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CONGREGATIONAL EDUCATION PLAN Many members of the by wuyunqing


									CONGREGATIONAL EDUCATION PLAN: Many members of the congregations have heard comments
about an ―overture‖ LPC made to our Presbytery...or about the Presbytery‘s response... or about something
called a P.U.P. Report issued by the General Assembly... or perhaps something else about our denomination.
Our local church and the rest of the denomination have not explained what has been going on very well or
sufficiently, so beginning with this week‘s bulletin, the Session will educate our congregation on these issues.
We expect this to take 2-3 months and if you miss any weekly information it will be available in the church

Our local church and the rest of the denomination have not explained what has been going on very well or
sufficiently, so beginning with this week‘s bulletin, the Session will educate our congregation on these issues.
We expect this to take 2-3 months and if you miss any weekly information it will be available in the church

Q: What is an ―overture‖ in the Presbyterian Church USA?

A: An overture is the submission of a question about doctrine or polity, in other words, it is a suggested change
to a procedure or policy.

Next week we will describe in detail, the overture that LPC submitted to our Presbytery (or local church
government) and their response to it, and what that response means. We hope this will clarify and educate our
congregation more fully.

The Overture

Throughout 2005, the Lewes Presbyterian Church Session prayerfully sought the Lord‘s will in dealing with
controversial matters. At the heart of the Session‘s efforts were the words of 2 Timothy 3:16. ―All Scripture is
inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness.‖

The culmination of the Session‘s efforts was a letter sent to pastors and clerks of the New Castle Presbytery
after its having appeared in the LPC Newsletter. The letter indicated the LPC Session‘s strong objections to
Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly positions on Partial Birth abortions, Civil Unions, the war in
Iraq and divestiture of firms doing business in Israel and Palestine. Feedback was minimal, both from the LPC
Congregation and the Presbytery.

Then, late in 2005, a ―Theological Task Force‖ created by the General assembly in 2001 submitted a 39-page
report on Peace, Unity and Purity‖ (P.U.O.), which was adopted by the 2006 General Assembly of the PCUSA.
(More information about the P.U.P. Report will appear in future bulletins). ONE of the P.U.P. recommendations
had to do with ordination standards for prospective PCUSA clergy, elders and deacons. A prospective minister
may declare a ―SCRUPLE‖ if he or she cannot accept a particular doctrine in the Book of Confessions or
ordination standard in the Book of Order. The ordaining body can then decide whether the doctrine or standard
in question is an ―ESSENTIAL‖ of Presbyterian belief or practice.

Since this action seemed to give each Presbytery the authority to set their own standards, our Session submitted
an Overture (a suggested change in policy) to New Castle Presbytery which would essentially disallow
―scrupling‖ of ordination standards in the Book of Order. In November of 2007, New Castle Presbytery
defeated the LPC overture by an overwhelming majority and passed an examination policy that fails to demand
compliance with ordination standards in the Book of Order, thereby undermining the authority of our

Other articles will follow as our Session grapples with challenging leadership issues. We all need to support
them and to pray for God‘s blessings as they seek to believe, grow and share the love of Christ.
From Reid Beveridge, LPC Member and Stated Clerk of New Castle Presbytery

Last Sunday‘s worship bulletin contained a brief description of actions by New Castle Presbytery to implement
the so-called ―PUP Report,‖ the report of the PCUSA General Assembly‘s Peace, Unity and Purity Task Force.
I was the presbytery‘s elder-commissioner to that General Assembly in 2006.

The brief description last Sunday was so cryptic that it might mislead readers concerning the full scope of what
New Castle Presbytery did at is November 2007 meeting to implement the PUP report. What follows is what I
would say about that policy if asked in my new capacity as Stated Clerk of the presbytery.

Around the time the Lewes Session was working on its overture, the Presbytery Council, which I then chaired,
established a task force to develop an examinations policy that would address the PUP Report‘s
Recommendation #5. This task force brought a proposed policy to Council in April 2007, and it was docketed
for consideration on ―first reading‖ at the May presbytery meeting. The Lewes‘ overture also was presented at
this meeting. We then scheduled an education and discussion event on both proposals for the September
presbytery meeting. After another presentation of both proposals, we broke into a dozen or so small groups for

Both proposals came to the presbytery for a vote in November, with the outcome as outlined last week.
However, there is much more to the policy adopted than was described. The examinations policy, which will be
utilized for all ministers transferring to New Castle Presbytery and for all candidates for the ministry seeking
ordination, will be implemented by an Examinations Commission composed of five members of COM and two
members of presbytery at-large. The examination will be conducted before any pastor nominating committee
requests a congregational meeting to consider a recommendation for a call.

The examination will be in the form of a ―conversation‖ to discuss the vows any minister takes when ordained
and/or installed. These are the same vows used to install elders and deacons in the local church.
The fifth of the nine installation questions says: ―Will you be governed by our church‘s polity (Constitution),
and will you abide by its discipline? . . .‖ The New Castle Presbytery policy says we should anticipate a ―yes‖
answer to this question. Then the policy adds another question, unique to New Castle Presbytery: ―Having read
what the Constitution of the PC(USA) requires, will you comply with it? That question should be reported to
COM as answered in the affirmative.‖ If it isn‘t, then the policy says COM is to stop the call process until the
concerns are addressed.

It is true that this policy could have been made tighter, as the Lewes overture would have done. What also is
clear to me, as one of the four elected leaders of New Castle Presbytery, is that it will be exceedingly difficult
for any minister who does not agreed to the ―Fidelity and Chastity‖ provision of the Book of Order, at G-
6.0106(b), to be called and installed in this presbytery.

                                             The P.U.P. Report

Two weeks ago, a brief sketch of an ―Overture‖ which was submitted by the Session of Lewes
Presbyterian Church to the New Castle Presbytery was presented here. The objective of the
Overture was to stiffen ordination standards for prospective PC(USA) clergy, elders and
deacons. The effort was made following the publication of a document referred to as the
―P.U.P. Report‖.
This report was authored by the Presbyterian Church (USA)‘s Theological Task Force on
Peace, Unity and Purity of the Church and issued on August 25, 2005. Here is a synopsis,
which was composed by the PC(USA) shortly after completion of the report (copied from

The task force reports that it found more than two sides or positions on many of the controversial issues they
studied. Therefore, it looked for ways that groups can discern God‘s will and set directions that do not always
require yes/no, up/down votes.

The task force‘s other recommendations all focus on ways that might help the denomination to continue as one
body while discerning God‘s will on matters about which Presbyterians don‘t yet agree. The task force
recommends that:
     Presbyterians with diverse views form discernment groups that meet for worship, community building,
       study and theological reflection.
     governing bodies use methods of discernment, especially when facing difficult issues, before moving to
       debate and vote.
    the 217th General assembly (2006) approve an “authoritative interpretation” of the PC(USA)
       Constitution that supports an approach to ordination that is both more flexible and more rigorous than
       current practice.

It reemphasizes principles that were adopted in 1729: the whole church sets standards, and the body that is
ordaining or installing a minister, elder, or deacon applies those standards, deciding whether a candidate has
departed from essentials of Reformed faith and practice. The process is more rigorous because essentials of the
faith will be part of every examination. The process is more flexible because a governing body may determine,
on a case-by-case basis, whether a particular candidate‘s departure from standards is also a departure from
essentials. The process preserves the right of higher governing bodies to review the decisions of ordaining
bodies to be sure they are fair and responsible.
      The 217th General Assembly (2006) create a climate for discernment by not making any constitutional
        changes in the areas covered by the task force report if the recommended authoritative interpretation
      all Presbyterians build up the church in love by seeking conciliation and mediation before taking formal
        action against one another.

The task force believes its report and recommendations offer the church ways to live together that may
demonstrate to a violently divided world the peace, unity and purity given through Jesus Christ. The Reverend
Gary Demarest spoke for the whole task force: ―The ultimate goal is not just to get along better, but to
strengthen the mission of God to the world.‖

The complete report (with study guide) and accompanying resources are on the task force‘s web site at

Week 5
This is the 5th is a series of educational notes designed to inform the congregation of Lewes Presbyterian
Church, of current and continuing trends in the denomination. This is not intended as a one issue series, or a
one sided series. Over a year ago the congregation was notified that the Theological Task Force on Peace,
Unity and Purity of the Church had issued a final report (P.U.P Report), and that the report had been approved
by the 217th General Assembly. Based on that report the Session of LPC delivered an overture to the Presbytery
in response to the P.U.P report. Unfortunately, it was over a year before a final response defeating our overture
was delivered to the Session. This explains the void of information over the last year. Now that action has been
taken, it is appropriate to bring the entire congregation up to date in clear, concise, non-legalistic, and non
theological language that all can understand
The P.U.P report was not prepared or approved in a vacuum. Over the last 40 years, the Presbyterian Church
USA, membership has declined by over 50 percent (a trend not exclusive to Presbyterians, but shared by many
traditional denominations). There has been factional dissention within the church on the issues addressed in the
P.U.P. report: Christology (beliefs about the person and work of Jesus Christ), Biblical Authority and
Interpretation (the Bible as the word of God), and Sexuality and Ordination (standards for ordination in the
In previous weeks there has been some discussion about the P.U.P Report‘s controversial recommendation
regarding ordination standards that was passed by the General Assembly in 2006. As mentioned above, this
was only one area of the report, which also dealt with beliefs about Jesus Christ and the Bible. The issue of
Christology was addressed because of arguments about how to talk about the saving grace of Jesus Christ in our
pluralistic age. Common ground in the church‘s confessional tradition ―concerning the person and work of Jesus
Christ,‖ formed the basis of much of the report.
After affirming belief in ―the triune God: eternally Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,‖ the Report upholds traditional
beliefs about salvation through Jesus Christ, as follows: ―in addressing questions of pluralism, truth, and
salvation, we must emphasize both the necessity and sufficiency of the grace by which God is for and with the
world in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. With confidence in this divine grace, we affirm:
―[Jesus is] the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [him]‖ (John 14:6,
emphasis added) and ―There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among
mortals by which we must be saved‖ (Acts 4:12). At the same time, as Reformed Christians, we must remind
ourselves and others that salvation rests not in any merit of our own but in the sovereign love of God that has
been made known to us in Jesus Christ.‖
The Report states that, ―It is by following Jesus Christ, as attested for us in Scripture, that the unity of our faith
will be made visible today as it has been in the past.‖
The question is whether the recommendation of the P.U.P. Report on sexuality and ordination standards,
adopted by the General Assembly, is faithful to the truth and holiness of Jesus Christ, as attested for us in
All quotations are from ―A Season of Discernment The Final Report of the Theological Task Force on Peace,
Unity and Purity of the Church‖ as approved by the 217th Gen. Assembly.

