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Joint Letter from Presbytery Resolution Team and Denominational Relations Team to Dunellen Church members

May 6, 2012

 A COMMON WORD, OUR COMMON FAITH:

A Joint Letter from the Denomination Relations Team

of First Presbyterian Church of Dunellen (on behalf of the Session) and

the Presbytery Resolution Team of the Elizabeth Presbytery

 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Jesus Christ of the First Presbyterian Church, Dunellen,

We met twice in the past two months. On March 26, 2012, we reviewed the presbytery’s dismissal policy and process; committed to one another to proceed in Christian love marked by honesty, pastoral graciousness, transparency, respect and accountability; and gave Session members an extended opportunity to express their individual and collective concerns about denominational policies and practices.  The Session provided to the Presbytery Resolution Team written and DVD materials from Dunellen’s congregational forums that describe the areas that the First Presbyterian Church of Dunellen disagrees with actions within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Continue Reading…

What does the Bible REALLY Say about Homosexuality?

Many from the Liberal/Progressive wing of the church claim that the Bible doesn’t really address the question of homosexuality at all – at least homosexuality as we understand it today.

This 28 minute video is an excellent basic response to those claims. Check it out at

http://vimeo.com/2126309

An excellent response to “I’m a Christian Unless You’re Gay”

Debbie Berkley says what I’ve been thinking – so I’ll just point you to her excellent blog.

http://takingthering.blogspot.com/2012/04/im-christian-if-youre-gay-and-if-youre.html

Words are Important – Even in Hymns

In my experience, people learn as much theology from the hymns and songs they sing in worship than they do from the sermons. This is why it is important to take great care in choosing church music. A snappy melody isn’t enough. We always need to ask, “What is this song teaching about the nature of God – and is it true?”

The PC(USA) just published a list of songs to be included in the new, official PC(USA) hymnal. Read this article, and the responses, to see what you think this choice says about the denomination’s theology.

http://naminghisgrace.blogspot.com/2012/04/heresy-in-hymn.html

Oklahoma Pastor Explains Why His Congregation is Leaving PC(USA)

March 21, 2011

Why our congregation seeks to leave the PC(USA)
Open letter by Mateen Elass

These times are cataclysmic for mainline denominations. We Presbyterians are no exception, as members of local churches wrestle with unbiblical decisions and trajectories embraced by our national leadership.

In the coming days, you may hear that First Presbyterian Church in Edmond is seeking to be dismissed from its present denomination [the Presbyterian Church (USA)] into another Presbyterian body, but the reasons you hear may not be accurate. Our desire is that all those interested may know the facts behind our decision, rather than the slants which others may concoct to forward their own agendas.

For over four decades, the PC(USA) has been drifting slowly from its original theological convictions founded in the Bible and expressed through creeds and confessions of the Reformation. In recent years, this drift has accelerated exponentially, to the point where core doctrines of biblical faith and central practices of Christian lifestyle are no longer deemed essential or even true.

On the matter of Truth, every individual or group (religious or secular, theist or atheist) must decide what to turn to as ultimate authority. For orthodox Christians, our ultimate authority has always been the Bible, which we embrace as the written Word of God. When Christian groups lose their conviction concerning the Bible’s authority, other views vie for its place. Those alternate views may be formed by the standards of one’s culture, by one’s personal preferences, by prevailing epistemological philosophies, or by the fads of the day, but in the end everyone relies on someone or something beyond their own experience to help them interpret reality.

For us in the PC(USA), the authoritative standard of the Bible for our faith and life has been stripped of its ultimate role as arbiter of our discussions and decisions. In recent years our denomination has agonized over whether or not to embrace truths which for orthodox Christians of all former centuries were settled matters of faith. Leaders have been ordained who are unwilling to openly affirm the deity of Jesus Christ, or to recognize his claim as Lord over all. In the name of inclusiveness, the exclusive claims of the gospel that salvation is available only in and through Jesus Christ have been jettisoned. Indeed, salvation as a concept has disintegrated from its original meaning of “rescue from eternal ruin caused by sin and evil” to a new call to make the world a more just and inclusive place for all. While this vision is not a bad thing, it is not the reason Christ died on the cross.

