The Disappearing PCUSA: 2018 Data (5)

Explaining How Existing Members and Churches were Driven Out of the PCUSA

Note: This is an unusually long post, but by necessity to explain this root cause of the PCUSA’s debacle.

It appears that a few years of surface quiet were experienced between 2002 and 2006.  However, behind the scenes the PCUSA national leadership must have been preparing for the coup that occurred at the 2006 General Assembly.  An informative report by David and Tim Bayly on this event follows.

Even more troubling to us is the approval of the so-called Peace, Unity, and Purity (PUP) Report, which, for the first time in our denomination’s history, allows local congregations and regional governing bodies to ordain as ministers, elders, and deacons people who refuse to accept or obey requirements for ordination established by the denomination’s constitution, if they convince the ordaining body that they can nonetheless serve. While this refusal to comply may apply to any requirement, the issue has been primarily focused on and driven by the question of ordaining practicing and unrepentant homosexual candidates…

A number of years ago our denomination’s constitution was amended to limit ordination to those who are faithful in marriage, which is between one man and one woman, or chaste in singleness. This wording was approved by a majority of the regional bodies, and re-approved twice by larger majorities each time. At the time it was added it was not a new limitation, but made explicit an understanding that had historically been practiced within the denomination (and for that matter in nearly all Christian denominations).

What made the PUP Report unconscionable was that it amends the denominational constitution by an unconstitutional process. It by-passed the regional bodies whose approval is required by the constitution itself. It is as though the U. S. Constitution were to be amended by a simple majority vote of Congress, by-passing the states. Advocates of the ordination of ineligible people, unable to change the constitution, proposed to “interpret” it by altering the meaning of the phrase “shall not” so that it from now on it means “may.” A prohibition was changed by interpretation into permission, because the advocates of change could not muster the votes to pass an amendment.

Lest you assume that this is a biased report, here is a contemporaneous report on the same General Assembly by NBC News. 

Like other mainline Protestant groups, Presbyterians have been debating for decades how they should interpret Scripture on salvation, truth, sexuality and other issues.

But tensions erupted after a June 2006 meeting, when delegates granted new leeway in some cases for congregations and regional presbyteries to sidestep a church requirement that clergy and lay officers limit sex to man-woman marriage.

The “delegates” in this quote are those to the General Assembly.  Thus, it is the General Assembly, acting alone, that granted the “new leeway” to local congregations and Presbyteries.

The General Assembly continued down the path of democratic nullification in 2008, where numerous additional steps were taken.  This article lays out what occurred.

… the denomination then turned to the issue of standards for ordination. The language to be replaced requires that all ministers of the church must live in “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness.” That language, consistent with Scripture and Christian tradition, is to be replaced with a new standard that would require nothing at all with reference to sexual integrity.  The new wording would read:

“Those who are called to ordained service in the church, by their assent to the constitutional questions for ordination and installation, pledge themselves to live lives obedient to Jesus Christ the Head of the Church, striving to follow where he leads through the witness of the Scriptures, and to understand the Scriptures through the instruction of the Confessions. In so doing, they declare their fidelity to the standards of the Church. Each governing body charged with examination for ordination and/or installation and establishes the candidate’s sincere efforts to adhere to these standards.”

The proposed amendment to the standards now moves to the denomination’s 173 regional units (presbyteries) where it must receive sufficient support. Similar efforts have failed in the past, but many believe that this proposal will be difficult to defeat. The defection of many conservatives from the denomination (and some churches as well) may weaken the opposition.

Nevertheless, even without the change in the standard, local presbyteries may well move to ordain active homosexuals anyway. The Associated Press explains how:

“Of equal importance to advocates on both side of the debate, the assembly also voted to allow gay and lesbian candidates for ordination to conscientiously object to the existing standard. Local presbyteries and church councils that approve ordinations would consider such requests on a case-by-case basis.

That vote was an “an authoritative interpretation” of the church constitution rather than a change to it, so it goes into effect immediately. The interpretation supersedes a ruling from the church’s high court, issued in February, that said there were no exceptions to the so-called “fidelity and chastity” requirement.”

The “standards for ordination” change would require further action by the next General Assembly to be fully accepted.  The “authoritative interpretation” did not requite Presbytery approval to go into effect.  Thus, “consent of the governed” had been in effect nullified.  That is, regardless of how the Presbyteries voted, the PCUSA had enabled ordination of practicing homosexuals.

By these General Assembly actions the PCUSA was flipped from a denomination that rejected demands to align theology and policy with contemporary sexual liberation ideology to one that had lost it’s will to resist.  This result was obtained by two distinct but related mechanisms, those being:

  1. by making it absolutely clear that the demanded policies would be implemented by illegitimate means, it encouraged those members and churches who formed the core of the resistance to leave the denomination
  2. those in opposition who still remained were so demoralized that many gave up and retreated into passivity.

