Kirk dissed from First's pulpit

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Jim Miller, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Tulsa, took a sermonal swipe last Sunday at Kirk of the Hills, the Presbyterian congregation which decided last year to disaffiliate from the mainline PCUSA and become a congregation of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Here's what Miller said:

“They left the presbytery because they believed that the Presbyterian Church is the Titanic. And if you’re on the Titanic, the best thing that you can do is get off the Titanic….”

“I believe that if you use the analogy of a ship [and] there is a fire in the engine room, in the boiler, and if you have a crisis in the engine room you don’t need to have people getting off the ship, you need to have people getting in the boiler room and beginning to put things right.”

Tom Gray, pastor of Kirk of the Hills, says he and his church's leadership have spent 15 years trying to put things right:

I, Wayne, and a significant number of our elders attended many General Assemblies and were participants and officers in various renewal groups. We’ve met with denominational officials over the years, written letters and articles, caucused with sessions and pastors of like mind, and generally have invested a tremendous amount of time and treasure in trying to turn the ship back on course.

I’ve spent at least two weeks of every year since 1991 devoted to addressing the PCUSA’s wayward course. I’ve made hundreds of phone calls in that service. I hesitate to compute the tens of thousands of miles I’ve traveled throughout the U.S. working with others in an effort to redirect the denomination. I’ve taken stands that have made me unpopular at home, and I’ve had to hear the general presbyter complain about people like me who are “at the extreme” for wanting the denomination to remain true to its traditional beliefs.

Gray says the problem isn't in the engine room; it's on the bridge.

The ship of PCUSA is heading in the wrong direction even though it has a clear map of where it is supposed to go, found in Scripture and in the denomination’s confessions. Sometime between 1950 and today, in the denominations from whence the PCUSA was formed, there was a very slow and subtle mutiny. Those opposed to the direction of Scripture gained control of the rudder....

If I had paid fare to travel, say, from New York to London, and found that the ship had, without permission or announcement, changed its course for Antarctica, I’d have good reason to get onto another ship—one going in the right direction. This is what the Kirk did when we disaffiliated. The fact that other churches (passengers) are willing to hope that the ship goes back to its rightful course is their business. We found that the officers on the bridge were deaf to our concerns, so we came to the conclusion that the rudder is now lashed in the wrong direction.

The case could be made that the PCUSA started heading south in 1967, when they eliminated adherence to the Westminster Standards as a requirement for ordination and adopted a new watered-down confession.

First Pres has a beautiful and historic facility. It would be hard to leave an apostate denomination knowing that it might cost them their building, but that's the same challenge the Kirk is facing, fighting in court to keep control of the property that their members built.

I'm thankful that forty years ago the founders of our congregation placed faithfulness to God's unchanging Word above the perishable glory of buildings and were willing to forgo stained glass and pipe organs for Sunday worship in a school cafeteria.

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3 Comments

Roy said:

No matter how I attempt this interaction, I suspect that dissenters will, er, dissent. One more caveat: how does one allow for the finiteness of people not to mention their limitations because of sin's clouding and still expect them to choose a godly path? I only know that one must both allow and expect. With that in mind, some comments.

"The case could be made that the PCUSA started heading south in 1967"

More accurate: '67 merely indicated a milestone on a path chosen if not by the mid 1800's certainly by the nineteen teens. A lot of other milestones had already gotten erected (and ignored) long before '67. The OPC, RPCES, and BPC began in the mid 1930's, four *generations* ago. While the PCA founders, facing a less immediately no brainer that this is apostacy situation, learned from the 30's actions of their brethren and took a route more openly pleading for reformation than thos brothers had taken, the PCA still began in the mid 1970s, two generations ago.

For some very sobering works: 'Crossed Fingers' by Gary North, 'Presbyterian Conflict' by (forgot the first name) Rian and, for a view from the 'other side' which only confirms the first two, "Before I forget" by Wilbur Smith. God fearing presbyterians ought know much more about the U.S. history of the split p's (something to ask the church leaders governing the choice of Sunday School material). As is nearly always the case, those unaware of (or ignoring) history usually repeat it. Also as is nearly always the case when studying history, the study of church history especially develops (and requires) humility.

May God grant wisdom to Kirk folks and their leaders. May he grant humility to those of us on the sidelines cheering for them, and humility to them as they have "aha experiences" when, by grace, the light bulbs come on.

jan thomas said:

I am not a member at either church, however I really admire the leadership at the Kirk. And they will have a church, no matter what happens with their building. I am appalled at the statements made by those at First Presbyterian. I often wonder if the same thing isn't going on at all of the Episcopal Churches in town.
As always, Michael, great and thoughtful reading.

sbtulsa said:

the presbetyrian church is not the only denomination that is waywrd. as a southern baptist, i rejoiced when the convention turned conservative and have been dismayed in recent years as the conservatives have been outnumbered.

i am reminded that it is not the denomination we worship. it is the denomination we look to for teaching and support. it is the teaching that is being diluted, if denominational doctrine equals teaching. are mainstream churches loadicea, lukewarm to the true scripture in order to be "mainstream" in an apostate world? more and more, the indivudual believer must guard his or her heart with detailed personal knowledge of scripture. this edifies the beleiver and makes the mainstream denominations that depart from literal scripture more isolated as well as popular.

in today's world, the believer must be armed with the "word".

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on February 22, 2007 9:43 PM.

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