Monday, July 4, 2011

On PC-USA Denomination Issues

Our church (local) is wrestling with recent changes by the large PC-USA denomination.  This letter was drafted to let the congregation know where the session and presbytery was standing. -Dan

On PC-USA Denomination Issues

Center Church is at a cross roads in its long and rich history. Culture changes with the times, and our current culture has forced a debate upon our congregation that some wonder why there is a debate at all.

Center Presbyterian Church is a congregation within the Shenango Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church USA. PC-USA had a proposed amendment before the 2010 General Assembly referred to as -10A. This amendment was for a change in the Book of Order regarding officers of the church. Previously the Book of Order read for office standard as:

"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. 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."

"Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G-1.0000). The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation (G.14.0240; G-14.0450) shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003). Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.

In other words, it is now up to each Presbytery and congregation to determine the standards for the Officers of the church. The long standing requirements of the denomination can now be changed by each church. They may determine that the Biblical standard is less important than style or yield to a desire to reach out to the culture. This being a local option Center Church is not required to lower our standard, and will continue to hold to the traditional Book of Order regarding the offices of the church.

The votes are still being tallied (amendments are voted upon for one year and closes July 10) but the amendment already has a sufficient number that it will pass. There is nothing to be done regarding it passing. The Book of Order will be changed and some Presbyteries and congregations may start ordaining avowed, unrepentant, practicing gay officers.

The Shenango Presbytery has taken a firm stand against -10A. They are drafting a response and a document clarifying the options for the congregations. The passing of -10A marks a decision point for each congregation. There are some churches that will stay and fight. These churches will seek to form a united block and still remain under the PC-USA structure. Some are seeking other Reformed Denominational bodies that hold to a scriptural understanding at every level.

Session is awaiting this document and will prayerfully discuss and weigh the options for Center Church. Things may move slowly in this process but the process is moving and our Session, in representing our congregation, seeks to stand firmly upon the Holy Scripture.

The Gospel is good news to be shared with every end of the creation. We are to reach out to culture with love and grace, for without the love and grace of Jesus we are lost. We must also be sure that in reaching out we do not lose our firm foundation on the rock of our salvation.

If you have any questions or concerns, or would like to discuss this further please feel free to speak with any Elder or Pastor Woodman.

Please keep Center Church, the Shenango Presbytery, and the Presbyterian Church USA in your prayers.

-Center Church Session

2 Timothy 4

 1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

 6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Recommended Additional Resources:

Presbyterians For Renewal

Shenango Presbytery
(specifically look for the button labeled "Special Committee to Monitor Denominational Issues")

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