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Fellowship of Presbyterians examines options for ‘differentiation’ from PC(USA)    

Jerry L. Van Marter, of Presbyterian News Service, has provided a number of reports on the recent gathering in Minneapolis of nearly 2,000 conservative Presbyterians, as they discussed their future in relation to the PC(USA) – within it, or separate from it, or some kind of blend of staying in, but separate.

His wrap-up report begins:

Whether to stay within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and, if so, under what conditions dominated the first gathering of the Fellowship of Presbyterians (FOP),  which drew more than 1,900 disaffected Presbyterians here Aug. 25-26.

The seven large church pastors who form the FOP’s core leadership readily acknowledged that PC(USA) congregations dissatisfied with decisions and perceived trends in the denomination “are all over the map” about how to respond. Much of the gathering was spent exploring four “tiers” or options that are being developed ? from trying to reform the denomination from within to the creation of “a new Reformed body.”

One leader – the Rev. Jim Singelton, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Colorado Springs, CO, repeatedly referred to the FOP’s next gathering Jan. 12-14 in Orlando, Fla., as a “constitutional convention” that will formally inaugurate both the FOP and the new Reformed body.”

But where the 852 congregations represented here wind up along the four-tier spectrum is anybody’s guess. “Repeat after me,” Singleton told the gathering: “It will be messy.”      The rest of this report >>   

Other reports from Van Marter:

Richard Mouw, President of Fuller Theological Seminary, urges Fellowship supporters to bind themselves together in a “vow of theological orthodoxy.”

A report from earlier in the conference reflects the wide variety of concerns and options that were being considered.


Another perspective is provided by Leslie Scanlon of Presbyterian Outlook

Click here for her summary report of the conference >>

Scanlon also provides more detailed reports from the conference:

bulletUnited by dissatisfaction with current PC(USA), evangelicals sketch possible outlines of a new 'Reformed body'
bullet Fuller president Richard Mouw presses the heart of the matter

She summarizes his message as: “a call to theological orthodoxy, expanded ecumenism, a renewed commitment to the ordination of women and increased efforts to care for the world. He challenged evangelicals now in the PC(USA) to learn from those both more conservative and more liberal than themselves.”

bullet Biblical scholar Ken Bailey expounded on the cost and value of converting anger to grace and love
The Big Tent offered insights and inspiration in many important areas of concern and mission   [7-15-11]

I regretted not being at the Big Tent gathering of over 1,700 Presbyterians in Indianapolis from June 30 through July 2. From the many news reports reflecting a variety of the smaller conferences within the whole event, I know good things happened there.

You can see on one website page a quick listing of all the news reports. (At least I think it must be all of them!)

Here are tidbits and links to a few of the stories that might be most interesting to friends and members of PVJ:

[NOTE: You’ll notice from the datelines that many of these reports were posted days after the event, but there are couched in “present tense” language. I have not tried to revise that to reflect the fact that they are now posted here about two weeks later.


WERE YOU THERE??  If you were (or even if you weren’t!), and have comments or other reports you’d like to recommend, just send a note, to be shared here!


"The Death Throes of Fundamentalism in a Thinking Church"     [6-18-11]
This thoughtful comment was posted on the PVJ Facebook page by the Rev. Mark Sandlin, who currently serves as the minister at Vandalia Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, NC. He offers a critical reflection on the reasons given by one minister on the Presbyterian Right for his call for separating from the denomination.

He concludes:

It is clear from their positioning and trajectory that many will leave the PCUSA and that will cull the membership of the denomination. The long term effect will be the closing of some churches and, along with that, many ordained ministers will be out of work. The denomination itself, however, will not die. It will grow leaner, more focused, more prophetic. Perhaps as some of the more “conservative elements of the denomination” choose to leave, the denomination will stop with its unnecessary infighting and rise again, living into the biblical realities of love, forgiveness, acceptance and grace.

We invite you to take a look at his comments, and share your own thoughts with us here. Just send a note!

