Shuck and Jive

Monday, November 12, 2007

The New Whiners

The New Whiners is the name selected by our poll for the New Wineskins Association of Churches. I thought it might be of interest to have a little lesson in church property.

The New Whiners is a collection of schismatics that seek to separate or aid congregations in separating from the PCUSA. Fine. They want to take the PCUSA's property with them. Not so fine.

G-8.0000 is the section in the Book of Order that has set the rules for the church and its property. G-8.0600 is the section pertaining to a church in schism. Schism is not my word. It is in the Book of Order. Here is the pertinent passage:

6. Property of Church in Schism
The relationship to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) of a particular church can be severed only by constitutional action on the part of the presbytery. (G-11.0103i) If there is a schism within the membership of a particular church and the presbytery is unable to effect a reconciliation or a division into separate churches within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the presbytery shall determine if one of the factions is entitled to the property because it is identified by the presbytery as the true church within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). This determination does not depend upon which faction received the majority vote within the particular church at the time of the schism.

Folks unfamiliar with the PCUSA might wonder why a congregation does not own its own property. In a congregational system, that is the case. In our system a congregation is a steward of the property. This system protects congregations from ministers and or people who join the church from taking over the church's property.

This is what is happening today. If you read the documents of the New Whiners, you will discover that they think they are too good for the PCUSA. They feel that they are the "true believers." They will provide a variety of reasons why they think that is so. They certainly are entitled to think what they like about themselves.

If you have spent any time in a church you will find people who were not satisfied with their church and decided to break away and join another or to start their own. It happens all of the time. However, when someone decides to leave one congregation for another, they do not get a refund on the money they had donated to the church. They don't get to take "their" pew with them.

The same is true on a larger scale when a congregation (or a group within a congregation, even a large group) is not satisfied with the denomination. They can leave and attend another congregation, start their own, or stay at home. But they cannot take the property with them. It is not theirs. It makes no difference whether they think they have the right views about Jesus, or gays, or whatever.

The presbytery is made up of elders and ministers from the various congregations and ministries within its bounds. The presbytery, as a body, makes the determination in the event of a property issue of which faction represents the PCUSA. The presbytery, on a case by case basis, has the freedom to make some kind of deal. They can...

1) Say so long to the schismatics and work with those members who wish to remain in the PCUSA who will be stewards of the property.
2) Sell the property to the schismatics.
3) Make some kind of deal with the schismatics (ie. grant them the property for some percentage of its value).

The schismatics have no right to the property. None.

The New Whiners know this of course. They try to confuse the issue in two ways:

1) They invent theological mumbo jumbo in attempt to show that they are the "real" Christians and as such deserve the property.
2) They manipulate our congregational intuition to gain sympathy.

Let me explain this second part.
  • Since many Presbyterians are unaware of how the property is managed in the PCUSA, and
  • since many Presbyterians identify with their own congregation rather than the denomination, and
  • since many Presbyterians are often not conscious of the long history both of the denomination and of the congregation they presently attend,
they think that they are the congregation. "We are the present members of this church. It is our church." That is congregational intuition. We intuitively think in terms of congregations.

Of course, it isn't our congregation. People long before we ever arrived established our congregations, built the buildings, and provided the infrastucture (seminaries etc.).

Our polity is set up as it is to protect the witness, to speak for the saints who have passed on, and to look to the future. From what does the church need protection? The answer is wild-eyed preachers who think they are too holy for the rest of the PCUSA. Today's incarnation is The New Wineskins.


  1. Gooooooood Morning Tennessee!

    John: Your sermon ....Sunday (11/11/2007) was simply.... SPLENDID.

    It is somewhat difficult to be in your flock....and it seems ....have to deal with the FACT ...week after week after week ...since, in my case, FPC-E's 225th Celebration ... that ...YOU KEEP GETTING 'BETTER & BETTER'. ('Greater Seattle Francis' would be and I'm sure...IS... VERY PROUD!)

    Kermit & Beatrice & one old cat named 'Twain'....all gladly say:

    Thank You
    Thank You
    Thank you!

    and........BE YE WARNED.....I am, on this Tuesday 11/13/2007 ...UP in SPNC.... AWAKE! -Twain :-)


  2. It is all very well and good that PCUSA asserts title to the property, but the matter will be decided by the secular courts.

    Are there any legal precedents to back up PCUSA's assertion?

  3. I'll bow to the experts, but I think there are precedents going both ways (and I think the Book of Order was revised shortly before reunion in response, leading to the proactive departures of many PCUS congregations to the PCA in order to protect "their" property). The courts hate to get involved in liturgical politics and will likely defer (as does the General Assembly) to the will of the Presbytery (in whose name the property is legally held). That doesn't, however, mean that the New Whiners can't clog this up in the courts for years, forcing the PC(USA) to spend millions in legal fees.

  4. Just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say thanks for the thoughts. I think the saddest part about all of this is that in reality it is going to be ugly. A divorce is a divorce is a divorce and there is no way that everyone is going to feel good about any outcome.

    I would tend to agree with your thought and resolutions: sell at a discount would be the best compromise if folks rally wish to leave.

    Thanks again for the thoughts!

  5. Hey Bruce!

    Welcome! Good luck on your run for moderator. Now why would you ever want to do that!?!?!?

    I think the compromise is the way to go.

  6. As alluded to, one leaves a church with the understanding that one leaves with only the sandals on his/her feet (you don't even get to keep the dust).

    I was told by the church my sister and I grew up in, which my father served as an Elder for 20 years, which my mother served as Sunday School Superintendent, that we should "go be pastored to somewhere else" once the pastor found out I was gay.

    We did, and we did NOT get a refund check for our offerings, we did not get back wages for all those endless Session meetings and teacher training, and we did not get to stake a claim to the new Fellowship Hall, the building committee of which my dad was the chair. We never expected any of that.

    That, however, is the expectation of the New Wineskins. It is fine and dandy for them to demand what amounts to refund checks, because they think they are purer than the rest of us sinners in the PC(USA). Again, they want to engage in the sin of schism and have us pay them for their sin! They don't blink twice when someone leaves one of their churches after years of service and thousands of dollars in offerings, yet when they do the same, they want a chunk of the Presbytery's property for free! The words "unmitigated gall" come rushing to mind.

    I really don't hold that much anger toward my old church anymore. I am deeply, richly blessed at my current church and can't believe it took me so long to get there. However, the experience was painful for my family, and I am awestruck that a group of reactionaries are not only willing to rip the church apart and cause tremendous pain, they want to make a buck off of it as well.

  7. flycandler:

    Our backgrounds may differ...and our day to day lives may be lived in different ways ...(just like EVERY OTHER HUMAN ON EARTH)...but our shared JOY in finding a 'SHINING & LOVING SPIRE' is exactly the same.

    You are my sister and I am blessed by that 'co-incidence', too!

    {{{ HUG! }}}} :-)