From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[PCUSANEWS] 'Irretrievably apostate'

Date 29 Oct 2002 10:16:20 -0500

Note #7491 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:

'Irretrievably apostate'
October 28, 2002

'Irretrievably apostate'

Ministers tape "Call to Confession" to Presbyterian Center entrance 

by Alexa Smith

LOUISVILLE - Five Presbyterian ministers appeared at the Presbyterian Center
at dawn Monday, taping a poster-size "Call to Confession and Repentance" on a
wall near the entrance and offering prayers for a reformation of the church
and its national leadership.

A second poster bore the signatures of nearly 100 Presbyterians who have
affirmed the document.

Harkening back to Martin Luther's nailing of his 95 theses to a cathedral
door on the eve of All Saints' Day as a protest against corruption in the
Roman Catholic Church, one of the protesters, the Rev. Rick Wolling of
Pittsburgh, PA, said, "We're doing the work of Reformation theology (before)
Thursday (All Saint's Day)."

Luther's protest in 1517 launched the Protestant Reformation.

The "Call to Confession and Repentance" charges that the Presbyterian Church
(USA) is "decaying and dying in the belly of the beast" (Revelation 13:1-8)
and is "irretrievably apostate under current management." 

It says "talk of renewal is ludicrous" and argues that the denomination is
"desperate for rebirth through confession and repentance." It urges
Presbyterians to remain within the denomination but to refuse to support any
work "antithetical to the will of God."

The focus of the complaint is defiance of the PC(USA)'s constitution. Several
congregations have announced that they will ignore a constitutional provision
forbidding the ordination of sexually active gays and lesbians. More than 16
allegations have been lodged against openly gay clergy and ministers who
support them, but not a single judicial charge has been filed.

On their arrival at the center, the men were invited inside for prayer with
John Detterick, the executive director of the General Assembly Council, and
the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, stated clerk of the General Assembly - an
invitation they accepted.

Before going inside, they spent about 45 minutes outside, praying and reading
scripture as employees arrived for work.

Kirkpatrick said later that he agrees that "all of us need to hold up Jesus
Christ as head of the church." However, he said the "core of leadership" in
the Presbyterian tradition is that elected members of governing bodies,
commissions and councils make policy and carry out discipline. "It is
unconstitutional for the stated clerk to usurp those roles," he said.

Kirkpatrick noted that he has made clear that defiance of the constitution is
"inappropriate." He said he regrets the protesters' "sense of alienation,"
but said he is "glad, since they came, that we had the chance to pray

Wolling, the pastor of Beverly Heights Presbyterian Church in
Pittsburgh,said: "We're telling folks here in the building that they're not
hearing the concerns of people across the church. We feel like we're in a
constitutional crisis that has required a prophetic act like this."

Three other protesters also were from southwestern Pennsylvania - the Rev. L.
Rus Howard and the Rev. James C. Yearsley, both of Pittsburgh, and the Rev.
Paul Roberts of Butler, PA. 

It was the session of Roberts' church, Summit Presbyterian, that drafted the
statement that started the Confessing Church Movement, a loose-knit network
of congregations that want the church to unequivocally profess three beliefs:
that Jesus is the only way to salvation; that scripture is the inspired word
of God; and that Christians are called to holiness, which precludes sexual
relationships outside of marriage between a man and a woman.

The fifth protester was the Rev. Robert Kopp, of Rockford, IL.

The document called on Kirkpatrick to make certain that all clergy, elders,
deacons and governing bodies who defy the constitution are removed from
office; and to press charges against officers and governing bodies that defy
the constitution.

Kirkpatrick is also urged to intervene in several presbyteries, including
forcing Hudson River Presbytery to pay back the $110,000 Circleville
Presbyterian Church was required to pay for its building when it was
dismissed from the PC(USA).

The document also calls for the "immediate removal" of any "unrepentant
stated clerk" who doesn't apply the constitution "with consistency and
without prejudice" or who "fails to honor the responsibilities of the

Arguing that the national leadership will deal with apostasy only if it is
pressured financially, the document calls on churches to stop giving per
capita dollars to any governing body that "tolerates defiance of our
constitution," giving the funds to other ministries. It also calls for
churches to refrain from giving undesignated mission money to "any governing
body of the denomination."

Yearsley and Kopp said their congregations do not withhold per-capita

"We come (here) in deepest humility," Kopp said during the morning prayer in
the cold morning. "Not because we are better than  but recognizing our own
sin, recognizing the silence we've allowed to go on too long. And we are
calling our brothers and sisters to a time of confession, confessing how
we've not  stood up for Jesus."

The protesters have called the church to a season of prayer, confession and
repentance that began with World Communion Sunday on Oct. 6 and ends on
Easter, April 20.

Yearsley told the Presbyterian News Service that the group wants "our highly
visible and called leadership to, in fact, take the lead" in imposing church

He said presbyteries can discipline churches and leaders in their
jurisdictions, but he wants national leadership to enforce the constitution.
"It's a demanding call," he said, "but God lifts up leaders for (a reason)."

The protest group has not sought the endorsement of any PC(USA)-related
group, but Roberts said it believes it has the unofficial support of the
Presbyterian Lay Committee and of some leaders of the Presbyterian Coalition.
The Rev. Brad Long of Presbyterian and Reformed Ministries, International, is
among the 100 people who support the document. 

Just outside the chapel where the men prayed with Detterick, Kirkpatrick and
members of the staff of the Office of the General Assembly, Roberts said the
protest group is not "going away."

"For years, evangelicals have simply walked away  and we're here to help
redeem this denomination," he said.

The five who signed the "Call to Confession" were Howard, Yearsley, Roberts,
Kopp and the Rev. Howard Eddington of Orlando, FL. Eddington did not attend
the protest.

The posters stayed up until about 9:30 a.m.

*** For instructions on using this system (including how to UNJOIN this
meeting), send e-mail to
Send your response to this article to

To unsubscribe from this mailing list, send an 'unsubscribe' request to

Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home