A PVJ member comments on Mark Sandlin’s “Death Throes of Fundamentalism” essay –


It would be nice to think that Mark Sandlin's prognosis for a more prophetic denomination will result given the fall-off of fundamentalist-oriented congregations, but I am afraid that it does not square with reality. Mark forgets that our churches are institutionally conservative, [so that among their primary purposes are] self-preservation and the focus on personal needs. Hence they will continue to be socially conservative, given that the average age of many Presbyterians is 60 years +/-.  

To be prophetic is to be political, which is why most churches ignore prophetic witness given that anything political is verboten – notwithstanding the fact that the Bible is full of politics from Genesis to Revelation and [through] the historic involvement of Presbyterian and Reformed churches in political affairs from Calvin to Knox to Witherspoon. Folks concerned about peace and social justice issues learned long ago that to be effective they have to address such issues outside the church, exceptions notwithstanding. I learned this the hard way.  

The congregation of which I am a member takes the position of "don't ask don't tell" where gays and lesbians are concerned. Our pastor is pro LGBT but will not preach or state her position publically in the congregation. The trend among those under 30 is to be spiritual but not religious, e.g. see Dr. Linda Mercadante's field research on this trend. She is an ordained PC(USA) minister and a theology professor at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio. Google her name for details.  

I recently came from the wedding of our son where the service was officiated by a person who obtained authorization to conduct marriages either for a small fee at a court house or via a mail-order application. None of those in the wedding party were members of any church. We are talking here about progressively oriented folks with strong family values. Such are the signs of the times in which we live. A new kairos is emerging but alas, many in the mainline churches are either ignorant of this trend or are satisfied with the institutional status quo.

Keep the faith,

Elder Lee H. Lybarger
Delaware, OH

We welcome your comments!
Just send a note, to be shared here.

The Rev. Trina Zelle called to serve as the new Lead Organizer for the Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare Association (PHEWA)    [5-4-11]

Trina Zelle

A press release from the Presbyterian Health, Education & Welfare Association (PHEWA)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — May 2, 2011 – The Rev. Trina Zelle has accepted the newly-formed position of Lead Organizer for the Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare Association (PHEWA), a ministry of Compassion, Peace, and Justice Ministry, General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC), Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Rev. Zelle writes, “I am excited at the prospect of collaboration with experienced and committed leadership in strengthening and expanding this incredible organization.”

Ordained in 1980 by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Rev. Trina Zelle has served congregations in Connecticut, Minnesota, Hawaii, Texas, and Arizona. She also worked for ten years as a community organizer in partnership with immigrant women living along the Texas/New Mexico/Mexico border. Together they established a day care business, a community center, and Cristo Rey Outreach, a nonprofit organization that continues to provide technical assistance to grassroots groups along the border.

Since 2006 she has served as founding director of Arizona Interfaith Alliance for Worker Justice, Arizona’s only worker rights center.Serving as a clergy commissioner to the 219th (2010) General Assembly, Rev. Zelle is familiar with the current hopes and challenges of the denomination. She has also been a long-time friend of PHEWA, having served as the featured preacher for the 2003 PHEWA Biennial Conference, bringing the message “God is About to Do a New Thing.” Rev. Zelle looks forward to being PHEWA’s new Lead Organizer: “I see PHEWA and its networks continuing to transform the lives of individuals and communities through work that is collaborative, respectful, and creative. I see a flexible organization capable of responding to what will surely be an ever-changing landscape of need.”

Rev. Zelle graduated from the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio and received her Master of Divinity from United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. She lives with her clergy spouse (Rev. Philip Reller, UCC) in Tempe, AZ. They have four grown children.

While PHEWA is a ministry of the Compassion, Peace & Justice Ministry, GAMC, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), it is also a 501(c) 3 membership organization serving the entire church. This new PHEWA Lead Organizer position is entirely funded by PHEWA, with the PHEWA Board of Directors serving as employer. Learn more about PHEWA at

NOTE: Presbyterian Voices for Justice is proud to note that Trina Zelle has also served as a member of the Board of the Witherspoon Society – a predecessor of PVJ -- and as a co-moderator of the group. We congratulate PHEWA on finding an excellent new staff person, and we wish her well in that challenging role.

