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January 31, 2004
Column #1,170

Retribution for a Call To Divert Funds?

     The leading conservative in the Presbyterian Church (USA) may be stripped of his ordination in a vote this weekend by the Western North Carolina Presbytery because he dared suggest that churches withhold their funds from denominational headquarters.

     Rev. Parker Williamson, executive director of the Presbyterian Lay Committee (PLC),  edits its newspaper, "The Layman" that reaches 450,000 homes. Last November it issued a "Declaration of Conscience" that described a "spiritual schism" in the denomination: "We are two faiths within one denomination..."

     "It is unconscionable to remain passive while some groups train their followers to subvert the Constitution and denominational officials undermine it by their refusal to require compliance."

     Therefore, PLC urged Presbyterians to consider prayerfully diverting contributions from the national church to ministries "at home and abroad that are demonstrably faithful to the gospel."

     Why? "We believe that God has called us individually to be faithful stewards of all that he has entrusted to us....to ensure that offerings are consistently used to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ and to carry out his Great Commission.

     "We no longer believe that either the General Assembly per-capita budget or the unrestricted mission budget of the PCUSA is worthy of support."

     Speaking at the National Presbyterian Church this month, Williamson was more blunt: "There are those occupying positions of controlling authority in this denomination who do not believe in the Gospel." Some examples:

     PCUSA leaders invited Rev. Dirk Ficca to speak at a Peacemaker event where he asked, "What's the big deal about Jesus?" He asserted to promote peace, Christians need to make room for other faiths as legitimate paths to God. An Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy envisioned a banquet at which Jesus sits with Buddha, Mohammad and Gaia, the earth mother.

     Seminary Prof. Deloris Williams argued, "We don't need any bloody crosses." Seminary Prof. Douglas Ottati denied the bodily Resurrection: "Jesus lived on in the minds of the disciples," he said. What do they and their students preach on Easter?

     The denomination fought for partial birth abortion, killing a child whose body emerges from the womb - though Congress passed and the President signed a law calling it medically unnecessary and morally wrong.

     A "committed relationship" not marriage is the cornerstone of family life, said a key committee report last year: "It is in committed relationships that sexual intimacy is best expressed." That elevated cohabitation and gay marriage to a par with marriage.

     The Presbyterian Lay Committee persuaded the 2003 General Assembly to shelve that idea. In fact, PLC has been more successful than any other orthodox caucus in fighting similar battles among Episcopalians, United Methodists and the United Church of Christ.

     For example, in 1996 PLC persuaded the denomination to put into its Constitution that clergy should remain chaste if unmarried or faithful within marriage.

     Gay activists persuaded the church's General Assembly to remove the phrase, but that had to be ratified by a majority of regional presbyteries. Instead, the PLC persuaded presbyteries to vote it down by a 2-1 margin in 1997. The gay lobby again convinced the 2000 General Assembly to yank the Constitution's chastity/fidelity plank, but Presbyteries voted no by a huge 3-1 margin.

     However, in defiance of the Constitution there have been numerous gay ordinations. Yet Clifton Kirkpatrick, the Stated Clerk, or chief executive of PCUSA, who took an oath to "preserve and defend" Constitution has declared it is not his responsibility to enforce church law.

     This leadership has led to a massive hemorrhaging of church members, a decline from 4.2 million members in 1965 to 2.4 million in 2002

     On the other hand, 1,300 Presbyterian churches with 450,000 members have created a "Confessing Church Movement" within the denomination declaring "Jesus Christ is Lord, the only Savior of humankind; that Scripture is God's Holy Word to be revered and obeyed; and that God calls us to a holy life that includes lifting up the sanctity of marriage between a man and woman."

     What the Western N.C. Presbytery found "deeply troubling" was "The Layman's" assertion that budget of the denomination is not "worthy of support," which it found inconsistent "with this presbytery's involvement in mission with the larger church."

     It also objected to the newspaper's "tone" which "furthers hostility, suspicion and division," though it cited no errors.

     PLC Board Members will argue that the presbytery is retaliating against Williamson for "our Declaration of Conscience." They will cite cases before the highest Presbyterian court that "a church may neither be compelled to pay nor punished for failure to pay" contributions.

     Some conservatives are calling for a "gracious separation" from PCUSA.

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