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No, I’m not talking about Twitter I literally want you to follow me. DISCERNMENT TIME. How Do We Follow?. As a church? As a part of the Church?. John Ortberg. Why are we discussing thE PC(USA)?. Westminster is Connectional Not Congregational. We are associated with a larger denomination

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how do we follow
How Do We Follow?
  • As a church?
  • As a part of the Church?
westminster is connectional not congregational
Westminster is ConnectionalNot Congregational
  • We are associated with a larger denomination
  • That denomination makes decisions we agree with, and others we do not
  • We have little control over that process but bear some level of responsibility for its outcomes and financially participate in supporting the system’s decisions
current example and tipping point for national discussion
Current Example andTipping Point for National Discussion
  • Ordination standards changed in the PC(USA)
    • Fidelity and chastity standard removed
    • Repentance standard removed
    • Scripture shifts from authority to guide
  • First practicing gay pastor ordained in WI, more to follow
  • Two pending overtures to redefine marriage and allow churches to conduct same-sex marriages
  • Board of Pensions to pay same sex benefits in 2013
  • No hope for out voting or turning around this latest development in the PC(USA)
tipping point for westminster discussion
Tipping Point for Westminster Discussion
  • A critical mass of discontent with the PC(USA)
  • A portion of the congregation that is discontent with the lack of resolution one way or the other
  • A forecast for deeper and wider separation of the PC(USA) from evangelical beliefs and practices
  • A discerned sense that “now” is the time to settle the direction of Westminster in relationship to the PC(USA)
wider context theological divide within the pc usa
Wider Context: Theological DivideWithin the PC(USA)

These statistics are taken from the “initial survey of the 2009-2011 Presbyterian Panel.”

why the divide different lenses different outcomes
Why the Divide?Different Lenses = Different Outcomes














I interpret life thru the lens of the Bible I interpret life thru the lens of Bible and culture

A culture of Diversity in the PC(USA)

For example:

2006 Report on Peace, Unity, and Purity: “we believe the church should seek constructive,

Christ-like alternatives to the ‘yes/no’ forms in which questions about sexuality, ordination,

and same-gender covenantal relationships have been put to the church in recent decades.”

results of the divide unenforced inconsistent constitutional standards
Results of the Divide:Unenforced/Inconsistent Constitutional Standards
  • Baltimore Presbytery (progressive)
  • San Diego Presbytery (evangelical)
results of the divide
Results of the Divide



Infant Baptisms

New Churches

No net growth since ’83 reunion, none in North since ‘65, none in the South since ‘68


problem with the divide
Problem With the Divide
  • PC(USA) is a kingdom divided
  • Book of Order’s high view of our connection- “The councils are distinct, but have such mutual relations that the act of one of them is the act of the whole church performed by it through the appropriate council.” F-3.0203.
  • Sense of culpability felt by members for actions of the larger whole.
bbq given the divide the ephesian focus
BBQ Given the DivideThe Ephesian Focus
  • Ephesians has a focus on the unity of that particular church, speaking the truth in love, and strictly avoiding sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness.
  • Ephesians teaches us to “be careful how we live, making the most of (redeeming) the time for the days are evil” Eph. 5: 15-16
  • So, what does redeeming the time look like in regards to our association as a particular church with the PC(USA)?
    • Stay and speak the truth in love
    • Leave and avoid association with sexual immorality, impurity and covetousness
in the wider evangelical church
In the Wider Evangelical Church
  • National Presbyterian Church of Mexico withdrew from communion. Others considering like Brazil, Ghana, Korean PC.
  • PCA has letter clarifying their position in response to the large number of inquiries.
  • Cumberland PC of Lubbock considering removing “Presbyterian” from their identity because of this issue.
  • Widespread anecdotal evidence of disapproval
evangelical churches in the pc usa
Evangelical Churches in the PC(USA)
  • Many have left (100 have applied to the ECO in the last few months, 100+ have gone EPC in the last 18 months or so)
  • Others are currently exploring God’s leading
  • Others are seeking ways to differentiate such as San Diego Presbytery, the Fellowship of Presbyterians, etc.
  • Few are ignoring the whole thing
within the walls of westminster
Within the Walls of Westminster
  • Vocal/widespread disapproval of 10-A changes
  • Vocal/widespread weariness
  • Generally unaware of the larger theological divide
  • Two perspectives on association with PC(USA):
    • Group A ?%: irrelevant so long as WPC is biblically faithful to Christ
    • Group B ?%: problematic so long as PC(USA) is biblically unfaithful to Christ
what is god s call for wpc
  • The call of the prophet – Jeremiah 32 (the prophet buys a field)
  • The call to be a watchman – Ezekiel 33 (give warning)
  • The call to be salt and light – Matthew 5:13-16
  • The call to part company for missions – Acts 15:36-41 (Paul & Barnabas)
  • The call to part company over sexual immorality – 1 Corinthians 5:9-11
  • The call to unity – Ephesians 4-5 (noting this is not carte blanche for sin)
factor scripture is split on staying or leaving
Factor: Scripture is Spliton staying or leaving

Scripture on staying

Scripture on leaving


Ephesians 5: 3-11

2 John 7-11

2 Cor 11: 3-4

Titus 1: 9-16

2 Thess 3:6

Romans 16: 17-18

1 Cor 5: 1-13

Revelation 2: 20

2 Tim 3: 1-8

2Tim 3: 14-17

  • Hosea
  • Ezra
  • John 3
  • Rev. letters to churches
  • Jude 18-23
  • 2 Peter 2&3
  • Matthew 13: 24-30
  • Daniel 11: 31-33
  • Ephesians 4: 14
factor history is mixed
Factor: History is Mixed

