This post contains a summary of the information presented at the May 22 congregational meeting. The focus of the meeting was our church’s responses to the passage of Amendment 10-A.
The meeting began with prayer, led by Pastor DelCampo.
Pastor Wildrick, Pastor DelCampo, and the entire session took their seats at the front of the sanctuary to share decisions that the session has made regarding our church’s response to the passage of Amendment 10-A, which changes the ordination standards in the PC(USA).
Pastor Wildrick described the changes in wording of G-6.106b. He explained that these changes were being made specifically to allow congregations and presbyteries to allow self-avowed, practicing homosexuals to be ordained as elders, deacons, and pastors. It was pointed out that this change removes all explicit standards for sexual conduct and repentance, leaving it to every individual church and presbytery to maintain whatever standards they believe appropriate, on a case-by-case basis. Indeed, a church or presbytery could even ordain heterosexual people who are openly and unrepentantly living together in a sexual relationship without benefit of marriage, if the church or presbytery believed that the person was otherwise gifted for ministry. There is every reason to believe that churches and presbyteries will begin ordaining self-avowed, practicing homosexuals very soon after the new constitution goes into effect on July 10.
The pastor also pointed out the change from requiring “obedience to Scripture,” to being “guided by Scripture,” and suggested that this points to the underlying theological changes in the PC(USA) that have led to approving the ordination of non-repentant, self-avowed, practicing homosexuals.
The congregation was invited to consider a variety of scriptures that are guiding our response:
“In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14-15)
3 Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people… Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. 7 Don’t participate in the things these people do. 8 For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! 9 For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. 10 Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. 11 Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. 12 It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. 13 But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, 14 for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” Ephesians 5:3-14 (NLT)
“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:9-13
27 “The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’ 28 “‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed. “‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked. 29 “‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’” Matthew 13:27-30 (NLT)
Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. Jude 1:3-4 (NIV)
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
The session announced the following decisions that in response to the passage of Amendment 10-A:
- Prayer – The session is calling our congregation to pray for our church, our pastors and other leaders, and for the PC(USA). Pastor Wildrick pointed out that the PC(USA) is not our enemy, but we believe that a false teaching has taken root in the denomination and presbytery, and we are called to pray for God to change the hearts of those who have been deceived by (and who those who are propagating) this false teaching. We should pray for ourselves also, that we might have wisdom, compassion, humility, and grace.
- Withdraw Financial Support from PC(USA) – As an act of conscience, and fulfilling the session’s obligation as stewards of the funds that this congregation gives to God through First Presbyterian Church (G-10.0102i), we are immediately withdrawing and redirecting our mission giving and per capita giving to the PC(USA). This is not a political protest. Rather, we no longer believe we can trust these governing bodies to use our gifts in the advancement of God’s Kingdom and purposes.
- Maintain faithful stewardship of the financial and capital resources that God has entrusted to us through the gifts of our members over the course of 140 years by maintaining connection with PC(USA). When asked why the church should maintain membership in the PC(USA), Pastor Wildrick explained that according to the PC(USA) all church property is “held in trust” for the denomination, and that the presbytery would likely believe that they have the right to seize our property if our church were to withdraw, which might lead to costly litigation. He also suggested that God may have placed us here as a prophetic voice.
- Seek fellowship with like-minded congregations in our local area for shared ministry, prayer, accountability, and support.
- As soon as possible, remove all public identification with the PC(USA) from our church, including changing our church’s name. (See more below)
- Wait patiently to see what God will do in the PC(USA) and in the Presbytery of Elizabeth.
- Explore what God is doing through “The Fellowship,” a new association of evangelical churches within the PC(USA).
- Maintain dialogue with our Presbytery, seeking to do so with an attitude of humility and grace.
CHURCH NAME –
The session has prayerfully come to the decision that our current name has become a barrier to our ministry. Although it represents 140 years of faithful service to Jesus Christ, it no longer accurately communicates the personality and purpose of this congregation.
- For not-yet Christians
– Suggests an institutionally bound church
– Suggests an old-fashioned church
- For evangelical Christians
– Suggests a liberal church. People ask “What church do you go to?” and when we say “First Presbyterian Church,” a frequent response is “Are you the kind of Presbyterian that ordains homosexuals?” Many evangelical Christians who live in Dunellen have shared that they never visited our church because they believed that a Presbyterian Church would be liberal and have a worship service that is traditional, dry, and teaching that centered on human needs rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ.
– Suggests an institutionally bound church
Even though these perceptions are inaccurate, they drive behavior. The first impression anyone has of our church is our name. We need to choose a name that gives the best possible first impression so that we can attract both Christians and not-yet Christians to meet Jesus Christ through our ministries.
A “Church Name Team” has been formed, made up of English and Spanish speaking elders. Our hope is to launch our new name, along with new logo and communications design, in early fall. The team invited church members to submit their suggestions via email over the next two weeks to email@example.com. Whatever name we choose must communicate our identity as a vital, evangelical Christian church:
- to the community
- within the church
- in English and Spanish
Members of the congregation asked many questions about our relationship with the PC(USA), and what these changes will mean for the congregation and for our pastors. No objections were raised to any of the steps the session has taken. The session was encouraged to continue seeking God’s will for our relationship with the PC(USA).
Elder Evan Walter read:
2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow… 12 God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1:2-3, 12
and closed the meeting with prayer.