Week 6
This is the 6th in a series of educational notes designed to inform the congregation of Lewes Presbyterian
Church of current and continuing trends in the denomination. As stated last week the P.U.P report focused on
three areas. Last week we looked at Christology. This week we shall look at Biblical Authority (the Bible as
the Word of God), and Sexuality and Ordination (standards of ordination in the church).

In the question of Biblical Authority and Interpretation, the task force addressed differences about these issues,
―which many Presbyterians believe are the root cause of other disagreements.‖ While the purpose of this was to
allow the scriptures to speak clearly and fully, and there was agreement on guidelines for biblical interpretation,
essential guidelines were not established. The primary resolution to the issue was that, ―God alone is Lord of
conscience…it is important to respect one another‘s deep convictions and to exercise mutual forbearance.‖

While the task force affirmed that “Scripture has the power to shape and transform us as the community of
faith,” no pathway to transformation was delineated because no definition of Biblical Authority was given.
The division between conservative and liberal interpretation of scripture was not resolved.

One area of study was Romans 1. This led to the discussion of Sexuality and Ordination. There was no
consensus on verses 25 and 26: ―They exchanged the truth of God for a lie….Because of this God gave them
over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way men
abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent
acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.‖

The discussions of Christology and Biblical Authority and Interpretation were preliminary to the focus of the
report----Sexuality and Ordination. The commission was never charged with, nor did it address the issue of
sexuality in any context other than that of Ordination Standards. On this issue, the members of the task force
essentially agreed to disagree. The primary focus of the report and its recommendations was unity. After four
years of meetings, dinners, reading, Bible study, prayer, and discussion, the commission had become so close,
and developed such a respect for its members, that it did not want to issue a report critical of any one opinion.
In response to the issue of Sexuality and Ordination, the recommendation was contradictory. It chose to uphold
the Constitutional standard of purity while appearing to open the door for the possibility of an ordaining body
declaring that sexual practices were not an essential of the faith.

Unfortunately, the essentials of the faith have never been defined, and so on a case by case basis, they could be
challenged. When the General Assembly accepted the recommendations of the report, many believed that the
issue would ultimately be decided by the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Committee. Both sides on the
ordination issue felt betrayed-- liberals, ordination standards were upheld, and conservatives, because the
ordination standards were not considered as essential. Both sides wanted a definitive resolution.

In short, the P.U.P. Report failed to definitively resolve the issue of sexuality and ordination standards. We
shall see next week, exactly how some have addressed the issue, and will have the latest report from the
Permanent Judicial Commission.

This is Week 7 in our educational series on the issues involved with the Report of the Task Force on Peace.
Unity and Purity, the recommendations of which were adopted by the General Assembly of the PCUSA in
2006. As we stated earlier, the P.U.P report might have little significance by itself; but in the light of recent
developments in the denomination, particularly the declining membership, its importance is magnified in the
minds of many.

At the heart of the debate may not be so much the P.U.P Report itself but ultimately, the character and identity
of the church. Opposition to the P.U.P. Report has come from those who uphold belief in the absolute truth of
the plain sense of the Bible as the Word of God, and who affirm unerring adherence to that Word. The P.U.P.
recommendations reflect recent trends toward a more flexible interpretative approach, attempting to make the
Word more relevant (palatable) to the societal standards of the 21st Century. Opponents claim that this tendency
toward flexible standards rather than strict adherence is driving believers to more evangelical, Bible-believing
churches. This is a painful process for many to watch, from a denomination with such a rich Reformed tradition.

As Barbara Wheeler, a member of the Task Force, stated, the recommendation ―was not intended to create a
situation where one side wins and one side loses, although it was construed that way. We hope…the minority
can exercise their conscience in matters….. they consider to be non-essential. The Presbyterian Church (USA)
will coalesce around this because there is something in it for everyone.‖

Those in opposition such as Howard Soehl, believe that the ―report violates a basic principle that the church has
the right to set and defend national standards for its ordained officers.‖ His belief is that ―what the task force
calls an ‗interpretation‘ is clearly an amendment and should be treated as such.‖ While a recommendation
requires only a majority General Assembly vote, amendments must also be approved by a majority of the 173
presbyteries. Previous attempts to delete the ordination standards have been defeated by 3-1 when submitted to
the presbyteries. As one person stated, this is an end run around the Constitution.
The P.U.P. report had an impact very quickly. The Presbytery of Baltimore is sending an overture to the 2008
General Assembly to change the definition of marriage, so as to allow Presbyterian ministers to perform same-
sex marriages. In January, Twin Cities Presbytery in Minnesota ―reinstated a theology professor, Paul Capetz,
to ordained ministry, an office he gave up 8 years ago after the denomination passed a constitutional ban against
ordaining noncelibate homosexuals. The Presbytery of San Francisco voted earlier last month to allow Lisa
Larges, an openly Lesbian candidate who has aspired to ordination since 1992, to take procedural steps toward
that goal.‖(Louisville Courier Journal 2/10/08). While the cases will ultimately be decided in the church courts,
and may take years to resolve, Capetz recently stated that he is undeterred, and that he can seek reinstatement
since the General Assembly allowed for limited dissent... He currently teaches at the Union Theological
Seminary of the Twin Cities.

According to the Courier Journal, The Reverend Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk for the denomination (who
has chosen not to seek re-election) ―noted that the cases are expected to be appealed…..and has had to field
protests to the 2006 vote, which has prompted dozens of churches to either leave or move toward the exits.
What the PUP Report has done has left the issue unresolved.

At some point, the Church will have to address the issues in a decisive manner.

Next Week, we will look at recent actions by the Permanent Judicial Commission, and subsequent actions by
some Presbyteries in response to these actions.

From this point forward we will be providing the name of an additional reference source for those who might
wish to do further investigation. The first recommended reading is the actual Report of the Commission in
Peace, Unity, and Purity. This report is available at A copy will also be available through the
Church Library.

Week 8

This is the final week of our study and analysis of the Report of the Task Force on Peace, Unity, and Purity.
Hopefully, this study has clarified the reasons for the overture submitted by our Session to New Castle
Presbytery. The Session felt it was imperative for the constitutional, traditional, standards of chastity and purity
to be upheld in our presbytery, without exception.
While we all have respect for the efforts of the PUP Task Force, and their dedication to the church, we were
wishing for a clearer resolution to the issue of ordination standards. Rather than accepting the report as is, with
the belief that the courts would ultimately decide the results, we believed that the General Assembly should
have acted more decisively.
So what is the result of the authoritative interpretation recommended by the PUP Task Force? Last week we
considered two cases in which Presbyteries approved for ordination persons who refused to abide by the fidelity
and chastity standard enshrined in the Book of Order. While the cases mentioned last week, involving specific
individuals, have not been reviewed by the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission, other cases
have. And the result of these cases would seem to confirm the position of the LPC Session on ordination
standards. In cases involving the Presbytery of Olympia, the Presbytery of Pittsburgh, and the Presbytery of
Washington our denomination‘s highest court found that: 1. The General Assembly action did not change any
ordination standard. 2. No ordaining body could adopt any resolutions that would declare any provisions of the
Book of Order as non-essential, and that an examining body ―may not permit departure from the fidelity and
chastity requirement. In addition the Court stated: ―an examining or governing body may not ignore or waive a
specific standard of behavior that has been adopted by the church as a whole, such as the fidelity and chastity
This would seem to support the opinion of the LPC Session, and eliminate the need for our overture. This was
the ultimate decision many who voted for the acceptance of the PUP Report had believed would be delivered by
the court. Members of the denomination seeking to maintain the chastity and purity standards of our reformed
history celebrated these findings.
The celebration was short-lived. On February 16, John Knox Presbytery approved and forwarded an overture to
the upcoming meeting of the General Assembly in June, seeking to bypass the decision of the Permanent
Judicial Commission with a new authoritative interpretation requiring a case-by-case examination of candidates
for ordination that would not differentiate between departures of conscience related to belief, and those related
to behavior. Please pray that the decision of the General Assembly in June will uphold biblical standards.
We hope the efforts the Session is making to present information to our congregation are helping our members
to better understand the issues facing our Reformed denomination. The educational process is not confined to
the single issue of the PUP Report; for the PUP report was not issued in a vacuum. Over the next several
weeks, we will be examining trends of our denomination in the 20th and 21st centuries. We hope you will find
them interesting and informative.
This week‘s recommended source: ―John Knox Presbytery passes overture on sexual behavior standards,‖ The
Presbyterian Outlook, March 24, 2008, p. 8. Copies are available in the church office.

Church History Introduction

For the past 8 weeks we have been educating ourselves about what the PUP report means and understanding
how that report affects some of the decisions being made by PCUSA. Starting this week we will look at how
our church evolved from being one of conservative biblical integrity to preserving the institution as it is today.
We will start at a pivotal point in church history; where the ―essentials‖ began.

