My Statement Released to the OGA: “Practice What You Preach”

The PCUSA Office of the General Assembly has been quite busy the last few days, issuing public statements calling on all sorts of people and institutions to act with regard to the atrocities in Mosul, Iraq, and the lethal conflict between Israel and Hamas. These are matters about which I know something, and so may comment in days to come about the content of these statements.

My motivation for blogging today, however, stems from the increasing reports of harsh and unloving actions taken by numerous presbyteries of the PCUSA against congregations seeking to follow the Spirit’s leading by peaceful departure into denominations where they seem to be a better fit for effective ministry in the Kingdom of God.

While the General Assembly leadership seems to feel well-qualified to tell others how they should clean up their acts to accord with “progressive” notions of justice and dignity, they are decidedly silent concerning matters within their own metaphorical house. Since the Scriptures tell us that “Judgment begins with the household of God” (1 Pet 4:17), it would behoove the Louisville leadership to address its own denominational nastiness, so as not to be guilty of hypocrisy and worse.

Let me illustrate with words taken from the OGA statement decrying the recent attacks against Christians in Mosul by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, words with which I agree:

We denounce the fear and hate-based tactics of Islamic extremists being used to force Christians to convert to a particular expression of Islam, pay an unspecified tax (jizya) for their safety, leave with only the clothes on their backs, or stay and be killed.”

Now let me make necessary changes to put the same ideas in the context of what is happening in the PCUSA as churches are seeking to leave over the liberal direction that the national church has unmistakably and officially embraced:

We denounce the fear and hate-based tactics of liberal presbyteries being used to force evangelical Presbyterian churches to convert to a particular expression of progressive post-Protestantism, pay an unspecified ransom for their uncontested departure (i.e., dismissal), leave with only the clothes on their backs (i.e., disaffiliation), or stay and be excluded.

In the interests of full disclosure, my congregation was dismissed from the PCUSA to ECO 18 months ago through a “process” that was anything but gracious. Though the presbytery had had four and a half years to follow through on a 2008 GA resolution urging all presbyteries to create consistent and gracious dismissal processes, Indian Nations Presbytery simply sat on its hands, as did most of the other 172 presbyteries then in existence. Instead, we were subjected to the vagaries of an administrative commission whose decisions and demands changed almost as often as Lady Gaga at one of her concerts. Nevertheless, after nine months we were ignominiously dismissed, after paying the presbytery $510,000.

At the time, we felt rather abused, but grateful to no longer remain in relationship with the abuser. Now, however, a year and a half down the line, reading what other congregations have to put up with in ever-hardening and and voracious presbyteries (there are a few exceptions, but unfortunately precious few) seeking to drain as much blood from departing churches as they can, I confess that our process was almost gentle by comparison.

Why has not the Office of the General Assembly directed some of its wide-ranging attention toward the cruelty, greed, oppression and mean-spiritedness being consistently demonstrated by the institutional powers within its ranks? In these matters, presbyteries seem to hold all the power in the “negotiation process.” Where are the progressive leaders who so readily mouth the mantra that God and the church stand with the powerless and oppressed, demanding justice and dignity for those with no standing to defend themselves? Apparently, like most radicals, they are fairly adept at shining the spotlight on the sins of others, and even more adept at dodging the spotlight when it swings their way.

Many who know the recent track record of the PCUSA in dealing with evangelical churches might be more inclined to listen to the seemingly endless drone of political posturings of the OGA if that office showed the same moral indignation toward the evils being perpetrated by its official governing bodies against its own members. We might call it “practicing what you preach.” What a novel idea!

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16 Responses to My Statement Released to the OGA: “Practice What You Preach”

  1. Dikdok1 says:

    Great blog Keep it up! Great analogy Dick Sternlof

    Sent from my iPhone



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  3. hallead says:

    Always a pleasure to read fro you, Mateen. Blessings!


  4. Marc Steiner says:

    Pray for peace and unity.


    • mateenelass says:

      Amen to that. But lasting peace and unity will only come when Christians share a common set of truths and willingly exercise the love of Christ implanted through the Spirit. Where God’s truth has been openly deserted, the Spirit withdraws. Without the Spirit, there is no true unity, or peace.


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  6. Pingback: My statement released to the OGA: 'Practice what you preach' - The Layman Online

  7. Sam Knight says:

    Your observation of the injustice denounced and then practiced by one and the same group is profound. A mirror should be raised in front of the GA offices!