Thus, between 2008 and 2011 the Progressive camp was able to achieve their demanded ends in a denomination that had effectively resisted them for decades.

As explicit standards on blocking homosexual ordination [are] starting to disappear, the General Assembly finally voted to approve of the ordination of … gays and lesbians on July 8, 2010 by a vote of 373 to 323. This new amendment was ratified on May 10, 2011. Approximately 19 presbyteries that voted against the issue in 2008-2009 switched to “yes” votes, including conservative areas, like northern Alabama. Some that resisted the issue in the past felt that gay/lesbian ordination was “inevitable” in any case. 

The approval of gay/lesbian ordination upset conservative members, with some leaving to join more conservative denominations, like the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians, which formed less than year after the new amendment was ratified.

This is political nullification posing as a legitimate process.  Once this coup became successful it was virtually certain that Progressives would achieve dominance as orthodox members and churches fled what had become an overtly corrupt denomination.

Note in the following figure that it is after 2006 that the number of members and churches exiting the denomination began to significantly increase.  Were our leadership not corrupt (or utterly incompetent, a perhaps more charitable but unlikely explanation) they would have easily recognized that the denomination was nearing a debacle between 2006 and 2011.

However, they likely viewed this situation as positive since it guaranteed eventual Progressive political dominance.  What we know for certain is that they used the diminishing presence of orthodox Christians to obtain approval of gay ordination in 2010, thus driving the denomination from danger into outright debacle.

Debacle-Data-Print

Stages of the Debacle:  In the General Decline period membership loss was increasing but few if any churches were dismissed.  In the Danger Warning period membership continued to decrease but now churches were being dismissed at a much higher rate.  In the Debacle period both membership and dismissed churches went off a cliff and remained at unprecedented levels.

The current Progressive leadership doesn’t want us to know about these dirty dealings.  While they may avoid accountability they shouldn’t be allowed to avoid the shame of their conduct.

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Decoding Progressivism (11)

child-sacrifice

Stop pretending that this is an ancient evil.

Child Sacrifice Edition

The Progressive-Left is on the move to incorporate abortion up to and including delivery and even infanticide into state law (emphasis added).

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who just made deeply troubling comments on abortion, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who just signed the country’s most radical abortion law, have been the subject of intense ire in recent days. The outrage is coming not just coming from “radical” pro-lifers, but people from across the political spectrum.

Why? Because virtually no one but the far left believes it is morally acceptable to allow infants to be murdered seconds before birth, or to be left to die after delivery at the behest of the mother.

Yet the nation has been shocked by radical left’s boldness in their mission to define preborn human beings as disposable non-persons.

And make no mistake, Illinois is well on its way to joining this radical abortion movement.

Here are a couple of questions.

  1. Has anyone reading this post experienced a Progressive individual or organization recoiling in horror at the Democrat Party’s embrace of abortion up to birth and what can only be called infanticide?
  2. Have they said they had no idea that abortion policy would go to this extreme and that they therefore repudiate their support of both abortion and the Democrat Party?

Me neither.

Perhaps it’s because this was always the unspoken but true nature the abortion regime.  Or as one commentator concludes (emphasis added):

Leftists like Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, the Vermont state representatives who just passed the nation’s most permissive abortion law, or Sen. Patty Murray and the other Democrats who voted against protecting aborted infants born alive, are simply carrying on a millennia-long tradition of depriving children of their rights as human beings and image bearers of God.

Here’s your answer, … : In the womb or out, the far left believes it’s the mother’s decision whether to allow her own child, her helpless and dependent flesh-and-blood offspring, to live. Expect to see more obstruction of protections for live infants, because Democrats don’t believe in their own propaganda. They believe something far, far more terrible.



By the way, PCUSA members, the “saints” attending the General Assembly in 2014 were way ahead of the Progressive curve with regard to infanticide (emphasis added).

The Presbyterian Church USA General Assembly made a lot of headlines when they voted to bless same-sex marriages. But Wesley J. Smith brings up a far more disturbing vote at the convention that isn’t getting as many headlines: voting no to protect babies born alive after a failed abortion. …

The Presbytery of South Alabama overtures the 221st General Assembly (2014) of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to do the following:

1. Call for the Presbyterian Mission Agency and member congregations to enter a two-year season of reflection upon the plight of children unwanted by human society, both born and not-yet born, and to purposefully seek to enter the pure worship of God by offering aid, comfort, and the Gospel to those responsible for the care of our most desperate orphans (including those who survive abortion procedures): parents, siblings, church and community leaders, and the medical profession.