With this change in focus, the PC(USA) has lost its passion for evangelism – for sharing with the world the good news of God’s saving love, and for calling all people to yield their lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We have lost our first love as a denomination.

For over seven years, the leaders of our congregation have worked diligently locally and nationally in efforts to realign our denomination with our biblical and theological roots. Now, however, as the move away from Truth accelerates, we can no longer in good conscience remain bound to a denomination we feel has jettisoned the core of why we were called into existence in the first place.

One of the salient issues illustrating this growing betrayal of biblical authority has involved the question of qualifications for ordained leadership within the PC(USA). For the last thirty-five years, our leadership has wrestled repeatedly with the question of whether active homosexuals (and those involved in other lifestyles censured by the Scriptures) may be ordained as ministers, elders or deacons. Until 2010, every time this question was addressed by our national assembly, the answer was no, based upon a common biblical understanding. In 2010, the answer became yes, and that decision became church law after ratification in July of 2011.

For many evangelicals in the PC(USA) this bellwether decision constituted an unacceptable crossing of the theological Rubicon, with our denomination thumbing its nose at clear teachings in Scripture which are not ethically in vogue at present.

Our primary issue is not the normalization of homosexual practice (though the gospel message calls all human beings to repentance in all areas contrary to the will and purpose of God). Our objection goes much deeper – when a group, whose central beliefs spring from God’s revelation as found in the Bible, no longer submits to that overarching authority but arrogates for itself the right to determine truth and goodness, it loses its original identity and purpose. Such has happened in the PC(USA).

As a result, we have felt compelled to declare that we can no longer move in concord with our denomination as it leaves its biblical moorings. We are committed to standing on the truth of God’s written Word, and with the orthodox of the Christian faith around the world and down through history. We are deeply saddened about the breach this entails with the denomination in which many of us were nurtured, but we will not be drawn away from Christ in order to remain with a drifting institution.

In the coming months you may hear that the members of First Presbyterian Edmond are bigoted, hate-filled, homophobic fundamentalists because we have taken this step. Those who know us will know better. By no means are we perfect, but these charges are completely unfounded. We invite all sinners who don’t yet know God’s forgiveness to join us sinners who meet every Sunday on the corner of 10th and Rankin. The love of Christ has led us to many ministries of service and grace for the people of Edmond. We trust He will continue to shape us as instruments of His mercy and love to this city we love.

We ask you not to let any false witness color your thoughts as you read about this matter in the coming days. If you have any questions or concerns, come and meet us for yourselves. We will be glad to listen to you, and to share our hearts in turn, so that Jesus Christ and His gospel may be glorified in all ways.

Mateen Elass is the Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Edmond, Oklahoma

Occupy love: A same-sex Wedding at Occupy DC

By Emily Crockett / Campus Progress

Under a statue of General James McPherson and cloudy skies that occasionally broke into sun, two long-time members of the Occupy DC encampment made their 15-year partnership official on Saturday.

Marina Brown and Laura Potter were the first couple (and, inherently, the first same-sex couple) to be married at Occupy DC.

They tied the knot in front of about 30 people at McPherson Square, which occupiers called home for more than four months before being evicted in February, and which still houses some tents as symbolic protest.
Brown and Potter had been married through a Pagan handfasting ritual for 11 years, so they viewed this ceremony as a renewal of their vows.

Brown and Potter wore headscarves to show solidarity with other faiths, were blessed by leaders of both their Pagan and Unitarian congregations, and the ceremony was officiated by Brian Merritt, a Presbyterian minister.

READ the full article: http://campusprogress.org/articles/occupy_love_a_same-sex_wedding_at_occupy_dc/

Churches Continue Exodus From PCUSA

Here We Stand!

Here is an excellent statement from the “Biblical Presbyterians Network” entitled “Here We Stand,” which addresses many of the pressings issues in the PC(USA) today. I don’t know much about their ministry, but I sure appreciate what they have to say.

http://www.biblicalpresbyterians.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=25:here-we-stand-&catid=3:front-page

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