Friday, April 13, 2012

Letter to the Center Presby Church Congregation

(following is the letter to be sent out to the congregational members of our church.  It makes for an easy blog post)

Dear Center Church Family,
This letter is notification of a congregational vote scheduled for Sunday May 20th 2012 immediately after the Sunday Worship service.  The vote is “Should Center Presbyterian Church explore separation from the PC-USA?” 
How did we get here?
Center Church was formed in 1801 and called its first pastor in 1802.  We have a long history of steadily seeking where God is leading us.  We moved with the United Presbyterian church when it merged with the southern Presbyterian Churches in the United States and established the PC-USA in 1983.
For about the past 15 years the PC-USA has drifted away from a high Biblical standard.  Much of this seems to have been an effort to be more inclusive and this has led to an erosion of Biblical authority.  Being inclusive while forgetting our call to be the Body of Christ is too high of a cost.  Last year, Amendment 10-A was passed by the Denomination.  It allows the standards for Ordination to be determined by the local church and Presbytery rather than the national body.  This is counter to the understanding of a united body of believers.  This has already resulted in the Ordination of practicing homosexual clergy, elders and deacons.  There have been concerns over this and other policies and stances made by the PC-USA.  This last step in the drift is beyond reconciliation and there are insufficient means to undo the Amendment.   Loving your neighbor and reaching out to a fallen world does not have to mean losing your footing on the solid foundation of God's Word.
Where are we now?
Discussions regarding the “if”, “when” and “how” of leaving have occurred informally many times in the past.  In November of 2011, the Session unanimously voted to explore separation and notified the Shenango Presbytery.  A Task Force of Center Church Members has been assembled to assist in the research, information collecting, and leg work of the process.  We are following the Presbytery process of Gracious Separation and this congregational vote is the next step. 

Where do we go from here?
We see this as a crucial time to move where God may be leading us.  As we proceed, we are seeking a few requirements for our future denomination decision.
  1. Affirm Jesus Christ, God the Father's only begotten Son, as our only Lord and Savior.
  2. A high view of Biblical Authority.
  3. Property and assets to be held by the congregation.
  4. Affirm the sanctity of marriage and human life.
There are a few leading options to consider (Evangelical Presbyterian Church and the Evangelical Covenant of Presbyterians) but the first decision is “Should Center Church consider separation from the PC-USA?”

Please keep the denomination, our Presbytery, and our Church in prayer; and please plan on attending the vote on May 20th.  If you have any questions or concerns there will be a discussion forum on May 6th following the worship service.  There will also be information available in the Narthex or feel free to talk with Pastor Woodman or any of the Elders.

By His Grace,
Center Church Session

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