Dear Stated Clerk,
Thank you for your willingness to listen to my thoughts and concerns regarding the serious doubts I am having about the Presbyterian Church USA and my continuing ability to serve within it as an Ordained Elder.
I consider the members of the First Presbyterian Church here in Uvalde to be my friends and church family. Because of this, it makes my deliberations about asking the session of my church to lay aside my election as an ordained elder of the PCUSA extremely difficult. While there have always been differences between the members of this church and the previous PCUSA church where my wife and I were once members, the First Presbyterian Church of Temple, Texas, I never doubted that my brothers and sisters in Christ were sincere in their faith and made a genuine effort to respond to God's grace and mercy with their utmost abilities. We didn't always agree but despite our differences we listened to one another and respected each other's ideas.
That being said, over the years, when I followed the decisions, words and actions of the higher levels of the Presbyterian Church specifically, the General Assembly and to some extent the Presbytery, I have been saddened, angered, and grieved over the interpretations of scripture and the churches efforts to support and promote leftist and socialist political agendas within the arena of the United States Federal Government.
For example, a few years ago, I was horrified to find the PCUSA signed on with a number of other church denominations supporting the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act also know as Obamacare.
About that same time frame, I asked a pastor who served as the Interim Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Uvalde about actions the PCUSA has taken to promote and further secular political agendas and he told me that this type of political activism happens all the time.
With aid of social media, blogs and access to a variety of news outlets, I followed the happenings and the votes that occurred at this year's 221st General Assembly which occurred in Detroit, Michigan. As the week wore on, I started feeling sick not only about the decisions that were made, but also because moments for prayer and scripture reading prior to important decisions were voted down. I am aware that worship services were held throughout the week of the General Assembly, but I would hope that delegates and those directing the General Assembly would seek every reasonable opportunity to pray before the time important votes were to be cast.
The decisions that were most troubling to me were the following: The decision to change the definition of marriage in the Book of Order to two persons rather than one man and one woman; the divestment from three corporations whose products it (the PCUSA) believes contribute to the Israeli occupation of Palestine; and the decision not to condemn the killing of infants outside the womb who have survived botched late term abortion attempts. The latter decision was the most sickening and egregious to me.
I am not without sympathy for persons who identify as homosexual and transgender. I think it fair to say the gay marriage issue qualifies and a significant contemporary moral dilemma. While I personally believe that in civil society, same sex couples should be afforded many of the same rights and privileges afforded traditional heterosexual married couples and be treated with compassion and respect, there is an important distinction between the secular society's definition of marriage and the church's definition of marriage guided by Holy Scripture.
Perhaps it wasn't discussed at this years General Assembly, but in all the frenzy over passage of redefining marriage as two people, was there any discussion about same sex couples actually becoming devoted followers of Jesus, joining the Presbyterian Church, learning about sin and repentance, and the seriousness of following Jesus? If so, how many are ready to deny themselves and take up their respective crosses to follow Him? Or are we looking at a situation where non-member same sex couples hope to talk a PCUSA pastor into officiating their weddings to obtain the trappings and respect of a Christian wedding without joining the faith, and then scurrying away to live life according to their own ways of believing? Has the PCUSA been remiss in admonishing its members that the cost is high and the road is often difficult and painful to follow Christ? Or does any of this matter anymore?
In regard to the divestment vote, it is obvious to me that the motion which was approved was carefully worded, while the fixation many have within the PCUSA over this issue and the broader issue of the Israeli Palastinian Conflict is disturbing to me. It seems like an odd and awkward issue on which the PCUSA has decided to draw a hard line on. While the wording of the motion attempts to distance the church from it, the efforts and energy devoted to this very narrow issue leads me to suspect the real reason could very well be driven by deep seeded Antisemitism within the church.
I was able to view the recent CNN interview with GA Moderator Dr. Heath Rada who attempting to address this vote and issue. It was obvious that he was not prepared to defend this issue and received withering criticism from not only the program host, but also a prominent voice representing the Israeli people.
To summarize, evidence has led me to the conclusion that the PCUSA General Assembly was not conducted "decently and in order" as is one of the key traditions and ideals of the Presbyterian Church. Most notably, the use of Authoritative Interpretation regarding the redefining of marriage in the Book of Order which even some of the more liberal voices within our denomination have expressed concern and anguish. I fear the voices of other viewpoints are not only not being heard but also systematically suppressed from participating in important discussions within the PCUSA.
My discernment over the matter of continuing serving as an Ordained Elder within the PCUSA is for this purpose: To strive to respond to Christ's sacrifice and love for me with fidelity to God's word revealed through scripture and to share Christ's love with others. To hope to achieve this purpose faithfully, I realize the necessity to be a part of faithful Christian family of believers who strive to be obedient to God and his word. The question I must answer for myself, is this: Can I be an obedient follower and faithful witness of Christ and remain an Ordained Elder of the PCUSA?
In saying this, I admit I am a fellow sinner and am wholly dependent upon the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ. My understanding is far from perfect. When I am at my best, I consider myself a truth seeker and do not fear where the truth leads.
The recent decisions of this year's General Assembly indicate to me that the PCUSA has exchanged Martin Luther's Sola Scriptura with Sola Cultura as a guiding principal for the faith. My actions and decisions may not have much if any influence on the PCUSA denomination but I am compelled to remain true to my response to Christ and to help nurture others to grow in the faith, with God's help.
Ordained Elder of the PCUSA