‘Goodbye, Farewell and Amen …
By Tad McClellan, By Special to The Layman, August 18, 2011
There is a church down the street from my house. The people that go to that church are some of the kindest, most thoughtful and gracious people you will ever meet. They have a wonderful community among themselves, walking through life together and supporting each other. The church has a beautiful choir and insightful preaching each week. They have an active youth group and exciting Sunday school teachers. They have one of the strongest missionary programs you will ever see. It is by all measures the perfect church. I drive past the building several times each week and they have cars in the parking lot almost all the time. Yes, it has all the makings of a church and for who they are and what they believe; they are a wonderful church. But I don’t attend this church because of one simple fact; I don’t agree with their theology. This church has a sign in the front that says “Church of Latter Day Saints.” The Mormons I have known are truly wonderful people but I have real problems with the theology of the church they attend. If I were to attend their church I would implicitly be sanctioning that theology.
Our church, Canyon Creek Presbyterian has a lot in common with this church. The people here are full of grace toward others. They have touched my family for the last 5 years with their friendship and thoughtfulness; in particular the last several months as we leaned heavily on your support and prayers. You have a beautiful service with a great music program and thoughtful preaching. You have an amazing youth group and a wonderful Sunday school program. It is full of many people who have become some of our closest friends. For my boys, going to the front of the church for the children’s sermon, especially when Mr. Gifford was doing it, has been the highlight of their week. I have many happy memories of the interactions of my boys and many of you and I looked forward to watching them grow up here at CCPC. For 5 years CCPC has been the perfect church for my family and a joy to attend and invest our lives in. But much like that Mormon Church down the street, CCPC belongs to a larger organization with which I have serious disagreements as to its theology.
Being ordained as an elder for me was more than being called to serve my church … it was the fulfillment of a 400 year old tradition in my family. The men in my family have always been elders and with few exceptions, elders of Presbyterian churches. I carried my ancestor’s legacy with me when I was ordained and likewise when I voted against 10A. I believe that by accepting sinful behavior, 10A cheapens the grace provided to us by the death and resurrection of our Savior. To me, 10A espouses a theology that says Christ didn’t need to die for our sins in order to offer forgiveness since we no longer ask people to repent and change their lives. Instead we water down the Bible to suit our own beliefs instead of letting God make us into what He wants us to be. 10A tore down the need for the central theme in all of Christianity; the forgiveness and repentance of sin. Further, the new form of government by giving default powers to presbytery, waters down the power of session. It removes the very essence of what it means to be a Presbyterian, that the church is governed by the laity and not the priesthood. The PCUSA is more Episcopalian now than Presbyterian.
These changes have brought about several difficult months for all of us. I confided in a few friends back in March when I gave my commissioners report that this was the battle field I was willing to die on. Indeed I have been deeply wounded, but it is a wound that will heal someday and when it does I will carry the inevitable scar with some pride as I believe I took a stand for what I know was right and I did what God asked me to do; despite knowing with some certainty of the eventual outcome. Sometimes you win even if you don’t get a majority of the votes. I knew as I left the April session meeting, and I think deep down I knew even as I left the presbytery meeting in March, I could no long be a Presbyterian if it meant subscribing to a watered down theology of cheap grace. I could no more go to a PCUSA church than I would to that Mormon church down the street from my house; or any other body which upholds a false theology, despite how wonderful the people who make up the church may be.
It’s not so much that I am leaving the PCUSA, but that it has left me, and the generations that came before me, for the wide road of universalism and politically correct truthless-grace. As such, I have no choice but to renounce the jurisdiction of the PCUSA as per G-6.0701. It should be noted that this is a unilateral act on my part and does not require a vote by session. It is more than a resignation. It means that I no longer recognize the PCUSA as a Christian denomination and therefore I do not recognize my ordination as having any meaning. It does not mean that I hold you, my fellow servants, in contempt or think anything else of you than what you are: A truly wonderful and gracious people who has blessed my family, and whom we will deeply miss.
May the Lord Bless you and keep you
May The Lord make his face shine upon you
And be gracious unto you
May The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.