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.).
The Presbytery Resolution Team took the Session’s concerns seriously and on April 30, 2012, the Presbytery Resolution Team provided a detailed response to the materials and testimonies that the Session provided on Dunellen’s objection to practices within the PC(U.S.A.). The Team specifically addressed the areas of biblical authority and inspiration, the doctrine of the Trinity, human sexuality, abortion, polity, and the doctrine of salvation.
Through the prayerful and detailed discussion on April 30, we mutually recognized that the doctrine of the PC(U.S.A.) remains within the orthodox, apostolic Christian faith as expressed by the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed. The PC(U.S.A.) officially and constitutionally affirms a traditional, ecumenical understanding of the Scripture’s authority and inspiration, the Trinity and salvation. We recognize that even as the PC(U.S.A.) is rooted and grounded in the historic, apostolic faith, there exists a wide spectrum of understanding and application of Christian doctrine, as has always been the case in the universal Christian Church for centuries. In fact, we recognize that the Christian faith in the West, East, and global South has been expressed with diversity of theology and practice. The grouping of local churches into denominations is one result of this diversity.
We mutually understand that the Session’s action of February 20, 2012 to recommend to the congregation for First Presbyterian Church of Dunellen to be dismissed to another Reformed body stems, in large part, not because Dunellen believes that the PC(U.S.A.) has left the historic Christian faith; rather, the flexibility and broadness of theological belief and practice in the PC(U.S.A.) have reached a point where Dunellen believes it cannot serve Jesus Christ faithfully and with integrity.
What became apparent to us is that as followers of Jesus Christ we forever will remain sisters and brothers loved by our heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit. At the same time, we recognize that there comes a time that because of our common commitment and faith in the triune God who continually calls the one holy catholic apostolic Church to serve in diverse ways in multiple contexts, the triune God may be calling this congregation to another part of the body of Christ.
To that end, we will seek a gracious and graceful dismissal process in the coming weeks so that our separating from each other is understood not as a division because of our common faith, but a separation prompted by a desire of Dunellen to serve God in a different ecclesial context that is more suitable to Dunellen’s sense of Christ’s call for His mission in and through Dunellen.
In closing, we affirm that our hope is ultimately found in Jesus, who is the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
The Presbytery Resolution Team Denominational Relations Team
(on behalf of the Session)
Elder Ruth Arriaza Elder, Laurie Fitchett
Elder Claudia Heffner Elder Stephen Geiger, Co-Chair
Elder Helen Moseley Elder Suzanne Geiger, Clerk
Elder Karen Castro Plaza Elder Diana Linares
Rev. Dr. Neal D. Presa, Convener Elder Harry Schoepp, Co-Chair
Rev. Paul Rack, Clerk Rev. Silvio Del Campo
Rev. James Thomas Rev. Jeffrey Hayes Wildrick
Co-opted (ex-officio, non-voting):
Rev. Greg Albert, Interim Executive Presbyter