On Leaving The Mainline: Some Friendly Advice To The Alliance Of Reformed Churches

Introduction And Analysis

Kathryn Post, writing for the Religion News Service (HT: Christianity Today), writes, “On New Year’s Day, 43 congregations of the Reformed Church in America (RCA) split from the national denomination, one of the oldest Protestant bodies in the United States, in part over theological differences regarding same-sex marriage and the ordination of LGBT clergy.” This move, she says, “follows the RCA General Synod’s October decision to adopt measures for ‘grace-filled separation’ with departing churches and to appoint a team to develop a restructuring plan for those that remain.”  These 43 congregations (so far) have formed The Alliance of Reformed Churches. They already have a nice website and and Director of Spiritual Leadership and Outreach. He sounds very enthusiastic and very evangelical: “’We have a passion for this remnant of believers to become a part of reformation and revival in the Northern Hemisphere,’ said Tim Vink, the new denomination’s director of spiritual leadership and outreach. ‘Part of our strategic thinking is designing things for the 21st century that allows a multiplication of gospel-saturated churches and a multiplication of disciples.’”

The ARC describes her theological convictions this way:

  • We affirm the Apostles’, Athanasian, and Nicene Creeds as a member of the global Church.
  • Because their doctrines align with our understanding of God’s Word, we affirm the Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dort as historic Reformed expressions of the Christian faith. These doctrinal standards help us to understand the Bible, direct the way we live in response to the gospel, and locate us within the larger body of Christ.
  • We affirm the Belhar Confession as an appendix to the Belgic Confession so that the Belhar’s contemporary declaration of unity, justice, and equality is framed within the context of the Belgic’s view of humanity, Scripture, and God’s saving work through Jesus Christ. Founded on these Biblical truths, the Belhar Confession adds its prophetic call for unity and reconciliation to the Church’s witness to the world. Christ himself is our peace, tearing down the dividing wall of hostility among all peoples.
  • We affirm the Great Lakes Catechism on Marriage and Sexuality as a confessional appendix to the Heidelberg Catechism so that its affirmations regarding human sexuality are read within the context of the Heidelberg Catechism’s teachings on sin, salvation, and service.
  • We affirm that future confessional statements may be adopted as confessional addendums to the Heidelberg Catechism or the Belgic Confessions.

The ARC does not explain the degree to which Heidelberg, Belgic, and Canons will norm the theology, piety, and practice of the ARC. Post writes, however, “…theological differences remain even within the new denomination. While the understanding of marriage as between a man and a woman is a ‘top-tier’ theological belief, Ackerman explained, the question of women’s ordination is a ‘second-tier issue’ that local leaders can address in their own contexts.”

It seems that the ARC is positioning itself where the CRCNA was in 1995, before the split with the URCs. The ordination of females became a “local option.” According to a June report from the CRC, there remains “two perspectives” on the ordination of females but in June the denomination celebrated the “milestone” of the ordination of 201 of women over the past twenty-five years.

The ARC seems to be adopting an unusual approach to Reformed polity. The ARC website asks but does not seem to answer unequivocally a series of provocative questions: “…we return to consider a number of essential questions in today’s climate: What role should an organization of churches serve? What theology, history, polity, or calling should unite them? How does covenant – a clear biblical value – inform relationships among churches?” They declare, “We are unrelentingly innovative.” They are not kidding. Post writes, “ARC will replace national in-person conferences with video calls, digital messaging platforms, and other forms of virtual communication to make decisions more efficiently, organizers said. Its board already meets twice a month to expedite response times.”

Historically the Reformed churches have not been known for their efficiency. This was intentional. Efficiency has not been considered a virtue since it is focused on outcomes whereas the historic, multi-layered, deliberative process beginning with local elders and ministers (council and consistory) and then moving to regional gatherings of elders and ministers (classis), and then to national gatherings of elders and ministers (synod) focused on fidelity in the process. This Reformed process was meant to give the churches time to consider matters carefully and prayerfully, in light of Scripture and the confessions. It was meant to protect Christian liberty. Efficiency may have its attractions but it tends to work against fidelity and liberty.

