Presbyterian News Headlines For The First Half Of November 2014

OK, I’m falling behind again – but trying to catch up. So here are a few of the things that caught my attention back in November…

In the ongoing news story in Trinidad, initial demolition work on Greyfriars Church in Port-of-Spain was begun and after three hours halted. The contractor was reported as saying the work was only to open parts of the building so the engineers could inspect the structure. The owner said it was to remove a toxic roof. And to bring you up to date as of this writing nothing further has happened with the building as the community continues to discuss the future.

Greyfriars demolition stopped – from Guardian – Trinidad and Tobago

Contractor: No bid to demolish Greyfriars – from Trinidad Express

Owner of Greyfriars: Toxic roof removed from church hall – from Guardian – Trinidad and Tobago

In Scotland following the Independence Referendum, the British Government established a group to look at devolution of powers and home rule. This group, the Smith Commission, had a lot of input but comments from the Church of Scotland focused on what could be done locally to improve conditions for those in the lowest economic groups, as typified by this headline:

Group seeks powers over benefits – from The Courier

The Commission included a former Moderator of the General Assembly, Dr. Alison Elliot. More on the Commission and the Kirk’s input:

Cross-party Scottish home rule campaign launched – from BBC News

Church leaders want more power for Holyrood to help the needy – from Aberdeen Press & Journal

And along those same lines but in a different sphere:

Kirk poverty campaigner reflects on Vatican visit – Church of Scotland press release; “Martin Johnstone, the Church of Scotland’s Priority Areas Secretary, recently attended the first Global Meeting of Popular Movements hosted by the Vatican in Rome.”

It was interesting to see that the Governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, preached at the First Presbyterian Church of New Canaan, Connecticut.

Governor of Massachusetts to Preach at First Presbyterian Church of New Canaan – from New Canaan’s HamletHub

Two stories about saving historic churches. The first, the renovation of a building that has been vacant for 35 years that will soon house community and presbytery services and offices:

Collaborative $10M redevelopment will save historic KC church – from Kansas City Business Journal

The second, a church that saved its original structure from demolition and is renovating it to become a community space:

Presbyterians want to restore historic church for community gatherings – from press of Atlantic City

And a follow-up on that major archaeological discovery on Church of Scotland land:

Viking treasure finders reflect as first secrets are revealed – from Church of Scotland press release

A peek inside a Viking piggybank: CT scans of treasure chest reveal hidden brooches, gold ingots and ivory beads – from Daily Mail

That’s it for the news for now. On to other topics

Disciplinary PJC Decision — Grace Presbytery v. TE Rightmyer

On 7 January the Permanent Judicial Commission of Grace Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) announced its decision in Disciplinary Case 2015-1: Grace Presbytery v. TE Joseph Rightmyer finding him guilty on eight of the eleven counts he had been charged with. This case comes out of the departure of Highland Park Presbyterian Church of Dallas from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to move to ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians.

According to the history in the PJC decision, an accusation was made against TE Rightmyer in the Fall of 2013 and an investigating committee of five members was appointed on 2 December 2013 which then returned the charges on 16 October the following year. There was a pre-trial hearing on 14 November and the trial conducted on 6 January.

The eleven charges filed with the PJC relate to TE Rightmyer’s service at Highland Park as an interim pastor from June 2013 to August 2014 when TE Bryan Dunegan was called and took over as head of staff. Parallel with the pastoral search Highland Park filed suit in September 2013 in the Texas courts to gain control of its property. That case was to go to trial in October 2014 but Highland Park and Grace Presbytery settled for $7.8 million almost exactly a year after the suit was filed.

Instrumental in this case is the fact that Grace Presbytery has a “Policy for a Just and Gracious Dismissal of a Congregation to Another Reformed Denomination“, but in all the reading I have done I have seen no reference indicating that Highland Park initiated discussions with the presbytery under this policy but rather they carried out a unilateral process to leave the PC(USA).

