25 June 2008


Two commissioners from the Presbytery of Northern New England (PNNE) to the PC(USA) General Assembly have filed a "commissioner's overture" asking the General Assembly to create a two million dollar fund so that PNNE can continue its law suit against Londonderry (New Hampshire) Presbyterian Church. PNNE claims that to date, it has spent nearly $226,000 in legal costs to prosecute their case, and they anticipate spending another $150,000 in 2008.

The cash would come from the Office of the General Assembly (OGA). The purpose of the fund is to cover legal fees "defending our Constitution against the New Wineskins Non-Geographic Presbytery of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church."

"But wait," you say. "Didn't 'LPC, a New Hampshire voluntary religious corporation' sue Presbytery of Northern New England, a New Hampshire voluntary religious corporation' first?"

And the answer is, "Yes." LPC, Inc. filed a declaratory judgement action in the New Hampshire courts, seeking a judicial determination as to the legal interests of LPC, Inc. and PNNE,Inc., respectively, in LPC's property. This is a straight forward civil legal issue that even the PC(USA)'s legal department recognizes to be a matter of state law. Cf., Romans 13: 1-5.

But contrary to the Book of Order, PNNE wanted a judicial resolution of theological issues. And to do that, they have combined with the PC(USA), their synod, and a group of about 80 former members of LPC who voted against disaffiliation. This group was organized by PNNE into a church plant with a pastor supplied by PNNE.

"But why do you say PNNE sued?" you ask. That's where the commissioner's overture gets interesting.

You see, for nearly a year, PNNE and its apologists have been whining about the dec action. They were offended that before their AC could come in and take over the church, change the locks, dismiss the session, and freeze the bank accounts, the congregation of LPC exercised their "permissive powers" (G-7.0304a) and voted by a 3 to 1 margin to disaffiliate. At the same time, the corporation sought to clear its title to its property.

New Hampshire is a neutral principles jurisdiction, so PNNE, Inc. has a tough row to hoe in overcoming LPC's ownership of the property. They needed to muddy the waters and to impose tremendous costs on LPC. To do that, they needed to file a suit against LPC's individual trustees, in hopes that they would cave. But because PNNE has been so harsh with respect to the suit between LPC, Inc. and PNNE, Inc., they could not bring themselves to sue.

Enter their new church plant. PNNE used them to sue the trustees.

Now comes the commissioner's resolution that admits that PNNE, the synod and PC(USA) have been completely financing the second suit. The 80 haven't had to spend a dime. Once again, the pernicious hand of Louisville and its minions is revealed.

For its rationale, the commissioner's resolution argues that "the PCUSA (sic) holds that the Church is an organic unity of which its synods, presbyteries and local congregations are integral parts. We must be careful that we do not lose the civil lawsuit and set legal precedent endangering our Constitution, simply because we cannot afford to put up the best defense."

Well, nonsense. The only precedent that will be set is in New Hampshire, and LPC was the only PC(USA) church in that presbytery that took the orthodox, biblically faithful position on matters of Scripture and theology. No need to worry about the PC(USA) constitution. This is Louisville's gambit all the way.

The Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) opposed the request. It argued "that an additional 39 presbyteries face, or have faced, similar challenges. . . Our present annual budget for this assistance is only $50,000 intended to cover all ongoing cases. . .." It then admitted that that the stated clerk (probably the SC's office, unless Clif Kirkpatrick ponied up the cash himself)has already provided $20,000 to the Presbytery of Northern New England for the Londonderry suit.

Nonetheless, the General Assembly Procedures Committee overwhelmingly approved the overture and sent it to the GA. The reception it will get there will be interesting. How will commissioners return to their churches and presbyteries to report that "we could find only enough money to support 250 missionaries, but we took $2,000,000 to pay presbyteries to carry out the Louisville Papers Plan."

One wonders: If PNNE had taken that $226,000 (and any settlement offered by LPC, Inc.) and given it to the 80 to plant a new church in Londonderry, where would they be today?