  8. Luder Whitlock says:

    Well said and ithis blog should be made much more public


  9. Dan T says:

    Mateen, there are too many horror stories about Biblically faithful churches trying to leave the denomination that has left them. Whether it be to the EPC or to ECO or even to independent status, many churches have been subjected to slander, court costs, unfair treatment and monetary penalties. Recent PC(USA) decisions have turned even more churches to reviewing their relationship with the denomination and so we will see more churches leaving and risking facilities and/or money to make the departure. So far PC(USA), on a whole, has shown no grace in their “gracious dismissal process.” It becomes apparent that world view, political correctness, property and money have become the driving issues of the PC(USA) issues, not the Word of God. This is exemplified in a recent statement from a Tropical Presbytery presbyter (as reported by The Layman, Summer 2014 issue), “We have learned that we do not have to let a church go, yes, the congregation can go, but they do not ‘deserve’ their property. We now believe that the property is for the mission of this Presbytery and the PCUSA…” It’s obvious that they are willing to defend and fight (using millions of dollars that could go to real international mission ministry) for property they consider “theirs” when it is bought and paid for by the very congregations that they so easily dismiss.

    I, like you, pray for peace in all of the Middle East, but especially in Jerusalem, Egypt, Iraq, Iran and Syria. The Middle East has been a subject in several of my own blogs, “Reflections”, ( with a prayerful concern for the Christians there.

    I do agree with your assessment of the irony of PC(USA)’s political posturing in international affairs while their own house remains divided and in shambles. Perhaps if the PC(USA) would clarify and adhere to their own “peace initiative” within the denomination, others might take them more seriously in their babble about international affairs.

    Thank you for your blog and your thoughts. I will become a subscriber!


  10. Kedric says:

    “We denounce the fear and hate-based tactics of Islamic extremists being used to force Christians to convert to a particular expression of Islam, pay an unspecified tax (jizya) for their safety, leave with only the clothes on their backs, or stay and be killed.”

    The thing with this statement is that it could have come from the office of the President of the United States or the Secretary General of the U.N. I agree with the statement, but if it’s coming from a church body, you’d think there’d be some biblical or theological language when addressing this issue.

    Unfortunately the lack of such language has become common place amongst the mainline denominations. Observe how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is addressed by the UCC or the UMC. There is a serious lack of deep theological reflection on that and other issues.


  11. Shaun says:

    Seems a bit much to compare the two. I know a little about Mosul as well. I spent six months getting shot at over there. If your former presbytery means so little and was such a bad bunch of folks why even bother? It sure doesn’t seem like you are setting much of an example by this kind of rant.


    • mateenelass says:

      I think you missed the point. My intention was not to equate the atrocities of Mosul with those of PCUSA presbyteries, but to indicate that the leadership of the PCUSA is quick to denounce evils elsewhere yet unwilling to address its own oppressive actions toward its own member churches. If you don’t think these actions are significant, I would urge you to read some of the Layman articles about churches seeking a new alignment, and how their members are feeling. Perhaps my article will seem like less of a rant after that.


  12. Bart says:

    When I joined the Presbyterian church, I thought I was joining a group dedicated to pursuing the way of Jesus, to do justice, love mercy, serve others and make disciples, teaching them to obey all he had commanded. My local church fits that prescription reasonably well at least we try. But increasingly the decisions taken and announcements made by the PCUSA at the GA appear to read more like a political party with a very progressive bent, not an organization bent on following Jesus. Many of us who share this view are examining whether remaining with the PCUSA is hurtful to our witness and our ordination vows and to our Lord. I pray for peace, wisdom and the Lord’s insight as to how we should move forward for His purposes.


  13. Linda (from First Pres in Colorado Springs) says:

    Mateen – I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts on the current situation between Israel and Hamas. I’m checking your blog daily for that! The point of view of a Christian who has lived in the area and understands the issues is one we need to hear. Otherwise, all we get is news from news stations that are owned by private corporations – we really don’t know if we’re getting the full story or not. Actually, we don’t know a good deal of the time if we’re even being told the truth. No doubt, an unbiased report on that area of the world will be controversial, but we need it. From reading your blog and having heard your sermons, I can’t imagine that you’re going to shy away from dealing with the tough topics!


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