For the record
December 1, 1997
As a service to the Presbyterian Church (USA), The Presbyterian Layman is pleased to publish in each issue an unedited guest column by the moderator of the General Assembly, the stated clerk of the General Assembly, and the chairman of the General Assembly Council. The moderator has taken that opportunity to attack the Presbyterian Lay Committee with unspecified and unfounded accusations. Nevertheless, we have honored our commitment by printing her words (p. 7) precisely as she has written them.
We are mystified by the moderator’s allegations. What specifically has The Presbyterian Layman reported that “teeter[s] on the brink of blatant lies?” Where is her evidence that “one of the significant reasons for the birth of the Lay Committee and its publication, the Layman, was the desire to curb denominational efforts to expose evidence of global irresponsibility on the part of multi-national corporations”? On what factual basis could she possibly allege that our “desired outcomes” include “the destruction/demise of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)”
Were Brown a Presbyterian Layman staff writer, our editors would have insisted that she replace broad and vague accusations with specific charges. She would also have been asked to produce written documentation for each charge.
These editorial policies have served our publication well. More than one General Assembly has commissioned groups to test them. In the most recent instance, the 1995 Special Committee on Reconciliation examined issues of our newspaper covering a full year of publication. The group was unable to cite a single instance in which The Layman failed to tell the truth. For each article that was questioned, we produced the required verification.
We are baffled by Moderator Brown’s allegation regarding the Lay Committee’s raison d’etre. There was no need for her to speculate. Our statement of purpose and five objectives appear on the cover and editorial page of each Presbyterian Layman.
For the record, it was the issue of Scriptural authority that brought the Lay Committee into being. Our founders’ request that they be allowed to debate that issue in the denomination’s official publications was rejected. Even their request that they be permitted to purchase space in official publications for this purpose was denied. That exclusion inspired the birth of The Presbyterian Layman, now delivered to more than 570,000 Presbyterian homes.
Finally, we hope that publishers of all independent publications that report on the work of the Presbyterian Church (USA) – whatever their editorial propensity – will take careful note of the moderator’s confessed “inability to trust the press outside the official auspices of the PCUSA.” We think it remarkable that she laments her “inability to hold such press accountable,” and we think it ominous that she says she finds “a position of openness more and more difficult to defend.”