This does answer the question, does the PCUSA still have heresy trials? Of course they do. Heresy or apostasy in the PCUSA is now defined as lack or failure of institutional or corporate loyalty, and or actions, speech against the institution. Where in times past matters of heresy or apostasy was adjudicated over matters of theology or confession, now it is dumbed-down to matters of corporate governance. In the contemporary PCUSA one can easily say on the floor of any Presbytery Jesus and Paul were in essence gay, and Jesus had a biological child with Mary. I doubt anybody would bat an eye. Threaten the institution on either a fiscal or financial level, power, money, control, one is cast into the outer darkness.
—Quoted by Carmen Fowler LaBerge in “Outrage Over Joe Rightmeyer And The Ultimate “So What?” (HT: Aquila Report)
I am new to the Reformed faith, and I joined a Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) roughly a year ago (after having visited, attended and studied for a while). I have learned much and benfitted greatly from this blog so far…and I do know the PCUSA pitches a “large tent” and has folks from both extremes (from the Fellowship of Presbyterians on one end to the More Light Presbyterians on the other), but overall I truly think the quote above is a bit extreme itself. The Book of Confessions is still the ‘theological component’ of the PCUSA Constitution, and the Confessions are still (officially, anyway) upheld as our best understanding of the faith. Perhaps I am naive since I am still in my Reformed (and PCUSA) infancy, or perhaps I just have a more truly Reformed congregation within the PCUSA… but the quote above hasn’t been my experience. The Divinity of Jesus is central to our covenantal relationship with God. If one professed any of the things expressed in this quote then why even be Presbyterian? Why not join with the Unitarian Universalists or some such denomination?
Thanks again for your ministry.
There’s a history behind this episode and a longer, larger history in PCUSA of excluding orthodox voices from the denomination on administrative/procedural grounds.
Read against that history this quote, it seems to me, though blunt, is accurate. Read the history of the Machen case. Since 1967 the official, confessional position of the PCUSA has been to deny the historic Christian view of the Scriptures as God’s infallible Word. The two convictions that are invioalble in the PCUSA are the Barthian (Müntzer’s) view of Scripture (it becomes the Word when it becomes to to one subjectively) and the ordination of females to presbyterial and ministerial office. One is not allowed to dissent from these, new, articles of faith. In other words, over the last 100 years, the PCUSA has been moving away from historic Christian and Reformed theology, piety, and practice. The resistance (represented by The Layman) is not winning. Those who want to remain aligned with more historic expressions of the faith are leaving in droves to the EPC. The future of the PCUSA should seem bleak to even the most optimistic observer.
Here are some resources on the HB on Machen. Below are some particularly relevant posts and a brief bibliography.
Hart, D. G. Defending the Faith: J. Gresham Machen and the Crisis of Conservative Protestantism in Modern America. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995.
Stonehouse, N. B. J. Gresham Machen: a Biographical Memoir. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954.
Machen, J. Gresham. Christianity and Liberalism. New York: MacMillan, 1923.
Longfield, Bradley J. The Presbyterian Controversy: Fundamentalists, Modernists and Moderates. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.
Is it Parthian or Barthian and are you also referring to Neo-Orthodoxy or the Liberalism that Machen faced or both?
1. Stupid autocorrect. I typed Barthian (look! It did it again just now. Every word it doesn’t know I have to click “learn” or it changes it).
That is a pretty good description of what goes on in the Episcopal church.
The above description can also be said of many so-called “conservative” churches as well. I have a few friends in college who then went on to attend seminary and became pastors at relatively large churches and they experience the same things. Names were not included to protect the innocent and the guilty as well.
The area I am referring to is: ”
Where in times past matters of heresy or apostasy was adjudicated over matters of theology or confession, now it is dumbed-down to matters of corporate governance.”
One is tempted to revise this text slightly and apply it to a certain conservative Presbyterian denomination. Keep the first four and the last two sentences intact, except for the abbreviation. Revise the fifth sentence to reflect the recent history of this denomination, and its particular character. And there you have it.
But that would be way too easy, and perhaps just close enough to the truth to get the writer “cast into the outer darkness.”