Local fallout from the PC(USA)'s Birmingham General Assembly...

Note from Tim Bayly: Many of our readers know the pastor of Brown County Presbyterian Fellowship, Dan Reuter, through his wise contributions in the comments of this blog. Personally, I know Dan as a brother in Christ and fellow pastor across the great divide separating the mainline Presbyterian Church (USA) (Dan's denomination) and the biblical Presbyterian Church in America (my own denomination).

Facing the actions just taken at their General Assembly a few weeks ago, Dan's session (presbyspeak for board of elders) has publicly released this statement disassociating their church from the heretical actions of their denomination's highest judicatory. It's an excellent statement and has seen print in one, and will soon see print in another, local newspaper. I reproduce it here asking our readers to pray for Dan, his session, and their congregation, that the Lord will guide them and other biblical PC(USA) churches as they seek God's leading concerning their future.

June 23, 2006 Dear Friends in the Brown County Community,

As reported in various news media, our denomination's General Assembly met in Birmingham, Alabama, last week. At least two decisions of that body conflict sharply with the beliefs of the Brown County Presbyterian Fellowship. We think they also conflict with the beliefs of most Presbyterians.

The so-called "Trinity Report" places the biblical formula of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit--the names of God given to us by the Bible and affirmed by the teaching of Christ Himself--on the same level as various metaphors which the Bible uses, not as names, but as analogies. For example, they offer us as names for God, "Compassionate Mother" and "Fire that Consumes." Instead of rejecting this attempt to rename God, the Assembly received the report. In Presbyterian usage, "receiving" is neutral language, often used to placate the opponents of a motion, while still accomplishing the motion's intent.

Even more troubling to us is the approval of the so-called Peace, Unity, and Purity (PUP) Report, which, for the first time in our denomination's history, allows local congregations and regional governing bodies to ordain as ministers, elders, and deacons people who refuse to accept or obey requirements for ordination established by the denomination's constitution, if they convince the ordaining body that they can nonetheless serve. While this refusal to comply may apply to any requirement, the issue has been primarily focused on and driven by the question of ordaining practicing and unrepentant homosexual candidates...

A number of years ago our denomination's constitution was amended to limit ordination to those who are faithful in marriage, which is between one man and one woman, or chaste in singleness. This wording was approved by a majority of the regional bodies, and re-approved twice by larger majorities each time. At the time it was added it was not a new limitation, but made explicit an understanding that had historically been practiced within the denomination (and for that matter in nearly all Christian denominations).

What made the PUP Report unconscionable was that it amends the denominational constitution by an unconstitutional process. It by-passed the regional bodies whose approval is required by the constitution itself. It is as though the U. S. Constitution were to be amended by a simple majority vote of Congress, by-passing the states. Advocates of the ordination of ineligible people, unable to change the constitution, proposed to "interpret" it by altering the meaning of the phrase "shall not" so that it from now on it means "may." A prohibition was changed by interpretation into permission, because the advocates of change could not muster the votes to pass an amendment.

The Session (governing board) of Brown County Presbyterian Fellowship condemns these actions of the 2006 General Assembly as heretical, illegal, and schismatic. We ask for the prayers of the Brown County community as we consider our own relationship with the Presbyterian Church (USA).

As we write these words with great sadness, we also want to make it plain that our attitude toward people whose sexual behavior the Bible judges to be wrong is to love them, not hate them. We do not believe that their sin is any worse than ours. But it is our job as a church to call them and each other to regret and to change, and to offer the forgiveness which Jesus came and died to bring. We cannot do this and at the same time agree that nothing is wrong. It is because our lives are broken that we rejoice in what God has done to fix them.

The Session of Brown County Presbyterian Fellowship

Brown County Presbyterian Fellowship
3602 State Road 135 North
Nashville, Indiana 47448
www.bcpresby.com bcpresby@fastmail.net


I can't quite tell whether Dan's church is disassociating itself from the PCUSA entirely so will be looking to join another Presbyterian denomination, or is simply condemning the actions of the recent convention, while intending to remain in the PCUSA.

It's a great letter, make no mistake, but unless their assembly is leaving the PCUSA, what's the effect Dan's hoping it will have?


Anne, the first thing to say is that my hopes are not central. I didn't draft the letter. If I had, it would have been a lot shorter. Whether the church leaves the denomination wil depend, I think, on whether the next several weeks prove that the Assembly did not in fact do what I believe it did, which was to enable the ordination of people who rject fidelity and chastity. If the Permanent Judicial Commission of the General Assembly decudes that this didn't happen, that the Cosntitution is the same as it was before, I suspect tht the church may still leave, but it will probably take longer. Understand that all this is only my opinion; it is not within my power to control.

My church in Lubbock, Texas of which I have served on session wrote a similar letter but put it in the form of a resolution to the G.A. I think this one is more to the point. Our church, which has about 1200 members, will pull out at the first homosexual ordination.

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