Posted by: gmscan | June 9, 2012

Leaving

After months of prayer, conversation, and wrestling with the situation, I finally decided to leave my PCUSA church and attend another independent but reformed church.

When I left Sunday services at the new church last week, I was met with a beautiful day. The sun was shining and a gentle breeze stirred through the trees. I felt a wonderful sense of peace and joy. I wanted to prolong the feeling so I walked around to the back of the church where a weathered old wooden fence separates the church property from a wheat field. I leaned against the fence and watched the “amber waves of grain” blowing in the breeze. Later in the day, black storm clouds blew through the area, but beams of light shined through the clouds. Later that evening the clouds broke up to reveal a full moon illuminating the clouds.

All of these signs simply confirmed my decision to leave the rancor behind – drop the yoke of contention and bureaucracy that has become the PCUSA. Rather than fretting over the General Assembly, the Synods, the Presbyteries, the special commissions, the protests and anger, I was free once again to celebrate the joy of the Lord without distraction. Amen.

I did not just walk away from my old Presbyterian church. First I discussed it with a number of elders, met with our pastor, and finally made a presentation to the Session. I told them I was not asking them to do anything. I was there simply to bear witness to what I was being called to do. I said that I was prompted by the last General Assembly two years ago to find out more about where the PCUSA stands on a number of issues.  I shared with them the results of my research –

Notes for Session

  1. PCUSA is one of the most radical pro-abortion groups I’ve seen.  In 1992, a Special Committee recommended the GA “adopt as policy:”
    1. Abortion on Demand
    2. Taxpayer Funding
    3. Not “pro-Choice” but pro-Abortion. Nothing on adoption
    4. Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare Association (PHEWA) –“Women’s Health Under Attack (and so are PCUSA reproductive health policies!) … our church’s policies call for universal access to health care, including contraception and abortion….” (2011)

Sources https://gmscan.wordpress.com/2011/06/22/pcusa-and-abortion/

  1. Policy towards Israel that has even moderate Jews calling us anti-Semitic
    1. Kairos Palestine document says the entire state of Israel, not just West Bank, is “occupied territory,” and there won’t be any peace until the occupation is ended – meaning no Israel.
    2. Boycotts, Divestment meant to hurt Israel’s economy, which hurts Arabs as well as Jews.

Sources: https://gmscan.wordpress.com/2011/07/08/pcusa-and-the-kairos-palestine-document/

  1. Recent betrayal of Catholic Church and religious freedom.
    1. Through its affiliation with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, the PCUSA said Obama did not go far enough. Wanted even houses of worship subject to contraception mandate.

Sources: https://gmscan.wordpress.com/2012/02/09/the-pcusa-does-it-again/

  1. Immigration. It wants open borders and no enforcement of immigration laws.
    1. Sojourners
    2. God created nations.

Sources: https://gmscan.wordpress.com/2012/04/24/the-pcusa-and-immigration/

  1. Gay issues. Homosexual ordination is just the start. Next month the GA will consider homosexual marriage. It will never stop.

Sources: https://gmscan.wordpress.com/2012/01/15/homophobe/

And this: https://gmscan.wordpress.com/2011/05/26/new-ordination-standards/

  1. Increasing Universalism –
    1. Many paths to God, Jesus is just one of many.
    2. Bible is merely a starting place, a suggestion, not to be taken as God’s inerrant Word. (Landon Whitsett, Vice-Moderator, PCUSA)

Sources: https://gmscan.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/more-on-the-progressive-church/

Now, this has been an extended process. The responses, excuses and rationalizations I got from several sources prompted me to leave. These include –

“Well all this is just politics.” No, it is not politics, it is morality and obeying the Word of God.

“The PCUSA does not speak for the Presbyterian church.” Actually, it does, or at least it claims to when it talks to the media or lobbies in Congress.

“The various committees (like the IPMN) speak TO the church not FOR the church.” No, this is a cop out. If the church has established them, staffed them, and supported them, they are part of the church and the church is responsible for their action.

“Well we don’t contribute any money to the PCUSA.” Actually, we do. We may not pay our per capita to the Presbytery, but the Presbytery is required to send an equivalent amount to the PCUSA. So the denomination still gets money based on our membership.