Finally, we now have the red herring du jour from PNNE. They claim to be suing the New Wineskins Transitional Presbytery of the EPC "to protect our constitution." Wrong!!

They and their dummy are suing real people at LPC. They just don't want anybody to know that.


Mike said...

You know, that makes a LOT of sense. How else would the PCUSA session be able to afford suing twelve individuals simultaneously?

(I doubt the PCUSA congregation is still around 80 members, though, unless you count all of the kids. In fact, I've heard that it's more like 50. Then again, they seem to think they need three pastors...)

Mac, as a member of LPC, I want to thank you for your hard work on the church's behalf. I'm confident that our side will win, and I am SO looking forward to that day.

will said...

Are the legal documents available anywhere online?

This passed the GA, by the way. But I'm not sure the commissioners understood the money was specifically for the PC(USA), a multi-billion dollar corporation, to fund lawsuits against individual trustees of a local congregation.

If so, then this GA is just plain evil.

Adel Thalos said...

Excelent analysis Mac. Thank you so much for all your faithful work.

I just read the statement and resolution that has been released by the GA about finding common ground with Muslims. I also watched some of the streaming video and heard prayers refering to Muslims as our brothers and sisters. I was getting quite sickened by this until I read your analysis. If this is the way that the GA deals with brothers and sisters, maybe they will finally get tough against Muslim extremists?

When I step back and looks at all the actions of the GA together, I marvel at the insanity. "No one stops to think...He feeds on ashes, a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, 'Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?'" (Isaiah 44: 19a, 20)

Presbyman said...

The only good thing to come out of this mess was an amendment passed that would make funding litigation an "Extra Commitment Opportunity" rather than a per capita expense.

Yeah, we'll get right on it, sending mission dollars to sue people.

Renee said...

Excerpt from the PC(USA) website:

The General Assembly established a fund to help presbyteries pay legal fees incurred as churches leave the denomination, in particular the New Wineskins non-geographic presbytery of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. This fund will not be part of the budget of the church. Rather it will be supplied by voluntary donations to an Extra Commitment Opportunity account created by an amendment to the original commissioner’s resolution.

Christine said...

I'm guessing the trustees of LPC Inc. won't have to spend a dime, either.

Mac said...


You guessed wrong.

will said...

christine - lets compare the relative assets of the multi-billion dollar pcusa versus those of LPC. Hmmm - who gets to be David and who gets to be Goliath?

Besides which - are ANY individuals named seeking damages on the PC(USA) / PNNE side? Are any individuals having to defend themselves in court?

As I have said to others - I hope you never find yourself in the situation of having a massive corporation fund lawsuits against you.

Any way you look at it the PNNE action is morally vile.

Christine said...

David v. Goliath--you do remember how that particular contest turned out, don't you, Will? I have no worries for the LPC Inc trustees.

Massive corporation? Is that the new party line? You couldn't turn the PC(USA) into the Politburo so now it's Microsoft? Come now, these analogies are getting risible.

will said...

Party line? What party do you imagine I endorse?

That was my own doing - massive corporation is, in fact true. I have been pointing out that the PC(USA) is a corporation - not something to be confused with the Church, the body of Christ, for a couple of years now. (Mostly because of things like the original severing clause in the first draft of the PUP report - which used the corporation and the Body of Christ interchangeably.)

The labels massive, large, multi-billion dollar - are simply accurate descriptors. In this case it is a massive corporation that has agreed to funnel money to fund lawsuits against individuals. It is a morally reprehensible thing - and those who go around talking about 'big corporations' are being very hypocritical not to see this.

Yes - I remember the David and Goliath story - but it was presumably God's action. The point being that David could not have won on his own, and it was far from the norm for that to happen. Here you have similar odds. Maybe God will intervene ... don't know.

But ultimately - you seem to be running interference for an utterly repellent legal tactic that is far worse than any other tactic employed by anyone in this dispute. And it would be bad in some secular dispute - coming from an organization that styles itself Christian, it is an obscenity.