Big Tent to stay in Indianapolis

Location finalized after examination of new Indiana immigration bill   [5-2-11]

from the Office of the General Assembly

The Big Tent – the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s biennial celebration of ministry and mission – will be pitched in Indianapolis June 30-July 2.

The decision to keep the Big Tent event in Indianapolis this summer was made after church leaders examined the final text of the newly passed Indiana immigration bill (Senate Bill 590) and confirmed that it does not contain elements that would have necessitated a change of venue.

More >>

Visit the Big Tent website for more information and to register.

An Evangelical responds to Margaret Thomas’ analysis of the claims of a crisis in the PC(USA)    [2-25-11]

The Rev. Robert Campbell, pastor of Tully Memorial Presbyterian Church in Sharon Hill, PA, has written a thoughtful comment on Margaret Thomas’ recent essay on “Governance in a Time of Ferment,” in which she raises questions about the letter from a number of Evangelical tall-steeple pastors which claims that the PC(USA) in “deathly ill.”

Campbell also raises some challenging questions both for the supporters of the “deathly ill” letter, and for the PC(USA) as a whole.

Campbell’s note:

Some of these comments directly address The Rev. Margaret J. Thomas' essay and others will build on some issues she raised. Those who know me know that I am an Evangelical although some would consider me a radical on issues like immigration, economic injustice and some other issues. But while some Evangelicals might leave the PCUSA, I will not leave the PCUSA voluntarily. Luther and Calvin were kicked out of the Catholic Church. God called me to be here and I don't believe God calls me to leave any more than God calls me to leave my marriage. I have and continue to serve in the courts of the Church – sometimes devoting more time to presbytery and synod than congregations I have served want or wanted me to.

1. Despite assurances from friends and advocacy groups it is my opinion that ordination of GLBT persons involved in sexual relationships will become required for anyone to be ordained and/or installed sometimes before 2030. As some say, for them this is a justice issue. If it is a justice issue how can one allow that injustice to continue? I suspect that this will come as a decision of a future GAPJC as it did in the case of the ordination of women. I also think that by 2030 gays and lesbians will be allowed to marry across America.

2. The core issues of fundamental theological questions are not being addressed across the denomination because we have made the ordination of GLBT persons the presenting issue to avoid much deeper conflicts. Is there a Trinity, does the Bible actually have authority over all of life or can we choose the areas that we consider to be authoritative, how we are to interpret Scripture, do we believe in the resurrection of Jesus and if so what does that mean, what does the crucifixion of Jesus mean theologically and salvificly, and a long list of other questions are more fundamental. Like a dysfunctional family we use the issue of ordaining GLBT persons as a way to avoid our more fundamental problems. Please note that this does not mean that I think the Bible supports sexual activity outside marriage between a man and a woman. It does mean that when the issue is finally decided we will still have great problems. It is my opinion that we will not move on to the fundamental problems but will choose another presenting issue as we don't really want to deal with the fundamental issues. We need family counseling!

2. No matter how one phrases the issue, the PCUSA has a great problem in providing pastoral leadership to small congregations. More than half of the churches in the denomination have less than 100 members. Without large endowments such churches cannot support a full time pastor. We have traditionally been a denomination that demands educated Ministers of Word and Sacraments. Without a growth in the number of members in these congregations we will soon be a denomination in which most congregations are served by commissioned lay pastors, retired pastors serving as stated supplies or no one at all. This may well be the future of the PCUSA: richer and larger congregations will have full time, seminary-trained pastors. Smaller congregations will not. Is this what we want, and if not how will we proceed? BTW I don't think anyone can say that this change occurs becomes of one reason. The decline in membership in the PCUSA is a very complex issue. An example: many congregations we established in the 19th century are in rural areas. The population is dropping in many of these areas. How does one increase membership when there are less and less people in the area the congregation serves?