With that background, let us look at the charges against TE Rightmyer. There are four root charges:

  1. On or about September 23, 2013, and following, you… did commit the offense of advocating and facilitating a process for Highland Park Presbyterian Church to determine whether to remain a member of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) not permitted by the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and contrary to Grace Presbytery’s “Policy for a Just and Gracious Dismissal of a Congregation to Another Reformed Denomination.”
  2. On or about September 23, 2013, you… did commit the offense of moderating the Session of Highland Park Presbyterian Church and permitting it to vote to call a congregational meeting to vote on whether to remain a member of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), an action not permitted by the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
  3. On or about October 27, 2013, you… did commit the offense of moderating a congregational meeting of Highland Park Presbyterian Church and permitting it to vote on whether to remain a member of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), an action not permitted by the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (Book of Order G-1.0503) and contrary to Grace Presbytery’s “Policy for a Just and Gracious Dismissal of a Congregation to Another Reformed Denomination.”
  4. On or about October 27, 2013, and following, you… did commit the offense of permitting the dissolving of the installed pastoral relationship of teaching elder Marshall C. Zieman to serve as associate pastor of Highland Park Presbyterian Church without action of the
    presbytery as required by the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

This is a “theme and variations” set of charges and for each root charge there were multiple variations. For the first, this charge was cited as being a violation of ordination vows W-4.4003e, “Will you be governed by our church’s polity…”, and W-4.4003g, “Do you promise to further the peace, unity and purity of the church?”.

For the second and third root charges related to calling and holding a congregational meeting with business not permitted by the Book of Order, these were charged as violations of G-1.0503 that limits the business of a congregational meeting, as well as the two ordination vow violations attached to the first root charge.

Similarly, the fourth root charge was a violation of G-2.0502 as well as G-2.0901 regarding the process for dissolving pastoral relationships and the ordination vow about being subject to our church’s polity.

So the two variations of the first root charge and three variations of the other three add up to the total of eleven individual charges.

The Presbytery PJC found him guilty of the first eight, that being the ones associated with root charges 1, 2 and 3, but found him not guilty of the last regarding the dissolution of a pastoral relationship.

Disciplinary trial decisions, unlike many remedial cases and appeals, typically do not come with analysis so there is not much more to directly draw from the PJC’s decision.

The court rendered their decision:

Whereas, you, JOSEPH B. RIGHTMYER, have been found guilty of the following offenses, and by such offenses you have acted contrary to the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); now, therefore, Grace Presbytery acting in the name and under the authority of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), does hereby set aside and remove you from the ordered ministry of teaching elder.

Removal from ordered ministry, also referred to as being defrocked, is the strongest penalty that can be levied in a disciplinary case.

That pretty much sums up the PJC decision. In an interview with Carmen Fowler LaBerge of the Presbyterian Layman, Mr. Rightmyer indicates that he is in the process of considering an appeal of this decision.

Discussion

Let me begin my comments with what is to me the elephant in the room — the only reason this trial could take place was because Mr. Rightmyer did not leave the PC(USA) with Highland Park Presbyterian Church but chose instead to remain in the PC(USA) after his interim service was over. In a large proportion of the departures from the PC(USA) all the teaching elders depart for the new denomination taking them out of reach of the PC(USA) disciplinary process should the church’s process been outside the established process. It is worth noting that regarding these charges going to trial Mr. Rightmyer did live into his ordination vow to be “…governed by our church’s polity and… abide by it’s discipline.”

[As a polity note, there is much that can be argued about Mr. Rightmyer’s status and leaving the denomination in light of the fact that interim pastors usually depart the church and the fact that since an investigating committee was considering his case he could not be transferred. I won’t belabor this point except to say that if he wanted to depart with the church, or on his own, a way could probably be found, possibly including renunciation of jurisdiction.]

Another question that arises is why the church went to the civil courts and did not engage in the presbytery’s dismissal policy? In the interview mentioned above Mr. Rightmyer explains the church’s perspective:

“The leadership of Grace Presbytery made it abundantly clear that any candidate for pastor would have to pledge loyalty to the denomination and subscribe to a ‘big-tent’ ideology; meaning that he or she would have to tolerate and perhaps even celebrate what God deems intolerable in the body of Christ.  With the church’s children and grandchildren at heart, the leadership of HPPC felt a clear responsibility for the ‘preservation of the truth’ and fidelity to the Scriptures in the preaching of Christ.  When seen in that light, the vote to disaffiliate from the PCUSA became a spiritual mandate and the cost was minimal compared to what was gained.”