2. Direct the Moderator of the General Assembly and the Stated Clerk to issue statements that denounce the practice of killing babies born live following an abortion procedure, such as was revealed in the Dr. Kermit Gosnell clinic in Philadelphia. …

Evidently, denouncing infanticide and praying for children born after an abortion fails doesn’t fly in today’s Presbyterian church. The motion didn’t call for the Presbyterian church to stop supporting pro-abortion organizations, like Planned Parenthood, either — or is asking for an assessment of support given to both pro-life and pro-abortion organizations somehow too pro-life for them Presbyterian church, too? …

It should also be made clear that this wasn’t a narrow victory. The margin of defeat for this motion was 465 – 133. It was a landslide, because for PCUSA, saying that what Kermit Gosnell did is horrific and wrong, and should never happen again, is evidently too much to ask.

GOSNELL

The practitioner of mass infanticide that the “saints” of the 221st PC(USA) General Assembly couldn’t bring themselves to denounce by a 3.5-to-1 ratio.

And yet we continue to avert our eyes, hoping not to notice the moral corruption that now dominates our denomination’s General Assembly and many of our Presbyteries.



So finally, the decoder image.

Abortion-Child-Sacrifice

A Modest Overture to the 224th General Assembly (1b)

Presbytery-of Gaia

This is not as far removed from the current PCUSA situation (for example see here, here and here) that one would hope.

On Bringing our Book of Confessions into the Post-Christian PC(USA) Era — from the Presbytery of Gaia

Rationale

For the fifty years after acceptance of the Confession of 1967 the PC(USA) has dragged all of the Confessions that preceded it along like anchors.  Until 2011 this ruse may have been necessary to maintain quiescence of the denomination’s majority of orthodox-minded members.  However, with the Progressive victories on gay ordination and marriage we have successfully driven most of these orthodox-minded members either out of the denomination or into a state of fearful submission to our victorious ideology.

Glorious-Exit

This is actual PCUSA data.

Between 2011 and 2017 the PC(USA) experienced a net loss of 601,000 members and 1146 churches. Thus, over this period the denomination lost a net of almost 30% of its membership and almost 12% of its churches.  The majority of these losses were the orthodox Reformed members and churches that had held us back and that continued to value the pre-1967 Confessions.  Thus this glorious exit of irredeemable members and churches has freed the PC(USA) from the dead hand of orthodox Reformed Christianity!

Glorious-Exit2

This is actual PCUSA data.

In 2013 the PC(USA) had 1086 Ministry Candidates.  The very next year, 2014, this number fell by almost 50% to 562.  Can there be any doubt that this sudden flight to the exits was by candidates who had orthodox Christian beliefs that were supported by our outdated and destructive historic Confessions?  Thus, in a single year, we “Purposeful Progressives” (see below) gloriously emptied our denomination’s seminaries of virtually all orthodox Christians!

These results are a great victory for our self-described strategy of exclusion and submission, which we acknowledged in “When We Gather at the Table: A PC(USA) Snapshot” as the “Purposeful Progressives” (emphasis added, note that this is a true quote from an official PCUSA document, not made-up satirical quote).

They are less tolerant of conservative theologies within the denomination. Some remain hopeful that conservatives who are upset with the 221st General Assembly (2014) decisions on marriage will see that there are different ways to interpret scripture, and will choose to stay and accept the changes, over time. Others would simply be happy if the conservatives left the PC(USA), and a few offered suggestions for helping dissenting congregations to leave the denomination with grace and dignity.

Now that, through our fierce commitment to inclusiveness, we have successfully driven out most of the irredeemable theological members, churches and ministry candidates there is no longer a need to maintain the pretense that the pre-1967 Confessions (and the Brief Statement of Faith) have the slightest relevance to our wondrous post-Christian denominational future.  In order to more efficiently and effectively pursue this goal we must cast off these fraudulent documents.  Eventually the Confession of 1967 itself may need go be deleted, as its problematical tangental relationship to past Christian orthodoxy becomes an impediment achieving our ultimate goals.

As itemized in the Overture, this result has already happened in effect.  In order to grasp our glorious future as co-comrades with the gods we must have the courage to cut loose these worse than useless monument-anchors.  Then we can openly proclaim our post-Christian message without confusion or constraint.

We have demonstrated the will to power necessary to drive out or subdue the morally and spiritually inferior (i.e., those who lack our blessed gnosis) among us.  Let’s now, together, take the next and necessary step to cement our future in post-Christianity!

