and agree with his sentiment.
We are constrained to act on behalf of the Presbytery as directed by the motion passed at the Special  Meeting of July 9,  that is "take original jurisdiction of the Burney church, and continue the relationship  with the PC(USA) in all means of its ministries."  As Lou and Bob explained in their "get acquainted"   session with you, our AC has become, until dissolved, the Session of your Church, and the Board of  Directors of the related corporation.
It is not our desire to interfere with your various ministries, however we are constrained by the Book of  Order, particularly G‐4.0203 (the trust clause) and G‐4.0207 (Schism).

Accordingly, until we have more information, we must take particular care with respect to the real and personal property of the Church1 ,  all of which is held in trust for the benefit of the PC (U.S.A.).  For this reason, we cannot, under the  circumstances as outlined in your July 28 letter, release the Certificates of Deposit held by the Synod,  although we may be willing to consider rolling these funds into another depository with an interest rate  better than that available at the Synod in an account to which some combination of Lou, Bob and Julie  are signatories until final decisions have been made on other pending questions.

As Lou and Bob indicated in response to a question at their get acquainted session with you it was their expectation that you would be asked to continue your ministries pending further notice.   The third  member of the AC, Julie Horne agrees, so that is our decision.
In the meantime, we are sure you can appreciate that we need some additional information to do our  job, which we hope we can obtain with your cooperation.
First, as we are sure you can appreciate, those who provide services to your congregation should not  suffer.  Accordingly, we need to obtain as much information as possible on the status of your present  bank accounts, what bills are due or likely to be due on a monthly basis, and other ongoing or pending  obligations.
                                                              1 Here, and hereafter, both the Church and its companion corporation.
Page 2 of 2 
Second, we need to obtain a complete roster of the names, addresses, telephone numbers and other  contact information of all members of your congregation  and any members of the congregation who  have left or transferred their membership since January 1, 2013.
As stated in the motion establishing our AC, our mandate to "continue the relationship [of the Burney  Church] with the PC(USA)" requires us to keep the door open to discussions about remaining in our  Denomination.  In our view, nothing you said on at our meeting on  July 18 about what we perceive to  be your beliefs disqualifies you from continued affiliation with the PC (U.S.A.).  To be sure, there are  those in our denomination and our own congregations with whom we disagree strongly, but that is the  price we all pay for belonging to an "open" as opposed to a "closed" church.  We pray that, on  reflection, you come to see that reconciliation with the PC (U.S.A.) does not require surrender of your  personal beliefs.  We are called to be "a community of love, where sin is forgiven, reconciliation is  accomplished, and the dividing walls of hostility are torn down."  F‐1.0301

It is our goal to move expeditiously, now that we have a full complement of members on board.     However, until we have obtained and evaluated the membership and financial information mentioned  above, it is premature to speculate as to what the future holds.  Accordingly, the quicker we can get the  information we requested, the easier it will be to make the meaningful progress we all desire.
Yours in Christ,
Lou, Bob & Julie

There is more material and action to be had although there is no consideration that these people who have already left really do not feel they should stay. Evidently there are only four people who want to stay and they are usually not there for worship. It should also be stated that Zion a Korean Church has walked away from their property. The Holy Spirit is doing his own work in this Presbyterian area.

Is the AC really listening to the Holy Spirit?

I will write more in days to come. Please keep praying for my computer.

1 comment:

will spotts said...

Maybe I'm missing something - it wouldn't be the first time. But as I read this, the writers of the first letter have already departed ... without the building. So I don't understand the second letter at all. It has an absurdist and rather delusional character.

Three things do stand out:

1. The immediate presbytery concern seems to be with money ("for the benefit of the PC(U.S.A.)") - to the exclusion of the SINGLE pastoral / compassionate request of the departing congregation;

2. The demand for a roster of names, addresses, and phone numbers seems a little invasive. (I can tell you with absolute certainty, were I in their situation, I would not want my personal information given to presbytery - and I doubt it was EVER SOLICITED from individuals with the understanding that it was an ASSET that presbytery would want ("for the benefit of the PC(U.S.A.)").

3. There is an appalling and arrogant presumption that the three Administrative Commission members sending the letter had the ability to speak for ANYONE OTHER THAN THEMSELVES about what does and what does not constitute a "surrender of ... personal beliefs". [The very use of the word personal as a descriptor disqualifies the speakers from even having an opinion - let alone casting a judgment.]

4. There is also a related failure of communication. I would tempted to attribute it to deliberate blindness on the part of the AC - because it matches a more widespread trend within the PC(U.S.A.) corporation culture. But it is certainly possible that it is merely an inability to understand those with differing beliefs and perspectives.

As a rhetorical tactic, however, the "surrender of ... personal beliefs" line serves to minimize and delegitimize a contrary position. The same is, of course, true in the use of the words "open" and "closed" to describe the PC(U.S.A.) and the departing congregation respectively. Even the use of scare quotes around the phrase session elders implies that very same rhetorical delegitimization function. I would hope - for their sakes - that the letter was merely sloppy and that there was no thought of such a dishonest approach in the writing of the AC's letter. (When I say dishonest here, I mean the opposite of candor ... perhaps imposture, pretense, dissembling?).

As to the New Hope Evangelical Presbyterian Church - I congratulate their decision: it clearly involved sacrifice. And I pray that God will continue to bless them.