3. We do need structural change but not the kind of change suggested by the fellowship that wrote the letter. A move to separate synods and presbyteries for theological reasons simply is not going to happen. The votes are not there. The real structural question is where and how shall the funds of all councils (to use the new term in the nFOG) be applied? This is a perennial issue fought out at GA and GAMC meetings. Different groups want mission dollars to be applied to agencies that support their particular interests. The recent move of the GAMC away from staffing agencies that deal with social justice issues and the response of those who support those agencies is indicative of this conflict. A larger question that is not being adequately addressed is what is the purpose of the GAMC? No one asks what exactly is the mission of the GAMC or if we need it at all. We are still operating as a corporate top down denominational structure. Is this the best way to serve God in the 21st century? Curiously, while complaining about the work of the agencies of the GAMC, Evangelicals have failed to notice that the top leaders of the various arms of the GAMC are now primarily Evangelicals. Synods and presbyteries struggle with the same issues. Do presbyteries and synods really need the staff that they have? If so what should their tasks?

I am not convinced that we can have calm, rational conversations about these issues. But the PCUSA has a desperate need to seek God's guidance about the future of the PCUSA and its mission. While the issue of the ordination of GLBT persons will soon be decided in favor of their ordination and those councils that choose to ordain them will do so this is not a fundamental issue for the PCUSA. How we go into the future as a denomination is fundamental.

Are We Deathly Ill?

Governance in a Time of Ferment   [2-21-11]

The Rev. Margaret J. Thomas offers a sharp, thoughtful response to the “Fellowship PCUSA Letter” (which she refers to as the “Deathly Ill Letter”). She traces the long history of tension and dissent in the Presbyterian family of churches, and points out some of the healthy ways we have dealt with those problems – and some of the not-so-healthy ways that she sees in the current “evangelical” movement behind the “Fellowship” letter.

Click here for her 5-page essay, in PDF format.>>

Margaret Thomas has served the Presbyterian Church in a variety of roles over many years. Now honorably retired and living in Minneapolis, she was the Deputy Executive Director of the UPC/GAMC, and then executive of the Synod of Lakes and Prairies. She then served as executive of the Minnesota Council of Churches, and during that time she became a member and moderator of both the GA Permanent Judicial Commission and the Advisory Committee on the Constitution. Out of this broad and deep experience, she offers some of her insights on the proposed new Form of Government – both describing its positive aspects and pointing to two proposed changes that could undermine the whole distinctive style of governance in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

She has also written a short essay commenting specifically on the proposed new Form of Government, now being considered in the presbyteries.

If you have comments to add to these papers,
please send a note
and we'll post it here.

Authors of “Fellowship PCUSA” letter acknowledge some “poor communication”   [2-9-11]

Two of the main authors of this letter from “Fellowship PCUSA” have issued a second letter in an effort to correct some of what they acknowledge as the “poor communication” of their first letter. Among other things, they note the concern of many people about the total absence of women among the signers of the letter, explaining that because the signers are pastors of large churches, and large churches don’t call women as head pastors, there just weren’t any women involved in the letter. They also apologize for claiming support for some of their effort on the part of the Covenant Network.

A little comment from your WebWeaver:

I find it modestly encouraging, at least, the some of the Big Steeple Pastors are at least willing to the possibility that other Presbyterians might have had legitimate reasons for their expressions of concern. If that can happen, is it possible that the right and left sides of the church just might be able to have some useful conversations?   Doug King

What do you think?
We’d like to hear your comments,
so we invite you to send a note,
and help carry on the conversation here!

Conservative Presbyterians call for envisioning a “new future”

A response from Presbyterian Voices for Justice (a merger of the Witherspoon Society and Voices of Sophia)


The statement recently issued by “Fellowship PCUSA” clearly contains echoes of past struggles within the PC(USA) over what it is to be church together. For some it will echo of New Wineskins; others will be reminded of the Presbyterian Church in America effort of 35 years ago, others of the Confessing Church. There are also more recent efforts that claim a new “way forward,” or that represent tall-steeple churches that do not feel they need much from the denomination.