Presbyterian Church of America formed

First GA of PC(USA) in Philadelphia

Presbyterian Church (US) formed

PC(USA) recreated with PC(US)

PC(USA) Reunites with Cumberland Church

Cumberland Presbyterian Church formed

Orthodox Presbyterian Church formed

Evangelical Presbyterian Church formed

1789 1810 1861 1906 1936 1973 1981 1983 2012



factor evangelical expectations shifting
Factor: Evangelical Expectations Shifting

Realignment (Fellowship/ECO)

(NO expectation of outvoting/renewing the other side*)

Stay, Fight, Win (Presbyterian Coalition)

Stay, Fight, Be Faithful (PGF)

Renewal (PFR)

1983 1990 2000 2011

EvangelicalPC(USA) Views/PoliciesProgressive

*The Presbyterian Coalition’s mission has officially changed from “to work for biblical faithfulness within the PC(USA)” to “inform, strengthen, and equip biblically faithful decision-makers within the PC(USA).”

factor unavoidable consequences
Factor: Unavoidable Consequences
  • Elders breaking a vow to purity or unity
  • Producing anxiety and disappointment in either Group A or Group B members
  • Losses in membership and finances
  • Grief and frustration at being put in the position to have to go through it at all
factor property issues
Factor: Property Issues
  • The PC(USA) asserts an interest in our property through the Book of Order
  • Westminster has “opted out” of this clause but the meaning of that is highly disputed
  • Bottom line: Should Westminster seek to leave the PC(USA), our presbytery may choose to handle this issue graciously, or not.
factor rationales for staying
Factor: Rationales for Staying
  • High view of unity in the Body of Christ
  • High view of theological diversity
  • High sense of connection to the denomination
  • Deep anxiety about property loss
  • Calling to be a prophetic witness
  • Relief of conscience found in renewal efforts
  • Remaining freedom for particular churches to operate faithfully with relative autonomy
  • Gain, by association, the strengths of progressives
  • No sense of responsibility for actions outside WPC
  • Preserve our voice for change
  • To support the work of our Presbytery
  • To enjoy the benefits of a numerically large body
factor rationales for leaving
Factor: Rationales for Leaving
  • High view of purity/evangelical theology
  • High view of theological unity
  • Low sense of connection to the denomination
  • Deep anxiety about association/support of PC(USA)
  • Calling to be a witness
  • No relief of conscience found in renewal efforts
  • Fear that existing autonomy will be lost, and progressive slide will continue despite presence
  • Association with like minded Presbyterians structured for growth
factor third way options
Factor: Third Way Options
  • Join the Fellowship
  • Become a union congregation
  • Functionally leave
    • minimal participation
    • stop per capita
pros and cons of third way
Pros and Cons of Third Way



Little/no relief for Group B

Community witness

  • No property consequences
  • Some relief of conscience
roles in addressing the divide
Roles in Addressing the Divide
  • Initiation of process to leave the PC(USA) begins with the Session:
    • Seeking Dismissal per the Book of Order
      • No clear process
      • Session initiates per G-3.0102
      • While the congregation is not given power to vote itself out in the Book of Order, the presbytery would consult with the congregation.
      • Property issues hammered out, possibly in court
    • Disaffiliating per the U.S. Constitution
      • Session calls a congregational vote
      • Property issues hammered out, always in court
the basic pathway
The Basic Pathway
  • Session’s discernment of God’s call for WPC
  • If called to leave then Session sets:
    • Timing
    • Destination
  • Congregation polled
  • Presbytery notified
  • Dismissal process begins with Presbytery
    • No defined process in Palo Duro currently
    • GA has recommended these policies be made
timing factors
Timing Factors
  • WPC member patience
  • WPC reputation
  • Judicial developments regarding trust clause
  • PDP creation, as recommended, of dismissal policy
  • GA - July
    • MGB powers expansion pending
    • Property overtures pending
    • Union options pending
destination factors
Destination Factors
  • If dismissal is pursued, we can only be dismissed to an approved reformed body.
  • EPC is currently approved
  • ECO may be approved in May or July
comparing destinations
Comparing Destinations

*PC(USA) has lost over 2 million members since it was founded in 1983.

At the same time the population of the US has grown by over 78 million.

**2000+ people representing 850 churches attended the initial meeting in Minnesota. 2000+ and 765 congregations gathered in Orlando. 100 congregations have received applications since Orlando.

comparing viable options
Comparing Viable Options



Not a recognized body yet. Applying to WARC and GA

Missional emphasis

Essential tenets

More horizontal

Formed January, 2012

  • Presently recognized by the PC(USA)
  • Theological emphasis
  • Westminster Confession
  • More vertical
  • Head start (300+)
your current role
  • Step one: recognize we are in a process
  • Step two: absorb a lot of information
  • Step three: make it your own
  • Step four: get settled vs. emotional
  • Step five: April 11th congregational talk back
  • Step six: Allow Session time to discern and report
critical understandings
Critical Understandings
  • The PC(USA) has crossed at least one line for the vast majority of our members
  • Many share deep disappointment and grief over the PC(USA) and yet may faithfully differ on the issue of remaining or not
  • The issue is not which lines are yours but what is God’s calling for WPC
  • We must pray for God:
    • To guide the session to His purpose for us, and
    • To preserve our fellowship in the process
resources to prepare for april 11th
Resources to Prepare for April 11th
  • Arguments for Staying or Leaving:
    • Presbyterian Outlook: “Why Stay, How to Stay”
    • Presbyterian Lay Committee: Can Two Faiths Embrace One Future
  • Places to find good and bad facts about the PC(USA)
    • PC(USA) Mission Council web:
    • Presbyterian Lay Committee: “How We Got Here”, or, Table: Five Solas. (timeline vs solas)

*all available on our website