Dear Friends in Christ,
In the summer of 2011, a majority of Presbyteries voted to remove specific standards for sexual conduct for those being ordained to church office as Pastor, Elder or Deacon. Removed was the requirement for ordained leaders” to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness”. This opened the door for churches and presbyteries to ordain those openly and unrepentantly living in sexual relationships outside of marriage.
At that time, the Session expressed opposition to this change and reassured our church that “this will not change the way we do our ministry at Bethany. We will continue to uphold the clear standards of Scripture as we seek persons for ordained office. Neither will it change our spirit of grace and love for all who come into our fellowship for we all come to the cross in our sin and brokenness. God’s love and mercy for each of us is unconditional.”
With numerous churches leaving or making plans to leave the denomination and with the growing publicity that will come as our Presbytery hosts the next General Assembly this summer, the Session felt it was important to speak with clarity a word of grace and truth, to be proactive rather than reactive, especially as we look to the future with excitement and joy.
At two meetings in late November, the Session made the following motions to be recorded in the minutes and communicated with the Presbytery and our congregation:
The Session of Bethany Church reaffirms:
Simply put, we will continue to be who we are and have been in Christ, a place of grace for all, looking to Scripture as our authority in matters of faith and morality, and faithful servants within our church family, the Presbyterian Church USA.
To express in a concrete way our convictions to the national church, the Session also approved the following motion:
“The Session of Bethany Presbyterian Church, Bridgeville PA, will be redirecting the General Assembly portion of the Per Capita for 2012, as expression of the Session’s deep concern over the recent changes in the Presbyterian Church USA including the removal of stated sexual standards for those in ordained leadership. We continue to honor the Presbyterian Form of Government and participate actively in the ministry of our Presbytery and larger church. The funds will be redirected to be used for PCUSA missions as designated by the Session.”
In other words, we will continue to ask for the full per capita from each church member but will not remit the portion due to General Assembly. These funds will be redirected for Presbyterian missions and missionaries in urgent need and who share our values.
I want you to know that these decisions were made after a time of prayer, study of Scripture, worship and honest, heart-felt and grace-filled conversation by the Session.
Please feel encouraged to contact me, or our Clerk, Beckie Price, or our Interim Associate Pastor, Melany Hamilton with any concerns, questions or comments. We are glad to speak with you – and to do so in a spirit of honesty and grace.
In the love of Christ,