Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Tacoma First Presbyterian Leads Exodus--200th Church Joins Conservative Group

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Tacoma First Presbyterian Church, founded in 1873, has led in the exodus from Presbyterian Church (USA).

Tacoma was the first church in the nation to leave PCUSA and join ECO, A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterian churches back in 2012.

Senior Pastor Dr. Eric Jacobson and associate Pastor Becci Curtis-Lillie were the first pastors to join the group.

This week the ECO announced its 200th member church, with hundreds in the process of joining them

The PCUSA has created the exodus by attempting to adapt to the culture, but seem unwilling to accept the consequences, or to let their people go.

In nearly every case the reason for the departure comes down to the PCUSA challenging biblical authority on sexuality and same-sex "marriage."

A California Presbyterian Church voted 91% to withdraw and offered PCUSA $635,000 more than a year ago; PCUSA is still stonewalling their departure.

Ironically, the solution for PCUSA's desperate attempt to sustain itself is right in front of its eyes---unless they have also removed it from its place next to the hymnal on the back of each pew.

Tacoma First Presbyterian has led---many are following.

I spoke with associate Pastor Becci Curtis-Lillie yesterday and noted a sense of meaning in she and Dr. Jacobson being the first pastors to join the newly formed group in 2012.

Tacoma First Presbyterian is an iconic architectural landmark in the Puget Sound area, but it is more than that. It is testimony to a commitment to biblical authority.

ECO, formed as an alternative to PCUSA's changing doctrinal positions on same-sex "marriage" and human sexuality in disregard to Scriptural teaching, has welcomed its 200th member church, with hundreds of churches in the process of doing the same.

While PCUSA created the exodus, they seem unwilling to accept the consequences and are reluctant, very reluctant to let their people go.

Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church, one of California's largest Koran churches, voted 91% to leave the PCUSA, offering $635,000 to the presbytery.

More than a year later, PCUSA is still stonewalling their departure.

It is apparent PCUSA is desperate in their attempt to sustain membership.

Gallup has recently reported there is a decline in moral views in America. Their survey also revealed there is a growing disinterest in church---particularly mainline denominational churches.

There is a direct link between the moral decline in America and the story of PCUSA's attempt---and that of other mainline Christian denominations as well, to adapt to the changing American culture.

Dr. Thomas D. Williams writes, "Unsurprisingly, the leftward shift in American's moral views has been matched by a corresponding loss of religiosity" noting that mainline denominations have seen the most decline, while evangelical churches have seen little. Some statistics actually show a 1% increase in evangelical and conservative churches.

Arthur E. Farnsley II, a professor of religious studies at Indiana University--Purdue University, Indianapolis, has concluded that "the more churches resemble society at large in terms of their moral teachings and understanding of the meaning of human existence, the less relevant they are."

He asks, "Why continue to attend church services to hear the same message you get from reigning culture? Religion only makes a difference when it offers an alternative account of reality, distinguishable from secular culture."

Churches grasping for survival by trying to reflect, rather than redeem the culture, will continue to lose members. Why bother with driving to a building on Sunday morning to hear affirmation of what you have heard all week wrapped in religious trappings?

The decline in mainline churches is directly linked to the loss of recognizable Christian identity in those churches.

Williams notes there are 4 particular phenomena that stand out in this trend away from Christian tradition:

In the first place, mainstream Christian churches have shifted focus from the worship of God to social justice issues. As churches have moved away from a God-centered vision to a human-centered approach, they have come to resemble many other philanthropic institutions with no particularly religious character. As churches look more and more like humanitarian associations, the allegiance of their members has dropped correspondingly.
A second discernible phenomenon has been the unmooring of mainstream Christianity from its biblical roots. Many Christians seem to find Christ’s moral teachings increasingly embarrassing in an age that is tolerant of virtually any consensual human behavior. Abandoning a more literal approach to biblical morality, many have reinterpreted even the clearest biblical doctrines to make them resemble societal trends. As sociological criteria have replaced biblical principles as a moral guide, the Bible has been reduced to a source of “spiritual inspiration.” Having lost their belief in the power of the Bible to teach moral truth, many have drifted away from Christianity altogether.
A third development has been a shift in emphasis from eternity to the here and now. Traditionally, Christianity placed greater importance on the “salvation of souls” than on the immediate benefits of religion, meaning that more attention was given to the “eternal truths” of final judgment, heaven and hell, than to the psychological rewards of faith. As mainstream Christians have abandoned talk of eternity in favor of secular concerns, they have found that “secular” solutions seem better suited to meet their needs.
A final trend among mainstream Christian churches has been a progressive lowering of the moral bar, seemingly out of fear of appearing “judgmental” or “hypocritical.” Confusing judgmentalism with the ability to tell right from wrong, many Christians have moved in the direction of withdrawing disapproval from all but the most egregious sins. The lower the bar, the fewer fail to get over it: “I’m okay. You’re okay.” Similarly, some have confused hypocrisy with a simple failure to live up to one’s moral ideals, and have embraced the facile solution of chucking their ideals. Hypocrisy, in fact, becomes impossible when one no longer endorses any moral standards.

About 600 years before Christ, Jeremiah (26:2) heard the Word of the Lord, and wrote, "Thus says the Lord: Stand in the court of the Lord's House, and speak to all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the Lord's house, all the words that I command you to speak to them. Do not omit a word."

As the Christian church was being established, the Apostle Paul (Acts 20) told the public, "I have not failed to declare to you the whole counsel of God."

Anytime the Christian church teaches and preaches the whole gospel, regardless of cultural conditions, it is heard---sometimes accepted, sometimes rejected, but never ignored.

Perhaps the solution for the Presbyterian Church USA's loss of membership is in on the back of every pew---next to the hymnal.

The Bible.

Be Strong. Be Informed. Be Vigilant. Be Blessed.