June 30, 2001
Presbyterians Take Steps To Apostasy
The Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. took two major
steps toward apostasy at its General Assembly meeting in Louisville last
month. A denomination that has already shrunk from 4 million members to
2.5 million will continue to shrivel as a result.
For 2000 years, Christians have declared
''Jesus is Lord.'' But a Presbyterian on the staff of the World
Parliament of Religions some months ago shocked many traditionalists by
asking a question, ''What's the big deal about Jesus?''
His question prompted three Presbyteries to
petition the General Assembly to declare that Jesus Christ ''is the
singular saving Lord,'' and to urge that all people ''embrace and
experience the Lordship of Christ by putting Jesus first in their
However, as Robert Rea of South Carolina put
it, ''I don't have a right to say that other people can't find God in
other ways.'' Another asked Presbyterians to ''respect diversity
regarding belief in God.'' he described the ''Jesus alone'' statement as
an ''exclusionary practice ... that will split our church even
Several countered by quoting Jesus in John
14:6: ''I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father
but by me.''
What passed by a big 369-163 margin was a
compromise that said, ''...for us the assurance of salvation is found
only in confessing Christ and trusting him alone.''
For Clark Cowden whose Presbytery proposed the
historical affirmation, ''That vote left open the door that there might
be other ways to salvation to other people. I had an empty feeling. We
thought we could agree on Christ.''
America's largest Presbyterian Church also
abandoned the 2000-year-old Christian position on sexuality. In 1996,
the denomination put into its constitution a brilliantly worded
statement, that ordained leaders of the church ''are to lead a life in
obedience to Scripture'' either ''in fidelity within the covenant of
marriage ... or chastity in singleness.''
The issue of whether to ordain active
homosexuals is thus addressed indirectly. But then so is cohabitation,
which 5.5 million couples are doing at any moment, according to the
By a decisive 317-208 vote, delegates voted to
yank the language out of the constitution, and to revoke all previous
authoritative interpretations and to provide a ''local option'' allowing
congregations and presbyteries the freedom to ordain self-affirming,
practicing homosexuals or those who are cohabiting.
This change in the constitution must be
ratified by a majority of the 173 presbyteries over the next year before
it is enacted. ''I believe they will reject this action by a substantial
margin,'' said Parker Williamson, editor of the conservative influential
newspaper, ''The Presbyterian Layman.'' He noted that after liberals
elected Jack Rogers as moderator by a 60-40 margin, they were ''like
sharks taking blood, circling, attacking and mauling the more
conservative biblical Presbyterians on every issue, whether it was
abortion or marriage.''
For example, Rogers said he ''believed in
marriage, but we need to broaden our definition of marriage. I am
committed to work for the moral equivalent of marriage for
Ten weeks ago, a conservative counter trend
began called ''The Confessing Church Movement.'' So far, 520
congregations with 180,000 members have passed resolutions affirming
that Jesus Christ is Lord of all, that Scripture is the infallible rule
of life and faith and that God's standards do not change to accommodate
a transient culture. The largest churches in the denomination have
signed up, all of whom are growing, unlike most shrinking liberal
The Beaver/Butler (Penn.) Presbytery has voted
as a group of churches to join the Confessing Church Movement. Others
are considering this step. Why is that significant?
If a Presbyterian church chooses to leave the
denomination, it risks having to walk away from its property. However,
if the Presbytery has voted for the Confessing Movement, it would
presumably be more open to allowing congregations to exit gracefully
with their property intact.
Rev. William Vanderbloemen, 31, pastor of
Memorial Presbyterian Church in Montgomery, Ala., asserts that the
battle ''began when I was 7 years old. My son is 7 years old. I will not
spend a career fighting this fight. Something has to change.''
Rev. Ron Scates, pastor of the 5,200 member
Highland Park (Tex) Presbyterian Church, is part of the Presbyterian
Coalition of the 25 largest churches, who are working to defeat the
sexuality amendment. ''We are trying to stay and fight within the
system. The Assembly was so radical, I believe it will be roundly
But if it fails, ''The Presbyterian Church
U.S.A. will blow up. We will work for an amicable separation. We will
not continue this fight for 20 more years.''
Copyright 2001 Michael J. McManus.
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