AUBURN AFFIRMATION –A group of Presbyterian ministers issued a document known as the Auburn
Affirmation. This paper emphasizes the inerrancy of the Scriptures. The virgin birth of Christ and his bodily
resurrection were described as theories. This was actually where the idea of confirming ―essentials‖ began. It
was written by a minority group within the church. In order to popularize this idea was to join other
Presbyterians who preferred organizational unity more then theology. In order to accomplish this, a middle of
the road recognized leader would need to carry the gauntlet for this train of thought. James Erdman, of
Princeton Seminary, was nominated moderator of the GA in 1925, running on a peace platform. He called for
a commission to work for peace and avoid being influenced by those who would cause disunity. The
commissions report was adopted, which according to church historian, Bradley Longfield, ‖made it clear that
the five essentials has no binding authority” and the arguments of the Auburn Affirmation had been accepted
in total by the 1927 GA.

1926 GENERAL ASSEMBLY- This GA was very important in the life of Presbyterians because from this
point on, presbyteries ordained persons who said they affirmed the essential tenets of Christian faith, but would
not specify what those essentials were. There are similarities between the 1926 and 2006 General Assemblies
in that institutional preservation was emphasized over doctrine.

As the debate over theology versus institutional matters subsided, church leaders turned their attention to
matters influencing the world around them. World peace became a major focus after two world wars. World
War II and the Korean Conflict set up a new set of challenges for the church with foreign missions.
Missionaries were not required to subscribe to the essential tenets of faith. This position was challenged but
was defeated.
After WWII, government, industry and corporations became larger and highly centralized. Officers at the top
had the most power and it trickled down to the workers. Churches adopted this same form of centralization.
Instead of being a servant to the local churches, the local churches began to look toward the church
headquarters and the center of leadership. In 1954, the General Assembly decided by unanimous vote to ―seek
union with two sister denominations‖, namely the United Presbyterian Church and the southern branch the
Presbyterian Church in the United States. The southern church declined. In 1956 a two way merger was
formed and adopted by both churches in 1958. The new denomination was now called United Presbyterian
church (USA).

During the mid-twentieth century Church leaders found the Westminster Confession of Faith too confining
while they were focusing on more worldly issues. Although Westminster was revered as historical document, it
was seen as increasingly irrelevant to the church‘s preoccupation with peace, economics and race. In 1948, an
editorial by Francis Pickens Miller expressed the view that the church must find more adequate theological
benchmarks for underwriting its social policy. A special committee, headed by Dr. Edward Dowey, Jr.,
professor of theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, was commissioned to prepare an ―A Brief
Contemporary Statement of Faith‖ for consideration by the 1964 General Assembly. After three decades of
concentration on political, economic and social issues, the denomination that would become the Presbyterian
Church (USA) was now committed to the idea that ―the world sets the church agenda.‖ The GA accepted the
work of Dowey‘s special committee; the Book of Confessions contained a new ―modern times‖ document, The
Confession of 1967.

Next week we will look at that document and see how that affected the church. Suggested reading this week is
Broken Covenant by Parker T. Williamson that is available in the library and The Presbyterian Controversy by
Bradley J. Longfield.

The Adopting Act of 1729

This is the first in a series of articles providing some historical background for current issues facing the
PCUSA. The founding of our denomination dates back to the establishment of the Presbytery of Philadelphia in
1706, and the Synod of Philadelphia in 1717. Soon afterward, the Rev. John Thompson from Ireland, who
was pastor of Lewes Presbyterian Church, sought to put the new denomination on sound doctrinal footing by
proposing that the Synod adopt the Westminster Confession of Faith as its doctrinal standard, to which all
ministers must profess agreement. He was concerned ―lest we should be corrupted with the new schemes of
doctrine [e.g., Socinianism or Unitarianism, and Deism] which…had prevailed in the north of Ireland…from
whence we expected to be, in a great measure, supplied…to fill our vacancies in the ministry.‖
Thompson‘s overture was opposed by some such as John Dickenson, from a New England Congregationalist
background, who upheld the Westminster standards but thought that creedal subscriptionism would give too
much power to Synod and lead to schism. Historian Samuel J. Baird supposes that the ministers from England,
Wales and New England distrusted the motives of the Scotch-Irish ministers of New Castle Presbytery who
were insisting on subscription. So when they all gathered for the Synod meeting of 1729, they first agreed on a
―Preliminary Act‖ that allowed for ―scrupling‖ on non-essentials:
―all the ministers of this Synod, or that shall hereafter be admitted into this Synod, shall declare their agreement
in, and approbation of, the Confession of Faith…of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, as being, in all the
essential and necessary articles, good forms of sound words, and systems of Christian doctrine, and do also
adopt the said Confession and Catechisms as the confession of our faith. And we do also agree, that all the
Presbyteries within our bounds shall always take care not to admit any candidate of the ministry into the
exercise of the sacred function, but what declares his agreement in opinion with all the essential and necessary
articles of said Confession … And, in case any minister of this Synod, or any candidate for the Ministry, shall
have any scruple with respect to any article or articles of said Confession or Catechisms, he shall, at the time of
his making said declaration, declare his sentiments to the Presbytery or Synod ; who shall, notwithstanding,
admit him to the exercise of the ministry…if the Synod or Presbytery shall judge his scruple or mistake to be
only about articles not essential and necessary in doctrine, worship, or government.‖
That afternoon they reconvened, declared their scruples and approved the ―Adopting Act‖ as follows: All the
ministers of this Synod now present, except one, that declared himself not prepared…after proposing all the
scruples that any of them had to make…have unanimously agreed in the solution of those scruples, and in
declaring the said Confession and Catechisms to be the confession of their faith: excepting, only, some clauses
in the twentieth and twenty-third chapters; concerning which clauses, the Synod do unanimously declare, that
they do not receive those articles in any such sense as to suppose the civil magistrate hath a controlling power
over Synods, with respect to the exercise of their ministerial authority…‖

The only scruples declared by anyone had to do with certain clauses that seemed to give the civil magistrate
authority over the church.

The next Synod declared its understanding that candidates were obliged ―to receive and adopt the Confession
and Catechisms, at their admission, in the same manner and as fully as the members of Synod did, that were
then present—Which overture was unanimously agreed to by the Synod.‖

The Explanatory Act Of 1736 declared ―that the Synod have adopted, and still do adhere to the Westminster
Confession… without the least variation or alteration ….this was our meaning and true intent in our first
adopting of said Confession,…by our Adopting Act….And we hope and desire that this our Synodical
declaration and explication may satisfy all our people, as to our firm attachment to our good old received
doctrines, contained in said Confession,. without the least variation or alteration…‖

In October, 1785: ―The Synod of New York and Philadelphia adopt…the Westminster Confession of Faith as
the confession of their faith; save that every candidate for the gospel ministry is permitted to except against so
much of the twenty-third chapter as gives authority to civil magistrates in matters of religion.‖
History-Week Two
We have seen that the founders of our denomination, although from diverse backgrounds, were united in their
affirmation of the doctrines set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith. By the 1920‘s, however, there
were radical differences in theological understanding between ―modernists‖ and ―fundamentalists.‖ The
former followed liberal currents of interpretation supported by critical biblical scholarship, while the latter
supported the requirement that all ministers subscribe to five ―Fundamentals‖ of doctrine set forth by the
General Assemblies of 1920, 1916 and 1923: biblical inerrancy, Christ‘s virgin birth, his substitutionary
atonement (he died for our sins), his bodily resurrection and his physical second coming.

In 1923 a group of Presbyterian ministers issued a document known as the Auburn Affirmation, which denied
the inerrancy of the Scriptures, while claiming that the other fundamentals were merely ―theories‖ about the
Bible‘s message. At this time the modernists were a minority group within the church. In order to prevail, they
allied with moderate conservatives who preferred organizational unity to theological clarity that might lead to
schism. A prominent moderate, Charles Erdman of Princeton Seminary, was elected moderator of the 1925
General Assembly, running on a peace platform. He called for a special commission to study the causes of
unrest to the end that ―the purity, peace, unity and progress of the Church may be assured.‖ According to
historian Bradley Longfield, the commission‘s report, adopted in 1927, ―made it clear that the five essentials
had no binding authority” and that the arguments of the Auburn Affirmation had been accepted in total by the
1927 GA.

The 1927 General Assembly was very important in the life of Presbyterians because from this point on,
presbyteries ordained persons who said they affirmed the essential tenets of Christian faith, without having to
specify what those essentials were. As with the 2006 General Assembly that approved the PUP
recommendations, institutional unity was emphasized over doctrinal clarity.

As the debate over theology versus institutional matters subsided, church leaders turned their attention to
matters influencing the world around them. World peace became a major focus after two world wars. World
War II and the Korean Conflict set up a new set of challenges for the church with foreign missions.
Missionaries were not required to subscribe to the essential tenets of faith. This position was challenged but
was defeated.

After WWII, government, industry and corporations became larger and highly centralized. Officers at the top
had the most power and it trickled down to the workers. Churches adopted this same form of centralization.
Instead of being a servant to the local churches, the local churches began to look toward the church
headquarters and the center of leadership. In 1954, the General Assembly decided by unanimous vote to ―seek
union with two sister denominations‖, namely the United Presbyterian Church and the southern branch the
Presbyterian Church in the United States. The southern church declined. In 1956 a two-way merger was
formed and adopted by both churches in 1958. The new denomination was now called United Presbyterian
Church (USA).

During the mid-twentieth century Church leaders found the Westminster Confession of Faith too confining
while they were focusing on more worldly issues. Although Westminster was revered as an historical
document, it was seen as increasingly irrelevant to the church‘s preoccupation with peace, economics and race.
In 1948, an editorial by Francis Pickens Miller expressed the view that the church must find more adequate
theological benchmarks for underwriting its social policy. A special committee, headed by Dr. Edward Dowey,
Jr., professor of theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, was commissioned to prepare ―A Brief
Contemporary Statement of Faith‖ for consideration by the 1964 General Assembly. After three decades of
concentration on political, economic and social issues, the denomination that would become the Presbyterian
Church (USA) was now committed to the idea that ―the world sets the church agenda.‖ The GA accepted the
work of Dowey‘s special committee; the Book of Confessions contained a new ―modern times‖ document, The
Confession of 1967.