A Modest Overture to the 224th General Assembly (1a)

Presbytery-of GaiaOn Bringing our Book of Confessions into the Post-Christian PC(USA) Era — from the Presbytery of Gaia

Overture

The Presbytery of Gaia respectfully overtures the 224th General Assembly (2020) to make the following statement:

Because

  • The Confession of 1967 was, by the admission of its primary authors, intended to directly contradict the Westminster Confession on numerous central doctrinal points and generally demotes the historic Confessions to “monuments.” See that in The Proposal to Revise the Confessional Position of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., Edward A. Dowey, Jr., chairman of the committee that composed The Confession of 1967, writes: “A statement that is appropriate and powerful in its own day may fail to guide the church after some decades or centuries have gone by. It comes to resemble a monument marking the past more than a tool for present work.” (pp. 20, 21).
  • The PC(USA) has redefined the meaning of “Christian Marriage” in the Book of Order without changing the definition of marriage in any of the historic Confessions from the PC(USA)’s Book of Confessions.  As one example see the Westminster Confession, Chapter XXIV: “Of Marriage and Divorce 1. Christian marriage is an institution ordained of God, blessed by our Lord Jesus Christ, established and sanctified for the happiness and welfare of mankind, into which spiritual and physical union one man and one woman enter, cherishing a mutual esteem and love, bearing with each other’s infirmities and weaknesses, comforting each other in trouble, providing in honesty and industry for each other and for their household, praying for each other, and living together the length of their days as heirs of the grace of life.”  This decision officially confirms the irrelevance of all the historic Confessions for Biblical interpretation or theological guidance.
  • The Senior Pastor of the Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago, one of the largest and most influential churches in the PC(USA), in a 2018 interview denied the nature of God as defined in all of the historic Confessions, from the Nicene Creed to The Theological Declaration of Barmen by declaring that “God’s not a Christian . . . We are.”
  • The Ordination Vows for Officers have become impossible to uphold in clear conscience given that at least two distinct and contradictory sets of doctrine are contained in the Book of Confessions.

The 224th General Assembly (2020) therefore decrees that all Confessions in the Book of Confessions are null and void “as authentic and reliable expositions of what Scripture leads us to believe and do” except for the Confession of 1967 and the Confession of Belhar. An updated Book of Confessions that includes only the Confession of 1967 and the Confession of Belhar will therefore be generated and distributed.  All current and future Officers will be instructed to use only the Confession of 1967 and the Confession of Belhar until such time as a new Confession is added to this new Book of Confessions or the Confession of 1967, having served its historic purpose, is also eventually removed.

A New Reformation (4)

New-Reformation-ComponentsSeven Components of a New Reformation (Part 3)

This post completes the summaries.

7. Transformed church governance

It appears that every form of church governance, from highly hierarchical (e.g., Catholic) to highly democratic (e.g., Congregational) and everything in-between has been corrupted by secular ideology.  Nor does it seem likely that any established denomination will agree to change their existing form of governance.

Obviously I’m in no position to comment on denominations beyond the PCUSA.  However, significant light can be shed by this experience to suggest some general conclusions.

The fundamental point about the demise of the PCUSA is that it was an act of “murder” as opposed to “suicide.”  By these (shocking I expect) metaphors I mean that the rank and file members resisted the apostasy of the leadership for decades.  In fact, it appears that it was only by subversion of the governance process that the leadership was able to gain the upper hand.  The “fingerprint” of this betrayal can be seen in the following figure.

Church-Membership-Loss

The 2006 Subversion

Note that from 1999 through 2006 the number of churches “dismissed” (i.e., exited the denomination) was negligible. Over this same time period we see a general increase in the number of members lost. However, in 2008 the number of dismissed churches and lost members became significantly worse than the general trend would lead one to expect.  Did anything happen in the PCUSA to cause this or was it simply random variation?  It was the former.

Here is the report of a pastor on the 2006 General Assembly that tells the tale (emphasis added).

A number of years ago our denomination’s constitution was amended to limit ordination to those who are faithful in marriage, which is between one man and one woman, or chaste in singleness. This wording was approved by a majority of the regional bodies, and re-approved twice by larger majorities each time. At the time it was added it was not a new limitation, but made explicit an understanding that had historically been practiced within the denomination (and for that matter in nearly all Christian denominations).

What made the PUP Report unconscionable was that it amends the denominational constitution by an unconstitutional process. It by-passed the regional bodies whose approval is required by the constitution itself. It is as though the U. S. Constitution were to be amended by a simple majority vote of Congress, by-passing the states. Advocates of the ordination of ineligible people, unable to change the constitution, proposed to “interpret” it by altering the meaning of the phrase “shall not” so that it from now on it means “may.” A prohibition was changed by interpretation into permission, because the advocates of change could not muster the votes to pass an amendment.

If you think that this description is a partisan distortion, note that it was confirmed by a national news source.

Like other mainline Protestant groups, Presbyterians have been debating for decades how they should interpret Scripture on salvation, truth, sexuality and other issues.

But tensions erupted after a June 2006 meeting, when delegates granted new leeway in some cases for congregations and regional presbyteries to sidestep a church requirement that clergy and lay officers limit sex to man-woman marriage.

Note that this subversion of church governance occurred after the “wording [on sexual requirements for leadership] was approved by a majority of the regional bodies, and re-approved twice by larger majorities each time.”  The conclusion is unavoidable, that being the elite leadership chose to use corrupt means to get their way in direct contradiction of the denomination’s clear and legitimate will.