We note that the General Assembly just affirmed a new Form of Government and authorized a commission to work on presbytery, synod and other inter-council relationships. This letter suggests that some ministers are making their own moves regardless of how those churchwide efforts go; perhaps, despite all those echoes of past efforts, they have something new to propose. 

One thing looks pretty old, though: the lack of any women among the signers. This is deplorable, coming from a large group of pastors who seek to speak for Presbyterian churches. 

Presbyterian Voices for Justice stands with all of the Presbyterians who have contributed to our denomination over the years. We embrace all six Great Ends of the Church. We stand by our ordination vows and honor the unity of the church, even as we continue to work for greater justice, inclusiveness and welcome. And we continue to value and support the Presbyterian and Reformed understanding of being a church together, with program structures beyond the congregation to accomplish our shared purposes.

We reject the notion that the movement for LGBT ordination rights is the root of the conflict that plagues our church. History shows us that justice-seeking – on behalf of people of color and women – has not been without struggle, but in the end it has made the Presbyterian Church stronger and more consistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We stand with all Presbyterians who believe that faithfulness to God's justice-loving call demands that we extend to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons all of the rights and privileges of membership in the PCUSA. 

As we read this call from “Fellowship PCUSA,” we see a challenge (perhaps unintended) to our church’s leadership to be more visionary and inspiring, to present with conviction the distinctive calling of the General Assembly and of the Presbyterian Church (USA) itself. We do not need an echo of elements in the culture blaming Big Government and urging a kind of ecclesiastical privatization. We do not need threats that the PC(USA) must “do it our way or we’ll do it alone.” We do need a church united to face the challenges confronting our middle class and poorer congregations, at a time of growing inequality and the fading of the American empire.

This is a time for church leaders to present a higher vision than simply “let us cultivate our own gardens.” It is also a time when some degree of truthfulness would be helpful. Yet to the best of our knowledge the Covenant Network has had no connection with this proposal, and has not encouraged it. To imply otherwise, as the letter does, seems to show a rather casual attitude toward mere facts.

We do not believe that God is calling our church to further division in the name of some kind of doctrinal or moral “purity.” Rather, we are convinced that God calls us today, as always, to follow Jesus, the Christ, with courage, love, and respect for all people – which means doing justice, loving others with mercy, and walking in humility with God.



The full text of the “Fellowship PCUSA” letter:

A Letter to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

February 2, 2011

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

To say the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is deathly ill is not editorializing but acknowledging reality. Over the past year, a group of PC(USA) pastors has become convinced that to remain locked in unending controversy will only continue a slow demise, dishonor our calling, and offer a poor legacy to those we hope will follow us. We recently met in Phoenix, and have grown in number and commitment. We humbly share responsibility for the failure of our common life, and are no better as pastors nor more righteous than anyone on other sides of tough issues.

Our denomination has been in steady decline for 45 years, now literally half the size of a generation ago. Most congregations see far more funerals than infant baptisms because we are an aging denomination. Only 1,500 of our 5,439 smallest churches have an installed pastor, putting their future viability as congregations in doubt. Even many larger congregations, which grew well for decades, have hit a season of plateau or decline. Our governing bodies reflect these trends, losing financial strength, staffing, and viability as presbyteries, synods, and national offices.

 How we got to this place is less important than how to move forward. We are determined to get past rancorous, draining internal disputes that paralyze our common life and ministry. We believe the PC(USA) will not survive without drastic intervention, and stand ready to DO something different, to thrive as the Body of Christ. We call others of like mind to envision a new future for congregations that share our Presbyterian, Reformed, Evangelical heritage. If the denomination has the ability and will to move in this new direction, we will rejoice. Regardless, a group of us will change course, forming a new way for our congregations to relate. We hate the appearance of schism - but the PC(USA) is divided already. Our proposal only acknowledges the fractured denomination we have become.

