Kirk out

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From the blog of Tom Gray, pastor of Tulsa's Kirk of the Hills:

Yesterday the elders and the trustees of Kirk of the Hills voted to disaffiliate from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) denomination in response to decisions made by the PCUSA at the national level which depart from the authority of the Bible and the denomination’s historical beliefs.

Rev. Tom Gray and Rev. Wayne Hardy have resigned from the PCUSA, and have been hired by the Kirk of the Hills Corporation as co-pastors of the church. Rev. Gray said, “I ask that Christians in Tulsa and around America pray not only for Kirk of the Hills, but also for the Presbyterian denomination as a whole. We will continue to love and pray for our brothers and sisters in that denomination, and trust in our Lord Jesus Christ to use these recent events for His will, and to accomplish His work.”

With this disaffiliation from PCUSA, the Kirk of the Hills will affiliate with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC).

Read back through Gray's archives to learn more about what led up to this decision. Gray warns that the liberals running the denomination have already prepared plans for wresting control of church property from congregations who want to leave for a more conservative Presbyterian denomination.

This is a courageous and difficult step, one that could have been justified 20 years ago, but one that the Kirk deferred for the sake of unity. But at some point, if you're committed to truth, you have to say with Martin Luther, "Here I stand. I can do no other. May God help me."

May God help and bless Kirk of the Hills.


Pa said:

Wow. Glad to see it has finally happened. May more churches make the same choice. Of course, the PCA is a great choice too. :-)

There's an earlier entry that indirectly explains why the PCA wasn't an option for them:

The PCUSA has chosen to fully embrace modernism and liberalism, hence the conflict we find ourselves in today as conservative evangelicals in a liberal denomination. The PCA separated in a reactionary movement to this process and, as a result, is almost the antithesis of the PCUSA. It refuses to ordain women or allow them to lead in the church. It also embraces the Westminster Confession in a very strict way. The EPC is conservative and evangelical, but much less restrictive than the PCA. Of all the denominations listed above, these three are the only ones of any numerical significance.
Dan Paden said:

Now, see, if I were to go all Presbyterian on you, I would now be encouraged to join the PCA...

Getting their property may be rather difficult. I was converted in the summer of '73 in Paris, TX, at a Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) congregation (the PCUS and United Presbyterian Church, USA, united in 1983 to become the Presbyterian Church (USA), aka PCUSA). The PCUS practice was for the local congregations to hold title to their own property. So, when the congregation voted to withdraw from the PCUS and join what eventually became the PCA, everyone in our congregation thought everything was OK. We were wrong.

After several years of court wrangling, we gave-up fighting to retain the property. The reason the courts tended to go against us: we were members of what was called a "union presbytery," where the congregations in most of north Texas and Oklahoma were dual-affiliated with both the PCUS and the UPCUSA presbyteries in their region. They were counted members of both denominations. This practice was a precursor to merging of the two denominations.

The UPCUSA practice regarding property ownership was that title was held by the presbytery, not the congregation. determining which set of property rules should obtain in the issue, they ruled in favor of the stricter rules.

The old-timers told me that they had been assured that if the congregations wished to withdraw, they could do so with their properties. But nothing was put in writing to that effect.

My congregation here in Lawton, OK, faced similar issues in 1980, and were able to withdraw with our property after paying $5000 to the presbytery. Some of our folks were very torqued for having to pay this "go-away" money. It was clearly seen by conservatives in the denomination as trying to make an example of us to try to keep others in line.

When the PCUS & UPCUSA merged, there was a window where PCUS congregations (assuming they weren't in the union presbyteries) could withdraw with their properties intact. That window is long past.

I don't know the provenance of the Kirk there in Tulsa, but any way you slice it, the precedents are against their retaining their property.

Thanks, John, for the historical perspective. It's my understanding that this part of Indian Territory was evangelized by the Northern Presbyterians, so that most if not all the congregations were UPCUSA before merger. (1st Pres is Tulsa's oldest church.)

Of course the northern church started down the liberal path in the '20s, but it was 1967 when the founders of Christ Presbyterian had had enough (pro-communist advocacy in Sunday School materials, I'm told). They left 1st Pres and founded a new congregation affiliated with the RPCES, which merged with the PCA in '82.

I seem to recall that the window on withdrawal closed in 1989, six years after the northern/southern merger.

S. Lee said:

I suspect the amount of debt on the existing property might have some influence on how eager PCUSA is to keep. "Oh, you want a million bucks of debt? Sure! Here you go. Enjoy!"

An easy response to Todd Hester's speciousness (on Tom Gray's blog site) would be: Well, in that case, may we assume that are against denominations entirely, and that you are actively working to have PCUSA merge with the Catholic church? Are you arguing that it's OK for individual church congregations to be like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates?

I don't know how much Paul's chat about eating meat offered to idols comes into play here (i.e. there are times when appearances and how people interpret them count), but I'm guessing at least somewhat.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on August 17, 2006 5:43 PM.

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