Who Are You and What Have You Done with My Church?

August 9, 2011

After thirty-six years of marriage, I can still surprise my husband. I broke the “Mary mold” a few months ago when I declared—out of the blue—“This is the year for me to climb Half Dome in Yosemite.”  Andy looked at me in astonishment and asked, “Who are you, and what have you done with my wife?!”

The church I have known, loved, and worked hard within for thirty-six years has surprised us all with an about-face in the last few months. This radical departure from our heritage has occurred in stages. The first was the replacement of Amendment 10A for the fidelity/chastity requirement. The second was the pair of judicial decisions that interpret the new language to represent a new ordination standard allowing those committed to homosexual practice to be ordained. In practice, this means that Presbyterian Church is, apparently, willing to ordain people who do not limit their sexual expression to heterosexual marriage.

My previous posts have attempted to clarify the issues from a Reformed perspective, as outlined in our Historic Principles of Church Order. I have addressed conscience, mutual forbearance, and the authority of Scripture. These principles provide the foundation upon which Presbyterian ethos is based.

My conclusion: what has happened lately is just about the most un-Presbyterian outcome one could imagine. The composite of constitutional amendment and judicial rulings has redefined the church to be something other than the historic, orthodox, Reformed faith we have known and committed ourselves to uphold. What remains now is an imposter undeserving of the name “Presbyterian.”

Who are you, and what have you done with my church? The Presbyterian Church at its heart is confessional, constitutional, and connectional. And yet, if you listened closely to the debates, read the legal briefs, or visited the websites, you recognized another voice drowning out the melody and rhythm of sola scriptura, sola fide, sola gratia, solus Christus, and soli Dei gloria.

Recent decisions go against our confessional heritage. The confessions (generalized to mean the Scriptures and their interpreter in the church, the confessions of faith) have been rendered irrelevant and inapplicable. They have been twisted to say what they do not mean. They have been robbed of their clarity for the ordinary Christian. And their authority has been maligned.

Recent decisions have undermined constitutional consensus. The Knox Authoritative Interpretation has been applied to mean that any ordination vow-taker has the right to depart from any constitutional provision. Higher governing bodies will not review a lower governing body’s decision on ordination, no matter how egregious a stated departure might be. The meaning of words is obscured in fog, such that individuals can do what seems right in their own eyes.

Recent decisions mock our connectional ties. We now have “local option,” which means the standards for ordination may vary from presbytery to presbytery. So much for “ordaining for the whole church,” or maybe, ultimately, ordaining for the whole church is the objective. How long can the option be merely “local,” before presbyteries will be forced to accept [irregular] ordinations as they transfer from one presbytery to another?

And people think we’ve “gone back to our Presbyterian roots”? Who are you, and what have you done with my church?

Tomorrow: A whole new topic—please!


8 Responses to “Who Are You and What Have You Done with My Church?”

  1. You speak of how our PC(USA) departs from those beliefs that once marked us as Presbyterian. Have you considered that those marks no longer apply to the PC(USA)? We belong to the PC(USA) that is and not to the PC(USA) that once was. The PC(USA), the one that is, we homosexuals as deacons, ruling elders and teaching elders. This is a fact that I have had to face. It is a fact that shakes me to my core.

  2. Mary Holder Naegeli Says:

    The basis for my belief that the beliefs/marks SHOULD still apply in the PCUSA is the continued appearance of our Historic Principles of Church Order in our Form of Government. But you point out the reality that it doesn’t matter anymore what is written, if folks can believe and do anything they please. This is another way of saying “This isn’t your grandmother’s Presbyterian Church anymore.” One of the PCUSA’s sins is to say one thing (in our Books) and do another (in our practice). The amendment process will ultimately morph our BOO into the new reality. Talk about an identity crisis. Thank you for writing, Gary.

  3. Fred Edwards Says:

    I recognized the futility of trying to change the apostasy of the denomination 4 years ago. This after 2 years fruitless years of trying to get my session to recognize the problem. It appears to me that my congregation knows little about what’s going on and, when told, doesn’t believe it really affects them.So not one red cent of my money goes to PCUSA. I stay only because my wife as UPW head cannot cease caring for the very old members. So I am a disciple of Christ w/o denominational affiliation.

  4. Mark S Says:

    For some additional historical context, you may wish to look at my protest as published on page 54 of the 2006 GA minutes.

  5. Greg Scandlen Says:

    I have recently rejoined the Presbyterian Church after being away for some 45 years. I am shocked by what I have found. I’ve been looking into what happened to my church, and with all due respect, surely you are not surprised.

    This latest is just the icing on the cake of 40 years of growing apostasy, beginning with the 1967 Confession, on to supporting abortion without limit, on to the betrayal of Israel,and so on.

    See my write-up of the abortion issue at http://gmscan.wordpress.com/2011/06/22/pcusa-and-abortion/

    The PCUSA has become nothing but a left-wing lobbying organization.There is no Christ here.

    • revmary Says:

      Greg, your post saddens me of course. You have jumped back into the kettle that has been slowing heating up in the 45 years since you left it. And you are rightfully shocked, where many of our members are warmed into complacency instead. However, I would be cautious about saying something so absolute as “there is no Christ here.” I must rise and say, “But I am here (Christ dwelling in me by faith), and I know many other very faithful, very vocal, very outraged individuals who are still giving biblical witness within this world we call the PCUSA.” To use an analogy from a previous post, both God and the Snake are still talking, yes in our PCUSA family, and it is our job to sort out the voices and respond in obedience to the One and Only God and him alone.

  6. Truth Tolife Says:

    And with the departure of every orthodox member, there is less and less Christ there. And following the Fellowship Gathering in Minneapolis this month, it is likely that pace will hasten.

  7. Randall Says:

    Hello Mary:

    I am g;ad to have known you for a while when you were associate at MVPC and later at Concord.

    I am glad to know someone with courage and conviction in this denomination based on all you do and have done.

    As the slow motion divorce continues in this congregation –from largely an academic leadership at the National Level that served little time in the local Church, ever, most exemplified by Kirkpatrick and now his tradition carried by Parsons, to pander and obfuscate, corrupt administratively when it couldn’t be done constitutionally– my Presbyterian forefathers that came here over 200 years ago, and some protestant refugess 360 years ago probably would be bemused at the silliness of all this now … now it’s devolved to just folks who are off the rails going after property and trust accounts of other congregations.

    My forefathers and foremothers (who did most of the praying) described this kind of action simply in their letters … thirst for power, raw greed, and trying to wrap personal sin in the legitimacy of the Church.

    Free country still … well sort of. Free to stay, free to leave, free to wage court battles over land, buildings, trusts. Free to settle scores to the last lawyer’s billing, and sheriff seizure.

    It’s been ugly now for a decade, and about to become more so.

    The marriage of disparate U.S. Presbyterian denominations into the PCUSA was played out with a lot of broken promises; decades of “infidelity” — the Divorce is under way. Now it just boils down to settling up on the property “and the kids”. It’s going to be an ugly divorce.


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