The ARC’s website uses speaks about the church’s relation to the social  justice movement: “we respond with compassion to the oppressed, we lead with justice in the face of injustice, and we seek in all situations to live out the presence of Christ in people’s lives.” Historically, though the Reformed Christians have a mixed record on questions such as colonialism, slavery, and racism, the churches as institutions have been reluctant to speak to these issues (except insofar as they are sin and are condemned by the moral law as confessed by the churches) not because the churches were necessarily racist, colonialist, or pro-slavery but because of the divine mandate given to the church as an institution. Christ has not ordained his church to speak to every possible cause under the sun. One will search the New Testament in vain to find the apostles speaking to Roman colonialism, racism, or slavery. There were myriad social issues to which the Apostles might have spoken but, as far as the Holy Spirit has inspired and preserved the Scriptures, we have no record of it. Historically, once the church opens Pandora’s Box of social issues it has not closed. To wit: The Presbyterian Church USA presently has documents addressing no fewer than 127 issues.

  1. Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy Agenda Summary (2014 to 2016)
  2. Social Creed for the 21st Century: Connecting to the Creed (2008)
  3. Why and How the Church Makes Social Policy Witness (1993)
  4. Gun Violence, Gospel Values: Mobilizing in Response to God’s Call (2010)
  5. Resolution Against Torture: Human Rights in a Time of Terrorism (2006)
  6. Resolution Calling for the Abolition of For-Profit Private Prisons (2003)
  7. Resolution on Restorative Justice (2002)
  8. Resolution on International Criminal Court (1999)
  9. Moratorium on Capital Punishment (2000)
  10. Honest Patriotism
  11. “A Letter to Presbyterians:” The PCUSA 1953 General Council Challenge to McCarthyism (1953)
  12. Lift Every Voice: Democracy, Voting Rights, and Electoral Reform (2008)
  13. Loving our Neighbors: Equity and Quality in Public Education (K-12) (2010)
  14. Election Protection and Integrity in Campaign Finance ACSWP (2016)
  15. The Precautionary Principle: Managing Technological Risks to Protect Humanity and our Planet
  16. The Power to Change – U.S. Energy Policy and Global Warming (2008)
  17. Report and Recommendations on Limited Water Resources and Takings with Study Guide (2004)
  18. Globalization and the Environment – A Study Paper (2003)
  19. We Are What We Eat (2002)
  20. Hazardous Waste, Race, and the Environment (1995)
  21. Restoring Creation for Ecology & Justice
  22. The Power to Speak Truth to Power (1981)
  23. Tax Justice: A Christian Response to a Second Gilded Age (2014)
  24. World of Hurt, Word of Life: Renewing God’s Communion in the Work of Economic Reconstruction (2012)
  25. Living Through Economic Crisis: The Church’s Witness in Troubled Times (2010)
  26. Just Global Discipleship: A Mission Trip Preparation Guide for Students and Young Adults (2010)
  27. Selected Social Witness Policies on Work as Vocation, Unions, and Collective Bargaining (1959-2008) From the Presbyterian Social Policy Compilation
  28. Resolution on Just Globalization, Justice, Ownership, and Accountability (2006)
  29. A Reformed Understanding of Usury in the Twenty-First Century (2006)
  30. Globalization and the Environment – A Study Paper (2003)
  31. Globalization and Culture – A Study Paper (2003)
  32. The Employment Effects of Free Trade and Globalization – A Study Paper (2001)
  33. The Globalization of Economic Life: Challenge to the Church – A Study Paper (2001)
  34. Hope for a Global Future: Toward Just and Sustainable Human Development (1996)
  35. The Church: Responding to Rural America (1991) and Rural Community in Crisis (1985) – A Study Paper
  36. Toward a Just, Caring, and Dynamic Political Economy (1985, Study)
  37. Fairness in Ministerial Compensation: Solidarity and Incentives (2014)
  38. Neither Poverty Nor Riches: Compassion, Equity, and the Unity of the Church (2010)
  39. God’s Work in Women’s Hands: Pay Equity and Just Compensation (2008)
  40. God’s Work in Our Hands: Employment, Community, and Christian Vocation (1995)
  41. Economic & Investment Witness
  42. Divestment from corporations supporting the occupation of Palestine (2014; Joint Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment, MRTI)
  43. Call to Boycott Products from Israeli Settlements (2012)
  44. The Divestment Strategy: Principles and Criteria (1984)
  45. Divestment from major military, nuclear warhead, tobacco, and other firms: (1982, subsequent revisions, constituting a social investment screen)
  46. Boycotts: Policy Analysis and Criteria (1979)
  47. Ecumenical Core Affirmation
  48. Social Creed for the 21st Century: Connecting to the Creed (2008
  49. Toward a New Social Awakening: The Role for a 21st Century “Social Creed of the Churches” (2008)
  50. Abiding Presence (2016)
  51. Anti-Corporal Punishment Resolution (2012)
  52. Economic Security for Older Adults (2006)
  53. Resolution on Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse Against Educators (2004)
  54. Transforming Families (2004)