Illegitimate Victory

The loss of membership that followed the 2006 coup eventually allowed the Progressives to gain the upper hand.  Here’s how I have previously described this process.

But because they had jettisoned the Bible and Confessions, other means of achieving their ends had to be found.  Those means were abuse of the PCUSA’s rules, turning their democratic assumptions into cudgels by which to beat any opposition into submission.  This was accomplished by making life miserable for any majority that opposed their radical ends, and eventually, to drive them out of the church.

The result has been a PCUSA transformed from a Christian denomination to something completely foreign.

The elite Progressive strategic goal was always to deceive, discredit, demoralize and ultimately destroy any and all opposition from orthodox-minded Christians.

In this cruel goal they have succeeded.  Now they undisputedly control the PCUSA.  To accomplish this end they have made it into a theological laughing stock and a pathetic little appendage to the secular Progressive political machine.  And, having illegitimately achieved this position they now demand that those of us in opposition shut up or leave.

Lessons Learned

What lessons in church governance can we take from the appalling experience?  I suggest the following as a starting point for reform, once again with a focus on the PCUSA.

  1. A semi-permeant denominational bureaucracy, centered in our Presbyteries and General Assembly, was allowed to grow too powerful over the past fifty years or so.  They became the core, unstoppable force that sustained unwanted movements over the decades of theological/political warfare necessary to grind down opposition.  This class of nomenklatura has virtually no allegiance to Christianity as a lived faith and total allegiance to the diktats  of secular Progressive ideology.  Therefore, any reformed form of denominational governance must dissolve this power base and prevent its regrowth.
  2. As much as I love our historic (i.e., pre-1968) Confessions it must be admitted that they have proved ineffective as defensible boundaries for orthodox theology.  One obvious issue is their age, thus rendering their language almost incomprehensible to contemporary minds.  But a second major issue is their scope, comprehensiveness and number.  That is, they are so all-encompassing and complex, so many in number, that the core doctrines of Christianity become difficult to discern.  Thus, though they must not be lost, we need a simpler, clearer definition of orthodox Christian doctrine upon which to build a reformed church.
  3. Financial accountability must be reestablished between our governing and educational institutions and the laity.  Therefore, financial support must move from the current “Per-Capita” involuntary tax to a voluntary system of local church support.  By this means our institutions would have to “earn their keep” by demonstrating their effectiveness and efficiency.

Clearly the above ideas are short on implementation detail.  However, unless we identify the top-level goals of reformed governance the whole process can be easily derailed.

The PCUSA Elite Today (7)

multicultural-jesus

The Progressive Jesus Created Out of Whole Cloth by Our PCUSA Leadership

How to Respond?

I have been researching the beliefs and actions of our PCUSA leadership for over three years now.  I have also had direct experience based on my three year term as a Presbytery Commissioner.  That’s a total of almost seven years, spanning 2011 through 2018.  What has occurred over that time and how should we respond?

Since 2011 the PCUSA lost well over one-million members (1,070,777) and gained far less than a half-million (469,739).  That amounts to a net loss of over 600,000 Christians.  Over the same time period over 1,200 churches have exited the denomination or ceased to exist.  These cold statistics point to the devastation of human relationships and to the destruction of a once vibrant community of Christian faith.  These are people and churches who have given up on the PCUSA as a Christian home.  Their tragic testimony is utterly ignored, but the consequences exist regardless.

And what of those of us that choose to remain in the PCUSA who worship our Savior Jesus Christ as revealed in the Scriptures and interpreted by our historic Confessions?  We are a shrinking minority who are expected to either bow down to the false progressive god or to silently suffer humiliation as supposed racists, homophobes, you name it or to get out already.

But there is another choice.  We need not bow to their false god or slink around in humiliating silence or get out.  No, regardless of our declining numbers or receding power we can yet trust that “if God is for us then who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31b).  The elite leaders of the PCUSA have not one-tenthousandth the power of the ancient Roman Empire or the current People’s Republic of China.  It thus should not require super-human faith or courage to stand up to them.  And yet we fail to do so.

PCUSA-I-Don't-Know-This-ManIts time to start confronting these self-presumed theological, intellectual and moral betters.  We should demand that they answer for their reign of denominational destruction.  Why do they ordain atheists and reward heretics?  How do they justify denying the Christian God?  How do they explain the virtually perfect correspondence between their Christian “social justice” positions and those of the secular Progressive political movement?  How do they explain the direct contradiction between Christ’s definition of marriage and their policy on Christian marriage?  Why do they continue to feign allegiance to our historic Confessions while utterly ignoring them?  Why do they exclude Scripture’s testimony? Why do they have a boutique ideologically-tainted “theology” for every identity group and progressive political position? How do they know that Jesus Christ would support each and every position of a godless secular political organization? Why do they reject Biblical truth but demand that we submit to their admitted arbitrary human “truths”? Why do they make a mockery of their ordination vows and teach others to do the same? Why do they deny Biblical sin but embrace the concept of secular ideological sin?  By what right do they pretend to a moral superiority that their actions show to be utterly unwarranted?