“We need to deal with society (on issues like abortion) as it is, not as we would like it to be.” That may be true, but in that dealing we are required to be witnesses of God’s Word and not encourage or assist in sin.

“Positions taken on issues like abortion are just suggestions.”  No, the 1992 abortion position was adopted as “the policy” of the denomination.

Then there are the contradictions. On one hand — ”the denomination does not tell local churches what to believe,” but on the other — “the denomination is important to establish standards for the local churches.”

So much sophistry and hair splitting. The worship of God gets lost, or at least compromised.

Thank you, Father, for shining your light on the path I should take. Thank you for giving me eyes to see your light and a heart to follow your path.

Amen and amen again.

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Responses

  1. Greg, I have watched your journey through your blogs with great interest. And this next step is no surprise. It is rare that someone who finds the Lord in later life, when we are likely to have the maturity to know what we have experience, is going to be willing to comprise the reality of their experience and understanding of God for the increasingly faithless example of those leading many institutional structures. No wonder that Paul admonishes us to “beware lest anyone take you away from the simplicity that there is in Christ.” Many years ago an extremely bright and highly academic Jewish friend told me of his encounter with Jesus. He was your classic brilliant sceptic, maybe atheist. He was touring Europe one summer and picked up a hitchiker, who turned out to be a Christian. This young lady did not seem at all daunted by his profound scepticism. So he asked her how she could have her degree of certainty when “all of the facts” pointed in the other way. Her answer began his real search when she said in the words of a simple chorus, “You ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart.”

    My advice to you, for what it is worth, is don’t put to much confidence in institutions of any sort, even those with a solid grasp of and commitment to the written word of God. Rather make sure that “you know Him, who to know is life eternal.”

    Your friend and fellow wanderer on this journey of life and health care challenges,

    Dr. Tony Dale
    The Karis Group

  2. Great piece, Greg. Welcome home. And a good responce from Dr. Dale. This whole post has been a blessing to read.

  3. Greg, I too have followed your faith journey as it parallels my own. As usual, you have been more diligent the myself and specific in your detailed findings and disclosure of the corruption of the faith by too many denominations and individual churchs. I found that many chuch members do not know of their own denomination’s positions on issues like abortion and gay marraige. Of course, many church members don’t care as they themselves have not been following the Word.

    I too recently left the “more conservative” PCA, which split from PCUSA a few years ago because of the issues you found with PCUSA. They have similar and other problems of doctrine that I found objectionable or at least unanswered.

    My major conclusion, is a self-reinforcing one that big churches can be as bad and corrupt of principles as is big government and big business. The ultimate church is the relationship between you and God. Others can be terrific support, encouragement, understanding, and even wisdom. But at the beginning and end, we come into the world from God and we leave it to embrace Him. We will stand before Him alone and seek His grace. We stand before Him now naked in our thoughts and beliefs. Their is no collective salvation, no church oriented salvation, only individual salvation.

    Please, keep us posted on your continued faith journey. You are having more of an impact on others than you may realise.

  4. Greg:
    Thanks for sharing your current journey with us.
    I feel some sense of the struggles you have been going through. You feel them much more intensely.

    I recall the book by William James
    “The Varieties of Religious Experience.” Each one’s journey is so very personal, and will never match another’s.

    I am also reminded of many philosophers who speak of man acting alone being okay. It is when he encounters large groups, that his madness comes to the surface.

    The decision to change churches is never easy. At first, it feels, for me at least, very inconvenient, a nuisance.
    Later on, if the decision is right, you learn to embrace the new environment which more matches the new and improved Greg.
    No community will ever be perfect, but it is in our imperfections, that the community grows, together.
    Shalom,
    Don Levit

  5. Dear Brother Scandlon,

    I understand fully your journey in leaving the PC(USA), as it is one I have made.
    I would appreciate your thoughts and experience in finding a new congregational family. What did you examine about their beliefs? With whom did you speak? How many churches are within a reasonable distance of where you live? Etc.

    Your responses may help others to find such a home.

    Yours in the Lord Jesus,

    Peggy H.