Next week we will look at that document and see how that affected the church. Suggested reading this week is
Broken Covenant by Parker T. Williamson that is available in the library and The Presbyterian Controversy by
Bradley J. Longfield.

History-Week Three

In the four decades after the 1927 General Assembly, generations of Presbyterian leaders were ordained
without reference to any doctrine that the denomination deemed essential. By the 1960‘s, the Presbyterian
Church faced a growing disparity between what it officially claimed to be and what it had become. While
claiming to identify itself with the Westminster Confession of Faith, it ordained leaders who were not
accountable to any particular doctrine; and many considered the Westminster Confession to be lacking in
relevance to modern times. For example, in the Study Edition of the Book of Confessions, it says, ―In
Westminster, Scripture seemed to be viewed as a collection of divinely revealed, timeless truths. Changing
understanding of truth and authority in the wider intellectual world challenged this position. Biblical scholars—
and increasingly pastors and lay people—were learning to read Scripture as a historical document that reflected
the particular circumstances, and ways of thinking, of ancient cultures.‖

Thus Dr. Edward Dowey wrote in Presbyterian Life: ―The Westminster Confession, standing alone, is not
modern enough to guide the present, nor is it ancient enough to represent the past.‖

A professor at Princeton Seminary, Dowey chaired a committee charged with drafting a contemporary
statement of faith, which become known as the Confession of 1967. The committee proposed that the Church
retain the Westminster Confession and Shorter Catechism along with the new confession, and add to them
creeds from other periods in a Book of Confessions, based on the precedent established by the United
Presbyterian Church of North American, which had merged with the PCUSA in 1958.

The Confession of 1967 called the church to a ministry of reconciliation in the world. But ironically its doctrine
of scripture, in departing from that of the Westminster Confession, sowed the seeds of theological discord within
the church. In Westminster, the divine authorship of Scripture and its consequent authority over the faith and
life of the church was strongly affirmed: ―The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed
and obeyed, dependeth…wholly upon God (who is truth itself), the author thereof; and therefore it is to be
received, because it is the Word of God.‖

But the Confession of 1967 carefully described the Bible as the word of God in lower case, bearing witness to
the Word of God incarnate. It said, ―The Scriptures, given under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, are
nevertheless the words of men, conditioned by the language, thought forms, and literacy fashions of the places
and times at which they were written.‖

After the adoption of the Confession of 1967 and the Book of Confessions, the General Assembly approved
substantial changes in the vows required of persons seeking ordination. The question, ―Do you believe the
Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice?‖
was replaced by, ―Do you accept the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be the unique and authoritive
witness of Jesus Christ in the church catholic, and by the Holy Spirit, God‘s Word to you?‖

This reluctance to affirm the abiding truth of scriptural principles has had the effect of undercutting the
authority of biblical pronouncements related to faith and ethics. For example, in the 1991-1992 Horizons Bible
Study for Presbyterian Women entitled, We Decide Together: A Guide to Making Ethical Decisions, the Rev.
Cynthia Campbell contends that one passage of Scripture can cancel out another, so that, ―In obedience to the
Bible, we sometimes must disobey a given biblical imperative.‖
The reluctance to affirm the timeless truth of scripture has also lead to increasing theological differences. As
Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, has said: ―Adopting a Book of Confessions…is
itself an invitation to theological diversity and dialogue in the best spirit of the Presbyterian tradition.‖

Unfortunately, the theological diversity and divergence of views about scripture encouraged by the Confession
of 1967 and the Book of Confessions has given rise to theological antagonism and denominational strife on
issues such as abortion, sexual ethics and ordination standards, which the church has been unable to resolve.

Suggested reading this week is Standing Firm by Parker T. Williamson, Seeking a Better Country by D.G. Hart
and John R. Meuther, and Book of Confessions: Study Edition.

The Collapse of the Swearingen Compromise
Previous articles have described the momentous impact of the 1927 General Assembly decision refusing to
articulate essentials of the faith for the denomination, and the 1967 adoption of a Book of Confessions and a new
confession that allowed a more critical view of Scripture.
In an article entitled, ―The Collapse of the Swearingen Compromise‖ in the September 10, 2007 edition of The
Presbyterian Outlook, Edward Koster gives insight into how these decisions have played out in the life of our
denomination. According to Koster, the Swearingen Commission report adopted in 1927 said that since the
presbyteries never gave the General Assembly the power to determine the membership of Presbyteries, the GA
did not have the authority to tell a Presbytery what beliefs are essential for the ordination of one of their
members. The final report adopted in 1927 said that the GA must honor the authority of the presbyteries to
decide what beliefs are essential when they consider someone for ordination. This decision became part of our
constitution as G6.0108b in the Book of Order.
The 1927 adoption of the Commission report, which Koster calls the ―Swearingen Compromise,‖ officially
changed our creedal structure in 1967, with the approval of the Confession of 1967 and the Book of
Confessions. At this time the PCUSA ―gave up the notion that a particular theological understanding of
Scripture was something to be accepted (albeit with ‗scruples‘), and substituted a complex array of historic
confessions.‖ He says that the church ―now looks at confessions as particular expressions of Christianity that
emerged under specific historic circumstances,‖ including the Nicene and Apostles‘ Creeds which established
Christian orthodoxy. ―This,‖ he says, ―has made it very difficult to define our theological center.‖
It has also served to relativize and undermine the authority of the fundamental scriptural truths enshrined in the
creeds and confessions. In 1927 when the Swearingen Commission report was adopted, there was still a general
consensus in the church about scriptural authority and the essentials of the faith, so that one could trust the
polity and the process, and assume that the presbyteries and sessions would not ordain someone who did not
uphold the core beliefs of the Christian faith and our Reformed tradition.
Unfortunately by the later decades of the century, as a result of widespread acceptance of so-called ―higher
criticism‖ of the Bible and the resulting relativizing of scriptural and doctrinal truth, this was no longer the
case. In 1981, National Capital Union Presbytery voted to install in a union UCC/PCUSA church, an ordained
UCC pastor named Mansfield Kaseman who refused to affirm the divinity of Christ. When that decision was
appealed, the GA Permanent Judicial Commission upheld Kaseman‘s installation, citing the Swearingen
Commission report of 1927.
Meanwhile in 1975, Walter Kenyon had told Pittsburgh Presbytery that, because of his interpretation of
scripture, he could not participate in the ordination of women, even though he would not oppose the ordination
of a woman and would work with ordained women. In that case, The GA Permanent Judicial Commission
prohibited the presbytery from ordaining Mr. Kenyon, on the grounds that he would not comply with the Book
of Order, which authorized the ordination of women. As Koster notes, ―The combined effect of the two cases
appeared to lift polity over Scripture and the Confessions.‖
Koster argues that, whereas these two cases weakened the ―Swearingen Compromise,‖ it has collapsed
completely in our day, as individuals and governing bodies intentionally flout the Book of Order in the
ordination of uncelibate homosexuals, the performance of same sex marriages, violating the trust clause and
unilaterally leaving the denomination.
Koster suggests that in order to reestablish trust and restore the covenant that has held us together, we need to
do three things: ―embrace the notion that the church exists primarily to declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ to
those not in the church,‖ ―decide that the covenant we have to govern ourselves is good and worth preserving,‖
and ―set a firm set of standards for theological adherence, and begin to discuss and debate them.‖ Koster
suggests we use the Apostles‘ and Nicene Creeds. He says, ―Any church, any group that comes together for
joint endeavor must share a common belief, or it will fragment.‖
(Edward Koster is Stated Clerk of Detroit Presbytery and a candidate for Stated Clerk of the PCUSA. His
article can be found at A copy has been placed in
the church office.)