  55. Resolution on the Ministry of Caregiving in Relation to Older Adults (2001)
  56. Turn Mourning Into Dancing! A Policy Statement on Healing Domestic Violence and Study Guide (2001)
  57. Pornography: Far From The Song of Songs (1988)
  58. Gambling—summary of resources (1935—1996)
  59. The Covenant of Life and The Caring Community & Covenant and Creation: Theological Reflections on Contraception and Abortion (1983; biomedical ethics)
  60. Rights and Responsibilities of Older Persons
  61. Putting Healing Before Punishment (2018)
  62. Initial Drug Reform Report Approved by GA (2016)
  63. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly Resolution on Reproductive Health (2012)
  64. Becoming an HIV and AIDS Competent Church: Prophetic Witness and Compassionate Action (2010)
  65. Comfort my People: A Policy Statement on Serious Mental Illness (2008)
  66. From Homelessness to Hope: Constructing Just, Sustainable Communities for All God’s People (2008)
  67. Living Into the Body of Christ: Towards Full Inclusion of People with Disabilities (2006)
  68. Resolution on Advocacy on Behalf of the Uninsured (2002)
  69. Freedom and Substance Abuse (1993)
  70. Resolution on Christian Responsibility And A National Medical Plan (1991)
  71. Life Abundant: Values, Choices, and Health Care (1988)
  72. Alcohol Use & Abuse – Social and Health Effects
  73. Human Trafficking Human Rights: Children of God, Not for Sale (2016)
  74. Human Trafficking Statement of Concern ACSWP and ACWC (2016)
  75. Sexual Violence in the U.S. Military: A Human Rights Update (2014)
  76. Human Rights Update 2012 (2012)
  77. Human Rights Update 2010 (2010)
  78. Report on Human Rights in Colombia (2008)
  79. Resolution Against Torture: Human Rights in a Time of Terrorism (2006)
  80. Human Rights Update 2003-2004 (2003/2004)
  81. Resolution Calling for the Abolition of For-Profit Private Prisons (2003)
  82. Human Rights Update 2002-2003 (2002-2003)
  83. Resolution on Restorative Justice (2002)
  84. Resolution on the International Criminal Court (1999)
  85. Immigration
  86. Resolution Calling for a Comprehensive Legalization Program for Immigrants Living and Working in the United States with Study Guide
  87. Same resolution as above (In Spanish) (2004)
  88. Human Rights Update 2003-2004 (2003/2004)
  89. Transformation of Churches and Society Through Encounters with New Neighbors (1999)
  90. Israel-Palestine: For Human Values in the Absence of a Just Peace (2016)
  91. Study Guide for Israel-Palestine: For Human Values in the Absence of a Just Peace
  92. New Hopes and Realities in Cuban American Relations: A ‘Neuvo Momento’ (2016)
  93. Resolution on Equal Rights for All Inhabitants of Israel and Palestine, and for Conversations with Prophetic Voices (2014)
  94. Western Sahara: Occupied, Non-Self-Governing Territory and Test Case for International Law (2014)
  95. For Human Rights and Civic Freedom: Movements for Democratic Change in the Arab World (2012)
  96. Breaking Down the Walls Middle East Report & Supplement (2010 & 2012)
  97. To Repent, to Restore, to Rebuild, and to Reconcile – A Study Paper on Costly Lessons of the Iraq War (2008)
  98. On Building Peace in Iraq (2008) – resolution goes with study paper above
  99. Report on Human Rights in Colombia (2008)
  100. Resolution on Africa: A Study Guide and Reflection (2005)
  101. Iraq: Our Responsibility and the Future (2004)
  102. Resolution on the Middle East (1997)
  103. Risking Peace in a Violent World: Five New Peacemaking Affirmations
  104. Risking Peace in a Violent World (2014)
  105. Drones, War & Surveillance (2014)
  106. Peace Discernment Interim Report – Encountering the Gospel of Peace Anew: An Invitation to Discernment and Witness (2012)
  107. On Strengthening the Peacemaking Program (2010)
  108. Resolution on Violence, Religion, and Terrorism (2004)
  109. Resolution on Just Peacemaking and the Call for International Intervention for Humanitarian Rescue (1998)
  110. Christian Obedience in a Nuclear Age (1988)
  111. Peacemaking: The Believers’ Calling (1980)
  112. GA Policies on Vietnam
  113. Race, Class, Gender, and Religion
  114. City Churches: Conviction, Conversation, and Call to Action (2016)
  115. The Gospel from Detroit: Renewing the Church’s Urban Vision (2014)
  116. God’s Work in Women’s Hands: Pay Equity and Just Compensation (2008)
  117. From Homelessness to Hope: Constructing Just, Sustainable Communities for All God’s People (2008)
  118. Building Community Among Strangers: A Report on Racism, Social Class Divisions, Sex-based Injustices, and Religious Intolerance and Conflict (1999)
  119. Hearing the Silence Healing the Pain Sexual Abuse in the Church (1993)
  120. Violations Against the Image of God Exploitation of Women 1986
  121. Naming the Unnamed Sexual Harassment in the Church (1982)
  122. Dignity and Exploitation Christian Reflections on Images of Sex in the 1970s (1974)
  123. Religious Freedom Without Discrimination
  124. God Alone is Lord of the Conscience (1988)
  125. Reformed Faith and Politics (1983)
  126. Gun Violence, Gospel Values: Mobilizing in Response to God’s Call (2010)
  127. Resolution on Violence, Religion, and Terrorism (2004)

