Misrepresentations about the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

The Office of the General Assembly has had an increase in the number of inquiries about printed materials from outside of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), being distributed within congregations, that ascribe to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) beliefs and standards which are meant to show that the church is no longer worthy of support. Over the past years the list of these misrepresentations have varied little and most have been answered in detail in the religious press, study papers adopted by the church or by specific action of the General Assembly. Whenever possible, the Office of the General Assembly directs those who inquire about specific conclusions drawn by these papers to resources which give a broader understanding of the issues.

Typically the materials being circulated focus on four broad areas of concern, each of which speaks to the core of who we are as a denomination and a covenant community. In response to these recent inquiries, we remind the church about who the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is both historically and in our current ministry.

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  1. How do these musings hold water when the Southern New England PJC finds Teaching Elder John Merz not guilty. Which is it..... the Bible is the authority or the Constitution is is the authority because in this case neither were deemed to hold any authority by those who ruled!

    by Sam Knight

    December 5, 2013

  2. Thank you. Regarding point 3 (declining membership) I find that it is very hard to find a congregation that is fully inclusive and simultaneously serious about growth, especially inviting the 'included' to a life of faith. The PCUSA needs an "Evangelical More Light" community. "Each one bring one" should not be the monopoly of the most conservative congregations in the denomination. Church growth takes persistent local leadership; it should be encouraged.

    by John Baum, PhD

    August 12, 2013

  3. It may be simply a misstatement yet the Book of Order is listed before the Book of Confessions which is now clearly seen in practice around the denomination giving the Book of Order more authority than Confessions and even scripture. There may be a desire for such understanding but it is not being translated to the presbytery level nor the congregation. The blatant disregard for the confessional standard is observed by the attempts to edit. We also are guilty of editing the difficult pieces out of scripture. All we need do is read statements of faith from pastors entering presbyteries and hear them unable to confess Christ as Lord during their examinations to know that this refutation is misleading itself.

    by Sam Knight

    June 11, 2013

  4. I stand by what Mark Patterson says as well. I will add it is time for our denomination to stop trying play both sides of the theological fence. While it wants to be able to point to the Book of Confessions when being put to the test on its orthodoxy, it also loves to point to the Book of Order when its being put to the test on its progressiveness.

    by Daniel Birchfield

    June 5, 2013

  5. In spite of Mr. Gillette's condescending jab I stand by what I said. The FACT remains, easily substantiated through the many and varied writings that spill from the church, that we are denomination that favours theological breadth and diversity over unity and specificity. My aim here was only to say that having a statement "on the books" does not mean it is actually believed or being lived. Research done by the denomination's research services has revealed that the majority of Presbyterians do not believe Jesus is the only way to salvation. While we may boldly declare the opposite the FACT remains that our official statements and declarations are inconsistent with the actual living tenets of the church.

    by Mark R. Patterson, PhD

    June 5, 2013

  6. Thank you for this helpful resource. I hope our Presbyteries and churches share it widely. Our denomination has its faults, but the lies being spread about the PUCSA are a violation of the commandment not to bear false witness. Dr. Patterson and others should open their eyes to see that the PCUSA lives out our beliefs in our Lord Jesus Christ in countless ways in countless places daily.

    by Bruce Gillette

    June 5, 2013

  7. I think the Office of the General Assembly has missed the point. I suspect that Enron, Arthur Anderson, and Bernie Madoff each proclaimed high values and moral standards. But at the end of the day, it does not matter what may be written in one's bylaws, constitution, or letterhead if these are merely pious or virtuous declarations that are neither believed or lived. Across the PC (USA) statements of faith such as the Lordship and singularity of Christ have been so broadly defined, creatively reinterpreted, and so frequently challenged that they essentially mean nothing. That they remain "in the books" does not change this simple yet vital fact.

    by Mark R. Patterson, PhD

    June 3, 2013

  8. Thank you for this, it has been needed for a long time. At the same time I am appalled by the footnote #1. Though I did not attend Re-Imagining, I understand it was not in any form a denial of basic tenants or faith of our father and mothers, but an exploration for new language, images and perceptions of who we are and who God is. Hard to believe that we once again send the goat out into the wilderness.

    by David Moon-Wainwright

    June 2, 2013