Politicization of the Church’s Mission

In previous articles we have read about the effects on our denomination of the shift from the high view of
scriptural authority and the theological consensus of the Westminster Confession, to the lower view of
Scripture and theological diversity allowed by the Confession of 1967 and Book of Confessions. This week we
will see how, loosened from its moorings in scripture, the Church began to conceive its mission as promoting
―liberation‖ more than salvation.
In John 8:31:32, Jesus said, If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth,
and the truth will make you free.” The Confession of 1967 had put the focus on the church‘s mission of
reconciliation. Under the influence of ―Liberation Theology,‖ this was conceived in political terms. For
example, in 1975, representatives of the Joint Strategy and Action Committee of the Presbyterian Church
(USA) stated, ―In order to understand the nature of he socio/political/economic reality of the American people
as a basis for doing liberation theology, the tools of Marxist social analysis are crucial--especially its attention
to class structures and the economic determinants of behaviors and institutions.‖
This shift from a concern for salvation to a concern for liberation led to a different concept of missions. The
church‘s call became a call to participate in class struggles, to say God is on the side of the poor and to support
the poor politically, if possible. In 1975 the National Council of Churches sponsored a gathering of mainline
churches, including the (northern) United Presbyterian Church and the (southern) Presbyterian Church (US).
The ―points of agreement‖ listed by the Joint Strategy and Action Committee in a newsletter included the
following ―task that must be continued‖: ―There is a need to demystify Marxian thought and to legitimize the
use of class analysis within the U.S. so that it can be heard rather than prematurely dismissed by our church
and national life. We need to continue to build ties of solidarity between all those who are working for the
human liberation both here and in other countries.‖
Since the mission of the church was being redefined in largely political terms, it seemed appropriate to support
and partner with secular and political groups. On June 23, 1969, the Board of National Missions of the United
Presbyterian Church distributed a paper urging agencies of the Presbyterian Church to ―join in the black
revolution, wherever collaboration is possible and desirable, by supporting the demands of the [Black]
Manifesto.‖ Adopted by the National Black Economic Development Conference and presented to the National
Council of Churches in 1969 by James Foreman, The Black Manifesto was a combination of Marxist ideology
and black power rhetoric. According to Foreman in his introduction, the aim of the Manifesto was "to bring
this [American] government down … [and] liberate all the people in the U.S. and…the colored people the
This sparked a response from presbyteries across the country not to fund anything that encourages violence or
racism. Yet in 1971, Angela Davis, a Marxist and member of the Black Panther Party, received a $10,000 grant
from the United Presbyterian Church Fund to Combat Racism. When they learned of the grant, thousands of
Presbyterians in the pews sent letters to General Assembly officials protesting the action. Meanwhile, in the
early 1970‘s, church grants were given to ROSCA, a Marxist organization in Columbia. Although the
Presbyterian Church of Columbia protested the action, a second grant was given to ROSCA for $75,000 in
In 1978, the Presbyterian Church announced a Consultation on Overseas and Domestic Mission conference
where partner churches in developing countries would come to Montreat. Many of these Third World
representatives were handpicked by staff persons of the Presbyterian Church (US), not by the leaders of the
churches they represented. Several of these people were vigorous promoters of liberationist thinking who
berated the United States for alleged economic imperialism.
This trend has continued. The Presbyterian Churches of Brazil and Mexico have objected to the liberationist
theology of the PC(USA) and its impact on their churches. Support was also given to the Sandinistas in
Nicaragua, and liberation groups in South Africa, Rhodesia and the Philippines. Even in the absence of support
for revolutionary political groups, the mission of the church is now conceived more as economic development
than evangelism, and more as liberation from oppressive social structures rather than salvation from sin and
death through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Reinterpreting Jesus
We have been reading about the effects on our denomination of the shift from the high view of scriptural
authority and the theological consensus of the Westminster Confession, to the lower view of Scripture and
theological diversity allowed by the Confession of 1967 and Book of Confessions. This week we will see how,
loosened from its moorings in scripture, the PCUSA has been blown about by the contemporary winds of
cultural relativism and feminist doctrine in ways that are undermining faith in Jesus Christ as Savior of the

At the 1991 General Assembly, Moderator Herb Valentine invited a Native American pastor to ―purify‖
commissioners, expel unwanted spirits and attract favorable spirits by waving a feather through smoke. The
highest official of the PCUSA had chosen to incorporate a non-Christian ritual into the GA‘s opening
communion service.

In 1993, the ReImagining God Conference in Minneapolis, sponsored by the World Council of Churches and
funded with a $60,000 grant from the PCUSA, seemed to establish a new feminist religion. As John Burgess
and Joseph Small noted in an evaluation, ―Consistently extravagant language in Re-Imagining rituals
transformed an attribute of God [wisdom or ―Sophia‖] into a divine image different from ‗the one true God who
has been revealed in Jesus Christ.‘‖ A milk and honey ritual was substituted for the Lord‘s Supper.

At the conference, which was planned by a group that included Mary Ann Lundy, Director of our
denomination‘s Women Ministries Division, Jesus‘ incarnation, divinity and atonement on the cross were
rejected. Conference leader Rita Nakashima Brock argued that there was nothing particularly unique about
Jesus. Speaker Delores Williams rejected Christ's dying on the cross to save us from our sins, saying, "I don't
think we need folks hanging on crosses and blood dripping and weird stuff."

As a result of the uproar over the ReImagining God Conference Mary Ann Lundy was fired. But shortly
thereafter, she was hired by the World Council of Churches, by a committee that included Rev. Clifton
Kirkpatrick, who was then the Director of the PCUSA Worldwide Ministries Division.

At a Presbyterian Peacemaking Conference in 2000, the Rev. Dirk Ficca sent shock waves through the PCUSA
with a speech stating that much of the discord in society is caused by groups with exclusive religious
convictions. He said that God works in the world through people of many faiths and asked, ―If God is at work in
our lives, whether we‘re Christian or not, what‘s the big deal about Jesus?‖ In answering his question, Ficca
said that Jesus is not the sole instrument of salvation and that, ―the Good News is not the good news so much
about Jesus, but the good news of Jesus: The Good News that Jesus preached.‖
he denominational staff supported Rev. Ficca‘s right to freely express his views, but later admitted that his
remarks were out of bounds. The next General Assembly in 2001 debated whether the church must profess
Jesus Christ to be ―the singular saving Lord,‖ or whether the denomination should continue being ―inclusive,
generous, welcoming and diverse.‖

A compromise was reached with a statement that merely upheld the ―uniqueness‖ of Jesus Christ. The
denomination-wide reaction to this compromise was a rapidly growing alignment to the ―Confessing Church
Movement‖ in which Lewes Presbyterian Church took part. As a result, the 2002 General Assembly affirmed a
paper which said, ―Jesus Christ is the only Savior and Lord, and all people everywhere are called to place their
faith, hope, and love in him….No one is saved apart from God‘s gracious redemption in Jesus Christ.‖

And yet in the same year of 2002, two Presbyterian theology professors told a national conference of the
Covenant Network of Presbyterians that the atoning death of Jesus Christ is an outdated doctrine. Anna Case-
Winters of McCormick Theological Seminary said, ―it is the incarnation that accomplishes our salvation.‖

With the central doctrines of the faith being questioned by some leaders of the PCUSA, it is no surprise that our
denomination is suffering massive membership losses.

PCUSA Position on Abortion
The Scripture bears witness that it is God who forms the fetus in the womb (Psalm 139:13), and that God is
present to, and has a purpose for, the unborn person in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5). As recently as 1965, the
UPCUSA opposed abortion, stating, ―The fetus is a human life to be protected by the criminal law from the
moment when the ovum is fertilized ... As Christians, we believe that this should not be an individual decision
on the part of the physician and the couple.‖
But inn 1970 the General Assembly adopted a ―pro-choice‖ position, stating that, ―the artificial or induced
termination of a pregnancy is a matter of careful ethical decision of the patient…and therefore should not be
restricted by law.‖
After reunion of the UPCUSA and the PCUS in 1983, the General Assembly of the new PCUSA reaffirmed the
policy of supporting a woman‘s right to choose with virtually no reservations. But throughout the 1980s and
1990s the PCUSA continued to debate the emotional issues surrounding the justice and morality of abortion,
and in 1992 the General Assembly adopted a more nuanced position, excerpted below:
―We affirm the ability and responsibility of women, guided by the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit, in the context
of their communities of faith, to make good moral choices in regard to problem pregnancies…. We call upon
Presbyterians to work for a decrease in the number of problem pregnancies, thereby decreasing the number of
abortions… The considered decision of a woman to terminate a pregnancy can be a morally acceptable, though
certainly not the only or required, decision. Possible justifying circumstances would include medical indications
of severe physical or mental deformity, conception as a result of rape or incest, or conditions under which the
physical or mental health of either woman or child would be gravely threatened….We are disturbed by
abortions that seem to be elected only as a convenience or ease embarrassment. We affirm that abortion should
not be used as a method of birth control….Abortion is not morally acceptable for gender selection only or solely
to obtain fetal parts for transplantation ….The strong Christian presumption is that since all life is precious to
God, we are to preserve and protect it. Abortion ought to be an option of last resort…The Christian community
must be concerned about and address the circumstances that bring a woman to consider abortion as the best
available option. Poverty, unjust societal realities, sexism, racism, and inadequate supportive relationships may
render a woman virtually powerless to choose freely.‖
Unfortunately, the policy section remained radically pro-choice, and our denomination has continued to support
the radical Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, while the PCUSA Washington Office has continued to
lobby tirelessly for unrestricted abortion.
Most recently, there has been controversy concerning the grisly procedure known as Partial Birth Abortion.
This is an operation in which a baby is delivered until only the head remains in the birth canal. At that point
when the baby is a few inches and one breath away from entering this world, instruments are used to fracture
the baby‘s skull and brain matter is suctioned away. In 1996 the PCUSA rejected two overtures calling for
condemnation of Partial Birth Abortion.
In 2005 the Session of Lewes Presbyterian Church stated in a letter to the Pastors and Stated Clerks of the New
Castle Presbytery: ―We believe there are no medical, moral, or scriptural justifications for the procedure known
as partial birth abortion. The argument that this type of abortion is necessary to save the mother‘s life does not
stand up to alternative measures to preserve both mother and child.‖
The LPC Session also presented an overture to New Castle Presbytery opposing Partial Birth Abortion. The
overture was rejected, partly because opponents argued that the 2006 General Assembly had adopted a position
against Partial Birth Abortion. It reads, in part:
―We affirm that the lives of viable unborn babies—those well-developed enough to survive outside the womb if
delivered—ought to be preserved and cared for and not aborted. In cases where problems of life or health of the
mother arise in a pregnancy, the church supports efforts to protect the life and health of both the mother and the
baby. When late-term pregnancies must be terminated, we urge decisions intended to deliver the baby alive. We
look to our churches to provide pastoral and tangible support to women in problem pregnancies and to surround
these families with a community of care. We affirm adoption as a provision for women who deliver children
they are not able to care for, and ask our churches to assist in seeking loving, Christian, adoptive families.‖
Attempts to Change Positions on Human Sexuality
We have been reading about the effects on our denomination of the shift from the high view of scriptural
authority and the theological consensus of the Westminster Confession, to the lower view of Scripture and
theological diversity allowed by the Confession of 1967 and Book of Confessions. This week we will see how,
loosened from its moorings in scripture, the PCUSA has been blown about by the winds of ―political
correctness‖ concerning human sexuality, yet by God‘s grace has continued to uphold biblical sexual morality.
In 1970, the Council on Church and Society of the UPCUSA sent to General Assembly the report, ―Sexuality
and the Human Community,‖ which stated that, ―Scripture alone provides an inadequate basis on which to
construct a specific sexual morality for today.‖ The General Assembly approved the report for study with an
―attachment,‖ stating that the GA reaffirmed adherence to the moral law of God revealed in the Old and New
Testaments, and that adultery, prostitution, and fornication, and/or the practice of homosexuality is sin. They
also affirmed that any self-righteous attitude of others who would condemn persons who have sinned is also sin.
In 1976 the General Assembly of the UPCUSA authorized a study of homosexuality by a 19-member task force
supervised by the Office of the Stated Clerk. Its main conclusion was that a practicing homosexual Christian
seeking ordination could be ordained if they had the gifts required for ordination. Five members issued a
minority report stating that homosexuality is not God's wish for his children and is not biblically warranted. The
1978 GA voted by an overwhelming majority to replace the 1976 reports with a statement declaring that
homosexual behavior is a sin and accordingly ‖our present understanding of God's will precludes the ordination
of persons who do not repent of homosexual practice.‖
In 1991 a Special Committee on Human Sexuality brought a report to the General Assembly of the PCUSA
entitled, ―Keeping Body and Soul Together: Sexuality, Spirituality, and Social Justice.‖ Rejecting the specific
teachings of scripture on sexuality, the report created a situational ethic of ―justice-love‖ that would allow both
homosexual relations and heterosexual relations outside the bounds of marriage. The General Assembly voted
overwhelmingly not to adopt the report, stating, ―We have reaffirmed in no uncertain terms the authority of the
Scriptures of the Old and New Testament. We have strongly reaffirmed the sanctity of the marriage covenant
between one man and one woman to be a God-given relationship to be honored by marital fidelity. We continue
to abide by the 1978 and 1979 positions of the Presbyterian church on homosexuality.‖
In 1993, the General Assembly adopted the recommendation of its Advisory Committee on the Constitution
which stated that: ―current constitutional law in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is that self-affirming,
practicing homosexual persons may not be ordained as ministers of the Word and Sacrament, elders, or
In 1997, the approval by a majority of presbyteries of an amendment to the Book of Order (section G-6.0106b)
made constitutional the following language: ―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 (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness.‖
Efforts to change this constitutional standard by subsequent General Assemblies have failed to gain approval by
a majority of presbyteries, yet activist groups such as Presbyterians for Lesbian and Gay Concerns, More Light
Presbyterians and That All May Freely Serve have maintained a vigorous, persistent and well organized
political lobby on behalf of their causes, aided by allies on the GA staff.
As mentioned in an earlier article, in 2006 the General Assembly approved an authoritative interpretation (not
requiring approval by a majority of Presbyteries) intended to allow the ordination of practicing homosexuals
without changing the constitutional standards. Recent rulings by the GA Permanent Judicial Commission have
insisted that the standards must be obeyed; but this will be challenged by an overture to the General Assembly
this June.
There are also several overtures seeking to strike or amend G-6.0106b and nullify the Authoritative
Interpretation underlying this section of The Book of Order, as well as two overtures to redefine marriage as a
covenant between two persons, rather than between a man and a woman. Please keep the GA and our
denomination in prayer.