The omnicompentence of the mainline Presbyterians is breathtaking. Indeed, I knew that the PCUSA had taken a number of social policy positions over the years but until today I had no idea how comprehensive their prescriptions have been. As one works through the list one wonders why Congress bothers to meet or why the FDA exists or why the Department of Defense bothers to go to work each day? All they need do is to go to the PCUSA website to discover God’s revealed will on a bewildering array of questions. Their social relevance has come at a steep cost, however. Since the late 1970s, membership in the PCUSA has dropped precipitously. For most of the last 40 years the PCUSA has lost, on average, about 70,000 members a year. Four decades ago, the they reported something like 4 million members. In 2020 she reported 1.2 million members.

Where is the PCUSA on the truthfulness of Scripture, the uniqueness of Christ, the substitutionary atonement, and the necessity of a personal faith in Christ? In the PCUSA, these things are matters indifferent. The few ministers who still believe the Westminster Standards affirm them, literally, with a whisper (it happened once a conference—a PCUSA minister whispered to me that he still believed the confession and he whispered so as not to be overheard by others lest he find himself facing charges in the courts of the church). The PCUSA is the apotheosis of the mainline.

Friendly Advice

There are three kinds of denominations in the USA: The mainline, the borderline, and the sideline. The mainline denominations are the so-called “seven sisters of the mainline.” The adjective mainline is an allusion to Philadelphia’s old-money “mainline,” where the prominent denominations had their “tall-steeple” churches. The seven sisters are:

  1. The Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA)
  2. The Episcopal Church USA  (ECUSA)
  3. The United Methodist Church (UMC)
  4. The Disciples of Christ (DoC)
  5. The American Baptist Church (ABC)
  6. The United Churches of Christ (UCC)
  7. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)

The mainline denominations are stoutly theologically liberal but liberal in this case does not always mean tolerant since eventually the mainlines grow tired of the conservatives and usually discipline and expel them. The RCA’s approach to the ARC seems unusual.

