26 March 2008


Wow! Easter is past and we are headed for Spring. A sure sign was the congregation of neighbors at the head of our driveway as I drove in. When the weather gets just a little warmer, it will be 9 pm or later before we even get into the house.

Yesterday, our former PC(USA) presbytery finally voted on the settlement of our suit to quiet title. Although a couple of pastors spoke for retribution, when it finally came to a vote, the presbytery approved the settlement unanimously.

We had disaffiliated last June on the Sunday after the EPC approved the creation of the New Wineskins Transitional Non-Geographic Presbytery. In light of the Louisville Papers and because our former presbytery had a reputation for suing churches, having done so unsuccessfully in the mid-80's, we elected to file a declaratory judgment action to quiet title to our real and personal property.

We offered to negotiate almost immediately, but it took until October for the Administrative Commission to get together and meet with us. Their initial demand was $500,000, but we quickly agreed on a little less than $25,000. We had a full agreement in principle by early January, but the presbytery did not vote until yesterday.

The settlement is a good one for all concerned. The law was strongly against the presbytery and we had no real gripes with them; our concern was the extreme leftward and worldly drift of the PC(USA). They get 5 years of presbytery per capita based on our membership on the day we disaffiliated, directed to one of four of their missions. (We chose the summer camp. They will get a little over $18,000.) We also gave a much smaller unrestricted gift to the presbytery.

For us, it was a nuisance settlement--lawyer talk for it would have cost us more to continue the DJ action, and we get finality. We keep our name and our records, and can now focus on being the church God wants us to be in our community.

17 March 2008


Holy Week has begun, as it usually does at my church, with our “Passion Drive Thru.” We gather as a congregation to present a series of 8 tableaux representing the agony suffered by our Savior for our salvation.

In spite of rain on Saturday, we erected the seven sets, from the triumphal entry, to the Last Supper, Christ’s prayer in the Garden, His arrest, His trial, His collapse and Simon’s substitution to carry the Cross the rest of the way to Calvary, and the empty tomb. (Calvary is permanently represented by three empty crosses next to the highway, filled on the night of the drive thru and on Good Friday.)

It is an all-members’ effort and, along with our Nativity drive through in December, marks one of the fellowship highlights of the year.

Over 150 cars came through in the two and one-half hours of the presentation, and if we touched only one person’s heart with the good news, it was worth the wind and snow flurries and sore muscles from putting things up and taking them down in the space of thirty-six hours.

The high point for me, as I portray Pilate, is to hear all the cars out on the highway as they suddenly slow down when they see three persons “hanging” on the crosses. This was my 11th year, and it never ceases to make me realize how stark was that scene, how grim was the price, and how much God’s grace through Jesus Christ means to me.

12 March 2008


The lead article in Tuesday’s Layman On-line is entitled “Overture to 218th General Assembly calls for World Alliance of Reformed Churches to investigate EPC's 'actions, conduct'.” To paraphrase former Secretary of State Cordell Hull, “I have never seen such a document that was more crowded with infamous falsehood and distortion.”

The allegation that the Evangelical Presbyterian Church is "actively pursuing a strategy to persuade Presbyterian Church (USA) churches to disaffiliate with the Presbyterian Church (USA) and be dismissed to" the EPC is patently false. As the leadership of the EPC has made crystal clear, the EPC has not initiated and will not initiate contact with any PC(USA) congregation. Only if the duly elected leadership of a PC(USA) congregation invites representatives of the EPC to engage in conversation will such contact be made.

The Stated Clerks of the ten EPC presbyteries have been reminded of that policy and, I am certain, have passed that guidance along to every Teaching and Ruling Elder in the denomination. I surely have.

So, why has Peace River Presbytery taken this action? I can think of at least three possible reasons.

