This Thursday we had a Presbytery meeting. At this meeting we voted on whether or not to accept a settlement agreement with Memorial Park Presbyterian Church. The basically agreement is that for a between 500 and 600 thousand dollars within the calendar year, Memorial Park can leave the PC(USA) with their property in tact.
This has been long and ugly battle. I’m not going to get into the details because I don’t know them all but in January Memorial Park sued the Presbytery asking Allegheny County to declare that they own their property exclusively. Prior to that they had been negotiating with the Presbytery so that they might leave with their property.
As a preface: I strongly disagree with Memorial Park’s decision in almost every facet. I disagree with their decision to leave the denomination. I disagree with the literature that they distributed to their congregation, and more than anything I was disgusted by their decision to sue the Presbytery and run to the Post-Gazette to make sure it made the papers. The decision to sue directly contradicts Paul’s painstakingly clear instructions in 1 Corinthians 6 and is frankly inexcusable in my opinion. For a church who bemoaned the loss of biblical authority in the PC(USA) to then sue the denomination is bewildering.
All that being said, what happened on Thursday caused me even more pain. With a settlement agreement presented I hoped that it would be approved by voice vote and everyone would be done. Memorial Park could go on their way and continue their ministry, and the Presbytery could do the same. In the end, that’s what happened – but by a vote of 132 to 82. The disturbing part was that few if anyone was complaining about the actual terms of the settlement – they seemed to be upset that there was a settlement at all. People were advocating going to court, no matter what the cost. Despite the fact that we might face years of court battles and spend thousands and thousands of dollars (on both sides). Years of front page stories about Christians suing each other and fighting it out in court. All of this at the risk of not winning and Memorial Park walking away – aside from the damage done to our Christian witness. The Presbytery had already spent $55,000 on this case. Even more troubling: there was little or no discussion of 1 Corinthians 6 prohibiting lawsuits among believers, but lots of angers, hostility, and a general desire to get even. In the end the settlement was approved, but I have to wonder why people were so eager for a fight?
Adam tagged me… so here we go:
The rules are pretty basic:
- In about 25 words each, answer the following five questions;
- Tag five Presbyterian bloggers and send them a note to let them know they were tagged;
- Be sure to link or send a trackback to this post
So I will take my stab at contributing to this PresbyMeme.
1. What is your earliest memory of being distinctly Presbyterian?
General Assembly 2000. It was there I began to understand the distinctiveness of Presbyterian theology/polity.
2. On what issue/question should the PC(USA) spend LESS energy and time?
This one is easy: The Washington Office and the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy. The Washington Office is irrelevant and no one cares what the PC(USA) thinks and ACSWP spends thousands of dollars writing papers that are dry, boring, arrogant, and irrelevant. Oh, no one reads them.
3. On what issue/question should the PC(USA) spend MORE energy and time?
New Church Development. We have a ton of churches that no one is going to start going to – so we need to plant new ones, even if they’re right near existing PC(USA) churches.
4. If you could have the PC(USA) focus on one passage of scripture for an entire year, what would it be?
Matthew 7:24-27 (Building your foundation on the rock). Jesus is the one who makes our ministry effective, but if we forget he’s our foundation it’s made considerably more difficult.
5. If the PC(USA) were an animal what would it be and why?
The PC(USA) is talbot (an extinct dog). The PC(USA) is much loved and served a purpose, but is looking at an increasingly post-denominational age.
Thanks to Karen Sloan’s hard work, the Presbymergent Podcast is now online. The first episode is my friend BJ Woodworth! Check it out!
(In honor of this weekend’s NFL draft and the PC(USA) selection process…)
John Caltrip: Good afternoon ladies and gentleman and welcome to Peachtree Presbyterian Church, site of this year’s PC(USA) draft. This annual event gives churches an opportunity to select the top seminary graduates from throughout the PC(USA). Here with me are John Knoxville
John K: Thanks Cal
John C: and Mel Kipresby, our year long draft expect. Welcome Mel! It’s good to have you back in the booth after you’ve spent the last year scouting at every seminary in country for the top prospects to be taken here today. Mel, tell us, what are some of the main story lines?
Mel K: Thanks Cal, and it’s good to be back. Cal, three big stories are developing. The first is the pressing question of whether Candidate Leroy Morris out of Princeton Seminary will be taken by First Pres of Whitesville, who is picking first overall today. Morris has been the consensus top pastoral candidate this year but there have been some questions about him late in the game.
John C: Mel, what seem to be some of those issues?
Mel K: Well, First Pres really likes him , but his third sample sermon was just so poor. People were also a little disappointed by his performance in the baptism exercise at the PC(USA) combine – he almost dropped the baby and stumbled in removing the top from the baptismal font.
