The following article was originally posted as “Culture-accommodating PCUSA fails to fulfill ‘great ends of Church'” in 2000. Much has changed in the intervening 16 years as the Presbyterian Church (USA) has continued to pursue an abhorrent agenda and suffers the consequences.
Over those 16 years, a million members have left, many with their congregations that have realigned with other Presbyterian denominations. In 2010, ordination standards were revised to allow for church leaders who do not confine their sexual practice to fidelity in marriage between one man and one woman nor chastity in singleness. In 2014, marriage standards were revised to allow for the blessing of same-sex relationships.
As the PCUSA approaches another General Assembly, the Stated Clerk projects the loss of another 400,000 members by 2020, the Presbyterian Mission Agency plans another round of staff cuts and budget reductions, and contrary to the express desires of the people, the candidate being advanced to serve as the next Stated Clerk is a political activist with expertise in community organizing but no proven effectiveness in congregational revitalization essential to the denomination’s recovery.
As you read this post from 16 years ago, consider what has changed, and what has not. It is time to discern the times.
Culture-accommodating PCUSA fails to fulfill ‘great ends of Church’
By Parker T. Williamson, The Layman Online, October 31, 2000
INDIANAPOLIS – In a searing rebuke of a church that has caved in to culture, Rev. Jerry Andrews, moderator of the Presbyterian Coalition, delivered a keynote address to almost 500 Presbyterians gathered at Southport Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis.
“How do we assess the state of the church?” he asked. Holding aloft a copy of the Book of Order, one of the denomination’s two constitutional documents, he highlighted its six great ends of the church. “These are our stated purposes by which we judge ourselves,” he said. Then Andrews enumerated the six great ends:
1. The proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind. “How are we doing on this first great end of the church?” asked Andrews. “Last year our church of more than 2.6 million members baptized almost 11,000 adults. Let’s do the math, friends. That means that it took 200 of us, proclaiming the gospel all year, to bring in one convert. Do I need to remind you that there is a heaven to gain and a hell to shun? We need to proclaim the gospel for the salvation of humankind.”
2. The shelter, nurture and spiritual fellowship of the children of God. Again Andrews cited statistics: “In 1965 we had two million children in Sunday school. In 1995 the number was one million. We have lost the opportunity to nurture one million children in our congregations.”
3. The maintenance of divine worship. “In the average Presbyterian congregation between one third and one half of its membership is absent from worship. It is impossible to disciple those who are not there.”
4. The preservation of the truth. This great end, said Andrews, reveals one of the church’s most serious flaws. “We have bent the truth of the gospel to make it more palatable to the cultured despisers of religion. But those to whom we offer this toned-down truth are not all that cultured, and, my friends, we have become the despisers of religion … We have replaced truth with charm.”
Andrews told the group that as moderator of the Presbyterian Coalition he had been invited to participate in some of the denominationally-sponsored “Unity in our Diversity” conferences. But the message he recalls receiving from planners of those events is “not to persuade anyone about anything, but just demonstrate that we can all take pleasure in one another’s company.” If that’s all they want in those conferences, said Andrews “I would just as soon have the presbytery give us some money and let us go to Disneyland together.”
5. The promotion of social righteousness. “We have turned Christian granite into social service gravel,” said Andrews. “Think of a social pronouncement of our denomination that is not in accord with the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. This is simply buying into a political agenda.”
“We need to give up the false hope that someone out there has an agenda for the world that is superior to the agenda that the Savior has given to the church.” Andrews said that many of the denomination’s public pronouncements abandon Scripture, offering human solutions while pretending that they are something else. He urged the church to center its pursuit of social righteousness on Jesus Christ. “No one has a greater compassion for the world than he who gave his life for it,” he said.
6. The exhibition of the kingdom of heaven to the world. Andrews said that in its passion to celebrate diversity, the Presbyterian church has displaced Christ’s kingdom with a distortion. We assume, he said, that if we can get representatives of diverse groups to sit at the same table, this table will exhibit the kingdom of heaven. “But that is not the table that the Savior is so passionate about. His is the table of communion.” Andrews challenged those who deify diversity to remember that the kingdom of heaven is not human multiplicity, but Christ.
“The church was designed to live its life before an audience of one,” said Andrews. “Our life is in Christ …If we would live our life before an audience of one, we would hear one voice speaking to us all in the same manner, and the divisions that we find so painful and deep would be bridged by the Savior.”
“Our church has an enemy,” said Andrews. “We have found it hard to achieve the six great ends of the church because this enemy has battled against us for a long time. I harp on the preservation of the truth because I think the enemy we face is the father of lies.” Andrews warned his audience not to consider Presbyterian colleagues who have been unfaithful as enemies. “They are not the enemy,” he said. “They are trophies of the enemy. It has not been our goal to reclaim them, and that must be our goal.”
Andrews ended his keynote address with strong words of assurance. The Lord who judges his church is the same Lord who redeems his church. Reminding his audience that “all power in heaven and earth” is given to Jesus Christ, he declared that Presbyterians have all the resources we need to reclaim this church for the gospel.
Andrews concluded with a quote from John Calvin: “Though the church differed nothing for a time from a dead man … no despair ought be entertained, for the Lord lifts up his people as he raises the dead from the grave …”
Andrews’ speech was followed by three respondents, Mrs. Peggy Hedden, from Columbus, Ohio, Rev. Carmen Fowler, from Raburn Gap, Georgia, and Mr. David Chung, from Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Hedden said that she once thought statistics offered a very secular way of assessing the state of the church. But when she re-read the Book of Acts, she noted that the early church was measured by its numerical increase every day. “Nationally, we have decreased by 37 percent in 30 years while the United States population has increased 25 percent,” said Hedden. “There are lots of reasons given, but I think Jerry [Andrews] is right: the preservation of the truth has been missing. If we have no truth, then there is no gospel to proclaim.” Hedden called on Presbyterians to become people of prayer, and she pointed to passages of Scripture wherein people prayed during times of trouble and were saved by a merciful and gracious God.
Fowler focused on passages from the Book of James. This Scripture identifies two symptoms of a sick church, she said, one is internal discord and the other is accommodating to the ways of the world. Fowler urged church leaders not to back away from naming “sin for what it is.” We must face this time of judgment if we are going to be healed, she said.
Chung, an elder in the Korean Presbyterian Church of Minneapolis, offered a word of hope to the audience. “I want to share good news about my church,” he said. Chung said that his church is growing very rapidly and that “adopted Koreans” vastly outnumber immigrants. “We have a very spiritual leadership,” he said. “We teach that the authority of God’s word is most important.”
“God sent me here to encourage you,” said Chung to this gathering of Presbyterians who are fighting to affirm the sanctity of marriage and standards of sexual fidelity among ordained leaders. “God will reward you for your faithfulness.”