To sum up all of the above apostasy, dishonesty and destruction, why do they pretend to be pious, orthodox Christian leaders?  If this seems extreme then you are living in a state of denial.  For, if a PCUSA member can get through the above material (which only scratches the surface) and still trust that our leadership has the slightest loyalty to orthodox Reformed Christianity then the only option is denial.

The fact that the Rev. Kershner so openly rejected the Christian God suggests that she believes the denomination to now be comprised only of supporters or deniers.  Thus she brazenly made her statement in the sure knowledge that no one in Fourth Presbyterian, the Presbyrery, Synod or General Assembly would rise to object.  And, that silence would allow her to go on pretending to be a pious, orthodox Christian pastor doing her level best to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I single her out not because her’s is an extreme case, but rather because she is a contemporary and unmistakable representative of our denominational leadership.

Well, I object, and will not silently accept any of this.  I don’t care if no one or thousands join me.  My responsibility lies in being true to what Jesus Christ has done.

I understand that each of us has only so much time, energy, knowledge and skills.  I contribute in what I believe to be the best use of the gifts that God has given me.  Others will choose to contribute in their own ways.  But the point is that we are called to testify to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as God has given us the specific gifts to so do.  If we, each in our own way and time, choose to stand on that holy ground then we can remain in the PCUSA without shame or fear.  And, by God’s providential power we will make a difference even if we don’t see it in our lifetimes.

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 11:39 – 12:3 (NIV)

 

The PCUSA Elite Today (6)

Screen Shot 2018-06-18 at 5.26.24 AMThe Disappearing PCUSA: 2017 Data

This post seeks to capture the nature of our continuing denominational collapse.  You will note two distinctly identifiable years that are downward inflection points.  The first is 2011, when the PCUSA approved ordination of practicing gays.  The second is 2014, when the PCUSA approved of same-gender marriage.

Membership Gain, Loss and Net by Year

The following chart shows that the most important trend driving membership decline is the uniform yearly reduction in new members.  Perhaps our denominational leadership should be asked why it is that, under their policies, every year fewer Christians choose to join?

PCUSA-2017-GainLossNet

The number of membership gains (green bars) has now fallen every consecutive year for twenty years.

Our leadership consistently claims that their radical deformations of Christianity are being done to make the denomination more “relevant” to contemporary culture.  I have discussed this situation is a previous post.

As was noted in posts on PCUSA membership decline, this drive for “relevance” would appear to have been a total failure, as existing members continuously leave and fewer people join the PCUSA year after year. Given these results, which have been occurring for decades, it isn’t unreasonable to conclude that the “relevance” that PCUSA leadership so aggressively and consistently seeks is not to existing or prospective members, but rather to the secular elite with whom they appear to have a powerful bond of a common cause. It’s a sad sight to see leaders of the PCUSA offering up the church to be just one small cog in a giant, partisan secular machine.

Percent Annual Membership Change

Perhaps the 2018 numbers will show the net percent membership loss to be less than 4.5% for the first time in seven years.  If so, our leadership will spin this result as a first step to recovery.  Actually the reason would most likely be that so many members have already exited that the outward flow naturally must eventually decline.  But they would never admit the truth.

PCUSA-2017-%loss

The percentage of members exiting the denomination has been at historic highs since 2012.

Ratio of Membership Loss to Gain

Somehow, as our leaders move the denomination ever closer to their gnosis of “Christ,” flesh and blood Christians continue to vote at over 2:1 against continued membership.  But apparently the beliefs of actual Christians counts as nothing when compared to the perfect beauty of their progressive ideological theology.

PCUSA-2017-%Loss-Gain

The ratio of membership “loss” to “gain” has been above 2:1 since 2012.

Church Gain, Loss and Net

Note that not a single Christian church has asked to join the denomination for at least seven consecutive years.  Over that same time period 628 churches have exited (dismissed from) the denomination.

With regard to within the PCUSA, between 2011 and 2017, 119 new churches were “organized” and 637 were “dissolved.”  That’s a ratio of 5.3-to-1 on the negative side.

Thus, overall, between 2011 and 2017, 1,265 PCUSA churches were lost to 119 gained.  That’s a net loss of 1,126 churches.  That’s a net loss-to-gain ratio of 10.6-to-1!

PCUSA-2017-Church-Loss

The net number of churches exiting the denomination has exceeded 125 per year since 2012.

And yet these same leaders strut around Presbyteries, Synods and the GA supposing themselves to be the superior elite to whom we simple-minded pew-mice must bow.