 Homosexual ordination has been the flashpoint of controversy for the last 35 years. Yet, that issue - with endless, contentious "yes" and "no" votes - masks deeper, more important divisions within the PC(USA). Our divisions revolve around differing understandings of Scripture, authority, Christology, the extent of salvation amidst creeping universalism, and a broader set of moral issues. Outside of presbytery meetings, we mostly exist in separate worlds, with opposing sides reading different books and journals, attending different conferences, and supporting different causes. There is no longer common understanding of what is meant by being "Reformed." Indeed, many sense that the only unity we have left is contained in the property clause and the pension plan; some feel like withholding per capita is a club used against them, while others feel locked into institutional captivity by property. While everyone wearies of battles over ordination, these battles divert us from a host of issues that affect the way our congregations fail to attract either young believers or those outside the faith. Thus, we age, shrink, and become increasingly irrelevant. Is it time to acknowledge that traditional denominations like the PC(USA) have served in their day but now must be radically transformed?

We need something new, characterized by:

1.         A clear, concise theological core to which we subscribe, within classic biblical, Reformed/Evangelical traditions, and a pledge to live according to those beliefs, regardless of cultural pressures to conform;

2.         A commitment to nurture leadership in local congregations, which we believe is a primary expression of the Kingdom of God. We will identify, develop, and train a new generation of leaders - clergy and laity;

3.         A passion to share in the larger mission of the people of God around the world, especially among the least, the lost, and the left behind;

4.         A dream of multiplying healthy, missional communities throughout North America;

5.         A pattern of fellowship reflecting the realities of our scattered life and joint mission, with regular gatherings locally, regionally, and nationally to excite our ability to dream together.

Our values include:

1.         A minimalist structure, replacing bureaucracy and most rules with relational networks of common purpose;

2.         Property and assets under stewardship of the local Session. Dues/Gifts for common administration should only allow and enable continued affiliation among these congregations;

3.         Rather than large institutions, joint ventures with specialized ministries as congregations deem helpful [PC(USA) World Mission may be a source of joint support, aspects of the Board of Pensions, Presbyterian Foundation, Presbyterian Global Fellowship, Presbyterians for Renewal conferences, Outreach Foundation, etc.];

4.         An atmosphere of support for congregations both within and outside of the PC(USA).

We invite like-minded pastors and elders to a gathering on August 25-27 in Minneapolis to explore joining this movement and help shape its character. Our purpose is to LIVE INTO new patterns as they are created, modeling a way of faith: the worship, supportive fellowship, sharing of best practices, and accessible theology that brings unity and the Spirit's vitality.


1.         A Fellowship: The most immediate change we intend is creating a new way of relating in common faith, a Fellowship (name to be determined). The primary purpose of this Fellowship will be the encouragement of local congregations to live out the Good News proclaimed by our Savior, increasing the impact of the Kingdom of Heaven. This Fellowship will exist within current presbyteries for the time being, but energies and resources will flow in new directions. It is an intermediate tool to bring together like-minded congregations and pastors, to enable us to build a future different than our fractured present.

2.         New Synod/Presbyteries: In the near future we will need "middle bodies" that offer freedom to express historical, biblical values amid ordination changes in the PC(USA). More importantly, we long for presbytery-like bodies with theological and missional consensus rather than fundamental disagreement over so many core issues. We need new processes that identify and support the next generation of leadership differently than the current model, which unintentionally weeds out the entrepreneurial persons we so desperately need in our congregations. Many current functions should be removed; some, like curriculum and mission relationships, have become less centralized already. We will work with the Middle Governing Bodies Commission since changes to The Book of Order will be needed to step fully into this reality.

3.         Possible New Reformed Body: Congregations and presbyteries that remain in a denomination that fundamentally changes will become an insurmountable problem for many. Some members of the Fellowship will need an entity apart from the current PC(USA). It is likely that a new body will need to be created, beyond the boundary of the current PC(USA), while remaining in correspondence with its congregations. The wall between these partner Reformed bodies will be permeable, allowing congregations and pastors to be members in the Fellowship regardless of denominational affiliation. All kinds of possibilities exist, and much will depend on how supportive the PC(USA) can be in allowing something new to flourish.