What are the implications of this decision? You could say that this is only a Presbytery PJC decision and a disciplinary one at that so the formal precedent it sets is minimal. From another perspective this shifts the playing field. While previous cases were all remedial this case indicates that someone is willing to reach into the toolbox and try another option. It sends a message to the presbytery that in the future churches need to engage with the presbytery about dismissal or get our cleanly and quickly so that teaching and ruling elders are out of reach of the judicial process. I thought it significant that the decision specifically indicates that the teaching elder who submitted the accusation was the chair of the committee on ministry giving strong weight to the appearance that this was a case being filed with presbytery backing.

Furthermore, if the case does go through a series of appeals to the General Assembly PJC, then formal guidance to the whole church could result. That is certainly a wait and see situation.

But digging a little deeper, does this case now suggest a preemptive strategy for those that would prefer stronger enforcement of the trust clause? While I am not endorsing this and hesitate to continue this thought exercise lest I give anyone ideas, I want to consider a couple scenarios:

What if a church were to baulk at a presbytery’s gracious dismissal policy or the negotiations under it? Could some random member of the presbytery who has standing bring charges like these against the teaching elder(s) and ruling elders on session if they were to take some sort of unilateral action outside the process even before they tried to separate from the denomination?

Or consider charge 2, the most general of the charges in this case: the offense of
advocating and facilitating a process… to determine whether to remain a member of the PC(USA) not permitted by the Constitution and contrary to the Gracious Dismissal Policy in violation of your ordination vow “to further the peace, unity, and purity of the church”. So what might qualify as advocating a process? A discussion in the session meeting about alternatives? Preaching a sermon critical of the PC(USA) or its leadership? Consulting with the leadership of another Reformed body? It would seem that any number of possible actions could have the appearance of “advocating and facilitating a process” and be the basis for an accusation.

Farfetched? Probably. Minor and not likely to be successful at trial? That could certainly be the case. But my point is that simply filing an accusation and having an elder under investigation is enough to stop their transfer and possibly stop all progress under a Gracious Dismissal Policy, particularly if it is the installed teaching elder. So what are the choices? Waiting it out could easily take a year or more like this case did. Speeding it up by changing to self-accusation would amount to pleading guilty and taking your chances with the penalty imposed by the PJC. Moving forward by renouncing jurisdiction means that you lose standing with the denomination and would probably lead to the congregation departing but likely leaving the property behind. Is there another, easier and faster alternative to clearing this that I am missing?

It is an interesting possibility to ponder, and hopefully not one that we will have to respond to. For the moment we are left with our first disciplinary case and penalty for actions take outside the presbytery process for gracious dismissal. There are still questions whether the trial verdict would stand up under appeal and whether more disciplinary cases will follow now that the ice is broken.

Stay tuned…

 

Top Ten Presbyterian News Themes Of 2014

As we close out this eventful year I will once again join the numerous sources putting out top ten lists for the year that was. And as in past years my primary focus will be on stories, or themes, that were seen across multiple Presbyterian branches with a few more selective ones thrown in.

General Assemblies and Same-Sex Relationships

This was probably the top news theme of the year: The Church of Scotland GA sending to the presbyteries, and the presbyteries approving, language for churches to opt-out of the traditional standards. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 221st GA approving language to redefine marriage in its Book of Order and it appears on path to approval in the presbyteries. The Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand approving a change to their Book of Order to prohibit same-sex marriages. And momentum is building around an overture to the next Presbyterian Church in Canada GA that would remove the prohibition against ministers being in a same-sex relationship.

Seminaries

This was a category that really caught my attention this year but which I have yet to write up in detail. In any year there is interesting seminary news, like Doris J. García Rivera’s installation as president of the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico. But this seemed to be a year with more initiatives than normal.

These included the reorganization of the Free Church Seminary as the Edinburgh Theological Seminary. There was also the new joint initiative between Reformed Theological Seminary and Redeemer Church in New York City.

More radical seminary initiatives include a non-accredited communal seminary associated with Church of All Nations in Minneapolis and San Francisco Theological Seminary has launched a Center for Innovation in Ministry with a workshop on the theology of video games.

But the one that I have found most interesting is the Redesigned Master of Divinity Program at Fuller Theological Seminary. Fuller listened to their alumni and launched a new program which is described in part like this:

Many graduates can no longer count on traditional systems to create jobs for them. They will have to invent new ways to minister. Our reshaped curriculum is designed to prepare students with entrepreneurial skills.

One of the interesting things about this new initiative, and Fuller in general right now, is the prominence of Presbyterian leadership. In addition to Mark Labberton becoming President last year, the initiative is under the oversight of Scott Cormode, the Academic Dean. Behind the Vocation and Formation part of the initiative are some well-known Presbyterian faces that include Tod Bolsinger, Steve Yamaguchi and Laura Harbert.