One explanation is that our leaders are so incompetent, ignorant and mindless that they don’t realize the magnitude of their failure.  Another explanation is that their goal has been to drive out all who disagree with them through great competence in personal cruelty, theological dishonesty, organizational politics and intimidation via support from the dominant secular progressive institutions.

The preponderance of evidence supports the latter explanation.  Recall from a post on the last GA how our progressive brothers and sisters self-identified (excerpt from “When We Gather at the Table: A PC(USA) Snapshot” that describes the attitudes of the dominant progressive group towards the more conservative PCUSA members).

They are less tolerant of conservative theologies within the denomination. Some remain hopeful that conservatives who are upset with the 221st General Assembly (2014) decisions on marriage will see that there are different ways to interpret scripture, and will choose to stay and accept the changes, over time. Others would simply be happy if the conservatives left the PC(USA), and a few offered suggestions for helping dissenting congregations to leave the denomination with grace and dignity.

Thus there are only two options for orthodox Christians described in the thinking of these “Purposeful Progressives,” (1) conform and stay and (2) get out! I’d say that the loss of 1,126 churches is well aligned with the “get out!” goal.

Ministry Candidates

I predict that it will soon be virtually impossible for a PCUSA church to find a newly graduated minister who is opposed to gay ordination and marriage.  This is because in 2014 hundreds of PCUSA seminary students who don’t support the gay agenda likely up and left.  Thus, only the supportive students are and will be graduating.  I also very much doubt that orthodox Reformed ministry candidates look to the PCUSA any longer as a denomination in which they can honestly live out their calling.  Given the direction of the denomination it will be increasingly difficult for existing churches / pastors who oppose gay ordination and marriage to exist as well.

PCUSA-2017-Ministry-Candidates

The number of ministry candidates collapsed to one-half the previous year’s level in 2014.  The number has recovered modestly since then, but is still only ~60% of the 2011 level.

Closing Thought

I’ve been pretty hard on our leadership.  However, all the rest of us need to face up to what we have let them do to this denomination for generations.  Are we going to continue looking away?  Or, are we going to begin demanding accountability for this debacle?

The PCUSA Elite Today (5)

GA+2018The 223rd General Assembly (2018)

The General Assembly (GA) is being held on June 15-19 in St. Louis, MO.  Thus, another view into what dominates our elite leader’s thinking can be found in the associated Schedule of Events.  A review of this information results in the following primary topics of interest:

While a couple of these areas of interest have a church organizational connection, the majority (both in terms of number and intensity) are indistinguishable from what would be found at radically progressive Colleges and Universities.  This result is of a piece with the almost perfect overlap of secular progressive politics and Mainline denominational “social justice” work.

It’s also apparent that “Jesus Christ” is a peripheral person at best.  Searching through the Schedule of Events I found that by far the most prominent occurrence of our Savior’s name occurred as part of proper nouns for churches.  Other than a few claims that some  political position was because of “Christ’s” this or that, He is essentially absent from the discussion.

One might have thought that the continuing membership collapse of the denomination might have warranted major focus.  However, even were it a focus the absolute determination of our ruling elite to continue down their destructive path would render the process moot.  Here are comments by the General Assembly Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson, II. on the situation.

But while the turmoil of the previous five years seemed to abate in 2017, the PC(USA) is still showing an annual drop in membership, a reality that distresses General Assembly Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson, II. “It is clear that Presbyterians are doing poorly at evangelism,” he says. “Churches leaving was a temporary roadblock. Our inability to share the faith, to demonstrate the power and justice of Jesus Christ and his church to change a world where inequality, injustice, violence and war seem to gain strength daily is a critical factor in our failure to grow.

“The church is not dying, it is reforming,” Nelson insists, “and that reformation must be built on a vision of God’s kindom that is compelling to people who find us lacking. We have that vision – it is part and parcel of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We simply must find new ways to proclaim it and, more importantly, live it out in our congregations.”

There are two groups relevant to membership that find the PCUSA “lacking,”  The first is Bible-trusting members and their churches who have left the denomination or are considering doing so.  Our Stated Clerk couldn’t care less about these Christian’s opinion.

The second is secular progressives.  It’s clear the this is the group upon which our leadership hopes to build the new PCUSA.  Therefore they will continue to slavishly serve that group.  But secular progressives aren’t interested in becoming part of a Christian organization.  No, they are totally focused on the acquisition of worldly power at any and all cost.  If the PCUSA elites can be useful by making up reasons that any and all of their policies and actions are actually “Christian,” then fine.  However, that support is viewed as a temporary necessity on their way to a glorious earthly utopian future.

I will present a sampling of the 2017 membership data in the next post.