4.         Possible Reconfiguration of the PC(USA): We intend to continue conversations within the PC(USA), and have met with both Louisville's leadership and that of the Covenant Network in the past few months. We believe the denomination no longer provides a viable future and perceive that the Covenant Network also sees a broken system. We hope to work together to see if some new alignment might serve the whole Church.

Any model that includes an entity outside the PC(USA) does mean fewer remaining congregations, pastors, and elders to fight the challenges of the current PC(USA). Votes will swing in directions that had not been desirable before. For many this outcome simply acknowledges that fighting is not the way we choose to proceed; our goal is not institutional survival but effective faithfulness as full participants in the worldwide Church. We hope to discover and model what a new "Reformed body" looks like in the coming years, and we invite you to join us, stepping faithfully, boldly, and joyfully into the work for which God has called us.

We invite you to:

•          download and share a PDF of this letter,

•          download and share a PDF of the white paper "Time for Something New",

•          visit our temporary webpage for more information,

•          and email us at if you have questions and/or would like to be a signatory on this letter.

Steering Committee:

Vic Pentz, Peachtree Presbyterian, Atlanta, GA
John Crosby, Christ Presbyterian, Edina, MN
David Peterson, Memorial Drive Presbyterian, Houston, TX
Jim Singleton, First Presbyterian, Colorado Springs, CO
David Swanson, First Presbyterian, Orlando, FL
Rich Kannwischer, St. Andrews, Newport Beach, CA
Mark Toone, Chapel Hill Presbyterian, Gig Harbor, WA 

Concurring Pastors:*

G. Christopher Scruggs, Advent Presbyterian, Cordova, TN
Mark Brewer, Bel Air Presbyterian, Los Angeles, CA
Allan Poole, Blacknall Memorial Presbyterian, Durham, NC
Rick Murray, Covenant Presbyterian, Austin, TX
Tim Harrison, Crossroads Presbyterian, Mequon, WI
Bob Burkins, Elmwood United Presbyterian, East Orange, NJ
Doug Pratt, First Presbyterian, Bonita Springs, FL
Mateen Elass, First Presbyterian, Edmond, OK
Rich McDermott, First Presbyterian, Fort Collins, CO
Richard Gibbons, First Presbyterian, Greenville, SC
Dan Baumgartner, First Presbyterian, Hollywood, CA
Jim Birchfield, First Presbyterian, Houston, TX
Jim Davis, First Presbyterian, Kingwood, TX
Jerry Andrews, First Presbyterian, San Diego, CA
John Sowers, First Presbyterian, Spokane, WA
Jim Miller, First Presbyterian, Tulsa, OK
Jack Peebles, First Presbyterian, Yakima, WA
Don Baird, Fremont Presbyterian, Sacramento, CA
Doug Ferguson, Grace Presbyterian, Houston, TX
Bill Teng, Heritage Presbyterian, Alexandria, VA
Ronald W. Scates, Highland Park Presbyterian, Dallas, TX
David Lenz, Hope Presbyterian, Richfield, MN
Paul A. Cunningham, La Jolla Presbyterian, La Jolla, CA
Bob Sanders, Lake Grove Presbyterian, Lake Oswego, OR
Kevin Pound, Mandarin Presbyterian Church, Jacksonville, FL
John Ortberg, Menlo Park Presbyterian, Menlo Park, CA
Jeff Ebert, Presbyterian Church at New Providence, New Providence, NJ
Douglas Garrard, Palm Desert Community Presbyterian, Palm Desert, CA
Paul Detterman, Presbyterians for Renewal, Louisville, KY
Mike McClenahan, Solana Beach Presbyterian, Solana Beach, CA
Steve Hartman, Third Presbyterian, Richmond, VA
David Joynt, Presbyterian Church of Toms River, Toms River, NJ
Douglas J. Rumford, Trinity United Presbyterian, Santa Ana, CA
Patrick H. Wrisley, University Place Presbyterian, University Place, WA
George Hinman (Senior Pastor) and Tim Snow (Executive Pastor), University Presbyterian, Seattle, WA
Peter Barnes, Westlake Hills Presbyterian, Austin, TX
Baron Eliason, Westminster Presbyterian, Lubbock, TX

*Signatories represent themselves, not necessarily the Session or congregation of their respective churches.