Congregations Switching Branches

The moves between branches continue with the PC(USA) once again transferring more churches than it closes. And in the Church of Scotland there has been a slower, but noticeable, departure.

The other interesting movement is churches moving from the Reformed Church of America to the Presbyterian Church in America. Last Spring one of the flagship churches, University Reformed Church, voted to transfer. This fall five churches in Illinois have also voted to make the move.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

The General Assemblies of both the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand considered this issue. In the PC(USA) the Assembly did not approve an outright divestment but referred it to the Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee for further consideration. The PCANZ instructed their Property Trustees to divest and recommended that individual churches do likewise.

Independence Referendum in Scotland

The Church of Scotland was prominent in the time leading up to the Scottish Independence Referendum with an open session at their General Assembly that presented a variety of voices on the subject and further national and regional level gatherings leading up to the vote. Following the vote there was a service of unity hosted by the Kirk.

The Free Church of Scotland also held a session at their General Assembly and issued their own material providing viewpoints on Independence.

Property

For the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) this was certainly a hot topic with a GAPJC decisioncivil legal challenges, settlements and high-valued negotiations. For this post the full extent of the property news is left as an exercise for the reader but there are still a lot of open questions and at the moment there seems to be momentum in favor of the hierarchical church.

Another property news item is the Greyfriars Church in Port of Spain, Trinidad. The historic structure was sold to a developer and it’s future is uncertain. Some preliminary demolition has begun and efforts are underway to try and preserve it.

PC(USA) Ethics Investigation

In a still developing story, it was revealed that four PC(USA) church development employees associated with Presbyterian Centers For New Church Innovation were the subjects of an internal ethics investigation for not following policy in setting up an outside non-profit corporation to facilitate distribution of 1001 Worshiping Communities funds. Initially there were administrative actions taken but as the story grew the four were placed on administrative leave and an outside law firm brought in to conduct an independent investigation. At year’s end it was decided that firm had a conflict of interest and a new firm was chosen.

Israel-Palestine Actions

The other hot topic leading up to the PC(USA) General Assembly was issues around Israel-Palestine. At the previous GA a proposal for divestment from three companies who profited from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory failed by a very narrow three-vote margin. The proposal was returning to this GA. In addition, a PC(USA) affiliated group, The Israel/Palestine Mission Network, (IPMN) issued a controversial study guide Zionism Unsettled that questioned Israel’s character and identity. While IPMN does not speak for the PC(USA) the study guide was sold by the official Presbyterian Distribution Services making the distinction fuzzy in many minds. In addition, there was some advanced controversy when the commissioner chosen to moderate the related commissioner committee was asked to step down because a number of people questioned his impartiality.

The 221st General Assembly did approve the divestment proposal by a slim seven-vote margin, but the action also encourages ecumenical dialogue in the region and affirms the denomination’s commitment to Israel and the peace process.

The Presbyterian Distribution Service dropped Zionism Unsettled shortly after the Assembly and it is now available on the IPNM web site. However, studies around this topic are available on Thoughtful Christian.

Women’s Ordination and Related

The religion gender issues news this year was dominated by the Church of England and the completion of the process to have women serve as bishops. In fact, in Presbyterian circles it was a very quiet year for complementarian/egalitarian discussions, which in itself is probably news.

The one big item is the decision by the Mizoram Synod conference to reject a long-standing request from Kohhran Hmechhia, the Women Ministry of the Presbyterian Church, to ordain women theologians.

In another story, history was made when Michael Barry and Liz Hughes tied in the first round of voting for Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. Rev. Barry was elected in the second round by one vote over Rev. Hughes and a third candidate, Rev. McNie. This was the strongest showing that a female candidate has had in the election.

Death of Ian Paisley

Among several notable deaths in the Presbyterian community, the death of Ian Paisley stands out for his iconic status in both Northern Irish religion as the leading founder of the Free Presbyterian Church and for his important roll in politics and reconciliation in Norther Ireland.

And a couple of other Presbyterian-ish stories

Knox 500

While the date of birth of John Knox is not known with certainty, the best information suggests that it may have been in 1514 making this the 500th year of his birth. This was marked by the Knox 500 Conference in Edinburgh as well as the making of a documentary about him titled “Give Me Scotland.”

