May 15, 2011
The following letter was sent from the Session of First Presbyterian Church of Dunellen to The Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Elizabeth, The Sessions of the Presbytery of Elizabeth, The Stated Clerk of the Synod of the Northeast, and The Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
To: The Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Elizabeth
The Sessions of the Presbytery of Elizabeth
The Stated Clerk of the Synod of the Northeast
The Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA)
Re: Adoption of Amendment 10-A
On May 10, 2011, a majority of presbyteries (including the Presbytery of Elizabeth) approved amendment 10-A, which radically alters the denomination’s ordination requirements in G-6.0106b, and specifically will open the door to the ordination of self-avowed, practicing gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons. Moreover, this change will also allow congregations and presbyteries to choose to ordain heterosexual men and women who are engaged in a sexual relationship outside the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman.
How Approval of Amendment 10-A Impacts Our Local Congregation
The following has resulted from this decision:
We are deeply grieved that the Presbyterian Church (USA) has so radically abandoned the clear teaching of Scripture that God’s good gift of sexual intimacy is meant to be shared only between a man and a woman within the covenant of marriage.
We are grieved that repentance from this and other sinful life choices is no longer considered essential for leadership in the Presbyterian Church (USA).
We are grieved that with this decision the Presbyterian Church (USA) has placed human desire and human wisdom above the revelation of God in the Bible.
We are grieved that the Presbyterian Church (USA) has turned its back on the witness of 2000 years of church history and forsaken unity with the overwhelming majority of Christian churches around the world today.
We are concerned that a false teaching has entered and taken root in our denomination disrupting our peace, our unity, and our purity.
We are concerned that the Presbyterian Church (USA) will alienate many ethnic members who will find this act culturally and theologically incomprehensible (about one third of our congregation is Hispanic).
Some might argue that amendment 10-A places no new requirements on our session, since we can continue to examine candidates for ordination and future pastoral positions based on our own theological convictions. But the Book of Order states, “Ordination for the office of minister of the Word and Sacrament is an act of the whole church carried out by the presbytery…” (G-14.0480). This clearly means that soon, as this new standard is put in place, presbyteries will be willfully ordaining men and women who are unrepentant of their sexual sins – on our behalf.
Decisions of Our Session in Response to Amendment 10-A
According to the Book of Order, G-10.0102i , it is the responsibility of the session “to establish the annual budget, determine the distribution of the church’s benevolences, and order offerings for Christian purposes, providing full information to the congregation of its decisions in such matters.”
For many years our session has strained the bounds of our collective conscience as we have continued to make per capita payments to a denomination that has supported abortion rights over the silent cries of unborn children, created in the image of God. We have gritted our teeth as we have seen numerous individuals, churches, and presbyteries flaunt their disobedience to the church’s standards for ordination. We have wept as judicial commissions have focused on the nuances of church law rather than the clear intent of Scripture, the Book of Order, and the confessions in dealing with those who have violated the church’s instruction and God’s teaching regarding human sexuality. Through it all, we have been able to point to the Book of Order and the Book of Confessions and say that, regardless of human disobedience, this is the official belief of the denomination.
But now, that constitutional standard has been erased.
As a matter of conscience, we, the session of First Presbyterian Church of Dunellen, have prayerfully, regretfully, and unanimously come to the conclusion that it is poor stewardship of the funds God has entrusted into our hands to continue financial support of an institution that has so radically abandoned the clear teaching of Scripture. As a result, effective immediately, we will be withholding all per capita and mission giving from the PC(USA), the Synod of the Northeast, and the Presbytery of Elizabeth.
While the responsibility for presbytery finances rests solely in the hands of the presbytery, we respectfully request that the Presbytery of Elizabeth not pay per capita to the higher governing bodies on our behalf, in order that our rights of conscience not be muted.
Ongoing Participation of Our Congregation in Denominational Structures
While withholding all financial support, we are continuing to support the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Presbytery of Elizabeth with our prayers, in hopes that our denomination will come to repentance and return to the path of biblical orthodoxy and obedience. We pray for a time when any of these governing bodies repents of endorsing or participating in the sinful practices outlined earlier in this letter, in which case we would be able to resume providing financial support to that governing body.
Please understand that our withholding of per capita is not a form of political protest. Rather, it is an act of conscience as we seek to fulfill our obligation to be faithful stewards of the funds that God, through our congregation, has entrusted into our hands. In a letter to the churches of the PC(USA) dated May 10, 2011, Gradye Parsons, Cynthia Bolbach, Linda Valentine, and Landon Whitsitt shared that through Amendment 10-A “we have sought to find that place where…the integrity of every congregation, member, deacon, elder, and minister is respected.” We hope that you will respect that we believe the only way to maintain our integrity as Christian leaders is to carry out this difficult decision we have made.
In the short context of this letter, we have not presented a detailed scriptural basis for these decisions, but we would be most willing to provide one should it help any of the recipients understand why we have chosen these actions.
With deepest regret,
The Session of First Presbyterian Church, Dunellen, NJ
Jeffrey H. Wildrick Silvio DelCampo Martha Egbert
Moderator Pastor for Spanish Ministries Clerk of Session
Robert Cifelli, Diana Linares, Fidel Silvestre
Harry Schoepp, Jayne Panewicz, James Kenny
Stephen Geiger, Suzanne Geiger, Stanislaus Romascindo
Otto Barrios, Evan Walter, William McFarland