Sunday, October 18, 2015

Returning to the Korean Presbyterian churches: A Sacramento Presbytery meeting

It was the most unusual presbytery meeting I have ever attended.[1] It was about the Korean churches in our Presbytery. The meeting was very small; most Sacramento PC (U.S.A.) churches, both orthodox and progressive, seem to have just given up and are allowing a few to plan the future. And those few are often very confused and troubled.

When we addressed the first item, which I wrote about earlier:

1.                          With the determination of the Presbytery Engagement Team (PET) appointed to the Capital Korean Presbyterian Church, El Dorado Hills, determining that there is a schism pursuant to the Book of Order (G-4.0207), that the presbytery take immediate action and appoint an administrative commission with original jurisdiction of the Capital Korean church, and continue the relationship with the PC(USA) in all means of its ministries

Which had as its explanation, ““The Presbytery Engagement Team of Capital Korean Presbyterian Church has become aware of members, pastor and session who are departing the church, and others who request maintaining their membership with the PC (USA).

I asked if some more information could be shared, for example, did the session vote, did all of the congregation leave. But no leader attending seemed to have any information. The chair of the Committee on Ministry, who presented the items, in fact tried to answer the question but said he didn’t have any information.

However, Dou Sub Lee, a teaching elder, but not at the moment the pastor of any church, spoke about Capital Korean Presbyterian Church. He suggested that there was a large enough group of people left that could make up the church, perhaps thirty to forty. And then later expanded the number. What bothered me was that he stated he was not a member of the church, and when I asked him afterwards he said he had not been a member for ten years.

The next item:

2.                         Whereas Zion Presbyterian Church announces its departure from the PCUSA, the Committee on Ministry requests that presbytery take immediate action and appoint an administrative commission with original jurisdiction of the church, including, but not limited to determining and completing the next steps of the church. 

And the explanation:

“Leadership and members of Zion Presbyterian Church, Sacramento, have declared their departure from the PC (USA) and from the property on 9501 Folsom Blvd.”

This item held some interesting conundrums. David Kim spoke saying that Zion had voted using a hand vote which was considered a 97% yes vote. He suggested they would have to vote again and could then expect a lower percentage.

One speaker said the church had a large debt. And several people including a lady from the church stated that the debt was for a loan to their church. It was 1.9 million dollars, but it was not borrowed from the PC (U.S.A.). Then an interesting discussion ensued. Who was responsible for the church debt and who owned the church?! So someone stated the PC (U.S.A.)’s name was not on the title implying that the denomination did not own the church so the presbytery was not responsible for the debt. Hmmm—so if a church owes money not borrowed from the PC (U.S.A.) they own the church and if they don’t the PC (U.S.A.) owns the church?

This is what happens when a presbytery writes a “gracious” dismissal policy a great part of which was written by a lawyer in a manner that is impossible for an ethnic group, whose second language is English, to understand. In fact, it seemed to me that most members at the meeting, whose first language is English, were confused and needed answers to some very important questions.[2]

The dismissal policy does not answer some of the questions that were being asked and although it starts out with words of grace most of the text is pure heartless legalism and incredibly confusing. Within a Christian biblical context grace must prevail. Here are some biblical answers that do not come from the dismissal policy but ought to give clues about how to treat the Korean Christians. All of them:

Although it is nice having a building—the church is not a building. (A building often helps with fruitful ministry.) Still, it is those who belong to Jesus Christ, who have been washed by his blood and are gathered in fellowship under his Lordship that are the church. Here I am speaking of the Church universal, not just of the PC (U.S.A.) or any other reformed body. That means that we must care for the ministry that flows out of other gathered fellowships.

Several years ago the Presbytery met at Capital Korean Presbyterian Church. The pastor preached a sermon that was excellent and many members of Presbytery asked that the sermon be placed on the Presbytery’s web site. Also a video of CKPC ministries was shown. I remember that they had a ministry to Native Americans in Nevada. I was deeply touched by this. This is ministry that flows from the universal church.

I believe that Sacramento Presbytery needs to put aside its dismissal policy and return to the authority of Scripture. The confusion and mess looming among the churches can only be answered by the wisdom, grace and authority of Scripture.

Several years ago when I, with a motion, tried to get the Presbytery to give at least half of the money back that the Synod of the Pacific had demanded of Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church and Roseville Presbyterian church[3], some of the members cursed at me and others. I could not hear this but at the end of the meeting a young pastor, new to the presbytery, disappointed, got up and complained that those around him were cursing those who spoke.

God calls us to love:

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:5-10)

This is where it must begin, confession, truth and fellowship with all who are His.

[1] . I wrote about the Korean Presbyterian churches that are leaving the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in an earlier posting We are chasing them away: Presbyterian Koreans looking for a faithful place.
[3] It was around 2 million dollars, at the time a huge amount. It is no longer—the greed of some in the denomination grows. For instance, Menlo Park’s payment of almost 10 million to San Francisco’s Presbytery.


Neal Humphrey said...

I'm writing from Utah and serve an EPC church (dismissed in late 2013). The loan you referenced has to be secured by the church property and approved by the Presbytery, regardless of the lender. A search of the minutes of Presbytery will find a record of that approval. That means, if the church can't pay the debt, the next in line is the Presbytery. It's that simple.

The questions about this that you report in your blog are an example of appalling ignorance of PCUSA polity.

If the Presbytery of Sacramento wants to avoid the debt liability and property taxes on a vacated facility, they have to dismiss the church with their property.

Larry Wood said...

Thanks, Viola. This is another example of the greedy arrogance of my denomination...the PCUSA. How very sad, but nothing new, same old selfishness.
Lawrence Wood, Boise Presbytery, Retired