Spectacular Viking treasure hoard found on Church of Scotland land

Not your typical religion news story but a very important archaeological discovery involving the Kirk and a couple of its ministers as well as a metal detectionist.

And let me take a moment to throw in two transitions: The retirement of Jerry Van Marter after over 26 years with the Presbyterian News Service and Jack Haberer stepping down from the helm of the Presbyterian Outlook to return to parish ministry. Best wishes to both in their new settings.

And those are some of the highlights of 2014. Now as we look ahead to 2015 – and many of my friends around the world are already there or now busy celebrating Hogmanay – I wish all of you a very Happy New Years and best wishes for the coming year.

May you balance your ardor and order and remember to be decent and in order.

Happy New Year!

Christmas Messages From Around The Presbyterian Branches

Over the last couple of weeks I have seen the following official Christmas messages from Moderators of various Presbyterian branches.

The Church of Scotland – The Rt. Rev. John Chalmers

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland – The Rev. Dr. Michael Barry: “Presbyterian Moderator calls for people to welcome strangers this Christmas”

The Presbyterian Church of Wales – The Rev. Neil Kirkham

The Presbyterian Church in Canada – The Rev. Dr. Stephen Farris

The Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand – The Rev. Peter Cheyne

In the PC(USA) both the Moderator and the Stated Clerk get into the act

Reasons to celebrate the PC(U.S.A.) this Advent season – from RE Heath Rada

December 2014 – Link daily toil and holy quest in a deeper, earthier way this Advent – from The Rev. Gradye Parsons

And finally, a message from the Moderator-designate of the Free Church of Scotland posted on the web site which has gotten some coverage.

No Room In The Inn For Jesus – The Rev. David Robertson

Those are the ones that I have seen and I apologize for any missed. Feel free to bring missed ones to my attention.

And with that, a Merry Christmas to all who observe this special day.

Presbyterian News Headlines For The Second Half Of October

And we keep on plugging through these. This time period is a bit lighter…

A new conference center director

Richard DuBose Named President of Montreat Conference Center – from Montreat press release

The preservation organization Historic Scotland proposes charging for tourists visits to Glasgow Cathedral, a move opposed by the kirk session:

Anger over admission charge plan for Glasgow Cathedral – from BBC News

A plan to improve educational opportunities:

Livingstonia Synod to construct agriculture college in north Malawi – from Nyasa Times

The Free Church of Scotland endorsed a proposal to cut the voting age for regular elections following the success of the move in the Independence Referendum. The suggestion is being seriously considered:

Voting age should be cut to 16, says Free Church – Herald Scotland

Plan to cut voting age for 2016 Scottish election -from BBC News

The Church of Scotland is working with other churches on economic reforms and initiatives. More on that at a future date, but here is a bit from this time span:

We should bank on a fair deal for everyone – from The Scotsman

A gift from the Lilly Endowment:

Louisville seminary gets $8 million endowment grant – from Louisville Business First

Repurposing unneeded church buildings (I visited the one in the lede picture when the GA was there):

Former Churches Blessed With New Lives in Pittsburgh – New York Times

And another one, a historic building in Scotland:

Falkirk businesswoman gifts church to arts group – from The Falkirk Herald

And finally, it is not Presbyterian per se but I got a smile from this one – a participant in the Vatican Synod on the Family who thought the process was a bit too open and equal?

RI bishop: Synod process is ‘rather Protestant’ – from Crux; “The concept of having a representative body of the Church voting on doctrinal applications and pastoral solutions strikes me as being rather Protestant.”

So have a good holiday season. I will try to catch up on headlines in the new year and have plenty, probably way too much other stuff that I want to cover the next couple of weeks.

Church Of Scotland Ordination Overture Results And Reaction

Almost all of the presbyteries in the Church of Scotland have now voted on the overture from the 2014 General Assembly related to ministers in same-sex relationships and it is clear that the overture has gotten strong approval from them.

While this is a major hurdle it is important to keep in mind some of the fine details. First, it is not final until the 2015 General Assembly takes a look at it and adds its concurrence. Considering the margin with which it passed the 2014 Assembly and the number of presbyteries that gave approval it would seem reasonable to expect the next Assembly to also approve it. But we need to keep in mind that at the moment the process has not been completed.

