26 April 2008


In the early morning hours of an April day nearly two and a quarter centuries ago, a confrontation between the most powerful temporal kingdom on earth and small group of its citizens loomed. These Englishmen (for that they would remain for a few more minutes) were accused of the most heinous of crimes: they demanded their rights as citizens under the unwritten constitution of the British Empire. The King's representative in Boston had ordered his troops to squelch the increasingly bothersome assertion of rights that threatened the peace, unity and purity of his royal dominions in New England.

I can imagine those "Minute Men," perhaps shivering from the combined effects of the cool spring morning and the measured tramp of boots marching to the cadence of fifes and drums. Then Captain Parker issued his famous order.

"Stand your ground. Do not fire unless fired upon. But if they mean to have war, let it begin here."

The rest is, as they say, history.

In 2006, a congregation in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, had the temerity to challenge the improper assertion by the PC(USA) of a right to control the property purchased and maintained by and in the name of the congregation alone. The Presbytery of South Louisiana (PSL), recognizing that the congregation had the moral and legal high ground, decided to avoid unnecessary and probably unsuccessful litigation and conceded that the congregation owned its property free and clear of any so-called property trust contained in the Book of Order.

Shortly thereafter, the Synod of the Sun appointed an Administrative Review Commission (ARC) to determine whether PSL had acted properly. The PC(USA) sent one of its officers (and one of the authors of the infamous "Louisville Papers") to sit with the ARC as a "resource." To the surprise of no one, the ARC took the Louisville position. In a remarkable declaration, the ARC found that by exercising powers delegated to it by the Book of Order, PSL had destroyed "presbyterian connectionalism." In effect, the ARC decided that in the PC(USA) "connectionalism" had a single element: property and the coercive power over property to be used to command obedience to denominational control.

Yesterday, history repeated itself. As so many of us are aware, for several years now the Stated Clerk of the PC(USA) has begun to imagine himself the king of the denomination. The General Assembly (disregarding a vocal minority) has taken positions that are an affront to the "citizens" of the PC(USA) (Pete and Patty in the pews). It has ignored the constitution, failing to enforce it when violations occur and asserting rights and limitations thereunder that do not exist.

One is tempted to compare this change with Julius Caesar's change of a Roman Republic into an Empire with himself as the Emporer. Suddenly, a representative General Assembly, which had been created in Philadelphia in 1787-89 and modeled on the federal system of the Constitution of the United States at the same place and time, was in danger of becoming the mouthpiece of a new episcopal denomination with a single Pope at its helm.

To enforce the Louisville plan, the Synod of the Sun has now assumed original jurisdiction over the PSL, at least with regard to property resolution matters. The AC is empowered to act as follows:


(approved by the executive Committee of the Synod of the Sun on 04/24/08 and adopted by the plenary on 04/25/08)

In response to the April 8, 2008, letter from pastors and elders in the Presbytery of South Louisiana to Synod Executive Fletcher and to the April 22, 2008, letter from the Council of the Presbytery of South Louisiana, the Synod of the Sun approves the establishment of an Administrative Commission under the general provisions of G-9.0500.

A commission is empowered to consider and conclude matters referred to it by a governing body. The appointing body shall state specifically the scope of power given to a commission. A commission shall keep a full record of its proceedings, which shall be submitted to its governing body to be incorporated in its minutes and to be regarded as the actions of the governing body itself. (G-9,00502)

The decision of an administrative commission shall be the action of the appointing governing body from the time of its completion by the commission and the announcement, where relevant, of the action to parties affected by it. Such decision shall be transmitted in writing to the stated clerk f the governing body, who shall report it to the governing body at its next meeting. A governing body may rescind or amend an action of an administrative commission in the same way actions of the governing body may be modified. (G-9.0505).

This commission, by the review of records and by whatever face-to-face conversations the commission deems helpful, shall determine the validity of the presbytery’s procedures and decisions (past, present, and future) regarding various congregations and their properties. All pending and future decisions regarding property in the Presbytery of South Louisiana shall require the approval of the commission. This commission also shall listen to other expressions of concern and/or dissatisfaction with presbytery leadership and make suggestions as to ways the presbytery can move toward a fuller expression of the ministry of Christ’s church.

This commission shall make either an “in progress” or a final report to the adjourned meeting of the Synod, October 24, 2008, and at each stated meeting thereafter until the work is completed.

It is chilling to note that the power to resolve property disputes is merely the camel's nose under the tent. "This commission also shall listen to other expressions of concern and/or dissatisfaction with presbytery leadership and make suggestions as to ways the presbytery can move toward a fuller expression of the ministry of Christ’s church." Thus, the ARC appears to be authorized to recommend to the Synod that it take on additional powers to punish leaders of the PSL who act in any way contrary to the desires of a small number of "pastors and elders" who have complained to the Synod.

So, what does this mean?

I suggest that it brings to an end the presumption in congregations, sessions, and presbyteries that the delegation of powers contained in the Book of Order still exist. Imperial Louisville intends to come down hard on any congregation that asserts its rights. Any presbytery that acts on its conscience and good judgment to apply the Book of Order in any way other than that demanded by Louisville will also be suppresssed.

Coupled with the scheme cooked up by Louisville to get a presbytery to make the unfounded allegation that the EPC is "recruiting" PC(USA) churches as a basis of referring the matter to the WARC (C. Kirkpatrick, propt) for a "fair investigation," this action by the Synod of the Sun signals that the Empire is striking back.

It is time for the minute men to assemble on the green. Congregations, protect your property from confiscation by immediately disaffiliating. If they mean to have war, let it begin here.

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