Here is a partial listing of proposals which will be considered by the PC(USA) General Assembly this week in
San Jose, California:

Christian-Muslim Relations
   Assert that ―Jews, Christians and Muslims worship a common God, though each understands that God
   ―Support‖ the statement by Muslim scholars, ―A Common word Between Us and You‖
   Proposed new policy on ecumenical stance of PCUSA
   Covenant Agreements with the Korean Presbyterian Church in America, the Episcopal Church, the Catholic
    Church and the Moravian Church.

Form Of Government Report (extensive revision of Book of Order)
   Receive report, allow two-year period for study
   Implement two phases in which to adopt recommendations
 Call for the ―withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq‖
      ―Peace in Israel and Palestine‖ proposal that primarily criticizes Israel
      Endorsing ―Amman Call‖ on Arab-Israeli peace that primarily criticizes Israel
      Temporarily suspend military aid to Israel
   Change definition of marriage from a man and a woman to two people
   Affirm equal rights for families of same gender partners
Ordination Standards/ PUP Report
 Delete the ―Fidelity/Chastity standard from Book of Order
 Ensure the ―fidelity/chastity‖ standard is enforced by ordaining bodies
 Nullify affirmation by the GA Permanent Judicial Commission of the ―fidelity/chastity‖ ordination standard
 Rescind the ―local option‖ clause of the PUP Report
 Rescind all actions related to the Peace, Unity and Purity report
 Prohibit ordination of candidates who depart from ordination standards
 Add ―within certain bounds‖ to limit freedom of conscience
Per Capita
      Eliminate per capita for mission funding system by 2010
      Limit the use of per-capita funds to church governance
 Call for ―Solemn Assemblies‖ for prayer and spiritual conversation
 Call for an ―Expanding Partnership in God‘s Mission‖ that involves a variety of groups working together for
Social Justice:
   Adopt new Social Creed
   Adopt policy papers on:
       Serious mental illness
       Energy and global warming
       Pay equity for women
       Homelessness
       Electoral Reform
   Direct entities to include pro-life position in materials supporting abortion
   Allow provisional amendments to the Book of Order
   Investigate actions and conduct of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church
   Approve process for revising Heidelberg Catechism to remove reference to homosexuality
   Begin process for approval of Belhar Confession

Presbyterian Renewal Network Joint Statement

Today, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) lies gravely wounded by the hand of its own General Assembly. This
Assembly has struck multiple blows, threatening to sever the sinews that hold us together as a Christian body
and as a part of the larger body of Christ. This is a day for grieving.

The General Assembly today, by majority vote, has conveyed to our congregations and to the world that it
rejects the Bible‘s teaching and our Reformed confessions‘ affirmation that homosexual behavior does not
comport with Christian faith.

The Assembly also is asking our presbyteries to remove by their vote the constitutional requirement of ―fidelity
within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness‖ as a standard for
officers in this denomination.

Moreover, this Assembly has adopted a constitutional interpretation that is intended to strip the church of its
ability to set any binding standards for the behavior of its officers.

These decisions place the Presbyterian Church (USA) in spiritual jeopardy. They threaten to cut us off from
God‘s ancient law, given for our good, by which God prohibited adultery and all other sexual relations outside
the marriage of man and woman. They threaten to cut us off from the PCUSA‘s birthright in the Reformation,
with its insistence that all matters of faith and practice be decided on the basis of ―Scripture‘s alone.‖ They
threaten to cut us off from the vast majority of the global Church today, which holds firmly to the orthodox faith
that this Assembly so lightly casts aside. These actions threaten to cut us off from our own denomination‘s
members and congregations, which also by large majorities affirm the Biblical teachings on these matters.

We grieve for the Assembly‘s terrible loss of faith. We grieve for the thousands of churches in our
denomination who receive this news with shock and dismay. And we grieve for all those who are encouraged
by this action to engage in sinful behaviors that God cannot bless. The Church‘s calling is to hold out to them
the Gospel message of forgiveness and redemption through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
As pastors and members of this denomination‘s 11,000 churches, it is our turn to recall the response of
Nehemiah, and weep over the news of this destruction of God‘s house. It is our turn to say that we have sinned.
It is our turn to come together to repent and to rebuild.

This is not a day without hope. We join the hundreds of thousands of faithful Presbyterians in looking to the
Church‘s Savior in this hour. We reaffirm our love for the Savior and His Church. We invite Presbyterians to
join us in seeking god‘s help to turn back this effort to lead the Church to a place where it is in danger of
becoming no Church. None of the damage don e by this Assembly is final or irreversible.


Gabrielle Avedian, Presbyterian Forum
Marie Bowen, Presbyterians Pro-Life
Charles Burge, The Presbyterian Layman
Sue Cyre, Presbyterians for Faith, Family, and Ministry
Sylvia Dooling, Voices of Orthodox Women
Renee Guth, New Wineskins Association
Brad Long, Presbyterian Reformed Ministries International
Tim Meredith, Constitutional Presbyterians
Terry Schlossberg, The Presbyterian Coalition
Alan Wisdom, Presbyterian Action

Pitting Christ Against Scripture

With the decisions of the recent General Assembly, the Presbyterian Church (USA) has entered a period of
crisis—a period of decision in which it will effectively decide whether to definitively reject the Bible as its
ultimate authority for faith and practice. As Leslie Scanlon reported in the Presbyterian Outlook on June 27,
―the 218th General Assembly recommended by a narrow margin that the denomination change its constitution
to remove the impediments that have been disallowing the ordination of sexually-active gays and
lesbians….The presbyteries will decide in the next year whether to remove from the denomination‘s
constitution language restricting ordination to those who practice fidelity if they are married or chastity if they
are single.‖
The General Assembly has thus asked the Presbyteries to affirm and endorse behavior that the Bible clearly and
repeatedly calls sinful, as in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10: ―Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male
prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers--none of these will inherit the kingdom
of God.‖
Again, 1 Timothy 1:9-11 says: ―the law is laid down…for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and
sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers, fornicators,
sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching that conforms to
the glorious gospel…‖
The current ordination standard is found in G-6.0106b of the Book of Order, which states, ―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.‖
This would be replaced by the following paragraph: ―Those who are called to ordained service in the church,
by their assent to the constitutional questions for ordination and installation, pledge themselves to live lives
obedient to Jesus Christ the Head of the Church, striving to follow where he leads through the witness of the
Scriptures, and to understand the Scriptures through the instruction of the Confessions. In so doing, they declare
their fidelity to the standards of the Church. Each governing body charged with examination for ordination
and/or installation establishes the candidate‘s sincere efforts to adhere to these standards.‖
In their Rationale, the authors of this amendment state, ―Our church…has bound itself to a hierarchy of
authority in which we are to obey Jesus Christ its Head, and, additionally, to heed first the Scriptures and then
the confessions, to the extent that they accurately bear witness to Christ’s will (emphasis added)….Although
the hierarchy of the church‘s authority is clear, it is subverted by the current language of G-6.0106b, which
substitutes for our obedience to Christ two concepts that are foreign to Reformed understanding: ―obedience‖ to
Scripture and ―conformity‖ to the confessions.…In order to be able to rely on Jesus Christ as its Head and as its
chief guide in all of life, the church must shed any subordinate source of authority that would bind its ability to
follow where he leads.‖
On the contrary, the watchword of the Reformed Tradition has been sola scriptura—scripture as the sole
authority for our understanding of the will of Christ. And the whole of scripture was considered of value.
As Dr. Paul Leggett of Grace Presbyterian Church in Montclair, NJ wrote in an opinion piece published at ―with the overture to remove G-6.0106b the call to live a life "in obedience to Scripture"
(a central theme in our confessions) is to be replaced with a pledge "to live lives obedient to Jesus Christ the
Head of the Church, striving to follow where he leads through the witness of the Scriptures..." "Witness" is not
the same as authority. An authority is obeyed. A witness is cross-examined. Adding the phrase, "to understand
the Scriptures through the instruction of the Confessions" goes nowhere without the Confessions' own
insistence that the scriptures are to be "received and obeyed as the word of God written" (Book of Confessions
9.27). Absent any reference to Scripture as the Word of God written, "witness" can be read as little more than a
primary source…. Any claim to obey Jesus Christ, the Living Word, apart from obeying the Word of God
written has no foundation.‖

