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The Confessing Church Movement in the PCUSA

Author
Category Articles
Date December 17, 2001

THE CONFESSING CHURCH MOVEMENT IN THE PCUSA

The number of sessions and the membership they represent joining the Confessing Church Movement within the Presbyterian Church (USA) has grown 400 percent since the eve of the 213th General Assembly in Louisville.

The Presbyterian Church in the USA is the large denomination which excommunicated Dr. J. Gresham Machen in the 1930s, and from which the late Dr John Gerstner seceded over a decade ago. It seemed to be imploding into spiritual decline as the agenda of humanistic forces took over the denomination. But crucial events have taken place in the past couple of years which have brought about a movement for reform. There was the move to eliminate the fidelity and chastity statements from the Book of Order, and allow sessions to ordain as elders self-affirming practising homosexuals and heterosexuals who engage in non-marital sex, and allow presbyteries to ordain as ministers self-affirming, practising homosexuals and heterosexuals who engage in non-marital sex, and also there was the General Assembly’s majority refusing to acknowledge that Jesus Christ alone is the way and the truth and the life. So, a movement has arisen within the denomination saying “Enough is enough.”

Craig M. Kibler writes in The Layman, the voice of the Presbyterian lay Committee describing the situation today:

The number of sessions and the membership they represent joining the Confessing Church Movement within the Presbyterian Church (USA) has grown 400 percent since the eve of the 213th General Assembly in Louisville.

At press time, the sessions of 1,086 congregations in 46 states and Puerto Rico – representing a membership in excess of 360,000 had approved resolutions endorsing the movement. Just before the General Assembly, the number of sessions was 268 and the number of members was 90,000.

More significantly, those Confessing Churches exceed other congregations within the PCUSA in three key areas of church health: worship attendance, per capita giving and attrition. Those average figures show: Worship attendance; Confessing Churches, 60.2 percent; other PCUSA Congregations, 49.9 percent. Per capita giving: Confessing Churches, $983.92; other PCUSA congregations, $683.99. Attrition rate; Confessing Churches, 4.9 percent; other PCUSA congregations, 12.6 percent.

Actions taken by the General Assembly – including an inability to unambiguously proclaim Jesus Christ alone as the way, the truth and the life and a proposal being voted on in the presbyteries to eliminate the constitutional “fidelity/chastity” standard that could lead to the ordination of self affirming, practising adulterers and homosexuals – have contributed to the growth of the movement.

The movement, which began in Pennsylvania on March 4, has spread rapidly across the country without the aid of organization; leadership or a budget. The average size of the Confessing Church is 332 members.

Sessions have adopted a variety of resolutions, but all cite three core beliefs: that Jesus alone is the world’s Lord and Savior, that Scripture is the infallible rule of life and faith, and that God’s standards for holy life have not been pre-empted by cultural changes.

The Rev. Dan Reuter, pastor of Prospect Presbyterian Church in Prospect, Pa., said his congregation was in the movement because it appeared that “there is no connection between The Book of Confessions and the actions and decisions of many of the leaders of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

The Rev. Paul Roberts, pastor of Summit Presbyterian Church in Butler, Pa., which became the first Confessing Church on March 2, said his congregation is not having an identity crisis. We have no problem in saying that Christ is the only way. We don’t find our identity in culture. We find our identity in the Bible. We don’t go to the Bible to correct it, to change it. We believe the Bible is a part of our identity.”

Renewal organizations also have endorsed the movement, including: • The Presbyterian Lay Committee. •Presbyterian-Reformed Ministries International •Presbyterians For Renewal. •The Presbyterian Forum. •Voices of Orthodox Women. •The Outreach Foundation. •The Presbyterian Coalition. •Presbyterians Pro-Life. •Knox Fellowship.

How a congregation can join the movement.

As the Confessing Church Movement within the Presbyterian Church (USA) continues to grow, some people still are unsure as to how to get their congregation recognized as a Confessing Church.

Sessions considering becoming Confessing Churches feel the need to first proclaim the three issues that have been a part of the Confessing Church Movement.

Many sessions that approve a resolution then send a copy to their presbytery, to their synod, to the General Assembly Council. A congregation will not be included on the Web site about the Confessing Church Movement within the Presbyterian Church (USA) unless, and until, there is copy of the resolution on file. Such a resolution can be e-mailed to confessingchurches@hotmail.com, faxed to (828)758-0920 or mailed to The Presbyterian Lay Committee, P.O. Box 2210, 136 Tremont Park Drive, Lenoir, N.C. 28645.

Every one of these Confessing Churches is included in the state-by-state listing on the Web site about the Confessing Church Movement. Each congregation’s contact information – phone numbers, mailing address, e-mail address, etc. is included.

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