The PCUSA Elite Today (2)

4th_Presbyterian_Chicago_2004-11_img_2602

Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago IL

The Rev. Shannon Kershner Interview (1)

In the previous post I presented information on actions or lack thereof by our elite leadership that allows the drawing of credible inferences regarding their beliefs.  For example, when the Presbytery of the Cascades ordained an open atheist to PCUSA ministry and the denomination rewarded them with the honor of hosting the 222nd General Assembly, we can confidently infer that all Biblical and Confessional standards for Christianity have been erased from our elite leadership’s minds.

Although evidence based inference is a valid and necessary tool, it’s best to find instances in which our elite leadership explicitly states their beliefs.  The previous post included the explicit example of our leadership publishing an article affirming the heresy of Gnosticism.

The most recent opportunity (of which I’m aware) for explicit information on our elite leadership’s thinking is the March 7, 2018 Sun Times interview of “The Rev. Shannon Johnson Kershner, pastor of historic Fourth Presbyterian Church on Chicago’s Mag Mile,” headlined: Prominent Presbyterian pastor: ‘God’s not a Christian . . . We are’.  Although the headline statement is by far the most shocking and disturbing, there are numerous other statements that provide important insight.

The Sun Times article includes audio of an almost 44 minute “Face to Faith” interview with the Rev. Kershner. Therefore I have carefully listened to the interview in order to gain understanding of the scope and context for her remarks.

It is difficult to overstate the place of Fourth Presbyterian and thus its senior pastor in the PCUSA elite.  Fourth Presbyterian is the second largest church (~5,500 members) in the denomination and has been an acknowledged leader of the PCUSA’s (dominant) progressive theological  wing.  Thus, when this church’s senior pastor speaks we are provided with a unique opportunity to observe what our elite is thinking and how they communicate those beliefs.

The Rev. Kershner is an articulate, welcoming, humorous, modest, talented and highly motivated individual.  Many of her comments are within what most PCUSA members would find to be reasonable.  She resisted making political statements on hot-button issues like abortion and gun control.  I’m convinced that she is a thoughtful, nice and kindly person with whom I could have an invigorating conversation.

However, the issues sundering the PCUSA are not about “niceness.”  In fact, so completely have we succumbed to superficial sentiments that we have ignored central Christian theological issues rather than risk appearing to be disagreeable.  And, when our elites stride well beyond the bounds of anything approaching Christian orthodoxy while yet claiming the moral authority of Christian leaders we must risk seeming to be disagreeable by clearly and openly disagreeing.  To do otherwise is to admit that we value others thinking that we are “nice” over the truth about what our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, has done for us.

Comments on the 222nd General Assembly (3 of 3)

apostasy-definitionThe Consequence of Apostasy

While it appears that the progressive elite who dominate the PCUSA want to drive out all opposition to their ongoing project, the reasons why are less clear.  Why not, for example, pursue a policy of reconciliation that encourages members and churches to remain?  By so doing they would benefit in numerous dimensions, including financial, diversity and credibility, among others.

And yet, even with these indisputable advantages, the 222nd GA has chosen as co-moderators individuals who have led the charge to demean and discourage what remains of non-progressive Christians in the denomination.  Personnel is policy, and thus they have chosen a policy of continued decline.  Why?

To begin answering this question we must first answer another, apparently unrelated one, that being:

Why, in over 24,000 words of Overture Rationale argumentation in support of same-gender marriage did its proponents not once quote their supposed Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?

The answer is obvious.  They didn’t quote Jesus Christ even once because the overwhelmingly relevant statement about Christian marriage by our Savior is:

He answered, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Matthew 19:4-6)

They had no intention of allowing the teaching of their supposed Lord and Savior to prevent the obtaining of a goal that they had received from (in their minds) a higher source of authority.  And so, they proceeded to render Holy Scripture irrelevant in order to create a false “Jesus Christ” who supports their goal.

So, what does all of this have to do with the original question?  I do not pretend to be a mind reader, so I can only posit a theory that can be checked by past information and compared to future events.  But, given all that I have learned about these post-modern PCUSA elites, my best theory is that they wish to eject non-progressive Christians in order to create a “safe space” for their apostasy.

Therefore, all of the financial and credibility gains are far more than canceled out by the possibility of theological diversity that forces them to face that Jesus Christ, as revealed in Holy Scripture, said:

“Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”

The progressive elites are happy to make room in the PCUSA for openly Gnostic heretics and aggressive atheists.  However, it appears that there is no longer room for Bible trusting Christians who might blurt out in polite progressive Christian community that Jesus said:

“Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”

I believe that this is the most likely motive force for their compulsion to drive us out or bend us to their wills.  If you or your church doesn’t have the Christian stability and courage to repulse the coming onslaught, then you are likely best off fleeing now.  If you and/or your church do, then stay and shine the light of the Gospel into this dark and demented denomination.  Their 24,000  empty words are conclusive testimony to the fact that they have no answer to the fact that our Lord and Savior,  Jesus Christ said in Holy Scripture:

“Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”

Amen.