The second item to remember is that this overture does not change the official stance of the Kirk but only provides a mechanism for individual churches to depart from that stance in the ordination and installation of officers should the need arise.

And the headlines, even from the official publication Life and Work, are a bit inaccurate in that gay clergy have been permitted if they were celibate, but the overture proposes new policies for partnered clergy in same-sex civil unions.

One important aspect of this vote to keep in mind is that the margin among the overall votes cast is much narrower than the presbytery vote. Of the 46 presbyteries it is being reported that so far 28 have voted yes and 11 have voted no on the overture. That is a 72% yes vote. But if you look at the total from the presbyters, it was 1253 yes and 1006 no, a 55% to 45% split.

As the results were spreading through the news media the last couple of days the group Forward Together, a Church of Scotland affinity group opposed to the proposed polity changes the overture would bring, announced their new initiative — the Covenant Fellowship. Their Statement begins:

We believe that the Church of Scotland is moving away from its roots in Scripture and the Westminster Confession of Faith. We believe that the time has come for the creation of a ‘Covenant Fellowship’ within the Church. This Covenant Fellowship will draw together those who believe that the Scriptures, in their entirety, are the Word of God and must provide the basis for everything we believe and do. Our vision is nothing less than the reformation and renewal of the Church of Scotland, in accordance with the Word of God and by the empowering of his life-giving Spirit.

The Church of Scotland is facing a severe crisis. A majority of Presbyteries has now adopted an Overture which would permit those in same-sex civil partnerships to serve as ministers and deacons in the Church. Many people feel that the only way to protest against this unscriptural move is to leave the Church of Scotland. Many ministers, elders, members and adherents have done so already and more will follow. While respecting that position, our hearts’ desire is to remain within the Church, in order to seek its reformation from within, although we recognise that not all will feel able to make such an unqualified commitment.

The Statement goes on to solicit from like-minded individuals and churches their signing on to the Declaration of support for these principles and protest of the actions of the Church of Scotland.

The Statement was issued in association with comments from the Rev. Prof. Andrew McGowan, which were picked up by the media. He said, in part:

If approved, this (overture) will extend even further the disruption of the Church of Scotland.

Many well-known congregations (individual ministers and groups of worshippers) in Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Stornoway and elsewhere have already left the Church, or been split in two.

and

The hope is that the Covenant Fellowship, which begins today as a protest against recent events, will grow to become an effective campaign group within the Church on behalf of those who believe in Christian orthodoxy.

This statement and comments did not go unnoticed, and some of the language in the comments and the Statement elicited an official response from the Acting Principal Clerk of the General Assembly. The Rev. Dr. George Whyte says:

The Church of Scotland welcomes Professor McGowan’s continued commitment to remain a member and a minister but there are in his statement accusations which we believe are not accurate.

The proposed legislation which is the focus of the group’s criticism has been painstakingly considered by the Church across the nation. We know that for many people the discussion has been difficult and it has always been clear that we could never come to a common mind on the matter.

This pain and disillusionment has been felt by those, like Professor McGowan, who think the Church is going in the wrong direction and those who desperately want a Church which would go further on their chosen route. Yet the issue has to be discussed and we are a Church which recognises “liberty of opinion.” Our General Assembly has agreed that this proposal – to allow a congregation call a minister in a civil partnership – falls into that category. It is not, therefore, an attack on the fundamental doctrines of the Christian Faith.

“We share Professor McGowan’s abhorrence of further disruption and we hope and pray that across Scotland Christians will find ways to continue to work together despite their varied opinions.”

In addition to the Covenant Fellowship, media was also reporting comments from a spokesman for the Free Church of Scotland. The comments expressed concern for the actions and direction of the Church of Scotland and concluded with the line “Although we are saddened by the present circumstances in the Church of Scotland, we are happy to provide a home to those who wish to leave.”

The Church of Scotland has seen the departure of a few ministers, congregations and members over the last few years since the trajectory was set by the 2011 General Assembly. But this new association seems to now more clearly define one side although being a brand new initiative we will have to see how it develops.

It is also tempting to map the current landscape of the PC(USA) and the directions of ebb and flow there onto where the Church of Scotland find itself now, and it almost seems that naming the new initiative the Covenant Fellowship invites that comparison. However, the lay of the land in the Kirk is probably going to be shifting rapidly and I will let the structures settle down a bit before I take the time to undertake that analysis.

What can I really say at this point to sum up these developments but… Stay Tuned!

