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.

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