Monday, February 27, 2012

We are still Center Presbyterian Church

I am on the Gracious Separation Task Force at our church.  The team is to know the gracious separation policy that has been approved by Shenango Presbytery and help session with the process and legwork.  This is an article that was included in our church's monthly newsletter.

We are still Center Presbyterian Church

"14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." Ephesians 4:14-16

We are a Presbyterian Church.  Presbyterian denominations differ in some basic characteristics from other Protestant denominations.  We hold to a defined doctrine, organization (governance) and worship.  There are about 10 Presbyterian denominations in the United States.


We are a confessional tradition.  This has the implication that not only are we expressing our faith, a "confession of faith" which has authority; but we also unite with other churches on the theology.  It is not an individual matter.  Individuals should understand Scripture and carry out their confession with the body of believers.


The government is by councils of elders elected at the congregational level.  The congregational elders report and work with the presbytery which works with the synod which unites at the general assembly.  This structure helps to maintain discipline, united theology, and connection across the larger body.  Large missional work (disaster relief, famine, etc) would be a prohibitive burden for a small congregation - but as a united body the Gospel is spread worldwide.


Presbyterian worship can vary across the denominations under the Presbyterian umbrella.  All adhere that only two sacraments are administered - Baptism and the Lord's Supper.  They vary on music  (type and instruments) and Liturgical elements (benedictions, doxologies, confessions, prayer, creeds, scripture).

With that background in mind we are at a crossroad.  We have been affiliated with the PC-USA sits its formation in 1983.  The PCUSA denomination has shown a steady decline of adhering to some beliefs held essential by Center and other churches.


  • 1983 positional paper on the "test of Authority" - "...all theories of the authority of scripture are tested by the effectiveness and usefulness of the the interpretation that they involve."   Using the test of authority by "usefulness and effectiveness" rather than the fact of God speaking to us through the scriptures.
  • 1994 (and 2001) overtures which expressed opposition to partial birth abortion were rejected.
  • 2001 General Assembly reacting to a minster quoted as saying "what's the big deal about Jesus" a motion to declare Jesus Christ "the singular saving Lord" was debated.  The Assembly refused to make this statement rather it declared Jesus is "unique".
  • 2008 General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission found that "It is not improper for ministers of the Word and Sacrament to perform same sex ceremonies"
  • 2010 General Assembly passed a Book of Order Amendment removing the clause "fidelity and chastity" from ordination standards.  This was the fourth attempt to change this clause.
  • 2010 the PCUSA was one of 16 signatures to a letter sent to the White House in support of health care reform that does not create new restrictions to abortion.
With the erosion of holding to essential doctrine and the slide of steady governance Session has voted to explore separation.  Shenango Presbytery has established a process for Gracious Separation and we are a few steps into that process.  Over the next few weeks and months we will continue forward by meeting with Presbytery Representatives, Special Session meetings, and a congregational meeting specifically asking "Should Center Church explore separation from the PC-USA?".  The process approved by the Presbytery has rightly set a high bar of 80% approval within the congregation for this measure. 

To help guide the process, assist with leg work, and report to session a task force has been formed.  The team consists of Jason Dunn, Dan Kulp, Harold McDowell, Jean Richardson and Pastor Bill Woodman.  We are excited for this opportunity before the congregation.  It should not be a church dividing item it should be a life giving opportunity for the Holy Spirit to work through us as individuals and as a body.  We look forward to where God is leading us.  Please pray for us, our congregation and our denomination as we continue forward.

Thank you on behalf of the Session and the Gracious Separation Task Force,

-Dan Kulp

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