The borderline denominations are those in between the mainline and sideline, e.g., the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the Christian Reformed Church and now, it seems, the ARC. We might place the Evangelical Covenant Order, composed of ex-PCUSA congregations, here too. In 2008, when I published Recovering the Reformed Confession (2008), it seemed as if the Evangelical Presbyterian Church was perhaps heading toward the sideline. Today, that trajectory is rather less clear. The Christian Reformed Church seems to be headed toward the RCA and the RCA now seems to be heading toward the mainline. The borderline denominations are neither resolutely theologically and/or socially liberal nor theologically conservative and they retain features of the mainline. E.g., the EPC permits Pentecostal piety and the ordination of females. The ARC permits the ordination of females as does the ECO and the CRC.

For the purposes of discussion, we will consider only the Presbyterian and Reformed sideline churches and they are mostly composed of those denominations and federations that make up the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC). The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) is largest of the NAPARC denominations followed by the Korean PCA, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and the URCs. The sideline denominations are marked by strong affirmations of the Reformed confessions as more than mere “historical documents” or “historic witnesses” to the Reformed faith. In NAPARC the confessions are supposed to be the the living voice of the church’s interpretation, application, and affirmation of God’s inspired, infallible Word. The NAPARC churches tend to be socially conservative though not universally. There is a socially progressive movement within the PCA and the Orthodox Presbyterians were founded with the understanding that members have liberty to hold social views at variance with their bothers and sisters. Some of the founders of the OPC were members of the fledgling American Civil Liberties Union and opposed the temperance movement and prayer and bible reading in public schools.

The new ARC is not the first “Alliance of Reformed Churches” in recent decades. The congregations that formed the United Reformed Churches in North America (URCNA) first formed an ARC in the early 1990s as they worked through the question of whether to leave the Christian Reformed Church in North America. As the representative of the RCUS (a denomination just a few years younger than the RCA) to an ARC meeting in the early 90s, in Chicago, I gave them some friendly advice: read J. Gresham Machen. He diagnosed the nature of theological liberalism in 1923, in Christianity and Liberalism. Every member, minister, and elder of the ARC should get a copy and read it immediately. Most ARC readers, as they read it against the background of their exodus from the RCA, will likely say to themselves, “This book could have been written yesterday.” How do I know this? I know it because that was my response when I read it in 1980, when I was leaving broad evangelicalism. It is the response of almost every person with whom I have ever discussed the book. Machen diagnosed the nature of theological liberalism as brilliantly as anyone and he explained it and the alternative to theological liberalism clearly and concisely.

As mentioned above, the typical pattern (as happened to Machen himself) is for the theologically liberal mainline denominations is to punish the conservative remnant. The PCUSA put Machen on trial for refusing to abandon the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. Already in the early 20th century, the PCUSA was sending out foreign missionaries like Pearl S. Buck, who denied the essentials of the biblical and historic Christian faith. When the PCUSA would not do anything about (e.g., discipline the agency or Buck), Machen and others formed a competing board and that brought down the wrath of the Presbyterian powers that be.

My second piece of advice is to recognize how deeply you have been influenced by the RCA. Some of my brothers in the URCs think in binary terms: conservatives and liberals. This pattern is inadequate. There is always a transitional phased: broad evangelicalism. The CRC had entered that phase by 1968. At the time Machen and company were battling theological liberals in the 1920s and 30s they had two sets of opponents, the liberals and the evangelicals and arguably it was the evangelicals who did in Machen. The evangelicals profess the historic Christian faith but when push comes to shove, when called upon to choose between being ” culturally influential” and their profession of faith, they chose cultural influence. The PCA is facing this very challenge right now. On this please read or listen to Bob Godfrey on the myth of influence. See the resources below for more on this.