                               To Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations
                                                  July 15, 2008
Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In a letter to you on June 28, we began to tell the story of our 218th General Assembly. Our goal was to provide
you a timely summary and perspective on issues that we sensed would draw the greatest immediate attention. In
that first letter, we outlined the assembly‘s actions and our church‘s next steps in a continuing story, the
outcome of which is known only to God. Most importantly, we infused our letter with our strong and abiding
hope for the future ministry and witness of our PC (USA.), because we are a Good News people.
We hope that you will share with us a bold and unabashed hope, firmly grounded in the solid foundation of our
faith, that is daily confirmed for us in seeing how God is at work in and through our PC(USA). Every day, we
hear story after story of new churches and fellowships, of immigrant and multicultural ministries, of large
churches joining with smaller ones to support and encourage each other. Everywhere there is a new and
growing hunger to hear and to tell the Good News. The commitment to ―Grow Christ‘s Church Deep and Wide‖
— overwhelmingly approved by the assembly — grew out of that very hunger to say ―no‖ to a climate of
decline and say ―yes‖ to declaring a church wide commitment to participate in God‘s activity in transforming
the PC(USA).
With this letter, we invite you to continue to celebrate with us good news of our General Assembly and of our
Presbyterian Church. We ask you to join us in giving collective voice to the hope, the passion, and the future
that has the power to unite us as Presbyterian Christians:
   As noted, the assembly overwhelmingly adopted a churchwide commitment to ―Grow Christ‘s Church Deep
    and Wide,‖ encouraging synods, presbyteries, sessions, and all agencies, entities and networks of the
    PC(USA) to foster the growth of Christ‘s Church in the areas of evangelism, discipleship, servanthood, and
    diversity. This commitment builds on the many initiatives that are already under way in so many places —
    and calls on all parts of the church to start new congregations and transform existing ones; to nurture
    immigrant, racial ethnic and multicultural fellowships and congregations; to reach out through mission and
    to deepen discipleship.
   In a related action, the assembly also enthusiastically approved a strategy for church growth for African-
    American congregations. We see this as a call to action, and, more importantly, to collaboration. With the
    previous initiative, this comprehensive strategy invites us all to partner together in growing Christ‘s Church
    Deep and Wide in the many ways we are called to achieve great things for God.
   The ―Invitation to Expanding Partnership in God‘s Mission,‖ an historic document which emerged from the
    Worldwide Mission Consultation held earlier this year in Dallas, was boldly affirmed by the assembly.
    Covenanting to live and serve together, committing to working cooperatively, celebrating diverse
    Presbyterian approaches to mission, sharing responsibility for educating and preparation of all Presbyterians
    for mission and seeking and supporting more mission personnel, are among the statements in the invitation.
    Nearly 200 individuals and groups had endorsed this covenant before it was brought to the assembly and
    adopted. The committee that recommended it to the assembly read the text of the invitation aloud, making it
    a statement of faith, a powerful affirmation of our Presbyterian commitment to mission. We encourage you
    to do likewise.
       For the first time in 50 years, the assembly voted to increase the number of mission personnel serving as
        the hands and feet of Christ around the world. The good news is that those who are called to serve will
        be "saving lives" not just by providing urgent medical care or implementing holistic ministries, but by
        preaching the gospel, often in places where it has never been heard. With the support of Presbyterians,
        this commitment will extend our collective outreach in mission around the world.
       Realizing that worship is our response to God‘s love for us and that we pray for God to ―put a new and
        right spirit within [us]‖ (Ps. 51:10), Presbyterians also covenanted at this assembly to gather in Solemn
        Assemblies over the coming years, worshiping God and seeking God‘s healing for the church.
       Called by Jesus Christ to be peacemakers, the assembly continued to boldly affirm that stance around
        the world. The assembly called for ―responsibly‖ bringing the troops home from Iraq, continuing
        peacemaking with Israelis and Palestinians, and supporting human rights in Zimbabwe, the Philippines,
        North Korea and Colombia.
       752 commissioners and nearly 3000 other participants in San Jose were joined by more than 13,000
        people who logged in and watched online — a 21st century General Assembly!
As God‘s story, entwined with ours, continues to unfold following this General Assembly, we find ourselves
newly energized for the work to be done in the weeks and months ahead. The Good News, which we received,
in which we stand, and by which we are saved, calls us to immediate action. Empowered by the Spirit, we invite
you to carry out the work called for by Christ‘s commands and the Church‘s actions:
   Recommend gifted people to serve as mission co-workers. We need your wisdom and your help in
    identifying qualified candidates to fill the new positions that have been created.
   Hold Solemn Assemblies in your congregation or presbytery. A Web site with resources will be available
    soon through the General Assembly Council‘s Office of Theology and Worship.
   Grow Christ‘s Church Deep and Wide. Visit Deep and Wide and PresbyGrow to find ideas for growing the
    church and contribute your own.
   Support the work of mission around the world. There are countless opportunities for Presbyterians to invest
    in and pray for the good work the church is doing.
With believers in every time and place, we rejoice that nothing in life or in death can separate us from the love
of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. And isn‘t that Good News?
The Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, Moderator of the 218th General Assembly
Elder Linda Bryant Valentine, Executive Director, General Assembly Council
The Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly

            Crisis in World Mission: An Open Letter from The Outreach Foundation
The Outreach Foundation is a validated mission support group of the Presbyterian Church (USA), working in
and beyond our denomination to help individuals and congregations engage in Christ-centered evangelistic
mission for the salvation of humankind. The following is an excerpt of their response to actions of the recent
General Assembly
―In the light of the recent 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), we want to make clear
our continuing beliefs and commitments.
   There was much in the Assembly's actions to give thanks for, including approval of:
   A mission budget that will allow, for the first time in decades, an increase in the number of PCUSA
    missionaries; from 196 this year to 215 in 2009 and 220 in 2010
   "An Invitation to Expanding Partnership in God's Mission," a statement about new patterns of collaboration
    in mission that The Outreach Foundation helped to write
   A Christ-centered commitment to foster the growth of "Christ's Church Deep and Wide" through a focus on
    discipleship and evangelism " A new Strategy for Church Growth for African American Congregations
   More balanced statements on working for peace in the Middle East.
But we disagree with and deeply regret other actions by the Assembly which compromise the Presbyterian
Church (USA)'s capacity to participate fully in God's mission in the world. Despite the prayerful work of the
commissioners, the Assembly in San Jose erred in dramatic ways.
   In wrestling with matters of ordination and human sexuality, issues that reflect tensions within the broader
    culture, the Assembly set aside the plain teaching of Scripture and adopted positions which put our
    denomination at odds with nearly all of our mission partners and with the global body of Christ.
   In its attempt to foster more open relations with other faiths, the Assembly did not adequately lift up the
    uniqueness and sufficiency of Jesus Christ and His call to be His witnesses among all the peoples of the
   Although it approved a mission budget which seeks to reverse the historic decline in the number of PCUSA
    missionaries, the Assembly voted down an annual special offering that would have helped to fund the
   At a time when the PCUSA needs to focus on missional integrity instead of institutional retrenchment, the
    Assembly remained fixed on matters related to church property and congregational affiliation.
Amidst all of the discord in the PCUSA, we are thrilled at the ways we see God at work in the world. We
rejoice at how God continues to use faithful Presbyterians in his work of gathering up all things in Christ Jesus,
and we are more committed than ever to proclaim Christ's good news together with our global partners.
We believe that Jesus Christ is the one true Lord and Savior. There is salvation in no one else, for there is no
other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12, NRSV)
We believe that the church's only true authority is the Lord who has given His Word to the church as the
supremely trustworthy guide for faith and practice. We believe that humankind's highest purpose is to live for
the glory and honor of God….
We will continue to invite congregations and individuals to partner with us, receiving mission gifts in our office
and sending those gifts directly to missionaries and mission partners around the world who proclaim the good
news of Jesus Christ in word and deed.
We will continue to help congregations build relationships with global partners, seeking together to learn from
the faith and faithfulness of the global church…..‖
The Trustees of The Outreach Foundation
Rick Wesley, Chair
Rob Weingartner, Executive Director
                                 Posted Tuesday, July 7, 2008