    • Dear Peggy,

      Thank you for your fellowship. Some time ago I had met a fellow who is an elder at the new church. He explained that 10 years ago they went through a wrenching experience when their denomination (the UCC) went through something similar to the heresy of the PCUSA. He said they decided to become independent but are members of the “Evangelical Association” for logistical support. I attended a few services, researched their statement of beliefs, and finally asked the pastor to our house. I found it all very compatible with our Reformed tradition and very Bible-focused. This church is also very mission-minded.

      Interestingly, because they are independent they are better able to collaborate with other churches in the area. There isn’t any of the “Our Team vs Your Team” rivalry that you see between, say, Lutherans and Methodists.

      I have attended some other popular local churches, but found that, while they are very entertaining and spirited, they don’t mention Scripture much. There was too much “Jesus as your life coach” for me.

      I agree with Tony Dale (above) about not putting too much faith in any human organization, but we are called to worship together in fellowship and to proclaim the Gospel throughout the world. God willing, I may have found a new home.

      Greg

      be

  6. I am grieved to see your bright light of witness leaving the PCUSA. We will miss your voice of truth. I pray God’s blessings will be rich in your new place of worship and that the sense of peace that you are experiencing will remain. God will complete His work in you.

  7. Greg,

    I’ve made the same decision.

    It became clear that my church would remain yoked to PC(USA). My wife and I had to discern first whether God wanted us to remain as a faithful witness. He didn’t want that for us.

    The next step was into the unknown. There was no practical way for us to remain engaged with our old PC(USA) church while seeking a more faithful church home. I was on the session and sang in the choir. My wife and I both taught adult Bible study. We resigned our membership not knowing where God intended to transplant us. We trusted that God would lead us to a new church not unreasonably far from our home at Charlotte, NC.

    I had already documented for the session what the Word says about God’s intentions for human sexual relationships, the authority of Scripture, ordination standards, etc. The resignation was by means of a simple one-sentence letter to the church secretary requesting that they accept our resignation from church membership. We were free.

    Although stressed we were energized by our new mission, to find a church where we could worship and serve in spirit and truth. God as always was faithful. The third Sunday after we resigned we worshiped with a nearby ARPC (Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church) congregation. We were impressed by their friendliness, their acceptance of the Word as holy and inerrant, their music, their Bible literacy and focus on spreading the good news.

    Joining this church was not an automatic decision. We were in no mood to hurry. We spend about 3 months attending Sunday School and worship services. We talked to the pastors. I joined a mens Bible study group. My wife and I did a lot of reading, discussing, praying and reflecting. It became clear that this is indeed our new church home.

    We met with the session one very pleasant evening in March to talk about our faith, answer their questions and take the membership vows. There are no words to describe the joy we felt and still feel about this decision. God has lifted a huge weight from our shoulders, given us peace and nourished our spirits. Surely there is work to do in this little corner of the kingdom, but for now God is giving us rest.

    My point is writing this is that anyone who feels called to seek a new church home should not be afraid. God will lead you and show you that there is abundant life after PC(USA).

    Sam

  8. Greg-
    i wish you well in this transition. While the case you lay out is clear – the conclusion is self-evident – it can still be a very difficult process.

    I found, in my own case, I actually ended up (for a while) harboring a resentment I was unaware of. I never asked or actively wanted people in my PC(USA) church to take action. I knew they were not in the same place about national / organizational issues I was at the time. Nonetheless, I realized I was deeply disappointed they had not “backed me up”.

  9. Thank you, Greg. I’ve been struggling with this for about a year. The PC (USA) is not the church into which I was baptized & confirmed at age 13; it has left me. (I’m 69 years old.) I’d been waiting to see what my own church would do other than continue to go by the old book of order. Then, I was asked to be the children’s deacon but declined because ordination vows ask me to uphold the polity of the PC(USA), something I can not do. It is very telling that the Associate Pastor and a colleague on the Children’s Ministry committee were surprised that I would take this stand. I’ve discovered that some simply do not take the authority of the Scriptures seriously.

    So, after more prayer and seeking God’s will, I will not go quietly into the good night, just leave and go elsewhere. Therefore, I have an appointment to meet with my senior pastor on Monday. I want to know what our congregation plans to do. My guess is nothing. So, most likely I, too, will leave. I’ve grieved that I may need to leave these people I love and have no idea where I will go. But, I know God loves me and will guide me. I am ready to see where He leads me. In the words of Martin Luther, “Here I stand; I can do no other.”


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