Until now, the RCA has not been entirely theologically liberal but it has been broadly evangelical with a strong liberal influence. One indicator of the influence of broad evangelicalism upon the RCA and the exiting ARC congregations is the status given to the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dort. When was the last time your consistory meditated on the Heidelberg, the Belgic, or the Canons? If you gave a quiz to an ARC consistory how many of the ministers and elders could demonstrate a solid grasp of the Confession, the Catechism, and the Canons? It is not unknown for RCA congregations to have functionally Baptist or Pentecostal leadership. Such is utterly incompatible with the Confession, the Catechism, and the Canons and it is another indicator of the influence of broad, pragmatic, American evangelicalism.

In view of the influence of broad evangelicalism, my third piece of advice is to read D. G. Hart, The Lost Soul of American Protestantism. For those who want to be Reformed, especially for those emerging from the mainline or the borderline, this book is an indispensable as Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism. In it Hart describes how the evangelicals, more than the liberals, led to the downfall of the mainline.

Fourth, if the ARC is to survive and to be a confessional Reformed denomination, it must take up the Catechism, Confession, and Canons again. To the degree they remain mere “historic witnesses” to the Reformed faith, i.e., museum pieces, the ARC is doomed to repeat the history of the mainline. If the ARC chooses not to take them seriously and to heart, she shall have turned the clock back 25 years but she shall not have changed trajectory and in 25 years or fewer, she will find herself facing another schism, more heartache, and starting from scratch again.

©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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4 comments

  1. Interesting that the vast number of the PCUSA’s issue statements were composed during the last 40 years, the majority of them in the 21st Century. They’re certainly doing their best to keep up with the times – and not necessarily in a good way.

    Also, I’ve been watching the NALC, a spin-off Lutheran synod that split from the ELCA primarily over SSM and gay ordination. While those issues may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, reading through some of their new synod’s declarations one may find that little has been changed or addressed concerning other problem areas – they simply took them with them as they left or maybe are just ignoring them. And so it goes with these splits. BTW, I hear that a local EPC congregation that split from an OPC church several decades ago, primarily over women’s ordination, has either recently closed its doors or is about to do so.

  2. I do not understand why ‘reformed’ churches want to adopt the Belhar confession. Social relevance? Being from South Africa, it is my observation that churches which adopt the Belhar tend to drift theologically liberal.

  3. “Where is the PCUSA on the truthfulness of Scripture, the uniqueness of Christ, the substitutionary atonement, and the necessity of a personal faith in Christ?”

    Firstly, my apologies for the length, but this has a lot to do with one comment in particular as I provide some responses from PC(USA) leadership.

    Secondly, between October 2020 and February/March 2021 I pressed a formal complaint with the Presbyterian Mission Agency, the main administrative entity, and the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee against Mr. Lee Catoe, a so-called Reverend, and Managing Editor of Unbound Social Justice. Two weeks before his ordination in August 2020, Mr. Catoe espoused the herectical teaching regarding Jesus’s sins against the Canaanite woman, recently made popular by that false Bishop Oliveti from the UMC, but which Marcus Borg alludes to nearly 30 years ago in one of his books. The substance of my complaint is best summarized as follows:

    “The challenge before the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee and those charged with oversight of Mr. Catoe in his role with Unbound is simple, what does Mr. Catoe believe about a central, essential tenet of the Christian faith, i.e. the sinless nature of Jesus in every respect, upon which a number of the other tenets hinge?…

    I realize that there are those who will object to such a stance (I recommended various disciplinary actions) and say what about the denomination’s dissent provisions.  Dissent should only be permitted in areas which are not essential to an historic, orthodox confession of the Christian faith, i.e. disputable doctrines.  The sinless nature of Jesus is not an area of disputable doctrines as the church universal has long ratified this position since the days of the Apostles. “.

    I think this response by Ms. Dianne Moffett, Executive Director – PMA, and Mr. J. Herbert Nelson II, Stated Clerk, says everything:

    “We received your e-mail regarding the August article by Lee Catoe for Unbound, “The Canaanite Woman and the Accountability of Jesus.” Our apologies for the delay in responding.