       Constitutional Crisis in the PCUSA

         One of the problematic decisions of the recent General Assembly of the PCUSA was the approval of an
overture designed to reinforce the Authoritative Interpretation (AI) of the constitution recommended by the
PUP Task Force and adopted by the previous General Assembly in 2006. According to that AI, a person
seeking ordination as a minister, elder or deacon could declare a ―scruple‖ (disagreement) concerning any
matter of belief contained in the Book of Confessions or any standard of behavior in the Book of Order. The
ordaining body (session or presbytery) would then have the right to decide whether the belief or standard in
question was ―essential,‖ which would prohibit ordination, or ―unessential,‖ and so permit ordination.
Ordaining bodies would not be allowed to declare a list of essentials ahead of time, but would have to make
their decisions on a case by case basis. Their decisions would be subject to review by church courts.
         The GA Permanent Judicial Commission stated in February, 2008 that the constitutional standards set
forth in G-6.0108a ―are binding on and must be followed by all governing bodies, church officers and
candidates for church office.‖ A candidate might disagree with one of those standards and declare a scruple
about it, but would still have to comply with it in practice.
         The overture passed by the most recent GA seeks to get around this interpretation by requiring
―examining bodies to give prayerful and careful consideration, on an individual, case-by-case basis, to any
departure from an ordination standard in matters of belief or practice that a candidate may declare during
         It remains to be seen whether this interpretation will be upheld in the church courts. Meanwhile, we are
back in the constitutional crisis that existed following the General Assembly of June, 2006.
         To accept departures from constitutional standards required by the Book of Order, by allowing a session
or presbytery to decide that they are not essential, would undermine our constitution. As Daniel M. Saperstein
wrote in the May 16, 2006 edition of the Presbyterian Outlook, ―By permitting an ordaining body to circumvent
the explicit provisions of G-6.0106b that limit its powers, recommendation five [of the PUP Report] unravels
the threads that hold together the fabric of constitutional unity. The same rationale might be used to override
other specifically enumerated qualifications for ordination, such as church membership.‖
         To accept departures from constitutional standards required by the Book of Order, allowing a session or
presbytery to decide that certain standards are not essential on a case by case basis as mandated by the new
Authoritative Interpretation, would also remove a necessary condition for consistency in the ordination process.
It is theoretically possible that a session or presbytery could accept a scruple from one candidate in a particular
set of circumstances, while denying that same scruple to another candidate in a different set of circumstances—
thus opening itself to the charge of unfairness.
         To accept departures from constitutional standards required by the Book of Order, allowing Presbytery
to decide that certain standards are not essential, would also put a serious strain on our connectional system. No
longer would we be truly able to say that we are ordaining for the whole church, since our connectional unity
would be disrupted by the differing opinions about which standards are essential held by the different churches
within our presbytery, and the various churches and presbyteries beyond our bounds. This would lead to chaos,
confusion and strife.
        And finally, to accept a departure from the constitutional standard that is really at issue—the one set
forth in G-6.0106b in the Book of Order, and allow a Presbytery to decide that it is not essential, would
contravene the clear witness of scripture. For the Bible upholds God‘s intended order for human sexuality as
the uniting of a man and woman in a monogamous marriage relationship. And Scripture is consistent in its
witness that homosexual behavior is sinful and does not demonstrate the wholeness promised in the Christian
        According to the 1978 Definitive Guidance on sexuality, which was upheld by the PUP Report but
nullified by the 218th General Assembly, "homosexuality is a contradiction of God's wise and beautiful pattern
for human sexual relationships revealed in Scripture.... For the church to ordain a self-affirming, practicing
homosexual person to ministry would be to act in contradiction to its charter and calling in Scripture, setting in
motion both within the church and society serious contradictions to the will of Christ.‖
        No General Assembly can nullify the truth of God‘s Word; for Jesus said, ―Heaven and earth will pass
away, but my words will not pass away‖ (Matt. 24:35).

                                      The Leader of a Denomination in Crisis
The Moderator of the General Assembly is the symbolic head of our denomination during the period between
General Assemblies. For the next two years, the PCUSA will be represented by Bruce Reyes-Chow, the pastor
of an innovative new church in San Francisco that recently received a Sam and Helen Walton Award for
outstanding new church development.
In her nominating speech, Elder Vivian Guthrie urged Reyes-Chow‘s election ―to keep our church relevant…
Bruce has a profound understanding of the way the world is changing, so he can help us feel less anxious and
less resistant to change.‖
At the Assembly Reyes-Chow repeated his belief that ―nothing is too hard or too wondrous for God. If the
church steps out in faith rather than clinging to survival, to be more intent on being faithful than on being right,
to be together based on our common covenant in Jesus Christ rather than by property or pensions, then we will
be able to live into a future in which we are a vital and vibrant presence in the world.‖
The troubling news about our Moderator is that he is in favor of the ordination of homosexuals in the PCUSA.
At the Assembly, Reyes-Chow said he has always felt that ordination should be extended to all, but ―at the
same time I understand that is not where our church is.‖
On the other hand, in his honesty and openness to change he may be willing to lead the PCUSA to face up to the
reality of the deep and unbridgeable divisions on this and other fundamental issues of faith and practice that are
fueling the conflicts sucking the life out of our denomination. One month before the General Assembly, Reyes-
Chow wrote:
―With the recent PJC decision regarding Janie Spahr, I am again left wondering if we can truly agree to disagree
about this particular "issue" in the church….I wonder if opposing Biblical understandings and homosexuality
and the resulting effects of that belief: ordination, marriage, sexuality, etc. are able to live together under one
denominational roof. Or do the very positions automatically create an atmosphere that neither could/should
remain in relationship closer than ecumenical brother/sister in Christ….I say this because of what I feel is the
basic issue around homosexuality, it is a sin or is it not. At its heart, you either feel that homosexuality is a sin
that takes us further from God or a gift from God that should be embraced. Agreeing to disagree means that we
really felt like either was possible and/or are open to the possibilities. I am not sure either side really is in that
―For some issues I think this is entirely possible….But when it comes to homosexuality, regardless on which
side of the aisle you live on, how long can one be engaged in a community where the position is held in the
contrary? Could we agree to disagree about the ordination of women? Could we agree to disagree about
interracial marriage? I don't think we could, but yet for some reason we believe we can in this case.
―This is not a call for folks who disagree either way to get the heck out of dodge, but it is a little nudge out there
to see what folks are thinking. If in the end, it looks like we are headed in a particular direction or if we are
already there, would our efforts be better spent in grace-filled disengagement that allows for new life? Do we
keep passionately engaged in the discourse trying to reach some kind of resolution? Do we sit in the middle
with a posture of "wait and see" and/or "don't ask, don't tell"?....‖
These are questions that need to be asked.
Presbyterians Pro-Life Position Statement on Abortion
Christians rely on God's revealed Word, the Bible, for determining truth, and we look to it as our only infallible
guide for faith and action….The position on abortion of Presbyterians Pro-Life is built on Scriptural truths:
1. God places higher value on human beings than on the rest of his creation. Human beings are made
uniquely, in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Fertilization….is a blessing of God (I Samuel 1:1-20). The birth
of a baby is…a gift or heritage from God (Psalm 127:3-5).
2. The meaning and purpose God has for each human life begins before birth. Scripture commonly refers to
fertilization, rather than birth, as the moment of our beginning (Genesis 4:1). God speaks of us as known, cared
for, protected, and loved by Him before birth (Psalm 139:13-16). He often announces His specific purpose for
individuals while they are yet unborn (Jeremiah 1:4,5). The teaching of medical science regarding the unborn is
consistent with Scripture.
3. God forbids us to kill innocent human life (Exodus 20:13). Scripture makes no distinction regarding our
humanness, born and unborn. Therefore, it forbids the destruction of innocent human life including unborn
4. God requires us to protect and care for the needy and helpless (Proverbs 24:11,12). It is our task as
Christian disciples… to find solutions to problem pregnancies that allow both mother and baby to live and
5. God freely offers forgiveness and restoration to the repentant (1 John 1:9)…. it is our calling to extend the
compassion, understanding, and grace of God both to those involved in sex outside of marriage and to those
who have had abortions.
6. Scriptural teaching regarding the value of human life and our responsibility to protect and care for
innocent life applies in every case (Book of Confessions, 7.245, 7.246). Just as those of us already born who
were conceived in incest or rape, or who are handicapped, or who live in dire situations of need are protected
from being killed by the injunctions of Scripture, so those yet unborn who are conceived in the same
circumstances are protected.
In circumstances where physical complications of pregnancy develop, every attempt should be made to preserve
the lives of both mother and child.
The current position of the Presbyterian Church (USA) on abortion is untenable for Christians
The PC(USA) policy document adopted by the General Assembly in 1992 says that
Problem pregnancies are the result of, and influenced by, so many complicated and insolvable circumstances
that we have neither the wisdom nor the authority to address or decide each situation.
It considers moral judgments to be a matter of each woman's individual interpretation of what is right or wrong
in her particular crisis situation, and
...acknowledges circumstances in a sinful world that may make abortion the least objectionable of difficult
Further, the current policy states flatly that law or administrative decision should limit access to abortion; limit information and counseling
concerning abortions; or limit or prohibit public funding for necessary abortions for the socially and
economically disadvantaged.
(Minutes of the 204th General Assembly (1992), Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), p. 367-368, 372-374)
This policy document of the PC(USA) fails to establish a biblical defense for killing innocent unborn human
beings, and departs dramatically from the Church's historical teaching on abortion. It is based on a situational,
quality-of-life ethic which is in direct contradiction to the Judeo-Christian tradition. The Presbyterian Church
(USA) is in serious moral error in its teaching on abortion.
We call the PC(USA) to repent of its current position on abortion. We call for a change of heart and a change of
policy. We plead for our denomination to begin to promote the protection of unborn life and to counsel for
solutions to problem pregnancies which allow both mother and baby to live and receive the blessing of God.
(Excerpted from document found at

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