Presbyterian News Headlines For The First Half Of October

Much of the Presbyterian related news in this time period was dominated by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, particularly the decision to include the prohibition against same-sex marriage in their Book of Order, a decision I have already discussed. The press releases about the election of the Moderator and the Moderator-designate, a new Executive Secretary, and another about beginning the process to divest from fossil fuels got some wider distribution:

Presbyterian Church elects new leader – from Community Scoop

Presbyterian Church elects Moderator-designate – from Community Scoop

New national Assembly Executive Secretary for Presbyterians – from Community Scoop

Presbyterian Church to consider divestment of fossil fuels – from Community Scoop

At the same time church buildings face an uncertain future as congregations dwindle:

Historic Auckland church faces ‘imminent’ risk of demolition – from TVNZ

Community rallies to save old church – from The Dominion Post

In the debate over dividing Malawi into north and south countries, the Livingstonia Synod is take to task for taking sides in the matter in their siding with the current president oposing division.

CounterJab: Sorry, no room for Livingstonia Synod, Kyungu in federalism debate – from Nyasa Times

Elsewhere in the CCAP:

Malawi: Nkhoma Synod to Repay Cashgate Money Embezzled By Church Officials – from allAfrica

In Northern Ireland a Presbyterian Church was damaged and an Orange Hall destroyed by arsonists:

Locals condemn arson attack on Donegal Orange Hall – from Irish Times

Presbyterian church arson ‘an attack on all Christians’ – from Belfast News Letter; includes comments from the Moderator of the General Assembly

Convoy Orange Hall: Donegal arson arrests made – from BBC News

 News from a PC(USA) related seminary:

Doris J. García Rivera installed as president of the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico – from Presbyterian News Service

From Columbia, South Carolina, a story about Blythewood Presbyterian Church, a fairly new PCA church that is using the land it one day hopes to build its sanctuary on for a community garden in the mean time:

Blythewood Community Garden: A different approach to outreach – from the Columbia Metropolitan

And finally from Scotland: While members and pastors continue to depart from the Church of Scotland

Kirk ministers and members officially join Free Church – from Aberdeen Press and Journal

There was high-profile news of a major archaeological discovery on Kirk property

In Pictures: Largest Ever Viking Treasure Trove Discovered by Metal Detectorists in Scotland – from International Business Times

Retiree unearths huge Viking treasure trove in Scotland – from Japan Times

Viking treasure trove discovered in Scotland – from The Guardian

Spectacular Viking treasure hoard found on Church land – from Church of Scotland press release

And that is what caught my attention back then. On to the next one…

A Church Seeking A Pastor…

I rise to a point of personal privilege…

I rarely bring personal items into my blog stream, however on this occasion I would like to pass along the information that my church, La Verne Heights Presbyterian Church, is seeking a pastor. The Ministry Information Form is posted on the Church Leadership Connection system and the Pastor Nominating Committee has begun reading applications. The classified in the Presbyterian Outlook reads

Would you like to pastor a PC(USA) church that is highly missional in practice, committed to spiritual formation, evangelical in spirit, and reformed in theology? Consider La Verne Heights Presbyterian Church near Pasadena, California. Visit lvhpc.org to learn more.

La Verne Presbyterian Church
1040 Baseline Rd
La Verne CA 91750
lvhpc.org

Job Type: Full-time

For background information our long-standing mission statement is:

As a people committed to the Lord Jesus Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit we nurture and equip each other to be disciples who perceive and carry out God’s call to our mission: to share the Gospel and address community and world needs to the glory of God.

Also from the MIF, how this position will help the church accomplish its mission:

The pastor will:

  • Model the serving, caring heart of this church.
  • Along with the Session, hold the mission and vision out before the congregation and regularly ask the question of all ministries, “How does this support the advancement of our vision?”
  • Lend direction and leadership in the effective interworking of the staff, ministry groups, and administrative committees.
  • Appreciate the advantages of our ministry group model while helping to ensure that the unique and varied ministry of each group effectively contributes to fulfilling the overarching vision of the church.
  • Attend to the administrative integrity of the church’s ministries.
  • Guide us in development of thoughtful, effective leadership training for all leadership positions within the church, helping to uphold the integrity of these positions.

Self-referral information is on the MIF.

An important note: I am not on the PNC and while I can answer general questions about our congregation I have no direct involvement in the hiring process.