Blogger John Shuck offers a sharp response:

For another comment on this statement, you may want to visit the Rev. John Shuck’s blog page, where he begins: “On Groundhog's Day it appears as though some big steepled lads saw their shadow and in typical fearful fashion have posted yet another ‘Here we stand’ letter.”    More >>


Future of the church

GA leaders invite all Presbyterians to join in conversation


The three top leaders of the PC(USA) have responded to the letter from “Fellowship PCUSA” with a brief statement posted on the PC(USA) website.

Cynthia Bolbach, Moderator of the 219th General Assembly, Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, and Linda Valentine, Executive Director of the General Assembly Mission Council, have published a letter headed “Future of the church.”

It begins:

This is indeed a rich time of ferment and deep discernment in the Christian Church and denominations like the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Many talk about this era as being like a wilderness experience for the church, from which we can learn the lessons of being the vibrant people God leads from exile into life. At General Assembly we heard from Phyllis Tickle, who talks about “the incrustations of an overly established Christianity” that are being, even as we speak, broken open and reformed. And the good news, Tickle says as she looks back on centuries of Christianity, is that when this happens “the faith has spread – and been spread – dramatically into new geographic and demographic areas, thereby increasing exponentially the range and depth of Christianity’s reach as a result of its time of unease and distress.”

We hear many voices seeking God's guidance in discerning how to move forward in a rapidly evolving church and culture. A number of pastors recently issued a Letter to the Presbyterian Church, expressing frustration and calling for something new. Elsewhere, an open invitation has been extended to a conversation about more vital, faithful and connectional congregational ministry in the “next” PC(USA). The 219th General Assembly (2010) empowered a Middle Governing Body Commission, not only to consider the relationships of our middle governing bodies, but to act, upon request, responsively in new expressions of the church. Another task force has been set into motion to consider the whole form and function of our meetings of the general assembly, another is examining what the nature of the church is in the 21st century, and yet another is considering how we can live up to our aspirations for racial and ethnic diversity. Presbyterians everywhere long for vibrant congregations and communities of faith, and relationships built upon trust and our common faith in Jesus Christ. ...

The concluding paragraphs:

We thank those who put before the church challenges, aspirations and ideas in commitment to God and to the church, for this will contribute to the conversations going on across the church. We appeal to those who do so to participate and engage with, that ongoing conversation. John Calvin spoke of his commitment to working on the unity of the church:

“So far as I have it in my power, if I am thought to be of any service, I shall not be afraid to cross ten seas for this purpose, if that should be necessary.”

We ask that those who would challenge us also join with all of us across the church as we work together to make that happen.

We proclaim that Christ is present with the Church in both Spirit and Word. We believe that the best days of Christ’s church are ahead of us. We encourage all Presbyterians to discern in conversation and prayer where God is calling us as a community of faith. We invite you to join the discussion below.

Note from your WebWeaver: To read responses to this letter, and to add your own, click here for the full letter, and scroll down for the responses (so far about ten of them).


What are your thoughts on this proposal?
We'd like to hear from you!
Just send a note, to be shared here!


Some blogs worth visiting

PVJ's Facebook page

Mitch Trigger, PVJ's Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!

You can post your own news and views, or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.


John Shuck’s new "Religion for Life" website

Long-time and stimulating blogger John Shuck, a Presbyterian minister currently serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tenn., writes about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and lightening up.

Click here for his blog posts.

Click here for podcasts of his radio program, which "explores the intersection of religion, social justice and public life."


John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

Theological and philosophical reflections on everything between summit to shore, including kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood -- by a progressive New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in Flushing, NY.


Voices of Sophia blog

Heather Reichgott, who has created this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:

After fifteen years of scholarship and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy, students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and thoughtful community.


Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!


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