John K: So is it safe to say his stock is dropping?
Mel K: Absolutely, I still think First Pres of Whitesville will make him this year’s top pick though – he has the intangibles they’re looking for and the theological fit couldn’t be better. Plus, he did receive clearance from Whitesville’s COM this week – a huge plus in making him their pick today. The second major story line I see developing is John Knox Presbyterian of Petersville. They currently hold the #2 overall selection, but have been desperately seeking to trade down. They’re only looking for an associate and don’t feel they need the experience of some of the top picks, most of whom are looking for solo pastorates.
John K: Who are they talking to?
Mel K: Well, they’re in intense talks with Westminster Presbyterian of Cherry Township, who would love to move up into that #2 spot in case First Pres of Whitesville were to pass on Morris.
John C: Mel, if Morris is falling who is rising?
Mel K: Well, that’s the third story lines. Two names of notes. Peter Providence is climbing fast after an awesome performance at the combine: an average sermon time of under 15 minutes, while still delivering top-notch content. That’s a combination you don’t find often. The huge concern with Peter Providence is his age, he’s only 25, and the fact that he graduated from McCormick Seminary, which makes First Pres of Cherry Township, a relatively conservative church, very nervous. The other concern was his exegesis paper that was review from his second year – some of the readers really objected to his parsing and hermenutics. He’s come under a lot of fire for that – but people just love his preaching that a lot of Executive Presbyters still expect him to go #2 overall.
The other name that is rising fast is Wayland Presbyterian Church, currently sitting at #3 who have their eye on Theresa Calvin. If Wayland were to take Calvin with the third overall pick that would make her the highest called women in the history of the PC(USA).
John K: You know Mel, there is talk every year about when we will finally see a candidate like Theresa Calvin go #1 overall – will it ever happen or is the glass ceiling real? It seems to me that Calvin has it all – she’s brilliant, she’s got some experience under her belt, she’s the finest preacher in the draft, she did two years in missions and has work extensively in social justice ministries. What isn’t to like other than she’s a woman? Why aren’t more people interested in her?
Mel K: To be honest John, I’m not sure. In part, her drop to #3 is a theological one – her background and strong views on social justice scare away the more conservative churches who are picking #1 and #2
John C: True – but she’s a solid Calvinist who rejects the later neo-orthodox interpretations of his work, why would that scare people away?
Mel K: Cal, I hear ya. And maybe it is the glass ceiling – but I still expect her to go #3 Wayland.
Final question before our commercial Mel, what seems to be the hang up in the trade between John Knox and Westminster?
Mel K: To be honest, no one is sure anymore. Knox really wanted to get Westminster’s minister of music and youth director in the deal, but that was simply too steep of a price to pay for Westminster. Plus, Westminster is somewhat hesitant to move up – the last time they did that they lost their pastor to free agency only two years after he arrived. You know the normal story, bigger town, bigger church, bigger budget, and bigger check.
Thanks Mel – we’ll be right back to the PC(USA) draft.
A new website has been introduced for people in the PC(USA) who are interested in all things Emergent
Check it out – it looks like it could hold great promise.
Good providence to all those taking the PC(USA) ordination exams this weekend!
Last night I was visiting with some of the thousands of youth workers gathered here in Charlotte and one of the people in the group told a story that I found unbelieveable and sad.
He told us he works in a PC(USA) church and last week his pastor called him in to his office and asked him when he was going to “grow up”, go to seminary, and get into “real ministry” and become a “real pastor”
AGH!!! ARE YOU SERIOUS?
I, for some reason, feel a special place to comment on this – because I am on the verge of crossing the line into the “ordained” world of the PC(USA) – and for the last five months I’ve been treated by my senior pastor and others at the church as a “real pastor” (not my terminology).
So – are you kidding me? I’m a product of the PC(USA) system, I’ve jumped through all the hoops and cleared all the hurdles and I loved my time in seminary and learned an absolute ton a lot of which has helped me in my work in youth ministry. And, there are a some huge benefits to being ordained. So please don’t think I’m criticizing “ordination” or seminary in any way.
But… this type of attitude is one of the reasons that youth workers burn out so fast – when you own boss is basically saying “what you’re doing isn’t real ministry” and you need to through seminary to be a real pastor is just awful. (I should add, in further conversation I discovered that this guy had gone to a Christian college and graduated with a degree in student ministries – so he’s trained to be doing what he’s doing)
I’m not sure what can be done to fight this type of attitude. I hate to make this suggestion but I almost feel that peope who are not ordained but want to serve in PC(USA) churches should have their contract approved by the Committee on Ministry (if you’re not PC(USA) this might make no sense but its basically a regional committee that approved the calls of pastors). Anything to offer some sort of validation to their important roles in ministry.
Any other ideas???