It is left as an exercise to the reader whether having me in the congregation is a positive, negative or neutral feature. ;)

And now back to our regularly scheduled polity wonkishness…

 

Presbyterian News Headlines For The Second Half Of September

As the year winds down I am hoping to get caught up with the news headlines posts – a daunting task considering how far behind I am and while I am also in the midst of a number of other drafts I am working on. So here are a few of the items that caught my attention the second half of September.

Maybe the most interesting is a new partnership between Redeemer Church and Reformed Theological Seminary:

Tim Keller’s Redeemer Church and Reformed Theological Seminary to launch NYC campus – from Religion News Service

I have previously mentioned churches who have offered sanctuary to immigrants, but now there is the announcement of this as a movement:

Inaction Spurs New Immigrant Sanctuary Movement – from Texas Observer

Church network offers sanctuary to illegal immigrants to avoid deportation – from The Washington Times

A church burglary:

Historic church robbed days before last service: Board Member: I believe it was an inside job – from KSAT San Antonio

A delegation from the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan visited the Church of Scotland during the month including the time of the Independence Referendum. They found the visit interesting, to say the least:

Delegation from Taiwan in Forfar – from Kirriemuir Herald

Taiwanese Moderator’s Message to Scotland – from The Church of Scotland

The passing of an influential pastor who served for 50 years:

Malawi: Nkhoma Synod Hero Rev Chalera Laid to Rest – from allAfrica

And finally, a milestone anniversary for a historic church in North Carolina:

Historic African American church to celebrate 150th year – from The Times-News; “During the last full year of the Civil War, a slave founded a new church in the community that, 17 years later, would be incorporated as Mebanesville.”

And now, on to a couple of Canadian developments…

Moderator-Designate And Clerk Announced For The National Youth Assembly

So much I could be writing about over my lunch hour today but I have to give preference to a fellow geologist…

This morning the Church of Scotland announced that the selection committee for the Church of Scotland Youth (COSY) National Youth Assembly (NYA) has chosen Ms Hanna Mary Goodlad as the 2015 NYA Moderator and Ms Catriona Muckart as the 2015 Clerk. They will be installed at, and help run, NYA 2015 and will be part of the report of the NYA deliverance to the Church of Scotland’s 2016 General Assembly.

Needless to say, the Life and Work article got my attention when their opening line about Ms Goodlad is “Hannah Mary lives in Aberdeen and works as a Geologist for an oil company.” She received her initial training at Glasgow University and did additional work at Imperial College, London.

Hanna Mary grew up in Shetland and the article says that she has been active in the church with children’s and youth work. While in London she helped at a homeless shelter, and with her church she has traveled to Tanzania to help teach at a school for deaf children. In addition, she has been a representative from the Church of Scotland to the Scottish Youth Parliament.

In the article she is quoted in part as saying:

Growing up in a small community right on the edge of Scotland gave me a hunger for the inclusion for those who feel marginalised for whatever reason: geographically or indeed socially. My aim is to be an approachable and accessible leader for the young folk already within our Kirk but I also want to also reach out to the young people across the breadth of Scotland who want a connection with the Kirk, at whatever level that may be.

I am passionate about the Church of Scotland, passionate about the never ending good works of our Kirk and I am passionate about Christ. It is my desire to see the position of young people within the Church of Scotland grow. We are an accepting, open group of young Christians with our love of Christ and one another under pinning everything we do.

Ms Catriona Muckart, the new Clerk, hails from the village of Clashmore and is currently a member of Dornoch Cathedral. She is in her third year of school at the University of Stirling studying sociology and criminology. We are told “In her spare time she enjoys kayaking, she says perhaps with more enthusiasm than skill!”

Ms Muckart is quoted as saying:

I’m very humbled to have been selected as the next clerk of the NYA and am excited about what the role will bring. I’m looking forward to working with Hannah and the rest of the NYA during my year as clerk and journeying with them in faith.

We congratulate Heather Mary and Catriona on this honor and extend our prayers to them as they prepare for and help lead the NYA, as well as for the remainder of the year as they represent the NYA within the Kirk. And we certainly look forward to hearing more about the themes for the NYA next August. Best wishes.

UPDATE: The Church of Scotland main site has issued their announcement of the appointments.

And while the article is subscription based at least we have the great headline from The Press and Journal

Aberdeen scientist appointed to lead Kirk’s national youth assembly