    We are a Church that is reformed and always reforming. We believe that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has room for diversity of thought, so long as it is consistent with the basic tenets of our faith. The online publication, Unbound, exists to challenge us – often in a provocative way – to move forward in our thinking. While we may not agree on the exegetical work for the article, we recognize your right to press us on this subject.”

    Or consider this response from Mr. Catoe’s supervisor, Ms. Laurie Kraus, Assoc. Director, Compassion, Peace and Justice:

    “I want you to know that Lee and I have had numerous substantive conversations about his faith in Jesus, his fidelity to the Confessions of the Church, and his understanding of the biblical witness.  Lee is a man of deep personal faith in Jesus, and embraces the full humanity and the full divinity of Jesus the Christ. I am completely satisfied as to his faith and practice, and that his theology falls well within the parameters of Presbyterian (USA) theology and practice. 

     His article in Justice Unbound was published prior to his ordination defense at the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee.   He presented his Statement of Faith and underwent a full questioning by his presbytery, as is customary and proper in our tradition, and was approved for ordination to the Ministry of the Word and Sacrament.   His presbytery has both the right and obligation to determine whether the Rev. Catoe’s theology falls within the parameters of orthodoxy as they determined his suitability for ordination, and his presbytery affirmed his standing and voted to approve him for ordination.  He was subsequently ordained on August 23, 2020, in a service of worship hosted by the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee that I was privileged to attend (virtually).  He remains in good standing as a Teaching Elder and as an employee of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.”

    Or these responses Ms. Theree Howell, Stated Clerk, from the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee:

    “I have received notice from the investigating committee assigned to review the allegations you submitted against Lee Catoe.  The investigating committee believes that judicial process is unwarranted, and will not file charges.”

    “Pursuant to D-10.0303a., you requested a petition for review of the investigating committee’s decision not to file charges in the matter you initiated with the filing of your complaint.  The Rules of Discipline require the investigating committee to submit a response to your petition, and those documents, along with the original complaint and the list of the Investigating Committee’s responsibilities are submitted to two designated members of the Presbytery’s Permanent Judicial Commission.   

    The two Permanent Judicial Commission members “…shall consider the petition and the response, giving attention to the duties specified in D-10.0202 and to the question of whether the principles of church discipline will be preserved by the decision of the investigating committee not to file charges.”  D-10.0303c. 

    The two Permanent Judicial Commission members have reviewed all the materials and sustain the decision of the investigating committee not to file charges.  With this decision, this matter is concluded.”

    Or, when pressed for a plain WRITTEN English explanation:

    “The PJC members believe the investigating committee carried out their responsibilities and charges were not warranted.”

    Most telling is that at no point do any of these individuals address the substance of the original complaint.

    I would add that the Executive Presbyter and Stated Clerk for Greater Atlanta were provided my complaints regarding these responses and the Executive Presbyter contacted my pastor, and it was framed, perhaps he being diplomatic, as a matter of theological difference, which is putting the matter rather lightly and to which I thought “that’s one way of putting it”.

    As I went through the back and forth with these individuals last year along with carefully following responses to the various social issues during 2020/2021, I have come to one conclusion.  The PC(USA) is no longer a true Christian church at the national level.  The leadership of the denomination, starting with Mr. Nelson, are false preachers and teachers, espousing a false Christ and a false gospel, who have no problem with those who deny even the most basics of the faith that we should be in agreement on, and regarding socio-political issues, will willingly lie and misrepresent facts and truth, if it does not align with what they believe.  (I refer to Mr. Nelson’s recent statement on the Rittenhouse verdict as an example, and statements by he or others regarding BLM, the Atlanta spa shootings, and the Georgia SB 202 election law.) In short, to paraphrase, Mr. Gresham, these people preach an entirely different religion, using the terminology of Christianity.  I would add, “much like the LDS and its branches; the JWs; the more cultic, originalist sects of Seventh Day Adventism; the more cultic, originalist sects of the Worldwide Church of God; and the Boston Church of Christ movement from the 1990s, which claim Christ but promote doctrines that conflict with historic, orthodox Christian theology.”

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