Shuck and Jive

Monday, May 19, 2008

Berkley and the Revenooers

The Spring issue of the Network News (sans swimsuits) still might be the widest read yet.

IRD clergyboy, Jim Berkley, wants to send the revenooers after Witherspoon.

It appears that Jim feels one of the articles in the Spring Network News threatens Witherspoon's non-profit status.

While Berkley is as usual, full of opossum piss, it is interesting how low he has sunk.

For scale, his employer, the IRD (which is of course, purely spiritual), has an income of about $1,000,000 per annum.

Witherspoon's income is around $35,000.

Yet the Witherspoon moonshiners continue to confound the D.C. based and right-wing funded IRD. For all their money, for all their homophobic rantings, and for all their intimidation tactics, the best the IRD is going to manage in the PC(USA) is a pitiful little break-off of schismatic fundamentalist churches.

The rest of us are moving on. Check this from That All May Freely Serve:


  1. Speaking as an outsider, since I no longer am part of the PCUSA, I would question your characterization of those churches seeking to leave as a pitiful, marginal movement. From my perspective, it seems as if the opposite is happening -- many of the churches seeking to affiliate with the EPC are dynamic and vibrant, while those identifying themselves as "more light" appear to be weak and marginal. For example, worship attendance is down by 21% this past year alone in the Hudson River Presbytery, a "more light" presbytery (by council declaration). This figure is especially disturbing since it follows a pattern of decline. Likewise, in the Palisades Presbyterian Church, worship attendance has fallen by about half over the past ten years. One can find similar decline in other MLP churches, such as Jan Hus PC in New York (75% decline) and 1st Billings (1/3 in the past two years). Even 1st Elizabethton seems to have experienced a significant decline, 50% since a peak in 2001. Of course, these examples are anecdotal and one might find similar stories among those churches joining the New Wineskins presbytery. Still, from my perspective, it seems as if the "more light" label leads to numeric decline.

  2. Sounds like Pastor Russ would make a fine employee for the IRD.

  3. Of course, Russ, even though you are no longer part of the denomination, you do seem preoccupied with our statistics.

    The obvious fallacies in your argument are (1) that the number of adherents reflects the worth of a movement is silly (we should therefore abandon Reformed theology and become part of the Southern Baptist Convention) and (2) you ignore the comparison to other churches.

    If "More Light" congregations are in fact declining, it is because the entire denomination is in decline. If I want to make the case, I can say that "from my perspective, it seems as if the 'New Whineskins' label leads to numeric decline" or "from my perspective, it seems as if the blue hymnal leads to numeric decline".

    If anything the research done by Diana Butler Bass and others points to successful mainline congregations' success not being so much based on a checklist of political positions, but on characteristics conducive to a growing neighborhood church. While my church is not a MLP church (AFAIK), we are a Covenant congregation, and we are amongst the fastest growing congregations in the presbytery.

    To John's original point, it's nervewracking that we not only have to deal with schismatics (who are themselves going to have a grand old fight in the EPC over the ordination of women--you even have the same old "essentials" terminology to deal with), they are filing lawsuits and trivial complaints with the IRS on the way out. What happened to the whole "graceful exit"?

  4. "Of course, these examples are anecdotal..."

    Yes they are. And thus, for all the reasons Flycandler states, pretty useless. FYI, the plural of the word "anecdote" is not "data."

    The bean-counters would like us to believe all sorts of things about the denomination. For example, apparently increasing numbers = correct theology. Yet oddly enough these very same bean counters aren't running out to buy a Book of Mormon. Hmm...interesting.

    Unfortunately, from my perspective, the number of people who are no longer part of the PCUSA, but are still hanging around ready to trash it at any moment is certainly not in "numeric decline". ;)

    I think it's odd that these folks seem to gleefully wring their hands and twist their mustaches as they try to find examples of More Light churches with declining memberships. Odd that they, as Christians, apparently want to see another Christian church fail.

    Are their own churches growing? Good for them! I have no problem being pleased that they're being blessed with increasing membership. Too bad they can't find it in their hearts to have the same joy for those of us in ML churches that ARE growing.

  5. I wrote this on Jim's blog after flycandler posted there:

    I could be mistaken, but I don't think Jim's post on his personal blog critical of the Witherspoon Society equals "filing a complaint" by the IRD. Personally, I would not file a complaint and I don't think the IRD should either. When in doubt, we should allow more political expression by people of faith, not less.

    I just hope that the next time a conservative Christian is under the gun, the same will apply. I don't think anyone can dispute that religious progressives are just as political as religious conservatives ... maybe even more so.

    John Erthein
    Erie, PA

  6. In brief, by saying "Witherspoon Society Invites IRS Correction", yeah, he's making the case for filing a complaint. It may be that he hopes he won't get his hands dirty by goading someone else into doing it (which from my impressions I gather is his MO), but he's still advocating it.