First, they were asked to do so by Louisville. As has been reported in the electronic pages of The Layman, last November, Rev. Kirkpatrick circulated a letter to at least some of the presbyteries of the PC(USA) complaining about the EPC. He wrote that “I expect one or more of our presbyteries will overture the 218th General Assembly … requesting that the assembly examine the basis of the PCUSA's relationship with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church." It occurs to this suspicious mind that those people in Louisville had drafted an overture and the letter was trolling for some presbytery to take it, adopt it, and send it back to Louisville.

The Presbytery of Mississippi tried to be a good servant of Louisville, but couldn’t get the job done. Peace River was apparently ready to serve as Louisville’s back-up surrogate.

Second, it is Peace River’s reaction to the loss of the largest church in the presbytery. Covenant in Fort Meyer has divided over the theological departures of the PC(USA) and a huge majority of the active congregation walked away from its property to form a new EPC congregation. And that is an important distinction: these folks are leaving their property with the presbytery and are voting with their feet, so why does Peace River have any room to complain? Members of congregations are always free to follow their consciences and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Third, this is a “gun deck” job, a fraud. Peace River asks the GA to send this to the WARC which, coincidentally, I am sure, is headed by…….(drum roll, please)…….. none other than the PC(USA)’s own Clifton Kirkpatrick, the sponsor of the substance of this very overture.

In the PNS release announcing his decision to step down as Stated Clerk, Kirkpatrick was quoted as saying, “At the same time, I am also eager to have more quality time with my family, to be able to devote myself more fully to the responsibility I have undertaken since 2004 to serve as president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and to share in the life of the church, both locally and globally, in new and creative ways.” So, he will be the President of WARC that receives a referral from the PC(USA). No conflict of interest there!

I am also intrigued by Peace River’s refusal to name the source of its overture. Rev. Craig Countiss, the presbytery's stated clerk refused to identify the member of the presbytery who presented the overture. Why? Something to hide? Perhaps the “member” is laboring outside the bounds in a mid-sized city on the south bank of the Ohio?

This is but the latest attempt by the PC(USA) to place the blame for massive membership losses at the feet of anyone other than the leadership and bureaucracy of the PC(USA). I can hardly wait for the reaction from Geneva.

06 March 2008


We are blessed with a Spring day today, sun, mild temperatures and no wind. For all I know, tomorrow will be snow, but today is a blessing.

School was out early today for teacher conferences. The First (and only) Mate and Horse Daughter (who wants the handle "Jumper" because jumping is the best part of riding and at age 11, with 5 plus years under her belt, she ought to know) are at the stable. Cloud (the horse) won four ribbons last weekend, so he will be an appreciated horse today--until he refuses at the first jump. Ah, well.

Bionicle Boy stayed home. As the sun sinks into the west and the temps drop some, he is inside and merrily playing with his Bionicles. For any who have not had the privilege, Bionicles are a LEGO product that is based on Polynesian legends. Bionicle Boy and his best bud played a whole afternoon a couple of Saturdays ago and I did not understand a word they said. Lots of "mata nui" and "matorans" and so forth.

I am blessed to have gotten a second go at fatherhood. Knowing now that it passes in the blink of an eye, I have paid closer attention to the wonders, joys and trials of childhood this time.

And now, if the Phillies can just get things together.......

05 March 2008


I am amazed by the purported effect and reported success of Senator Clinton’s “Red Phone” ad. She claims to have extensive experience that would make her ready on “Day One” to take "that call."

One must ask, “What experience?” She was the first lady. While she may have been among President Clinton’s closest advisors, that was about as far as it went. He was President, he was in charge, and there was no way she was going to be called on to make any such decisions in his White House.

So, unless we really misread Bill Clinton’s ego and style, I am willing to bet that Hillary has never had to answer the red phone at 3:00 am. If I am wrong, then the impeachment charges should have included unconstitutional delegation of presidential authority.

I am also amused by her spin that “I carried the big states, so I should be the nominee.” OK, she did, running against another Democrat. How does that translate in November? Does she suggest that all of Senator Obama’s supporters will simply disappear? Or that her supporters will stay home in the general election?

She's spinning like a top. My two cents worth.